'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, 31 October 2008


I was in the supermarket queue some years ago waiting for my assorted purchases to jiggle along the belt to be swiped.  When the tongue (beef, whole, black and pink, wrapped in plastic) arrived under her hand, the young teen-aged check-out operator did a flinch.  Then a nervous poke with forefinger and remarked "Oooh yuk, what is it?"
"A cow's tongue".
"Oooh yuk, is it for your dog?"
"Nope.  For my kids".
"Oooh yuk.  How old are they?"
"About your age.  Two boys at college, girl at intermediate".
"Oooh gross!  Do they like it?"
"They love it.  They may not know what it is because I slice it up".
"Ooooooh.  What's your boys' names?  I might know them".
I gave her their names and, to the slight irritation of the waiting members in the queue, we finally established that she didn't know them, and therefore could not (presumably) have the pleasure of enlightening them about their mother's duplicitous culinary practices.
At last my groceries were in my bags.  As I paid she announced firmly
"There's NO WAY I could ever eat that"
"Why not?" enquired next-in-line middle-aged woman.
"Well, yuk, it comes out of a cow's mouth!"
Next-in-line middle-aged woman smiled sweetly at her and replied
"Eat eggs, do you?"

Thursday, 30 October 2008

What I'm painting now





This yellow hibiscus I started nine days ago has been a nice challenge.  You can see the progress in this series of pics.

1. First I roughed out the bones on a burnt siena toned canvas. 
2. Then I began to refine the shapes and shadows - for example I worked on the shadow of the pistil, dabbing yellow and lemon 'holes' for the gaps between the stamens. 
3. Next I had a good go at the dents and area where the petals join in the centre and developed the roundness of the pistil stalk (it has an odd transition from pink to lime green) and the stamens, by shading one side.  I had to remember to add the glow of light that is reflected off the sunny side into the shade in the centre.  It was fun to add the puffs of pollen and the tiny stalks.  
4. Yesterday I wrestled with the dents and bumps and grooves on the lower right hand corner petal.  I think I'm almost there.  I was pleased to be able to capture the translucent bump on the top edge, where the sun shines through the back of the petal.
 You might notice I haven't touched the upper right hand petal yet.  Today!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Broccoli people

What fun.  Someone has put their friends on their broccoli packet photo.  
These are (at least some of) the people who discovered it.  Can't see the little folk?  Look closer:


Monday, 27 October 2008

Summer lushness

Summertime, and the rain it raineth everyday.  Not really, but I'm sorry for nine-to-fivers who had had a lot of wet weekends so far...
But it's good for the grass and the garden.   Down at the park, the raindrops sat gently on the new dawn redwood leaflets, and I could almost hear the bullrushes down by the river rushing to be as high as an elephant's eye.
The avocado is smothered with flower buds.  And the scarlet oak in my garden is looking pale and lovely against the dark of the miro and tanekaha.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Overriding concern.

For another example of this kind of 'top down' phenomenon, see my post about shadows here.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Friday, 24 October 2008

Friday night is movie night

Scene from Local Hero
Urquhart: [acting as bartender] I want you to try this Scotch. It's 42 years old. 
MacIntyre: Old enough to be out on its own, then. 

And tonight is no exception.  Pot luck tea first,  A & O will probably bring their usual delicious quiche and I'll make scalloped potatoes and a big bowl of salad (lettuce, avocado, sprouts and tomatoes) and we have spiced banana muffins to go with the cuppa at 'intermission'. 
I've posted about this before...
We have long finished Dickens Our Mutual Friend epic.
So tonight perhaps we'll watch Kolya or maybe The English Patient, or The World's Fastest Indian

Or maybe one of my favourite movies of all time; Local Hero.  I know it was made in 1983, but I still love it.  Dry humour, stunning scottish scenery.  A gentle story that trickles along almost in the background, superb acting, unpretentious and understated dialogue, a great movie - sometimes melancholy, sometimes hilarious.  

Oh and the wonderful soundtrack by Mark Knopfler.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

For my daughter

Dear N,

You are a wonderful person and I think the world of you.  It won't be long before you leave home to make your way in the world.  You probably don't need it, but can I please give you some advice?  Here are some things that you should do.

1.  Think well of yourself.

You are great and capable of achieving great things so believe in yourself.  When things go badly never stop believing.  Some girls get depressed, blame themselves and lose self-esteem.  All sorts of problems can follow.

2.  Like how you look.

I think you look great.  Please be happy with the person you are and the body you have.  Eat sensibly, take exercise and be healthy.  Some girls become obsessed with losing weight or getting the perfect shape.  You look fine.

3.  Live within your means.

Throughout life try to keep your spending within your income and so save a little.  Avoid getting into debt if possible.  There are some exceptions - like getting a mortgage to buy a house - (wait and get the biggest deposit you can) - but generally if you can live within your means you will avoid all sorts of problems.

4.  Don't compromise your personal safety.

Never put yourself at serious risk.   This means that you cannot trust people until you really know them and that sometimes you have to avoid things that look like they might be fun.   Never get drunk or take drugs. Unfortunately there are some bad people out there and it is best not to take undue risks.

5.  Never get involved with a married man.

There are plenty of great single men out there.  Don’t get entangled with a married man no matter how attractive he is - it will end in your tears.

6.  Do your best.

I am very impressed at what you have accomplished so far at work.  You should be proud too.  Keep doing well.  Try hard at what you do in all areas.  No one can ask for more than that.

