I’m marrying (hopefully)

my best friend’s son to his fiancee as I have applied to be a marriage celebrant.  ( I hope I gave you a scare after that title :)).  It is quite a long process and there are no guarantees and an interview hurdle as well, but it has got me thinking about poems and readings that are suitable for weddings.

I had two readings at mine as follows, firstly,

I am yours
You are mine,
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart,
The small key is lost.
You must stay there forever.

It was reportedly an anonymous poem and Polish but I have since found a longer version on line 

In your eyes,
I have found my home.
In your heart,
I have found my love.
In your soul,
I have found my mate.
With you,
I am whole. Full. Alive.
You make me laugh, You let me cry.
You are my breath,
My every heartbeat.
I am yours
You are mine,
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart,
The small key is lost.
You must stay forever.

You are my inspiration,
And my soul’s fire.
You are the magic of my days,
You help me laugh, you teach me love.
Each day I rediscover you,
You are my greatest gift.
I am yours
You are mine,
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart,
The small key is lost.
You must stay with me forever.

Secondly a Margaret Atwood poem,

Habitation

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

My favourite poem for myself these days is by Marge Piercey

Why Marry at all? A poem by Marge Piercy

Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?

Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?

Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.

Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.

But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.

Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.

This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

This seems like a lovely commitment poem to me.

As a strange aside, I enjoyed  reading Deborah Hill Cone’s article in the Canvas this weekend about how enjoyable sex is for her in her fifties.  What it is really about though, is love.  She says,

You can read the whole article here.

I like to think I was among the first to recognise that  Captain Correlli’s Mandolin had the meaning of love pretty right. It has become a favourite at many weddings these days and rightfully so.

Image result for captain corelli's mandolin book

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
― Louis de BernièresCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin

I also like this one from my favourite chap, Leunig from his book, When I Talk To you 

Image result for leunig when i talk to you

 

Dear God, 

We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace. Let us find a place within ourselves. We give thanks for the places of refuge and beauty. Let us find such a place within ourselves. We give thanks for places of nature’s truth and freedom, of joy, inspiration and renewal, places where all creatures may find acceptance and belonging. Let us search for these places in the world, in ourselves and in others. Let us restore them. Let us strengthen and protect them and let us create them. 

May we mend this outer world according to the truth of our inner life and may our souls be shaped and nourished by nature’s eternal wisdom. 

I am not a religious person but I can imagine that if I do get to be a celebrant then some readings may well be religious and they are a rich source of literature.

I am a believer in ceremony though, that such a commitment as marriage needs to have some mystery and formality. It is possible to literally get married in under five minutes.  I like to think that for the couple and their family and friends, this ceremony should be a still moment in time, declaring their love for one another and that everyone feels a part of supporting that relationship.  I would relish the opportunity to help couples say what their hearts tell them even if they find it hard to articulate.

I hope I get accepted but it is not a done deal at all, I think they look at numbers and types of people as well as just the person’s application and there are probably loads of grey haired older women like me out there already playing a part.  But fingers crossed as then I’d  get a chance to reread loads of love poems in preparation!  I am going to do the ceremony part anyway for my friend’s son, with a celebrant present to sign the documents. My main worry is that I might want to cry and I just can’t do that and spoil the ceremony.

Please send me your wedding vows and poems you love , or ceremonies you really enjoyed to help me get started. FG

Seven Wishes by Fiona Farrell

A straight account is difficult

so let me define seven wishes:

that you should fit inside me neat as the stuffing in an

olive

that you should stand inside the safe circle of my eye

that you should sing, clear, on the high rock of my

skull

that you should swing wide on the rope of my hair

that you should cross rivers of blood, mountains of

bone

that I should touch your skin through the hole in your

tee shirt

that we should exchange ordinary tales.

Happy Tuesday, FG

 

Cleaning frenzy, a cute trick I discovered and Loving Vincent

Let me start with the trick, although you may all already know about it. I foolishly didn’t turn my car off properly recently and ran the battery down. When I recharged it, all the radio settings had disappeared and the backing camera wasn’t working. That would be okay if the instructions were in English but as they are in Japanese I really struggled to fix it.

Google came to the rescue of course. One person mentioned Google Translate 

It’s a magical free app that has a camera setting where you can simply hold the camera up to the text and it will translate into any language you want. So I sat in the car with my phone and held it up to the Japanese text and managed to find camera on off/on toggle and hey presto, backing camera working again. I didn’t have quite so much success with turning the GPS off though so my car is constantly giving me instructions for driving in Osaka. I am going to need more help with this from my neighbour.

Apparently in a lot of cars there is a setting where you can change the whole caboodle to English but unfortunately I couldn’t find that. I do think there are lots of uses for the app though. A friend of mine recently visited Japan and had a doozy of a toilet with a complicated set of instructions on the wall. Sadly, they couldn’t read it so the bum flushing, warming or whatever options were not accessible. But with Google Translate,  their next trip could be very different.

