Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Erudite women in music and science

Elisabeth Leonskaja (photo by Julia Wesely)
I saw Elisabeth Leonskaja play Mozart with the ACO last week and have been searching for words to describe the experience. Now I discover Murray Black has found the perfect words.  Black wrote in The Australian that although Leonskaja's reputation as a doyenne of the Russian old school makes her sound quite intimidating her 'playing ­actually radiated appealing ­geniality in equal measure with formidable dignity and gravitas.' I couldn't agree more. One felt taken by the hand, wrapped in a warm blanket while at the same time being aware that a metronome couldn't have kept better time than her remarkable hands.

Leonskaja is softly spoken but very musically erudite. Listen to her radio interview  (until 25 Sept) to hear her speak.

Alison Mercer
She reminds me of another very erudite but softly spoken person who was interviewed on Southern TV in NZ. My sister Alison Mercer works with bees and here she explains about the Verroa mite that is plaguing the bee populations of the world.

In a so-called post-fact world it is refreshing to hear from people who really know what they are talking about without being immersed in the showy blather of the PR industry.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wet rose

It's a wet wet day on the NSW Central Coast and 15C. Fifteen degrees Celsius feels quite mild after being in chilly NZ. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Wellington cats

I am back in the hills of Wellington.  Wellington is such a beautiful place, but cold ...and feels colder than the 13C high that was forecast for today. There is a chill wind, not strong but enough to lower the temperature a couple of degrees. Taihape and Turangi felt much warmer than Wellington and the difference is probably the wind factor.

Once the sun disappears behind the hill it is time to light the fire and brew a hot ginger tea. 


Cats sitting watching the fire

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Taranaki: visual joy

On a fine day Mount Egmont dominates Taranaki roads. Today was a beautiful day so as I drove south from New Plymouth I had the constant company of Mt Egmont.  What surprised me was seeing snow covered Mount Ruapehu to the east.
Mount Egmont and Taranaki cows

Near Stratford: Mt Ruapehu in the distance
Taranaki is also known for its gardens and my trip took me past hegdes of flowering camelias and huge flowering magnolias, one of which was in a schoolyard. It was so lovely I stopped to take a photo.
Schoolyard Magnolia with Mt Egmont
In every town there seems to be an art gallery or museum and one that is really worth a visit is the gallery in Stratford. They currently have an exhibition of works from the bnz collection which is exceptional. So many inspiring works of art, including works by Dick Frizzel ( pictured in a previous post), Colin McCahon, Toss Woolaston and Ralph Hotere among others. Finding works such as these in a small gallery where one can view them close up and undisturbed is a real treat. Apparently they normally hang in the staff canteen and staff rooms, at the bnz headquarters.

New Zealand treats art as something to appreciate and look at, not to store in a vault as an investment Sydney style and as a result there is  a vibrant visual arts scene here. Just visit the little gallery in Turangi to be convinced - the work by local artists there is equal to anywhere.
Glenda of Tahakopa by Robin White

New Plymouth

New Plymouth is an interesting place. It has a wonderful coastline, perched at the eastern tip of New Zealand's North Island but the town seems to thumb it's nose at the sea, with light industry assigned coastal real estate. New Plymouth Burnings must have the most stunning view in New Zealand.

The information service is on the busy coastal road in the city, across from the seashore, but I couldn't find any parking there. After a long and windy (though beautiful) trip from Turangi I was tired and an inaccessible information center was an inauspicious start to my New Plymouth visit.

Crossing the coastal rail line
If you cross the busy main road from the city and then the railway line which is still in use, though only local, you finally find yourself on the seashore.

It is a majestic vista, crashing waves on big black rocks.

Shoreline at New Plymouth
This morning I gave up the idea of finding a cafe with a sea view but instead I found a very good alternative, a cafe/coffee roaster called Ozone. The coffee was excellent, the atmosphere quirky and the staff friendly. If I was a New Plymouth resident I think I would become a permanent fixture there.

Coffee being roasted at Ozone
Then I discovered the retro yellow roof.

