Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Meanwhile back at the ranch


A Sparrow Gus gets back from the Boxing Day sales.

The Tabby's viewer stats go through the roof

due to the number of people that Google "abducted by aliens" and "anal probe".

If I cared about these things, I'd slip Michael Jackson into the conversation more often.

Sick as a dog


And being as sick as a dog is not a happy place for a Cat to be! For those that didn't see through the metaphor in the previous post, I spent Christmas in hospital. I had a sudden severe infection which I attributed to indigestion and almost left it too long to seek help. Idiot, but in my favour, I wasn't well. Fortunately medical science and some wonderful people administering it, have patched me up somewhat and I'm back home and much better, thanks. Alas I may need further intervention and I'll be sure to blog a picture of the scar after the surgery (just teasing).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Abducted by Aliens

WHAT I DID IN THE HOLIDAYS

I found myself in a large brightly-lit place surrounded by smocked and masked creatures speaking unintelligible languages. There were other captive humans in what I assumed to be the alien spaceship hovering over this planet, cloaked from view. The other abductees were lying, like I was, on high bare tables, with tubes and wires connecting us to machines draining and inserting various fluids. The white-clad aliens moved amongst us, standing over us, turning their heads to each other seemingly discussing our strange anatomies. We couldn't really see what they looked like, although some of them were wearing different coloured spacesuits - some were light blue, and some were green, most were white, and I think the ones wearing black were the high status ones who were rarely seen but gave the orders. I can confirm that much of what you've ever heard about being abducted by aliens is actually true: they do have a predilection for anal probes. They also take samples of body tissue, drain off vials of our blood, and experiment on us by injecting various compounds into our systems and observing the reactions. In some cases they remove whole organs or limbs. It seems they were shielded radioactive beings able to look deep inside human bodies to observe our workings. At times I was in very great pain and at other times I was in a dream-like drug-like state. Days passed, I think. It was hard to tell the day from the night.

At times when the aliens weren't around I was able to compare notes with the other captives and many of us had the same story: we were just carrying out our normal lives when suddenly we saw a bright flashing light, heard a loud high-pitched noise, and some sort of swift vehicle or mechanism teleported us to that shiny bright glowing place.

However although I was very afraid for a while, those aliens did turn out to be benevolent, evidently coming from a more highly evolved species than ours, and they quickly taught me an elementary version of their foreign tongue. They identified a medical problem I didn't know I had, and offered me some of their advanced treatments for it.

When they had finished their investigation and documentation, they delivered me back today to near the spot from whence they had suddenly spirited me away. Almost a week had passed. It seems unreal, and now I am wondering if it ever happened at all. But I do know that I missed out on Christmas Dinner!

Also: I feel battered, sore and hungry. I have lost weight. I have bruises and needle marks in strange corners of my body, and there is still what I assume to be an identification tag attached to my arm. I keep finding little sticky pieces of a gum-like compound on my skin.

Recovering at home now.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Oh my godwits


This morning was breathtaking at the bay - not a breath of wind. I was up early to be amazed by the sight of a mirror-calm harbour. The water was more still and glassy than I've ever seen it there, and I do believe this is the first time there has been no wind at all, not even a tiny breeze, in the spot we've come to know as "the wind tunnel". And bonus - there was a flock of godwits just out the front stalking the shore in the gently advancing tide, their reflections shimmering around them. They're looking pretty tubby now, their rotund well-fed shapes contrasting markedly with their thin appearance when they first appeared back from their round-trip to Alaska.

I was inspired to sit out in the sunny calm morning after breakfast and read Janet Hunt's new book E3 Call Home: A true story of godwit migration and misadventure (Random House NZ 2009). What a treat! Ostensibly a children's book (with a charming space to write a name on the "This Book Belongs To" plate inside the front cover) this thin glossy book would also be a good gift for anyone else too. I know my Mum would have loved to leaf through it, in her last bedridden years of failing health. She liked to look at colourful easy books, and they had to be light because she was so weak. For the rest of us bird lovers, this picture book offers a lively and informative text and makes a nice companion to the substantial and authoritative recent publication by Keith Woodley, Godwits: Longhaul Champions (Penguin NZ 2009). I am lucky enough to have both books in the still-expanding bird library, and highly recommend them both.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yuletide Traditions


The movement-sensitive tree that sings "Jingle Bell Rock".

