Friday, July 31, 2009

In the Company of Artists

Evelyn Page, Portrait of Charles Brasch
University of Otago Library

The Charles Brasch progressive centennial feast continues with an exhibition opening at the Hocken Library tonight of an exhibition of works donated by the astonishingly generous arts patron Charles Brasch.

The party was as good as ever. The speeches, wine, socialising and hubbub were to be found downstairs at the restored former cheese factory, current home of the Hocken Collections. The presence of the great Ralph Hotere at the launch gave a really good feeling, and there were so many worthy conversations to be had, glass of wine in hand, that I was conflicted. Upstairs the old favourites waited. For those of us who live in Dunedin, over the years we've become familiar with many of the Brasch-donated pieces, and I'm sure there would be a rebellion if the Hocken didn't trot most of them out on a regular basis. Fortunately the gallery is quite generous with their showings.

It is so good to see of of my favourite paintings, McCahon's Blessed Virgin Compared again, in the flesh. And more, of course.

Charles Brasch: In the Company of Artists

1 Aug - 8 Oct 2009

An examination of Brasch’s influence over the artistic development of Evelyn Page, Toss Woollaston, Colin McCahon, Eric Lee Johnson and others.

Hocken Collections

Cnr Parry Street and Anzac Avenue, University of Otago, Dunedin.

Ph: 03 479 8871

Hours: Mon, Wed, Thu, Fri 9.30am - 5pm

Tue 9.30am - 9pm (Pictorial Collections closed 5 - 9pm)

Sat 9am - 12pm

Thursday, July 30, 2009

God's Grandeur

(In memory)

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and share's man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs -
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Support Your Local Library

There's a post card campaign going on in NZ.
The post cards are available at all good libraries.

(Is there such a thing as a bad library?)

The campaign is a response to right wing suggestions that local councils
should restrict their activities to 'core services'.

Addressed to Parliament, the post card says:

Please make sure that
Public Libraries are a core service
of Local Government across
New Zealand.
Thank you!
Yours sincerely,

The campaign has been launched by LIANZA
and is also endorsed by the Public Service Association (PSA).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Grace and Mercy

Pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

I believe in something I think of as prayer, even though I subscribe to very little of the stuff that usually surrounds it. Sometimes it seems that only the word 'prayer' will describe it. Other times it's 'positive thinking' or even 'a psychic connection' or even just 'meditation' or 'abandonment'.

Or let be, let be.

There are things in heaven and on earth, Harry, that we haven't dreamed about. What about all those aeons during which nobody harnessed microwaves, for instance, or projected holograms. Maybe human love-waves and thought-waves are just as real, just as effective, just as evasive.

Magic and science fiction depend upon it. And song.

Yikes. Come to think of it, let's hope that the capitalists never figure out a way to make the power of all our thinking-of-you, profitable.

Whoops, too late for that now too... The Holy Roman Church cornered the market on that long ago, and more recently it was the greeting card companies. These days I guess it's the telcos or whoever gets the money out of the tweets and texts that fly around the ether when we all need each other, when we are at the edge.

Now there's one time (other than flying) when prayer comes into its own. And that's when someone is dying. They are about to leave this plane of reality and it is what makes us human, to imagine that somehow their journey isn't over now, it's just beginning. (Some archaeologists have defined the moment of our becoming 'human', as that stage in our evolution when burials are first found, with evidence for flowers and foods and grave gifts accompanying the laid-out body.)

Our loved ones are heading out into the unknown darkness. We hope their destination is benign and a rest for them. They're on a longer journey than the one to the outer planets. And they need spiritual food. Like our love. Our thoughts. Our memory.

Our prayer. Our good will.

I've held so many darlings as they crossed that divide in recent years that I feel like a midwife of death. A consciously approaching death is so much like a birth, with all the urgency, the inevitability, the struggles and stages, and in the end the climax, the great release.

Last night someone I loved lay on her death bed, too far away to visit and even too remote in circumstance for me to say goodbye in any other way than in my heart and thought (with also a whispered message perhaps, across the phone, or a proxy kiss from a loved one who was with her in the flesh).

She was my children's grandma, and the very best mother-in-law a woman could ever have wanted. She was the opposite of the demeaning cartoon caricature: she was kind, patient, friendly. She was a good woman, real, not fake ever. She was fun-loving and tolerant, and so utterly not a Calvinist. She was accepting and understanding, and in spite of adhering to a traditional religious faith, she was always good to me, even when it would have been so easy not to be, and maybe even justified, before and during and after my marriage to her son.

