Wednesday, May 31, 2006


My eye happened on my kaleidoscope yesterday, and on my camera, and I found myself wondering if I could get good photos of the interior. I thought the light might be a problem. Well, the photos came out OK - not too dark as I had feared. However I found I got a much narrower view than with my eye. In the photos the individual components of the image are more obvious - you can see that the contents of the kaleidoscope are screws, paper clips, thumb tacks etc. However the field of view is narrow so that there are only a few repeats visible. With the eye, I get many many more. I'm thinking I'd need to construct a kaleidoscope with a much wider, flatter eyepiece (but I'm not cutting the viewing end off mine, which is made in one piece from beautiful kauri wood).

I found an example of the maker's work online here - it is similar to mine but has sewing items instead of stationery items (buttons, pins etc). I noticed that the photos of the interior on the web site don't have too many repeats either. Maybe it isn't possible to capture the full effect on camera.

I was playing with the options on blogger for layout for the two photos, I don't think I got it quite right - but it seems you have to choose the size and placement before you see how it will work, and the only option to change it is to upload them all over again.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Quilting and Antarctica

I had a full day at work yesterday, and in the evening I blobbed out with a couple of hours of hand quilting in front of the television - it was a special two hour edition of "Grey's Anatomy", the one with the bomb (which all you North Americans probably saw weeks ago). My fingertips are a little sore and chewed up. I use a thimble on my top hand, but haven't found a satisfactory way of protecting the underneath fingers without feeling that I lose control of what I am doing. But I do find hand quilting very relaxing. In some ways I prefer it to machine quilting, but if I stuck to hand quilting only I wouldn't get half as much finished.
In the mail yesterday was my newsletter from the National Association of New Zealand Quilters. It included the news, which I had missed in the papers, that textile artist Clare Plug was one of this year's two succesful applicants for Artists to Antarctica. It's great to see that textile art/quilting is being recognised as a valid art form by the powers that administer the funding in this country. Also, that it went to Clare, who has been working full time as an artist since 1990. She and her husband live on their income from art, which isn't always easy, and she has always been a person who pushes herself to keep learning and stretch her boundaries. Check out some of her work here.
One of the 2004/2005 participants in this scheme was poet Bernadette Hall. Bernadette was the tutor on the summer school course which started me writing poetry again, many years after high school. She also graciously agreed to be a tutor and editor for the Poetry Chooks, when we brought out our first book. One of her poems that resulted from her visit to Antarctica can be found here.
It would be great to think that one day I might apply to this scheme and be successful. When I think about it though, I realise that, talent or not aside, I am never going to spend the necessary years and years applying myself to one art form. I want it all. I quilt, I write poems, I am dabbling in photography and playing with Photoshop, then there is that family history book to write, and I'd like to try calligraphy, and mixed media collage arts, and... and... Not to mention the demands of home, garden, family etc. If I want to get to Antarctica one day, by far the most reliable method would be to save up and pay for a cruise! Then again, I may just decide to go somewhere else instead. These people really aren't getting a free ride. When I think of all the years and years of work that it took to get them there, I realise that it would be a very expensive way to go, if it weren't for the passion behind the effort. The art is pursued for other reasons, schemes like this are a bonus.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Fascinating Fungi and Other Delights

Yesterday afternoon I had an errand to do, so I took the opportunity to go for a walk by the estuary at a spot about fifteen to twenty minutes drive from here. My errand was in a suburb on a long narrow spit of land at the mouth of the estuary. I walked on the estuary side, with relatively calm water inhabited by flocks of gulls and swans screeching and calling. I could hear the roar of the ocean coming through the pine trees, a couple of streets of houses and a row of dunes.
I took lots of photos and filled my camera card. Unfortunately for good bird photos I need more zoom. I did manage some general views of the flocks of gulls. I took close-up details of the patterns in the mud flats. It's amazing what happens to the sand when the water goes out. There were deep frond shaped imprints, perhaps made by sea weed. They were strange coiled threads which looked like plant fibres but collapsed when touched - they were made entirely of sand. I walked on a board walk around a marshy area which is swamped in very high tides. I was surprised by a flash of turquoise blue in front of me - a kotare (sacred kingfisher) with its turquoise back and peach coloured chest. I reached the pines and walked through them for a stretch before clambering down onto the sand. A sudden movement alerted me to a piwakawaka (fantail) doing its aerial acrobatics in the trees to my right. Fantails are very sociable birds, they will sometimes come close up to people because footsteps disturb insects in the undergrowth. This one perched on the branches but not very close, and its sudden quick movements made it difficult to photograph - I have a blurred shot of a "blob" in the middle of a bush.
I walked along the sand and past a jetty to a small inlet. Here I was delighted to spot more kingfishers, and two wading grey herons.

I did get photos of the herons, but wanted to get closer. When I stepped onto the sand I found I was about to sink in, so I had to make a wide C-shaped curve to the left to reach the firmer sandbank in front of me. By the time I had come around to where the herons were, they weren't (so to speak). I took photographs anyway to show the reflections of trees in the water.

On the grass by this bay was a basket fungus.
These are not particularly common, but I have seen them often enough since childhood to think that everyone knew what they were. I've since found this isn't so. They start off as puffball-like "eggs", a dirty brown colour and generally unnoticed. Then the egg "hatches" this remarkable basket, which breaks loose at the base and can be moved around freely. The inside is coated with brown slime with an odour that attracts flies and beetles which spread its spores. The odour is supposed to be very unpleasant, but I've never really noticed - of course, I don't exactly rub my nose in it!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: First Love

