Take some steps with me

Written by Jess

On Wednesday my friends suggested I come with them to Castle Hill for the long weekend. Sure. No big deal. When Jamie and I first started courting I spent more than my fair share of time in and around the area. The second time I ever met Jamie, he was standing on Flock Hill, wearing a red singlet with the number 21 on it.

On Friday afternoon Mahe and I were standing in the middle of Quantum Field. I’d been there less than an hour and had already seen a number of familiar faces. The sun was shining and it was hot. Haaaannnnng on a minute, this isn’t right. This was not how Mahe’s first trip to the Hill was supposed to be. He was supposed to be here with his dad. In awe of his strength as he darted between boulders, crushing rocks, knee barring, mantling and heel hooking all over the place. Instead it’s just me, and I’m bumbling over flat boulders, shrieking every time my shoe slips.

Mahe at the hill MVB Castle Hill, February 2015

Step 2.

The longest step of my life.

We are at the playground in the Village. Some locals start chitchatting with me. Isn’t this such a great place, they said. We watch the kids in the morning and then we tag team out with our husbands in the afternoon, they said. We get to have such great adventures that way, they said. That’s what you’re doing too? they said. Yes, I said. That is exactly what I am doing, I said.

Jamie HIllJVB, Flock Hill, April 2011. Photo by Troy Mattingley

Relativity; a theory or a way of life

Written by Jess 

Christmas (3 of 5)“We need to focus less on goals or endpoints and more on the process or journey …… no one is going to care what climbs I did or didn’t do when I pass away – they’ll remember the experiences they had with me” JVB, The Darrens, February 2008

Jamie was a great philosopher. About life, family, the future and the World. But you can’t be philosophical about death. Death is life and your experience in life is relative. 

I am no physicist, theorist, or philosopher. What I am, is a woman who is surviving an incomprehensible traumatic experience.

My feelings about my situation, Mahe’s future and what we have lost are relative to what we could have had.

When someone calls me to tell me that they have had the most terrible morning because the butter was too hard to spread without ripping the bread. I smile and nod down the phone, I think to myself, “ahhhhhhh relativity”.

And when you look at me and see some kind of super hero that is stronger than an ox and smarter than an octopus, remember that it is relative. You have not had this experience so you cannot comprehend that you might actually be ok if you found yourself in a similar situation. Your portrayal of me is only relative to what you know and what you have experienced in your own life.

And now it is Christmas and, relatively, I can’t imagine that I could ever have an enjoyable Christmas again. But then again, perhaps it will be relatively good.

Tea for two (1 of 1) 

And just as I finished writing these words I hear that there has been another death in the mountains. This time it’s the brother of a dear friend. Later I explain to someone that I had written some words but didn’t think it was timely to post on the web, they say to me “but Jess your perspective and writings are relative”. She had not a clue what I had just written about.





We are all right

Written by Jess

A number of things have happened recently that have prompted me to write this.

The guests of the private party where I taught my last Charleston class in August 2013 got together, remembered the dance moves I taught them, and put together a beautiful basket of delicious goodies for Mahe and I.

Sadhana clothing found an off-cut of the fabric that Jamie’s favourite shirt was made out of. They made a little purse out of it and sent it to me.

The wildflowers I regularly find stuffed into my letterbox.

The surprises I find on my doorstep; heart shaped rocks, pumpkins, tomato plants, and just yesterday, The Eastern, one of my favourite bands. They had come to tell me I was doing a great job, they sung me a song and invited me to their next gig. ph 4

There are also so many things that happened 14 months ago that has prompted me to finally write this.

There are some people that I thank a lot and some that I have thanked officially. But there are more people that I have never even acknowledged, let alone thanked.

My dearest friends who got on the first flight to Queenstown, laden with rescue remedy, whiskey and snacks. Who carried Mahe and I home when I wasn’t even sure which way was up. Who packed up the holiday house and brought everything back to Christchurch for me.

Anyone involved in putting together the biggest and scariest event of my life. No one wants to be part of a funeral, especially organising it.

Family, blood related and otherwise, you know who you are. For everything and for nothing. You are always there at the right time.

To everyone and anyone who sent (and still sends) Mahe and I messages, letters, cards, flowers, gifts, treats, meals, phone-calls, love, money, prayers, thoughts. I have great intentions to respond to each of these offerings individually. To do this I have to look back through all of those cards and notes, and admit that this is real.

