Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bookshelf Clashes

Browsing through my bookshelves the other day, I discovered that in the course of the most recent move, two incompatible books had ended up next to each other: WARBIRDS OVER WANAKA 2006 had snuggled up to FIELD PUNISHMENT # 1: ARCHIBALD BAXTER, MARK BRIGGS & NEW ZEALAND'S ANTI-MILITARIST TRADITION by David Grant.

What can I say? I'm a pacifist, but I love warplanes. I have only been to the Wanaka airshow once (2006) but at some point this weekend I will drag out the DVD and relive the euphoria of that magnificent experience.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday's Poem

I hereby promise to (try to) post a poem every Tuesday from now on, because I want to be part of a very cool movement initiated by audacious blogger Mary McCallum (click on the link for info about the growing number of Tuesday's Poets).

All of a sudden a network of poems. Tuesday's Poem. I don't think I can trot out something suitable from the box under the Tabby's bed every week, because the muse of poetry doesn't visit Tabbyville all that often. (Or isn't heeded, anyway.) In a way for me blogging is a lot like poetry, and I guess I should think about whether that is a bad or a good thing.

Do you think Emily Dickinson would have blogged?

I'm hoping it will be acceptable to the blog-a-rama if my contribution to the Tuesday Poem comes mostly from my store of favourites of other people's poems (that are of course either out of copyright or have the permission of their author to quote).

But here's one of my own poems:


The indestructible
plastic bucket
let me demonstrate
he said
smashing the

Monday, March 29, 2010

A grief observed

8th April 1886, a seven year old boy "perished by falling over the cliff at Taiaroa head Lighthouse". The headstone is in the Portobello cemetery on the Otago Peninsula.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Paradoxical Commandments

"People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centred.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful you will win some false friends
and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down
by the men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favour underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building can be destroyed overnight.
Build it anyway.

People really need help
but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have
and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway."

A version of this list is attributed to Mother Teresa, and you can see why she liked it and adapted it. The original was written by Kent M. Keith.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Give us this day our daily meds

My life continues to resemble a plot from the TV drama House, except that I have more doctors on my case. A couple of them are even quirky, and one is impossibly handsome, as though he has just stepped out of filming a daytime soap.

I've been consuming a changing variety of drug cocktails (not a one of them recreational) and the battery of medical tests has been relentless. The last of them is scheduled for this week, so I get the sense we are nearing the end of the House episode.

As the credits roll, I'll be diagnosed, suitably medicated with a wonder drug, and I'll take part in an ambiguous but heartfelt farewell at the hospital's elevator doors. The staff will turn back to do battle with their own demons and engage with their next mystery, and I'll be suitably patched up to go out and face my own challenges.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Psychopaths in Mosgiel

According to the ODT on Saturday, there was once a surprising random enquiry at a Dunedin library: the person was wanting information on "psychopaths in Mosgiel".

Or so the librarian thought at first. It quickly emerged that the question had been misheard, and the topic of enquiry was actually "cycle paths in Mosgiel".

As you were.

Friday, March 12, 2010


I had the most amazing privilege today of looking through the scrapbook of an elderly friend. As we leafed through the lovingly prepared book (prepared for him as a birthday gift by a younger member of his family) he told me many of his adventures - and they were not mediocre. As a young man he came to NZ as a refugee. He has kept a huge number and variety of documents from his experiences and journeys - including train tickets, meal tickets, even the menu from the boat he travelled on - and also including the original letter sent to his parents when he was imprisoned by the Gestapo. The letter is signed "Heil Hitler" - and it was very chilling to see this kind of thing first hand. He even later joined the French Foreign legion!

He'd also kept his union card from the first job, and he kindly let me photograph it.

It made me think of the current fad to strip away all the "junk" from our lives and throw out all the clutter. Just as well this lovely old man never did that, because what a rich history he has preserved.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Who do you think are the 10 best women wirters since 1960?

The Women's Bookshop
on Ponsonby Road, Auckland, is again running its FIFTY FIFTY WOMEN survey to select a list of:


50 women writers, 50 years.

That's from 1960 onwards... Hmmm...

Here are the top twelve from the last survey, carried out in 2005.

14,000 NZ readers cast their vote:

1. Margaret Attwood

2. Barbara Kingsolver

3. Annie Proulx

4. Janet Frame

5. Margaret Forster

6. Carol Shields

7. Doris Lessing

8. Keri Hulme

9. Patricia Grace

10. AS Byatt

11= Elizabeth Knox

11= Isabelle Allende

Fiona Kidman and Alice Sebold appeared in the top 30 but could well deserve an even higher spot this time round, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Man Booker prizewinner Hilary Mantel appearing on the list.

It'll be interesting to see where Janet Frame places given that her star is burning more strongly than ever internationally. But will the tall poppy effect kick in back here at home?

