Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thankful Thursday

Dear CCC

You are a talented young lady.  Your art is not what I have always thought of as conventional art.  Some of it is probably art that I would have walked past with little thought other than possibly to pass a quick comment on how beautiful a piece might be.  Last year when you took me to see your work at the graduation exhibition you explained a great deal about your work and the thought processes behind it - some of which we had already discussed.  You also told me a little about some of the other artists and their work.

This year you are producing more work which I admire for its sheer beauty but which I am also beginning, with your help, to understand.  I am looking forward to seeing it at the exhibition in May. 

Yesterday you blogged the statement by Toni Morrison "At some point in life the world’s beauty becomes enough. You don’t need to photograph, paint, or even remember it.  It is enough. "  

Now Toni Morrison is, I understand, one of the USA's distinguished novelists as well as being an editor and professor.  I confess I'd not heard of her.  So her words should presumably be given some weight and credence.  I'm not sure that I agree with her.  However I'm pretty sure that there is enough debatable material in those words for several doctoral theses.  I may well come back to them.

I want to tell you how thankful I am that that you share your knowledge and thoughts and your art with me (and many others of course).  

Thank you dear CCC for making me think.

Yours gratefully

Crazy Uncle  Graham

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Can Cows Be Grumpy?

Spesh aka Pat thinks sheep are cute.  Sorry.  Lambs may, just may, be cute but sheep....never.  Anyway Virginia asked whether  Highland Cattle which have been appearing on this blog are ours.  They are not.  They belong to neighbours.  The Cottage is on the edge of The Family's 5-acre 'lifestyle plot ' and the paddock in front belongs to our neighbours although their house is not visible from either The Cottage or The House.

These are cattle grazing in The Family's paddock next to me.  Is it my imagination or is the bullock on the left frowning?  And in the bottom photo is he bemused or about to ask me something?

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Apple Harvest

It's a bit earlier than usual but this morning a crew arrived and picked a crate or two of apples from the orchard in front of The Cottage.  I'm not sure why because its a couple of weeks until those particular apples are usually ready.


Sunday, 24 February 2013

How Exciting Can Life Get?

I was talking to a friend last night: a person of considerable talents; a person of deep and ingrained social beliefs; a person with a desire to improve the world or at least some part of it; a very serious person but a person with a highly developed sense of the absurd; a person I respect - a lot.

The conversation has made me slightly uneasy because it reminded me that, in my youth, I too wanted to change parts of the world.   I had never felt the need nor desire to challenge my parents (who allowed us freedom on the tacit understanding that we never turned that freedom into licence) but I challenged the establishment of my small world in local government.  I still have strong(ish) beliefs and hope that I also still have my sense of social and personal integrity.  However I no longer have the desire to challenge nor to change as I once did.

I do, though, still have a sense of the absurd.  So when our conversation ended I wondered to myself what had happened in my world during the day that was of any significance.  This is what it all boiled down to:

Boiled down to!! I put three eggs in to boil and one exploded: big bang too!
Catriona thought that my thumbs were both weird and awesome.
Martin decided to cut down the 2 1/2 year old gum tree behind The Cottage - they grow at a fantastic rate and height (and there is already a complete paddock of mature ones ready for felling for firewood).
This morning it is no more.
and the second trailer load is filled with the remnants
In the meantime I have a dead ride-on mower at the front of The Cottage

And I played a croquet match.  My day was full from start to finish.  But of what?  Insignificant trifles.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Pekapeka Wetlands

About 40 minutes drive South of Napier are the Pekapeka Wetlands.  Until fairly recently it was like driving past an area of inexplicably dead trees sticking out of a wilderness at the side of the main State Highway south.  Now it is a splendid area which has been transformed into an oasis of floral diversity consistent with the original wetlands area which encourages wildlife.  Paths, viewing areas and boardwalks give easy access to the wetlands.

I went there yesterday for a very quick visit whilst trying to get more photos of the arid landscape in 
the area.

I have chosen this view because I could see over the railway line that bisects the site into an area where there were many birds.  At this distance they cannot be seen on the photo at a focal length of 4.8mm.

