Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Always Greener

Deep in the heart of my Australian holiday, I was having a leisurely late breakfast at a beach cafe at Hervey Bay (they pronounce it "Harvey"), a calm spot in the shelter of Fraser Island. I was staying in a peaceful luxury apartment on the Esplanade (thankyou wotif.com).

It was warm and sunny with a pleasant breeze and a tiny swell breaking on the sand, making that lovely pouncing sound of small but insistent waves dumping on a "family" beach at high tide.

I'd gathered up a set of those substantial Australian weekend papers and was working my way through them whilst nibbling on the authentic local tucker I found on offer - vegemite sandwiches and raisin toast.

"Travel & Indulgence" said one of the lift-outs. Quite appropriate. I don't even usually read those sections; they are discarded along with the Sport, Property, Cars and Sits Vacant.

But 2009 is the year of taking care of myself better. And among the featured exotic destinations:


The Kapiti Coast was once, and the Otago Peninsula is now, my back yard. And there I was at the doorway to the Great Barrier Reef, reading about my home territories as amazing places to go & see.



Fresh: fresh fish, as with the delicious tasting plate above (somewhat in disarray as the tasting had already started!).

Fresh: fruit... because we were holidaying in the eternal summer of Australia's Queensland coast. Ah.

Beachside cafes under leafy trees, yards away from a quietly lapping ocean or a thundering surf beach. or a peaceful lagoon... the temperature in the high 20s and a refreshing breeze. Heaven.

A long distance train ride, a touch of Brisbane city life, a 'tiki tour' through the tourist beach areas of the Sunshine Coast.

And a shiny new (re-elected) State Labour Government there. Even if they spell it "Labor".

Fresh: the icy chill in the air on arrival back in Dunedin New Zealand, 11.5 degrees C in the middle of the day.

But the wintry political climate in Kiwiland isn't just fresh, it's chilling.

NZ's right wing John Key is still fooling himself and (apparently) many others into thinking he has anything in common with Obama...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Late summer

We're starting to think of the sunflower seed harvest. The nights are getting cool and there is a heavy dew in the late evening, the precursor of the first frost.

Blogs from the other side of the world show the first daffodils of early spring! And so the wheel of the seasons turns...

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Irish Toast

"The health of the salmon to you -
a long life, a full heart and a wet mouth."

May there always be work for your hands to do.

May your purse always hold a coin or two.

May the sun always shine upon your window pane.

May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain.

May the hand of a friend always be near to you.

May your heart be full with gladness to cheer you.

Happy St Patrick's Day

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Pick me! Pick me!

Wistful tropical produce at a Dunedin supermarket.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dunedin Hospital: Not a bad art gallery

It's a little known fact, perhaps, that Dunedin Hospital has a significant collection of art. I know about it because over the years I've had all sorts of different reasons to be wandering up and down different corridors and to be sitting in various lobbies and waiting rooms, on account of medical issues of my own or those of loved ones.

Among the best known pieces is the scintillatingly lovely copper water sculpture by John Middleditch. I've paused many a time to enjoy it (even when just taking a short cut through the hospital in bad weather!)

After a revamp of the hospital in recent years, this was hilariously polished up by somebody who thought the tarnish looked grubby. It looked pretty scary shiny. Middleditch had deliberately aged it for effect.

The Robin White mural in the long winding hallway is another delight offered to those having to traverse the ground floor for any reason. (Up to radiology for an xray perhaps.) Even though some troglodyte attacked it once and they've had to put a hand rail up to stop people trailing their hands along it or knocking against it as they hobble to get their blood test.

The Kinetic Sculpture by Derek Ball (pictured above as it was when I first saw it) also has a chequered history. It has come and gone from the main foyer, and come again. It had been there for 20 years when it was removed, then reappeared 5 years later. I like it. Kids love it. it's nice and close to the lifts so you can stare at it while you're waiting to meet up with anyone.

There's also a sculpture by Peter Nicholls. And. And. And. Really someone should do a tour. I think they do sometimes, or have done, but I can't find it on Google.

