'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.

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Psalm for a Palm.

O upright palm in the morning sun,
Are ye awareth of thy impending fate?
The song of the chain
Thy praises singeth not.

And so it came to pass that Steve, son of Gary, born of Judith
Prepared for his task, and
Prayed for guidance and sureness of hand.

And thus it was, at the end, mercifully quick
and the dead palm shall suffer the little winds to come unto it
no more.

For lo! Let us give thanks to Steve the Samaritan
That whosoever is required to tidy the palm
Shall henceforth find each section of the appropriate size
For ease of carrying.
And who supplied most readily the invoice
Before departing.

And later, in the fore-noon, did arrive Reg,
Whose mighty stump-grinder did erase most evidence of the palm
And who predicted the appearance of his invoice
In the fullness of time.


Monday, 30 January 2012

Dijea's Photo Challenge. #3: Food

A bee can collect the equivalent of about two teaspoons of honey on an average day. Since I read this piece of information, I try not to take it for granted.

Sunday, 29 January 2012


Sunday was a windy, warm day in our garden. It was also 'Aftermas'.

Most years at the end of January we have an 'After-Christmas' after-noon party for as many family and friends as we can. It's nice, we think, to get together before school and work starts taking over from the summer. It seems that with partners, melded families, step-thingys, etc., often it's just too hard to see all the people you'd like to on the 25th December, so we have another one for all the people we missed, a month later.

Adam came by bicycle, GB by 'handbag', and because of the new seal on the drive, everyone entered the garden by walking up the newly-re-discovered, triffid-free garden path.

I met my eldest son's partner's parents for the first time, and was given a stunning, olive and orange, hand-embroidered Phulkari, which just took my breath away.

Under the trees, we tucked the older ones onto pillows in sheltered corners, and everyone else found a seat or, in one case, a blow-up sumo costume. The pot luck food and drink covered three tables and the sun shone at regular intervals. and, as Big Ted would have said, 'A Good Day Was Had By All'.

At dusk, we watched from the dining-room windows as all the birds feasted on the crumbs.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


Last year, in the midst of one of my assignments, I was having trouble thinking of a synonym for the word 'information' so I looked up on my built-in computer thesaurus.

This was the result below, screen-grabbed for your entertainment.

This kind of glitch reminds me of the 'Clbuttic' mistakes...

Friday, 27 January 2012


Here's a little movie about making bread. It was sent to me by one my art tutors of last year. He is a frenchman, living in New Zealand, and, predictably, one of the things he really misses is good bread. Coincidently, it arrived shortly after Jay made a great post about the gulf between good bread and the commonly-available 'Chorleywood' method bread.

Hmmm... I seem to be having trouble embedding the movie, so click on this link instead.
the art of making bread from tiger in a jar on Vimeo.
I can't decide if I would call this 'The Art of Making Bread', 'New-Age Bread-Making', or an 'Art Film' about bread-making.

All I know is, if you make bread by hand every day, you get muscular arms, and it's not quite the soft, dreamy experience shown here!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Tidying the Bookshelf

I have a lot of books. Predictably, many of them are arty books, which I mostly keep out in my studio.

About 80% of the others are non-fiction. So they are usually organised by subject.

But the rest: Terry Pratchett, Patrick O'Brian, Lemony Snickett, Leon Uris, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, James Mitchener, James Clavell, Paul Gallico, A.A Milne....paperbacks, etc...
I was at a loss how to organise them.
One year I did them all by size, but that looked weird, and down the small end I kept feeling that I was falling into a black hole (some of my books are very, very tiny). And anyway, I still couldn't necessarily find a book easily. Then: a brainwave! I decided to group by colour. The room looked much more pleasing instead of the hotch-potch patchwork of spines too. At last, via VioletSky's blog, I've found someone else who does it too.

Now if only I could get my books to do it by themselves...

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Dijea's Photo Challenge. #2

Twins spotted near the Dart River bridge, near Glenorchy, in the South Island of New Zealand*.

*Some visitors to New Zealand are confused about how to talk about where you are in New Zealand.
We don't say this photo was taken 'on South Island' or even 'in South Island', but 'in (never on) the South Island'.
'South Island' and 'North Island' are not names of islands. It is always the South Island or the North Island because the 'of New Zealand' always follows, even if not explicitly stated.

Odd, but true.

Imagine that implied '... of New Zealand' and you'll sound like a true blue Kiwi.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Muffin-munchers in my garden

I'm having the drive re-sealed. In the nearly twenty years we've been here, it's been patched once, and that was about 17 years ago. Recently it's been looking more and more like some hippy artist's crumbling digs.

So last week I decided Something Must Be Done.