“First love” makes me think of young teenagers, about fourteen, and a sweet innocent romance that ends perhaps with one of them moving away. Feelings of sadness that soften over time, leaving sweet memories. Or maybe he dumps her for someone prettier or more popular, or there is a blazing row, and the feelings are of bitterness – but there are still sweet memories.
First love suggests to me that there is a second love to compare it with, and maybe a third love, and others, until there is a final, last love.
For me though, I dated only occasionally in my teenage years. I didn’t miss it too much. I was at a girls only school with limited opportunity to meet boys. There was the occasional arranged date for a school dance. There was the boy I met at a combined Venturer Scout/ Girl Guide function. He was an interesting person, but very casual about matters to do with the opposite sex. He would ring me every few months and invite me to the movies, then I would hear nothing for another few months. He drove me in an old car missing the front passenger seat, so I sat in the back. He was a Maori, verbally fluent and practised in oratory, a skilled artist, and yet he couldn’t pass his school exams. He came from a welcoming family in a shabby old house with several cars in various states of wreckage on the lawn. By the time I went to university (and he had repeated his fifth form exams – approximately tenth grade - for the third time), I hadn’t seen him for a long time. When I met him in the street one day, and he repeated his invitation “how about coming to the movies with me?” I finally turned him down. Our worlds had grown so far apart, it seemed pointless to contine. Years later, I discovered he had become an Anglican minister. It would be interesting to meet him again and talk to him. He would make a great minister, but I did wonder how he ever passed the exams.
I’m not sure why that long description popped in there, for he certainly wasn’t my first love. We were no more than occasional friends. My first love was my only love. Trying to describe first love, for me, is a little like trying to paint a picture with only one shade of one colour – even if that colour looks different in different lights, and is changed over time by the action of sun on pigment. My first love was the man I married, when I was 20 and he was 24. That was nearly 35 years ago. The difficulty with describing my first love is that we remake our memories constantly over time. If my first love had moved away, or dumped me, I might remember it as it was then. My love, however, is like my house – a house which has altered over time. We have made changes to suit our changing circumstances. We have replaced some things, others are worn and shabby. Sometimes I think it isn’t good enough – and then I look at it and remember that we chose it because it suited our family, our lifestyle, and that the things I loved about it then are things I still love about it now. But I can’t quite picture it as it was when we first moved in – and I’m not quite clear on how things were between my husband and myself when we were first “in love”. Are those real memories, or have they been overlaid by nearly forty years of experience?

More Sunday Scribblings here

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Finally Some Sun

Last night I dreamed I was running an orienteering event - only when I got there I realised I had forgotten to put the controls out. So I decided to organise a star relay (in which the participants themselves place the controls), and then I discovered the maps had gone missing. So then I decided that I would send everyone out on an exercise to draw their own maps.
I've dreamed of orienteering from time to time in the past - usually I find myself lost without a map and no idea where to go, then I wake up. I thought it was interesting that this time I actually solved a problem in my dream. Somehow though as the day progressed I wasn't feeling in the least positive. At least the sun came out. It's been cold and grey for a couple of weeks. So I took my camera for a walk round the block and noted the last flowers of summer, the autumn leaves, the dead branches of winter and the first signs of spring (camellias and rhododendrons blooming). The seasons get a bit mixed up around here. That must come from having generally mild winters, and introduced plants from a range of climates. I was taking photos of tree bark by the river, and a neighbour stopped and introduced herself to me. She said, "I have a camera tucked over my shoulder, and I'm not really in a hurry to get where I'm going". So she started taking photos too. I filled my camera card with a range of photos and went home feeling somewhat more upbeat. Here for your enjoyment are a skyscape, an almost perfect pink camellia and some beautiful autumn leaves.

A Bit of Fun

The youngest chick of the household (a computer science student) just bought himself a new iBook. It comes with a webcam and software for various distortion effects, which he let me play with a little. Here are some of the results.

I like the "light tunnel" one the best. I'm thinking of using it for my sidebar photo. The M.O.T.H. has a luxuriant beard and the twirl effect made it look like a ferret chasing his tail. There was a great one of the youngest chick with a very large forehead and huge glasses looking like a bug-eyed alien. I haven't managed to reproduce that effect yet.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Poetry Thursday: Jessie Mackay

In our daily paper on Monday was the headline "Pioneer poet catches eye of BBC". Apparently BBC Scotland have come to New Zealand to make a documentary on the life of Jessie Mackay, New Zealand's first woman poet. She was born here of Scots immigrant parents in 1864 and was a teacher, journalist, reformer and acclaimed poet.
I hadn't heard of her before, so got out my copy of the Oxford Anthology of New Zealand Poetry in English and found three poems. One of them was a very political poem about Parihaka, a massacre of peaceful Maori resisters - the poem was based on "The Charge of the Light Brigade". but for my Poetry Thursday contribution, I am posting another based on Maori legend.

Rona in the Moon
Rona, Rona, sister olden,-
Rona in the moon!
You'll never break your prison golden,-
Never, late or soon!

Rona, for her crying daughter,
At the dead of night
Took the gourd and went for water;
Went without a light.

There she heard the owlets wrangle
With an angry hoot;
Stick and stone and thorny tangle
Wounded Rona's foot.

'Boil the moon!' she said in passion;
'Boil your lazy head!
Hiding thus in idle fashion
In your starry bed!'

Angry was the moon in heaven;
Down to earth she came:-
'Stay you ever unforgiven
For the word of shame!

Up!- you made the moon a byword -
Up and dwell with me!'
Rona felt the drawing skyward,-
Seized a ngaio tree.

But from earth the ngaio parted
Like a bitten thread;
Like a comet upward darted
Rona overhead.

In the moon is Rona sitting
Never to be free;
With the gourd she held in flitting
And the ngaio tree.

You'll never break your prison golden,-
Never, late or soon,
Rona, Rona, sister olden, -
Rona in the moon!

- Jessie Mackay, 1864 - 1938

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Wet Wednesday

I didn't expect when I started blogging that I would post every day. Lately, however, I have been doing that - so much so that I feel mildly guilty to miss one. I have no need to, I'm sure.
I was up late Monday night. I am working on annual accounts for a small literary magazine. One of our staff has to go overseas urgently, and I needed to sort out receipts and make sure that everything was documented for the auditor before she left. Then the following morning I was up early. The M.O.T.H. was having keyhole surgery on his knee, and had to be at the hospital at 7a.m. So, I dropped him off, went to see C. for a final sorting of her receipts and other matters, then went to work - and was still two hours earlier at work than I usually go. I had little to do, so by early afternoon I was back home. The phone rang, I picked up the M.O.T.H. from the hospital, and had the rest of the day free.
I had dealt with the three big tasks for the day, and my mind was blank. I knew there were plenty of things I could do (including blogging), but couldn't really recall what they were. I must admit I didn't try very hard. My system seemed a bit out of joint from the change in sleeping patterns, and I had a sinus headache. So I took a nap, and in the evening I watched TV.
I rearranged my work days to fit round the knee operation, so I don't have to work again till Friday. Today and tomorrow I am taking care of all the little things I didn't do yesterday. I had a fat envelope in the mail yesterday - some of my poem babies being returned from a publisher, with a "no thanks but please submit again" note. So I have to take stock of what I have, rearrange the rejects from two different magazines, add new ones and send them out elsewhere. Unfortunately being a small country, there are a limited number of magazines in New Zealand, and some of them now only publish yearly. So I won't be able to send out anything too many times before it goes in the "permanently rejected" pile.
I have a stack of library books to return this afternoon. I wanted to share this quote, before the book goes back.

