Friday, June 27, 2008

Portrait of the artist as a young cat

'minimal drawing-room tiger
and conjugal khan
in a heaven
of aphrodisiacal rooftops'

Pablo Neruda (from 'Oda al Gato')

From Whom the Phone Calls

In my household it’s unusual for the phone to ring before the start of the business day.

This morning it rang before 9 am. Oh no, my first thought was. Mum.

Why do I assume it’s going to be bad news? Long years of practice.

Then I remembered the family, flying to my city today. Perhaps they’re calling before they board. Maybe weather has delayed their flight.

And this is the time of day I sometimes hear from Long Island’s late afternoon.

Thanks to the stalkers (and that’s another story), I have caller display, so I can look at the number as the bell jangles. Phew, it’s not from the hospital, and no, it’s not from a mobile, and it’s not an overseas call.

It’s not any number associated with any other family member. And it’s not any of the known psychos.

It looks like a familiar number, but I can’t place it. The odds are too high, now, by elimination, of the call being from a real estate agent, and I’m just not in the mood for a hard sell.

I wait till the call goes to voicemail, and look through a list of numbers. No, it’s not the old lady next door. No, it’s not any one of a few others who might be trying to catch me home. It doesn’t seem to be one of the real estate agents after all.

I check for a message. Hmm. Nothing.

“It can’t have been important,” says Schroedinger.

I’m not satisfied. Who would ring before 9, and then not leave a message?

Schroedinger is mildly intrigued. “Maybe it was the roof man.”

The roof man! A stroke of luck! I didn’t expect to hear from him for weeks!

I redialled the number, and hear a woman’s voice: “Hello?” Perhaps it’s the roof man’s wife?

“Did someone from your number ring me earlier?” I say stupidly. Yes, she says, and I recognise her voice. My friendly neighbourhood serial thriller writer, author of two shiny crime novels and a most excellent blog.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Midwinter Christmas

Not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Moving the Status Goal Posts

Banks, frequent flyer points, loyalty programmes in general – what is your value status?

Are you a conventional and once easily socially located Bronze, Silver, or Gold?

Or wasn’t gold good enough for you? They invented platinum for you!

Apparently now even platinum isn’t good enough, they’ve added titanium.

The day they invite me to join the ‘select’ titanium crew, I’ll know they’ll have added another level above that.

Plutonium, perhaps.

Monday, June 23, 2008

If the cat fits, wear it.

Sometimes Schroedinger's Tabby bears a remarkable resemblance to a Davy Crockett hat.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Change We Can Believe In

As a resident of New Zealand, a far-flung, relatively tiny little nation, I wish Mr Obama all the best in his campaign to be President of the United States of America.

Actually I think everybody in the rest of the world should be able to vote for who gets to be the US President. After all, the rest of us are also deeply affected by the choice the American people make.

I also think the UN should send a team of observers in to monitor the US elections.

Change I don't want to believe in

I do not want the right wing multi-millionaire John Key to be Prime Minister of New Zealand. He seems like a nice guy, yet when he was a money trader his nickname was "the smiling assassin".

You're not the kid anymore Dr Rushdie

This week I've enjoyed reading Salman Rushdie's essay on The Wizard of Oz. It's an informative and evocative memoir, first published in 1992 with subtitles "A Short Text About Magic" and "At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers". It has been reprinted for inclusion in Step Across This Line: Collected Non-Fiction 1992-2002.

An extra frisson for me was in comparing the original and the revised version, because I like that kind of detail. What has happened in the interim? Does Rushdie have a better thesaurus these days, or just a more intrusive copy editor? The earlier "weakness of Auntie Em and Uncle Henry" later becomes the "helplessness of Auntie Em and Uncle Henry". What is that about? In the intervening years, has the great author softened his critique of the foster family, and attributed their failures more to outside forces than to their own inadequacy?

