Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Now that sounds more like my kind of sailing adventure! - Posted on 15th Jun, 2006 at 06:13

The latest update from dad and Manu! A month has crawled by without being able to get away on Manu. The weekendshave either been to windy or family commitments have won. I’m getting desperate. Now it’s Saturday. I’ve been with Quinn at soccer in the morning and we’ve had lunch. I’m looking at the weather forecast. Wind warning in place again – damn. An hour later I have a another look. Well it does say the souwesterly will ease from 20 knots to 15 knots overnight. Then tomorrow it will move around to the north rising to 35 knots by evening. Hmmmm…. Maybe Mahurangi would be safe? Tide is 6 pm. OK – let’s do it. Quinn is quite happy to look after himself for an hour or so until Sue gets home. Sort out the clothes, towel, toothbrush, bedding and the camping gear, the navigation gear, the food and drink, gas for the stove, petrol for the outboard, sails, motor. Load all of this into the station wagon. Uncover the boat and get it ready to roll. Hey, it’s after 4 pm. I have to have a couple of goes at backing the boat down the ramp – get rusty on this pretty quickly. Down at the ramp it is pretty sheltered but out on the water the wind is still quite strong. Ray comes in on his wind surfer and warns me that it gets pretty windy when the rain squalls come across. OK – I make a note to be extra careful of these as I rig the boat. It all goes quite smoothly. Launch the boat, unload the gear onto the boat, take the car and trailer home and run back down the ramp, slide the boat off the shore and motor 100 metres out. At anchor I pack the gear away. I enjoy doing this – mucking about on the water has started. Everything has its place and before long I am pulling up the sail. My head is cold! No hat! I call Quinn on the cell phone and he runs down the ramp with it to meet me. He pushes me off and we farewell. Soon I have the sheets in and Manu picks up speed heading nor-norwest. Ray is right. The wind picks up and soon I am flying a hull and dancing over the waves at 12 knots – a bit on the edge for cruising on my own in gathering darkness so I ease the sheets. To the southwest a very dark sky is moving up fast. About halfway to Mahurangi it catches up on me. The winds aren’t too bad but the rain is getting heavy. I heave to, rip off the main hatch and dig out the brolly. With the hatch back on and the brolly up everything is keeping pretty dry. Now it is getting dark fast. Before it got dark I had set up the GPS with the Mahurangi route and now it so reassuring because I can't see much. I have about 3 miles to get to the entrance of the harbour. There is no sign of the light on the end of Saddle Island but from the vague silhouettes I can confirm that the gps is right again. Soon I am motor-sailing against the tide into the Mahurangi. A quick cell phone call to home to say I’ve arrived safely. The rain has almost stopped and I can see the distant anchor light of a boat moored at Mita Bay. I decide Mita Bay will suit me well promising shelter and calm water for the night. I putter into the bay anchor in closer to the shore than the other boats but still with about 3 metres of water under me I won’t go aground at low water around midnight. Although it is pitch dark I soon have the tent up. My little head lamp is so useful. I soon have some Uncle Ben’s rice bubbling away on the cooker and I am sitting comfortably on a camping chair, quite warm and sipping a nice cold Heineken. Dinner is rice and tuna with basil sauce eaten in the isolated silence. The almost ful moon has come out from behind the clouds and through the open flaps of the tent all looks so beautiful and still - the calm moon lit water, the big hills sheltering me and a couple of ducks checking me out in their before bed time patrol. About 8 pm I prepare for bed – pumping up the air bed, laying out the foam sleeping mat and Sue’s thick feather down sleeping bag. I snuggle into the cocoon and I’m soon drifting off with the gentle boat movements and sounds. I do enjoy sleeping on the boat. I awake at dawn. Yes, Mita Bay is magic and yes, the ducks are swimming out to greet me. After breakfast I motor into the shore and climb up to the lookout point. The day is sunny with small fluffy white clouds. No sign yet of the 35 knot winds that are said to be coming though a slight breeze is now coming from the north west. From up here I can see most of the Mahurangi harbour, Saddle Island and the Whangaparaoa peninsular. A few boats move lazily out on the sea. I’m torn between spending some quality time on the Mahurangi and scurrying home to be clear of the predicted strong onshore winds. I compromise by returning to the boat and puttering across to have a look at Lagoon bay and having a coffee . I reluctantly repack the boat, take the tent down and hoist sail for home. The breeze is very gentle and I find myself lazily running at about 3.8 knots before a northerly breeze. Halfway back I heave to and dig out some lunch and a beer. This is very easy sailing– steering with my feet and lying back in my comfy seat while enjoying lunch. After checking out the gps I decide that I will arrive home before there is enough water at the ramp and so head for Tyndalls. I take a look at Sean’s trimaran “Tribesman” and then slowly work my way back along the coast to home. There isn’t enough water to get near the ramp so I anchor the boat and pop up to the house for a cup of tea and to wait or the tide. Nice to behome safe and sound. Later that night the strong winds did arrive working their way up to gustsof 60 knots and in the morning taking out the power for the whole Auckland region – but that’s another story. Love dad