I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed at how many people are so interested in and enthusiastic about my life and my future. Anonymity has become something of the past. I spend a lot of time taking ridiculous photos of Mahe and I. I guess I do this to show all these people that we are all right, we have fun and we have found a way to adapt to our new life.


Some of the comments I get include words such as strength and amazing. Know that what I portray is not a front, this is me. Somehow I can sieve through the grief to find happiness. This does not make me stronger than you. On the odd occasion that Jamie and I would go running together, he would run with one hand on my back, pushing me up the hill and keeping me going. His hand is still there and this is the reason I can continue.

I’m still devastated, constantly fighting the overwhelming feeling of disbelief and I’m missing Jamie in every moment. P1110301Jamie, Phipps Peak, June 2012

Out of respect for Jamie I’ve committed to living a great life

Written by Jess 

P1030085This is my favourite photo taken of Jamie and I. It was 2008, we were in Germany staying with a great friend, we had no fixed abode and exciting adventures ahead of us. We had not long had our camera and Jamie had just taught me how to use the self-timer function. We did not take into account the movement of the boat as we rushed to pose for the photo.

I’ve taken a lot of photos in the last 12 months. All using that self timer function. Each time I am reminded of that first photo and how great memories can be captured.

P1150084Late August, a little bit of light in a lot of dark

P1150443October, a break at Waimarama, Hawkes Bay 

P1150735November, adjusting

P1160320January, going ahead with planned plans at Cape Palliser, Wairarapa

P1170194March,completed projects at Waimea Tce

P1170384April, solo parenting

P1170647May, weekend fun

P1180516June, Wednesdays at Waimea Tce

P1180692July, Mahe’s resemblance to his father is uncanny

P1180713August, Midwinter at Waimea Tce 


And here we are, 365 days later. We have chosen to celebrate rather than commiserate, because to have not had Jamie in my life at all, would be a far worse outcome than anything. P1180863


P1180031Everyday I am totally psyched to; be alive, to dance my best, to have Mahe at my side, to enjoy every moment, to make my community a better place, to eat real and healthy food, to do more with less, to be me!   Jessica S. McLachlan, every day.


written by Jess

Hi’ndsight noun

  : Wisdom after the event As defined in Jamie’s Grandfathers dictionary, I’m unsure of the publisher as the cover had fallen off long ago.

On the 11th of August 2013 I was living a wonderful life. I had a beautiful home in a growing community. Nothing but delicious food in my belly. A close network of supportive and fun family and friends. Exciting plans for the future. A gorgeous 6 month old son who was bringing so much laughter and joy into our home. But most of all, I was in love with a beautiful man who loved and adored me more than I can possibly explain.

Hindsight, was and is, not required. I was so very aware of what I had.

On the 12th of August 2013, three innocent words changed my future.

“Are you Jess?”

Say no more, I know what is coming.

Let me invite hindsight into my life. A word I have never been fond of as it only highlights our weaknesses. There are things I would liked to have done differently in the moments and days following Jamie’s death.

So if I can offer only one piece of advice. Talk about death to your significant other, friends, family, parents, children. Any discussion you have, will give those left behind the confidence to continue. The shock you will endure is so intense you will not believe that you are still standing. Unfortunately it is while you are left standing in this haze that you are required to make many decisions in a very short amount of time.

I have no regrets, just the benefit of hindsight.

P1020161JVB, somewhere near Chamonix, France, July 2008. 


I’ve fallen in love with a mountain

written by Jess 

There are three Vinton-Boots left in this world. Perhaps the most magnificent of them all, is this beautiful mountain. Pik_Vinton-Boot Standing 5168m tall, it is located in the Djangart Mountains, Central Kokshall Too Range, Kyrgyzstan. It has been named Pik Vinton-Boot by  New Zealand climber Reg Measures after him and his fellow climbing companions made the first ascent in August 2013. If you’re going to have something named after you, it might as well be a mountain. A fitting tribute for a magnificent man that we all miss dearly. Photo courtesy of Reg Measures Approximate location can be viewed using coordinates: 41°40’31.32″N 079° 1’37.18″E


I miss Jamie the most when the bread doesn’t rise

Written by Jess and dedicated to a fellow bread lover. For Mark, I hope you and Jamie are baking together somewhere. 

