'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 May 2012

Tail Feather

A single tail feather of the Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica baueri.  From 'Eclipse Plumage', a work from The Godwit Series exhibition.

Godwit feather.  watercolour.

Monday, 28 May 2012


It's been a very busy last week, and the next one will be even more so.  As I will have nine art works from my 'Godwit Series' on show this coming weekend at the OSNZ* Conference in Tauranga, there are a lot of things to do before then.
Framing is almost done, offset reproductions are being printed, hanging arrangements finalised, lighting, invoice book, table, cash box, display cards made, check if I have enough business cards, catalogue printed, wine and nibbles is being taken care of, trailer for the display panels organised...  puff puff...

I'm being interviewed for the local rag tomorrow morning.

And also hopefully getting my artist website up and running. It's all go!

So I shall be away from my keyboard a little longer.  
But I'll catch up with the world of blog next week.

* Ornithological Society of New Zealand

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

No Shoes.

I was rummaging through my image library just now (fortunately still intact despite the power surge thingy on Friday) and came across this image that I took down at the marina one time.

Reading the words started me thinking about shoes and rules...

When were were on the farm, as on most farms, there was a rule: No shoes inside.  That was 'outside' shoes, of course.  It made sense.  Dairy farms are rife with smelly, clingy, brown stuff, and you don't want to get that on your carpets, I can tell you. Mostly we wore gumboots, anyway, and changed into slippers at the back porch.
Sometimes, if I had a broody hen, I might have put some eggs under her and there'd be chicks or ducklings around the house.  Poultry poop may come in smaller packages, but it makes up for it in pong.  And then there was the gigantic, aromatic blobs left by the turkeylings which, when grown used to roost on the roof every night ...

When we moved to town, to this house, I just carried on the indoor/ outdoor shoes rule.  It was very convenient, especially as I'm not good at getting out the vacuum cleaner.  The kids would sometimes head off down the bank or over to the park and come back exuberant and muddy.  They'd clean their boots with the hose at the back door and leave them in the porch.  Natalie was just 3, and although not always law-abiding when it came to not putting her fingers into things (sugar, butter, hot soup...), she was very clear about the No Shoes Inside rule.  It's a family story how she gently but in a clear, high-pitched child-voice, pointed out to one visitor who took two steps inside without removing their shoes.  "We take off our shoes when we come into the house."

Of course, it's a bit of an imposition to expect every visitor to remove their shoes, especially if the floor is cold, or the visitor is elderly and doesn't bend down so well any more.  But I notice most people seem to do it when they come here.  Perhaps Natalie got them trained well and it's still stuck even after 18 years.  Or maybe the farmhouse feel is still here, even though this house has not been the centre of a farm for 50 or so years, the town having enveloped it in its urban arms.

I have toyed with the idea of having a set of stretchy knitted slippers at the door - Japanese-style.  Friends of ours had a small tiled entrance patio affair just inside their front door that would be ideal.  They had one carpeted step all around that you could sit on to pop your slippers on, and the outside shoes were left on the terra-cotta tiles, yet inside out of the weather.  An idea for the next house, maybe.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

My Strawberry Tree

In my garden, strawberries grow in tubs in spring and summer, and on trees in autumn.  
Well, one huge tree, anyway. 

There are quite a few trees that bear red strawberry-looking fruits, but this one is Cornus capitata, also sometimes called 'Evergreen Dogwood', 'Head-flowered Dogwood', 'Bentham's Cornel', and 'Himalayan Strawberry Tree'. 

The Cornus family is quite large, and includes the magnificent dogwood, and in fact the flowers of my tree do look quite a lot like dogwood flowers.   

I have mixed feeling about this tree.  I treasure it because it's a magnificent specimen, and is possibly as old as this house (over 100 years).  

It's also very popular with the birds and I love to see the wax-eyes, black-birds and tuis feasting on the fruit in autumn.  There seems always to be a tui singing up there, proclaiming his pleasantly full crop and joi de vivre.  

 I've posted previously about my strawberry Tree's inhabitants:

But although it's pretty, the fruit is tasteless, although some may consider the proported weak hallucinogenic properties to be worthy of a trial.

A fruit of my Cornus capitata.

Cornus capitata fruit showing size. 
All autumn the lawn under the tree is all manky and squishy with dropped and decomposing fruit ...

Squishy debris.
Cornus capitata seeds.
 ... and the birds drop the seeds far and wide throughout the garden. Except for those that land on the new drive*,  every single one seems to germinate.  They are easily pulled out however.

Seedlings come up very readily from Cornus capitata.

I do like my strawberry tree.  But I'd rather it was a plum tree.

* Mark 4:5

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Big Bang

What an eventful day it was yesterday.
To set the scene: I awoke early and went for an hour-long walk and was back home before the sun had risen.  It was rather windy, but not remarkably so. We put a couple of loads of washing on the line.   I worked all morning painting in my little outdoor studio. An odd rain (light as feathers) began to float down from an almost cloudless sky so we got the washing in again.  I think it was about 100% humidity.
  Just before one o'clock I came inside to scrounge something for lunch and that was when there came an almighty 'BANG!' - a sharp crack which seemed to emanate from everywhere in the house at once, and which was followed by a small explosion and sparks in the vicinity of the microwave.  My son emerged from his room and said "I think that was a power surge!  I heard it through my speakers and on my computer."  We went around the house checking on things.  There was a loud, ominous hum from the television, so we switched everything off and pulled all the plugs out from the walls, except the fridge, which seemed to be still going, indicating the power was amazingly still on.