If you want to vote, pick up a form from the bookshop, ask them to send you one, or email your top ten (plus the title you think is each writer's best) to the email address on The Women's Bookshop web page.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


I tested the waters of the the Twitter revolution over a year ago but it didn't really catch on with me. However, as of today, there may well be some occasional squawking from the Tabby's direction.

I've even added a microblogging gadget in the sidebar ---->

Feel free to invite me to follow you on Twitter :-)

Friday, March 5, 2010

The world's my oyster

Fresh juicy fat Bluff oysters.
A terrific treat after enduring an anxiety-provoking medical procedure.
Relief after a good report indicating the condition under investigation is on the mend.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Full tide with sleeping swans

Just after dawn this morning, still a spring tide.

The black swans tuck up their long necks and just float...

It's my blog and I'll share if I want to

Scary medical test tomorrow - wish me luck please. I have to choose between sedated oblivion or lucid control freak. Jury still out...

Want List

Weather station - with anemometer
Bill's new poems
Paul Cleave's latest
UBS: another Penguin Classics coffee mug - do they have a Virginia Woolf?
Cash in air points - Hong Kong? Hawaii?
Giant paper clips
Coetzee Summertime
Redeem Flybuys points - food processor? pasta maker?
Stamps - Chinese New Year & ancient reptiles of NZ
Elizabeth Smither's new novel
Bluff oysters

Monday, March 1, 2010

A grown-up goes to the ballet

Last week I attended a world premiere in Dunedin, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's FROM HERE TO THERE - a "taster plate" of three shorter works. Modern classical ballet.

I am a ballet nut. I even did the ballet thing myself, passing BBO exams as a child with "Honours" to grade 4 level of the imperialistic 'British Ballet Organisation'. But my real talent was always as a spectator. My Dad loved ballet too and he used to take me with him to every one of the great ballets that came to town. So from a very early age I would perch on the edge of my seat next to Dad, in the dizzying heights of the "gods" in Auckland's wonderful His Majesty's Theatre, not wanting to miss anything. We loved the romantic classical ballets. He took me to see the touring Bolshoi Ballet and the Sadler's Wells and of course everything the Royal New Zealand Ballet ever did.

We loved Giselle and Swan Lake and we could watch them over and over. And we loved the Nutcracker Suite and Petruschka.

I actually like modern dance too and so I have also always gone to see those whenever I got a chance, but never with Dad. He knew what he liked. He was a traditionalist, as far as ballet went.

We did share a dislike for any modernising of our favourite traditional ballets. Don't mess with the damn tutus! Don't put the girls in street clothes! Dance naked if you're in a Douglas Wright performance, by all means, and bring in scaffolding and trapezes, but don't try to "update" the classics - they were perfect to start with. Just dance them, and break our hearts with the beauty of your bodies and the depth of your feeling.

I love the ballet so much, that when the curtain goes up and the first note is played and the first foot thwacks gently on the boards, I have to fight against the wave of emotion that overwhelms me. I weep. I love to sit in the very front row. I'm spellbound the whole way through.

But now that my father has died I have not been able to even think of going to the ballet any more. I would just be too too sad to go without him. I couldn't stop missing him and thinking about him. I didn't even want to look at the advertising for the classical dance treats that roll through town regularly.

So it has seemed that I had lost my Dad and ballet too.

But last week when I saw that the ballet coming to town was "modern" I thought, suddenly, that here was my chance to go along to something where I wouldn't miss Dad. He wouldn't have gone to that sort of ballet, and anyway the modern stuff just doesn't pull your heart strings.

And so I went, and I didn't miss Dad, and I loved the ballet. I wasn't swept away by sentiment, but it was a profoundly aesthetic experience, and an intellectual feast too. Sublime.

There was an emotional connection, but a grown-up deliciously poignant one, of appreciation and admiration - for the music, the choreography, the dancing, the stage setting, the costumes...

I was surprised at how many references to the "great" ballets that I could identify - Giselle and the Nutcracker were two that seemed to have influenced some of the choreography - and there were even tutus, hip modernist tutus, but still tutus: as light and delicate as a thistledown and as evanescent as any romantic could desire.

The music in all three pieces was exquisitely suitable for ballet (oh what a shame we couldn't have had musicians playing it live, but at least there were no issues at all with the technical delivery of the recorded sound) and the dancing was a perfect expression of the music.

Some notes:

SILHOUETTE: Poulenc music came alive, from clockwork to disjointed, kooky, the parts whirling apart and then clicking back together, a machinery of love and desire, lost pieces finding coherence, the sharp edge of tutu-modernism, too-too tutu! Gorgeous.

A MILLION KISSES TO MY SKIN: Fluid, dazzling, colourful, virtuoso, cerebral, indefatigable Bach. And a touch of Scheherezade.

A SONG IN THE DARK: Philip Glass, melancholy, glorious, lithe, Giacometti shadows, so absorbing a performance that the rest of the world ceased to exist.