This family heirloom carries with it many wonderful memories of times past.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Viva Whanganui

There was a decision today to allow both names for the town formerly known as "Wanganui".

A compromise that will quickly starve the redneck name to death, one hopes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The middle view


Whites Aviation: Classic Photography of New Zealand From the Air


Alexander Turnbull Library - Godwit (Random House NZ) 2009

This is a very good book. It has clarity, and economy of words and pictures and design.

NZ is captured in a (mostly) 1950s freeze frame at a time of prosperity and blooming growth.

Whether one sees that growth as a cancer or as progress, this book is all about the photos and it provides a suitable conveyance for viewing them.

It's a treat to look at these pictures. All of them - the familiar and the new.

I can see my suburb before I was born, and then I can see a day I remember so well - the day everyone in Auckland except me walked over the new Harbour Bridge. I cried that day because I wasn't allowed to go because I was just out of hospital after major surgery. I watched the ant-size people crawling all over the bridge and here again is that sight!

Ah, nostalgia. On the whole the pictures are from not too close and not too far off. You can't see into back yards and you can't see that NZ was anything but a tidy and perfect society.

It's a middle class view, too, and it's only one part of New Zealand and its reality, but it's a steady, honest middle distance point of view.

The photos were sold to landowners, institutions, business and the government.

What farmer didn't have that proud shot of homestead and farm?

New Zealand was a rich country, on the pig's back.

And what a beautiful country this is.

I'm lucky to have got this for an early Xmas present...


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

RIDING FOR THE DISABLED


A great idea for an ethical gift. The good souls at your local Riding for the Disabled scramble for funding and they give such joy to people of all ages with physical and intellectual disabilities, brain damage and learning disorders, and their families.

And they deserve extra support at a time when people who have disabilities are openly mocked by TV announcers who think it is too Politically Correct to believe that all people have equal rights to respect.

Shame on you Paul Henry and TV New Zealand for enabling your poison!

The mystery of the triumph of the mediocre

"It's not what you know, it's who you know" is one of those proverbs that gets bandied about sagely and if you're in the right mood or miffed enough with some situation or another you grunt and huff and say "I'll say!"

Somebody got an easy ride for some reason or other - be it nepotism, or doing their time on the casting couch, marrying into fortune, or just generally sucking up or sucking off, as required.

Never mind the rest of us who could do a better job if we just had the right contacts.

I don't think the mediocre do triumph, though, in the long run. Inflated reputations may not pop like a pricked balloon, but they will gradually deflate and become saggy, if they have not been earned for any more than hail-fellow-well-met qualities.

We might hear certain tedious names praised interminably but eventually, if the expert schmoozers, the relatives of the famous, and the best friends of the high and mighty don't have some contribution of their own to make, we won't remember why their name is attached to this or that monument, plaque on the side of a building, or arts fellowship. Good connections can only take you so far. You have to come up with the goods , or it'll all come out in the wash...

Who you know helps, but what you know is more important.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Savvy


I try not to be pedantic about language and pronunciation, but sometimes I can't help being irritated by a language variant, even though I know that this is the nature of language, to change.

For instance I shudder when I hear the word 'pronunciation' pronounced "pronounciation", even though I understand the perfectly natural regulatory impulses behind the innovation. The verb is 'pronounce' and it is not rational to pronounce the noun as though it were "pronunce". I have to admire the courage and rationality of the variant that grates to my ear even though I know it to be 'wrong' according to the accepted standards of the recent past. I have to fight my urge to 'correct' this pronunciation, because, it's very likely, given the widespread usage, that it won't be long - in geological time anyway - before 'pronounciation' is the new standard for NZ English.

There's one other little pet linguistic hate I have been nursing, and that's the way some people pronounce the name of that very fine New Zealand white wine sauvignon blanc as sav blanc. And then just sav. And now, increasingly, and affectionately, savvy. As in, "That new sparkling savvy's awesome!"

Aaaargh! But it's such a nice wine, and now there are sparkling varieties of sauvignon blanc, and the other day I shared a bottle of it with a friend, celebrating a joyous triumph, and it was a lovely day too, and the waitperson called the wine we ordered "savvy" and I thought, yeah. Gimme some savvy. Yum. Cheers!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Surf's up





The only surfing I am capable of these days is here on the net. But there's almost always someone in the sea at St Clair, even when it looks like there is a storm brewing.

