'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Question

I am vacillating about our trip down south to Dunedin tomorrow.  To go or not to go, that is the question.

1. It's a lovely long way and I have now a new camera, and will be coming back slowly, taking photos that I will use for paintings. 

2.  It's been about 30 years since I've been in Christchurch where I did my degree, and knew and loved it very much.

3.  I love driving and seeing New Zealand, and we will be covering about 1300 km (one way) of beautiful scenery.

4.  N. is off to university next year, this might be one of the last holidays we have together.

5.  J. has loads more stuff than will fit on a 747.  

6.  I'm looking forward to seeing Ellyn and her new house.

7.  J. has to be down by the 2nd July to enroll for his post grad thingy anyway.  So will have to be flown down if we don't go.

8.  N. is staying with her Dad from the 4th so will have to be flown down if we don't go.

9.  I haven't had a holiday for years (see our big O.E blog) and can be away 10 or 11 days.

1. I still have the ends of the flu bug.

2.  J. has a sore throat.

3.  N. has the ends of the flu bug.

4.  It's a long way, and a lot of driving.

5.  Snow is forecast on the Central Plateau for tonight, but is likely to be passable by 9 am tomorrow morning.

6. A quick survey of two friends revealed 100% advising against it.

7.  Pippin our cat has just gone missing.*

8.  Petrol is expensive.

9.  It's really cold down there.

What do you think?  We were going to leave tomorrow at about 6.30 am New Zealand time, so you have until then to tell me.  About 14 hours.  

*I think YP has put a hex on me for posting about my pets (posting removed out of respect for Boris)

P.S.  OK,  I admit I tried to skew the data by not confessing that I actually still have the flu.  My temperature is  up a bit - 37.5ºC , but I feel ok, really I do.  Honestly.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Can't Brain Today

Huge 3 days relieving in difficult classes, feverish daughter (now on the improve), but help, support and kindness from unexpected quarters.  Bed early to read until the book falls out of my hand...That's all folks.  Except maybe this:

Sunday, 22 June 2008

The Big Weekend

It was my daughter's school ball, plus youngest son's farewell/birthday party.  Both on Saturday night.  Whew.

My Saturday went something like this:

8.00-10.30.  Finish sewing ball gown (hem by hand, make and sew on shoestring straps)

10.50-12.00.  Clean the house, chop wood and kindling, lay fire, make all beds up for sleepover friends of son.

1.00-3.00.  Make pizzas and baked dish for party.

10.00-5.00.  Comfort daughter, get cross, calm down and cycle through this sequence three times as daughter's friends and two replacements pull out of special ride * arrangements throughout day.

3.30 - 4.30.  Bake and ice the carrot cake for the firefighters.*

4.30 - 5.00.  Curl daughter's hair with curling tongs that I have never used in my life before.

5.00 - 6.30.  Greet youngest son's guests while applying makeup to daughter's face, stopping dog barking at arriving guests, and trying to give oldest son (not seen for a month) quality conversation. 

6.30 - 6.40.  Bucketing down - rain that reduces driving speed to a crawl despite wipers on double time - drive out into country with daughter to pick up her friend.

6.40 - 6.50.  Wait for daughter's friend while she looks for ball ticket.

6.50 - 7.00.  Drive home through pouring rain for daughter to look for her ball ticket.

7.00 - 7.05.  Wait in car while daughter finds her ball ticket.

7.05 - 7.20.  Drive in more torrential rain to fire station.

7.20-7.25.  Drive around looking for fire station's new premises.  Luckily daughter's friend spots it through the rain down a side street.

7.25 - 7.35.  Give carrot cake to fire fighters, take photos of fire fighters with girls, girls in front of fire truck, girls getting into fire truck, girls in fire truck etc.

7.35 - 7.40.  Drive with two fire fighters behind fire truck in more torrential rain to ball venue.  Girls rush into venue, firefighters get into truck and go back to the station.

7.40 - 8.00.  Drive home through torrential rain.

9.00 - 11.00.  Relax at friend's house.  Watch the All Blacks thrash the Lions.

11.00 - 11.15.  Drive back through torrential rain to ball venue.  

11.15 - 11.30.  Wait for the doors to open and the 500 young people to be released from the steamy confines.

11.30 - 11.50.  Drive daughter home through torrential rain.  

11.50 -12.10.  Wait while daughter changes out of ball gown, picks up overnight back, sleeping bag, sleeping pad etc.  Smile at son's guests and try not to look directly at strobe lighting.  Yawn repeatedly.

12.10 - 12 20.   Drive daughter out through torrential rain back into the country for 'after ball party' and overnight stay at friend's house.

12.20 - 12.45.  Drive to my friend's house in torrential rain.

12.50.  Fall into bed.

Post Script:  Kids each had fantastic evenings and N won  the 'Best Ride to the Ball' prize.  I cooked up a huge feed of bacon, mushrooms and eggs for the people I found lying around my house next morning, and used up the cream and chocolate failed fondue mixture to make hot chocolates.  (Note - son has learnt that you should warm the cream to the same temperature as the melted chocolate).