I don't know if it has a name, but in the middle of the city stands a large yellow structure with no apparent use. A passing resident told me that there had been a building there which was demolished and that the council asked the residents what they wanted in its place. This yellow roof was what had been chosen. My informant said with some embarrassment that it had been 'very expensive'.

Retro yellow lid


I'm not sure of the artistic or other value of the yellow structure but I think a population that chooses such a thing surely deserves the famous Len Lye museum as a reward.

The Len Lye Museum of Contemporary Art is as stunning as the photos that had made me want to visit New Plymouth in the first place. Even seeing the exterior was worth the trip. My photos speak for themselves (yes, this is really how it looks!)

Len Lye: Four Fountains

Turangi to New Plymouth

The tourist information service in Turangi told me not to travel too early when I took the route from Turangi to Tauramanui as the road had tall trees on both sides and was often icy.
Turangi to Taumeranui: national park
I waited until 10am before setting off, imagining a route through forestry plantations of tall pines. Instead of plantations, the route is through national parks and the trees so much more interesting than pines.

The advice about ice was good advice. Right along the route bright red signs warned against slippery conditions in cold weather.

Further along the route passes through country that looks like a sea of camels ... lots of humpy hills. I couldn't help but think how wonderful it would be if some of the more marginal farm land was allowed to revert to bush. It seemed so forlorn. Later I saw a painting by Dick Frizzel that illustrated my thoughts as I drove to New Plymouth.

On the forest road to the headwaters of the Tarawera River by Dick Frizzel 1987.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Lake Taupo

Lake Taupo is where I spent my childhood holidays so Io can never drive past without remembering the swimming, fishing, cousins (we shared a house), film nights on the common and growing into a teenager. The water was often cold in January and now, in August, it is snow fed and very fresh.

Lake Taupo on Saturday
The same spot on Sunday

This area could easily have become New Zealand's Gold Coast but happily, because of ownership structures, that has not happened. The more of these treasures we loose to developers, the more important it becomes to protect the remainder.

Turangi - fishing capital of the world

View over the southern Lake Taupo, Turangi just to the right
Fishing the Tongariro River at Turangi
Turangi is much warmer than further south but  standing in the middle of a river for hours on end as fisher folk do here must make you yearn for a cup of warm soup.

There must be plenty of fish though. Two Hawkes Bay residents at the Tongariro River told me they had caught twenty trout between them over the weekend.

The Turangi Art Gallery in the small outdoor mall is definitely worth a visit, so if you are reading this and on your way to Turangi, make sure to call in. It is a real pleasure to discover so much local artistic talent.

Mt Ruapehu

The snow over the past week has closed a lot of roads including the desert roasd, but by Friday it was open. I had a last coffee at Soul Cafe in Taihape to give the ice time to melt then set off north.
Mt Ruapehu from the desert road.
 Ruapehu was a picture, all decked out in her winter white.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Soul in Taihape

Tea at Soul
It is hard to choose a favourite cafe in Taihape because there are three excellent cafes in town but the cafe I particularly like is the Soul Cafe on the main street. They serve the best coffee between Auckland and Wellington and excellent food to boot.

The cafe has that je ne sais quoi ...that certain something that makes cafes work. There is an eclectic mix of chairs and tables, including old treddle sewing machine bases, and a wood burning stove, very popular at this time of year.

The guests are a mix of locals and travellers but the cafe itself feels very Taihape to me. I've been spending a lot of time there for coffee, for lunch.

I will miss their excellent coffee when I leave.

Oven with warming fire
Gumbooted guest with back to the fire

Mt Stewart reserve

Giant gumboot in Taihape
Taihape has made it's name as gumboot capital of the world with a giant corrugated iron gumboot sculpture and annual gumboot throwing competitions.

I took the competition with me when I left and we held gumboot throwing competitions at our street parties in Hamburg amid much mirth. If you have ever tried throwing a gumboot you'll understand about the mirth.
Path up through My Stewart reserve

Today I climbed the path up Mt Stewart which starts just behind the giant gumboot. It is a climb worth the effort because the path through the bush is lovely, though muddy and slippery at the moment.

