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?”

 

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Good looking…especially the older ones…

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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

 

 

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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.

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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

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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
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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

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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

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