'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, 30 April 2009

Wednesday, 29 April 2009


Door in a wall, St Mary's  Church grounds, Hadleigh.

8.15 pm.
The sun has gone down and N. is asleep already. I am light-headed but holding up well, although I'm sure I'll sleep well tonight.
It was lunchtime when we got to John and Dot's in Suffolk and we had a light cheese and bread lunch before having a little wander around Hadleigh, the closest town.  It's a medieval market town that grew enormously from the wealth of wool and cloth.  It was already in its heyday when William the Conqueror arrived in 1066,  imagine that!  There is a huge flint church, St Mary's, with an attractive patterned spire that has been painted by Turner, Constable and Gainsborough, and there are lots of tudor houses plastered and with timber beams showing.  The doorways are tiny and often brightly painted.  It was really delightful.

John cooked up a delicious British lamb barbecue dinner with salads, which we ate in the garden again.  The forecast is for hot weather for the next two days at least.

Monday, 27 April 2009

Beauty in Unexpected Places

This post is dedicated to Jinksy, who whips up lovely poems like this example below, on a daily basis.  Wonderful, isn't she?

Pebble Paradise

Stones on a beach, glowing wet;
muted colours the shades of nature, yet
gleaming like jewels in the salt laden air.
Rich, crunching carpet spread at your feet,
reflecting bright shafts of the sunshine's glare
in seawater droplets soon to dry in the heat.

Children gather the pebbles with shouts of glee
at the brilliant colours they think they see -
though the lustre is fleeting; colours soon dim
as they dry, salt coated stones picked up on a whim.

But then, like a miracle, the dullest small stone
in the hands of a craftsman can come into its own.
When tumbled and polished its secret unfolds
to delight us once more with the beauty it holds.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

I've looked at Clouds ... Part 3

The KLM 747 was noticeably quieter than the 767 but our seats were much closer together and I felt even more like a sardine in a metal can than the last plane.  But I had a lovely ex-"Singapore Girl" (Singapore Airlines cabin attendant) sitting beside me, and, despite my tiredness, we chatted for two hours.  She told me that all Singapore Girls must retire at 35.  Certainly they achieve almost celebrity status these days, and I'm sure my gentle and beautiful seat-mate had no trouble landing her Dutch pilot husband.
We were served a cold cucumber salad and a spicy Indonesian Dutch rice dish which N. and I found too hot, but then we were too dog-tired to want to eat anyway.  
When the lights went off I got about four or five hours great sleep, then dozed for another two, peeking surreptitiously out of my window at the occasional lights from villages below.  And one magical moment I saw a shooting star, feeling like I was the only person awake on the whole plane.  Soon afterwards the pilot tested our big landing lights so he must have been awake too.  I began to think what wonders pilots must see as they bring hundreds of peacefully unaware humans through the night.  I saw another plane pass us going the other way.  
After breakfast my Singapore girl asked me for my address.

I didn't really know what day it was, but we were at Schipol - Amsterdam's airport.  N. said it smelled funny.  I liked the way the loo doors are all painted sky blue and each has a drawing of a famous Amsterdam landmark on it, with information about it on the reverse of the door for your edification while you sit.  I wondered if the words were opposite the door in the Men's.  

N. was wearing a little plastic Singaporean charm bracelet that she found on the floor while we were waiting to disembark the plane.

In the departure lounge I got talking to a woman who had just spent the last two weeks working on the Galapagos Islands.  She was brown and lean and fit-looking and reminded me of Jane Goodall.

The last leg was over quickly.  We were hardly up than we were coming down again; new plane, sardines again.  England is sunny and hot.  We took about an hour to get through Heathrow passport control, and there was the welcome faces of Dorothy and Oliver waiting to take us to 'Gateway Cottage'.  

Friday, 24 April 2009

Thursday, 23 April 2009

I've looked at clouds - Part 2

Coral islands!  Now volcanic islands!  Then into some turbulence from crossing the (sub-tropical?) jet stream - that narrow (1-3 miles thick) current of rapidly moving air that meanders across the earth at about 11,000 m altitude just under the troposphere.  The captain brings us up a little more to 11,600 m, and it's down to minus 52ºC outside.  But, amazingly, there seems still some clouds a little higher than us - beautiful fat thunderheads over the moist jungle.  Is that Burma down there?

We arrived in Singapore - Changi airport - only 20 minutes late despite the 90 minutes delay at Auckland.

