'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, 30 May 2008

Time for Meme

My ex... Had wavy red hair past his shoulders when I met him, but now wears a toupee.
Maybe I should... light a fire now before it gets too dark to see the wood-pile.
I love... sitting in the local hot pools underneath the winter milky way, chatting to a few friends.
People would say... that my children are absolutely super kids, and they'd be right!
I don't understand... why I avoid vacuuming when I like the result so much.
When I wake up in the morning... I like to plan my day in my mind before I get up.
I lost... my glasses.  I think I hung them in one of my trees but I can't remember which one.
Life is full of... such a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.
My past is... going to be used in my novel one day.
I get annoyed when... my dog leaves muddy tracks through the kitchen when I've just done my bi-monthly floor-wash.
Parties are... often a bit scary for me.   
I wish... that I had more time to do everything I want to, and see what I want to see.
Dogs... can be a great way to teach children how to be kind.
Cats... are a problem in the New Zealand native forests because they eat baby native birds.
Tomorrow... rain is forecast, but it won't be enough for the hydro lakes in the South Island.
I have low tolerance... of cockroaches.
If I had a million dollars... I would buy a small farm and raise hens and stud Dorper sheep, and grow passionfruit, feijoas, persimmons, macadamia nuts and mandarins.
I'm totally terrified... of nothing, but would be very sad if any of my children were to die in pain.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Wooly week

It's been a busy week. I've been relief teaching - sole charge in a small rural school.  I decided to do an integrated unit on 'Fibres', more specifically wool.  
I managed to devise a series of about 20 teaching stations that included maths, poetry, science, geography and arts and crafts.
The kids wove (Soumak, and El ojo de Dios), spun (on a spinning wheel),  made felt balls and jointly created a lovely piece of felted wool and alpaca fibre which we hung on the fence to dry:

They touched different kinds of wool and decided what they'd be good for,  made up poems  about whether they'd rather be a  cashmere goat, angora rabbit or sheep being shorn, and sang "Click Go the Shears", after a lengthy discussion on the meaning of Aussie slang words, including a quick anatomical diversion into the blood circulation system to explain why a sheep might habe described as a 'Blue bellied Joe'.
They watched a DVD about the process of carpet manufacture from sheep to floor, and looked at different fibres under a microscope, drawing what they saw. 

They did a whole lot of calculations about shearing tallies, pay and food consumption of hungry shearers and learnt the meanings of lots of new words like 'crimp', 'scouring', 'weft' and 'luster'. 
They sketched an alpaca, and coloured in a 'jacob' sheep, just for fun giving it all the colours of the rainbow. 
They learnt that there are about 40 million sheep in New Zealand, and that over half of them are Romneys.

They also trained hard  for cross-country running, played cricket, and had a shared soup lunch.
I've loved every minute.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Let them eat squid

Last month a smallish 26 foot - 9 metres long - 450 kg Colossal Squid (they can grow twice that size) was thawed at Te Papa Museum, Wellington, NZ.  Only about six have ever been captured intact.  It is going to be kept in a tank of formalin so people can see it.
Colossal Squid have the largest eyes on the planet.  The size of, depending on your sporting interests, a soccer ball, football (that's rugby of course) or a beach ball.  
And a two metre long er thingy (so I don't get the wrong kind of search engine looking at me) and - this is the interesting bit - a brain that weighs 22 gms.  Only 22 grams!  However it does have an incredibly well-developed nervous system so I guess I shouldn't be too scornful.
But - and this is the really interesting bit -  the brain is located around the oesophagus.  So in order to eat, it has to cut up its food into quite small pieces to pass through its brain.
They say that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but the way to a squid's stomach is through its brain.  Ha ha.

Now the ironical end to this story:  They had installed a webcam so you could watch it.  Watch it de-thaw, that is.  Some joker labeled it 'squidcam'.  Paint drying?  
Today we found out that the government has just cut 56 jobs in the Department of Conservation because they are over budget.  I should mention that DoC spent 1 million dollars this year fighting bush fires due to the very dry weather.  Should this be its  job?   It is also involved in treaty claims and often spends big money buying up private land for conservation purposes.  And policing shellfish takes over the whole of our coastline (which incidentally is the ninth longest coastline of any country in the world.  Don't believe me?  Look here.)  DoC staff are notoriously poorly paid, and rely heavily on huge numbers of passionate volunteers to carry out tasks all over New Zealand, ranging from clearing mustelid bait stations or recording kiwi calls in the middle of (bloody cold) winter nights, to planting stabilising vegetation on sand dunes.   

So now the Hectors dolphins will just have to fend for themselves. Or die out, as the case may be.  Hey!  we could put one in a tank of formalin. 
Exits humming '..they put in a parking lot..."