You know when your acclimatized when… - Posted on 12th Jun, 2006 at 10:20

The other night I was dreaming about New Zealand, some thing I do fairly regularly, but this time I noticed that the cars were driving on the right side of the road and if that wasn’t enough, everyone had Canadian accents. Cheers for the update on Auckland conditions…strange that no emailed me in the past 3 days to let fill me in. But what I read I the NZ Herald it sounded pretty amazing. Dad did you catch the ferry home from work? Now THAT would have been an interesting trip. Bet your not too unhappy about being stuck at home!!! Better than in an elevator like a whole bunch of poor sods… Things are really nice here…it’s been sunny here all week with lovely cool temperatures (mostly under 30 degrees) so I have been very happy. Last night I had another swing dancing lesson…I’m slowly getting better…I figure at two lessons a week I can only get better. It also provides a great place to meet interesting people…there is such a diverse group of dancers all ages and all backgrounds. I’m still painting and riding my bike and the seeds I planted in the veggie garden have all come up…now I just have to fight off the raccoons. Work…well…umm…I have polished up my C.V and have emailed it two a few hopeful job offers. I’m still a bit dubious about HRDC’s response. I think I will probably have more luck with the “Highly skilled worker” application. Will keep you posted. I entered my story “Seamus the tooth fairy” into a local library writers comp. I figured it can’t hurt…have to wait for months for the results…I guess they get thousands of entrees…imagine having to read them all…Yikes! Skype…Well I at the library from about 2-4pm most days…haven’t seen anyone on line recently…4pm in Canada is about 8am in New Zealand.

Painting, painting, painting - Posted on 4th Jun, 2006 at 11:00

This week has been mostly dedicated to painting, almost completed the lounge with help from Mary and Jane. It’s looking so much better now the pink is receding. We have almost won the battle against the peptobismol pink. I also went plant shopping with Mary and got lots of wonderful flowers for the garden. Unfortunately due to the rather small growing season, if you wanted to grow things from cuttings or seed you would need to start much earlier in the season. Otherwise they just don’t get a chance to really get going before it starts to get cold again. I took my bike for an off road challenge the other day, what I thought was a gentle ride around a lake ended up with a very interesting ride through the wilderness, what looked like a track turned out to be simply an animal trail, full of holes, covered with fallen trees and stinging nettle. (Yes it really does sting) But at least I didn’t run into any poison ivy. Even if the going was difficult, it gave me a sense of adventure, not knowing where the heck I was or was going to end up. I also ran into some really large mosquitoes…never seen anything like them in my life!!! Eventually I escaped the dark forest and ended up miles and miles away from home. I had my first swing-dancing lesson in Waterloo on Monday, it was, I admit a little intimidating. There were no other dancers for the beginner lesson, so I had two instructors critiquing my every step. It was rather intense session but also Jane tells me very successful. *sigh I still miss tango. Starting again kind of a pain. I’m still really enjoying my piano and in my spare time trying to finish off my children’s next story. I miss having Cam around for brain storming.