She even stood by me one memorable time when my own mother rejected me. (My mother couldn't understand why I should let my marriage fail. My mother in law was wiser, both in being secure in her own identity even if her children didn't always 'measure up' to her expectations, and also in not trying to second-guess a relationship breakup. If you don't know the facts, and insist on laying the blame, she said, a good starting point is to assume it falls at 50/50.)

As Grandma fell last night like a beautiful comet, she was well taken care of with her attentive aiga around her. And the rest of the far-flung family - flying towards her in mind and heart like a video of a breaking plate played backwards - was hurtling back together to be whole again, coming back together to constitute a vessel bearing on its surface an offering of love and memory and gratitude for the beloved matriarch.

All I could do was pray some, and sing more - choosing some of the old and new songs of the church I got to know and admire largely through the example of Grandma and Granddad, whose realistic and practical faith was more informed by ideas of social and economic justice than by superstition.

As a 'post-Catholic' I rather balk at actually saying the rosary these days. But in contemplating the words of it, there was a poignancy in the appropriateness of the phrase "pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death", a point we all come to.

These days much of my religious iconography is two-dollar-shop Buddhist, and I have a particular fondness (if not a devotion) to the female Buddha, the Goddess of Compassion, known in Korea as Gwaneum and more well known to the rest of the world as Kuan Yin "one who hears the cries of the world".

To look at, Gwaneum is remarkably like the Blessed Virgin. She carries a jug of mercy she pours out over the world. I find that comforting, and a little more than a metaphor. She reminds me of Colin McCahon's Virgin compared to a jug of pure water.

Rest in Peace, Grandma. Farewell.

Friday, July 24, 2009


Happy Montana Poetry Day from behind the swine flu barricades!

I'm being shored up with tamiflu, paracetamol, and my favourite invalid fortifiers, lemon barley water and cream of chicken soup. Doing some sporadic reading despite the intermittent fevers.

SO glad this thing hasn't mutated yet...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The View from the Moon

Earthrise (taken from Apollo 11)

Where was I forty years ago today?

I was at an outdoor assembly at my North Shore, Auckland, secondary school, listening to the lunar landing broadcast on a PA system rigged up to the side of the School Hall.

I saw the TV images later, but I was "there" for the moment, to hear "The Eagle has landed".

It was one very big deal, and a moment I'm very glad to have been conscious of.

For me then, as an idealistic teenager, and now, as a baby boomer, still more Pollyanna than jaded, it wasn't about America, nor was it about capitalism, nor was it about the male of the species as opposed to humanity as a whole.

Sure all that stuff is bound up in the space race and in the definition of that achievement as a giant leap for a sexist generic noun.

But what it was really about for me was progress, optimism, hope. We really can reach out and do new things, and do them socially as well as scientifically.

And look what has been achieved by us all since then, in terms of the change in the relative status of women, almost everywhere... And in so many other areas of life. because we believed that if we worked for change and growth, and a better world, we could do it.

And look what has been destroyed through our efforts and greed to exploit new technologies for profit without thinking it all through.

Sometimes I feel like I'm an alien from some foreign place, when I see what the human species has been doing on this planet. (The world financial system and its bizarre fictional underpinnings moves me especially to this feeling of not belonging here.)

We're shitting in our own nest and nobody seems to have the will or the means to fix it.

Fortunately, once we've completely wrecked this habitat, we have a new place we can move to.

But not if you believe the talkback radio conspiracy theorists. According to them the whole thing was a hoax. We never landed on the Moon at all.

Well then, all the more room for the rest of us on the great migration to the Lunar Colonies.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Last Montanas

Next Monday night, just one week away, the winners of 'The Montanas' are announced at a sumptuous ceremony somewhere in New Zealand.

Now that I've had the pleasure several years in a row to attend that banquet, I am a little sad that the premier NZ Book awards have lost the sponsor that was so generous with a very drinkable wine. I even reached the dizzy heights once when I was called up to the winner's podium on behalf of a book I had co-edited, and I can report that the bottle of wine given to the winner of a category is an especially good one.

Having been on the receiving end of the generosity and the glittering prizes, I don't feel inclined to be churlish about the judges' choices for 2009.

