'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.

Thursday, 31 July 2008


"The Visit" By Jeff Hayes.

...about Jeff Hayes.  For light, colour, technical ability, charm of subject matter, and form.  His paintings delight me.  He is also generous with tips and his movies of the process and progress of his paintings are, not only helpful to me as an artist, but works of art in their own right.   
Here is the movie of the above painting and another called 'The Captive', of a lemon in a jar.  I currently have that latter image on my desktop, I like it so much.
You can see his daily blog, that discusses process, background and influences.  

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


To amuse emus on warm summer nights
Kiwis do wiwis from spectacular heights.
- Roger McGough
(Thanks to Kelvin for introducing me to R McG.)

clbuttic mistake.

You may think the breastle and content of this post embarbutting.  

Buttuming you are unfamiliar with the word above, as I was until a few days ago, I will enlighten you.

Let me tell you a story that might clear things up. 


When I was a young lbutt, I dreamed of being a pbuttenger in a clbuttic car.  Later I joined an buttociation, and enjoyed rallies, seeing a mbuttive buttortment of clbuttic cars parked neatly in rows on the grbutt when stopped for picnic lunches.   Luckily I was very handy with the compbutt so we rarely lost our way.  One very aggressive buttociate, I remember, would repeatedly pbutt on narrow windy roads, I buttume with the intention of harrbutting us.  Once he even damaged the mirror when pbutting.  I should have had him up for buttault. 

Unfortunately, just before a large rally, I went down with hepabreastus, and was very sick for about five weeks, so had to pbutt on that event, even though, by joining the buttn, I was perfectly enbreastled to attend, as there was nothing in the buttociation's consbreastution that said you cannot go when ill.  I was particularly disappointed as this trip was to see the stalacbreastes in a local cave.

Still confused?

It's called profanity filter/substitution, or should I say subbreastution.  Happens on t'internet.  By silly bot software.  Another example of a world gone mad. 

Try googling 'clbuttic' and you'll see what I mean.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Happiness 2

Go looking for it, you will rarely find it.  Smile,  and dance, and it comes to you.  Anywhere.
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


"Most schools have a system of loud bells, which startle the students and teachers at regular intervals and remind them that time is passing even more slowly than it seems."

- L. Snicket

Friday, 18 July 2008


Oh bother.  I'm sitting here at my computer and I hear little noises inside the wall.  For the first time in 14 years, since we came to this dear old house, we have no cat.  It doesn't take the mice long, does it?  
And, from this very same seat, all I have to do is raise my head and look out the window and I see the top of the bank overlooking the river, where Pippin would sit, immobile for minutes at a time, watching for the slightest movement in the vegetation that revealed the movement of a mouse.  

I'd better get up the man-hole tomorrow and lay some bait up in the ceiling space I suppose.


Female Glass frog.  
Photo taken by Heidi and Hans-Jurgen Koch

There is no persuasiveness more effectual than the transparency of a single heart, of a sincere life. 
-  Joseph B. Lightfoot

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, "If this isn't nice, I don't know what is."
- Kurt Vonnegut

PS.  Thank you for your friendship Ellyn.  

Tuesday, 15 July 2008



by Wendell Berry and adapted for New Zealand by me.

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down in my kayak where the pukeko

rests in his blue beauty in the wetlands, and the kingfisher feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Manuka Honey

Marvelous manuka honey.

Let me start this post by explaining that I consider myself a pragmatist, and a Science/ Geography-based artist.  Capital S, capital G and small a.
eg Vitamins and astronomy - yes; homeopathy and the existence of a deity - maybe; crystals and astrology - no. 

All honey reflects the characteristics of the nectar source.  Clover honey, with which we are most familiar, is hard, white and mild.  In New Zealand we have many native plant sources that can provide distinctive honeys.  For example, I love to use the strong, sharp rewarewa honey in my home-made museli, but it's too strong on toast for most people.  Recently a number of people were admitted to hospital after eating honey that was made from nectar from the poisonous tutu flowers.  
Some 17 years ago I was fascinated to hear of research being carried out in New Zealand on the medical benefits of honey, specifically manuka honey. At the time, I mentioned it to my Mum and she said that before and even after the discovery of antibiotics, nurses like her were using honey in hospitals for wounds.  
I should mention that all honey produces peroxide gas when applied to wounds.  This is very good at killing infection, reducing swelling and aiding healing, and has been used for at least two thousand years.  

But New Zealand manuka (Leptospermum scoparium) honey has been found to also contain at least one other substance that adds to this effectiveness.
Now, after clinical trials and world publicity, it has been proven that a wide range of bacteria, including the hospital nasties like Streptobacillus species, Staphylococcus aureus and Clostridium species (that can cause gangrene) are killed by manuka honey.  And, what's more, at low concentrations, ie even when it is diluted by lymph.  Helicobacter pylori, associated with gastric ulcers, is also effectively treated by manuka honey (just have a teaspoon before beginning each meal).  
Conveniently, honey, applied under dressings which need to be changed no more often than eight hourly, prevents wounds from drying out and sticking to the dressing, and the method of honey's antibacterial action can never lead to bacterial resistance, a problem with modern antibiotics.  
I can also highly recommend treating eye infections or minor scratches (skin or eyes) with manuka honey.  Great for pets too.
Dr Peter Molan of the University of Waikato has discovered that although there is some variation in efficiency between one batch of manuka honey and another, heating the honey does not affect its antibacterial properties.