Most writers, by nature,need a lot of time by themselves. It's important to write alone, at least some of the time, but I think it's important for us to be alone a fair amount of the time, too. Then we can often get rid of a kind of internal scorecard that makes us compare ourselves to others, and that makes us do things according to the way we think others would have us do them. We need the chance to draw from our own unique selves, to act according to our own beliefs, without any interference from others. I believe that solitude, perhaps more than anything, breeds creativity, breeds originality.
from "Escaping into the Open", Elizabeth Berg

Monday, May 22, 2006

A Postscript, A Meme, and an Etcetera

I have all sorts of stuff that I have to do by tonight at the latest (and it's tonight already). But I have dinner in the oven, and the house is quiet, so I'm blogging first. (So there!). The house wasn't quiet a little while ago. I was browning meatballs in a pan on the stove top, and set off the smoke detector. That's fairly easy to do because whoever installed it put it a little too close to the kitchen. With the old smoke detector, this just meant someone had to stand under it flapping a tea towel to keep the smoke away from it, and it stopped. Eventually the smoke would clear and you could stop flapping.
I didn't realise that we have a new alarm system. Now the smoke detector connects to the rest of the alarm system, all the time, not just when we are out of the house. So the alarm in the hallway was screeching and no amount of flapping would stop it. So, iIcalled my husband on his mobile. Unfortunately our phone is right by the alarm system. Actually, it could be fortunately, because at least I could go back and forth trying to follow his instructions. Which didn't seem to be working. Eventually I managed to get it to stop by pushing a lot of buttons in various orders. I'm still not sure what combination did the trick though. So I will have to be extra careful not to get remotely near to burning anything in future (not even heating oil until it is a little smoky). Now, I still have a little hearing left, and I have dealt with the etcetera, so onto other matters.

A Postscript
I wrote a story for Sunday Scribblings, because I didn't want to come over all earnest with my three wishes and wish for world peace, and I didn't want to reveal anything private either. But after some thought I realised the following three would do quite nicely. I'm really quite comfortably off, though not filthy rich - filthy rich being very rare in New Zealand - Bill Gates could easily afford to buy the whole country. And after all, we raised five children which soaks up quite a bit. Still, a lot of what I want, I could get, if I just knew what it was I wanted to go after. So:
1) Clarity - I want to be clear about what I really want, what would make me happy.
2) Courage, or is it confidence, to go after what I want when I'm clear about what it is.
And 3) Cash. Did I imply I had no material wants? I lied. Even if I could get most of what I want in time, with more cash I could get it quicker. So, around a hundred thousand to pay someone to fix up our house really nicely, and then another hundred thousand or so to invest, to give me some income towards what I want, when I know what it is, would be very welcome.

A Meme (Five Things)
This is from DebR, and I offered to be tagged, so here are my answers:

5 Items in my Fridge:
It was more interesting before my daughter left to go house-sitting for a few weeks, and took her kimchi and hot pepper paste with her:
1) A packet of anemone corms. Because you are supposed to chill them for a few weeks, then soak them in hot water, so that they germinate better. After two years in the fridge though, I suspect that they aren't going to germinate at all.
2) Lots of yoghurt
3) A jar of active dried yeast
4) Half a bottle of Barkers blues n berries dessert topping
5) Half a packet of apricot and rum flavoured cheese

5 Items in my Closet:
Clothes, of course. Fairly unremarkable clothes. But there are a lot of shelves in there, so things get put there when I don't know where else to put them
1) My wedding veil. I thought the dress was there too, but it's not. It must be in a cupboard somewhere else.
2) A bag of orienteering gear - the shoes, the gaiters, the special lightweit suit - which I wear occasionally, when I'm trying to look like a serious athlete or when I expect a hot day or lots of prickles on the course. Mostly I just wear regular pants, t-shirt, track shoes
3) A microscope, which my parents gave me for my twelfth birthday
4) A collection of violins, all sizes from sixteenth size up to full size.
5) Several boxes of old photos

5 Items in my Car
When I went to look, I couldn't find my car keys. For a bit, I thought that my keys might have been locked in the car. But they weren't.
1) A broken pedometer
2) A set of street maps of my city
3) A book of sixty different walks in and around my city
4) A spare pair of glasses, in case mine break when I'm an hour's drive out of town (they proved to be a bad buy, as the side hinge is very delicate)
5) A hawthorn leaf, autumn colours, that I picked up on a walk

5 Items in my Purse
Cluttered but not very interesting:
1) An engagement diary
2) A cellphone
3) A bunch of receipts, that I am shortly going to remove and enter into a spreadsheet
4) A booklet of stamps, letter rate
5) Four Bic ballpoint pens

Deb added five items in her desk. But my desk doesn't have drawers - it is just a top on a couple of cabinets full of books. So instead I am adding:
5 Books by my Bed
1) The Book of Loss by Julith Jedamus (a novel set in Heian Japan)
2) Fabric Journey: An Inside Look at the Quilts of Ruth McDowell
3) Escaping into the Open by Elizabeth Berg (on writing)
4) The Nature of Things: Poems from the New Zealand Landscape (the poems are coupled with very beautiful landscape photographs)
5) Gardening in the Dark, by Laura Kasischke (poems)

There is lots of potential for linking the above, but I've spent enough time on this already, so if you want to look for the books you will have to google, or search Amazon. The landscape poems are published by Craig Potton Publishing.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sunday Scribblings - Three Wishes

This week's prompt for Sunday Scribblings was three wishes. If I was granted three wishes, what would they be? I'm not revealing that - I suspect my dearest wishes are rather private. Instead I offer this rather hastily written story. Yes, it is entirely fiction. Usual disclaimer "the characters in this story...blah,blah" I hope you find it entertaining. More Sunday Scribblings are to be found here