Competitions and prizes were ever thus, and unless there is a really outrageous omission and clear favouritism, I don't feel it is very constructive for commentators to be too petty and shrill.

It's true that I was really surprised that one book especially was absent from the list of finalists, the superb historical narrative DIGGERS HATTERS & WHORES by Stevan Eldred-Grigg (given a rave review on this blog by Mr Pudding).

But there are plenty of very fine non-fiction books on the list, and I can appreciate there were just TOO many good books in some categories to single them all out. There are always mysteries when individual tastes are applied.

(I'm not just thinking here of the NZ book awards, but of the recent Commonwealth Prize in which some of my favourites weren't even nominated.)

There will always be surprises, favourites absent, and sometimes there are choices that might raise a high-brow eyebrow, but in the end, the judges make their choice.

Such is life, and sh*t happens.

I don't think it's particularly helpful for the organisers to keep tinkering with the rules every year in seeming over-reaction to the negativity evoked by a particular win or a particular omission.

Apparently with the new sponsor there is to be a complete overhaul which may well be a good idea. Choose something and stick to it instead of bending with the wind of public and private comment.

Organisers should also ask themselves, do they want to celebrate the BEST or just sell BESTSELLERS?

Anyway, so long Montana, and thanks for all the wine!


Hot off the Kilmog Press

From the Slopes of Golgotha, PETER OLDS, 2009, 40pg, hardback, dust jacket, edition of 60 copies, new poetry.

A collector's item this, from a small alternative Dunedin press that is becoming a bit of a legend, and some excellent well-chosen poems including the one written the day Hone died.

POSTSCRIPT: available at $45.00 at the following book stores:

bookstore in Dunedin,
709 Great King St Dunedin Phone 03-477 5546

Parsons Bookshop
in Auckland.

Comfort Food

We recently enjoyed a delicious supper on a cold evening at Riverstone Kitchen, located on the main highway ten minutes north of Oamaru.

This restaurant had been recommended by several people we knew. It's also a New zealand Cuisine Magazine prizewinner for 2008 (runner-up best regional casual dining). The judges said:

"Many chefs pay lip service to using the best local ingredients, but Bevan Smith carries it out with the help of his own garden and orchard and North Otago’s bountiful produce. It’s worth strolling through the garden to see what’s likely to be on the menu – perhaps fennel salad with peas, sheep’s feta and lemon, or Jerusalem artichoke soup with bacon, truffle oil and toasted ciabatta."

Pictured above is the pannetoni (Italian bread and butter pudding) with berries and vanilla bean ice cream, and the Whitestone cheese, quince paste with oat biscuits.

The restaurant is set on a farm and they grow and sell their own produce as well as sourcing the best ingredients from elsewhere.

Highly recommended. We were warned to leave plenty of time to enjoy the ambience, and so we did.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Have a Heart

New Zealand's Heart Foundation has a campaign called GO RED FOR WOMEN designed "to educate women on lifestyle changes they can make to reduce their risk of heart disease".

A worthwhile goal.

As a fundraiser they are selling donated red lipsticks. ("Every woman should own at least one fantastic shade of red lippy".)

Jolly good for those who like that sort of thing, but red lipstick has never suited me. It makes me look like a female impersonator.

I have a bright red t-shirt though, and I support the Heart Foundation by buying their 'dream home' raffle tickets, and by using their cook books.

The first prize in the current lottery is a brand new furnished house in subtropical Kerikeri. Dreams are free, and the ticket costs only $12.

As for the free downloadable cook book - the life you save may be your own. :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The mother of all earthquakes

Last night at 9.22 pm New Zealand was hit by the biggest earthquake since the disastrous Napier quake of 1931. It registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, and was quite shallow, and my oh my did I feel it too. You'd have to travel back in time to the 1800s to find a bigger earthquake in Aotearoa New Zealand.

They say that the epicentre was 300 kilometres away from my beach house, but the seismic waves were still massive as they passed by our location...

Now that it seems there were no casualties and thankfully as it happened in an isolated area to the southwest of the country, there wasn't any large scale damage to property either, then I can gloat about what fun it all was... hehehe.

I love earthquakes! And what better than to have experienced a monster seismic event that was relatively benign.

I was once quite close to the epicentre of a destructive 6.3 earthquake (it was in Taranaki, and we lost our brick chimney), but this one was clearly a much more powerful quake, even though happening further away. You could just tell it was enormous. By the time it got to me, it involved huge swaying movements, very strong but strangely gentle, as though the whole house was a boat being pulled back and forth (and round about) by strong currents.