Another week passes in Waterloo - Posted on 29th May, 2006 at 04:40

Today (Sunday) I spent the day playing piano, fixing my bike and pruning the next door neighbours large, looks like its never been pruned tree. The weather turned on the temperature (about 30 something degrees) and boy was I sweating while I swung around the tree, cutting limb to limb. After my ride to St. Jacob’s yesterday (2 hour trip) to check out a Mennonite Museum and the old township, I decided I had to do something about my bike…the wheels were so wobbly and the tires were beginning to rub against the bike frame. Everything mostly works now…I didn’t have the tools for fixing the spokes...but the bike is largely improved. This week I’m going to try and make my first Ginger Beer Plant, with the summer heat and only carbonated, flavored root beer available…its just not the same now is it. Mostly things are going very well, its taken me a while to get used to living with two Women after living alone for a year and before that living with Cam. I think the biggest differences stem from my New Zealand way of doing things…I get some odd looks, and puzzled expressions. I got this wonderful email from Hellen the other day and thought I would share! We flew out on Friday at 6am in the morning - so it was another sleep at Stansted airport for me! We got into Venice at 8:30am which gave us heaps of time to get lost and we really did! We wandered the streets for hours asking people how to cover the next 40 metres before their directions made no sense and we had to either try find our own way (and get more lost) or ask again! I hadn't slept the night before, cold tile floors aren't the best to catch a good nights sleep on, so my italian was crap. It really is an amazing maze - even if you have a sense of direction you still end up walking in circles! You get distracted all the way because everything is so beautiful and enticing but also there are a million bridges and houses with flower pots and they all start to look the same. We didn't find our room till 6pm, but that didn't stop me grabbing just a quick shower and getting back on the boat to check out more places. I had the sweetest sleep that night though! The city really is astoundingly beautiful and the weather was wicked! And something about being by the sea just woke me up instantly. I think inside been pining for sea for a while now. Since we only had three days I don't have a huge descriptive story line but this is what I remember most vividly and also recommend: I sat by the Rialto bridge, watched boat life pass me by and drank wine from the bottle (for which I was getting lots of appreciative smiles from the locals for). I bought some corn and fed pigeons in the main square - san marco - I must have had 50 birds trying to perch on me at one point. Who knew they loved corn so much??? (Lucky I've never seen that Alfred Hitchcock Birds movie). We climbed the tower in the centre and looked down on Venice - such a crazy place. It is a lot like living on a film set or something. One of the best places was the Island we went to on the last day - Burano. All the houses are painted in the brightest chromachy or primary colours. I was thinking if I lived there it would be impossible to get depressed. It was BRIGHT! We went on a Sunday - which at the time I thought must have been washing day cause everyone had hung their washing but on hindsight after consulting several postcards I started thinking that maybe they put the washing out as a tourist feature. I mean it was colour coordinated and everything! It did look really cool and it seemed like everyone was extra house proud of their bonbon coloured town houses! So now I'm back in London again - feeling more settled than the other times I've arrived back here. It's nice to have a few more regular people to hang with and places that you already know are cool. Today I caught up with cousin Jessie and her boyfriend Paul in Leicester Square. Nice to have some family close by finally! She seems really excited to be here although she is having trouble finding work as a lawyer. Hope those of you who can receive pictures via email have managed to open them all. Mum you'll have ask someone in the family to show you since yours is the only address that is too small to take photos. I do hope this email finds you all well. Lots of love Hellen xxx

Back in Waterloo - Posted on 23rd May, 2006 at 08:30

After not getting much sleep over the last week, due to overnight bus trips, Newark’s sirens, car alarms and other loud noises, I was very glad to get back to Waterloo. On my second night back in Waterloo I went to bed at 8pm and didn’t get out of bed until 8am. What a difference a good night sleep can do! For once it feels like I’m beating the flu rather than it beating me. The border crossing at Buffalo went ok…about 5 minutes of questions…but nothing compared to my airport experience. Since I got back I have been helping Mary out with painting the house. So far we have painted the basement and complete one of the upper bedrooms. I came to the conclusion that my neck doesn’t really appreciate painting ceilings. It’s a nice feeling seeing the rooms change in character as the paint goes on…not sure why the last owner wanted to paint the house pink…but some colours should be outlawed.