Or maybe the presence of the sometimes astonishing art, in odd corners, is just a gift for you if you unhappily find yourself under the weather.

There's apparently a cataloguing effort underway, due to horror stories such as, "A Doris Lusk painting found glued to a piece of cardboard and a Rudi Gopas lost behind a filing cabinet at Dunedin Hospital"...

One that I particularly like is the Shona McFarlane sunflowers, currently in a prominent place on the ground floor.

And there's a lovely little zen garden - visible through glass windows and also from above, that has given me many a moment of peace in contemplating it. But is that art??

Many of these features and works have stilled my soul while - well - going through all the things you go through, in hospitals - waiting, waiting, hoping, praying, crying, hurting, grieving, crossing your fingers that the MRI scan or the urgent needle biopsy doesn't dob you in to the grim reaper... etc etc.

Oh and there's a lot of very bad art too, especially deep in the wards, but when you ask to hear the story behind a particular piece, you are quickly face to face with poignant facts about the world, and it suddenly would seem churlish to judge the piece by aesthetic standards, when there is other stuff going on. Not maybe a relevant campaign for the Art Police to get involved, just avert your eyes darlings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You've come a long way, Barbie

Barbie's Fax Machine

There has been very little coverage in the NZ media on the subject of International Women's Day. The blogosphere gave it good buzz, especially The Hand Mirror, with their promotion of a Pay Equity Faxathon (see their Pay Equity Hub for lots of information and links.)

Meanwhile I have noticed there has been a LOT of column space and telly time devoted to Barbie's 50th birthday. I guess that counts as a women's issue.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Homecoming Scotland

What a grand year to be planning my first trip to Europe. Being the 250th anniversary of poet Robert Burns, Scotland is encouraging descendants of long-ago diasporas, to come back "home" for a visit.

The Scottish government promotion is called Homecoming Scotland. It's kind of like a Haj pilgrimmage for porridge eaters.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Celebrating the Positives

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future.

All around the world, and around New Zealand, women are meeting to mark this day. I'm heading off with a bunch of other women to go for a walk in the countryside and have a picnic lunch. It's a beautiful day here in Dunedin.

In some countries IWD is a national holiday. The first IWD was in 1911. At that time the event was one of protest and campaigning for the rights many take for granted today. On the first IWD in Europe, more than one million women and men attended IWD rallies campaigning for women's rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination.

However, since then great improvements have been made. We do have female astronauts and prime ministers, school girls are welcomed into university, women can work and have a family, women have real choices. And so the tone and nature of IWD has, for the past few years, moved from being a reminder about the negatives to a celebration of the positives.

That's what it says on the web site. But the recent need to raise our voices on pay equity issues in New Zealand shows us that women have to keep alert and keep active to make sure we don't lose the rights we have fought for in the past.

"So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make every day International Women's Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's all about me-me

I've just been into my Facebook profile for the first time in ages. I'm just not that into Facebook, so please, if I seem to ignore you, don't be offended. You can always find me here at Schroedinger's Tabby or on the 'work' blog. Or on the end of a telephone or email or, shock horror, in real life!

I heard today that blogging is "so last year" which impressed me really, I hadn't realised I was that up to date.

Anyway while in Facebook I saw that the gorgeous blogster extraordinaire Angela Meyer of mega-lit blog Literary Minded (so grateful to her for introducing me to Nam Le) had tagged me for the notorious 25 random things meme. Even if you routinely respond to memes you gotta admit they're a little narcissistic, so I suggest the correct pronunciation should be "Me! Me!"

Now I'm a bit conflicted about memes. I generally don't indulge. They're often too coercive. And they're especially too much like the evil chain letter in insisting that you have to go forth and multiply them amongst your contacts (ie "tag another 25 people").

Gosh, I'm a spiky little pudding aren't I? Maybe that can be the FIRST random thing about me...