Breakfast Meetings



I've done it myself. Sigh. Mea culpa. Had an important meeting in a cafe. Things got heated, or enthusiastic, voices raised, important issues just had to be spelled out... several people spoke at once or vied for the floor. Time was short, somebody had a plane to catch. The fact that there are other patrons in the cafe, and that they might be of the opinion that you're all being over-loud blow-hards, just doesn't enter your head.

But what are the odds - the particular meeting I recently overheard was on a topic dear to my heart, one that I've been making private and public representations about, and devoting considerable time and effort on. (Not here, darlings!) How very useful...


Starfish Cafe & Bar St Clair Beach Dunedin
(Friendly Staff, Great Location)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Laugh of the Day

There is a Comments Section inside this journal, but Comments are Disabled. Lol.

Found this on Amazon.com


An Informal Complaint

Having just surveyed the procedure for making a formal complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority about the recent offensive behaviour of Paul Henry (in his mocking of people with brain damage and intellectual disability, and his use of derogatory language concerning them) I don't think I have the time or the energy right now to go through all the hoops.

I know that many other people have done so - gone through the formal complaint process - with no sign of any apology let alone any contrition. So I'll register an informal complaint here, and also I resolve to boycott any advertiser that supports TV One, until they demand that Henry apologises and attends some form of remedial education.

(It has just been brought to my attention that there is an actual campaign to this effect going on over at the HAND MIRROR - Bravo!)

The other point that I'd like to make is that the Human Rights Commission has politely explained they cannot action the many complaints they have received, because "the complaints raise issues about the rights of disabled people, but do not fall within the discrimination provisions of the Human Rights Act".

Why not? Don't people with intellectual disabilities have Human Rights?

It seems that there is a convention on those rights, but NZ has not yet implemented it: the UN Convention of Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Shame!

Signed,

DISGUSTED,
MOTHER OF A PERSON WITH AN INTELLECTUAL DISABILITY

Monday, December 7, 2009

Heron Addict


I started this blog as a cat blog named for the venerable old Tabby and in due course - earlier this year - it was her time to creep into Schroedinger's Box and take on the indeterminate status of someone or something loved but no longer present.

There was no question of replacing her. Not at first, anyway. And the blog? Meanwhile, it has become a bird blog!

And now the cat grief is not so keen and the kittens are starting to bloom all around in time for Christmas, and the cat thoughts come back - what fine friends they make, how elegant they are, what lessons they have for us.

And then there's the thought of the damage one cat can do, in a lifetime, in the kind of area where we now live, near where so many exquisitely beautiful birds breed and feed.

Hmmmm....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hark the herald angels sing


Apparently it's Christmas. The cards have started arriving, the carols are playing.

Only 21 days to go!

Here's the classic shot of the Tabby in her seasonal finery.

This is the price our cats have to pay for their otherwise cushy lifestyle. Occasionally the humans will want to dress them up.

Happy Birthday Baby

"I wish you happy birthday baby mine"


There is something to be said in favour of the never forgotten and dearly loved stillborn baby:

they never judge you or reject you,

they don't ever do things like take up glue sniffing
or espouse political views opposite to your own.

Having once broken your heart
they never break it again.

Keeping up with the Australians

That sex-god and financial genius Don Brash has decided that in order to catch up with the standard of living in Australia it would be useful to create a vast poorly paid underclass here in NZ.

Huh?

But really - how does the hypothetical conversation go, when the right wing reflect on how they might make good on their promise to raise our wages in NZ so they are as high as those in Aussie?

Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: So what is the situation over in Australia?

Right-Wing Flunkie: Well they have strong unions and a Labour Government sir.

Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: (Splutters) That'll never do! What else have they got over us?

Right-Wing Flunkie: Well they have uranium and a host of other valuable minerals.

Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: That's more like it. Have the relevant agencies run around and do the testing for that stuff immediately. We need an audit before we can sell off the family silver!

Right-Wing Flunkie: Unfortunately sir, any significant unexploited mineral wealth is likely to be located in our scenic and nature reserves. It might interfere with our tourism, not to mention the hit to the "clean green" bullshit that goes over so well for our agricultural sector.

Right-Wing Mover & Shaker: Nonsense! Get on to it straight away. Seize the moment while we're still high in the polls! Make sure we get a new pic of John Key grinning his head off plastered over all the news bulletins. Oh and get Tariana on the phone, better square it all up with the Maori Party elite. Give the ruling class bros a bloody mountain back somewhere and shut them up. You can spin this one, surely! Can't believe how well this lark is working so far! What morons New Zealanders are, basically! Hehe! God I love my job!

