'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.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


Just a couple more days here in Aussie and we'll be winging our way back to Auckland.  We've visited Melbourne and Adelaide, and I have lots of lovely images to share with you, and would be showing some now, but I forgot my transfer cable.
The weather has been great*, and I've so enjoyed learning about each of these two cities' distinctive personalities.

In the meantime, here's a random image of a bee in my father's garden.

* Just as I wrote that a light shower began to patter on the roof of the University of Adelaide conference room wherein I sit.

Thursday, 27 September 2012


I knitted a bag from plastic string, popped in a whole container of dripping, hung it on a tree and sat back to watch the fun.

1 white-eye....

2 white-eyes... 

3 white-eyes



6 white-eyes!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Merry Stories and Funny Pictures

In the last post I was talking about games we used to play when we were young.  Thinking about childhood rhymes and songs prompted me to remember an incident that occurred when I was about 12.

I used to have piano lessons with Miss Gray.  She was a plump, kind old woman who charged $12 a lesson and often, if I played well, would fall asleep.  She'd start awake at the end of each piece and turn the page with a little stick that she also used to point to notes and passages.
She'd also wake up if I played badly.  A very sensible teaching strategy, now that I think of it.

I was encouraged to arrive early for my lessons and often did so while the previous youngster was being taught.  The waiting room was her sun-porch and it contained ancient and smelly old books including an assortment of children's book from her childhood, which were placed out for us modern kids to read.  One was 'Struwwelpeter' written by Dr Heinrich Hoffman.

Before I show you some pages, here is the dedication, inviting children to be good so they will get this book for Christmas:

"When the children have been good,
That is, be it understood,
Good at meal-times, good at play,
Good all night and good all day—
They shall have the pretty things
Merry Christmas always brings.

Naughty, romping* girls and boys
Tear their clothes and make a noise,
Spoil their pinafores and frocks,
And deserve no Christmas-box.
Such as these shall never look
At this pretty Picture-book."

However, if you are lucky enough to get this book, here's a sample of what you'll find inside...

There were a series of illustrations and accompanying verse describing bad behaviour, and the results that could be expected.

This was what happened to Hans who didn't watch where he was going.  He fell in the canal and all the fishes laughed.  Luckily he was rescued but his writing book was not.

And because 'Suck-a-thumb' didn't stop this bad habit, the tailor came and cut his thumbs off completely.

This is the lass who would keep playing with matches.  She was burnt to death in the end.  Even her eyes were burnt.

But the one that impressed me most was Augustus who wouldn't eat his soup.  He ended up the size of a plum, and of course, died too.  It took only 5 days.

"Augustus was a chubby lad;
Fat ruddy cheeks Augustus had:
And everybody saw with joy
The plump and hearty, healthy boy.
He ate and drank as he was told,
And never let his soup get cold.
But one day, one cold winter's day,
He screamed out "Take the soup away!
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup today."

Next day, now look, the picture shows
How lank and lean Augustus grows!
Yet, though he feels so weak and ill,
The naughty fellow cries out still
"Not any soup for me, I say:
O take the nasty soup away!
won't have any soup today."

The third day comes: Oh what a sin!
To make himself so pale and thin.
Yet, when the soup is put on table,
He screams, as loud as he is able,
"Not any soup for me, I say:
O take the nasty soup away!
I WON'T have any soup today."

Look at him, now the fourth day's come!
He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum;
He's like a little bit of thread,
And, on the fifth day, he was—dead!"

I never went so far as to actually enjoy 'StruwwelPeter', but confess to a continual morbid fascination with the horrific, detailed, cautionary stories and graphic images.  Perhaps it is because I sucked my thumb until I was about eleven, ate like a sparrow, and often didn't look where I was going...

The full title, incidentally, was "Struwwelpeter: Merry Stories and Droll Pictures".

*K. - see, no romping allowed.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Games We'd Play

When I was young and on a car journey, if I hadn't been doped up too much with Avomine for my car-sickness, I would watch out the window of the car at the scenery passing, and often pretend that a lovely white horse (my imaginary companion) was racing alongside the car, jumping over all obstacles, almost flying over houses and hedges, and all because he couldn't bear to be apart from me while I was away for the day...

We used to run our hands on a corrugated iron wall on the way home from school, and avoid treading on cracks or you'd marry a rat. If I had a balloon I would hold it up with my hands and pretend it was full of helium like the balloon in 'The Red Balloon'.  In the 'dell' where we ate our school lunch, I would pinch up little piles of dust and make road lines with my fingers.  I'd make daisy-chains when I should be watching for the ball on the boundary on sports afternoons, and see how long I could hold my breath underwater at the swimming pool.  I would weave weeping willow fronds against each other to make a wall of a secret house, and tickle the horses' noses with blades of grass, and when we went to the beach stick bunny's tails* into the sand in rows.  