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Why "The Last Visible Dog"?

What is it?  
For those vaguely interested in the odd name of my blog, here's some information.
Russell Hoban wrote a book entitled "The Mouse and His Child".  You can read more here.

Briefly, it concerns a wind-up toy father mouse and his son whom he holds by the hands.  When wound up, the father walks in circles and raises and lowers his son.  The story is an account of their adventures and their quest to become self-winding and find their family.  It is long, exciting, full of metaphor, and I really loved reading it to my children.  At one point the father and son end up at the bottom of a pond, and it seems that all is lost.  The son has nothing to look at but an old dog-food can that is illustrated with a dog holding a tray upon which is a can of the dog food, on the label of which is a dog holding a tray with a can of dog food, upon which is a picture of a dog...  and so on.  The 'last visible dog' is the smallest dog that can be seen before the son's eyes began to blur and all that he can see is the space between the printed dots. Beyond the LVD there appears to be nothing except blankness.   That is, until the last tiny dog is removed and the shine of the can is revealed.  And the future.  Because the reflection of the son's own face becomes a metaphor for self-determination.  He realises that 'if it's to be, it's up to me', and finally contrives a way to get them out of the pond and resuming their journey.  

I suppose, strictly speaking, my blog should be called 'Beyond the Last Visible Dog'.  
But I'm not changing it now.

Saturday, 24 May 2008



How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.
Here will we sit, and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness, and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
- Shakespeare.

Friday, 23 May 2008

It's tomorrow already

Still in the 22nd?  Well, this is what May 23rd looks like...
This was dawn this morning - over the rooftops.
While, down on the riverbank, a little mist gently lifts off the water and the light begins to come creeping through the trees:

Thursday, 22 May 2008


We have the marvelous monarch butterfly in New Zealand.



Like many, I try and grow swan plants in my garden, even though they look rather ugly, especially when almost leafless from caterpillar overload, (and yes, I do seem to have some aphids there too, no doubt they have picked up the same poison that makes the monarch so unpalatable to birds)  - but the large, bright monarch butterflies are worth it.  The football jerseyed larvae are quite arresting too.  But the most beautiful stage to my mind, is the pupa; the tiny jade lanterns with their row of gold dots are exquisite!  


This time of year as the temperature drops, the butterflies stop mating and look for some where to overwinter.  Not much is known about where they overwinter in New Zealand,  but apparently they don't usually go far, sometimes just to the nearest park where they might hang out together in a tree.  

Fridge Poetry

(click to enlarge)

Not really Great Poetry, but fun none-the-less.  You get a whole lot of magnetised words in the packet and visitors can make up poems while you drink the wine they brought and prepare the meal.  Anyone else have these?  

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


I do like Mark Knopfler and Jimmy Nail, and heard this lovely song for the first time yesterday. So while I'm wandering down Memory Lane, and dedicated to all you Northerners, here are the words and a vid clip.

Big River
- Jimmy Nail

Walking on cobbled stones, little bits of skin and bone,
Jumping on a tram car for a ride.
I can remember then, I was a just a boy of ten,
Hanging around the old quayside.
Now all the capstans and the cargo boats
And stevedores are gone
To where all the old ships go -
But memories, just like the seas live on.

'Cause that was when coal was king
The river was a living thing
And I was just a boy but it was mine
The coaly Tyne.

For this was a big river,
I want you all to know
That I was proud.
This was a big river
But that was long ago -
That's not now, that's not now.

My father was working man
He earned our living with his hands.
He had to cross the river every day.
He picked up a union card, out of the Neptune yard,
Mouths to feed and bills to pay.
There came a time for him to sail across the seas and far away
And finally when that war was won
They brought him home and home he stayed.

And when his days were done
Under a golden sun,
They took him back to where he longed to be,
Back to the sea.

For this was a big river,
I want you all to know
That I was proud.
This was a big river
But that was long ago -
That's not now, that's not now.
That's not now.

The Neptune was the last to go,
I heard it on my radio,
And then they played the latest number one.
But what do they do all day
And what are they supposed to say.
What does a father tell his son?
If you believe that there's a bond between our future and our past,
Try to hold on to what we have.
We build them strong, we built to last.

'Cause this is a mighty town,
Built upon solid ground
And everything they've tried so hard to kill,
We will rebuild.

For this was a big river,
I want you all to know I'm so very proud.
This was a big river,
But that was long ago,
That's not now.
And this is a big, big river
And in my heart I know it will rise again
The river will rise again.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Precious old photos

...at about four years old.