It was one of those days . I had everything timed to perfection. George was bringing an important client home to dinner. I planned to leave work early and stop at the deli for one of their wonderful salads, steaks from the supermarket, flowers for the table arrangement and the special bottle of wine that George had asked for. Then I would just have time for a shower and to slip into a fabulous dress, after I had put the finishing touches to my trademark tiramisu.
Only the computers crashed at work, and I had just got them running again when my boss looked in and said “Have you finished that report? My meeting has been moved up to tomorrow morning, so I need you to work late.” He was less than pleased when I told him I couldn’t stay late. I had to promise to be there at 7a.m. to make sure it was finished in time. I knew I’d feel terrible after staying up late laughing at the pompous client’s bad jokes and drinking too much red wine, but there was no choice.
And then when I got home George looked at the wine and said “That’s not right. Where’s the one I asked for?”
“I’m sorry, I grabbed it in a hurry, I must have picked up the one next to it on the shelf. Won’t that do?”
“No, it won’t. You’ll have to go back and get the right one. It’s his favourite, and I really want to land this deal”.
So there I was in the check out queue, running late, and the little old lady in front of me was short of money. She scrabbled in her purse and counted out every coin she had.
“I’m sorry, you’re still ten dollars short”.
“Oh, well let me see…If I get only two tins of cat food…”
“No, you’d still be five dollars short”.
“Well..” she dithered, and I could see she was going to take forever.
“I’ll pay the extra” I offered.
“Oh no, I couldn’t.”
”You really could” I replied. “Pass the favour on to someone else one day.”
‘Well then, if you’re sure…”
I was thinking that ten dollars was worth it to get back on time. As I paid for the wine, she dropped her bag of groceries in front of me. Tins of cat food and baked beans were rolling everywhere. People were stepping round her as she scrabbled to pick it up. I sighed, and bent down to help.
“Oh thank you”, she said. “You’re such a kind person, I’m going to give you three wishes”.
I shot her a funny look. “No really”, she said. “I’m a fairy”.
“You don’t look like a fairy.”
“What did you think I’d look like? Two feet tall with wings? We look just like everyone else, you know, otherwise it would be too easy. Now, what do you wish for?”
I can’t say why, but somehow I believed her. George and I had talked about this, a long time ago. Maybe it was the Irish in him that made him consider the possibility. And the English that had come up with such a practical list. I had written it down and stuffed it in a corner of my purse, just in case I ever needed it. Did I half believe in the possibility myself, even then? So, where was it now? I hunted in the corners of my purse…sunglasses, driver’s license… where was it?
“Well? I haven’t got all day” she said, sharply.
Just then there was a commotion behind me. A mother was yelling at her small boy to hurry up. He was clearly tired. Probably she had picked him up from day care after work and they were on their way home. Well, she was tired too, I thought. A shame, but it’s so easy to get short-tempered when you’re so busy. But then she started laying into him with her fist. I was shocked.
“I wish someone would give her the chance to know what that feels like” I muttered. Long ago memories were stirring..
“Done” said the fairy.
I was startled. “Oh, is that the first one? Darn. I’ve wasted it…No, I haven’t! That’s a good use for it. But nothing’s happening!”
“Oh, she’ll have very bad dreams for the next few weeks. Very vivid dreams. So vivid, they’ll seem real. She’ll change her ways. Now, what about the next one?”
I’d found the list. I was just about to look at it when I saw my neighbour. She looked warn out. No wonder – she had four small children, and one of them was ill with leukaemia. She had been in remission, but I saw an ambulance there the other day, and I had heard she was ill again.
“I wish that my neighbour’s daughter was cured” I said. I still had one wish left, surely I could do something with that. A million dollars would set us up nicely.
“Done” I wondered – where was the evidence? So far I had no proof that the wishes had really been granted.
“I know what you’re thinking. Just be patient, you’ll see. Now – what about the last one?”
I had found the list. I looked at George’s dreams. A round the world trip, visiting his ancestral lands in England. A mansion. A race horse guaranteed to win huge stakes, and to sire many more winners. Which one would make him happiest?
I tore up the list and looked for a rubbish bin, but I couldn’t see one. I stuffed the pieces in my pocket.
“OK, let me think. This is not a wish, until I say ‘I wish’. I’m just thinking aloud here. What I really want….what I want is to leave him. I need a small cottage, nothing grand, and enough money invested to almost live on the interest, not quite. I want to write. I want to earn money from my writing, and it will be slow at first, but if I have to much I’ll have no incentive. So, just enough to almost live on. Very modestly. I wish for a country cottage in good repair and enough money to almost live on.”
“Well, technically, that’s two” she said. “But you get a bonus for using the first two to help others. So I’ll stretch the rules a bit. Done”
She disappeared suddenly. I blinked. She must have slipped away in the crowd. I went home with the wine. “What took you so long?” George asked. I was about to answer, but he wasn’t really listening. He hurried off to finish getting ready. I didn’t have time to change. I had just put the tiramisu in the fridge when the door bell rang. The client was as pompous as ever. I got to bed late and had a headache when the alarm went off in the morning. By the time I had finished the proposal, just in time for my boss’s meeting, I had almost forgotten about the strange old lady.
Until an envelope arrived in the mail the following week. It was from a firm of lawyers in the North Island. I was surprised. I was even more surprised when I opened it and found that a great-aunt who I only vaguely remembered had died and left me her property. A cottage in the country, and a small trust fund.
George was excited. “Of course we’ll sell it”, he said. “Property prices have gone up so much lately. Of course it’s in the country so it won’t be worth as much, but there would be enough to go on that trip I’ve always wanted, or to buy a racehorse”.
“Forget it. George, I’m leaving”
He just stared at me, open-mouthed. I don’t think he thought I would do it, but here I am. This is my first story, and it’s all true. I have plenty more lined up to follow. And George? Oh, he married his secretary. Didn’t take him long at all.
Am I happy ever after? Of course not. You have to work at your happiness – mostly happy, most days, will do for me.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Professional or Amateur?