What games did you used to play?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Laughter Club

I do a 'Daily Challenge' each morning.  It's usually a small, simple task, it's usually fun, and it can be thought-provoking.

It arrives via my email, but is linked to the Daily Challenge website, within which you can post 'how it went' and link with others doing the same or different challenges, if you wish.

Today's one was about smiling and laughter.  It reminded me how much pleasure I get out of blogging and reading others' blogs.
It also reminded me that laughter is really good for you:  even 'forced' or 'fake' laughter had been proven to have benefits to your mental health and your immune system.

I remember seeing this video of John Cleese as part of a series he did about the human face (I think) and it's jolly good.  (The whole series was brilliant too).

'Fake it, fake it, until you make it.'

Just in case you have something sad on your mind that meant you couldn't even raise a smile today, try this:

Sunday, 16 September 2012

How to make a Pizza.

My great niece lives with her parents in Ibiza.  What a life eh? Sun. Sea. Simple fresh food.  No clothes...

Waiting for Dad to come home.
Here's how to make a great pizza.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

How to Look at a Painting

I'm currently reading the brilliant  How to Look at a Painting  by Justin Paton....

Saturday, 8 September 2012


A Scottish artist friend and his wife have a small farm near Whakatane.  I've been working on them for some time, doing a 'Gaslight' on them; suggesting that they are tired, need a break away, etc., hoping that they would believe me and let me stay and look after their farm animals.  Finally the idea took, and here I am, having a super time!

For three days I am in charge of a number of assorted creatures.

My menagerie consists of two goats, a cow, assorted poultry, two blue budgerigars, two cats, five neon tetra, a small school of guppies, and two dogs.

Chloe the cow, Milo and Lily the goats.

 Chloe the cow's broad head looks a lot like a beef breed to me.  This gentle monster lowers its head for a scratch but was quite aware this morning that it had got on the chook-run side of the tape and was quite happy to be moved back with very little persuasion.  She's not silly, though; She was very careful not to touch the electric tape that I'd laid down on the ground for her to walk over.  Just in case it was on.

The two goats Lily and Milo are the 'good cop/bad cop' team. Lily lures you into a false sense of security while Milo gets her horns sharpened ready on a nearby post.  I don't trust either of 'em!


Good goat Lily luring you close.

Bad goat Milo.
 Ingot the fuzzy-headed (silkie?) 'house hen' is practically blind and needs to have her food-bowl tapped so she can locate it.  She is about 12 years old and lives in the spare room.

Fizzy Lizzie and Whitey are two hens that, like Ingot, are getting well and truly past their use-by-date.  they are allowed a whole run to themselves.  As they are topped up with copious water and pellets, I don't need to worry about them.  Anyway, to get to them I'd have to get past the cops first.

Ingot the house-hen.

The gorgeous, strutting, yodelling-at-four-in-the-morning rooster leads his small posse of hens into the garden for early morning raids.  I've no idea how they get in, but he just flies over the gate and back whenever he chooses.  He shows them the corner of the garden where the budgie seed is discarded, and then they go back to join the rest of the golden girls happily wandering the field. Judging by their combs, I'd say at least three are laying, but despite exhaustive searches based on my years of experience, I haven't found their nests.  Cunning creatures.

'Quick girls, we've been spotted!  Back to the run!'

'Come on girls, gather around, stay together!'

'It IS a rather fabulous tail, isn't it?'

'Make sure you take my best side, won't you?'

Meeka and Neo are the two cats.  Neo is as friendly and charming as Meeka is nervous.  Neo has been around the house almost constantly since I arrived, leaping on benches to see what I'm doing, patting my knitting needles and attacking hummocks of grass as I pass.  I've spotted Meeka hurrying across the end of a field, or frozen, watching me from near a woodpile.  It looks like I'm not even going to get near her in three short days.

'I'm going to hold on to this patch of grass.  Don't even THINK about stealing it!'

The budgies talk constantly when I am out of the room, but stop the second I enter.  They are clearly talking about me.  They have resisted all my attempts at friendship.  I expect I don't have the right accent.  

'Shh, mate.  Pretend you were just preening.  Don't even glance her way'.

The fish are familiar to me since my sojourn in the pet shop!   It is good to see my old acquaintances the guppies and also the neon tetras.  However despite having them all to myself, they have still proved incredibly difficult to capture with my camera.