This airport seemed almost surreal after the whites and blues out my window.  It was open, spacious, bright, and filled with thousands of salmon and cerise orchids - total colour overload to our tired brains...

Despite the bright lights I managed to get half an hour's sleep and felt much better.  Then I had a wash and teeth brush in the immaculate loos watched by two diminutive, smiling and bowing cleaner ladies, who seemed to mop perpetually.  They each had a pure white headscarf/ shawl thing over their heads and tucked into the necks of their blue uniforms.  It looked lovely.  I wondered if it was just part of their uniforms, or maybe their religious requirement.

Monday, 20 April 2009

I've looked at clouds... Part 1

1/9 Thursday - Departure day.
First leg: Air New Zealand flight 81 departing Auckland 1130 non-stop;  arrive Singapore Changi Airport 1840.  Flight length: eleven hours and ten minutes.
We had to be at the airport at least three hours before but on the way the fog was so thick we had to slow right down...  A pleasant surprise that our flight was only delayed by one and a half hours.  We have four hours at Singapore so shouldn't be cutting it too fine.


The last view of the 'Land of the Long White Cloud'

As I write this N. is happily watching some movie about four girls and a pair of traveling jeans or something.  Nice chicken pasta lunch.

Over the Tasman Sea

Great Barrier Reef coral island

2.51pm.  I have a window seat so am in heaven.  I've just seen what I assume are a couple of coral islands - must be the Great Barrier Reef off the Queensland coast.  Ovals and circles of pale blue-green lagoon with a white fringe of breakers - the reefs are not quite complete.  What a treat!  I can hardly take my eyes off the window even 'though it's still the Tasman sea.  I don't want to miss a single view of this flight!  

Australia at last

3.05.  Auckland and we are traveling at 783 km/hour at 9800 m altitude.  Now almost exactly over the Queensland/ NSW border on the Australian coast.  About eight hours to Singapore.  With great mental effort I calculate that if you travel at 780 km/hour for three hours you cover 2340 km or 1410 miles.  I must be tired, but I feel great.

                          Somerset dam and lake?

6.30.  We are 10,000 metres high, traveling at 800 km/hr, and it's -44ºC outside this round window,  just two inches from my nose.  We've been in the air 4 hours 45 minutes.  We are still over Australia, on a line that seems to pass right over Katherine (heh).  Katherine over Katherine.  The clouds have changed since the coast from fluffy patches to balls, and then wisps and now have disappeared altogether.  We flew over what I'm convinced was Somerset Dam where Wendy and I swam on our motorcycle trip when we were 21.  There have been patches of cultivated land and pasture.  But now all I see is red earth scoured into valleys and riverbeds.  I took a photo of tracks converging on a ford over a dry river.  What a different look this place would have when it rains.

This country is truly massive.  I can see the HUGE Gulf of Carpenteria now.  I sailed through it on the Oronsay when I was eleven.
I'd forgotten how big the world is.  We have been flying at 470 mph (I still think in miles) - that's covering about eight miles every minute, or a mile every seven seconds, have been flying about six hours, and are only about a quarter the way to England.  Novelty's worn off a bit and I've begun to unglue myself from this window.

7.05.  Happened to look out the window just as we finally reached the other side of Aussie.  I watched the coast pass under our wings.  Well, this is the last we'll see of Australia for a while.  It feels a little like we are leaving the familiar part of the world behind...

The other edge of Australia.

Sunday, 19 April 2009


A few minutes ago I happened to notice that this blog had reached the magnificent number of 6,666 visitors.  In 55 weeks.  What nice numbers.  Thank you everyone!  

Wed Aug 31. To Auckland

At ten past ten today we left home.  Our holiday has really begun!  A great feeling.  We arrived in Auckland and were dropped off in a park where I felt the need to relax for a few hours - I actually slept on the grass for a bit, I was so tired from last-minute packing and organising things.  On the map it looked like it should be a nice park as it was bounded by water, but it turned out to be a rather ugly piece of flat sports ground with a few dried-up conifer trees and lots of rubbish.