Right Wing Flunkie: Bob's your uncle! (Exits to carry out his other job as a TV journalist.)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Taking the High Road



The new commute takes us over the spine of the Otago peninsula.
Already looking out for icebergs.




Monday, November 30, 2009

St Andrew's Day




I wouldn't have known this, except that at lunchtime in South Dunedin I stumbled upon a fervent St Andrew's Day celebration, complete with kilts and bagpipes.

Many of my genes are from Scotland and my family kept many of their traditions alive. Hearing the bagpipes always makes me weep both for the belonging and for the loss and just because I love the sound.

From http://www.scotland.org/: "In Bulgaria, St Andrew’s Day is known as Edrei (Bear’s Day). The story goes that St Andrew complained to God that he had no feast day, so God told him that any man who did not celebrate St Andrew’s Day would have to carry his own horse! In olden times housewives would throw boiled corn onto the fire to stop the bears ruining their crops. One legend records that an evil stepmother was punished by having her daughter turned into a bear."


Friday, November 27, 2009

28 November 1979 - In Memoriam



The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre -
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

Who then devised the torment? Love.
Love is the unfamiliar Name
Behind the hands that wove
The intolerable shirt of flame
Which human power cannot remove.
We only live, only suspire
Consumed by either fire or fire.

~ TS Eliot
(from The Four Quartets)

We have godwits

The first thing I do here every morning is throw open the curtains and look out to see what the weather is like, where is the tide at, and are there any birds?

This morning we had godwits again, lined up quite close to the house, looking for all the world as though they were staring back at me. Perhaps some of them are as interested in the monkeys as we are in them.

Recently I bought a new pair of binoculars and so had a great squiz at this small group preening themselves with their fine long bills.

But I really need a camera with a telephoto lens!

Christmas wish list!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hands up if you noticed



The Kiwi blogosphere's own Rachael King and Vanda Symon both have brand new genre novels out in time for Christmas.

No need to go offshore for your summer reading, with such good stuff so close at hand.

Personally I'd love to see both these remarkably talented, intelligent, fluent and well-read women applying their considerable writing ability to literary fiction rather than popular fiction, but that doesn't stop me enjoying their work as it is!

Cargo Cult


The waiting was over last night for devotees of Dunedin crime writer Vanda Symon. She launched her latest Sam Shephard novel Containment at the University Book Shop (or UBS as we all lovingly refer to it). There was a good gathering and the usual yummy catering the UBS is known for, with the addition of an extra-special treat - Toffee Pops! The bowl of toffee pops pictured above was replenished a few times but totally empty by the end of the evening.

There were quite a few blogs and web sites among the crowd, metonymically speaking, and it's always fun and strangely amusing to meet up in the flesh - there's something almost trangressional about the pleasure of fellow bloggers having materialised in the same location in space and time. And it's always exciting to meet someone whose blog you read and enjoy. When I introduced one fellow blogger to another one, using their real names not their blog names, the first exclaimed "Oh - but aren't you Art and My Life?!" Teehee, yes.

Optical Allusions

I just had my two-yearly eye check, during which the optometrist observed that I was shortsighted, that I was one-eyed, and that I had a blindspot. But I already knew that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poetry PR

Last Monday: a crowd gathers by a blank black billboard, sheltering out of the brisk wind that is whistling up a Dunedin alleyway.


Former NZ Poet Laureate Michele Leggott made a flying visit to Dunedin to 'officiate' at the launch of the latest set of Phantom Poetry Posters

Poems were performed and posters were pasted up.

Current Robert Burns Fellow Michael Harlow hams it up for the paparazzi


Escaping out of the howling gale, the poets and friends repair to Circadian Rhythm for more impromptu poetry


Poem by Sandra Bell on a Phantom Poster, Door of Circadian Rhythm Cafe, Dunedin, November 2009

There was some good coverage in the media for this street poetry campaign - the Otago Daily Times gave the event space on their front page, and local rag D-Scene ran some photos of the performers and crowd in their social pages.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Loving Spoonbills


When I moved to this bay about six weeks ago, my neighbour told me "the spoonbills will arrive in a couple of weeks". And so they did. They've been here for a while, but one morning last week when I was out at the mail box by the water, a large impossibly bright white bird flew down from somewhere, and finding the tide still too high, made a lazy circle around me, just above the front lawn, and then came to rest nearby on a pile of rocks on the small beach below the sea wall. It was the closest encounter I'd ever had with a spoonbill and it was just the beginning of a superb day in birdland. That was the day the godwits arrived. I hadn't even been promised godwits, I didn't know they fed here sometimes. They've achieved the status of mythical being for me and to have a whole flock of them just out in the bay made everything OK, along the lines of "yet see the red-gold cirrus" (James K. Baxter) or "Not every man has bavarian gentians in his house" (D.H. Lawrence).