The last two days I have been descended upon by a gang of males, trucks and diggers. It's all very exciting. At smoko times I like to think my spiced fruit muffins* will spur them to do an extra-good job. But they are above being bribed; they tell me always do an extra good job. But please don't stop the muffins.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Things in Lettuces

Growing-your-own results in unexpected visitors. In the old days I never used to wash my lettuces.
'You should wash the lettuce, Mum!' they cried.
'I don't spray' said I. 'There's nothing nasty to wash off'
Then I found an earwig, didn't I? Well, it found me. Actually, it found it didn't like being bitten in two, so it pinched me. On my gum. I had to extract the pincher with tweezers. This is true.

So the next weekend when we had friends for dinner, I had, not only washed but also finely chopped lettuce and also a hilarious topic of conversation at my expense. I observed my guest carefully separating and inspecting her lettuce after this, although she politely tried to make it inconspicuous.
Guest: 'Er... I think I've found something'
Everyone peered onto her plate. It was a vegetable bug. Actually, only half a vegetable bug - the front half, neatly chopped.

The jokes are true. Shortly afterwards I found the other half. My mouth was suddenly filled with the foulest, most vile taste I have ever encountered. In this experience I am joined by the loftiest of the science world*, but that was no consolation at this point. I left the table abruptly and while retching and heaving over the sink in the kitchen, I heard through purple haze, murmurs of concern floating from the dining room.

When I was able to return to the table I could confidently tell everyone that stink bugs have their stink in their rear ends, and that it works even after vivisection. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to add that the experiment was a complete success. I am often brilliant retrospectively. But it has provided an excellent conversation-starter at dinner tables ever since.

Sunday, 22 January 2012


I wish that YP and Shirley were coming back this weekend. I have been working very hard in the garden and it's looking more and more like an estate complementing the house, than something well into the novel The Day of the Triffids, as it was when they visited.

Image from OnelineReview

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Dijea's Photo Challenge. February: B & W

I have taken up the challenge. For the rest of the year, once every two weeks I will post an image that I hope meets Dijea's criteria for the fortnight.

The theme for this fortnight is 'Black and White'.

My offering is a shot of Waipunga Falls.
This is a very spectacular triplet of falls in a natural bush setting, and surrounded by New Zealand flaxes, which I think nicely echo the cascading of the water over the rocks at the bottom.
Most people photograph the complete falls, which are distinctively tall. I zoomed in to the base, as I wanted to take advantage of the wonderful angle down into the gorge that the lookout offers.
This day was rainy, and the spray and mist from the falls mixed with the gentle drizzle to create subdued contrasts and an almost hushed, softened, still image, despite the tumult and roar in real life.

Waipunga Falls, New Zealand. September 2010. Canon EOS400 D Digital. 1/100. f/5.6. ISO 100. 55mm.

(Image should enlarge with a click)

Waipunga Falls can be seen by simply driving to the lookout about 50 metres off State Highway 5 between Taupo and Napier (11 km north of Tararewa). You can see the complete falls here.

Added later: I see I got the challenge wrong. It's two photos a week, not one a fortnight. OK. I'm up to it still!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Grass Waves and Bitterns

It was a very rainy day the last time I went up to stay at Miranda on the Firth of Thames, so I left later in the afternoon, when the sky was starting to clear. There were some lovely cloud formations over the Waikato dairy farmlands:

... but from the road looking east over the stilt ponds, it appears there is still rain falling over the Coromandel Range:

Somewhere in this picture below there is a mother bittern and her two or three chicks.

Can you see them? No, nor could we. But I just caught the movement of something bittern-coloured, so I know they were there!

We stood there for some time but to no avail. The view up the coast towards Kaiaua (K-eye-ah-wah) was soft and gentle:

I was most fascinated by the light effects on the 'waves' in the grass.
(Clicking on the images will show them up much better.)

Oh, and they have a new hide at Miranda now. Much bigger than the old one, which you can see on the far left.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Pudding Visit

I can't remember a more pleasant lunch and conversation with two people that I have never met before in my life. Lord and Lady Pudding were kind enough not to mention the unkempt garden, the chaos in parts of the house, and other signs of my three years' full-time study, and instead my daughter and I enjoyed a super couple of hours with them, talking about all kinds of things, and we were quite sorry to see them go, driving off in their hired Rolls*, continuing on their tour around New Zealand.

* I lied about the Rolls.

Monday, 16 January 2012


Recently a lovely friend of my son's dropped off a load of avocados from his parent's orchard. After spreading them around the neighbourhood, there were still plenty to indulge. I cut one in half, scooped the stone out, filled the stone-hole with mayonnaise, and ate, straight from the shell. Yum. Decadence!

Saturday, 14 January 2012


Everyone I know seems to be buying a gigantic television at the moment. I enter a house I have always felt safe in, and come around the corner and BANG! there's a huge monster lurking, eyeing me balefully with its screen poised to blast out adverts and social manipulation*... or worse still, on, yet ignored, so I can't concentrate on conversations, and reply with statements like "So, when was your new steak-knife born?" etc.

But, I have to confess, I have just spent a very pleasant afternoon watching a great movie on Granny's huge Sony Syclops.