I couldn’t capture the camera text but you can also save the instructions and the translations as a photo so I just used it on a French poster of mine to show you.

The translations are not always perfect but it helps.

I guess this may sound like my life is a little sad… but I love decluttering videos and have now got on to cleaning videos. I blame my friend Deirdre and her zone cleaning series. I basically enjoying watching a cleaning pro at work. Now I know I will never, ever have a system. Firstly I am too lazy and secondly I’m just not that great at it. (Mainly I’m just lazy). Also I just like watching the videos in admiration, not the actual cleaning itself.

However, I am definitely shallow and easily inspired so each time I watch Deirdre’s Vlog, I ended up doing some little thing- the cutlery drawer, the wardrobe chuck out and so on. The really scary thing is last night via Deirdre’s link, she mentioned this other vlogger’s 30 day challenge. I ended up watching a 20 minute vlog on cleaning the sink! Sophia is this slightly manic cleaner of all things domestic. I’m not sure I’ll ever watch another one but as she has 306,000 views it can’t just be me… I couldn’t find the 30 minute cleaning one but there are plenty more as an example. I prefer Deirdre’s more low key approach.

The upshot of this viewing pleasure was that at around 9:30 last night I cleaned the kitchen. ( I know I know, I can hear the sighs of admiration at this riveting piece of news).

Preparing to clean the benches.
I even figured out how to remove the oven door and remove the glass. I was only brave enough to take out one sheet of glass as I have had a previous experience of removing the glass and the entire thing exploding on me.
Ta dah! clean kitchen. 10:30 at night…

Moving on, I also went to Phantom Thread and as The Listener gave it a rare 5 stars, I had high expectations. I did really enjoy the movie but would maybe have only given it 4 stars.  “Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.” I found Alma quite disturbing as she leafed through the poisonous mushrooms reference book in the kitchen.  Daniel Day Lewis made an interesting but entirely unsexy, in my opinion, Reynolds. I get a bit tired of the older man/younger woman thing and secretly hoped she would run off with the young doctor.  Not to mention the hoards of women slaving in the sewing room using their well-honed skills to create the garments. No recognition there and I bet the pay rate was crappy too.

I wasn’t that fussed on the Elizabethan themed clothes as a rule either. although this wedding dress was quite divine if you are into that kind of thing.

I’m going to see Loving Vincent this Friday but am hoping the animation and all the swirling doesn’t give me motion sickness (no really, it’s quite hard to watch). This is how they made it, so it will be fascinating just seeing that alone.

ON LOVING VINCENT WE PAINTED 65,000 FRAMES IN OIL PAINTS.

We painted the first frame as a full painting on canvas board, and then painted over that painting for each frame until the last frame of the shot. We are then left with an oil-painting on canvas board of the last frame.

Only two artists’ works have literally stopped me in my tracks and one of them is V VG. I saw his almond blossom painting in Amsterdam, many years ago  and it literally took my breath away. When you see paintings in books, it is hard to imagine the size and this was a very large painting. More recently I saw his The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890  in the Musee D’Orsay  and I  was mesmerised by it. 

Related image
There is no way a photographic image can do this painting justice.

 

Incidentally, the other artist is John Pule. Quite a few years ago, I was wandering the streets of Wellington and stumbled across a gallery and went in. It was glorious and there were several John Pule giant canvases covering the walls. Wow it was gorgeous. There is a big one in the Auckland Art Gallery if you are interested. I found them very moving, not sure why.

Image result for john pule

I’ve since continued to admire his work and really like his tapa cloth inspired colours too. Once again you need to see them and not just a photo.

Have a good weekend, FG

 

Two fact, one fiction

I learn so much from true stories and I’ve been to two such movies this week.

Firstly, Darkest Hour – a with a great cast and about a crucial moment in British history.

My knowledge of most things is dim at the best of times but I had no idea that they rescued over 300,000 troops from the battle of Dunkirk. I knew it was successful because of the flotilla of civilians who went to help but hadn’t realised the scale of the operation. My mind doesn’t deal well with figures but that is basically the population of Christchurch being lifted off the beaches by 879 private vessels. Hard to believe or imagine as it is a long round trip and most could only do it once according to a learned friend. I guess in my mind it was a few thousand and certainly not a massive chunk of the British army. (Call me stupid). I can’t bring myself to see the movie Dunkirk, with Sam at aged 25 and all those poor young men like him it is just too awful to contemplate.

My everlasting , hazy knowledge of Dunkirk is of course, from The Snowgoose by Paul Gallico. I’ve spent many an hour listening to  or reading, and ultimately sobbing over that story. I loved Fritha and always imagined I might name my girl child after her! Everyone else commented that it would sound like I was lisping. Oh so cruel. I didn’t realise it was subtitled, “A story of Dunkirk” as a child as I was utterly focused on their relationship and the snow goose.

The Snow Goose book cover

But I do remember Philip Rhayader going off to rescue the soldiers in his little boat.