"The driver of this truck is a professional..." It's a sign I often see in front of my windscreen. It's followed by information on how to phone in a complaint about the standard of his driving. But does it really mean anything? Well, let me see... Professional sports people are paid on a regular basis, while amateurs play sport for the love of it, with little or no remuneration. Is the truck driver paid for his efforts? Well, yes. That's a no-brainer, but it scarcely warrants a sign. Well then, there are "professions" such as medicine and law, in which the "professional" tag implies long training and exams passed to guarantee a certain standard at the end of training. Is the truck driver trained for his job? Of course - he wouldn't be allowed on the road without a heavy traffic license, and various other licenses such as dangerous goods training where necessary. Again, it hardly warrants a sign on the back of the truck.
So, what it really amounts to is a "feel good" statement to make us think the driver is competent at what he does. We do use the words in this way, as adjectives, though usually not as nouns. Someone does a "professional" job, or an "amateurish" one. It's a pity, I think, that the words are used in this way. Amateur did not originally mean incompetent. It derives from a word meaning "to love". An amateur is one who loves what they do (and therefore does it for love, not for money). An amateur, obviously, can be highly skilled in what they do.
I started thinking about the use of the words in the arts, and googling a little. The American Quilters Society, I found, has dropped the distinction between "amateur" and "professional" in its show categories. I've always thought it was a difficult distinction to make. Presumably it was based on money. There are some who earn a regular living by making and selling quilts, and teaching (Ruth McDowell has supported herself and brought up two daughters for many years, solely on her income as a quilter). There are others who have never earned a penny from their quilts. In my experience, most of my quilting friends who have been at it for very long have at least sold a quilt or two, or taken a class here and there for the local guild and been paid for it. It is pocket money, really, but where do you draw the line? How much do you have to earn before you are professional?
In writing, I realised, it is another matter. No one calls J K Rowling a "professional writer" although she has become wealthy as a result of Harry Potter. No, she is simply a "writer". Or a "published writer". Or a "children's writer". Someone might be a "novelist" or a "poet". But "professional writer" carries connotations of a technical writer, or a journalist, or perhaps someone who contracts regularly to ghost write sports autobiographies. It certainly implies to me, a regular income - not the unreliable royalties - and perhaps a degree in journalism or technical writing.
All of which musing confirms to me that the sign on the back of the truck is pretty silly, really. And that I, for one, am proud to be an "amateur" - making quilts and writing poems for the love of it. And if I occasionally sell something, that's just a bonus.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Poetry Thursday: The School Years

Last week I made two posts, one to share a poem and one to make some observations on my relationship with poetry. This week I'm combining the two.
Having learned to read, I got to school at the age of five (starting age in New Zealand) and didn't learn very much, as far as I can remember, for the next eight years. Actually, I probably learned a lot but it was a small school, I could read fluently when I got there, and I don't ever remember a real sense of "wow" to my learning.
My own children have had so much exposure to writing and writers. They get visits from real writers in schools these days (including the wonderful Margaret Mahy who visits schools in a penguin costume, or a rainbow coloured clown wig). They get to write their own stories, and poems which don't have to rhyme, and can be about things that are very familiar to them.
As far as I can remember, if we did much writing in school, it was earnest little essays such as "What I Did in the Holidays". Our reading in school (I read hundreds of library books as well) was mostly from the pages of the School Journal which was put out by the Department of Education and contained a mix of stories, non-fiction, short plays for children to perform and I think, poems, though I remember very few. I do remember one name of a New Zealand poet - Eileen Duggan - but for the most part writers were "somewhere else" and wrote about things that were "somewhere else". So when I decided I was going to be a writer, my first "novel" which got to the magnificent length of one page before I abandoned it, was set in Hong Kong.
I did send rhymes to the children's pages of the local newspaper. These earned points towards a book token prize. Mostly I was writing to a perceived market - I wrote rhymes called "Riddle Me Ree" which were puzzles along the lines of:
My first is in ocean but not in sea
My second is in flower but not in tree...
And I wrote one poem to which a friend said "Did you copy it?" which was a sort of a compliment. And then again, I had a sense it was not. It was a poem about a small boy playing truant from school and going fishing, and I think I had a sense of ease that it was somehow dishonest - it didn't come from "me" - I was making up something totally foreign to me based on what I thought a child's poem should be.
Towards the end of primary school though we were taught a poem I love to this day. This I think was the first real "adult" poet that I was aware of - a poem written for adults but suitable for children, instead of a poem written for children. It was John Masefield's "Sea Fever". I think this poem spoke to me because it made me feel that when I played on the beach and listened to the gulls and the waves I was somehow touching the edge of a big adventure.

Sea Fever
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

By John Masefield (1878-1967).
(English Poet Laureate, 1930-1967.)

More Poetry Thursday here

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A Writing Quote

The best thing that my writing group do for me is to point out all the places where I have used more word than I need to. My poems always get shorter after our meetings.

This quote gets to the essence of the matter:

Taking away words lets a loud voice stick out. Does it scare you? More words will cover it up with static. It is no accident that timid people are often wordy. Saying nothing takes guts. If you want to say nothing and not be noticed, you have to be wordy.
- Peter Elbow, "Writing Without Teachers"

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Book of Verse, a Piece of Cake, and Thou

There's something strange going on in my spice drawer. A while back I lined all the herbs and spices up in neat rows, in alphabetical order, so I could instantly lay my hands on the one I wanted. I'm sure I always put them back in the right place but each time I open the drawer they are more and more jumbled. I could swear there are orgies going on in there. I imagine them hearing me start to open the drawer, and saying "quick! freeze! don't let her see what's going on".

The reason I was gate-crashing the party in the spice drawer today was to make my favourite Spicy Yoghurt Cake. The reason for the cake was the monthly meeting of my writing group, since it was my turn to host. I try to tell myself this cake is healthy because it contains yoghurt. On the other hand there's all that butter, and sugar, as well as the cream in the topping. It doesn't actually look like much but it tastes wonderfully decadent. (see recipe below).

The hen mugs always come out in honour of the writing group, because we are Poetry Chooks. They come from Happy Hens, who also make delightfully colourful pottery hens.

Here's the recipe:

Spicy Yoghurt Cake
125 grams butter, 1 and a half cups sugar, 3 eggs, 2 cups sifted flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, quarter tsp salt, half tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp cinnamon, quarter tsp ground cloves, 1 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt, half tsp vanilla.
(Note: a standard cup in New Zealand is 250 mls and a standard teaspoon is 5 mls)
Cream the butter and sugar, add eggs. Stir in sifted flour, baking powder, soda, salt, spices alternately with yoghurt. Stir in vanilla. Bake in a 12x10x2 inch baking dish in moderate oven 35 - 45 minutes.

Topping: Combine three quarters of a cup of dessicated coconut, third of a cup finely chopped walnuts (I don't like them so I usually leave them out), half a cup firmly packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons melted butter. Stir in half a cup of cream and a quarter tsp of vanilla. Spread over the cake and grill until lightly browned and bubbly.

I guess they'll never hire me as a food stylist! It tasted delicious, anyway.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Life's Little Lessons Week 2

Listing things I've learnt each week makes me realise that it's unavoidable to keep learning something, even when I don't make a conscious effort. I thought I hadn't learnt much this week but I did come up with these:
1. The most important lessons are the ones that have to be practised over and over before you have really learnt them.
2. When you don't know what to do, just sit for a bit. Which is related to a Chinese proverb I came across this week: "Muddy water let stand will clear".
3. Fabric printed with large red poppies makes great combs for roosters. And pictorial quilts don't have to be photo-realistic to look fantastic (see last Tuesday's post).
4. Fair trade coffee compares very favourably in price with regular brands.
5. I learnt the html code for "bold" and "italic".