Because yes, of course, I am going to do the 25 random things meme. So those of you who rail against the phenomenon, don't be a hypocrite now. Stop reading, because random self-divulging is about to happen. The prose version of confessional poetry, and you know you hate that too!

And if you are snide about these things, and smug about never doing them, then I don't think morbid curiosity should entitle you to read mine. Shoo! Go away!

There's a good, networky, community-building, human-sharing aspect to memes too.

Right. So I discovered Angela had tagged me for the 25 random things. I was lucky enough to meet Angela in Melbourne last year. Her own 25 random things were fascinating and special, and I feel I know her better. And because I think she tagged people she genuinely wanted to know better, I feel privileged she chose me and anyway it seems like fun to think up 25 random things in the middle of the night. And I might learn something, based on what I want to share and what I don't.

(1) I'm a spiky little pudding, but I mean well.
(2) My heart was once stopped for more than 3 minutes.
(3) I have touched a Moon rock (at the Washington DC Air and Space Museum).
(4) I love trains especially steam trains.
(5) My photo is featured on giant advertising billboards in the Seoul subway system promoting the university I used to teach at. 9 million people ride the Seoul subway every day so that's probably as 'famous' as I'll ever get.
(6) My first child was born on my birthday. It's a special joy to share a family birthday.
(7) I will refuse to even taste a food if I do not like its name.
(8) I never learnt my 8 times table.
(9) I have twice been asleep at home in my own bed and the house has caught fire.
(10) I have twice been evacuated from a hotel because it was really on fire. (Not to mention the false alarms.)
(11) I have twice been evacuated because of dangerous toxic chemical leaks.
(12) I have twice been close enough to serious gas explosions to feel the blast.
(13) I was abducted once by two men in a car and driven down a lonely bush road. I escaped unharmed except I sprained my ankle running through the bush away from them.
(14) I do tend to assume that if anything can go wrong it will, and it often does, so I like to be ready. I carry emergency items and am often called upon to use them. I can't count the number of times I have called 111 for genuine emergencies involving total strangers (not to mention my own emergencies!)
(15) I was religious for about ten years. I became a contemplative prayer adept. I went up the mountain, and then I came down again and back into the market place. And then it all vanished and I know less than before it all happened. It was good at the time though.
(16) I'm a pacifist but I love military aircraft.
(17) I first met the man I married, on a train.
(18) In 40 years I have received ten marriage proposals (that I can remember).
(19) I have only been married once and even that one was annulled by the Roman Catholic Church.
(20) I have never been motivated by money. I need to believe in what I do.
(21) From childhood onwards I corresponded with pen pals. So even before the Internet I enjoyed interacting with and meeting people based on having an intellectual connection first.
(22) I had a strong card-carrying Labour upbringing according to "working class rules" and I identify as left wing to the core of me. It's not just an opinion; my thirst for justice governs my everyday life and relationships.
(23) I also inherited my father's genes for ingrown toenails.
(24) My IQ has been officially tested twice and both times I registered as a genius. Unfortunately I don't believe that a high score is anything more than an indication that one is very good at IQ tests.
(25) I'm not going to say any of the really interesting things about me. I may not exactly be a genius, but I'm not an idiot either.


Mermaids Doing Their Thing by Ivan Hill

Gallery De Novo
6 to 18 March 2009

Ivan Hill is a prominent local 'naive artist', dear to Dunedin's heart. We cherish our 'primitive' artists here; the late Annie Baird was another well loved local identity and artist. (See some of her paintings at the Moray Gallery web site.)

Ivan Hill's latest exhibition opened yesterday at Gallery de Novo. His theme this time is 'mermaids' and there's generally an underwater ambience, although images of Ralph Hotere and Jeffrey Harris also stalk through many of the large works. As usual the works are lively, colourful, witty and pleasant. Newly flush with a small inheritance, I even bought a small piece that just cried out to me to take it home. It had little fishes swimming on a wildly paint-daubed slice of the base boards that Ivan uses while he is painting other works. The surface of the painting is as thickly textured and rough as a choppy ocean. It's a friendly mysterious piece, found and fondled and decorated by the artist with a shoal of darting little glittering fish. Felt good to buy it, and it'll be loaded with all sorts of significance for me.

