Christmas is Coming

Crumbs. We’re already a third of the way through December. Funny to think that tomorrow it’ll be two weeks since I left New Zealand for home. In some ways it seems like a lifetime ago; in others I still feel in my head that I am there. A sort of bicultural existence. I think it’s called processing. Most days I find myself thinking about Lyn and Malcolm, about Nadia. Nadia and I exchanged a few WhatsApps about a book I gave her; Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. Nadia and I became friends when we attended the same mosaics class, but there is more than mosaics to our friendship. Nadia writes. One of these days I am going to be crowing about her novel, which will be published after she has edited it for the millionth time. OK I exaggerate, but the draft I read years ago was pretty polished in my opinion, and I am getting impatient too see it in Waterstome’s. We share an interest in literature. Good books inform our lives, improve our lives. There was a moment on the train into Wellington when I was telling her about the book group I belong to. Nadia has resisted book groups. Like me, she has felt they are not necessarily A Good Thing. I explained how our book group works, and told her it is particularly good when M, a respected novelist, attends.She is extremely knowledgeable, never patronising, and keeps us on task. Nadia’s eyes widened. It turned out that M is one of her favourite writers. If only she still lived in London she could join us. On the other hand, I shouldn’t have seen Wellington with her and through, to some extent, her eyes.

I am still percolating my New Zealand holiday. Odd things come to mind to be examined and considered from a distance in time and place. Nadia introduced me to a police drama series that one of her friends writes for. It’s called Brokenshaw. It’s dry, well written, funny, but not comical. I loved it. It turns out it’s on here too, on the Drama Channel, a channel I have never watched. So I settled down to enjoy an episode, only to find it was one I had seen in Wellington. It doesn’t seem I can watch others on catch up. Darn. Lyn and Malcolm like a programme called The Chase. It turns out that it’s a British programme, broadcast here on daytime tv. Since coming home I have seen several trailers for it. Funny I had never heard of it before visiting NZ. Continue reading

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Of Jet Lag, Disappointing Theatre and Amazing Poetry and Science

I thought I was over the jet lag. I’ve been back at work since Saturday, and MasterB’s insistence on breakfast at seven in the morning has helped get at least that part of my routine re-established pretty quickly. I had one evening when I went to bed shortly before six. It was that or nod off on the sofa. The dark evenings haven’t helped me stay awake. By eight it feels like midnight. I tried having a second cup of coffee one day, but that was disastrous; I was jittery and jumpy, and speaking so fast my tongue felt seriously tired. However, day by day I was gradually staying awake longer and later.

But this week I had tickets to two events in the evening. The first, on Wednesday, was to a play at the National Theatre, the second to a poetry and science event at the Shaw Theatre. Both were with Celia and we have had the tickets for some weeks.

I love the National Theatre. It is quite simply one of the best theatres in the world in terms of the three auditoria it comprises, in terms of its creative vision and commitment, in terms of its productions. actually, it is probably the best theatre in the world. This is the home of War Horse, and the puppeteers who work their magic in that production say there is no other theatre in the world where this play would have been staged; the work that went on for months behind the scenes to make it possible would not have been contemplated anywhere else. You get spoiled in london. It is the the theatre capital of the world.

So you’ll understand I had high expectations of the evening. The play was by David Hare, a writer I respect. On the way there Celia told me the reviews had been mixed. We were surprised to see many of the seats were empty. My experience of the NT is almost uniquely of full houses and anticipatory audiences. The lights dimmed. The opening scene was great, snappy, clever, promising. bUt after that it was slow. A lot of polemic and not a lot to watch. My eyes began to close. I was still listening, but the voices were sounding more and more distant.

I made myself open my eyes. I’m a fidget at the theatre. some people stay in the same position throughout a play. I don’t. I move about in my seat, cross and uncross my legs and arms, reach for my water bottle, lean forward, lean back. This time a lot of my fidgeting was to keep awake. I thought I was doing quite well, but then my head dropped and woke me up. I didn’t last beyond the interval. I wasn’t sure if it was me or the play. Celia stayed. She texted me when it was over: thumbs down. Oh well, put that one down to experience. Continue reading

Hold the old photos, we went to Devonport today

Spring weather today, sunshine and warmth, alternating with heavy showers. We took a bus into town and headed for the harbour to catch the ferry to Devonport. It had been on my to see list, but I thought the weather was going to rule it out. Although we travelled there by water, it is attached to the mainland,
Before I came to New Zealand, people told me it was like Tasmania, but until today I hadn’t felt that was true.
But there was something about Devonport that did remind me of Tasmania. I couldn’t tell you what though.
The ferry ride lasts just twelve minutes, so you just have time to enjoy the view before you disembark. A gentle walk along by the sea was a nice introduction. With the sun out, the sea was restored to a blue-turquoise. Dogs were swimming, people too.