7.  Remember I love you.

Whatever happens in life, your family will still be your family.  Whatever difficulties you encounter you can always talk to me and I will try to help.  I am here for you.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


Goodbye Margaret.  T's mum died today.  With dignity, grace and peace, just as she wished. Those that are left need to slowly gather up the pieces and carry on without her.  The last page of her book is written.  Now we can turn the pages and read it again and again whenever we want.

A coincidence - I think it must be almost exactly 12 years since my own Mum died.  I'm fairly sure it was the middle of October ... 

I always thought that I'd see you one more time again... thought I'd see you flying away now...
- James Taylor 'Fire and Rain'

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The farm gate

On the way home from Auckland last week I took a random first turn left and 300 metres up the road pulled in at someone's gate where we stopped for hot tea from the thermos and a biscuit.  Quite nice really, don't you think?

The image should be clickable.

Monday, 20 October 2008

What's it worth?

Waterlily, Bateman's.  27 x 20 cm.   Oils.  Click on it to enlarge image.

It's done!  Three cheers and a big red rosy apple!

Time for my signature and to 'abandon it' as Picasso said.  I'll put it on TradeMe next week.*  
I'll give it a coat of lacquer to really bring out the colours, make it shine, and protect the surface.

I've started the next one.  It's below. A lemon yellow hibiscus with a pink centre.  It's dark ochre/orange because it's the underpainting.  The idea is that it will 'shine' through and 'lift' the pale yellow.  This one is 32 x 24 cm.

* Unless you want to put in an offer for it between now and then.  Email me ...

Saturday, 18 October 2008

The simple life

About 3 decades ago I was on a course and we were given a box of pastels and some paper and told to have a play.  I sat there wondering what I could draw.  Then I remembered getting the cows in and how the sky looks in the early morning when the horizon is just colouring up, the grass is changing from black to grey-green, and the stars are fading.  I did a little piece and wrote on it with gold pastel.  The words were, at the time, meant to be a playful look at how sometimes, even to me in a setting of the 21st century,  the dark night can seem a simple, primitive place.  The words read:  "The sky is a dome and the earth is flat and the stars are holes."

I still do feel that earthy simplicity sometimes, and imagine my lineage stretching back to my stone-age ancestors...


Still can't get enough of this man...
(And for Wendy.  Happy Birthday kiddo!)

Friday, 17 October 2008

How to speak like a Yorkshire Pudding.

If you want to speak Sheff, that unique brand of English, and I use the term loosely, you can go to this very special school I discovered in Queen Street, Auckland.  Why anyone would want to is beyond me, but there you have it.  

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Big Smoke..

... was actually not very smokey at all, but quite lovely.   I especially noticed the contrasts between the tall glass buildings and the old.   And I loved the reflections.

Talking of old,  In the car on the way I mentioned to my companion that I'd given her age of 78 out to the world, and she just smiled enigmatically.* 

We stayed right in the heart of the city, and from our balcony had a lovely view right down the main shopping road Queen Street and even a peek of the Sky Tower Casino.  
The orchestra was fabulous, the full moon had risen when we got back to the hotel and this morning I spent a blissful few hours in the art gallery.

* It turns out she is actually 85!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008




I'm off to Auckland for a couple of days.  The Auckland Philharmonia gave me two free seats to the 2009 season preview, so how could I resist?  The big city and I don't go too well together so I'm taking a sophisticated 78 year-old lady friend to guide me.  We'll probably do the art gallery too.  
So, until Wednesday (my Wednesday), cheerio everyone! (That's Kiwi for 'bye).  

PS. To all those people (about two each day) who visit because of my manuka honey post, I recently attended a talk by Prof. Peter Molan himself, so will write up a big post on the subject when I return.  (It was WONDERFUL, and I learnt so much that I'm busting to share.)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Sun-up on Sunday.

Here comes the sun, doodan doo-doo ...

Bounced out of bed yesterday, off to the park and stood on the top while the 'dawn inches up', looking at the broom-swept clouds and the promise of a lovely day.  Shelly got scared when I moo-ed at the cattle over the river and for a while she trotted nervously beside me with her tail down, sure that they were going to be after us.  But she soon regained her usual flag-flying exuberance and was off making a track ahead of me in the dewy grass.

Help, don't let them get me, mum!

Are you sure they can't swim?

Sunday, 12 October 2008


To go with the blogger award the other day, here's a blogger Meme.  (Does one pronounce it 'me-me' as I think?  Or is it 'meem' as N thinks?  And does it really matter anyway?)  This one came from Florida.
There's no copyright on it, please feel free to use it.

Outside my window... are tree ferns, a vegetable garden, a bit of lawn and then the steep zig-zag path down to the river.
I am thinking... how much I am looking forward to my visit to Auckland next week to hear the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.
I am thankful for... My home, my children, my health, many things.
From the kitchen... I can smell bread cooking.
I am wearing... jeans and an old shirt for painting.
I am creating... a copy of a renaissance painting.
I am hearing... the lovely sounds of the dawn chorus.
I am reading... Terry Pratchett's "The Night Watch" - for about the third time.
I am hoping... that the accommodation in Auckland on Tuesday night will be nice.  I got it off the back of a supermarket receipt, you see.  
Around the house... I want to lay a path. 
One of my favourite things... is marmalade on toast.
A few plans for the rest of the week... 1.  Finish this painting  2.  Phone my cousin and have a catch-up 3.  Plant the two japanese maples  4.  Clean the mould off the bathroom ceiling  5.  Go to the boat show on Sunday as part of the 'Night Owls' patrol.
Here is a picture thought I am sharing...

(You can click to see what Jim kollects)