And this is my Mum and Dad before they were married.  They were engaged for about five years while they saved up for enough to buy a section and build a house.  (People did that in those days). Friday nights Dad would close up the family shop as early as he dared (Poppa said 'Eight and not a minute before!') and from the other end of town, Mum would rush off duty at the hospital and jump on a bus, applying her lipstick as she sat in the seat - she told me that when it went over the bumps she'd jiggle and rarely applied it straight - and they would meet at the flicks.  Mum said they'd often miss the first ten minutes so that's why she didn't know what happens in the beginning of lots of movies.  I love this photo of them walking along the street.  Mum said it was taken by some person who just took a photo of you and then tried to get you to buy it.  I guess they decided they would, or we wouldn't have it.  Photos like this are so rare and precious. These days we don't think anything of photographing five dying leaves on a piece of grass.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The Sun has got his hat on

A lovely week.  The weather has been settled as it often is this time of year, and we've had about seven days of sunshine in a row.  Great for the kiwifruit harvest which is in full swing.   My village, renown for its flowering cherries, is a picture...

I went outside a few minutes ago to see if I could capture a clearer pic of our Tui who was chuckling and clicking away up in the strawberry tree - 

But this one I took yesterday will have to do.  I couldn't see him now, but when I peeked over the bank, one of the shags had just at that moment caught quite a substantial fish and was trying to swallow it with great bobbings and shakings of his head.  It looked to be about 30 cm long (12 ins) and gleaming silver.  He and his friends were sitting on the log yesterday after their fishing. 

The gnarly old pine tree and the ghost gum look lovely against the clear skies.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Reflections on my river.


...summer just been.

As I paint I've been thinking about the lovely scenes that we see slipping by when we go up the river... 

 Just pull over for a picnic...

There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.
- The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
(Rat, Ch. 1)

Monday, 12 May 2008

Stock Cars

The noise!  The dust!  The action!  
I went to my first stock car races a few months ago.  It was quite fascinating.  

There is special red clay soil laid down on the track - I assume so as to give just the right amount of traction on the corners.  When the water trucks haven't been by for a while, the clay turns to dust and the haze drifts over the scene.  The intermediate stage is when great clods of it are flung out of the track area by the cars, landing all over you if you're naive enough to have chosen a seat in the first 5 rows, or are returning with hot chips. 
All the cars  have very odd shapes, with great spoilers and advertising paint jobs, and they slide almost sideways around the corners.  There are frequent stops - they have to look out for the red light, and all must stop almost exactly where they were when it came on - even to the point of backing up. The man comes around on his quad-bike to tell them to back up if they don't.  The stops are due to cars immobile on the track; mainly those in a position that is going to prove dangerous to other competitors.  Most of the cars need to be pushed to start, so if they spin out or crash, that's often the end of the race for them.  

 The evening I went, the stands were crowded and the atmosphere was wonderful, especially when the sun went down and the flood lights came on.  
Most of the crowd was there for the final event - the demolition derby - old caravans and wooden boats being towed at crazy speeds and bashed and bumped with uninhibited abandon. Steam pours from damaged radiators and the crowd cheers wildly.  Last one still moving wins.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

The Unbearable Brightness of Seeing

Sunset tonight from our verandah.  Every one a gem!

A couple of minutes later, zoomed in...


The scarlet oak is in all its glory, and the dawn redwoods and liquid ambers were looking wonderful when I took a painting break and walked around the park today.  Autumn colours are not usually very spectacular in the Bay of Plenty, as it's so warm, but this year seems to be a good one.  Yesterday it got up to 30ºC on the front verandah, but down to 5ºC last night.  I see from wiki Tauranga that the average low for May is about 8ºC, so that might explain the brighter-than-usual colours this year.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


I've just been looking at some photos on flikr and have had a good laugh.  If you have my sense of humour (how will you know?  Click and see) you might like to visit the site
 For some reason the pics really tickled me.  After the lost glasses/ insurance company issue yesterday, I really needed a good laugh.
Maybe I'm naive.  But I thought 'replacement' insurance meant that, for the extra cost of premium, the value of what you lost would be given to you.  Cash.  Current value - ie what it would cost you to replace what you lost, when you lost it.  I have replacement insurance on my house, so if it burnt down, I would be able to afford to build a new one.  The same.  If I wanted to.  If, instead of a rambling old timber home, I chose instead to build a small brick cottage and use the rest to replace my books (inadequately insured), then surely I could do it?

