Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A strange kind of coming of age

Next month I will achieve that perfect number, 7x7 and become a 49er. However, this evening I have yet again faced the reality that I am a universe short of perfection. What an easy trap it is to fall into, the sense of self that tells you, “You can do it. Put in lots of hard work and everything will be great. It’s all about you and what you are capable of.” What codswallop, poppycock and hogwash that is! Except, how easy it is to believe.
Lest you think I’m first cousin to a sloth, I’m not. I’m not agin hard work - heavens, I was born of hardworking working class workers…..if you catch my drift. I had hard work drummed into me and modelled before me. I pulled up my bootstraps long before I had feet big enough to wear them. But the working gene in my DNA mutated to striving. It became a belief that debilitated, crippled and sapped life.
This evening, the Maker of the Universe (the one I fall so short of), taught me yet again that the world is all about Him; every last wondrous atom of it. Every bird song and moth, syllable and rhyme, every plan, path and purpose, every miraculous whiff of the ordinary and plain, gargantuan and minutae is Him.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

What season is it and where am I?

I find living at the bottom of the planet, and being a native of the top of the globe, I am nostalgic for pine cones in December - I found these in a pile of trimmings of a spruce at the cemetry. The Norfolk Pine always looks like a Christmas tree waiting to happen, and the Hottentot fig flowering by the side of the beach reminds me of a South African winter.

I suppose that means I'm hopelessly confused.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Pike River Mine disaster

There is a tragic inevitability about living next to a mine, any kind of mine. There’s the old man in the corner of the room at Christmas who sips his drink tentatively, afraid to gulp too much beer and not enough air. He’s actually not that old, not old enough to retire, but his face clings to the inevitability of death and the unpredictability of breathing. He comments wryly that there’s more air in the beer than will ever enter his lungs. His lungs are shot.
Then there’s the mine closure – not economic they said, too much cheap coal from China to make it worth their while keeping open the doors; risking lives for the thin pickings clinging on the seams. The day they close it down, the kids don’t go to school, all except me, because my daddy didn’t work the mine, he worked in the ship yard close by.
Then there’s the shaft collapse, the wait at the gaping hole for the ground to give up its dead, a parody of a resurrection – giving the dead back to the living.
Then there is a day like today. Those who have clung to hope, in one brief moment have their hands opened so to fall through the crevasse of grief. No one can accompany them to that depth. It is their raw descent, alone.
We who stand and watch paralysed on the margin can only pray for hope to return.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

All about red and purple

At Foxglove Hollow this year, the garden has decided to be red or purple. I didn't plant any of the flowers, they just planted themselves and popped up one morning, poppies and miniature pansies, foxglove and fuschia. The red tree is nameless, it has a bright red sap, the lavender bobs with bees.
The rose was intentional, part of the Lady Norwood rose collection at the Wellington Botanical garden.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Saturday rhymes

On a wet and grey day
there's no better way
to hide from the weather
than Brown Sugar Cafe

The garden is lovely,
but the seats are all soggy
the driest place to lie down
has been stolen by moggy
Meet the two cats,
taking a lie in
on the edge of the garden
on a old sheep skin

Then meet a kiwi
all covered in stamps
he could be posted for free
and end up in France.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A touch of the tiggywinkles

Sitting in meetings for a two day stretch has made me come home a tad grumpy, in need of something to make my spirit sing.

This evening I was uninspired, so headed to the garden to weed and then wash the windows. I hadn't got far with the weeding when I saw something move against the retaining wall. A very exhausted hedgehog was trying to climb two metres of vertical rounded planks. The poor thing was perplexed and exhausted. I suspect it had just come out of hibernation, and as its prickles looked fresh and new, think it was a yearling. It was almost relieved when I picked it up, then thought better of the situation and did the roll into a ball routine. Its snuffly nose was exquisite, its tiny paws as defenceless as a baby's and its tightly shut eyes reminiscent of a toddler faking sleep. I found a pile of leaves near the compost heap and made a bed for it. I was tempted to start a lullaby, but thought the neighbours might have found it strange that I was serenading a pile of potato peelings.

The Afrikaners have a great word for hedgehog, krimpvarkie, which translates as "shrink pig". When I returned to the mound of leaves a while later, this little shrink pig had taken itself off to market, or to find an evening snack.