* and some quite good programmes on average once every 10489366077 days.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Oiled Penguins from the Rena break-up

My son (1:44 - 1:48) has been out walking the beaches with the Wildlife Response Unit again.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

There's Art in Alcohol

Once you have seen the wonderful blue of copper sulphate crystals, you could never forget it, I think. I remember growing big crystals in chemistry at school.

Here are some fabulous views of sugar crystalline structures using a 1,000 time magnification microscope. A wondrous collection of images that I discovered on the Telegraph Newspaper website. They are made even more interesting for me by the fact that they are all derived from dried alcoholic beverages of various types.
They were taken by the chemistry department of Florida State University.
The images are produced by the firm Bevshots and are available for purchase by the 'discerning buyer'.

A drop of each drink is allowed to dry on a glass slide and then a picture taken under a microscope. The impurities in the drinks hold the crystals together and create the variety of kaleidoscopic effects.
Bevshots founder Lester Hutt has his favourites. He likes the German Pilsener one because it is a 'cool animals-style print and the colours really pop.'
'Another one of my favorite images is the cola photo. The blues, purples and golds are so rich in colour, and the composition of the image flows incredibly well'

The slides are lit with natural light from above and below.

Bevshots has sold about 20,000 of these type of artworks in the last two years.

1. Cosmopolitan.

2. Irish pale larger.

3. Orange juice.

4. Belgian Lambic beer.

5. Coca Cola.

6. German Pilsener.

7. Vodka and Tonic.

8. Red Wine.

9. Stout.

10. Dirty Martini.

11. White wine.
12. Gin and Tonic.

It's enough to drive you to drink.

For those interested in reproducing some of these kaleidoscopic effects in their brains, click on each word to be taken to the recipe or some information.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Tumbling Flower Beetles

Today I met my first tumbling flower beetle (Mordellidae family). He was sitting on my bench, hoping I wouldn't see him. What a tiny, odd sort-of creature! I expect the storm tossed him off his usual food, and I think he must have come inside riding on one of my lettuces. The first thing I noticed was the spine, which made me think it might be a female ovipositor, but both sexes have them. This spine, along with their very strong back legs, helps them have a spring-loaded take-off when they are disturbed. They feed on flowers. There are only 6 species (so far identified) in New Zealand, but about 1500 world-wide. Isn't it curious the way he hides his head as if he was shy?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Two Landscape paintings, 1936.

I recently stumbled upon this painting by Russian Nicholas Roerich (1874 - 1947). It is entitled Compassion, and was painted in 1936.

Here is Nicholas:

It struck me how very similar it is to New Zealand artist Rita Angus's works. This particular one is entitled Mountains Cass, and was painted also in 1936.

Here is Rita. Not at all similar in appearance to Nicholas. I wonder if each knew about the other.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Rena's back is broken

Image from TVNZ

As expected, the Rena split in two in the storm last night.

The ship is being pounded by 6-metres swells and the bad weather is expected to continue for the next three to four days.

The forward section of the ship is in its original position on the Astrolabe reef off the Tauranga coast, while the stern has broken away and, while still on the reef, is moving significantly. At the time of writing it is about 30 metres from the bow section.

There are lots of containers downwind (northwest of the Rena) and debris in the water, including bags of milk powder and timber. Debris is likely to reach beaches later today. The maritime exclusion zone around the Rena will probably be increased. Regional Council spokesman Eddie Grogan said although the weather might be great for surfers, they should be aware that there'll be a lot of debris in the water, and to be very careful.

About 1000 tonnes of oil has been removed but some still remains on the ship in hard-to-access pipes and ducting.

The National Response Team has been activated to respond to the potential release of oil from the ship and to treat any affected wildlife.

My son, who was involved with the NRT earlier in the saga, stayed the night over near the beach and is on his way home on the bus at the moment. There was a phone call for him a few minutes ago.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Storm Coming

Here's sunset last night over the river at the back of the house. I always forget how much further around the sun travels in summer before it dips its head goodnight. The cloud formations are lovely but unfortunately they are a sign the forecast is right: we have another storm coming. The chances are high that this time the Rena will break in half completely. This weekend, seven-metre waves are predicted - the highest in the three months since the Rena ran aground on the Astrolabe Reef off the coast of Tauranga.

Friday, 6 January 2012


It rained and rained. We stayed inside and watched it fall and wondered what had happened to summer.

But outside, the perfumed Asiatic lilies were loving the abundant water and the soft skies, and I've never seen them look so spectacular. These are almost as tall as me, ie five foot four and three-quarters.

But at last today the sun has come out.

I am fascinated by the gentle offering of the open trumpets...

The sublime lime and white graduations and colour contrasts - fresh, calm and soft...

The wonderful textures on the petals: veins, ribs, notches and nodules...

The delicious, coffee-rust powdery stamens...

And finally, this is my inadequate attempt to show you what this heavenly lily's fragrance is like. The closest I can come is a cross between the angel Gabriel, sunshine, and lemons...