Which just leaves the dogs - two handsome, intelligent, border collies.  Clyde, who is older and wiser, barks less but knows every snippet of noise that indicates the soon approach of neighbor's tractors on the adjacent tracks.  Borders love to chase.  A lot.
Maddie is noisier, but keeps an eye on me, and is usually very happy to return if I indicate that the games are over.  Well, mostly.
Clyde has a idiosyncratic way of showing when he wants to play:  He chatters his teeth and smiles.  Delightful dogs.  But loads of energy.  If I had these two I'd have my work cut out.

Clyde.  Look at him summing me up.

Maddie.  Watching for the tractor.  Or the ducks.  Or a car on the road.  Or a calf.

There are two other things I should mention:  The small box of delectable Swiss chocolates left on the bench for me as a 'thank you' (for me having a lovely weekend?), and the exercycle in a corner of the lounge.  I've calculated that if I spend three hours on the exercycle each day I'm here, my calories should just about balance out.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

A Grand Number.

I notice that today is the occasion of my thousandth post.   Woo hoo!
To celebrate I have compiled this '1000' that incorporates a few images from posts over the years.

I also reproduce for the occasion, my very first post.  Although it was to be unusual in that it was not accompanied by an image, on the other hand it seems nothing much has changed in the nearly five years, as I'm still writing about things in my linen cupboard!


Post Christmas Clean-up

When I was in the supermarket doing the Christmas shopping last week I bought one of those dusters.  You know, one of those special synthetic cloths that are 'static' and 'magically' pick up dust. It even had a special plastic cover (so it didn't zoom into action when you didn't want it to?) with a little hole so you could "feel the special surface".  When I got home and as I was putting in in the hot water cupboard, I noticed that there were no fewer than five! (count 'em, 5!) others of similar ilk that I had purchased previously.  Why then do I still have such a dusty house!?! 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Red Fish, Blue Fish.

Two colors in one fish!  Such an unusual-coloured fish was too hard for me to resist.  This is the last tropical species that caught my eye while I was artist in residence at the pet shop last month.

The Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius) is found in slow-moving water throughout Asia.  Although these pretty little red and blue fish usually only grow to about 2 inches, they are traditionally caught and dried as food.  
Of course they are also very popular for aquaria.  There are red and white versions too.

Apparently, before they mate, they make a 'bubble nest' of air trapped inside twigs and leaves.  The male collects up the eggs lad by the females, fertilizes them, and then pops them in this nest.  

Their long, thin, front fins are very sensitive.  I've tried to capture the shimmering quality of the sky blue spots against the orangey-brown.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Eye Candy Day 48

You've come a long way from 'Much Ado...', baby.

High Tea

In April I had a wonderful birthday treat, even tho' my Birthday was back in February.
At the time, my oldest son and his partner bought me a 'High Tea and Bubbles for Two' voucher.
It was for a lovely swanky restaurant in Tauranga down by the water's edge.
N. was home for Easter uni break, so we did a mother and daughter thing and dressed up and played ladies.

I had such a lovely time! Everything was delightful except perhaps it was a little nippy once the sun went in (I draped my cold shoulder with my pristine white linen table napkin and was perfectly warm again).

I had been rather tired and forgetful recently (too much painting) and had not thought to bring my camera but I didn't want to forget a single moment, so I wrote it all down on a till slip that was in my handbag:

In case you can't read it very well, here is what I wrote:

one hour and ten minutes
choice of four free tables.
1x three-tier cake stand
three white plates
per person:
plate 1:  2 little triangles sandwiches of tuna and cream cheese
              2 little triangle sandwiches of ham, rocket and chutney
              1 little bite-sized smoked salmon quiche
plate 2:  1 tiny triangle of to-die-for lemon cheesecake
              1 chocolate eclair with real cream and real chocolate for icing
              1 rich, alcoholicky rum ball
plate 3:   a scone with cream and strawberry jam in separate small dishes
               small square of carrot cake

1 x chilled-out muzac
2 x herring gulls x 30 seconds x 5
1 daughter
1 mother
glass sparkling wine
teapot, milk jug, honey pot, teaspoon.

aprox. 400 starfish
1 tide, advancing slowly
planes (bi) x 5
1 red helicopter
1 white-faced grey heron
4 black shags and one baby, feeding.
1 wharf
1 boat
1 harbour bridge, (with traffic)
1 marina (at distance)
sunshine and fluffy clouds

I should also add:  two linen table napkins and four white paper table napkins, less the one which blew into the sea*.
the square of wonderful carrot-cake

* it had got rather chocolatey anyway.