We walked along the road conspicuous with our packs on and  I hoped no-one would ask us what country we were from as I felt like an impostor.  I suggested to N that we put on fake accents and we experimented with a few as we walked. My pack rapidly became very heavy and I began to feel very tired and hot and wondered why I had packed so much clothing!  I am going to be carrying this around for two and a half months so I'd better get rid of some or get used to it!  
We finally arrived at our friend's house and this evening were treated to a lovely chicken and salad meal of:
Mixed mesclun salad greens tossed with thinly sliced yellow and orange sweet peppers, baby tomatoes and pieces of avocado plus a cooked and cooled mixture of sliced red onions, brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.  This was topped with sliced hot chicken breast quickly stir-fried and drizzled with a garlic and oil olio and garnished with a whole strawberry (with its green top still on) sliced almost all the way through and fanned out.  As Zoe would say: "Yum, malicious!" 

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Beauty in Unexpected Places

Two snails pass on a stalk of wild fennel - Miranda Shorebird Reserve - dawn.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Booking accommodation online.

A word of warning:  be very careful to confirm your bookings - by phone is best.  

I wanted to have everything arranged for the short time we were in Italy, near the end of our trip.  Not speaking Italian, and not knowing if English is spoken much, it was the one leg of our trip that I decided to plan very carefully.  N. was very nervous about Italy too, and I guess some of it rubbed off.

We were going to fly from Aberdeen to Pisa (via Dublin).  The Ryanair flights were amazingly cheap nearly four months before, I could hardly believe my luck, just a few pounds.  

The plan: We'd fly in to Pisa, stay one night there, see the tower in the morning and then take the train down to Naples for two nights.  Bus or train to Siena for two nights, bus to Florence and two nights there, train to Rome and there one night, then overnight on the Riviera Night Train to Nice.
I really wanted to find accommodation with local character if I could.  But not too expensive.    
I booked a hotel between the Leaning Tower and railway station so we could walk between the three.
I booked a hotel in Naples within walking distance of the railway station (so we could easily get out to Pompeii).
Likewise Siena and Florence, both also with walking distance of cathedrals and other inner-city landmarks.
Rome was tricky.  All the hotels centrally located seemed so expensive.  I finally got one that looked like a boring international could-be-any-city-in-the-world tower, but at least it was on the bus route.
The above arrangements took me the better part of 20 hours.  Loading pages without broadband seemed to take forever.  I found that there's no need to book your train journeys too far in advance as there are usually plenty of seats, but don't leave it until the same day as the queues can be tiresome - best to do it the day before. 

On our arrivals, two of the five hotels had no record of my booking.  Unfortunately both were fully booked (a coincidence?  I don't think so). However I carried copies of the transaction printouts and alternative arrangements were made for us, mostly with good grace.

I also booked a small, cheap villa in Province, France.  There was also an unexpected hiccup concerning this too, but one that turned out to be very much to our advantage, as the saga will reveal!

And the Youth Hostel network in the UK - we had fun and games with that too!  And that is also part of the story to follow. 

Next:  The Big O.E really begins! The long flight to the other side of the world. 

Thursday, 16 April 2009

I love Autumn

Autumn has gently arrived in New Zealand.  Well, my part of it, anyway.  The weather is more stable and the days are not so hot.  There is reason to get out the knitting needles (perhaps this will be the winter I finish the blanket) and it's back to porridge in the mornings.  
Helped by the golden early morning light, the park was glowing with autumn-ness this morning:

Familiar paths are yellow and crunchy.

The lower slanting light shows up textures better -

 - and down at the river, toitoi plumes are reflected and boats of leaves sail past:

All the old tired leaves are taking a final, vivid bow, before they fall off the stage.

And my thoughts turn to getting the firewood stacked, the hedge pruned and making a start on that Futurist Movement essay that is due 9 am the first day after the holidays.  

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Letter to the Principal, and Itinerary

A good store of firewood for the house-sitter

This was the result of the two month's planning:  A proposed itinerary.  N suddenly realised this trip was actually going to happen and started getting excited.  I had enrolled her in Italian language night-classes for 6 weeks, but she still didn't really believe we would actually be going.  (I could say "buono sera" and "ciao" and that was it!)   My 53% School Certificate French would have to get us by in France. 

--- College

The Principal.

Mr D----

Re:  N---- 

I hereby apply on behalf of my daughter N,  for permission for a temporary exemption from attendance at --- College, for a period of not more than three months, from 29th August 2005.

This is on the grounds of her undertaking a European educational tour (see attached itinerary) which I believe will provide her with a unique and challenging opportunity for learning that she may not get again.

My daughter and I plan to visit England, Scotland, Eire, France, Italy and possibly Belgium and Germany.  In this time she will be keeping a detailed daily diary, taking photographs, and every three or so weeks will be writing a long letter to her social studies teacher and class recounting her adventures.