If, however, I increase the focal length of the lens  to 15.6mm I can see rather more detail but less total area:

If I further increase the focal length to 144mm then we can see that there is plenty of wildlife on the water.   There are Paradise Ducks and (I think they are) Grey Teal.

A further enlargement of the above picture shows some interesting, if less clear, detail:

I shall be returning with more time and, hopefully, more success in capturing some other species.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Thankful Thursday

The hills of Southern Hawkes Bay are as dry as I have seen them in the 8 summers I've lived here.  I took these photos on Monday.  No significant rain is expected until March.  Everything will, however, survive.  Rain will come.  No one will starve or die for lack of water.  For that we should all be very thankful because there are many in the world who this very year, this very month, this very week, this very day will die because they have no water (and many more will die because they have no potable water).

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

A Weekend Away

It's Tuesday.  The weather is absolutely wonderful.  The sun is shining.  There is a slight cooling breeze.  It's perfect.  We were away for the weekend at a golf croquet tournament in Wanganui.  The weather excelled itself which is more than I can say for my play. There were flashes of my old self with some wonderful wins and there were some flashes of utter mediocrity too.  However my partner and I did manage to come runners up in the handicap doubles which was a reasonable result.  I'd never played with Clair before.  In fact I'd never met her before.  We did, however, have something in common.  We both drive Mazda MX5s.  Hers is called Rossee.  Unlike mine, Rossee races in the New Zealand Targa Rally.

I hadn't played at Wanganui for a couple of years.  It's a lovely club with a lot of lawns and a wonderful location up on a hill overlooking the (not-so-beautiful-from-this-angle) city. 

The Club's notice board amused me:

PS It's Wednesday now.  I started this on Tuesday but it was that sort of a day!

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Thankful Thursday

Did you have 'midnight feasts' when you were young?  First please bear in mind that I was born in a country which had food rationing at the time.  I used to take some morsels out of the food safe.  I'm not sure when refrigerators became commonly commercially available in the UK but I don't recall any friends having one back in the late 1940s when I was a nipper.  I would take them to bed and then after lights-out (and after my teeth had been brushed!!) and using a torch I would consume the prized morsels: a midnight feast.  Of course they were never a true feast and occurred well before midnight.

I was reminded of them this evening.  After I had been out all day (croquet, gym, physio etc etc) and out at a friend's for dinner this evening Wendy, Martin and Richard appeared around 1015 pm, on their way home from being out for dinner, to catch up and find out about my arrangements for going away tomorrow.  We all had a wee dram of a nightcap in memory of the Scottish heritage.

So at midnight (I shall cheat: this post will be predated to the time I started it - before midnight!) I got myself some cheese and nuts and am having a midnight feast.

It makes me realise just how lucky we are to be able to eat on a whim when so many of the world's population cannot even eat to sustain themselves.  That made me think further about the colossal waste of food due to the discovery of horsemeat in frozen meals in Europe and the fact that obesity is such a major problem in the world.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if instead of such a large percentage of the 'first world' being unhealthily obese the excess food being consumed was shared with the starving.

We can but dream.

In the meantime I am exceptionally thankful for my midnight feast and all that it represents.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


you are one of those of my friends who is wondering why I have not responded to an email, sent an email I would usually have sent, phoned you (sorry Mo!), commented on your blog recently, acknowledged a Facebook comment or responded timeously to Words With Friends then this post is aimed at you.  It is also aimed at the few who have wondered why my posts have been a bit erratic recently.

The answer, my friends, is blowin' in the wind.  Sorry, Bob, as a teenager of the sixties, I know that your words were not flippant as mine are but, hey, they just came out.

I've had a very full life recently and it's even more full at the moment and the coming weekend I shall be away.  All good stuff and I'm not - absolutely not - complaining but it seems to leave few moments for sitting and communicating with those not immediately in front of me.  I was settling at the computer down late this afternoon to write when Martin's brother over from Scotland popped in.  Six hours later having rustled up a family meal everyone left after a great evening.