Image result for Philip Rhayader in boat the snowgoose illustration

Churchill is an unattractive character but I am utterly admiring of his refusal to surrender and I like the notion that it was the civilians who saved the day. I loathe the scenes where men in suits are standing around a  map with pins on it playing with young men’s lives, the way 4000 men were sacrificed to “distract” from Dunkirk beach debacle. And of course, the reminder of a woman’s place in theses things- at home or in the typing pool or invisible. Having said that, both my mother and my father were in the airforce during the war and for my mother it was liberation from drudgery in a small town in the Lake District. It change the entire direction of her life when after the war she joined my father in Roxburgh. Worth seeing. By the way, apparently they made up the whole scene in the subway.

The second “true story” I watched this week was The Washington Post. Meryl Streep has long been a hero of mine both on and off screen and I was very impressed with Tom Hanks too. Once again, I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t have told you very much at all about the Pentagon Papers as I not only have problems with numbers and geography, I also have problems with dates. I do know though, that one of my brothers was conscripted and had to go to Burnham to train for the Vietnam war. Thank goodness he didn’t have to go but I do recall him telling me that he had to run a mile with a gun above his head because they found a stamp in what was supposed to be an empty pocket of his uniform.

Image result for the washington post movie

This was a surprisingly gripping movie and when Katherine Graham (Streep) finally tells one of her board to fuck off, politely, when he is trying to shut down the printing of the papers I wanted to leap up and cheer. There are so few good roles for women, particularly older women and there weren’t back then in real life either. I also found the actual printing of the newspaper fascinating. So strange to see thousands of pages all being photocopied too. These days, a discreet USB and you’d have the lot- although I guess you would need the passwords so it could be a whole lot harder. Definitely worth seeing.

And while this is a  factual film comment page I also saw Call Me By Your Name after seeing the headline below.

Sensual in all ways, food, wine, sex, flowers, scenery, houses-languid, summer in Italy, slow and beautiful to watch. A kind of sexy Year in Provence, all the stuff to convince one to up sticks and live in Europe! It did rain but that just made the place look even more romantic. I’m pretty sure fiction can tell us as much about the world as fact too. Relationships require as much strategy and planning as war and the armoury and skirmishes are much the same.
In a very un pc way I’d enjoy having a gardener and a cook and housekeeper doing all my stuff. I thought the characters were rather rude and ungrateful. I found myself thinking and “what’s the magic word?”

 

Image result for Call me by your name film review
Good looking…especially the older ones…

Image result for Call me by your name film review

Image result for Call me by your name film review
Nice place for a summer wine.

 

I’m not sure I would call it the best movie of the year but certainly a lovely way to escape the NZ heatwave one afternoon.There are some really good movies coming up too so looking forward to them. FG

 

 

Conservation and Compassion and Cooperative Living

It’s a deliciously warm Auckland Friday and I am thinking about Womankind. A friend of mine mentioned that there was a magazine available that had no advertisements and this appealed to me. Without having read any of the magazines I asked a friend to swap my Listener sub to Womankind for Christmas. It seemed to take ages to arrive but happily it was in my post yesterday. This month’s issue concentrates on Tibet including essays, stories, the environment, some history, treading the spiritual path, and most interestingly a story called The battle for the boy Lama which is about the Dalai and his choice of successor and the Chinese intervention in this. I hadn’t realised that the boy he chose and his parents have all disappeared. Presumably either jailed or murdered by the Chinese authorities.

The paper feels nice and the illustrations and photos are rather lovely. I usually just flick through a magazine in an hour or so but this has a great deal of compelling material and it is one I would like to keep rather than pass on.

There’s lots of emphasis on quietness and how important time in peace and solitude is. Something I am possibly not great at. As Sara Maitland in her essay, What it means to lose silence, relates, her trip to London to indulge in very agreeable things became a cacophony of sound 24 hours a day, and for her it became “hellish”. She goes on to say that many people believe that the core of creativity is expressing your true innermost self, something I agree with. She also thinks it makes you happy, so I must try some more silence.

I know that I could definitely stop work and not miss it even though it is an interesting and rewarding job most of the time.

They have a compassion challenge this month – can you refrain from making negative comments about yourself and others for five days? This was  followed up in the magazine with 12 women’s diaries of their five days.

I thought I might give it a go. Haven’t done very well so far after a reasonably distressing email but I’m trying. Let me know if you do too and if you keep a diary please share it.

There is also an article on Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo who is the most senior Western Tibetan Buddhist nun alive today, famous world-wide for spending 12 years in retreat in a Himalayan cave, surviving temperatures of below -34 degrees Celsius. (If she can do that I guess I could probably cope in Dunedin…see below).

She has written several books that look interesting and there is also a documentary about her life if you are interested. It is called Cave in the Snow.

