Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Hard at work

I'm sitting at work, planning next weeks lectures.

In theory.

In practice, I'm surfing the web for 10 minutes - and I just came across a cool site about NZ . Loads of info, even Wanganui gets a mention.

Sunday, 27 August 2006

The Title Thinker-Upper Is On Strike

If I lapse into inarticulateness (is there such a word?) during this post, please forgive me. It's late on Sunday evening, and I was woken by Pookie (or 'that sodding cat' as she's affectionately known) at four o'clock this morning, so I'm feeling a bit fuzzy round the mental edges.

It's been a funny old week.

Despite it being late winter here rather than late summer, and despite the fact that no-one is away on holiday, New Zealand seems to suffer the Silly Season at the same time as the U.K. The following story made front page news in the local newspaper, The Wanganui Chronicle today. The story is reproduced without permission of any kind. So sue me.

Rescued dog returns the favour


A VIGILANT rescued dog turned rescuer this week, saving a Wanganui home and her master from a potential electrical fire.

Shona Williams, of Roberts Ave, Aramoho, switched on an electrical jug in her kitchen to make a pot of tea and returned to the lounge, where she was spending an evening watching television with Tori, the family’s female Samoyed pet.

Mrs Williams became distracted and after a while Tori suddenly got up from her fireside rug and left the room. She quickly returned and with agitated body language made Mrs Williams follow her into the kitchen.

The jug had nearly boiled dry after its automatic cut-off failed leaving the kitchen full of steam.

Mrs Williams quickly disconnected the jug’s plug.

“I don’t know what might have happened if Tori had not alerted me to the problem,” Mrs Williams said.

“She made me follow her into the kitchen. There could have been a fire.”

Five-year-old Tori is a rescued dog the Williams family received two and a-half years ago.

She had been returned to her breeder by a veterinarian after her previous owner had starved her and kept her in a muddy paddock without shelter for months.

The breeder offered her to the Williams family after their previous Samoyed died of old age.

Now Tori, who is in perfect condition, is a rescuer herself.

“She’s got a very keen sense of hearing, especially earthquakes before they happen, thunder and lightning and, of course, cats outside,” Mrs Williams said.

The thing that surprises me most about this story is not the fact that the incident happened, nor the fact that things were so slow in downtown Wanganui that the newspaper editor thought the story merited front page status, (it really is VERY quiet here), but the fact that the first thing Mrs. Williams thought of doing when her dog alerted her to the fact the kitchen was full of steam, apart from to turn off the kettle, was to telephone the local newspaper offices. I mean, just how much of a drama queen must this woman be? Probably the sort of person who rings the emergency services when they've lost their keys.

Anyway, what else has been going on in the buzzing metropolis? (That's a hard word to spell when your eyes are starting to cross!) Well, I've been getting myself jabbed up with various inoculations, in preparation for my trip to South Africa. I've had a tetanus booster and a Hepatitis A shot, and I should have had the typhoid vaccine as well, but I reacted very badly to that the first time I had it, when I went to Italy as a teenager, so the doctor decided I shouldn't be given a booster. Apparently I won't need malaria tablets, which is a relief. I've heard nasty things about their side effects (although they're not as nasty as malaria, of course.)

Unfortunately, the details of the project I'm going to be working on are confidential, but I've been invited to play a leading role, and it involves a minimum of six months' full time work and an all-expenses-paid two-week trip to Cape Town. As my normal wardrobe consists exclusively of jeans, tracksuit trousers and sweatshirts, I've also splashed some cash on some new clothes. Iain and I went to Palmerston North yesterday (the nearest 'big' town) and I got togged up. Iain was amazingly patient while I tried stuff on and didn't do the 'fed up bloke' routine once. I was mightily impressed. I don't normally 'do' clothes shopping, but I actually rather enjoyed myself yesterday. If you're going to have an addiction, I think an addiction to clothes shopping is probably the best one to have. Sure, you're in debt up to your eyeballs, your family has abandoned you, you've lost your house and are sleeping rough on the street, but at least you look fabulous while your life is crashing down around you.

I am so tired now I can't see straight. I really have to stop typing, and anyway, the battery on my laptop has gone onto the red, which means any minute now my computer will shut down. I'll try to make sure next time I post an entry I'm at least partially compos mentis.

Goodnight all,


Friday, 18 August 2006


thanks to Rachel for the very cool cover design

Great excitement today - my inspection copy of Oi! (the poetry anthology I compiled for my writers' forum) arrived this morning, and it's turned out perfectly. So I've now made it available for purchase. The anthology showcases the work of eighteen poets, including me.

Here's the 'blurb' from the back cover:

Oi! is the first collection of poetry from members of the online writers’ forum The Write Idea.

This eclectic mix of poems, ranging from nonsense verse to Spenserian sonnets, from nursery rhymes to erotica, will take you from B & Q to the planet Mars, from bronze age Britain to contemporary Spain. Your travel guides include a cow, a sheep and a woolly mammoth.