Wanna hear the whole story? (I'm going to tell it any way!)

I was sitting on the bed, and I had just opened up a book on Italian cookery that I had borrowed from the Library. I was mulling over the difference between white and black truffles. First I heard a loud roaring outside, behind me, and so I expected a train to be about to hurtle around the corner, as usual, along the side of the estuary just below my window. When no train came by (and I didn't notice any shaking at that stage), I wondered if it had been thunder, or a truck that I had heard.

I think the quake must have already started - gently - but I still didn't know about it.

I didn't have time to resume pondering on truffles, or to register what had happened to the vanishing train, before the bedhead I was leaning against, bucked against me hard as though somebody was behind the bed and had shoved it suddenly. I was knocked forward, and the bed rocked, maybe even jumped a bit. I found this all a bit mysterious as of course nobody could have been behind the bed, because it backs onto an outside wall.

I was a bit slow. It was late, I had had a fantastic day, involving a scenic train ride, and I had just consumed a relaxing glass of white wine with a lovely pasta meal.

I still didn't twig... I love the way it's quite common for people to take a few moments to realise there is an earthquake happening. We go through a list of possibilities for the fact that our environment is acting so strangely. But I couldn't think of any reason for the bed having been jolted like that out of the blue.

Suddenly I realised that the whole room was sort of gyrating in a circular movement... and the bed was sliding around in time - and that's when I worked it out!

"Earthquake!" I shouted, leaped up and ran to the door, opened it, and stood under the door jamb.

But there was no sound. Then I had an air of disbelief, as nothing was moving, or didn't seem to be. Had I imagined it? Nothing was rattling. Was it over? Had there even been a quake?

I looked around for something hanging to see if it was moving back and forward (a good diagnostic for the sneaky sideways quakes), but there wasn't anything suitable near me. Then I heard a creak off in another room, and another creak in the roof. Loud, the way a boat creaks (or a Lockwood house), and I became aware that the whole house was moving gently, but with very large movements, like a boat on water.

The lights flickered a few times. So it was a quake, a giant gentle one, and it was still happening, and we might be about to lose power, or the quake might develop into something more hazardous. Time to declare an emergency!

So I ran into the kitchen to discover that the man of the house, washing dishes, was completely oblivious.

"Earthquake! A big one!"

"Nah..." He's one of those unflappable types, quick to scepticism.

There were more hanging things in the kitchen to diagnose movement by, and I was saying "Look! Look!" but it wasn't until Mr P clapped eyes on the dramatically swinging row of hanging kitchen utensils that he was convinced.

The shiny lineup of culinary implements (soup ladle, fish slice, spatula, etc) was very tidily, all in unison, swinging sideways in a wide arc, then back again, like an executive toy...

No way to explain that, except that the whole house was rocking back and forth...

It might be subtle, but it was clearly major.

"Oh god, I hope nobody is dying where ever this is centred," I said.

And it just kept going. Maybe more than two minutes altogether, and once you knew it was happening, you could feel it. And hang on to something. It would have been easy to miss it, I think, because of the gentleness.

And then we had to deal with the barrage of tsunami warnings. "Don't go down to the coast" we were warned by texters who had access to official warnings.

But I live on the coast!

It felt good to know there were so many people in other parts of the country, with internet access, who were looking out for me and keeping me up with the latest alerts.

Otherwise all I had was talk back radio, that great entertainer, but unreliable ally in times of civil disaster...

After about an hour of readiness to evacuate (mine) mixed with scepticism (his) the tsunami alert was cancelled and I was able to resume enjoying the multiple and sometimes sizable aftershocks, which continue to this very moment of typing up my anecdotes the following afternoon.

Creak... Creak...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Patron of the arts

Hocken Lecture 2009

Patron and Painter: Colin McCahon and Charles Brasch.

Dr Peter Simpson.

Burns 1 Lecture Theatre, Monday 27 July, 5.30pm.

Open to the public.

This lecture is well timed to fall on the actual 100th birthday of Charles Brasch, and is sure to be a good one.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Parking Problems

The farce of the monument-building Dunedin City Council continues.