 

My son is an ecologist and I find it quite comforting to know that he and many others of his ilk are beavering away protecting our our flora and fauna and I am always delighted to receive pictures from Sam  as he goes about his work. At the moment he s going out in the evenings to retrieve our native gecko so that they can be safely looked after while roading goes through. Their markings are quite subtly different from the non-native ones so I’m guessing it isn’t easy.

Have a look at this little cutie.

I also visited the Banksy exhibition on in Auckland with Sam and while it was interesting, it was very crowded and far removed form the kinds of places Banksy worked on his art.  I strongly suspect he wouldn’t have liked the merchandise either, not really his style.

“…street artist curator George Shaw says making people pay for the show takes away from what Banksy is about.

“You’re precluding the people who would potentially benefit most from it, younger people, from going to see it because they can’t afford to get in.

“What would Banksy want us to do? Are we doing stuff that actually fits in with his ethos and his belief systems?”

Read more here about Banksy

This is probably my favourite and is in some ways, a little like my favourite cartoonist, Leunig.

Image result for leunig anti war

 

The Art of Banksy

Eco villages:  I’ve long thought about an eco village with friends. I’m not talking sharing (I hate sharing..) but eco houses on separate titles around a village green with maybe a shared swimming pool. I came across this concept in Dunedin today. It’s called the High Street Co housing Project 

It is run along similar lines to Earth Song here in Auckland. However, this is brand new, hoping to start this year and super starred for warmth and insulation.

Maybe one day. I would need to get out of Dunedin in the the winter but with the prices down there I could afford it. I am a Dunedinite born and bred so I know what I would be letting myself in for. France every winter mmmm sounds lovely.

Dunedin railway station in winter
April at 'Le Ruisseau Perdu'
But I would be in France 🙂

 

Happy weekend everyone. FG

Still clinging on to holiday mode.

Despite the moon boot I’m wearing because of a small fracture in my ankle, I am still managing to get away on holiday. I have recently been down to the Wairarapa and stayed in the lovely little town of Greytown. not true to its name, it is far from grey and has been voted prettiest town in New Zealand and I’m inclined to agree with that. The main streets are lined with lovely villas and the historic buildings house some stylish wee shops. I was on a non-buying effort but I couldn’t resist the art shops and paper shops.

I spent far too long in the Kotare Art Gallery.  I loved the cards done by local artist, Janet Atkinson.

KOTARE ART STUDIO & GALLERY GREYTOWN

Kotare Art is the working studio of Greytown artist Sandy Wong; best known for her New Zealand bird and tree paintings, owls, anthropomorphic steam punk characters and the occasional abstract.Sandy was absolutely lovely and I bought (sigh, as usual), a bird for Sam and a butterfly sculpture for my sister’s birthday.

Sandra Wong, butterflies. You can buy any number you like.

The other shop I returned to is a small art shop called The Village Art Shop. Janie Nott is a quirky artist whose husband runs the shop and I have bought her cards before as they really appeal to me. They are full of whimsy and humour.

To “shop” the main street, allow yourself a few hours as there are plenty of good cafes along the way. As always I like to look at the real estate and dream of the country idyll. The good thing about the Wairarapa is that there is a train to Wellington.

Of course it is also wine country and we had fun tasting and eating at local vineyards. Here I am enjoying a platter at Loopline Vineyard.

We also enjoyed an informative chat at Olivio Olive Grove, tasting not only the pure olive oil but also the cumin, chilli, vanilla, lemon etc, infused olive oils. The owner recommended some of them with icecream desserts.

If you haven’t had the Mount Bruce Pukaka experience I can highly recommend it.  At the risk of sounding daft, seeing the white kiwi really was a magical experience.

She is really quite a large bird.
Here she is in the dark. We had a front seat view as she pottered about right at the front of the enclosure.

From the website:

On 1 May 2011 Manukura, little white kiwi, hatched. This was a delightful surprise to the rangers and team at Pukaha as she is the first white kiwi to hatch here and, as far as we know, the first white kiwi to hatch in captivity.  

You can see Manukura every day in our nocturnal kiwi house. She shares this with another North Island Brown Kiwi called Turua. We are hoping that in the future they will be more than ‘just friends’ and will mate.  She has quite a cheeky personality and at times is a little mean to Turua and chases him around. It does make for great kiwi viewing though!

Manukura is not albino (where there is a lack of melanin that makes pigmentation white and features pink eyes) she is pure white which means she is the rare progeny of two parents who carry the recessive white feather gene.

Totally cute overload.

There were lots of other interesting things to see too and you can incorporate a bush walk as well, if you aren’t wearing a moon boot.

   

We managed to include a small detour to Napier on the way home especially to visit Pasifica restaurant, As their website says, “You will not find white table clothes or snooty waiters. instead, you will enjoy true kiwi hospitality and generosity. Pacifica offers world-class food, an outstanding concise wine list, front of house staff that are knowledgeable, friendly, and professional in a relaxed quaint setting in the heart of Napier.