Swimming retriever

A walk by the sea, with driftwood

There were benches to sit on to admire the view.

Bench with a view

There were also reminders that things had not always been so tranquil.

Execution site

Continue reading

A Backward Glance

I go home in two days. Last night I arrived back in Auckland and was reunited with Lyn and Malcolm. The coach journey had been long but not particularly eventful. We left Napier over half an hour late as the driver had to wait for the coach from Wellington to arrive. So one delay lead to another. I had to change coaches at Taupo. More delays as there was a cycle race around the lake, so we stood in the drizzle by the two portaloos before finally boarding. The coach was pretty full. I got a seat next to a young woman and sat down. Unfortunately there was a woman with two young children in the seats behind us. I say unfortunately as the children cried and kicked our seats. Thank heavens for noise cancelling headphones.
When the woman and her children got out some two hours later, the young woman beside me turned to me with relief. Apparently the children had been swearing for most of the journey.
Auckland toady is wet. It may be wet tomorrow. I don’t know. But it is fairly safe to assume most of photos have now been taken.
I haven’t written about everywhere I have visited, nor have I posted pictures of all the places I have seen, though you might be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
So I thought today and tomorrow I might put up some of those pictures. Not necessarily the best, the most carefully composed, they are snaps, things that remind me of different stages and people I have met on this journey. I’ll try to put up some more tomorrow.
First up the miracle worker who prepared my fabulous lunch when we visited the Hundertwasser toilets.

The miracle worker


This panel was close by.

Remembrance of animals past

Continue reading

Rest Day

All this culture and sightseeing is hard work, so today I had a rest day. Nadia was working in the garden. She hasn’t lived in this house for long, and it’s a bit of a project. She has lots of plans for when time and money allow, and as it was yet another glorious day, she was keen to get into her gardening gear and get on with it.
I hung out the washing, and performed a few indoor chores, prepared some food for tonight, and once the sun had dropped a little, set off to explore Upper Hutt, a ten minute walk away and a chance to look at the neighbours’ houses.

Garden furniture


So far my knowledge of this neighbourhood has been confined to the walk from the station to the supermarket and then home.
I was surprised to find how big it is. There is lots I didn’t see, but I homed in on a shop selling eco friendly products and second hand vinyl. Then I found the Turkish restaurant. I was hoping for a deli attached too, but it wasn’t to be. However, a few doors down I found the Indian shop which is where I shall head if I run out of lentils. The independent book shop was frankly disappointing, but at the chain store I found an A-Z of London in convenient size for just $5. Bargain.
Not sure about the gun shop though.
The cycle racks are well designed, there is far more street sculpture and art than I photographed on this tour.

Walk this way


Cool bin

Monsters go this way

Spaghetti bike rack

Cool bike rack

Not sure about this one


I shall have to go back. Continue reading

Hello Hilda

My lovely Catsitter Birgit sent me a photo of MasterB. It was the first email I opened this morning. My boy looked content and relaxed which is wonderful. The downside was the picture made me immediately homesick. Gosh I am missing my boy.
Over the last two days we have been up and down in Wellington. Yesterday we started at ground level, walking along the harbour. It was Armistice Day, and there was a certain military presence among the shorts and ice creams.

Military presence


We resisted the kayaks and paddle boards, but stopped to look at sculptures and buildings.

Kayaks

Into the wind


There was evidence of yarn bombing.

Yarn bombed clawed foot


Our meanderings meant we were still in the harbour area at lunchtime, so we sat in the shade near the boathouses and ate our packed lunches.

Boathouses


Boat

Continue reading

Wellington

99271CF6-8C82-404F-94C7-7CF730C9B97DTwo days into my visit to Wellington, and two days of contrasting weather. Yesterday it rained. When we left the house it was quite light rain, but by the time the train drew into the city station it was gathering force.

Wet weather in Wellington


Fortunately our main goal was the museum, not a stroll along the harbour. Nadia introduced me to some new spots, and then we had an early and d kicious lunch. At Te Papa museum Nadia parked herself in the café and got on with some writing. I joined the queue to see the exhibition about Gallipoli.

