Thursday, March 21, 2019


Convalescence project: A multicoloured woollen poncho, intended for a 9 year old violin player who complains of the cold on autumn mornings, then wraps herself in rug which hampers practice.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

New beginnings?

It has been five days since the Christchurch terror attack. It feels like a month.

The previously much vilified Muslim community has been one of the sources of support and wisdom for those struggling to deal with the events in Christchurch.. They have had to deal with extremists in their own ranks, and seem wiser than the rest of us.

There are signs of new beginnings but already they are being trampled by those who benefit from the status quo.

We who have been watching our Australian political discourse are appalled at the carnage, but, as Waleed Aly so eloquently put it, we cant be surprised. Most of us didn't realise the viciousness of the monster our government helped create. Now we understand.

At first I was so angry, angry with those despicable politicians who have been promoting divisive racist, anti-Muslim and even more anti-aboriginal ideas for their own political gain. The anger remains, but a sadness too, as we see the offenders squirm and wriggle, trying to say the 'right' thing, only to inadvertently show how entrenched their views are. Australian  PM Scot Morrison blames social media, but makes no mention of the toxic Murdoch press which continues with its racist rantings to this day.

The automatic response for many (Christians) has been 'an eye for an eye',  but look where that got us. We urgently need a change to compassionate inclusive politics, a politics that disallows racist, misogynist hate talk, which is actually all about power.  If we create a society that strips power from racists and misogynists we can begin to build a society we all want to live in.  This means each of us calling out racist and sexist language where we hear it. It is all around us and if we make an effort,  pointing it out won't create enemies but instead help people become aware of how ubiquitous it is, and teach them to mind their language.

As others are pointing out, we need to act on several fronts including online. Talking about her newly released book  Troll Hunting,  brave journalist Ginger Gorman who interviewed trolls to understand them, says they hope for just such outcomes as the NZ terrorist attack. We can no longer disregard them.

All power to Jacinda Ardern and her clear sighted responses to this tragedy. She is going to need our support. We who want to avoid going down the path of strong man politics need to be even more determined than those who are going to resist change.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Framley Parsonage

The cover of Framley Parsonage shows that I bought it for $3:50. I have forgotten where.

I read the first couple of chapters yesterday,, remembered the story ...then it was time for bed. I tossed and turned all night, remembering the silly young hero who wanted to be in with the in-crowd, signing his name to bills (I owe you's) for a 'friend', who was really no friend at all. He brought himself to the brink of ruin.

This morning I decided I would not read about his silliness but take the story up again where he came to his senses and told his wife his troubles.

It was easy to finish the book from there and tonight I'll hopefully sleep easier, having seen all the sympathetic characters rescue themselves and some of the doubtful ones as well.
Anthony Trollope wrote his book before George Meredith wrote his.. Trollope's books are so much easier to read and much more fun than Meredith's.. Also much funnier than Meredith's The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, and the humour has not aged.

cat with green eyes

Frankie, the cat with green eyes
Well yes, all cats do have green eyes don't they?

Monday, March 11, 2019

Northanger Abbey

It's the perfect read for the indisposed. Light, witty, and light enough to hold up lying down.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

More lambs in springtime

Taihape landscape
I am feeling much better today after a sofa bound week. I made another little lamb painting to celebrate.

They say shingles lasts 3-5 weeks and I have had it 4 weeks, so I am hoping this is the elusive corner I have been waiting to turn.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Not Your Average Nurse

I heard a few episodes of this book on ABC Radio's late night program last year, then missed the rest,  so I ordered the book. It was a good light weight alternative to Goerge Meridiths book.

The author says she wrote it to tell her daughter about her life before becoming an author. For anyone who started nursing in the 1960s-70s, it will bring back lots of memories, and for the rest of us it is a fun read as well.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Lambs in springtime

Here are some lambs in springtime, painted from a picture taken years ago in Taihape.