The above is is all very true and the wait staff are the same people who have been there each time we have visited. And it is very reasonably priced too with their degustation menu of five courses at a modest $65.00. We chose the seafood version and I was lucky enough to be the non-driver so I also did the wine match. The chef is Jeremy Rameka and the maitre’d is his wife Natalie who is absolutely wonderful.

This was the menu on the night we went but it changes every day.

I began with a bubbly called Squawking Magpie. Their website says, “Squawking Magpie, Gimblett Gravels is the flagship label, presenting wines of richness, strength and complexity, from a refined, elegant Chardonnay to a deep, concentrated Cabernet Merlot.” I don’t know about any of that but I bought two bottles of the bubbles on the strength of my one glass.

Image result for squawking magpie bubbles

The other memorable drink for me was the dessert match, a very sweet syrupy sherry (?) perfect for rich desserts. I am no wine connoisseur so take my recommendations with a grain of salt but I do trust Pacifica.

I was lucky enough to be given this bottle the next day by my dinner companion so I now need to replicate the divine chocolate bread pudding.

On the way down I realised I didn’t have much reading material and the forecast was rubbish as well as the restrictions of my moon boot so we stopped when I spotted a book sale in Tirau. For the princely sum of five dollars I found in very quick time, some books to read.

in summary:

My favorite TV series of all time was One Summer by Willie Russell. It must be close to 35 years old now but fantastic as long as you can translate the strong northern England accents.  He also did Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. This book was a great holiday read.

The next book I read was Cleaning Nabokov’s House. I knew nothing about the author but again, it was a fun holiday read and I finished it in a day or so, so was engaged enough to read it at two sittings.

Three others to go but as it’s book club tomorrow night again I will have another book to read too.

Finally, don’t miss Three Billboards Outside Ebbing

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

 

Frances McDormand 
as Mildred Hayes was superb. 
Happy January and if you are back at work I hope it is all bearable. FG

New Year Resolutions

#1 Cut out sugar.

That one lasted until 2 pm whereupon I decided it would be good to get rid of the sugary things in the house so I wouldn’t be tempted. Consumed two chocolates, one milk choc bar mini, large slice of butter-iced Christmas cake.

#2 Read more, binge-watch Netflix less 

Finished The Music Shop today by Rachel Joyce. 1 point to me. It was a nice Christmas read. She’s The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry writer. It has a similar flavour and style but a bit more charm.

Points off to me as spent afternoon binge-watching Sensitive Skin, Canadian version. Now tempted to find UK version as Joanna Lumley stars in it, although Kim Cantrell was pretty good.

#3 Get outside every day. Nope, blew that one as well. Still got moonboot on.

# 4 Reduce amount of time spent on Facebook watching cat videos, surgeries gone wrong and other weird shit. 

So don’t watch these. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/7625230/The-10-best-cat-videos-on-YouTube.html

Have been marginally better but it is only day one.

#5 Write a blog a week if for no other reason that just writing. Tick day one, week one.

# 6 Go to more plays and art exhibitions. Technically not new year but last week I went to the Corsini exhibition for the third time. Enjoyed this visit the most for some reason. Maybe more selective. Always a soft touch for cherubs.Such a good feeling going with my AG membership card. I can take a visitor too so if you want to go let me know. This is a good gift I think.

After the Corsini we went to

Yayoi Kusama: The obliteration room

 — 

Also spent a lot of time across the road at the Fingers Gallery trying on the Karl Fritsch rings as though I could afford them.

Developed a minor passion for Warwick Freeman’s white butterfly brooch. (Hint, Sam if you are reading this, my birthday is in April and they are $150, much cheaper than Karl…Mum.)

Image result for white butterfly brooch NZ designer

Enough resolutions. At least I have taken down the angels already. I hate looking at old stuff, including plates on the table after eating at a restaurant and old Christmas stuff after Dec 27. However, apparently in the UK Easter buns are for sale and that’s just silly.

I

Handy tip: if those Commando hook tabs break and you are left with a well-stuck hook, do the following, heat with a hair dryer and then use cat gut or dental floss and gently ease down the back of the hook and voila! it comes off without leaving a mark.

Heading off to the Wairarapa for a few days tomorrow, so happy new year people. Let’s hope we see a lot less of the orange blob and N Korean nutter this year. FG

Fast Speaking Women

That’s me, and not always thinking about it first either…

I have just been enjoying the interview with Selina Tusitala-Marsh on National Radio today. I first came across Tusitala-Marsh when she performed Fast Talking PI at Auckland Uni. She is now NZ’s poet laureate and first Pacific Islander to receive the award.

During the interview she mentioned that she got her inspiration for her poem from a poem by Anne Waldman and I have just enjoyed listening to it. Tonight we have our book club Christmas dinner and i just love getting together with those women. We are all a lot of the women described in Waldman’s poem and it made me think about my book club, my walking group, my women friends.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Warren Adler says on his blog called Why Do Women Read more Novels? , “There is ample statistical evidence showing that adult women read more novels than men, attend more book clubs than men, use libraries more than men, buy more books than men, take more creative writing courses than men, and probably write more works of fiction than men. If, as a demographic, they suddenly stopped reading, the novel would nearly disappear.”