I join the chorus of protesters who predict that this particular council - with both elected members and employed staff at the helm of the sinking ship - will be remembered for its arrogance and incompetence long beyond the time the Forsyth Barr Old Boy White Elephant Stadium is a rusting hulk gently lapped by the rising high tide level of Dunedin Harbour.

The current civic fiasco concerns a mismanaged introduction of a stupid and greedy parking regime. "Designed by Experts" - Yeah Right. It turns out the parking changes were designed by staff members (and implemented by experts).

It's hard to say who has been disadvantaged most - the people with disabilities, the businesses that have lost a significant portion of their trade, or just the average citizen shocked to discover their five minute parks have largely disappeared, and that much of the inner city parking is now more expensive than CBD Auckland parking.

I guess the city and regional councils have to pay for the spectacularly unwanted and unnecessary super-stadium somehow, and recent huge hikes in parking and bus fares, and rates, are part of their strategy to use public money to bankroll a private sports arena for their bankrupt cronies in the minority-interest sport of rugby, that even in Christchurch cannot attract a full house for a major international game.

Meanwhile as the stadium is hammered into place, the rest of the city languishes and its services and public amenities suffer.


Monday, July 13, 2009


Who doesn't like piwakawaka (aka fantail)? They're so curious, and they seem so sociable, and their ingenious breathtaking aerobatics are so impressive as they swoop and dive and change direction and fake stall just like a cavalier air show pilot.

One of the greatest delights of moving to the house by the bay has been the friendship of the fantails. I know, I know, just because they follow me around the garden in a playful cloud doesn't REALLY mean they like me and they are there for the pleasure of my company! I realise that as I clomp around in my gumboots I'm stirring up the tasty little insects they love to catch on the wing, and that it's going to be worth keeping near me because of that...

But all the same their visits are received like benedictions, and I interpret their presence as a sacred thing, as a sign and as a loving communication from another world.

O little Tiwa Waka,
O kind little wing!
I've seen a woman hunt you,
With haste and muttering.

She said it was unlucky,
She drove you out with cries,
For when a fantail flies within
A son or neighbour dies.

Unlucky! It's an honour,
A bird flying through.
He had the whole sweet countryside,
And yet he came to you.

- Eileen Duggan

This clever little fantail (pictured sheltering under the eaves in a snow storm) regularly patrols the cobwebs on the outside of the house and gobbles up the fresh insects trapped there before the spider comes to claim them.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Crockery you can read...

I've loved willow pattern for as long as I can remember. But I never had any, and never even thought of owning any. If I ever have any spare money the first priority is always to buy a book!

Then one day not too many years ago I found a plate in a second hand store and took it home, and every time I looked at it I smiled.

I like the fact that there is a story to go with the picture, and that the picture is always different but based around the same elements and spatial relationships. And the pretty blue-and-white.

I grew up in a modern house where we had a red formica table and our family used to eat out of the brightly coloured melamine plasticware that was popular at the time. Anything even remotely fancy or old-fashioned wasn't used every day, in fact it was never used at all. It was stored up in a cupboard with glass doors.

Then not so long ago a NZ company started producing a new range of reasonably priced, microwave-safe and moderately sturdy willow pattern earthenware and so I'm the happy owner of a dining set of it. Currently I use nothing else. It still always makes me smile, the indulgence, the luck.

When my mother saw the plates in my kitchen, she said that she had always loved willow pattern too, but it had never occurred to her to try and acquire any, even later on in her life when she would have been able to go out and try and find some.

She told me she used to tell me the willow pattern story when I was a little girl. We had a picture book about it. Her family had a willow pattern wallpaper frieze in one of their rooms when she was a little girl.

As an adult I have since learned that the romantic "Willow Legend" was a fake, invented by British porcelain manufacturers to help them market "chinoise" tableware. I don't know if my parents ever knew that the story they loved so much was not really an authentic Chinese legend, but I do know that they identified themselves with those two lovers turned into

two turtledoves, beyond fear, beyond danger,
forever free and symbolising eternal love.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Al fresco

Here's my little bird cafe offering "wild bird seed" bought from the supermarket, fresh water, and hanging on a branch up to the left, is a lump of fat with a string through it, also sold for the purpose of supporting wild birds through the harsh winter we're having here.

The birds are shy and didn't want to be photographed, but I have seen up to six tiny silvereyes at a time pecking at the lard, and the seeds are popular too, with a variety of other species.