OK.  I knew there was an excess,  $150, on my reading glasses. ( That's another issue, really.  How is it 'replacement' if you still have to fork out $150?  But anyway, put that one aside for the moment. )  I found out from my optometrist that my original glasses would cost $780 to replace.  (No change from what I paid for them, as it turns out).  So, taking off the $150 excess I would miss out on, I figured that, being a bit short at the moment (having just had my insurance premium to pay), I would get a slightly cheaper pair, and come out with less of a bill.
I found a nice pair for $670 and decided to speed things up by ordering them there and then.  I'm sick of wearing my wonky and shonky Warehouse ones.

Anyway, the upshot is that Farmers Mutual Insurance Group have a different definition of 'replacement'.  They will only pay me the value of my new glasses.  In other words, my replacement.  Less the $150 excess of course!  I said "But I didn't lose my new glasses, I lost the $780 ones!"  Intractable mouthpiece on the other end of the phone would not even listen to my challenge to what, to my mind, is a totally amoral and sneaky practice.  I was really frustrated and angry.

Since then I've cooled down and become more rational.  My decision?  I have no choice.  I will pay the $150, end up with cheaper glasses than the ones I lost,  but then I will take my business elsewhere.  With the refund of my premium, and the cheaper insurance with, say, AMI (I checked), I should actually make on it.  And I'm going to tell everyone.  

I should also mention two other things:

1. I have been with FMIG for about 25 years, in which time I have made one other claim that cost them about $500.  My premiums have averaged $1200 per year.

2. Had I not ordered new glasses, I could have made a claim for the loss of the original ones (Note double standard). But I would have been only given replacement value less depreciation.  Because they weren't new.  And of course, also less the $150 excess.  

I think I'll go and have another look at the funny stormtrooper models photos again.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


Returning to one of my favourite topics...

Every year, in our galaxy, about twenty new suns are born.

That means, that in the whole universe there are about six hundred thousand new suns being born ... every second.

And, if I stand outside at night and raise my arm making a fist, my fist will be covering about one thousand thousand galaxies.

(So...can we have yer liver then?)

Click on the image to see it much better.  Spot the paired galaxies lower left.  Amazing image from the NASA website.

Thinking About Thinking

Photo of me taken by Nicole

I have heard, it is what we try to teach others that we need most to learn ourselves.  I realise that I have a need to ramble here. You never know I might learn something. 

So, what is it I have been trying to teach recently?  Be more honest?  Share where you are at? Be less serious and have more fun?  I am in admiration of many bloggers who are so direct and open with their opinions... mine seem to be so changeable and like the wind.  Today especially I feel unsure of everything.  So I turn to some book or quote or other for inspiration and direction... 
Jean Ray Laury:  A funny little book picked up at a garage sale or somewhere.  I have never quilted, but something made me pick it up; entitled "Keeping it all together- The Not-Just-For-Quiltmakers Coping Book". First lines of the first page:

"There's an expression that goes "she really asked for it."  The unstated part of that expression is that she got it, too.  There may be more truth in that than we care to admit.  We pretty much get only what we ask for.  We certainly don't get more than we ask for."

So.  Ok.  I haven't been asking for much.  In fact, usual problem, have been supplying more than I've been getting.  Resentment 'flu alert!  Didn't see it coming.  Backlog, head of steam and the lid blew off.  Poor T.  Sorry all 'round.

Last words of the first chapter:

"It's so easy for us all to make assumptions about what's possible and what isn't, without ever asking.  So whatever it is you fantasize about, start making it a reality.  Decide on the most wonderful thing that could happen to you, and then ask for it.  And keep on asking."

What do I want to happen to me?  What do I really want?  Where's that pen and paper?  Time to make a short list.  Then make it known.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


Dawn mist over Siena.

Every day a new dawn, every evening a new dusk.  Endless variety.  Free thrills.

This bright, new day ... complete with 24 hours of opportunities, choices, and attitudes… a perfectly matched set of 1440 minutes.This unique gift, this one day, cannot be exchanged, replaced or refunded. Handle with care. Make the most of it. There is only one to a customer.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Play the Game

Had a nice fire last night.  The usual twinge of guilt at my carbon emission.  I found this game to compensate.  Play it.  It's great.  You know you want to.  

Sunday, 4 May 2008


It really feels like winter today.  I saw a few streaks of sunlight at dawn, and went for a short walk, getting back to the car just in time before the rain started.  Came home and made a nice big fire.  Last night's washing up was a great way to get my hands warm!

Friday, 2 May 2008

Proud to be your Mum

Two weeks ago...middle son. Brought soppy tears to my eyes to see him up there on the stage.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

May Day

Ah, look at the scarlet oak this morning, the first of May. 
I was going to quote from Terry Pratchett about May dancers (he dislikes 'em) but I found this instead:
"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who, when presented with a glass that is exactly half full, say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty.  The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full!  And it was a bigger glass!"        
-- Terry Pratchett