Sailing Adventures! - Posted on 21st May, 2006 at 15:26

Here's an email I received from dad. It sounded like quite the adventure!!! I’m very glad that all went well in the end and that you didn’t end up being rescued by the coast guard! Thanks for all the vivid images!!! I really loved it! Yes, I've had a dose of sailing - and lived to tell the tale. I took 1/2 a day leave on Friday and set off with much enthusiasm. I was a little concerned about the weather report - north-easterlies 10 to 20 knots, but the weather map showed a great big high over New Zealand so I figured it would be quite stable. About 10 knots of sou-easterly carried me quickly to Kawau.. What a beautiful sail. Then I was at South Cove. It was like visiting an old friend - nothing changed and all the character that I know and like - calm and quiet with bush and birds right down to the water. A Heineken and tuna/basil/tomatoe with crackers accompanied the sunset. About 10 pm it started - 25 to 35 knot gusts belting down the valley. My anchor was holding ok but the little tent tied down to the deck was sounding like a machine gun. Couldn't do much about it so I eventually got myself off to sleep only to be awakened by torrents of rain forcing their way through the fabric of the tent. After a crazy few minutes of frantically getting most of my gear under some cover I pulled the big yellow hatch cover over the top of me and lay in my cocoon/coffin while the storm did its worst. In the morning when I pushed back the hatch the scene was a bit depressing but at least my sleeping bag and most of my clothes were dry. The tent was still making intermittent machine gun sounds but the rain had gone. I lifted anchor and motored around the corner to the beach next to the old copper mine where that magic stillness was found again. While I had breakfast I listened to the Coastguard weather report - not good. They now had a wind warning in place - like stay at home - don't even think of going sailing after midday. The rest of the weekend sounded pretty bad too. I decided to see if I could get home before the bad stuff really started or plan b - get to Mahurangi from where I could put the boat on it's trailer. I broke camp and set sail with the mainsail reefed down to about 1/2 its normal area. When I poked my nose out past the end of Kawau all hell broke loose. BIG mountain waves, sea covered with white spume and fierce gusts that made my reefed sail seem way over canvassed. Shiver me timbers!!! No way I was going to sail home so plan b. Well! Running before the wind and waves was doable but challenging. The boat surfs well and has plenty of buoyancy in the bow but there was a danger of falling off some of the big breaking waves - 3 metres at a guess. I was kept very busy on my sleigh ride down these bouncy mountains and after a while I found myself shaking uncontrollably. But it was also exhilarating in a deep way; being so close to the power of the sea, the speed of the ride and successfully managing - not much choice on that :-) Actually the boat handled the conditions very well and there were no moments where it felt out of control or overwhelmed. Just my mind thinking what if??? Motuketekete and Motorekareka islands whizzed by and then as I approached the Mahurangi I sailed through some big swells that fortunately were not breaking. In the troughs I lost most of my wind but as I climbed up we would take off again. Eventually I was safely in the Mahurangi where I found idyllic tranquility again in the Pukapuka inlet. Just the faint sound of wind and waves could be heard. Overnight the wind eased down to 20 to 25 knots but with the promise of 35 knots later in the day. I was galvanised into action and sailed off at 7 am still with a reef in my mainsail and with my jib furled. The voyage home was very bumpy but compared with the day before - quite tame. I bumped and splashed my way across the bay to the haven of Fisherman's Rock. Here conditions were good and I made an easy landing and retrieved the boat onto its trailer with no fuss. What a relief!

New York Collage - Posted on 19th May, 2006 at 05:26

After a belated start...Ray’s luggage finally turned up at the airport...a day later! Then it was a quick trip on the NJ Transit, then the Path, then Metro subway, all the way to Columbia University. Here we started our tour of NYC. Over the day we visited most of the tourist traps...had lunch in mid-town central park, then made our way all the way down to Battary Park. I can now say I have taken all modes of transportation in NYC: busses, trains, subways and now boats. We took a ferry to the stature of liberty and around the harbour and up under the bridges. Unfortunately the rain decided to bucket down at about that point. So the rest of the cruise was spent inside. For dinner we took the subway back to Soho and went to a delicious Italian restaurant La Dolce Vita...only down side was the fact it had a duke box that kept pouring out really crap pop tunes. By the time I got back I was thoroughly exhausted and decided for an early night...still fighting of my sinus/throat/chest infection. Blah. Today is Alei’s Graduation followed by a early 4:30am wake up and a very long bus ride back to Toronto.*Sigh