There weren't any mermaids on the painting I bought. I'm not actually a huge mermaid fan - I find them a wee bit disturbing, and wonder if they aren't rather more of a male fantasy than a symbol I as a feminist can find useful for my personal iconography. Or at least I thought so until I saw a moving news story this week about how a woman who had lost both her legs as a child, had been supplied with a working mermaid tail by the genius modellers at Weta Workshop (of Lord of the Rings fame.) Way to go guys! Give them another Oscar!

Friday, March 6, 2009

From the family photo album

These are some of the Tabby's North Island cousins.

There is always a new generation coming along. :-)

Honk with your fax machine

There's a brilliant protest underway today organised by the Hand Mirror feminist collective - a Pay Equity Faxathon.

They're urging us to make our voices heard against gender discrimination in pay rates in the NZ State Services.

Environmentally sensitive types who don't want to fax paper copies can email the fax. Details at the Hand Mirror site.

Karl Marx rolls over in his grave

Historical Archive Building Collapses COLOGNE, GERMANY - MARCH 03 2009

There has been no word on the condition of the collection, which includes manuscripts by Communist philosophers Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels.

Cracks and groaning noises from the basement of the building had alerted staff and visitors at the archive, all of whom escaped before it collapsed. Work was being carried out nearby on a new underground railway, but the company involved said there had been no recent tunnelling.

The six-storey building collapsed at about 1400 local time, bringing down two other neighbouring buildings. One witness said the scene resembled a Hollywood movie as cracks slowly spread up the building's facade before it collapsed in a cloud of dust.

There were reports that between two and four people were still missing underneath the rubble of the archive and two neighbouring buildings.

The archive building dated from the 1970s and contained 65,000 original documents, some of them dating back more than 1,000 years.

(BBC report)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Proletaricat

"There are no ordinary cats"

- Collette

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When the boat comes in

Ah, heaven. Bluff oyster season.
$24.79 a dozen at Pak n Save South Dunedin.
A little fleet of compact and portable rock pools to bite into to. Yum.

The Hollow Men

Shop dummies emerge from their wrappings as the new Dunedin retail centre "Wall Street" goes through its final preparations for opening to the public.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


When the Magnificent pussycat this blog is named for, died last Friday night, well into her twentieth year of a rich and worthwhile life, I was presented with a quandary.

After all the old cat had her own blog, but should I let her death be known? Or just proceed business as usual? Regular readers here know that my personal life has already been a slaughter in the past year or so, with the loss of both my parents, and other friends too. Did I want to add the news of the latest grief?

But it didn't take long before I realised the Tabby deserved her memorial tribute. Obviously she was pretty old when I first started this blog last June. Her health was excellent considering her advanced age, but clearly she wasn't going to live forever. So the reference to the Schroedinger's Cat thought experiment (in which the cat is 50% alive and 50% dead) was a deliberate allusion to the fact that the eponymous Tabby was in a similar position of uncertain status.

I've been touched by the caring condolences, on and off line, and impressed by the number of stories I have heard, of other much-loved old cats never forgotten by their humans, even years later. It seems cats are people too. Little people in furry zip-up cat suits. Or is it that the cat lovers are just big cats? In any case here is a species that is companion to ours and the bond is more than just a utilitarian one.

So the actual Tabby has entered the Schroedinger thought experiment and we can no longer check inside the Box, but her memory and her name remain.

The Tabby is dead. Long live the Tabby!

Monday, March 2, 2009

This one I think, is called a link

This one I think is called a Yink.
He likes to wink, he likes to drink.
He likes to drink, and drink, and drink.
The thing he likes to drink is ink.
The ink he likes to drink is pink.

The familar looking characters in today's Google logo reminded me.

Happy birthday Dr. Seuss!