Gallipoli, Te Papa

I’m not sure how long I spent in the exhibition, but it was nearer two hours than one. It is very well done, using the stories of individuals to give a picture of the whole. By the time I reached the end I was a paid up admirer of William Malone, and my heart ached for Charlotte, the nurse who followed her brother to Gallipoli, only learning of his death four months after it happened.
Normally two hours is about the limit of my concentration in a museum or gallery, but there was a small exhibition commemorating the 125 years since No women got the vote, and another small one on immigration. I spent quite a while in the exhibition on refugees who have been made welcome in NZ. In these times where refugees are frequently repulsed and demonised by the very societies which have helped to cause the chaos and fear they are fleeing, it is heartening to read of those who have managed to make new lives in a welcoming country.
The rain had continued to fall while we were in Te Papa, and it was hoods up, heads down all the way to the station.

Wellington railway station

We made it home via the supermarket and changed out of clothes that were by now very wet. Continue reading

Going underground

This evening is beautiful and so was this morning. I think the middle of the day was too, but we spent much of it underground continuing our visit to the Waitomo Caves. Photos will follow, or at least I hope they will, I haven’t looked at them yet, so not tonight.
The caves are astounding. Beautiful natural creations of lime, stalactites dripping slowly onto you as you move along the walkways, stalagmites, growing slowly from the floor; one cubic centimetre per hundred years. You mustn’t touch, but looking is enough. The guide on our final tour this afternoon told us how when the caves were first opened and visitors were guided by candlelight, taking around six hours to cover an area we were in for a sixth of that time, they were allowed to break bits of the stalactites off as souvenirs. Then she told us that one passageway had recently been closed to visitors as some had not respected the place and had also been snapping bits off.
On this morning’s tour we watched as the group doing black water rafting drifted by in the water below us. I wasn’t tempted. The landscape is a network of caves. The Waitomo caves are managed by the descendants of the tribes who lived in the area, and our guide this afternoon was a descendant of the man who had first found the entrance into that particular set of caves. Yesterday’s trip to see the glow worms’ (more correctly maggots) was busy. Apparently they can take up to 50 people a time on a tour. By contrast for this afternoon’s tour the group size is a maximum of 18, I don’tknow what the maximum size was for this morning’s tour but we were lucky to be ina group of seven. It was the guide then who said they should more accurately be called maggot tours, but that doesn’t work for the marketing. Continue reading

Joining the dots

Each new place I visit helps to join the dots. It’s all very well reading the guide books, but being somewhere, for obvious reasons, brings a place alive. We stopped at Waitangi when we were north and I am so glad we did. Although it was a whistle stop visit in a place I could have gladly spent most of the day, it made a big impression on me and since then I have heard about the treaty and its signing several times more.

The Treaty House

Info board

Warrior sparrow

War boats

Meeting House

Waitangi beach and flag pole

It all helps get my head around the history of this very young country. As did the visit to Tane Mahuta and Cape Reinga. Yesterday’s museum visit made so much more sense because of the other places Lyn and Malcolm have taken me to, and as well as joining the dots, I feel I am starting to colour in the background. Continue reading

A Different Kind of Day

Lyn dropped me off for a day of solo sightseeing. No prizes for where I headed first of all.

Museum this way

Museum

I booked myself a place to see the Maori cultural performance which was delivered with panache and humour, taking us through some 800 years of history.

Maori performance

Maori performance

I also booked a place on the highlights tour. Our guide, a volunteer, was a delightfully enthusiastic woman called Pam. As there were only three of us in the group, it made for an intimate experience. The museum covers the history of New Zealand, natural history and is also the War Museum. From the windows Pam pointed out the Garden of Remembrance with over 800 white crosses representing some of the many servicemen (and some women who went as nurses) who died in the First World War. There were some 58,000 New Zealand ‘casualties’ of the First World War, out of around 98,000 servicemen, of whom around 16,000 died and 41,000 were ‘wounded’.

Field of Remembrance

The whole tour was informative and engaging. I went back to take a closer look at some pieces when it ended, including the Honatui meeting house.

Detail from Hotunui meeting house

Without Pam’s explanation, I should not have understood that when I went inside it I was entering Honatui’s body, the struts of the roof being his ribs, and the spine of the roof being, well his spine. The long arms on the front of the building are his arms, while his head is at the apex above the front entrance. Continue reading