Any ideas why? I know I would much rather read a novel or a biography about the Holocaust than a history book as it answers to my emotional core, my intuition and my heart in a much more direct way.

Any way back to Selina Tusitala-Marsh. I find it unbelievable that she is the first PI woman to graduate with a PHD in English from the University of Auckland.  She is a wonderful poet who also does so much encouraging young people into poetry. Influences are so critical I think, when it comes to poetry. I had a poem by Vincent O’Sullivan on my wall at university and The Merseysiders opened up a whole world of poetry that was presented in such a palatable way for a teenager.

I read and reread this book until it was in tatters. Eventually one of my students in my English class “borrowed” it so I’m hoping they reread it a lot too.

English teachers who valued our own writing at school and published them will always be influencers. I remember a colleague published a little book at school by Bec Runga and I still have it today. The poems remain powerful.

I went on to love Marge Piercy, Adrienne Rich, Carol Ann Duffy (my current bedside book again), the NZ poets of all dimensions, and now some newer poets like Hera Lindsey Bird. A while ago I decided to ditch all the books I knew I would never read again and I got down to one book case full. Mostly they are poetry books. What are two books you would keep if you were only allowed two?

Selina talks of the influence of her university colleagues who told her she simply had to do a doctorate, she was given no choice.

 

Pacific poet: Waiheke resident Selina Tusitala Marsh performing her poetry.

Here Selina is performing this great poem.

I had a Christmas card once of a woman with her hands tied in the kitchen sink and it read, “Merry Bloody Christmas”. It’s cool if you like cooking and doing the Christmas thing but its also cool if you say, nah, not my thing. Think I’ll read a book. What pleasure is there in rushing around trying to please everyone? I have got my present buying down to a few magazine subs and some presents for my son. My special friends and I will get together over a wine or a meal some time over the break and that is perfect for me and them.

It’s the book club bash tonight though and I am looking forward to the book swap, the bought pizzas and the homemade pav! Annabel Langbein’s recipe.

Yes, I like cooking but on my own terms. Happy Holidays, FG

I just know I wouldn’t be that brave

For book club this month we are all choosing a book to read and then swap with someone else. I’ve chosen two, and the first one is the sequel to Jo Jo Moyes’ Me Before You”. Now I could get all literary snobby about this and call it a guilty pleasure or something but I’m not. I read it in one day and thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t love it and it won’t last long in the memory but it was a fun read. I could criticise a lot about it, for example she is given a lot of dosh by the previous chap and mooches about not doing anything much and only finds happiness via another bloke.  I like to think that if someone gave me a pile of money I would do something more interesting than buy a flat and waitress in a horrible bar. But I do like a happy ending.

I recently read an interesting article about the Jack Reacher series. I’ve read quite a few of the novels and always like to have one to read on a long haul flight. Again, I could pretend they are rubbish and badly written blah blah and I guess maybe they are but why are they so widely read?

The article above tells us, ” Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels are insanely popular. There are 21 in the series; he writes a new one every year, and in 21 years he’s sold an estimated 100 million books. Someone buys one every nine seconds. He has the highest return readership rate of any bestselling author: if you read one Reacher novel you’re likely to read more. This is my fourth, or fifth, or maybe sixth. They blur into each other.”

They sure do blur into each other, at quiz night recently The List was JR novels and I couldn’t remember a single title even though I’ve read half a dozen of them. But I don’t care, if I see one lying around I’ll be lost to it for quite a few hours.

Danyl McLauchlan, comments, It would be easy to say that Reacher is a male fantasy, but when Child is questioned about this he points out that two-thirds of his readers are women (you don’t sell 100 million books without a keen understanding of your product’s target market). 

However, I can’t quite accept that Child’s novels are “post feminist”!

I also love it that Lee Child was made redundant from the BBC and took up writing and made squillions.

Lee Child's Jack Reacher books have sold an estimated 100 million copies.

Anyway, back to today’s heading. The second book I chose for the book club is called The Alice Network by Kate Quinn. No particular reason for the choice except that I left the carefully circled 100 Best Reads from the Listener at home by accident and just ended up browsing in Whitcoulls.

It is an easy read and the thing I liked about it was that the some of the characters  were real women who spied for the British in World War 1. There they were wrapping code in their hat pins, crossing borders, helping British soldiers to safety, all under the nose of the Nazis in France. I just know I wouldn’t be brave enough. One look at a Nazi border crossing and a barking Alsatian and I would pee my pants. I feel guilty coming through customs in New Zealand even though I don’t have any contraband.

In the novel, “the queen of spies”,  Louise De Bettignies, plays a lead role and she is so brave!