Here are some excerpts from what else Google took me to, which seems more of a McCarthyist rebuke rather than the claimed "Marxist analysis" of One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish:

In the classic children's novel, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, Dr. Seuss leads the reader on a tour through a fictional world full of Yinks, Yaks, Zans and other fantastic creatures. Seuss presents his imaginary world through the viewpoint of two anonymous children who, based on their appearances and simplistic language skills, are probably between the ages of eight and twelve. At first glance the novel appears as nothing more than an entertaining distraction for young children. Upon closer examination it is revealed that Dr. Seuss wrote the book to instill his far left political values into the minds of susceptible, naive children who lack the ability to place the book in its proper context.

Seuss appears to be presenting the notion that the upper class contribute nothing to the world, they use their wealth and positions of authority to force the lower class to do the work for them.

No, really?

OOOH, which reminds me.

If you like to drink and drink,

if the think you like to think is pink,

DRINKING LIBERALLY hits Dunedin tomorrow!

First speaker Green MP Keith Locke.

"Come raise your spirits as you raise a pint as New Zealand’s network of progressive drinking clubs arrives in Dunedin. Drinking Liberally is an informal, non-programmatic gathering of like-minded left-leaners, an opportunity to share your ideas while you share a drink. You don’t need to be a seasoned activist or policy wonk to join us in meeting new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and enjoying a stiff mix of socializing with a dash of politics."

Drinking Liberally
has become a fast-growing phenomenon, now offering social space for progressive pint-pourers in all major centres in New Zealand.

Come and raise a toast to some bottoms-up democracy!
7pm, Tuesday March 3

The Velvet Underground

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Noel Ginn's Memoir

Guest Blog By Tom Pudding:

Noel Ginn’s recently published posthumous memoir A Kiwi in Kerala (Steele Roberts 2008) is a delightful book that zigzags through many small chapters that are often self-contained mini-essays or mini-parables – the Methodist proselytiser of Ginn’s youth morphing to an ‘occidental’ sage observing the complexities of Kerala in the south of India.

Though episodic and sometimes verging on the preachy and predictable, Ginn’s intelligence and talent for words undercut the genre of a ‘spiritual’ odyssey. Ginn in old age is no longer a paid-up member of any sect:

One thing has always repelled me in the Bible, it is a pervading sense of man’s misery and inadequacy.

(A Kiwi in Kerala, Steele Roberts, Wellington, NZ, 2008, page 28)

Ginn was outed belatedly in old age as the surviving partner in an influential literary correspondence. The precocious James K Baxter wrote to Ginn during World War Two when Ginn was locked up in a conscientious objector’s camp in the wilds of the central North Island of New Zealand. A weighty tome Spark to a Waiting Fuse: James K Baxter's Correspondence with Noel Ginn, 1942-1946 (Paul Millar, Victoria University Press 2001) details this relationship. Most of the verse in this book, by either writer, is learner’s stuff – convoluted and pretentious – but Baxter’s great talent soon pared down to vividly expressed felt emotion, and orthodox publication, and acclaim.
Ginn pretty well gave up writing poetry by the age of 30, and only resumed when he was an octogenarian.

In this second phase, Ginn writes much more plainly and directly; not unlike Baxter’s trajectory towards his late, main, achievement of stripped-down insightful poetry. I came to Ginn’s poetry volume Dweller on the Threshold (Steele Roberts 1998) with trepidation for he has no reputation, and because so much verse is appalling. Thankfully, Ginn’s verse is readable, and I have gone back several times to reread some of it. He has something to say and has surprising lines that come out of left field. ‘To Look Back’ revisits memories of the past in a well-modulated but matter-of-fact way, and then the last line clinches with “nostalgia has a long skipping rope” which in context works unexpectedly and perfectly.

The personality that comes through Ginn’s poetry and memoir is winning. Here is someone on a lifelong quest for rigorous self-knowledge, and more than that, a getting beyond the self; this quest is recorded in telling verse.

One of the other refreshing things about Noel Ginn is that he is a New Zealand writer who opens himself up to Asia and learns from it.