Please would you apply to the appropriate government authority on our behalf.

Thanks also for your enthusiasm and interest in our travel plans, D.  Will bring you back a stick of Brighton Rock.

Yours faithfully,

Katherine D-


To Whom it May Interest:
Proposed Itinerary

N’s Trip to the World

This Friday 26 will be my daughter N’s. last day at school for a while.

She and I will be travelling in the UK and Europe and we won’t be back in New Zealand for 11 weeks.  She will probably be back at school on Monday 21 November. 

We plan to visit England, Scotland, Eire, France, Italy and possibly Belgium.  In this time she will be keeping a deatiled daily diary, taking photographs, and every three or so weeks will be writing a letter to her social studies teacher and class recounting her adventures, as well as, no doubt, postcards to her special friends.

Our plans are:

31 August leave Tauranga

1 September flight Auckland to London Stansted via Singapore and Amsterdam.

2 September Arrive in England:

Base: Colchester, Essex.

East Bergholt, where painter John Constable lived and painted

Colchester, Britain's oldest town (Roman walls etc.)

Sutton Hoo (a Saxon ship burial)

E.Sussex - Bateman’s - home of Rudyard Kipling

Ely - cathedral - ‘The Ship of the Broads’

Cambridge ( city tour in a double open-topped bus)

London:  (The Tower of London and the Crown Jewels,  do a brass rubbing at St Martins in the Fields, see the changing of the guards, visit the zoo & see the Snowdon Aviary, Madame Tussauds waxworks museum , the Planetarium, the Thames barrier, the Natural History, Science and Technology and Victoria and Albert Museums, and go up in the ‘Eye’.

9 September - Pick up hired car  from Colchester.

Hastings, Battle & Rye - an old smugglers’ village

Portsmouth. visit friends

The New Forest - the wild ponies

Exmoor - walking

Wiltshire - Stourhead gardens,  

Dartmouth - castle ruins and harbour & have a Devonshire clotted cream tea.

Fowey - Cornish fishing village  

Mousehole - just for the name

St Michael's Mount - visit the island at low tide.

Lynton and Lynmouth - go on the special Hillside tram

The Cheshire Gorge - Cheddar Caves and stone-age Cheddar man

Bath -  The Roman baths, the Royal Crescent.

Valley of the White Horse - walking

Cotswolds - walking, visit Kelmscott Manor, William Morris’s country home

7-9 October France: (weekend) Paris:  Walking - Avenue Champs-Elysee, Place de la Concorde, Galleries La Fayette, Printemps, shopping, Le Tour Eiffel,  Arc de Triomphe. 

10 October Back to Colchester.  Return hired car.

12 October Flight Stansted to Dublin - pick up hired car



Co Wicklow, Glendalough Monastery, 


Waterford - crystal factory, Kilkenny - medieval city with narrow streets, Carlow


Skerries - staying with friends.  Eat irish stew and try Guinness.

18 October - return hired car. Flight Dublin to Glasgow.


Glasgow - the Glasgow Science Centre

Stirling  - the Castle - learn about Rob Roy and William Wallace

Edinburgh - tour of the castle & eat shortbread.  

Inverness - Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle.


24 October Flight Aberdeen to Pisa.


Pisa. The leaning tower.  

Florence & Siena - Frescoes by Giotto and Ducio & the works of the high Renaissance painters, sculptors and architects,  Gothic, Baroque architecture, Tuscan countryside walks. 

Naples - Vesuvius & Pompeii.  Eat proper Napoli Pizza!

1 November Riviera Night Train from Naples - Nice



Grasse - visit a perfume factory

Provence, 1 week’s stay in a small village, market day, relaxing, walking.  practising speaking french.  

Nimes. Roman amphitheatre, Le pont du Gare (beautiful stone arched bridge)

12 November Flight Nimes to London Luton England

Welwyn Garden City

13 November Back to Colchester.  

15th November fly home to Auckland via Amsterdam and Singapore. New Zealand

Contact and mailing address while we are away:  

C/O John and Dot -------Stratford St Mary, Colchester, Essex, UK.

Texts cell phone: 021 ---------. Please text as often as you like.

Emergency calls (but will cost me mega$$$ to receive!)  cell phone as above.

Katherine D------   21/8/05    (Hme phone:  ------, Ellen here while we are away)


Next: Hotels, Villas and Youth Hostels; Booking accommodation in Europe on the net.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

The Big O.E - Just do it!