All this has been compounded by the erratic nature of my internet connection at the moment.  It seems not to be available at the times I am available. I'm just hoping that when I've written this I will be able to post it on Blogger. 

In the meantime please bear with me.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Who Pickles Onions?

I made Chicken Marengo a few days ago for dinner guests.  One of the things that the recipe I use (it's in my head and a combination of recipes I have read over the years) has is shallots.  It's not easy to buy them so I use pickling onions instead.  Not, I have to say, that I know what the difference is.  One of the jobs that I really find very tedious (and a true labour of necessity or love) is peeling pickling onions.  Why would anyone want to do that when they can be bought in a bottle already pickled?  It's a nail-destroying and eye-watering task.  However it's necessary for my Chicken Marengo: or rather for Emperor Napoleon's Chicken Marengo for it was for him that it was first devised.


Sunday, 10 February 2013

Massenet meets Puccini

A friend in Scotland mentioned on the phone last night that she was going to see Massenet's opera Werther at Glasgow's Theatre Royal.   I couldn't recall ever listening to it.  Odd as I discovered that I have the CD and it's on my iPod.  So now I have listened to it (again?).  The opera is based on the German epistolary novel The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe.  I found it powerful but not really memorable (with apologies to any opera or Massenet aficionados reading).  This is rather odd given that it is still, and has been for over a century, regularly performed around the world.

I followed the Massenet by Puccini's La Boheme which, as I type, is being played at full volume to suit my mood brought on by reading a blog post which brought too many memories and a morning spent taking a friend who has suffered a very severe stroke out for coffee and a drive.

So what have Massenet and Puccini got in common?  They both wrote operas based on the the 1731 novel L’histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prévost.  Nor were they were alone in writing operas or ballets on that work.  I have the Puccini but not the Massenet.  Guess what I'll be obtaining soon (besides the novel which I now have -for free - on my Kindle).

Thursday, 7 February 2013

I'm Not A Robot!

At around 1am today ie about 22 hours ago I was having problems with Blogger in that it posted one of my posts 36 times.   To add insult to injury this evening when I tried to post my Thankful Thursday post I got the following message:
 I typed in etholudi 1521 and got the following message:

I know that paranoia is a silly response but bear in mind that just because I may be paranoid it doesn't mean that Blogger isn't out to get me.

Thankful Thursday

Last Friday I twisted my neck rather badly: just short of 12 months since I twisted my back on the croquet lawn.  This time it was in the gym.  On both occasions I was very grateful that it happened here in New Zealand and not in the UK.  Why?  Because the health care system here has separate services like physiotherapists which can be accessed other than through the hospital service.  In the UK I would have had to go to the doctor who would have to refer me to the hospital.  I would have been exceptionally fortunate to have seen a physiotherapist within 5 weeks of the incident.  In that time the neck would either have cleared itself up or have become so inflamed and tight that it would be as major job sorting it.  As it was I decided within three hours of it having happened that it was going to be a problem and the diclofenac sodium anti-inflamatory I'd taken was not relieving the pain.  So withing two hours of my decision I was having my neck treated and the next day the pain and discomfort was significantly less.  After another couple of treatments it's well on the mend.

So today I am very thankful for that particular aspect of the New Zealand health care system.


do problems like Blogger posting my last post 36 (YES 36!) times happen in the wee small hours of the morning when all I want to do is go to bed?   

I'm sorry if your Dashboard reading list shows 36 copies of my last blog post.  At first Blogger refused to allow me to delete them but then it acquiesced. 

I'm going to bed.  I have to be up for an inter-club match first thing in the morning at another croquet club.

Night night.

Awesome Seas

There was a time years that seems like years ago when cooking for a dinner party for 12 was just part of my life.  This evening I had a small dinner party for 5.   It was a lovely evening but it did make me realise that a) I have forgotten how to judge the amount of  food people eat (I won't have to cook myself another meal this week) and b) I really love hosting dinner parties.

Following on from yesterday's post (sorry Tuesday's post - I'm writing this at nearly 1am on Thursday) how's this for a picture of the seas I referred to?