Friday, 20 June 2008

Friday Night at the Movies

Most Friday evenings here we have a pot luck tea followed by a movie.  Over the years this has been a lovely way that people have come into our lives.  The local pet shop man had a double whammy - separation and his shop lease coming up for renewal (forcing his sale), so I impulsively asked him over.  I like to think a few hours once a week in another space helped him through a tricky time.  We don't see him so much these days since he met his lovely new lady. 

Other visitors are old friends, yet others become new ones.  At the moment we have a nice group of people I met through the U3A (University of the Third Age).  And of course I get to share my favourite movies with others, and so the evenings are always super for me.  And other people's food is always nice! 

Tonight the room will be cosy, the fire will be blazing, and we're starting the excellent BBC version of "Our Mutual Friend".

Wednesday, 18 June 2008


Some time ago, Crofty, whose heart is still in west Scotland, wrote a post about an artist he knew who made wonderful sculptures out of old books.  This put me in mind of him.  It's a tiny smidgeon peeled off something that's been painted a lot.  Marvelous!  

It could be a metaphor for life's experiences.


For ages I've been trying to save money.  This is mostly because I don't like working much, and it means I have more money to do the things I really want to, eg go on overseas trips or buy books.
I save mostly in areas of house-hold expenditure, and so I'm feeling rather smug when I see how many of the suggestions in this diagram I've been doing for years.  

Note to self: must work on not using the car so much.  Make a start as soon as have come back from Dunedin trip ...


I've recently been thinking and talking about death a lot.  A special friend is dying, and we have some great discussions.  My mother and sister, geriatric nurses, both very down-to-earth people with pragmatic philosophies about this and other matters, have rubbed off on me.  

It seems to me there are some generalities:
1.  It comes to us all, don't be afraid, it's very natural.  Most people just don't see it around much these days so, like anything unknown, it can seem scary.
2.  Everyone is different and thus dies differently.  
3.  It's nice to have time to say goodbye but it doesn't always happen.
4.  It's something you have to ultimately do by yourself.
5.  There is no reason these days, with modern medicine, for anyone to die in pain.  Be assertive.
6.  You ain't dead until you're dead.  So don't ignore the dying out of fear or embarrassment, nor live like you're already gone.
7.  If a belief of some type gives comfort, use it.  
8.  Celebrate the life.  Death means the last page is written and the book finished.  But you can always go back and read it again and again.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.  Learn as if you were to live forever.

- Mahatma Ghandi

Monday, 16 June 2008

The Fieldays

Last week, along with 130 thousand others, we headed over to Mystery Creek near Hamilton to the National Agricultural Fieldays.  

I bought, on impulse(s): six swiss peelers, three rubber-band guns, some cosmetics (with instructional DVD), two kilograms of veggie leathers, a single-bed sized imitation hare fur blanket, a barbeque non-stick liner sheet, two pairs of gardening gloves, three pairs of fantastic socks, two hotdogs-on-sticks (with tomato sauce), three steak sandwiches, and two bottles of orange and mango juice.

We watched the fencing competition.

Look at the wonderful assortment of equipment this champion fencer needs, all nicely laid out.  He had six bottles of electrolyte drinks of assorted flavours and four bananas, pre-peeled.   He was three posts ahead of the other fencers, who had their equipment in messy piles, and no bananas, peeled or unpeeled.

I did not buy any large brightly-coloured agricultural equipment....

... and am not frustrated as this man clearly is:

However I was tempted by this and these.  And I want to buy one of these one day.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Going Back 2

In the park the aviary is still there.
The park was, to an under-three year-old, a huge exciting place where you could get lost.  
It's where I first fed ducks and swans with bread with Nanna (and of course received my first swan-bite, as you do).  
It was where I sat on the stone lion and paddled in the toddler pool and picnicked on the grass.  
One time I went back, they'd had vandals and removed all the birds, but it was nice to see them back this time.

So, some things do stay the same.

This time, Jane and I took Dad out for lunch and we sat in front of the cages and nattered over our sandwiches.  
Very nice.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Going Back

I've been back to my old stamping ground.  Funny how some things are quite different from how you remember them, and others give you such a jolt because they are just the same.  

The creek at the back of our house was wide, full of logs left where they fell, mud, eels and only visible once you sat under the willows that almost completely shaded it.   I used to go down the bank from an early age and fish for eels with bread and a bent pin.  This me, at about four. 

 I could lie in bed and hear the pukekos and morporks in the trees,  and the stock trucks as they engine-braked down the hill to the old single-lane wooden bridge at the bottom, rattled across and then ground slowly up the other side. 
When it flooded, it was a completely different personality; broad, tan, oily and viscously exciting.  We loved it when it actually flowed over the  bridge.  Eventually they replaced it with a high, long, metal bridge, but we used to play pooh-sticks or fish off the old one until long after the 'unsafe' sign was up and you could see the creek between the huge square wooden beams.