More "Life's Little Lessons" here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Guilty Pleasures and Sunday Scribblings

It has turned cold here, and it has been raining. It has been raining a lot. On Friday, the river was up to its banks as I left for work. I found myself wondering whether or not it was high tide. When I returned home, the river was still up to its banks with muddy water, though it hadn't spilled over. I think there must have been enough run-off from all the rain flowing down the river to offset any tidal effect pushing its way up from the sea.

I am waiting at work for a new accounting program to be installed on the computer. So on Friday I told my boss I didn't have anything to do and left early. Of course in a week or so when I have the new program, I will be busier than I want to be, but in the meantime I'm relaxing. I came home and lit the fire in the big front room and sat there reading, while my daughter brought her laptop in and got on with her writing.

I love the open fire. Before too long I won't be able to enjoy this pleasure any more. Open fires are to be banned here because of the air pollution they cause. On certain days an "inversion layer" blanket sits over the city, trapping all the smoke. I rarely light the fire, partly because of guilt over the pollution, and partly because I don't often take the time to just sit. All the action takes place in other parts of the house - the cleaning, the cooking, the sewing, even the computer - it's all elsewhere. But the fire reminds me of childhood, and climbing the big pine tree with a hammer to knock down the pine cones to burn in winter. Besides, the pollution issue isn't as simple as all that. If we use too much electricity the hydro lakes will run low, and the coal-fired and oil-powered electricity generating stations will have to work extra, and that causes air pollution too (just not here). And then, if we don't burn our supply of wood from storm felled trees, it would have to go to the landfill, and that's a problem too. So I feel only a small twinge of guilt.

Today I lit the fire again and worked on my "Sunday Scribblings". I have just discovered this blog which offers weekly writing prompts. I have been exploring the many beautiful, thoughtful contributions. This week's prompt initially had me thinking along the same lines, and then for some reason I thought of Dr Seuss ("oh the places you'll see") and decided to write something else altogether. It's not really nonsensical enough to be at all Dr Seuss -like. If anyone wants to steal the idea and try to do it better, feel free. But I had a lot of fun.

Oh, The Books I Would Write

Oh the books I would write in my house in the tree
where the fantails and tuis would sing songs to me
and a fat huhu grub would tell tales in my ear
and the wind would bring stories from far and from near

Oh the books I would write in my nautilus boat
on the deep ocean swell where the jellyfish float.
I'd have cuttlefish ink for my gull feather pen
and write tales of mermaids and sea-faring men.
The whales and dolphins would sing me some more
and a seagull would carry my pages to shore.

Oh the books I would write in my hot air balloon
as I glide over land by the light of the moon.
I'd see lions and zebras in African lands
I'd glide over seas ringed by silvery sands.
I'd camp out with a circus in trailers and tents.
I'd visit bazaars filled with exotic scents.
I'd ride with the nomads, wild and free
Oh the books I would write, oh the places I'd see.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Poetry and Me

On the Poetry Thursday site, we were propmted to explain how we discovered poetry. I have been thinking about that, and realised there was way more than would fit in any one post.
It starts really, from birth. It starts with nursery rhymes, and hymns and metrical psalms sung in church. My relationship to poetry is tied up with my relationship to words and to books. And that started before I could read. It started with my brother and I pulling all the books from the bookcase and using them to build roads around the room. We had few toys, so the cars we pushed round the roads were purely imaginary. But then, the imaginary is important in poetry. And I learned even then that words made highways.
It started also, with being read to while I sat on my mother's knee. It started with one particular book that I still remember. It was called "Look, Mummy". It was not a great work of children's literature, but it was very repetitive. It had photos of children engaged in various activities, and it had captions like "Look Mummy, I can ride my big red trike". So one day when I was three, I started pointing to the words and saying "That's can, that's my, that's I". And that is how I learned to read.
Back then, I knew that rhymes could be songs, or poems, depending on whether they had music to them. But my first real poetry book was a gift from an enlightened parent (I can't remember which one) when I was about six years old. It was "The Golden Book of Poetry". I can remember now, two of the poems in it. One was "Wynken, Blynken and Nod" and the other was "The Tale of Custard the Dragon" by Ogden Nash. You can find the text here. I was delighted recently to purchase "The Norton Anthology of Poetic Form" and discover that it included "Custard the Dragon" in its discussion of the ballad. What better recommendation for a poetry book, than that it include my first favourite poem?
The photo of course, is me as a small child.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Poetry Thursday #6

I have finally gotten round to finding out about permalinks, and realised I should number these posts, otherwise they will all have the same link. I think. And that would be confusing.

This week I am posting one of my own. It might help to understand this, to know that in Scotland there was a traditional order of naming children after various relatives. If a child died, another child might then be given the same name, so that grandma's name still got passed down (or grandpa's, or whomever). Oh, and a mortcloth was a cloth that was hired to place over the body at a burial, because they couldn't afford coffins - or if they did use coffins, they were very rough board boxes which needed covering up.

Hard Water, Soft Rock

Five years since, the minister called the banns
on three successive Sundays. There being
no objections, they were duly married.
Today in the same church, she names her daughter Agnes

Twice before she has done this,
The first time it was famine, the second it was fever
that carried the child off. Scarce time
to have the bairn baptised, before
they’re paying for the mortcloth.
She names her daughter Agnes,
because it was her mother’s name.

Spring struggles with winter. Ice still sheets
the edges of the Bannock Burn. Snow lies
unmelted in the kirkyard, in the shadows
cast by the two small mounds. She prays
there will not be another.

She names her daughter Agnes,
because it was her mother’s name
and her mother’s mother’s mother before her
And because all families continue forever,
looking backwards

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Good Sort of Ordinary

It was an ordinary sort of day today - work and then chores in the evening. But pleasant little things kept happening to boost my mood:
1. I came back to my desk from a break at work to find a pot of honey. One of my boss's colleagues had brought organic honey for all the staff.
2. Doing errands on the way home, I parked at a meter and found fifteen minutes left on it, just the length of time I needed.
3. I got printer cartridges refilled at the place that always puts complimentary chocolates in the bag with the cartridges. And then I got a voucher for 12 cents a litre off petrol as well. (Petrol is about $1.70 a litre here. That's $8.50 a gallon which is a bit under $6 a gallon in American dollars. Sigh).
4. I got a rejection letter from a poetry magazine. Yes this made me happy, firstly because they bothered to reply. I have come across some that don't, even though I include an SAE. And secondly, because they said "Sorry to say no this time, but please submit again". I think this counts as a "good" rejection letter.
My mood didn't even drop much when I found the internet wasn't working. It turns out our ISP changed the IP address without telling us. Why on earth would they do that? So the MOTH (man of the house) had to change the settings, and now it is working again. So I can go and check all your blogs again.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Autumn Night

On the way out to the Ruth McDowell lecture I noticed these tree shadows on the back of the bus shelter on the corner. So I went back later to take photos. This was the best (tweaked slightly in Photoshop, straightened and darkened). I want to find a tripod and go back to take more. For this one I had the camera perched precariously on someone's recycling crate that they had left out on the street. Obviously I had a long exposure time as I couldn't use flash.