Yet see the royal spoonbills...

Not every one has bar-tailed godwits out their kitchen window...

All shall be well


And all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

~ Julian of Norwich, The Revelations of Divine Love

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well

(from 'Little Gidding', Four Quartets ~ T.S. Eliot)

I remember being shocked when I first read the medieval mystic Julian of Norwich, to find that she had been the first to say "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well". I knew and loved Eliot's Four Quartets, in fact at times its rhythms (and rhetoric) have offered me great personal comfort, as well as aesthetic pleasure, but I had never been a student of English Literature or 'studied' him, so at the time I wasn't aware of the degree to which he had famously 'borrowed' from cultural treasures to create some of his great works.

It didn't take long before I 'forgave' him for being a magpie, and returned to my awe and admiration.

This ancient memory from my long-ago youth has been jogged by a terrific blog post from Reading the Maps on the subject of Witi Ihimaera and TS Eliot. Maps makes an attempt to re-frame the whole 'plagiarism' argument and I applaud that.

Nice to be sent back to TS Eliot too this week as we all approach the 30th anniversary of the Erebus disaster. I didn't lose any loved one in the Air NZ crash but bizarrely on the same day it happened my unborn baby died. Reading the Four Quartets was one of my greatest comforts through that time of grieving.

Just recently I was back in that part of the country and found my son's grave, unmarked because the local authorities do not permit any monuments on multiple graves. It's a mass grave with more than twenty stillborn babies having been buried in that plot over the years. We certainly were not told that would be the case when we committed our son's tiny white coffin to the earth. Poignantly there are decades of weather-worn little toys left on the spot by the other families, some of whom, I suppose, are told the same thing I have been, that we are not permitted to mark the place with any individual permanent plaque. Not that one really needs concrete or granite when your baby's name is engraved on your heart.


And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Witty Repartee

Professor Witi Ihimaera's new novel has created such a stir in academic and publishing circles, that it's rumoured his name has been put forward for Australia's notorious Ern Malley Fellowship, the nomination for which is available only to those authors who have attracted massive public controversy and who have polarised opinion, and who have even had their "case" discussed on talkback radio.

Some of the discussions on bulletin boards etc have got a bit feral actually, and all I can say is, may the saints preserve all of us from falling foul of the feeding frenzy when the masses get their knickers in a twist...

If you will kindly forgive my mixed metaphor, which I freely admit is a crime all too common.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Speaking Frankly


Anna Kavan's New Zealand: A Pacific Interlude in a Turbulent Life edited by Jennifer Sturm (Vintage, Random House 2009)

It was wonderful to see that smile again. It was wonderful to see an American smile going out towards everything, accepting everything in the world, instead of shutting everything out.

('Another ending' ~ Anna Kavan)
Now here is an excellent book, published this year by Random House New Zealand, and I think it has not been reviewed widely enough, considering how much it has to offer.

The NZ Listener did have a review, and the New Zealand Herald too. The reviewer for the Herald was Peter Wells who has also recommended it on his blog, here and here, and I even saw a note for the Kavan book in Metro magazine.

One of the disappointing aspects of the reviews I have seen, has been the repeated predictable inclusion of the label "bottle blonde" for Anna Kavan, and the frequent retelling of Denis Glover's titillating depiction (courtesy of Frank Sargeson) of Kavan as "one of those blondes who get around the world with their knees behind her ears". But I can hardly complain can I, when I too have found it necessary to repeat these distasteful and belittling descriptions? The misogyny Kavan encountered from the likes of Glover and Sargeson is an important part of the story Sturm presents here, and it's still relevant today, especially for those of us who believe that the negative effect of the misogyny of the "Sargeson Mafia" on the reputations and careers of New Zealand women writers, has not yet been fully recognised. Sturm's book goes some way towards redressing this lack, but there's so much more to this work than that.