But now look at the river.  Tamed out of all recognition, antiseptic and with a 'walking track' beside it.  But there'd be nothing for me to see, even if I was to go walking there...

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Mt Maunganui

(David Hall Photography)

Today I walked around the Mount with T, as we often do on a Sunday.  It happened to be exactly one year, one month, one week, one day and one hour since we first met.  The sunshine glittered on the water like gold and haloed the silhouettes of the black volcanic rocks.  There was a cold invigorating wind, and the views were clear and sharp as a blade.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Me and Bobby

I have a wonderful friend.  She is one of those people who listens.  She accepts everything in me (and others) with calm joy and delight.  Except sadness, which always gives her concern.  I met her first when I was about eleven, and although the last few years have mostly kept us apart, I have never stopped holding her very dear.  She lives with her exceptional husband and family on the other side of the world, but I have recently found out that next winter she and her daughter will, all things going according to plan, stay here with me for at least a few months.  I am so looking forward to that!    

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Archy and Mehitabel

I'm not very fond of cockroaches.  Except maybe one - a fictional one, full of social commentary and humor, invented by Don Marquis.  Archy is a cockroach who types his views at night in a newspaper office, and whose work is characterised by distinctive typing due to his lack of ability to hold down the shift key and type at the same time.  

Originally a series of newspaper articles back in the 1916, it captured my imagination when I saw it some years ago in a mag.  I remember Archy every time I have a sore finger or hand and can't type properly.  And also sometimes when I see all the lower-case, no-apostrophed stuff touted as as writing communication these days.

It was turned into an animated musical (Shinbone Alley - 1971) but was a bit of  a flop.  

Archy's story begins:
expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre bard  
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook on life
i see things from the underside now
thank you for the apple peelings in the wastepaper basket
but your paste is getting so stale i can t eat it
there is a cat here called mehitabel i wish you would have
removed she nearly ate me the other night why don t she
catch rats that is what she is supposed to be here for 
there is a rat here she could get without delay

And a bit of philosophy:

if you get gloomy just
take an hour off and sit
and think how
much better this world
is than hell
of course it won t cheer
you up much if
you expect to go there

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

A Leek Quiche is not to be Despised

I once began to read a foodie column, probably in some waiting room somewhere, and the above title caught my eye.  I thought the sentence was wonderful!  It conjured up for me a whole frowning crowd of chef-hatted cooks, poking at a leek quiche with forefingers or wooden spoons and muttering disparaging comments.
I promptly wrote down the recipe.  And the quiche wasn't bad, but not as memorable as the sentence.

So, here's my lunch today:  Home-made bread, slivers of red pepper, a dollop of home-made green tomato chutney, and a thick topping of mature cheddar, grilled to a light golden colour.  

I would like you to go away with this thought:  Grilled cheese on toast is not to be despised.  


A new day, and this one with no headache.  Ah, it was almost worth having it for the light feeling of well-being when it's gone.  Well, almost!  Is our experience of everything relative?  A question to explore another time, or for someone else.  
Sunlight chases away the dark blue sky and warms the tops of the pines...

Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety.
- Rene Daumal

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

No rain again

Another gorgeous day.  We had a light sprinkling of rain last night, but hardly a teaspoon.  It must be nearly three weeks now.  I awoke to the wonderful scent of freshly baked bread which J. had set up in the breadmaker late last night.  The purple on this shrub in my garden is so bright it almost hurts my eyes.  I should be finishing off the skirting boards in N's room but it seems a pity to be inside on such a lovely day.  I wish I could get rid of this headache, though.

Monday, 2 June 2008

A trip away

We're going to go down to the Deep South.  My middle son starts the next post-grad phase of his university life in a month, and daughter N. and I have decided we'll take him down to Dunedin then.  I haven't been down to the South Island (except for conferences, and they don't count) since I left university in Christchurch myself mumble years ago.  It's all very exciting.  I've been online looking at trains and boats and planes, but this morning at 4 am I sat up in bed and thought "I'll drive down!"
It's a long way, and now that petrol is over two dollars a litre, it's not going to be cheap, but the flexibility will be lovely, and if I tow the compactavan, we'll be able to decide at the last minute on overnight stops, save on accommodation and have room to take J's stuff as well as the old Apple Mac down to Ellyn in Oamaru too. 

It's going to be cold too, but we'll bundle up.  We might even make it to the mountains and see some snow.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Bounty bars

It's been a pleasant weekend.  I got the lawns mowed (except that I've bumped into something and damaged the motor mower spark plug wire sleeve thingy and it needs replacing) and a few other tasks around the place. Unfortunately I shouldn't have had those two Bounty bars instead of lunch because now I have a slight chocolate-induced headache.  I feel like the lemon soon will.  The kids are doing the washing up so I'm off to bed soon.  Nightie-night.