'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.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Some Days are Diamonds

Some days everything just goes right. You get up with a jump and the sun is shining through the curtains. You put the clothes on the line and it doesn't rain on them all day. You wash some windows while the porridge is cooking but you don't get carried away and the pog is still unburnt when you remember it is on. You walk briskly to work and even though you are late, there is a hold-up, so no-one notices. The computer room is double booked but another is found for you in the music school. The sound of loud insistent drumming from the next room prevents you from doing your own project, but allows you to help a student colleague set up in blogging, much to her excitement. When the drumming stops, you have a great idea for a business card and discover a new cool font to use too. And when you get back to class you find the assignments are back, marked and you've got a good grade. What a wonderful day!

Sunday, 25 July 2010

The remains of today

5.20 tonight, and as the cooking smell of tangy sweet marmalade mixed with new-baked bread infuses the house, the sun drops gently off my horizon ... perhaps to enter yours. It's been a lovely winter's day. Earlier I fell asleep in the sun, stretched out on a pile of stacked firewood. What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, eh?

Centre City Dawn

This morning, as soon as it was light enough to fly (6.50am) a hoard of gulls descended en mass on the waterfront at the park. Perhaps they know it's Sunday and there are always good fast-food pickings from Saturday night car-parkers. Or maybe they do it every morning. Within minutes these scavengers had done their clean-up and were gone. It was like a scene from a Hitchcock movie.

The sun rose at about 20 past seven.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Keep calm

I've just bought a rather fun and useful drink bottle. It is very efficient as it not only assists me to drink more water when I am beavering away on some absorbing painting project, but reminds me not to panic when things don't go according to plan. I love it!

It came with a little card with the following words:

"It was 1939 and Britain was on the brink of war. In anticipation of this the British Government's Ministry of Information commissioned a series of propaganda posters to reassure the population they would be defended at all costs.

The posters were to be displayed all over the country once war was declared. Using only the crown of King George VI, this particular poster simply read "Keep Calm and Carry On". It never actually made it onto the walls of Britain and was never officially issued.

A crumpled copy of the poster was however rediscovered by chance many years later amongst a pile of dusty old books in a book store in Northumberland, England.

This simple poster with its simple message is just as relevant today as it was back in the 1930's."

Water bottle made by Wild & Wolf Limited. www.wildandwolf.com

PS. No, I am not receiving a commission from the makers. But if Wild & Wolf happen to be reading this, I would not refuse any fiscally-oriented input to my bank account.)

PPS if you are still reading this Wild & Wolf, I think it flows better with the comma after 'King George VI'.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

In Search of Jazz

I went to the library today to browse the art section. I was looking for some inspiration for a theme or subject for a jazz café mural. "Something jazzy" I thought predictably, as I perused the shelves.

I rejected anything before the Impressionists because it didn't look risky and syncopated enough, although I was momentarily distracted by a tile pattern in the Imam Mosque in Isfahan:

The Impressionists themselves were too boating and picnics and green, only one small step away from gallant William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites, really. What I needed was a dose of rebellion.

John William Waterhouse Gather Ye Rosebuds While ye May 1909

Berthe Morisot Eugene Manet et sa Fille au Jardin 1883

Dada began to look promising but they were too anarchic and random - the antithesis of what I was looking for: the tight/loose, individual/cooperative blends of a good jazz band.

Raoul Hausmann ABCD 1923-1924

Balla, of the Futurist movement was getting me warmer, and I could have stayed with the Futurists, with their interest depicting sounds and movement;

Giacomo Balla Mercurio Passa Davanti il Sole 1914

....but the radical Cubists were calling me. I stayed with them for a while, turning over the pages. I looked at the multiple simultaneous viewpoints of Picasso - it seemed like the weaving of the muted trumpet and the dance of the bass. I looked at the African masks of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon and I could sense the African blues roots of a jazz band. But something was still missing. The cubist's lines were too similar - all scratchy and unsure. Where was the tip-toes and sinuous confidence of a clarinet? Where was the peggy plonks of a piano? Where the confident power and slurs of the solo sax? I needed a variety of marks. And much more variety in colour. Begone dull browns and fawns of the Cubists! Bring on the Bauhaus! We need the underlying discipline of the melody even if the interpretation varies every night.

Pablo Picasso Les Demoiselles d'Avignon 1907

Then I spotted it: I picked it up - a small book with a painting of Pure Jazz on the cover: Yellow-Red-Blue by Wassily Kandinsky. Ah. He's the Man.

Wassily Kandinsky Gelb-Rot-Blau 1925

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Unknown plant

OK, flora sleuths out there. Here's another unknown plant/weed. It was found in a suburban garden in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. This area experiences frosty days in winter and dry hot summers. Soil is fairly shallow and there is a clay pan near the surface.
This is the information sent with it:
"...grows to about 30cm. in about a month in spring and very quickly puts out conker-like pods that have hundreds of black seeds within. The plant has a very pungent smell.
Found a couple of plants in the garden here at no:60 when we first got here. Carefully lifted them and didn't get any seedlings last year."

So, does anyone recognise this one? You can see a couple of the seeds in the image.

Monday, 19 July 2010


Credit: http://artsammich.deviantart.com/art/Brownies-133958121
Thanks for finding it to: http://lookaroundyou.posterous.com/

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Uzu - ipad App.