(The silliest thing I ever saw was someone trying to take photos of slides on a screen at a lecture, using a flash. It doesn't take too much thought to figure out why that won't work).

Not a Ruth McDowell Quilt

Because we are mindful of copyright, aren't we? And besides, if you want to see Ruth McDowell quilts there are lots on her website. However I thought this post really needed a quilt photo, so here is one of mine. I made it some years back for a challenge called "Spots, Stripes, Checks and Plaids". Hence every fabric is a spot, stripe, check or plaid. This at a time when the relevant fabrics in our local shops were mostly in rather dull country colours (the North Island quilt shops seemed to have much more exciting fabrics). Nevertheless I managed. I was somewhat inspired by the quilts of Ruth McDowell, but of course mine doesn't have anywhere near the complexity of hers. I could blame the poor fabric availability, but her years of hard work probably have more to do with it. 400 quilts in 20 - 30 years - Ruth, not me. And as she says "these are not 'quilt in a day'". She also finds time to travel and teach extensively. she's a legend. And one of my quilt heroes.

Last night I was privileged to be able to attend Ruth's lecture given here in Christchurch. She is in New Zealand to conduct week-long master classes which I am not taking for two reasons. Firstly, budget constraints. And secondly, more than I need yet another workshop, I need to develop mine own habits of observation, practice, and hard work. Otherwise I just accumulate more unfinished class samples.

Her lecture was a slide tour round some of her recent quilts, with explanations of the subject matter and of some of the finer points of her fabric choices and piecing methods.

As for mine, it didn't make it into the exhibition. Deb was talking on her blog about judge's comments. Nothing about "quilting needs improvement" on mine. Rather it was the composition the judge thought needed improving - though she did say "the mushrooms looked good enough to eat". I dragged it out and pinned it up to photograph today, and decided I like it enough to leave it up for a while. It's pinned on the bulletin board wall above my sewing machine.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Life's Little Lessons

"Life's Little Lessons" is the brainchild of Sarah of Rustic Relics who has created a new site for it - click on the button in the sidebar for more information.
Participants are invited to post every Monday with a list of five things learnt in the previous week. so here goes:

1. I learned how to put the button in the sidebar. Sarah sent me the code, but I couldn't get it to work - it came up as a broken link. Here is the alternative method that works: I went to her site, chose "View Source" in my browser menu, and lo! I was able to find the code she used for her button, copy and paste it to my blog template. This gave me a left-aligned button and my current button (Poetry Thursday) was centred, so I changed some of the html to match the html for the Poetry Thursday button and made them both centred. You can learn quite a lot by careful observation. Which leads me to...

2. I learned how to tear magazine paper for collage in such a way as to put the white edges where I wanted them.

3. I learned what a Porsche car logo badge thingy looks like. I have no idea why I want to know, or what use this piece of information will be. Maybe it will turn up in the novel I may or may not write someday.

4. I learned that paua (a kind of shellfish similar to abalone) run away when they smell a starfish in the vicinity. Maybe I can use this piece of trivia in the same novel.

5. I learned that there wasn't a tsunami while I was asleep early Thursday morning. There might have been a tsunami but there wasn't. And I learned that our Civil Defence were not very well prepared to deal with a tsunami if there was one. Maybe they will be better prepared by the time a real one comes.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Enquiring Minds Want to Know

Last night I was driving my daughter S. home to her flat, and we were looking at personalised number plates. KRE81V was easy enough to figure out, YTLFNT was harder until S. came up with "white elephant".
I have been wondering, can deaf people (those whose only "spoken" language is sign) work out the meaning of these number plates? It seems to me that they rely heavily on the sound associations of the letters and numbers used. Do deaf people have any concept of the sounds? And what about deaf poetry? I am envisaging a poetry where word selection depends not on the sounds of the words but on the beauty of the associated signs. It would be closely related to dance.
Can anyone enlighten me? Am I right, or way off the mark?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Where I'm From

Someone asked me this in the comments., so I have now figured out how to add it to my profile. I still have to do the photograph, but I'm waiting to get a haircut.

I live in Christchurch, New Zealand. I've been here around 23 years - I can figure this out from the age of my middle daughter who was two months old when we came here. It's further south than my home town of Wellington, and it was summer when we arrived, so I just about went nuts at first trying to get her to sleep on the long light summer evenings.

On the other hand it's flat here. Wellington is many things but flat isn't one of them. I most certainly welcomed being able to push the pram out the door and not have to carry it down a long flight of steps to the car.

I was browsing the net looking for poetry by Lauris Edmond in preparation for Poetry Thursday, and I cam across an article in - of all places - a running magazine, which has some wonderful descriptions of Wellington. My home is here now, my life is here, but I still get tugs on my heart strings when I return to Wellington. This article reminded me why - " a harbor city so vigorously full of steep hills and wind-swept movement that it makes San Francisco look like a placid Dutch landscape".

A hint: it was rather slow to load for me. If you have trouble, type "Racing in Middle Earth" into google. It should come up the first on the list. Click on "cached". It is much quicker.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Lynn made a post on her blog, Sprigs, that mentioned seeing a dead duck, which set me thinking about ducks. (If you follow that link, scroll down to Wednesday's post, Puffs of Thought). And then I came home from work with a headache. A walk to the river to feed the ducks and get some fresh air seemed like a good idea.

Here is the river which is one of two that wind through our city and suburbs. This one is the Heathcote, it is about half a dozen houses down the block from my home. Quiet and peaceful with only one or two ducks in sight.

Until they see that I have bread. Then they start swimming rapidly towards me, making soft quacking noises. More ducks hear them at a distance, and fly in, making waterski landings in front of me. The quacking gets louder as they jockey for position. The bolder ducks climb up on the bank and stand behind me, looking for the crumbs I drop while throwing the bulk of the bread.