Ewes and lambs in Taihape

My brother, who has had shingles twice, told me yesterday that he got better very gradually, not suddenly as perhaps I had been expecting. I got a watercolour pad out as diversion therapy during the gradual improvement.

Saturday, March 02, 2019

The Ordeal of Richard Feverel

The Ordeal of Richard Fevrel is apparently the most famous of George Meredith's novels. Born 10-20 years after Trollope, Dickens, Thackerey I thought this book might be just as accessible, but there is a reason why you seldom see it in bookstores.

I found it obtuse, meandering, full of a humour long past its use-by date (the forward says the first 2/3 of the book is funny, so perhaps it must have been, in its day) and with so many ornamental flourishes it feels like a Louis XVI chair. Only a bedbound and bored person would persevere with it ...but actually it was even too much for this bedbound person and I skipped a good deal of the end part.

The picture of the front is pretty though.
I  must have kept it on my shelf because I thought I should give it some real time. Well I have done that now and it is now bound for the op shop.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Cardinal Pell

Cardinal Pell.  Yuck yuck yuck. Pell, friend of the far right, bully and now convicted pädophilie. The decision by the jury was unanimous. Those poor kids. I ran into a bully recently and it makes me shudder to think about it. No wonder those kids buried their feelings for so long.

Australia, though, is having its Trump moment with far right commentators jumping to Pell's defence. (egThe Bolt report on Sky News today.)
Read how this affects victims

Yuck yuck yuck.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Warlight - a wonderful read

It has been a week since my last post and in that week I have learned what a nightmare shingles can be.  It isn't the itchy blistery rash that is the worst part, but the seering nerve pain that follows. Not everyone experiences it, but if you do, you won't quickly forget it. Coupled with nausea and exhaustion, it makes you feel as if you might never recover.

I am recovering however, incrementally, day by day and today I have finally spent a day on a chair instead of in bed. The St John's Wort, VitC+Zn,VitB12 (I am taking every safe  substance that is recommended) seems to be working.

One boon has been reading Warlight, the new book by Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient. It's a wonderful work and deserves to be read slowly. It's a very unusual sort of who-done-it, though to characterise it like that does it an injustice. Definately recommended.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Meditation with bees

Outside my window is a bush with little  butterfly-like flowers. The bees love these flowers which renew themselves daily as their long stalks grow even longer.

I sit and watch as the flowers bob up and down with the weight of the bees. This meditation on bees is about the limit of my activity at the moment. Perhaps tonight the goddess of sleep will visit and make me more capable on the morrow.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

St John's wort (Johanneskraut)

I am on day six of the antivirals against shingles, one more day to go. I thought by this time I would be ' over the hump' but no, there is not much change. You can't sleep and everything itches. The nurse did say they can't do anything about the initial infection, but they can 'manage' it and stop it spreading, thus the antivirals. I am very grateful to have them. If this is how bad you feel when one nerve is affected, what must it be like when internal organs are pulled into the viral orbit?

One silver lining is that I am reading through the pile of books I had waiting. Today in Davina Whitehouse's (actress) autobiography I discover she had shingles in her eighties. She caught it early though, took the antivirals, then a friend gave her St John's wort oil which magically made the spots on her face disappear.  I used to make this oil in Germany from flowers in the paddock next door. There it is called Johanneskraut, and we used it for all cuts and abrasions. I didn't know about the disappearing act it does on shingles spots though.

From 'Davina' by Davina Whitehouse

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Alan Pearson, artist

I have been looking through the photos I took of Alan Pearson's portraits in Nelson's Suter gallery and in Wellington's national portrait gallery. I read that he is probably New Zealand's most well known portrait artist. If I had known his work previously I had forgotten it, so it is a real pleasure to discover/rediscover him.

