'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, 31 August 2008

Where the Hell is Matt?

A while ago I posted  a lovely video clip of Matthew Harding.
If you haven't seen it, I think you should.  

Almost by accident, Matt found that he could make people realise what is really important in life.  

It started out simply.  Matt, software designer, had a crazy dance that he did.  And once, on a holiday in Vietnam, his traveling companion suggested  he do his dance for the videotape.  He danced in a few more places, edited them all together when he returned home and emailed it to friends.  The movie went 'viral' and suddenly Matt was famous in the internet community.

Another video clip was made that shows Matt dancing with groups of people all over the world.  The obvious pleasure and joy shown in these clips raises the spirits and makes viewers smile.  It's almost impossible not to feel happy and uplifted by the clip.  

Here is some more information about this remarkable man, and also a video of a lecture he gave at a college.  I wish he would come to my daughter's school!

And here, recommended by him, is a short video to press home the message.   

Enjoy your life.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

One of Us

"It was so much easier to blame it on Them.  It was bleakly depressing to think that They were Us.  If it was Them, then nothing was anyone's fault.  If it was Us, what did that make Me?  After all, I'm one of Us.  I must be.  I've never thought of myself as one of Them.  No one every thinks of themselves as one of Them.  We're always one of Us.  It's Them that do all the bad things."

- Terry Pratchett, Jingo.

Disclaimer:  No slight intended to people who are members of bowling clubs.  It was one of the few photos I had that showed people whose faces  would not be recognisable.  However, if you  are a member of a bowling club, or indeed any other  club, university, ministry, corporate body, group, band, ethnic group, religion, territory, country, state, sect, militia, faction, organisation, business, school, committee, neighbourhood, sport, council, board of directors, PTA or trailer park, and you blame Them, then  consider yourself slighted.

Friday, 29 August 2008


Yesterday was a great day.  The sun shone almost all day, and I met a great bunch of new students.

I was not looking forward to it much, as I never know what kind of experience I'll get relieving - the kids are often fed up because their usual teacher is away, and some have a default setting that it should be used as an opportunity to lark around and goof off.  If more than about 3 in a class feel this way the day can be just a drag and babysitting, which I really dislike.  

But I came in bright, confident and breezy.  I showed them I knew a bit about a lot of things they were doing (web design).  Then I did something I've not done before - I told them a bit about me and my own kids. I usually think "well, I'm only here for the day, you probably don't care to want to know me."  It was a good move!  I immediately detected a change in the 'climate' to respect and  a positive attitude.  I was then able to get them going, and to move about the room asking each student to show me what they were working on, and engage them one at a time, something I always find gets them settled and focussed on their learning.

They were 11 and 12 year olds.  At this age a few - especially the girls - can be starting to get an affected air of blasé cynicism which I find the toughest thing to break through.  But a little selective ignoring and working one on one seems to help.  I rarely have any issues with boys - even the naughtiest ones respond to a good joke and my honest interest in them.   

The day seemed to fly by, and I was quite sorry to say goodbye to them at three o'clock.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Turbulence patterns

This delicious Hubble (false colour) image of Jupiter shows patterns of turbulence similar to those seen behind Earth's Aleutian Islands in the satellite image below.  The lower ones are a specific type called Von Karman vortices, named after the Hungarian scientist who first described them mathematically.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Strong winds and rain here today put me in mind of the big red eye storm on Jupiter - more than 300 years old, and twice as big as Earth, is (relatively) common knowledge.  

However recently another 2 storms are brewing - Red Spot Jnr. and little Red Spot.  (Scientists think these storms turn red when they reach velocities that suck up material from lower down in the atmosphere.)

Given that Jupiter is about 1,300 times bigger than Earth but rotates on its axis every ten hours, there is enormous turbulence, especially around the equator.  Estimates of the wind speeds within the red storms varies between 350 and 600 kilometres per hour.   

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Like most people, I love chocolate. But chocolate gives me headaches. Unfortunately not all the time.  So I eat chocolate.  One of my favourite types is Toblerone.  So imagine my delight when I visited Jeff's art site just now and saw what he's painting today.   
Here's a photo of a corner of my bathroom (which, by the way, I renovated myself).  The print comes from a calendar of old chocolate advertisements that N. and I bought in Italy on our trip, the account of which grows steadily here

Post Script.  Jimmy has pointed out that on the Matterhorn logo on the Toblerone box, there's a bear (The symbol of Bern) that not many people spot.  How delightful! 