And all high enough up the tree to be safely out of the way of any wandering Tabby.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Alison Wong's Novel

New Zealand poet Alison Wong has at last delivered her long-awaited novel, AS THE EARTH TURNS SILVER.

I am one of those who have been eager to read Alison Wong's novel, having over the years been deeply impressed by the extracts she published of work-in-progress of a historical novel examining the experience of Chinese settlers in New Zealand.

One of the qualities that had so attracted me was that for me her work had the quality of having been translated from another language. Although she writes in English, there is a freshness and a poise to her use of language that retains the poetry even within a prose framework, a feeling that the story is being sketched visually for you rather than merely being told in words. There seems to me to be a rare exquisite stillness at the heart of her technique, and I wanted to see more.

For me reading this book was like studying and enjoying an ink and wash painting, with its astonishing changes of tone within a single brush stroke. Her novel has a deliberate formal structure, and an understated technique in telling the story, that is more than the sum of its economical parts.

Among other things, it's a political novel. There are issues of race and gender and of class, and of alienation within and between families and cultures. And within oneself.

The mood is at turns aloof and angry, and the narrative holds other emotions besides. This is the kind of novel that can evoke the emotions of the reader too.

The novel is episodic, lyrical, with leaps of time and place and with shifting narrators, and most of all with sudden halts where the reader is made to stop in silence, and to think, to remember, and to muse - about difference, about acceptance, and about love.

Without being a Mills & Boon, the story is very much about love, its unpredictability, its durability. It has a fierce strength, as one understands its central characters to have.

There are in this novel several powerfully credible characters whose exploits and experiences can draw both anger and tears from the reader. This is quite a feat in itself and leads me to hope that Wong will keep growing and keep delivering important literary statements from her skilfully articulated vantage point.

Some of the historical characters and events don't ring so true to me, and seem occasionally to distract in their slight unnaturalness or arbitrary intrusion. But one trusts the competence of the author so much, one even wonders - is this rhetorical discomfort intended as yet another of the brushstrokes in the story? In any case, even if these are but the technical flaws of a first novelist, they do not detract from the story.

Eventually all the strands are drawn together, and you do want to stay there for the duration. It's a compelling read, and the author draws you along, so that the people become more and more real as they approach closer to you, as they emerge from their distant and strange early perspective into focus and into realistic people who breathe and bleed.

AS THE EARTH TURNS SILVER is launched tonight in Wellington. I wish I could have been there to congratulate Alison personally. Maybe her publisher will take her on the road for a publicity tour, and if so I can bet there'll be a great Dunedin turnout for her - she has many friends here.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Scaredy Cat

I only have one current phobia, and it's a little embarrassing because it seems to me so archaic and inappropriate a weakness to be found in an otherwise relatively fearless modern woman.

I'm terrified of mice.

I mean really, really freaked by them. Yes, I would jump on a chair. And scream.

I had altogether too close an encounter today with a tiny tiny mouse that was lurking behind the microwave oven and darted across the bench.

The Tabby would not have stood for this daring daylight raid!

I so much need to get another cat...

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Blog Meet Blog

Called into Dunedin's wonderful University Book Shop this morning and who should I meet there but blogger extraordinaire the lovely Vanda Symon. As well as running her own book blog and writing murder mysteries, Vanda also runs an excellent local radio show dedicated to books and writing. And so much more besides (she also has a regular TV review slot). She is also an active and generous member of the NZ Society of Authors.

Vanda has a literary competence and awareness that extends far beyond the territory of her own chosen genre of - correct me if I get this wrong - "police procedural" - or is it "lady cop" novels? I'm an addict of the series already and am hanging out for the third Sam Shephard novel. The skilfully evoked characterisations of the dramatis personae and the way Vanda catches the NZ vernacular are a pleasure to read in themselves.

As with many of Vanda's contacts, I'm always offering suggestions for an interesting murder plot, although she always seems to have thought of it already! She doesn't give any indication of getting sick of being canvassed on the subject of some real or imagined murder case. In fact she seems interested in checking out my new waterside hideaway as it sounded to her like it might make a good setting for some terrible deed she has in mind.

If you think about it, Vanda is a slightly scary person. She recently blogged a photo shoot involving a human skull (not a real one as it turns out).

One of the things we looked at in the UBS is the new range of Penguin Classics merchandise. Dammit! The prices are outrageous ($25 for a coffee cup, $20 for a blank notebook) but it's a devilishly clever concept...