Pearson often works in shades of grey and, as I said in a previous post, his work is memorable. Here is a collage of four of his works.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Queenstown to Sydney

I didn't see much of Queenstown this visit as shingles makes you feel quite off colour and causes all sorts of odd aches. I developed a very sore muscle in my inner foot that made me hobble! Luckily I could just veg out and be fed at my lovely hosts place.

By yesterday the antivirals (one every 5 hours for 7 days!) were starting to kick in; the foot ache suddenly disappeared from one hour to the next and I was able to fly home. The gods must have been in my side as the connections home by train and bus were very quick - I just caught both with a minute to spare.

I am glad I have no activities planned. It's veg-out time.

Shingles Humbug

I had been waiting for Shingrix to arrive in Australia. It is a vaccine against shingles that is very effective.   The current alternative is not so very effective. Turns out I waited too long. B*gger#*#.

I am lucky though that it is on my lower torso. Some people get it on the head. I am learning a thing or two about nerves too. Who knew that a single nerve fibre reaches from the spine to the tip of your finger? Or right around your half torso? . Shingles affects a nerve which is why the rash develops around your torso stopping exactly on the midpoint on both sides.

I always imagined that there are chains of nerves through the body. That's what comes of being a botanist rather than zoologist.

Incidentally, someone told me they'd had it twice, both times developed while on holiday. I think we don't realise how much stress our bodies are under on holiday.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Wellington to Queenstown

Wellington on a good day is glorious. Blue skies, deep turquoise water, houses dotted along the hills all looking freshly painted.

Tub of flowers in a Wellington
Yesterday I flew from Wellington to Queenstown. We all climbed on board but we're then informed that our flight was delayed because of some sort of leak (never quite explained). They found another plane the same size so we were reseated in that. I overheard a staff member say that these passengers were lucky because it would take hours before the defective plane was ready to take off.

The Southern Alps were much more spectacular than my phone camera could record

 On our way south, passengers (the plane was full) were offered free wine for the inconvenience and the servings were very generous. When we disembarked the passengers clapped in appreciation.

Otago peaks, flying into Queenstown

Monday, February 11, 2019

Ah coffee...

A couple of days without coffee means I am really enjoying the excellent coffee at a little warehouse type coffee shop called Emporio Cafe in Wellington!

Emporio Cafe

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Nelson to Wellington

Goodbye Nelson

I had a very smooth flight from Nelson to Wellington this morning. There were two smoke plumes in the distance and people were scanning the surrounding bushland for fire. The hostess said lots of her Nelson colleagues had been evacuated and we're living with friends.

Hello Wellington

Twenty five minutes later I was landing in Wellington to clear skies, a completely flat sea, and unusual heat. There has been a fire in the city here as well, but it was put out quickly. 

Saturday, February 09, 2019

New Zealand String Quartet

The New Zealand String Quartet (NZSQ) is a national treasure, which is something I didn't know before coming to Nelson. They were on my radar but I didn't realise what a phenomenon they are. Then I heard them play and thought 'wow'!

The NZSQ are the organisers of the Adam festival, or perhaps artistic directors might be a better description although I was told yesterday that up until last year they even organised the rehearsal schedule.

 Their schedule is here:

Suter Gallery in Nelson

Nelson has a marvelous little gallery, the Suter Art Gallery, set in the Queens Garden, which is a green refuge near the city centre.

Queens Garden

 At the moment there is an exhibition of Alan Pearson's paintings and Steve Fuller's ceramics. Both are definitely worth visiting. Pearson's paintings, mostly portraits, many with some sort of grey tinge, are memorable (perhaps especially for a portrait artist? ) and Steve Fullmer's ceramics large, colourful, interesting and fun.