The charger for the modem blew itself up.

The casualties:
James's laptop charger was smoking
His Laptop, despite showing fully charged, won't start up properly.
His stereo won't go.
The wireless modem's charger had blown itself apart (that was the kitchen fireworks). But the modem itself was, amazingly, ok, when we plugged in a spare charger.
The surge protector on the TV/DVD player/stereo/Apple TV was smoking.
The Apple TV itself is kaput.  (The TV, stereo, and DVD player are all ok).
There's no power in my studio.  (I'm not sure why this is.  I think there must be another trip fuse somewhere that I need to reset).

Everything else seems to be ok, although on showering last night, I wondered about the hot water cylinder. But there's plenty of hot water this morning.  Phew.

The reason for the excitement was that the lines to my neighbour's and my house pass through some trees (on the road verge) that my neighbour hates to trim.  In the past when the council have approached him, he has kicked up bobsy die, and claimed that as he planted them, he doesn't want them touched (his house is very close to the road and they do provide a good screen).  The wind yesterday was obviously the last straw for them.  The lining wore off the last one, they touched, and bang!  Half the road had to be blocked off in rush hour yesterday while they trimmed the trees (no choice for my neighbour) and mended the lines.

Rush hour traffic diverted for only two homes

We spent the evening looking for receipts and original boxes.

Thank goodness for insurance. It's a pity I'll be down the $250 excess, however.  I'll just have to sell an extra painting.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Fewer Words, Less Writing

I have a pet hate.  It's when people say or write 'less' when it should be 'fewer'.
Just now a chap on Radio New Zealand National was being interviewed as to the correct way to read to pre-schoolers.  I would have thought he'd be well-versed in grammar, but no.  To cater for 3 and 4 year-olds' small attention span (taken as a 'given' - but that's another rant of mine), one of his suggestions was to 'read less words to them'.   Augghhhh!

How hard is this?  Can it be counted?  If it has an 's' or it's plural, it's 'fewer'.
If it is stuff that can't be counted, it's 'less'.

Fewer raindrops. Less rain.
Fewer bees. Less fruit.
Fewer teachers.  Less money.*
Fewer plants and animals.  Less biodiversity.
Fewer sweeties.  Less candy and less money required for dentist bills.
Fewer weeks left before exhibition.  Less time in which to paint.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Farewell Song to Blogland

Cold Day in July.

The moon is full and my heart is feeling empty
All night long this island's pleaded and cried
I always said the day that I'd leave Blogland
Would be a cold day in July.

My bags are packed and not a word is spoken
Yorkie said everything when he said goodbye yesterday.
Time moves so slow and promises get broken
On this hot morning in May

Sun's coming up, coming up fast back on my beach
Seagulls shout as they're flying up to play
Head in my hands, standing on the deck in my bare feet
Watching Blogland jungle drift away.

I said I would stay forever
I said my love would never die
It looks like the tropics and it feels like sunny weather
But it's a cold day in July.

Oh sun's coming up, shining gold on the sands of my beach
Seagulls cry as they're flying out to sea
Head in my hands, here I am standing in my bare feet
Watching you drift away
Watching you walk away.

Now the moon is full and my arms are full of suitcases
All night long I've flown in this bird and cried.
I always said that the day that I would leave you
Would be a cold day in July

Oh yeah it feels like a freezing cold day in July.

Apologies to the Dixie Chicks.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Three Days of Motherness.

I've never really 'done' Mother's Day.  Well, that's what I tell my three kids.  But in the last few years each of them has gone to some trouble and/or expense to remember me.  How lovely it is!
This year (the day before) daughter presented me with a heavenly scented bunch of scented gorgeous whiteness.  I wish you could smell these.
A 'classical' bouquet of perfumed stocks and lilies.
 Oldest son and his partner organised for the delivery (the day after) of a huge bouquet of .... chocolates!  I wish I could offer you one.
A bouquet of star-shaped foiled chocolates
And youngest son brought me breakfast in bed on the day.  Marvelous!

Monday, 14 May 2012


Yesterday was Mother's Day in New Zealand.

My own Mum died about sixteen years ago, and although I can call her smiling face to mind any time I wish, the pain of loss has been blunted over the years.

The reason for this is not just the passage of time (which heals all things ... except old age, a condition which creeps inexorably on) but also because of the many wonderful women in my life since her death, that have, at times, acted in the capacity of mother.

By this I mean that they were 'there' for me at certain times when I needed advice, listening to, and physically holding.

(Now, I hasten to add that there are wonderful men in my life too, who have, and continue to have this role, not least my terrific, loving and patient partner of the last two years who has had a very soggy shoulder on a number of occasions, and also tired ears!)