Butt of Lewis: Photo by John Gray

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

An Rather Extraordinary Day

For most of this year, which is now into its second month would you believe, here in Hawkes Bay we have been having temperatures into the late 20s and 30s.  Yesterday it was a fairly moderate 27℃ and I was a very happy bunny.  So imagine my discombobulation (gosh the spillchucker allowed that) when today the rain has set in overnight (cancelling our doubles croquet match this morning) and the temperature is, wait for it.....12℃ (yes, really, that's 53℉).  Last night I went to bed with the air conditioning taking the edge off the heat of the night and this evening I could justify putting it on to provide some warmth.

This morning I woke up to an email from Pat on Lewis.  The central heating in my house on Lewis is playing up yet again.  Mind you with winds gusting up to 127 mph a short while ago and more storms forecast anything could happen.  This map shows that the heaviest seas on the planet will be hitting the Outer Hebrides in the next day or two.

Do you ever get misled by the constant phone and cellphone beeps and rings from the television or is it just me who seems constantly to be looking to see what's happening when the television is on?  Today someone in the background of a new programme had a phone which beeped and I spent a few puzzled moments before I realised that it wasn't my phone.

The highlight of my day was solving the start of the hardest Codecracker that I've ever done.  I've been at it since last Wednesday.  Pitiful it's been.

Night night.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

The Earthquake: Hawkes Bay 10.46 am 3rd February 1931

This day 82 years ago at 10.46 in the morning occurred what was in terms of loss of life the biggest disaster ever to occur on New Zealand soil whilst it has been inhabited by humankind. Although it is known as the Napier or Hawkes Bay Earthquake it actually affected much of the Country. The shock brought down buildings between Gisborne and Waipawa. It toppled chimneys from Taupo to Wellington.

For most of the Hawkes Bay residents the disaster is something remembered at the memorial service held on Art Deco Weekend and also in the very fabric of the area's culture and physical rebuilding.  For those in Christchurch the earthquakes of 22 February 2011 and 4 September 2010 and the 11,000 (yes, 11, 000!)  smaller earthquakes experienced since the first one is a much greater disaster.

The impact of the HB Quake can be judged from the letters, diaries, memoirs and photographs of rescuers who desparately worked to free victims from wreckage before the town was consumed by fire, of nurses and doctors who tended the injured in makeshift hospitals and the refugees who walked down broken roads with what they could carry from their salvagable belongings.

The wooden buildings of central Napier largely escaped the earthquake only to be destroyed by the fire that raged through the business district of the town an hour or so after the quake.

The official death toll was 256 with, despite outstanding efforts, two people unaccounted for. Over 400 were hospitalised with serious injuries. At least 2500 received minor injuries although this was never fully evaluated because many people with minor injuries never bothered to report them to the authorities.

The cost was not just death and injury nor was it just physical destruction of property. It threatened an already depressed economy - the second summer of depression - with complete ruin. News of the calamity even depressed prices on the London Stock Exchange.

The following are a few of the photos that appear on the Napier Government website. I will post more about the earthquake over the next weeks particularly in relation to the land changes that took place. The Wikepedia web entry is informative as is The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Emerson Street

Emerson Street

Napier Earthquake building damage and the buildings today.

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Snail Mail

In the UK and New Zealand and I assume in most other places where there is access to the internet the number of people using snail mail is dropping drastically.  Christmas cards alone were 20% down in 2012 as against 2011 for New Zealand Post and overall mail is predicted to be down between 6 and 8% year on year over the next few years.  The upshot is that NZ Post intend to cut deliveries from 6 days a week to 3 days a week with effect from 2014.

Living as I do for 6 months of the year in a very remote part of the UK ie the Isle of Lewis I am very aware of the reliance of remote areas on the postal service for many things other than letters.  I am also aware of the fact that serving remote rural areas is probably very unprofitable for mail and parcel services.  It is not helped by the fact that competition and the removal of the Royal Mail's monopoly (in the UK - there is competition in NZ too) has meant that the profitable urban post has been diminished further.

I can forsee a time, however, when daily deliveries in the UK may be a thing of the past and regional pricing may well become standard without government subsidies.

I fear there are testing times ahead.