I especially liked a vase type sculpture with multi layers and written comment on the outside. 'Jesus said buy Steve Fullmer's art's said one inscription.
Steve Fullmer's ceramic
Watercolour of bridge in Queen's Garden, Nelson

Nelson fires (2)

Smoke haze enveloped Nelson in the morning yesterday.  Three thousand people have been evacuated from Wakefield just south west of the city. Then at 2:30, after the  afternoon concert we came out and could see that another fire had broken out near the city..
Fire near the centre of Nelson

it was just up the road from  my hostel and I got a note from my friend in Stoke (on the way to Wakefield) saying she thought she should come and get me as the hostel was very near a big nature reserve and if that caught alight I'd be having to leave in a hurry. So I am now in Stoke and much relieved.  We both felt better having someone to talk to about this unfolding catastrophe. The civil defence issued a notice saying anxiety is common in these situations and it is best to talk to others!

I don't think I would have slept much at the hostel even though the fire was largely controlled by nightfall. They had two helicopters working on it almost immediately.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Music and context

The fires near Nelson continue to dominate the news. The family of my concert seat neighbour were told to evacuate yesterday. She has been staying with a friend for some days. Last night she arrived at the concert saying " My neighbour emailed to say 'I hope you took your valuables', but what is valuable?'

The fires are making the context of the music we are hearing seem even more pertinent. Prokofiev writing in 1932, Bartok in 1916. You hear it in their music. The music curators included a very worthwhile session in the program explaining Bartok. I found it very useful hearing Vârjon explain the dissonances in Bartok's music and their relationship to the time in which it was written.

Várjon plays Bartok

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Waitangi Day music

Today is Waitangi Day in New Zealand, and a public holiday. It is day 6 of the music festival and I am pacing myself, staving off exhaustion. It is a familiar feeling about day six as the concerts and sketching combine to going beyond capacity.

I looked at today's program and wondered whether I had the stamina to attend: 10am - talk about recently (last 30 years) rediscovered Maori instruments and 2pm concert of NZ composers for those instruments and string quartet. 

I should have trusted the curators. It was one of the most moving concerts I have heard for a long time. I found tears welling up as the Maori flute (pūtõrino) and another long hollow instrument, both played by Rob Thorne, created sounds that seemed to connect the audience with eternity. He also played a conch instrument that sounded human and ethereal at the same time. These instruments were accompanied by string instruments played by the NZSQ to great effect.

Rob Thorne is an anthropologist and had been part of the group of four (including composer Gillean Whitehead and carver of instruments, Brian Flintoff) who explained the instruments this morning. I found his answers to questions thoughtful and nuanced. He is the sort of teacher you wish for every child (or, in our case, adult).

Addendum (8/2) : how you feel about music has so much to do with context. An Australian told me yesterday that he thought the 'piece' played at the concert was too long  and he was sorry the Maori music had not been more integrated with the western music. In fact there were 6 pieces played one after another (all described in some detail in the program). He looked very doubtful when I said I thought the music had been very successful in integrating the two cultural traditions but that the melding seemed to me to be the western musicians responding to the Maori instruments rather than the other way around.

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Nelson fire

Coming back from a concert in a tiny church at Lake Rotoiti, we saw smoke  billowing from the hills nearby.

Poor Nelson. The sky is now orange, covered in smoke from a huge uncontrolled fire in  nearby Wakefield. The country is tinder dry as there has been no rain since Christmas.

Wednesday: the fire has doubled overnight with four farmhouses lost.  One of my concert seat neighbours got a message yesterday not to come home. The fire feels very close.
Smoke over Nelson yesterday afternoon

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Hungarian pianist duo Dénes Vágon/Izabella Simon

While I am in Nelson I am sketching the musicians, especially Dénes Várjon and Izabella Simon, both pianists from Hungary whom I had met previously at the Maribor Music Festival in Slovenia (such a pretty and musically interesting place).

Dénes Várjon plays
The NZ Listener has published an article about them as they are the lead act for the Festival. They are travelling with their eight year old daughter and plan to explore New Zealand while they are here.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Wooden ceiling, good acoustics

The auditorium at the Nelson School of Music is an amazing structure, a 'heritage' auditorium opened in 1901 and known for its good acoustics.  It has a painted wooden ceiling that curves inwards towards the front where an organ is installed and makes you feel as if you are sitting in a large boat

I sat in a back row for the talk this morning, (an interesting interview with the Jerusalem Quartet conducted by a member of the NZ String Quartet) and can confirm that the acoustic is good.