Arresting? Original? Witty? Always.
Boring? Never.

Check it out here.

P.S. If you view the preview pages, don't be put off by the weird, irregularly-sized font. I think that's a deliberate ploy by Lulu to prevent people simply printing off the previews for nothing, and not buying the book!


Sunday, 13 August 2006

Kiwi Quiz

How much do you know about New Zealand?
Find out with this Kiwi Quiz I've put together.
The answers are at the bottom of the post, so no peeking and no googling.
Are you ready? Get set, GO!

1. What are these called in New Zealand?...
a) fries
b) crisps
c) chips
d) waffles

2. ... and what about these?
a) gumboots
b) booties
c) wellies
d) rubbers

3. Which city is the capital of New Zealand?
a) Auckland
b) Wellington
c) Christchurch
d) Rotorua

4. What is the population of the capital city?
a) 1.2 million
b) 375,000
c) 164,000
d) 79,000

5. What is the national netball team called?
a) The All Blacks
b) The Tall Blacks
c) The All Whites
d) The Silver Ferns

6. What is the national dessert of New Zealand?
a) peach melba
b) pavlova
c) kiwi cheesecake
d) spotted dick

7. What nickname do New Zealanders use when referring to Australia?
a) God's Own
b) The Mainland
c) West Island
d) Rooland

8. Where do Kiwis buy their lottery tickets?
a) at a newsagent's
b) at a dairy
c) at a corner shop
d) at a five and dime

9. What are holiday homes called on South Island?
a) cribs
b) baches
c) barks
d) scratches

10. The flowers of which New Zealand native tree produce a honey renowned for its antibacterial properties?
a) pohutakawa
b) manuka
c) rimu
d) nikau

Answers below...

1 c, 2 a, 3 b, 4 c, 5 d, 6 b, 7 c, 8 b, 9 a, 10 b

How did you do?


Sunday, 6 August 2006

Excitement and adventure and really wild things...

...well, sort of.

the delight of drains

The Drain Man arrived on Wendesday and duly replaced our old ceramic drain, circa 1910, with a new plastic one. Hopefully that'll put an end to our drain problems for a while. Iain replaced the soil yesterday, and it was going to be my job to re-lay the paving stones today, but fortunately it's been raining all day, so I've been given a reprieve. The only other thing left to do is to dispose of the pieces of old drain. Iain favours chucking them over the fence into the stand of bamboo in the empty section nextdoor, but I've vetoed this. I quite fancy recycling them in some way. I've thought about breaking them down to use as mosaic tesserae (once we've given them a thorough wash, of course!), but I think they're going to be far too thick to break. If you've got any ideas for ways of recycling old drainpipes, please let us know!

more mad flowers

When I was blabbering on in my last post about the weird combination of things in flower in our garden, I mentioned a snowdrop and a rose. Realising you may find it hard to believe these two are flowering simultaneously, I've collected some photographic evidence. These photos were taken within minutes of each other. Weird, or what?!

snowdrop flowering on 2nd August

rose flowering on 2nd August

work developments

I've been invited to take part in an international project, which will involve a trip to Cape Town, as well as at least six months' full-time work. It all sounds very exciting. At the moment I'm waiting for further details, but I'll keep you posted.

holiday plans

Since my last post we've booked our summer holiday. We've wanted to go to South Island ever since we first arrived in New Zealand, but the month-long tour we'd planned had to be cancelled due to work commitments. Iain's got some time off over Christmas, so we've booked the ferry for a two-week tour of South Island.

one of the Interislander ferries

We're setting off on December 27th, the day after the Boxing Day 'Cemetery Circuit' motorbike race, and returning on January 10th. We've booked the cats into a cattery, and, as we're going to be camping, it's possible that their accommodation for the fortnight will cost more than ours!

During the last few days, in order to begin to think about putting together a rough itinerary, we've asked two people who have travelled extensively on South Island which places they would recommend seeing. And they both, independently, gave us the same answer: 'All of it!'. Which was not very helpful, but nevertheless very encouraging. Given our mutual love of wild places, Iain's obsession with mountains, and my childhood dream of being Heidi, I think it's possible we may go and live on South Island at some point. So the journey won't just be a holiday, it will also give us the opportunity to look at some candidates for future places to live.


Tuesday, 1 August 2006

It must be spring!

It's the first of August today; the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of the first of February, and it has been a beautifully warm and sunny day. It really felt as though spring had come already.

I did a tour of the garden this afternoon and couldn't believe the number of plants that are in flower at this time of year. I also noticed that none of the non-native plants seem to know what season it is. We've got snowdrops blooming at the same time as roses, for example.

Here are some of the other plants in flower at the moment.

blue daisy-type thing

bush with pink flowers

wild tree-bush with yellow blossom

And finally two I actually know the names of...