The view from the top is stunning. You look out over the valley all the way to Mt Ruapehu is covered in snow today.
Mt Ruapehu with Mt Stewart
in the foreground.

Thursday, August 11, 2016


Sign on a shop door in Taihape
' I must have been mad to come at the coldest time of the year', I thought to myself as I drove north to Taihape but now I am glad I did.

It is true, it is freezing here, as the sign on the shop door says, but there is no wind (a welcome relief after Wellington gales) and the sun is shining.

The first thing I did on reaching Taihape was to drive up Dixon Way to the cemetery which is perched on the top of a hill overlooking the Ruahine Ranges. This after all was the reason for my trip, a visit to my parents grave.

It was glorious on the hilltop, as it usually is.  Looking out over the snow covered Ruahine Ranges under a bright blue sky I understood my parents never wanting to leave, even when so many friends moved to warmer places to retire. We children fretted for them but they were adamant.
The view to the Ruahine Ranges
As I looked around  the cemetery I couldn't help but think they'd be happy now with this glorious view.
Grave: View from above
My mother was an avid gardener and a practical woman and had put some potted succulents, grown for years in her garden until they overflowed the pot, on the tomb of my Dad. We added another for her and there they are, still growing as she knew they would.

All the names on the tombstones were familiar, a reminder of the community that surrounded my parents which they didn't want to leave.  I have the same feeling visiting my grandmother's grave in the hills near Hunterville. The names on the tombstones there are names familiar from my mother's stories, although I never knew the people personally.

Nowadays people have their ashes scattered or their remains are buried in places with time limits on the tombs. How transitory we have become.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Snow but no ice cream

Converging highways in Bulls
Travelling north from Wellington you drive past the several coastal towns of the Kapiti Coast, then along flat (or comparatively flat) ultra-green pastures until you reach Sanson and Bulls. By then it is time for lunch and the Mother Goose cafe on the corner of converging highways in Bulls does a good lunch in pleasant surroundings.

Then on through Hunterville where I thought I would have an ice cream for old times sake (the ice cream in the photo on my profile was from Hunterville) but time thwarted my desire as the ice cream shop has closed. Closed, shut, gone. (Insert sad face here).

Front page, Dominion Post
I drove on to Taihape wondering how low the recent snow might be. Newspapers and TV are full of reports of the weekend snow storms which caused hundreds of power poles to collapse.

Luckily for me the storm was a little north of Taihape which has no lying snow, though it covers neighbouring hills, and still has power.

It would be very cold without heating in this weather and I feel very sorry for the folks affected.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Wellington, then north

Wellington, NZ
Wellington was cold this morning as I drove through the city glass and concrete. It was both cold and windy, though not as bad as Saturday's squally weather, but despite the weather the city was as pretty as it always is.

Pale green water, blue hills, dark olive foliage.
Wellington Harbour
New Zealand has such stunning scenery and I love being back. The trip north from Wellington is a trip down memory lane for me because I studied in Wellington when I was a late teenager and took the trip home by bus several times a year. My parents must have driven down with me sometimes because I remember having picnics at Plimmerton  overlooking the inlet there before the last leg on to Wellington.
The seashore at Paekakariki

By the time I got over the hill to Paekakariki on the west coast the clouds were receding. The sun shone on the water and my feet started to unfreeze.

Monday, August 08, 2016

Christiana Libor/NZSO in Wellington, NZ

Christiana Libor
Christiana Libor has a voice like honey and listening to her sing soothed Wellington concertgoers on Saturday evening. They needed soothing as the weather was appalling, even by Wellington standards (sleety rain blown horizontal by the wind).
'Brrrr', they said as they dove through the doors of the Michael Fowler Center.

Strauss's Four Last Songs and Mahler's Symphony No. 4 were on the program and a successful combination. The NZSO under the baton of Edo de Waart played with verve and Libor sung like a goddess.

Well worth a visit to Wellington!