Jamie, the bread whisperer. For him, flour plus water equalled magic. Jamie had been exclusively eating his own hand made bread for near on 6 years. About 12 months into the obsession he collected some grapes from a friends house so he could establish his own sourdough starter. I’m not completely certain it is the same one, but a friend is still looking after what will forever be known as “Jamie’s Bug”.

It wasn’t just sourdough. It was anything containing the magical ingredients. He had mastered them all.

Pizza bases so perfect you would think Jamie was an Italian Mama.
Baguettes too good to call French sticks.
Flat breads so pliable he would have proudly served them to Sam and Sam Clarke.
Tortillas just like those on the hot plates in the streets of Mexico.
Pita breads better than anything served at your local souvlaki joint.
Chapati that would rival any made by Madhur Jaffary.
Hot cross buns so soft and sweet you would think Jesus himself had made them.

P1140297 P1140267 P1140113 P1110141 P1100293 P1080227 IMG_0229

I think you get the picture.

There is only one place in Christchurch that Jamie would buy bread from. This is the Bellbird Bakery. Available at all the best farmers markets around town. I got a little star struck when I bumped into the owner of this Bakery on the street recently. But I managed to pluck up the courage to tell him how great his bread was.

When Jamie came across the following short film about Chad Robertson and his San Francisco bakery, Tartine, Jamie decided that this was his future. We were both pretty keen to start trading bread for money on a small scale and I’m still hoping that I might have the confidence to do this sometime in the future. 


Jamie always said that I didn’t have the patience to make good bread. Good bread takes time and a little bit of science. Well Jamie, I listened and found me some patience. I’ve also managed to remember all of those tips you taught me. All those years of politely smiling and nodding every time you blabbed on about some new folding technique or flour mill, I can remember all of that now. Not only can I make a pretty good loaf, I can also recite answers to most peoples bread related questions.

There are so many notes on, and recipes for, bread lying around I don’t actually know which method Jamie was currently using for his every day loaf. So instead I will have to share my own foolproof method.

For lack of a better name I will call this.…..


Jamie was always telling me off for measuring by volume. So out of respect for him I will record it by weight. Where possible, I have included some photographs to accompany the method. These photos were taken by Jamie. He was in the process of recording his recipes, but unfortunately hadn’t yet put pen to paper.

250g white flour (approx 1 ½ cups)
125g wholemeal flour (approx 1 cup)
85g rye flour (approx ½ cup)
10g salt (approx 2 tsp)
¼ teaspoon instant active dried yeast (my scales don’t read this low)
355g tepid water (approx 1 ½ cups)

Place flours and salt into a large bowl and mix to combine. Make a well in the centre and drop in yeast. Pour the water into the well. Mix to combine. It should look quite sticky and shaggy. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave for between 12 and 24 hours.
number 1

Dust bench with flour, turn the dough out and dust the top with a little more flour.number 2

Fold the dough in half a few times until it resembles a round-ish shape. Move the dough into desired shape by tucking a side under and giving the dough a quarter turn, repeat this action until you have an even surface on the top. Very hard to explain using words. You can do this using your bare hands, or as Jamie does in the picture, using a dough cutter/scraper.

number 3 number 4

Dust the top with a little more flour and cover with a tea towel. Let rest for 10 minutes.

At this point I always dust the loaf and chosen rising surface with cornmeal. Cornmeal is a great for not letting things stick. If you don’t have this on hand you could use a mix of corn-flour and plain-flour.

Place into or onto chosen rising surface, cover (with either 2 tea towels with no gaps around the side, or a plastic cover) and leave for 2 hours in a warm-ish place. This could be on a chopping board or in a banneton basket.

number 5

I use either a clay baker or very heavy cast iron pot. As long as you have something reasonably heavy with a lid it should work. Heat up for half an hour at 250 degrees Celsius before turning your bread into it. Bake with the lid on for 25 minutes, remove lid and bake for a further 7 – 10 minutes.

Take out and rest on wire rack.

Voilà, you just made bread.

number 6

And here are all the important points that Jamie taught me.

You can use any combination of flours. But the type and mix of flours you use will dictate the exact amount of water required. So hold back approximately 2 tablespoons of the water and add if the mixture is still a little dry. The longer you leave for the first rise, the better it is. Always use a linen tea towel. A terry-cloth one will always end in a sticky disaster. If the dough is quite sticky use a little more flour on the surface and on your hands as you shape it. Slash the top of the loaf with a very sharp knife before baking so it looks pretty and neat when it splits open. Make sure it is cool before you cut it open.


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