But there is another, fascinating aspect of the story.  The extra substances I mentioned, that make manuka honey especially effective over other honeys, have not all been identified yet. But it is possible that they have an unusual source.  
You see, manuka shrubs were considered a bit of a nuisance when the first settlers came to NZ and wanted to clear the native cover off the land and replace it with pasture and crops.  A scale insect was imported from Australia and it spread quickly through NZ, and even now, all but very young manuka shrubs have the insect sucking away on stems and trunks.  Now, the insect secretes a sticky sweet honeydew, much like aphids, and this dew in turn is harvested by wasps and bees.  However it also encourages the growth of a black sooty mold (which gives manuka a characteristic fire-burnt look - you can see this in my photo which I took on the south Island road between Waiau and the coast).  I suspect that the bees cannot help but pick up some mold when they collect honeydew and nectar from manuka, and maybe this is the source of the special antibacterial factors in manuka honey.
If you want to read about all the clinical trials and research you can go here  and click on the "Manuka Honey as a Medicine" pdf file.

Of course, you can always just enjoy it on toast!

Added 14 October: Update soon.  See here.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Just Do It

Sometimes you just have to go ahead.  There are always things that won't be perfect, but if you focus on the bits that are great, you can have a great time.

That last sentence sounds a bit sad really, but it isn't meant to be.  Sort of a reverse "Fox and Grapes" ... rather than not getting something and saying 'it wouldn't have been any good anyway', best to go for it/ do it/take a risk, and then you can say 'there were some great bits!'  Or at least 'I got exercise jumping up at grapes that were too high for me'...

 Our Long Road Trip Down to Dunedin and Back:
It was cold, but a car is a small, efficient space to heat.  And it was apparently really cold at home anyway.  

Bad weather made it seem even more marvelous when the sun did shine for us.

Taking the wrong road once or twice meant I saw things I would have otherwise missed.

Windy places make the trees grow into interesting artistic shapes.

Big swells out to sea made the Kaikoura coast wonderfully wild and dramatic.

Rain and sun make great rainbows.

Yes the cat had gone missing, but he wouldn't have turned up had we stayed anyway.

We were so lucky because the desert road was closed the day before and the day after - it felt like it opened just for us.

We were able to spend an extra day with Wellington cousins because the bad weather meant the ferries weren't crossing Cook Strait.

In Blenheim I learnt how to prune grapevines and discovered a lovely beach during the day's delay waiting for the ferries to run again on my way back.

H. has the best shower in the world!  And if we hadn't been sleeping in the chilly homestead-in-the-middle-of-renovations we wouldn't have appreciated it half as much.

The scenery was lovely, the backdrop of snowy mountains a novelty, and I took loads of photos, and got to know my new camera at the same time.  Now I have enough material to keep me painting for 10 years.

N was only a little bit sick on the ferry.

Driving long distances meant we were often still on the road at dusk and meant we saw a seal... and some wonderful sunsets.

Shelly the dog learnt to wee on command on the side of the road.  We made people smile as a result.

I discovered the old, pretty, honey-coloured Oamaru stone buildings.

We helped J move in to his lovely flat.

We went to the Tropical Butterfly Exhibition in the Dunedin Museum and warmed ourselves up.

We met a lovely sympathetic doctor when we needed antibiotics for chest infection and medicine for asthma.

We had a super time with Ellyn in her new fine villa, and a lovely evening, and morning feeding out to the stock with Wendy.  

The brake pads didn't get down to bare metal until after the steep bit over the Rumatukas was over.  And the tiny service station in Greytown only took two hours instead of a day to replace them, as they had another pair in stock.  While they were being done I ate one of Greytown's home-made pies.  It was jolly good.

It was great to spend the night with my sister and her family,  and morning tea with Dad and G. going the long way home, and besides the desert road was closed again anyway.

N was able to practice flatting although it wasn't in the plan that she be flown home before I got back.

It was very special to see the expression on T's face and hear him say "Great to see you home, Babe".

Goodbye Pippin

From left to right; Shelly, Mikey and Pippin.

Shelly, 8 years old, (Pekinese/ Japanese spaniel cross) nutty, affectionate and clingy.  She yodels like a basenji when she gets excited, which is most evenings just before tea.  Tries to bury dog biscuits in bare corners of the room or under cushions.  Has wrecked the cat-flap door by going out it too fast.  Loves to tear newspapers to shreds.  Will eat any food if you offer it with 'yum yum' noises and then threaten to take it away from her. Even raw onions.  Life is never dull around Shelly.  

Mikey, now buried under the lemon tree.  The polite old grey man with a quiet voice who always waited until you have finished talking before he commented, and wouldn't dream of jumping on your lap unless invited, but always very appreciative if you did.   We miss him. 

The kids found Pippin as a kitten close to death up a tree in the park, and he ate enormously and with enthusiasm from then on.  People commented on his enormous size and the huge size of the rats he caught.  He disappeared two days before we went on our recent trip to the South Island.  Had been taught to say "Mama" by my son who has just finished a degree in animal behaviour.   Loved to hide in plastic bags, and was sometimes seen licking Shelly like a mother licks her kittens.  Chased string and sticks like a kitten.  Socially a little backward. Hung around the fridge.  Today I bumped into a neighbour who said his body was left under our letterbox while we were away.  Must have been run over.  Thanks to the person who buried him.  At least we know he won't be coming back, and can feel our sadness properly.    

All three dear to our hearts and part of the family.