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Way of the Sufi

To the Sufi, perhaps the greatest absurdity in life is the way in which people strive for things - such as knowledge - without the basic equipment for acquiring them.  They have assumed that all they need is ‘two eyes, a nose and a mouth’ as Nasrudin says.

In Sulfism, a person cannot learn until he is in a state in which he can perceive what he is learning, and what it means.  

Nasrudin went one day to a well, in order to teach this point to a disciple who wanted to know ‘the truth’.  With him he took the disciple and a pitcher.  The Mulla drew a bucket of water and poured it into the pitcher, then he drew another, and poured it in.  As he was pouring in the third, the disciple could not contain himself any longer:

‘Mulla, the water is running out, there is no bottom in that pitcher.’

Nasrudin looked at him indignantly. ‘I am trying to fill the pitcher.  In order to see when it is full, my eyes are fixed on the neck, not the bottom.  When I see the water rise to the neck, the pitcher will be full.  What has the bottom got to do with it?  When I am interested in the bottom, then only will I look into it.’ 

This is why Sufis do not speak about profound things to people who are not prepared to cultivate the power of learning - something that can only be taught by a teacher to someone who is sufficiently enlightened to say ‘teach me how to learn’.  There is a Sufi saying:  ‘Ignorance is pride, and pride is ignorance.  The man who says. “I don’t have to be taught how to learn”, is proud and ignorant.’

Nasrudin was illustrating, in this story, the identity of these two states, which ordinary human kind considers two different things.

In accordance with the technique known as ‘opprobrium’, Nasrudin was acting the part of the ignorant man in his pitcher charade.  This is a familiar part of Sufi technique.  His disciple pondered this lesson,  linking it with other absurd actions of the Mulla.  A week later he went to Nasrudin and said: ‘Teach me about the pitcher.  I am now ready to learn.’

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Order of letters

Acocdrnig to an Elgnsih unviesitry sutdy the oredr of letetrs in a word dosen't mttaer, the olny thnig thta's iopmrantt is that the frsit and lsat ltteer of eevry word is in the crcreot ptoision. The rset can be jmbueld and one is stlil able to raed the txet wiohtut dclftfuiiy.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Things are looking up.

The last two days have been much warmer...  the cyclamen are flowering,  gladioli are shooting, the polyanthus are flowering and the magnolia stellata is showing off its finery.  I lay back in the hammock and looked and there it was.   

Friday, 22 August 2008

Seisomsaurus visits school

Click to enlarge.

I've been relief teaching; sole charge at that dear little private school again.  Dinosaur project. One of the children's activities required them to pace out how long one of the big sauropods would be.  Luckily a seismosaurus turned up in the playing field just at the right time.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

How much wood would a woodchuck chop.

I started out well yesterday and, noticing I'm getting through the firewood at a rapid rate of knots, decided to check out the emergency stash under the house.  Hauled out about 12 logs and, oh that's right, they are all really gnarly ones, and hard ol' native wood, dry as a bone. Someone has given up on each one and hidden it away.  These are lumps of stone even a chainsaw would run from.

However, full of energy and optimism, having just had my last appointment with the physio, and with the added incentive of overnight frost impending again, decided to tackle these anyway.  

I use the two axe method (don't wince guys; no criticism from you unless you are offering to come on over and do it for me).  I aim and whack the top of the log with the regular axe, then belt the hell out of it with the back of the splitting axe.
Got two done this way, feeling pretty pleased with myself and only a couple of twinges from the lower back.  Decided to have a go at one that bore half a dozen marks of previous assaults, which, in retrospect, should have been a warning....

Bloody thing - I got almost right through but there must be a branch or knot or something, and now the axe is stuck fast.  I include photos.

 All suggestions or, better still, offers of help in person, gratefully accepted.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Tea time phone calls

The scene:  Rushing to get dinner for hungry family, or just sitting down to a hot meal.  Phone goes and it begins "Good evening Mrs insert name here.  How are you today?"
Of course it's no-one you know, no-one who cares a fig how you are, except as it will relate to the chances of you buying, signing or donating tonight.  

Most people have a way of dealing with this, with varying degrees of politeness, assertiveness or plain rudeness.

  When I was in the USA about five years ago, the 'man of the house, income over yadda yadda' would never answer calls before nine at night.  Weird, and sad, that people are driven to such lengths.  Every evening, telephone bots (robocalls) would make between 2 and 5 calls to this American household.  Apparently these calls are made randomly and in brackets of at least ten.  However if you are so unwise as to lift up your phone, the chances are high that you'll get silence anyway, as the call goes to the first answerer.  
Ok, so that's in the States.  A sad situation that means most people have codes when they want to phone a friend or relative... let it ring for three rings then phone back again etc. 