Wikipedia tells me about her:

A citizen of Lille since 1903, she decided, from the German invasion of the city in October 1914, to engage in resistance and espionage. Multilingual (French – English – German – Italian), she ran from her home in a Lille vast intelligence network in the North of France on behalf of the British army and the MI6 intelligence service under the pseudonym Alice Dubois. This network provided important information to the British through occupied Belgium and the Netherlands.

The network is estimated to have saved the lives of more than a thousand British soldiers during the 9 months of full operation from January to September 1915.

The “Alice” network[12] of a hundred people, mostly in forty kilometers of the front to the west and east of Lille, was so effective that she was nicknamed by her English superiors “the queen of spies”. She smuggled men to England and provided valuable information to the Intelligence Service. Also, Louise prepared for her superiors in London a grid map of the region around Lille. Like the naval battle, lines were identified by numbers on one side and the letters of the alphabet on the other. When the German army installed a new battery of artillery, even camouflaged, this position was bombed by the Royal Flying Corps within eight days.

Another opportunity allowed her to report the date and time of passage of the imperial train carrying the Kaiser on a secret visit to the front at Lille. During the approach to Lille, two British aircraft bombed the train and emerged, but missed their target. The German command did not understand the unique situation of these forty kilometers of “cursed” front (held by the British) out of nearly seven hundred miles of front. One of her last messages announced the preparation of a massive German attack in early 1916 on Verdun . The information was relayed to the French commander who refused to believe it.

Arrested by the Germans on 20 October 1915 near Tournai, she was sentenced to death on 16 March 1916 in Brussels. Her sentence was forced labor for life. After being held for three years, she died on 27 September 1918 as a result of pleural abscesses poorly operated upon at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cologne.

Her body was repatriated on 21 February 1920. On 16 March 1920 a funeral was held in Lille in which she was posthumously awarded the Cross of the Legion of Honor, the Croix de guerre 1914-1918 with palm, the British Military Medal and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Her body is buried in the cemetery of Saint-Amand-les-Eaux

What a bloody amazing woman. The events above are all in the novel albeit with a few minor date changes. I really enjoyed nearly all of it until the ending sadly. Major bits of that didn’t work for me so if you read it I’d like to know what you think. Still worth reading though, especially to find out more about women spies.

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Thanks for the feed back from the last post. Susan E’s comment struck a chord with me, “…put aside judgement and stop thinking of life as a glass half full or half empty-none of it matters if you don’t have a glass.”

She also asked for the Christmas cake recipe so I’ll post forthwith.

It is such a relief that many of my usual gift-giving friends have agreed not to do the present thing. I can’t think of anything I actually want or need, (except maybe a garlic crusher 🙂 ) and I’d much rather spend time with them than spend money for the sake of it.

I did muse on the plastic stuff we have accumulated for the kids in the refuges but in the  end I’m not sure it is about the present but more the symbolism of the present- just that someone chose something especially for them. I wish we were able to know each child’s name and be able to choose something I knew they really wanted. But for now, it has to be enough.

If you want a fun book to read at Christmas, have a go at Harvey Slumfenburger…

FG

“Charity”

I’ve been making a minor contribution to  a group called The Aunties. In Jackie’s words, this is what they do.

“Welcome to The Aunties – I’m Jackie. I’m the Aunty In Charge. If you’re curious about what I/we do, it is simply this. I am the interface between  a number of community organisations, and a group of people called The Aunties whose primary focus is to provide the material needs for the people who use the services of those organisations. The organisations/people we support are: Te Rōopu O Te Whānau Te Rangimariē O Tamaki Makaūrau; The NZ Prostitute’s Collective; the emergency housing team of social workers for the Salvation Army; a youth justice worker and her clients; and an expanding number of women in the community who are referred to me from these organisations, and also from women’s refuges, and the Family Harm programme.”

“Charity” is a funny old thing and it brought to mind this poem by Connie Bensley.

Charity

Trouble has done her good,
trouble has stopped her trivializing everything,
giggling too much,
glittering after other people’s husbands.

Trouble has made her think;
taken her down a peg,
knocked the stuffing out of her.
Trouble has toned down the vulgarity.

Under the bruises she looks more deserving:
someone you’d be glad to throw a rope to,
somewhere to send your old blouses
or those wormy little windfalls.

CONNIE BENSLEY (1984)

This is a complex poem and raises some interesting issues like, is it a charitable act to give away old blouses or wormy windfalls? Are people in need of “charity” some how less deserving and therefore have to be grateful for your old cast offs? Do people in difficult circumstances need “taking down a peg or two”?

Chief Aunty Jackie sniffs every garment and discards it, if it has so much as a whiff of mustiness. Anything stained? Chuck it.

I don’t want to speak on her behalf but my observation of Jackie’s view is that it must be given with love in your heart and therefore it will naturally be clean and in good condition. There’s some shit “donated” out there I have to say. If you just want to get rid of something put it in the rubbish. But also the crap is far, far, far, far outweighed by loads of clean, ironed, lovely things definitely given with love.