Heritage auditorium at NCMA Nelson

Friday, February 01, 2019

Adam Festival 2019 opens

Adam Festival Facebook post
The organisers of the Adam Chamber Music festival in Nelson can be proud of themselves. They produced a wonderful opening concert.

Apparently it was sold out almost immediately. Their solution to all the extra requests for tickets was to add 80 seats behind the stage. It worked well and those who got the late tickets had a great close up view of the musicians.

Nelson Adam Festival

Nelson is a pretty place and just the right size for a pleasant existence. Big enough the house a school of music (what else is important?) but small enough to make driving and parking a dream, full of interesting shops and artsy people.

I am in Nelson for the 10 day Adam Chamber Music Festival which starts in a bit over an hour, staying a convenient two block stroll from the music hall.

The heat wave that has engulfed New Zealand had not  been so bad here, 26C and muggy but it cools down at  night. Just perfect for music making folk ( and everyone else).

Nelson Center for Musical Arts

Isel Park in Nelson

Nelson is dry and brown, apart from the vineyards with their rows of unnervingly green vines.

The picture below was taken in Isel Park in Stoke, a southern suburb of Nelson divided by  the road which leads south to Murchison and the West Coast. Isel Park ist a hidden gem, an historic house with a beautiful garden, enormous trees and wide, now brown, lawns.

Isel Park. The figure under the tree shows how big it is.
Two southerly storms over recent years decimated the place, blowing over many of these enormous giants not used to being so buffeted. I suppose the drought will weaken the hold of the remaining trees.

Agapanthus flowers are flowering everywhere in Nelson, including Isel Park

A stream through the park idyll.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Birdseye views

On a clear day, a flight from Wellington to Nelson offers wonderful views of the terrain below. The plane is small and flies low enough for good visibility.

The plane takes 40 passengers  plus hostess

Leaving Wellington

Leaving the north island

South island, heading for Nelson
The photos were taken by my seat neighbour, a young Dutch woman on a two year work visa. She was snapping photos out of the window so I handed her my phone and she took a few for me as well.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


I planted a pomegranate last autumn. It likes its garden spot and has produced a good lot of growth. Now it has a single flower.

Does a pomegranate need fertilising I wonder, or will this flower become a fruit regardless? 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Another heat wave

Hotter than hot, that's what it is for most of south eastern Australia today. Luckily for me I live near the cooling coast but even here it is hot, not only hot but very humid which makes the heat oppressive. I don't know how folks without air conditioning manage. Sometimes they don't, mortality rates rise during heatwaves.

I write this at 7:30 am.  Fans are whirring, the breadmaker has been transferred to a shelf outside as it generates so much heat and I sit reading that insects are disappearing and wondering at the foolishness of the human race.
Breadmaker on a shelf outside

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Blueberries taste so sweet when they are from your own garden
My blueberry bush is still tiny, but over the past two weeks whenever I've walked by I have eaten a few blueberries. Today there was a whole handful ready for picking.

Small bushes planted on poor sandy soil can be  surprisingly productive. I planted a loganberry vine 18 months ago. Last summer it bore about 20 fruit but this year it was covered with fruit. I had so many loganberries I made a kilo of them into jam.
Loganberry jam

Monday, January 07, 2019

The lady with the brolly

The heatwave has passed thankfully and today is cool and wet. The lady with the brolly came for an early morning walk with me today.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Heat wave

It is 35.3C at 10:30am. What is this heat good for? Painting and varnishing picture frames, that's what. My frame dried so quickly I could rehang the painting within the hour.
Painted and varnished ...

... and hung.