Do Not Call registers.
The USA, UK (Telephone Preference Service) Canada and Australia have them, and telemarketers must, by law, check, and not call someone who is on the register.  Some countries DNC registers expire, others are for ever. 
To date New Zealand has a 'Name Removal voluntary register' , that telemarketers do not have to consult, nor take into account.

Unfortunately the trend toward off-shore (India and Phillipines, especially) - based calls makes internal registers redundant anyway.

 Here in my home it was gathering momentum.  Up until a year ago I was beginning to get a couple of calls a week. Or at least I was until I invented my own special way of dealing with it.
I'm a polite person.  I hate being rude.  I know the telemarketers are just doing a job.  

So I just say pleasantly "I don't respond well to unsolicited phone calls."  

I usually get dead silence for a moment.  Sometimes, due to the caller having poor command of English, I might have to repeat my words again.  But the message gets across quickly and I have never yet had to actually 'respond badly'.  
It seems to have stopped the surveys too.  

But the other month I did a silly thing.  There was some flashing statement on a website and, for some reason I had a total aberration and clicked on it .  It said that I would be guaranteed a free trip to Florida.  I believed it.  I filled out a form, including my cell phone number.  Then I clicked send.  Yes yes stupidity upon stupidity.  I know.  Then I forgot all about it.  Two weeks later I began to get strange phone calls on my cell phone.  Luckily my cell phone battery is in the last throes of death and, on receiving anything other than a text (and sometimes even for a text) it immediately turns itself off.  But I could see someone with a huge phone number was desperately trying to get hold of me.  Being the absent-minded naive sort, I immediately thought it must be my friend Bobby in Germany, and went through agonies before finally getting the call.  It was from someone in an American travel agency who was going to give me 'two night's accommodation in Orlando Florida for you and a friend-isn't-that- wonderful-ma'am?!!'

 Provided I booked my flight from New Zealand to Miami with his company 'at a really amazingly good cheap rate that would be cheaper than if I hired my own private jet!!!' (Uh?).  I said that I was indeed terribly interested, but as it was 5 in the morning, would they please text me all the details and I would read them all later.  (See, too nice.)
Immediately he became very distant and stopped talking with exclamation marks and said he would 'try and get the text sent, and goodbye Ma'am.'  And I have never had another unsolicited cell phone text or call since then.

But I've learnt my lesson.  I'll never click on any flicking thing on a website.  Even if it is saying I'm the 458,204th visitor to this site and am already a winner!!!!!  

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Sun and Shadows

Here is a satellite photograph of Desolation Canyon.  Like all canyons the river runs at the bottom of the canyon.   The sun is striking the canyon walls from the lower side of the photo. But can you see the deep canyon?  And the shallower valleys on the right?

Or are you like me and it looks like the river is  flowing somehow right along the crest of the hills, and this is not two canyons at all but two ranges of mountains...

Now look below at the photo rotated 180º.  Why does it suddenly look correct?  It's exactly the same photo.  

The answer is the position of the shadows.  When we survey our terrain, our brains expect the sun - the light source - to be above us.  If the light source is below, our brains will reverse the depth information, even to the extent of running rivers along the tops of mountain ranges.  We cannot adjust.  Our brains say the sunlight cannot be coming from below.

I'd be interested to know if the same phenomenon occurs for astronauts when they view the earth from 'upside down'.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Plastic bag alternatives

I am pleased to see some UK supermarkets are phasing out plastic bags.  Here in NZ, they are still used , but there is encouragement and increasing social pressure not to... and to buy the supermarket re-useable ones.  And they are certainly nice and cheap at 99c each.  But I often seem to leave them either at home or in the car.  And my kids give me a hard time for using my willow basket or string bags  (too much association with the 'granny' image).
But this is a neat idea.  Little bags that roll up like socks.  Nice colours too.  And washable so you can get the potato-soil out.  Flip & Tumble.  

Saturday, 16 August 2008


Like another blogger, I have a supermarket story.  I was wandering down the confectionary aisle the other day, trying not to buy chocolate, when I saw a young woman coming towards me wearing nothing but a pair of dark purple pajamas.  I was shocked.  Then I was amused at how shocked I was.  Upbringing, you know.  Not even a dressing-gown.  Bare feet, no slippers.