There are several reasons to read this book - first of all for the interesting essay(s) by Sturm concerning Kavan's life and work and her visit to NZ, and then of course, for the Kavan prose itself, with its quite lovely meditations on life and travel. The book also includes the text of the controversial 'critique' Kavan later published about NZ society. And what a ripping yarn that is!

I particularly enjoyed Sturm's careful unpicking of earlier Kavan 'scholarship': exposing the ridiculous results of sloppy research combined with the far-too prevalent assumption that an author's fiction writing can be used as biographical source material.

I've read parts of this book several times already, and I even made lots of notes hoping to 'review' it for the Tabby, but I have been just too run off my feet to do it justice, real life being a little possessive lately of my time and energies, so here's a simple exhortation: Read this book, especially if you're interested in NZ literary or social history, and doubly so if you're interested in the role of gender politics in NZ literary history.

Or even if you just like to read really good prose.

One of my favourite aspects of the book was that I could revel in Kavan's openness to the New Zealand environment, her acute descriptions of the plants, birds, sea, weather...
"The fact is, that I can't do anything but look at things, which of course is another name for dreaming. It's the looking that matters more than what's looked at."
And she saw the people with an equally observant eye. Anyone who has felt on the outer here in NZ, who has been suffocated by the narrowness and lack of imagination of the provincial mindset, or patronised by the blokiness and conservatism even of our supposedly 'high culture' circles, will enjoy her sideways glances at the self-appointed arbiters of all that is good and true.

This is a peculiar sort of volume that doesn't seem to know whether it's just another dry academic publication (it certainly would hold its own in that company), or whether it should be appealing to the general reader (and I think it should!).

The Kavan pieces can be read as useful social documentary, but also for their literary merit (even though the editing choices sometimes make reading for pleasure a bit of a challenge). At her best, she's scintillating.

My only problem with this edition is that the design is as bitsy and various as the content. It may have seemed like a good idea to have different fonts - one for the Kavan stories, and another (sans serif) font for the accompanying explanatory material and appendices - but I found it quite irritating. Also the decision to use italic font for deleted passages, probably seemed like a good idea at the time, but is I think unkind to the reader. Just my personal taste and opinion of course. But the TINY font size for Kavan's offending Horizon article in the Appendix! Aaaargh! Surely this piece deserved to be treated as more than a footnote, given its notoriety, and its readability. I also noticed a few eyebrow-raising proofreading errors including the misspelling of the name of Random House editor Harriet Allan!

This is a work that would have benefited from a larger format and more generously sized photographs, and a more pleasing design. These are minor quibbles though, in this time of recession and cost-saving. This is a refreshing, fascinating book. The packaging seems to indicate it will have curiosity value only for a niche market, but I feel it deserves a wider audience than that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Shipping News


The cruise ship season has begun in Dunedin. Thanks to my friend Mary, I now have a detailed list of the cruise ships that are scheduled to visit Port Chalmers this summer. We can both look out of our windows on different sides of the harbour and watch as the big ships sail by. Some of them look like apartment buildings and house as many people.

There is much excitement among the retailers of Dunedin at the prospect of each brief influx of thousands of (assumedly) rich tourists.

If the weather conditions are right, we can hear the officious shipboard loudspeaker broadcasting the day's instructions, from our front yard. We could certainly hear the farewell blasts of the ship's horn yesterday, as the Sun Princess steamed out of port.

Photo: The Sun Princess chugs past Aramoana Spit on the way towards the narrow entrance to Otago Harbour. 18.11.2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lucky for some

I love Friday the thirteenth, but not because I'm anti-superstition. I do understand intellectually that superstition is a primitive impulse but I do seem to be subject to a wide range of superstitious beliefs - or at least practices - despite that. I've always thought of the 13th as a lucky day. I quite often choose to fly on a Friday the 13th because one can get good seats and you know everyone is being extra careful.

When I was younger - as a teenager, a pipe-smoking overcoat-wearing rebel - I would of course deliberately walk under ladders. But the truth is, you have to kind of believe in it to laugh in the face of it, don't you? It would have been best to just not care about the huge weight of trivial caution and counsel that one inherits as part of being a human social being. Of course it takes one a while to be able to tell the difference between sage advice and irrational nonsense, or to make your choice anyway, about which of the advice and nonsense to carry round as your own personal baggage.