But being Mothers' Day, I've been thinking about all the non-mother wonderful women (and girls) who have mothered me, and I realised that I want to acknowledge them.  Here are some of them. (At least a couple are very shy and I haven't photos of them!)

Aren't they all a fantastic bunch of people?  Aren't I lucky?

Thank you, all of you. From my heart.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


1. dispersion, spreading thin, scattering
2. useless or profitless activity
3. dissolute indulgence, unrestrained indulgence in physical pleasure, esp. alcohol.
4. an amusement, a diversion.

I'm feeling stretched out and too thin... like butter spread over too much bread.*
I can't concentrate on my painting.
My children miss me.
My followers miss me.
Behind the scenes I'm starting to get expressions of confusion and inquiring emails.
In the last month, I have lost almost all of my commentators except the fiercely and probably stupidly (but wonderfully) loyal few.

No man (nor woman, presumably) is an island, even one as alluring as Blogland.
It's time I left this wonderful, but dissipated island life and went home.

Sorry YP.
Thanks for the ride.

* Bilbo Baggins

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Auckland Art Gallery - Renovations Complete

After almost two years of no access to most of my favourite paintings in Auckland, at last the new addition to the gallery is finished.
I'd glad they kept the fine old gabled buildings at the front.  Most of what you can see in this video is not conspicuous at all from the street.  But, how wonderful to have all that extra space.

If I was back home I'd certainly be checking the place out.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

My Home, My Beach

Who would have ever thought I could be able to truthfully say 'I have my own beach'!  Not me, that's for sure.  Wow.  It really is fantastic here on Blogland.  It's everything I could imagine, and more.

I have been relaxing, recovering from my ordeal, sleeping a lot, eating, and now am ready to begin painting again.

Some images to give you a little idea of what it's like.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Who I am and Where I Belong

For the last three weeks I've had a life-changing experience.  And yesterday and today has been a time in 'limbo' - of reflection, and deep thought.  I have walked along the tracks and paths of Blogland and enjoyed the comforts of sheets, soft bed, cooking utensils, water from taps, and the ministrations of my staff.  But these things seem almost surreal, almost superfluous.

I've changed, and my paradigms have shifted.

My thoughts are summed up in this wonderful clip that asks a big question of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse*:  What's the most astounding fact about the universe?


* No relation.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Day 23. The Voyage.

Today was the big day.  I awoke early and I was so excited I could hardly wait until it was light enough to see.  After my usual morning meal, I set off in my dugout canoe over the calm inland waters around the bays and past the mangroves until I could see the neighbouring island in the distance in front of my craft.  

I paddled hard across the relatively short intervening strait.  About half way across I was passed by two large ships.  I later discovered these were the brand new (second-hand) Blogland Navy vessels, out searching for me.  My brown skin and strange hat probably meant they took me for one of the local fisher-folk.

Finally, weary and with aching arms, I made it to the beach.  Nearby was a rude hut.  Being rude, I could only assume it was the so-called private beach and accommodation of Sir Yorkshire Pudding esq.  Either that or it was the home of the old, naked hermit who sat nearby eating rice.

With generous gestures and a total lack of propriety, he invited me to share his humble repast, which I did with thanks and gusto, for it had been many hours since my early morning fruit and cooked pounded taro root.
After exchanging email addresses with my kind, albeit sartorially minimalistic, host, I set out on my dugout once more.

It was nearly two hours later when I rounded a stony headland that a most welcome sight
met my eyes ...
Yes indeed, I was very, very glad to see the smiling and familiar face of Sir Pudding and the distinctive fluttering pennant which announced, without a shadow of a doubt, that I had made it at long last ... to BLOGLAND!  Hurrah!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Day 22 - The last day on my Island?

Again I find I can post words on my blog after so long of being only able to place images.

Thank you for visiting here and reading this.
For, at the risk of over-dramatising, today may be my last on this Earth.  It rained most of the day again, so again I am here on this isolated beach, waiting.
Tomorrow I test the sea-worthiness of the patched dugout canoe as I attempt the crossing of the strait between this and the next closest island, almost due north.  The weather has a settled feel to it after the last two days.  Yes, I feel quite sure I will leave at daybreak tomorrow.  Wish me luck. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Day 21. Rained Off

Great, I am still able to post words here.
The day on my deserted island began well enough.  But before even an hour of light this morning, the big clouds began to gather in the east and soon it was tipping it down.  Rain check!  No trying out my patched craft today.  No sailing today.  It was lovely again by dusk of course.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Day 20. A Jolly Good Day.

All has gone remarkably well today!  When I followed the fluttering scraps of colourful cloth back to my rubber tree early this morning, I was delighted to find a brimming nut-full of white latex.  Back at the beach I mixed it with coconut bark fibre and, allowing each layer to almost dry before I used it, I slowly plastered over the gaping hole in the bottom of the dugout.  
It took until almost dusk.  I am finally feeling that escape, or at least another adventure, may be soon coming my way.  I'm so excited!   Yet part of me will be sad to leave this island, and especially this beach that I've come to know so well, and upon which I've come to know myself so much better.  I took a photo of my shadow to mark this time here.