When I got to the checkout I mentioned the incident, and again had my comfort zone cage rattled, for she simply replied "oh we get that all the time.  Once my brother came in in just a towel.  At least it's better than that!"  

I feel so old sometimes.  Especially when I hear my parents' voices echo in my head when I have the impulse to say "What's the world coming to?"  

First global warming (twice as bad as previously thought) and now this!

I must counter this creeping conservatism in myself.   Perhaps I could do a tandem para-glide.
I haven't even been camping for years.  Well, I did drive down to Dunedin and back last month. 

Or I could phone that woman back again about that teaching post in Brazil...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Liverpool and the Games

One of the winners of the WFG photo competition.  Photo by Jean-Marc Girollet

In a couple of days a special friend of mine will be flying out of Auckland to Liverpool to complete with about 5,000 others in the World Firefighters Games, which open on Monday 25th August.  He is running the half marathon and the 5 km and 10 km runs.
All the best Jim!
Link to the games information here.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Earth Imitates Art

As a geographer and artist, my mouth waters like a river when I see satellite images like this one. Spot the road.
It's part of the McDonnell range in Australia. 
Click to see it bigger.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Fonte Gaia

The dog/wolf sculptures around the Fonte Gaia that stands in the Piazza del Campo in Siena are (I think) copies of the originals.  They represent the she-wolf that legend says suckled the twins Romulus and Remus.  Romulus went on to found Roma.  However at some stage he had an argument with his brother and killed him.  It was Remus's two sons Senius and Aschius, who founded Siena.  Hence the Sienese connection with Rome's she-wolf.

But back to the fountain.  This information from wiki might interest you YP.

The white marble Fonte Gaia was originally designed and built by Jacopo della Quercia, whose bas-reliefs from the basin's sides are conserved in the Ospedale di St. Maria della Scala in Piazza Duomo. The former sculptures were replaced in 1866 by free copies by Tito Sarocchi, who omitted Jacopo della Quercia's two nude statues of Rhea Silvia and Acca Larentia, which the nineteenth-century city fathers found too pagan or too nude. When they were set up in 1419, Jacopo della Quercia's nude figures were the first two female nudes, who were neither Eve nor a repentant saint, to stand in a public place since Antiquity.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Up in the Air

Fountain in Siena, taken on our trip a couple of years ago.  

Monday, 11 August 2008

Here comes the Sun

Here is the sun coming up last Friday, after a long absence.  After a long wet month of storms and wind, it has been welcome to have a couple of days of clear, cold sunshine.  I've been doing a tidy-up in the garden.  The big bamboo is looking lovely, the new lawn is fertilised, three palms sold and will be removed in a week or two, and the vegetable garden is all cleared of weeds and ready for cloches and seedlings.  Tauranga weather is so mild, things don't really stop growing in winter, but at this time of year I usually manage to catch up on the rampant weed growth for a little while.  

"Smiles and rays of sunshine,
Through the fog, the sun did send.
My dark path is now gone,
I will fumble no more..."

-extract from a poem, author unknown.

Visitors to TLVD

Not a good time for me at the moment. Oh well, Stuff happens.  Just fake it until you can make it.  
But something that cheers me up a little, is looking at my blog sitemeters (yes, sad eh) - I noticed I had a real Olympic Event going on one morning last week:

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Ferry 'cross the Strait

Here's the sea on the Cook Strait ferry crossing on our recent trip down to Dunedin.  We had to wait an  extra day before it was calm enough (!)  As an artist, I loved the texture.  As someone with a stomach, I found it best outside in the wind.  
The winds funnel through the strait, and this, combined with rips and cross-rips, make this one of the world's roughest three hours of water crossed daily.  Actually, the worst bit is only about three-quarters of an hour.  But that can seem a looooong time when all around you people are using paper bags.  Not on this trip, thank goodness, although there were some sad faces.

As soon as we were inside the Marlborough Sounds, the sea calmed down.  What a difference!

Here is a clip from another crossing.  Lots of bag use on this one, I'd say.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Tall Poppies

Apparently there are only three types of people who pick things up properly.  Children, pregnant women, and people who have previously hurt their back by picking things up wrongly.

I had a sore back for three or four days last week.  

My friend, a retired electrician, told me that Precious McKenzie (above) came a couple of times to his work-place and taught him how to lift things up properly.  

I remember that my back bible  "Treat Your Own Back" was written by a McKenzie.  So I get it out and find it's not Precious, but Robin.  