This seems likely, as another of his updates includes this paragraph:

"Now, as I look at the movie again, I have become the fallible adult. Now I am a member of the tribe of fallible parents... I, who no longer have a father, have become a father instead, and now it is my fate to be unable to satisfy the longings of a child".

The first step in our forgiving our own parents and mentors for their shortcomings is in realising that no matter how hard we try, we can never be perfect caregivers or role models ourselves.

Restless Stasis

I don't know whether to stay or to go.
I have been reading real estate junk mail lately, and dreaming of a perfect home - spacious, with a view of the sea, rather than the present cramped cottage located in the inundation zone of predicted sea level rises, if not the path of the threatened tsunami.
The house hunting started in earnest today. I found one high on a hill with a commanding and hypnotic harbour vista from all windows (yes that's a joke to commemorate the retirement of Bill Gates).
The problem with a house on a hill is you have to move your stuff into it, and my enthusiasm has been dimmed at the thought of getting all those books up a steep narrow winding path.

Pagan Festivities in the Cafe District

What a strange spectacle: chanting robed Druids, face-painted polka-dotted stilt walkers, feral and fairy-like dancing maidens gesticulating incomprehensibly, giant medieval Mr Blobbies nodding inside their gawping masks, accompanied by a drumming tribe of wandering minstrels, hordes carrying paper lanterns in a variety of shapes - birds, stars, pyramids - with thousands gathered in a darkened Octagon to watch the motley solstice procession. In the audience countless hands were raised high as the parade passed them. In acclamation? No! The crowds held their mobile phones high in a softly clicking glowing salute as they captured their snapshots. There's one of my pix above. I do actually have a decent camera, but I didn't have it with me.

Although it was icy cold, as you'd expect for mid-winter, we had fun, and the fireworks were fantastic.
Jolly good. It seems you can invent your own religion now, the more stirring to the ancient genes the better.
Maybe next year we'll get to burn somebody at the stake.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Winter Solstice Moon

Constellation Sagittarius
Illumination of disk 97%

(Lunar data for St Kilda, Dunedin, from:

It's a clear frosty night with a gloriously full moon closely attended by a sparkling Jupiter.

I'd get my telescope out and put the moon filter on, and stare and stare and stare, but it's too cold out. It's so cold the satellite dish must have frozen over, because SKY TV has gone all red and green. No more BBC on the longest night of the year!

At the exact moment of the full moon (5.30 pm Thursday) we were stalled at the lights in rush hour traffic on Andy Bay Road. The moon was swollen and yellow, low on the horizon, inserting itself between the illuminated golden arches and street lights and the gaudy flags of the car sales yards, and looking very much at home there amongst the advertising.

The moon has a genius for self-promotion. Keep them on their toes. Be reliable and unpredictable. Simultaneously. Kind of the celestial Schroedinger's cat.

My Guru (a Haiku)

"You're the most beautiful cat in the whole world," I say.
She knows it's true.

Terror in South Dunedin

I wonder how many heart attacks were triggered by the 'top secret' counter-terrorism exercise in South Dunedin this week?

I first knew something different was happening on a foggy night when it seemed the sky was exploding above my house, with deafening helicopter sounds obviously far below civil aviation limits, and the copter navigating in such an erratic manner that I was convinced it was out of control and about to crash. A combination of the fog and the air force lights out policy meant I couldn't see what was happening and added to my belief that the helicopter must be suffering from an electrical or mechanical fault.

It didn't help that in the past I have had recurring nightmares that a plane is about to crash, and is heading straight for me. Where to run? I was terrified. I didn't find out about the exercise until the next day. I had discovered the reassuring news release from the Police Department, a little too late: "Residents in the areas involved may see emergency service personnel and vehicles, including helicopters at various times throughout the exercise. The exercise will cause as little disturbance as possible."

Later a friend texted me to comment: "The New Zealand security forces have decided to cut out the middlemen, and terrorise the NZ public themselves."

Does the world really need another blog?

Apparently so.

Here I am.

One of 1,500 bloggers on with an interest in trains.