Judgement comes in too I guess. She’s got no money but she is smoking, takes drugs, has “too many” kids, stays with a violent man etc etc. in the end, her business is none of my business if I want to give someone a bit of support. I don’t know the back story, I don’t know what is happening for that person. I totally admit to having these sanctimonious thoughts from time to time but I’m trying not to.

Choosing gifts to donate? Makes us feel good to see all those presents wrapped up? For little kids that works well I think.  But…do we really know what that 14 year old teen wants? I think maybe at that age I would like a voucher to go out to the Boxing Day sales with my friends and choose something that is special to me. And yes that could be jeans with big rips in them because that happens to be cool right now.

Does anyone deserve less than the best we can do? And who decides what’s “best” for someone else?  Who knows when any of us might be “taken down a peg.”

There will inevitably be the stories where someone attended the Mission Christmas lunch and had “plenty of money” or “stole” two presents or…. do people say this to justify not giving anything?

Actually once it’s wrapped up, I don’t care what the receiver does with it. I hope they like it or find it useful, or are pampered a bit by it, or their children’s eyes light up but I don’t have any expectations that they need to be “grateful”.

Who knows what we do and why?

He Promised

He punched her in the face

At a party.

She fell,

The people grabbed him by the arms,

He was reeling

 

Later they returned together,

Arms around each other.

She was smiling happily.

She was pregnant, and he’d promised

To marry her.

 

by Anna Swir 

 

That all sounds a bit grim so here’s some Christmas cheer.

I baked a Christmas cake today and the whole house smells all cinnamon and brandy.

My favourite angel has the perfect grin. (I don’t tell the others she is my favorite though.) I bought her in The Netherlands from a  “disability ” workshop. They only used the creator’s first name and I’ve always wondered why. Because you are disabled you just get a first name? I don’t get that. A friend asked me how I attach them. i used the Commando clear mini hooks that theoretically pull off cleanly afterwards.

Have a good week. FG

I’ve got the power (not)

The Power Cut

So accustomed am I to having everything on tap that when the unscheduled power cut happened tonight I knew I couldn’t cook dinner so I thought I’d sit down and watch a bit of telly until it came back on…I know, call me stupid.

I’m now bathed in a wonderful soft candlelight and sadly there is no one to admire the soft glow I imagine my skin has in this light. It has also been a beautiful sunset, the sky bathed in reds and golds.

My phone battery is nearly dead as is this computer battery. Am I ready for an emergency? Heck no. Well I do have emergency chocolate. I hve also discovered I can’t touch typr  in the dark in quite the way I thoughy.

I am thinking of the people in Christchurch during and after the earthquakes and while it is a novelty for me for an hour or so, it was a major obstacle for them.

The power has just whooshed on again giving me quite a fright and I feel a bit out of sorts. While I was sitting here in the semi darkness, I was unable to use any distractions so there was just me and my thoughts and the candles really did look lovely.  Now FB is running hot and I can binge watch the TV again. But I don’t really want to…

Maybe Waldon et al were on to something.

There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature. Henry David Thoreau

Although I’m sure I read somewhere that he went to his mother’s for dinner quite a lot but that could just be an idle rumour. 

Although it is nice to make a cup of tea and put the Christmas lights on. I know, I know, it is still November but it was book club last night and I was feeling a bit yuletide yahooey.

On the topic of reposing in nature I wrote this poem while sitting with a view of the sea at New Plymouth recently.

View of the Sea 

There is so much interference with my view of the sea.

A book to be read

Powerlines and street lights.

A cup of tea.

There’s a white butterfly scavenging for cabbages and a car horn.

All interfering with my view of the sea.

A ship on the horizon, a flax bush, and seabirds,

The sun is shining now,  a pohutakawa is flowering, the first Christmas one,

and a woman in a blue walking  jacket.

Interference all.

Friends too.

Interfering with my view of the sea.

Hey ho, a rough draft but you get my drift. I’ll move to a rustic cabin in the woods and then realise there’s book club, the film festival, that nice cafe, a Christmas party, and I’ll find I can’t stand myself.

PS we neighbours got together for a film night recently. Here’s a question. When did Swiss women gain the right to vote???  1920? 1945? 1962? nope- it was 1971

“Die göttliche Ordnung”, written and directed by Petra Volpe follows fictional characters in the build-up to the national referendum in 1971, where a majority of Swiss men finally voted in favour of granting women the vote. Set in an unspecified and conservative corner of eastern Switzerland, the title (meaning “the divine order”) tilts ironically at ideas of men and women’s traditional roles.

When one of the main female leads wants to get a job, her husband tells her, quite rightly:

Now let’s not get carried away, but equal pay would be quite enlightened, wouldn’t it? We don’t want young women saying, “What do you mean that in 2017 women still didn’t receive equal pay??”

Just a thought. FG