Ms Tiggywinkle succeeded in de-grumping me - I am sure I will sleep well and dream of a couch of leaves.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Socking it to us

This evening a large ball of baby blue mohair wool was seen running across the living room, with two pairs of ginger legs attached to it.
Somehow, our Rascal in Residence had managed to dig her way into a large SEALED bag of knitting wool in our wardrobe. We are beginning to think that she doesn't like my husband's choice of socks and is determined to knit him an alternative pair. Right now it would be helpful, as she has hidden a number of his socks and he struggles to find two to match each morning.
Socks are also the "bedding of choice" for madamoiselle.
Do other people have equally distressing sartorial issues with their kittens?

Friday, 5 November 2010

The Coolest Capital

Well, of course we have always known that Wellington is the coolest little capital in the world, but now everyone is talking about us Thanks Lonely Planet!

Purveyors of fine wine

Outside one of our large grocery stores.

Window shopping for a place to rest after window shopping

We do serious chocolate in the capital; you can go on chocolate guided tours.

Some of the most stylish shops inhabit our old bank

Modern sculpture meets Deco architecture

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Time Travel Soviet Style

I grew up in the Brezhnev era – vicariously of course. My modern comprehensive school, newly built at the end of the 1960’s offered French and Russian as languages. I attempted both, but was sadly linguistically deficient – I still am. But it didn’t stop me having a lifelong passion for Russia.
Last week a packet of stamps arrived on my desk. They were a selection of postage stamps from the 1960’s and 1970’s, the decades when the History Department of my school was taking trips to Russia for the top students – I wasn’t one of the favoured few. So here were the little slips of paper I would have purchased through Intourist in 1973, to send a postcard to my parents, if I’d been on the trip. Here were drawings of a concert hall in Riga, battleships and space travel, Spartakiada and Picasso, the glass of Prague, International Women’s Day, Tashkent and a 100 year celebration of an anonymous theatre. And finally for forty eight kopeks I could celebrate the October Revolution a dozen times on one sheet of stamps.
There is a weird innocence about these sheets of poor quality paper with overworked illustrations. However abhorrent Soviet Communism was, it seems much more simple to understand than the strange Frankenstein politics of the 21st century. In the bad old days, “they” were the enemy, the pariah. Now they represent a cocktail of immense power, be that wrapped up in the oil oligarchs, the rebel Chechens, or the slick Novya Riche, sporting their Prada (or was that Pravda?), the chic Apparatchiks or the terrorists hiding in the former “Stans” of Central Asia. Churchill’s comment in 1939 "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest”, seems as relevant today as 71 years ago.
So tonight, remnants of an all powerful Russian Empire sit on my desk, neat little memory snapshots of an era, so far away, and yet so close to home. Oh, and as for treating them with respect, I will, once I can retrieve them from underneath a snoozing cat.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Wellington - Cool with a capital "C"

An article appeared in today's Dominion Post which I am reproducing in full, about my home town. The author is Stacey Woods

Move over London, Rome and Paris – Wellington is the world's coolest capital city.

Lonely Planet has named our capital the fourth best city in which to travel in the world, behind New York, Tangier and Tel Aviv.

It is the first time a New Zealand city has made it into the annual Best in Travel publication – a collection of the world's best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences.

In the sixth edition, released today, the publication refers to Wellington under the banner of "coolest little capital in the world".

Positively Wellington Tourism chief executive David Perks said sharing the top five with cities such as New York and Tel Aviv was priceless recognition.

"To have Lonely Planet – a global brand respected for frank opinions and having its finger on the pulse – come out and refer to Wellington as the `coolest little capital in the world' and among the top 10 cities you must visit for 2011 is quite simply incredible."

It is perfect timing for the city as businesses prepare for an action-packed calendar in 2011.

About 85,000 international visitors are expected in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup.

Other highlights include the third Visa Wellington On a Plate in August and an extended season of the Montana World of WearableArt show, which will lead into the World Cup kickoff. In November, the city is hosting hundreds of writers for the Society of American Travel Writers conference.

Prime Minister John Key said Wellington was a great place to live, and even put a positive spin on our notorious wind.

"Actually I thoroughly enjoy going around the harbour when it's blustery and windy. It has a kind of New Zealand feel to it.

"For all the hard time Wellington gets about its weather, I think it adds to the dimension of the place that it has quite a good feel to it in that regard."

However, asked if he preferred it to Auckland, he replied: "That's a big stretch."

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, who moved to Wellington from Britain in 1983, said she thought Wellington's strength lay in the combination of "wilderness" and city living.

"You don't have to choose arts or sports, or between culture or wilderness, because it's all there."

Lonely Planet, the world's biggest travel guide company, has sold millions of copies of hundreds of titles since it began in 1972.