Both of these men are New Zealanders, and both highly regarded in their field, but known mostly in other countries.  This is not uncommon here.  We have an expression "Tall Poppy Syndrome".  It means that 'tall poppies', especially those on their way up, are not appreciated nor supported, even 'cut down to size'.  

Yet New Zealanders are inordinately proud of fellow countrymen and women, when they do make it up there.  Just not a lot of help on the way.  The list is long, and begins with the likes of Earnest Rutherford.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Nice, Work.

                                                       "Web of friends"              Cut tissue on black sugar paper.

Mickey Rooney's famous quote "You always pass failure on the way to success." is great.  

But maybe he was thinking mostly about celebrity status, in which case, not so great.  And if he was thinking about being rich, also not so great.  

However recently in an interview he redeemed himself in my eyes  when he said:  "Being a celebrity is not the important thing in life, it's being nice to people.  And enjoying what you're doing, loving what you're doing, loving what you're cut out to do."

I feel these two things are exactly what we should be doing, it is our contribution to society.  The importance of being nice, of taking care of people around you.  That's one.

The other is having your work, what you do easily and like doing. 

Finding your work is not always easy, but if you try enough different things, you'll find that one that you love doing, the one that comes easy to you.  And you will know it, because other people say 'oh, how do you do that?  You are so good at that, I admire you!  You make it look so easy!'  This is what you are cut out to do.  Your shape fits it.  It fits you.  We shouldn't settle for less, if at all possible.

Perfectly illustrated by my daughter's art work "Web of friends", that she did when she was about ten.  

(and  lovingly dedicated to that same N, who's wondering at the moment what it is she's cut out to do.)

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Book List

Well-written but not one I would have to have on my list.

What books could you not do without?  A 2007 Telegraph survey suggests the following list.  Apparently the 'average' adult has only read six.  So I felt p-r-e-t-t-y smug that I'd read 38.(Must be lots of under sixes to get an average of six!)  Lots there that I would like to read, however.  Some I've never heard of.  

Some bloggers like Steve have crossed out the ones they've read, and emboldened the ones they'd like to read... or something.  So, I have too.  Feel free to pinch the idea.  (I've been firm with myself and decided it doesn't count if you've just seen the movie.)

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen

2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien.

3 Jayne Eyre - Charlotte Bronte

4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling

5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

6 The Bible.

7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman

10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare

15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

20 Middlemarch - George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams

26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh

27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis

34 Emma - Jane Austen

35 Persuasion - Jane Austen

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis

37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne

41 Animal Farm - George Orwell

42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving

45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery

47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding

50 Atonement - Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel

52 Dune - Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen

55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens

58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nightime- Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck

62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas

66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens

72 Dracula - Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett

74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses - James Joyce

76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath

77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal - Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession - AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks

94 Watership Down - Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas

98 HAMLET - William Shakespeare

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

What Larks, Pip.

I entered a forgotten world today.  Cleaned out a small cupboard that has not seen the light of day for about ... erm... six or seven years.  Yes, I'm embarrassed (my mother had the house clean by ten am every morning), but not enough to stop telling a good story.
Being the handy place where odd things are put when visitors are coming, I found some unusual bedfellows.   
One half-bottle of shoe dye, a light fitting, two tapered candles with price (2 for $1), a feeder for a bird-cage, five small magnets, a piece of emu egg, a 'Lakeland' colour pencils tin with a sail needle in it, a plant label (African violet), two champagne corks, a children's book "Anthony Ant's Creepy Crawly Party" (look under the flaps), a plastic tap for the rain-barrel (wondered where that had gone) and a box with pop-up mice.

But the last things date back a long way.  They have been in the cupboard for at least 15 years, because they were left there by the previous owners of the house.  I bought the sideboard with the house, you see.

This last collection, wedged at the back, consists of an assortment of plastic jars containing powdered iron, magnesium, tin, sulphur and zinc, and potassium nitrate.  These were gathered together for the express purpose of throwing on outdoor fires at parties to make people go "Oooooh"  and "aaaah".   (The previous owners had lots of very exciting parties).  The sulphur and potassium nitrate only needs carbon (readily accessible from up the chimney) in certain proportions, to become gunpowder.  I remember that, because my incredibly trusting parents allowed me to have a laboratory in our (very large) laundry, and I used to send away for all kinds of stuff.

I know this information will make my three offspring grind their teeth, because I forgot all about the chemicals.  What larks they could have had.  Sorry fellas.

Monday, 4 August 2008