Wow. Look at this alluring, intoxicating application for ipad!

Thanks Flatattack!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Old Jam

I found some old crystalised plum jam in the fridge, so I put it out for the wax-eyes.

It's been a year since the last time I filled this little glass pot up. As I scooped the jam in, the teaspoon dinged against the side of the pot. Immediately I heard a sharp 'peep' from nearby. I began counting the seconds. After 29 seconds a bird had arrived in the tree. By 46 seconds, it was eating.

This one clearly hadn't visited this food source before. "Do you get it from underneath?"

"Buzz off! It's my turn! I'll work it out by myself. "

"Ah, This is the way. Yum."

Monday, 12 July 2010

Mystery Plants







7a Close up of small tree (below)


Can anyone help me identify these plants and/or trees? I met them up in that wonderful Wharepuke Tropical Garden in Kerikeri. They were numbered but some of the numbers had worn off. I copied the brochure list of species, so even if you know roughly what it is, that might be enough of a clue.

I confess that I do know what no. 5 is. I just put it in to see if you do.

Thursday, 8 July 2010


One of my favourite literary characters is Feste, who plays the 'wise' fool in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night or: What You Will. Unfortunately I cannot now imagine him played by anyone but Sir Ben Kingsley, who, I was delighted to learn, can sing. And indeed, more than well enough for the role.

W.S has included some exceedingly fine songs in this play for the singing. 'O Mistress Mine' is one of the few sombre moments in the play.

....What is love? 'Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What's to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty.
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

The Tour de France and Me

My connection to the famous Tour De France cycle race goes back a long way.

When I was in my early twenties I went to the UK with the intention of doing a cycle tour. On arrival I went into the nearest cycle shop, which happened to be in Chesham Bois, and looked at the bikes. I went for a sturdy-looking one with not too many gears and aluminium alloy wheel rims. I bought a small tool set and a spare inner tube. The bike had a name. Eddy. I didn't name it this; it was written on it: "Eddy Merckx". At the time the name meant nothing to me. In my colonial ignorance I didn't know that this famous Belgian had won the T d F no less than five times - no small feat. The year I bought 'his' bike, 1978, was the year after he lost the 'one tour too many'.
But his bike proved marvelous and I rode it from Chesham to a delightful tiny village called Yielden near Rushden where I found work as a rousie, tieing fleeces. After work and on rainy days when the sheep were too wet, I house-kept and cooked for the shearing gang boss.
After a month or so when the shearing was over, I jumped back on my bike and went back to London. Well, actually I skirted London and ended up in Rye on the coast. I biked (with a friend) all along the South Coast, avoiding Southhampton by getting on the ferry to Ryde, biking across the Isle of Wight, then taking the ferry up to Lymington in the New Forest.

We went as far west as Fowey (via Avebury, Salisbury and Winchester) then came back to Plymouth for a while.

Taking off again north across Dartmoor then Exmoor to Lynton and Lynmouth, we walked around the coastal path there and explored the lovely Valley of the Rocks before plunging down Porlock Hill (and going through a complete set of brake-pads) on our way back to London.

Me peeking over the battlements of Dartmouth Castle

The whole trip took three months and was really wonderful. We camped in fields (like that one above, near Powderham Castle), cooked over a little burner and had stand-up washes in pub loos. The weather was kind and I was fit and brown and glowing with good health by the end.

That was my Tour d'Angleterre avec Eddy.

My connection with the Tour de France continued when in 2003 I discovered the quirky and surreal French animated film "The Triplets of Belleville". I enjoyed this tremendously. Briefly, it is a story of a T d F competitor who is kidnapped by French mafia and taken to New York (thinly disguised as 'Belleville', but recognisable by a fat hamburger-munching Statue of Liberty), to be the object of an illegal betting game.

He is finally rescued by his old grandmother Mme Souza and dog Bruno, assisted by the former music-hall singing Belleville Triplets, now themselves elderly women.

Un jour, je vais voir le vrai Tour de France peut-être.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Spot the birds

Last Sunday just after breakfast I was sitting at the picnic table in front of the first tree opposite the little beach settlement of Kaiaua, just north of Miranda. I had with me a telescope and camera. There was thin cloud, a cold brisk wind, and it was about 90 minutes after high tide. This information is included so I sound like a proper twitcher.

With the help of photoshop, with which I've stuck three images together and moved a few birds around, I present to you, this panorama.

I was there mostly to see the first bird: the Eastern Curlew. An unusual visitor, it should be up in Russia breeding by now, and rarely comes to New Zealand at all, even in summer. It's the biggest wader with a wingspan of over a metre, and there are only about 20 thousand left. Look at that magnificent decurved bill (down-curved beak).

There are eight other avian species in the panorama. I've enlarged them. Spot the little ruddy turnstones near the caspian tern and the two NZ dotterals directly above. There are only about 1700 left of these.

The ducks probably find the beach a safer haven than the inland ponds at the moment. Don't worry ducks! Duck sooting season will be over soon (5/5 - 31/7).

The last image, as you have probably guessed, is not a wader at all, but a member of the domestic cat family. There are plenty of these left. In fact, they are probably not likely to be endangered anytime soon. This one was directly across the road behind me and had been watching me with interest the whole two hours I was there sketching and photographing.