I seem to be able to pick up new superstitions or cultural habits quite easily. After living in Korea, I won't blow my nose in public anymore and I get a bit creeped by the number 4 (tall buildings there often don't have a fourth floor). Ever since I lived in Whanganui, I haven't washed teatowels with the rest of the laundry and I won't allow combs or brushes to be put on tables. From my Scottish forebears I've inherited a particular horror of "new shoes on the table".
Superstition and culture are quite closely intertwined aren't they. My parents celebrated every 13th as though it was their own personal anniversary of the day they met, and later chose to marry. So naturally I was raised to like the number 13. Still do, even though today hasn't been crash-hot so far, given there's a blocked drain, a close to overflowing septic tank and an absentee landlord. Grrr.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Monday, November 9, 2009

Off the Map


But not for much longer.

The little holiday cottage I have recently moved to is located in an area that is literally "off the map": it does not feature on any road maps I have looked at. (It's probably on marine charts, given that we're at the very edge of the water!)

It certainly wasn't on Google, or anywhere else on the net for that matter, as far as I could tell.

But Google are on to it. Last week I saw the Google Camera Car driving around a small settlement perilously close to my own previously relatively unmapped vicinity.

Today I saw the car again, parked in the city, and managed to catch a snap. Gotcha!

UPDATE: Google are well on their way to their goal of World Domination. My house is on the Google satellite map now, the roof shining in the sun (I swear I couldn't find it on Google maps six weeks ago when I first moved there), and as we know, street view can't be far away!

He Can Run, But He Can't Hide



Rodney Hide, the so-called 'perk-buster'
is busted!




Sunday, November 8, 2009

Swings and roundabouts





The storm factory also has a sunset warehouse.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Sparrow Gus

At "Cape Cod" we don't just delight in the herons, spoonbills, spur-winged plovers, gannets, shags, albatrosses, mollymawks, gulls, terns, ducks, geese and swans.

We have sparrows too. And sparrows are just as good as anyone else. So there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Another song of freedom



"All I ever had:





~ Bob Marley




(Funeral for a friend... too sad. This was one of her favourite songs.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Things That Matter



Life is mostly froth and bubble,

Two things stand like stone,

Kindness in another's trouble,

Courage in your own.



~ Adam Lindsay Gordon

Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Eve of All Hallows


Trick or Treat?


I say it's a treat to watch Anna Paquin all growed up in the vampire soap opera True Blood.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Crepuscular Rays


Last evening, that classic sign of celestial benevolence manifested, like a child's drawing of the shafts of light radiating from the setting sun.

According to my new cloud book, the phenomenon is called "crepuscular rays"; also "Jacob's ladder".

Earlier I had experienced the vivid sense of living in a McCahon painting, with the green hilly landscape of the peninsula cut up by the rectangular shapes of my window frames.

Next time I looked out it was a Turner painting inviting me to walk out into a squally stormy evening.

I keep telling people how windy and wild it almost always is here, with a storm factory churning out almost constant extremes of weather.

They say things like, Ooh how lucky you are, and, It sounds amazing!

I'm not sure, though, that this place is really fit for human habitation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pavlova Nirvana


Here's a pavlova just the way I like it. Home made. Crisp - even hard - shell, that rings when you bang your spoon against it! Under the crust, are pockets of air, a bit of squishy delicate fluff, and the merest touch of sugary stickiness. Perfection. Just like mother used to make, and unless you make your own, it's a very rare example of the genre these days in this era of the mass-produced cowardly marshmallow pav you can buy in the supermarket.

This one is to be had at Tony's Wellesley Street Restaurant in Auckland. I had it after the carpetbagger steak (stuffed with oysters). It's no wonder I'm losing the battle with my waistband!

I like the fact that the cream is served only on one side, and so can be scraped off easily. I don't care for whipped cream as it gives me a headache.

"The Original Tony's" claims to be Auckland's oldest surviving restaurant and it certainly has been there for as long as I can remember. It's great to get a table by the window and watch the world go by. And the world does indeed go by - just off Queen Street, it's one of those places in the world when eventually you will happen upon almost anybody you can think of...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sylvia Plath's Birthday

What would it have taken for Sylvia Plath to have lived to the age of 77?

If she was on Prozac would that have helped?

If she was on Twitter would that have helped?

Happy Birthday Sylvia, and thanks for the beautiful poems.

I'm sure you've saved a few lives with them, even if you lost your own.