Time had passed as it does.  My daughter was only just 5 when I took her and her two brothers on the last big Overseas Experience.  The boys talk about it of course, but it's not the same when you are too little remember anything except a bath at someone's house and middle brother telling you to 'get out quick or you'll go all wrinkly and turn into an old lady!'
I had promised her we would go again.  She was now 14, and next year was a big school year, so it was now or never!  We had been saving for a while, and, with care, careful budgeting, and accommodation with friends and relations, we knew we could do it.  We started with a rough plan - 'must-sees',and  'would-be-nice-to-sees'.  Main destination: Europe and the UK, maybe USA for the Grand Canyon.  Disneyland not a priority this time.  Emphasis on history, art and walking.  And as long as possible; when you are traveling to the other side of the world, no point doing it half-heartedly!  

An exciting and busy time:  We joined the Youth Hostel Association.  Sussed out the cost of hiring cars.  What time of year should we go? How long should we stay away? Emailed friends-and-relations to see if they would be home.  Asked Ellyn when she could house- and pet-sit.  Decided regretfully we would have to abandon the USA leg - too expensive, but replaced the Grand Canyon with a plan to see the little-known Les Gorges du Verdon in France, touted as "The Grand Canyon of France".   No-one seemed to have heard of it.   It would be an adventure just getting there. Hire a car in France? The Big Trip started taking shape.  N. still didn't really believe it would actually happen.  What would her teachers say?

After a couple of busy months during which I seemed to be on the computer almost continually, I wrote a letter to her school principal.  He had sounded a little officious when I initially approached him, suggesting that she may not get permission.  That was patently ridiculous from my point of view.  It was obviously one of the most brilliant learning opportunities a kid of fourteen could be offered, and no bureaucracy was going to stand in my way!  

Next:  The letter to the principal.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Beauty in Unexpected Places

Dusk, and a hazy springtime moon is framed by the new leaves of the oak tree in our garden.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Our trip to the world

Over the next few months I'm going to be closing down another of my blogs and slowly transferring the posts over to TLVD.  

Apologies to those who are a) not interested in travel diaries (because that's what it is) or b) have already read it and don't want to again.  You may wish to skip future posts prefixed by a date.
But to all the rest of my loyal, kind, and friendly fans, I would like to think that you will continue to enjoy visiting, and that once or twice a week or so, you will be happy to read my familiar, riveting style, amusing anecdotes, positive spin on sometimes mis-adventures and (even more) fabulous digital photographs, overlooking, nay even enjoying my (frequent) parentheses and other characteristic, but not strictly grammatical whimsicalities and idiosyncrasies, in a new context.  And sometimes quite short sentences too.

Please feel free to comment on places you have been, experiences parallel or otherwise, that our travels bring to your mind.  And bear in mind, dear European visitors, that we kiwis live in a raw, new country and are especially prone to waxing lyrical about anything older than 100 years.  So please bear with us.  I'd like to think you may even enjoy seeing familiar things through our eyes.  

So, slip on your DVT-preventing pantyhose, take your Avomine airsickness tablet, fasten your seatbelt, check the position of your nearest exit and off we go!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Digging Deeper

A scene one day at a train station

Imagine you are waiting to catch a train - big, busy city train station - some music begins to play over the PA system, you know the movie, tap your feet, people around you smile, tourists, commuters, all ages, all walks of life are moving through the station, and then.... you witness this:

Friday, 10 April 2009

Final work

Graphite, coloured pencil and collage on watercolour paper, eyelets and wire.  45 x 75 cm

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

I attended my niece's wedding last weekend.  The sun shone and the sky was a brilliant blue of the kind only Hawkes Bay can provide.  Everyone wore a hat, and the champagne was supped out of fine china cups and saucers.  We all came home with a tiny pot of real jam.  It was wonderful.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

4.5 Minute Interlude

You might like to take a little time out of your busy day to watch this clip, contemplate the changing seasons, think about how special this world is...

...and then get up and turn something off, or recycle something - do some little thing to reduce your carbon footprint.

Thank you.

(signed) The Manager of this Blog.

Monday, 6 April 2009

New Zealand Flax (Phormium spp)

The sweet harakeke flowers of spring have turned into the glossy, dew-washed pods of autumn.  And today I will cut myself one of the strap-like leaves, strip off the central hard vein, scrape off the pith with a mussel shell, and use the soft silky fibres to make some strong pliable cording for which I have a very special use...