I start throwing some of the bread onto the grass. These three were fighting over a piece of it. I missed getting a photograph of the most remarkable fight, where one duck was holding another down by the neck. I was on my own, and it's hard to throw bread and get photos at the same time.

This fellow was standing at my feet when all the bread was gone, looking up at me as if to say "Hey! Any more?" He gave up eventually.
It's been a while since I fed the ducks. We did it regularly when the children were small. Even now though, it's a good way to dispose of the old crusts. I figure a bit of mould won't hurt them either - it's only penicillin. The ducks don't seem to mind. They are mostly mallard/grey duck crossbreeds. The mallard is introduced and the grey duck is native to New Zealand. There were two big white ducks, probably mucovies that someone tired of keeping as pets and let go. Then there are the small native scaup, almost black with a bright yellow ring around the eye. They are harder to photograph as they didn't come in close, and they have a habit of disappearing beneath the water.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Poetry Thursday

I have to go and help post a couple of hundred copies of Takahe magazine. Before I go, here is my contribution to Poetry Thursday for this week. This one seemed to fit in with my current reading, which is Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation". It (the book, not the poem) discusses how animals think and see the world, and compares it to how most people thik, and how autistic people think. Temple's earlier book was "Thinking in Pictures". She views words as her second language. She translates her thoughts into words after first thinking entirely in pictures. Read it, it is a fascinating book.

So, here's the poem. This is another I discovered way back when I was at high school. I'm posting a lot of those, because they are old enough to be out of copyright, hopefully. Certainly this one can be found in all sorts of places on the internet.

The Cool Web
(Robert Graves 1895 - 1985)

Chidren are dumb to say how hot the day is,
How hot the scent is of the summer rose,
How dreadful the black wastes of evening sky,
How dreadful the tall soldiers drumming by.

But we have speech, to chill the angry day,
And speech, to dull the rose's cruel scent.
We spell away the overhanging night,
We spell away the soldiers and the fright.

There's a cool web of language winds us in,
Retreat from too much joy or too much fear:
We grow sea-green at last and coldly die
In brininess and volubility.

But if we let our tongues lose self-possession,
Throwing off language and its watery clasp
Before our death, instead of when death comes,
Facing the wide glare of the children's day,
Facing the rose, the dark sky and the drums,
We shall go mad no doubt and die that way.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Guardian Poetry Workshop

The British newspaper, the Guardian, has a regular (more or less) poetry workshop on their website. The latest exercise, on anti-praise poems, is up now. You will need to be quick if you want to submit your results for consideration. It has been up a day or two, and the deadline is May 7th (UK time). However, all the previous exercises and comments on the results are still on the site. It's a useful source of stimulating ideas, even if the deadlines are too short for you.
To link to the site, click here.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Playing with Paper

Yesterday I lost an important bit of paper (since found). It reminded me how badly I react to the feeling that I'm not in control. That is, in control of the things I think I "ought" to be in control of. I'm way harder on myself than I am on anyone else.

Eric Maisel has an exercise in his book, "The Creativity Book", which requires making an omelette. First make a beautiful omelette, then mess it up - put way too much chili pepper in it, or egg shells, or dishwashing liquid, and then throw it out. Of course I never did that exercise. My thoughts run along the lines of "I make enough real mistakes to practise on, without having to make deliberate mistakes. So why waste eggs?" Well, that's probably the whole point of the exercise.

When I'm stressed over something I find it hard to think creatively. I'm too busy obsessing over the problem to do much more than find something rather repetitive and physical to do. I need to loosen up. With that in mind, I decided to get a stack of magazines, rip into them and make a collage. The idea was to set out with no theme or compostion in mind and just respond to whatever happens. It wasn't too long before I found things I wanted to control. Like the white edge on the paper - I just had to figure out how to tear the paper so the white edge was where I wanted it (in this case, I didn't want it to show). Here are the results, before I glued it down and made it go all wrinkly (something else to learn to control!)

Monday, May 01, 2006

All At Sea in a Leaky Boat

I had a plan. On Saturday I was watching "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" on DVD. On Sunday I was going orienteering at Flock Hill, which is where the battle scenes for the movie were filmed. I was going to bring back photos (OK it would slow me down, but I'm so slow anyway it doesn't really matter. And it would let me catch my breath after struggling up steep hills and around huge boulders). I was going to post them on my blog under the title "A Weekend in Narnia". Then you could all see how great the place looks uncluttered by centaurs.

By Saturday evening though, reluctance set in. It was cold and damp. I was feeling tired and somehow a bit "off". On Sunday I slept in till ten. I woke up to find the sun shining brightly, feeling much better. (Maybe that was because of the sleep in). But it was too late to go. And I started wondering, isn't it a bit lame to plan to do things just so I can blog about them? Well, as a motivation to do things it probably isn't the worst. After all, a restaurant reviewer goes to restaurants in order to review them, and a book reviewer reads books in order to review them. Isn't a blog a sort of "life review"? Anything that gets me moving seems like a good idea...although it would be possible to go too far.

As in this news item from earlier in the week: two men were rescued from their four metre dinghy after getting in trouble crossing Cook Strait. They actually made it across but drifted into the shipping lane at the entrance to Tory Channel on the south side. Cook Strait is a bit like the English Channel only with more erratic tides and currents, especially at the entrance to the sounds on the south. These two had a boat that was rotting in places, oars made out of plywood with broomstick handles, and a home-made sail. They claimed to be well-prepared, and said they had done quite a few things that were "more exciting and dangerous". Apparently they try to do something new about once a month. Well. I think they deserve the Darwin Award, except that to get that you actually have to die doing something stupid. One day they probably will.

They reminded me of the guppies in the book I am reading. Temple Grandin's "Animals in Translation". Great book. She was writing about the usefulness of fear and related an experiment. Some researchers put guppies into a tank of piranhas. The fearless ones who stared the piranhas in the face were the ones who got eaten first. Then the moderate fear ones who didn't do enough to get away. And lastly the most fearful ones who tried to hide. (Yes, they all got eaten eventually, but you can't run and hide very far in a tank). OK, this one should be in the "Journal of Obvious Experiments". Is there such a journal?

Anyway, what I actually did on Sunday was to sew curtains, make cakes out of ripe squishy bananas, plant the rest of the tulip bulbs and ponder whether to wash my daughter's zebra striped pyjamas with the lights or the darks. So for a photo you will have to make do with one from my garden. This is a few weeks old, the dahlias are still there but looking more and more bedraggled. Winter is definitely on the way.