NYC - Posted on 17th May, 2006 at 07:29

Monday night I spent ridding a greyhound down from Waterloo to New York. All things considered the trip was one of the easiest yet, quick 12 hours with American Customs to boot. It was by far the nicest boarder crossing yet! I didn’t have a barrage of questions yelled at me; in fact they were less aggressive then Canadian Customs...which is kind of a strange reverse. When I arrived in NYC it was raining cats and dogs...but soon enough the sun came out and I went exploring around the city. First on my list was the Frick Collection, located on Fifth Avenue. Frick was a pioneer in the steel industries and was a collector of fine art works. Walking around the gallery was very much like 7th Form Art History. Shame we couldn’t have come to study the real things, rather than the tiny copies in our textbooks. You just don’t have any idea of the size and scope of the paintings until you stand in front of them...some were from floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall. After spending a few hours perusing around the Frick Mansion I spent a couple of hours exploring central park before dinner. I took the subway back to downtown and went to Baluchi’s in Soho...a nice Indian restaurant with great food and service, but be prepared to take a doggy-bag home with you as the meals are very large. After dinner I walked around Soho and visited the massive Apple store there. I got to climb the glass staircase and had my first look at a Mac book running pro applications. Three subway systems later and I’m back in Newark and so tired from my lack of sleep on the bus that I was nodding off on the couch at 10pm. Today is pretty quiet...I’m chilling this morning, meeting Alei’s Dad at the airport and then taking him for a tour of NYC. I wonder if Ray knows what he’s in for! Thanks for all the great messages! Good to know that someone still comes here :-)

My bike - Posted on 14th May, 2006 at 06:55

Yesterday I cycled around Waterloo on my flash blue bike…the brakes are a bit soft and squeak a bit, but I’ve never been happier not to drive. Having the freedom from both public transportation and gas guzzling cars. It might take me half an hour to reach my destination and I may have to eat an extra slice of bread in the morning…but it puts a big smile on my face when I think about all the money I’m saving. When I flew out of NZ the gas price was $170.9 per litre. I really had to feel sorry for farmers and other rural people spending a very disproportional amount of their meager income on petrol. I tried very hard to remember the last time I rode a bike…other than the farm motorbike and relised I haven’t ridden a bike since I lived down in Christchurch. Auckland with its 50 odd volcanoes wasn’t exactly inspiring for me, not to mention the lack of cycle lanes and inconsiderate bus drivers. Although most of the trees in Waterloo have their new buds, there are plenty of tulips, the sidewalk is gold with pollen and white and pink blossoms still blow in the breeze. As I cycled through the town yesterday, I saw canadian geese, a squirrel, a raccoon and a red cardinal. It felt pretty good to be back. I especially missed the squirrels and chipmunks while I was in NZ. We have plenty of wonderful birds in NZ, but are rather lacking in native four legged friends. I guess we have the tuatara, but it’s not the most excitable of creatures…remaining motionless for hours on end and I’m obviously ignoring the millions and millions of introduced possums and rabbits. I’m slowly getting over my jet lag, but I’m suffering from the worst headcold/allegies since the last time I was in Canada…*sigh Just as I’m getting over the traveling experience…I’m preparing for my trip down in NYC…although I’m greatly looking forward to seeing the Metropolitan Museum and looking around the city again…I’m not to fussed over the 12 hour bus ride down…grrrr…I still haven’t decided whether I take the bus or the train…I usually love trains…but my first experience was absolutely harrowing. The train broke down for hours and hours…way out in the sticks…with nothing to eat or drink…or decent toilets or air conditioning. See earlier blog.

Back in Canada - Posted on 12th May, 2006 at 06:26

I made it to Canada safe and sound…there were a few difficulties at Auckland due to the fact the Plane was too heavy lift off and had to have some cargo removed…this in turn made trying to catch my transfer form LAX to Toronto tricky…I ended up running around the airport, but made it to the plane (with my baggage.) Then there was just getting into Canada. While the U.S was perfectly happy to receive me, I got the third degree from Canada customs. Strange considering they barely looked at my passport last time I arrived. This time they looked over everything from bank statements, address and asked a zillion questions regarding my trip. After not sleeping for about 48 hours I could under stand why the Americans use sleep deprivation as lubrication for interrogation. Anyway…I’m here now and recovering from the last few Months in New Zealand. Today the weather in Waterloo was just awful for going outside…but fantastic for curling up inside and recuperate from my jetlag. If it stops raining tomorrow I hope to take a bike and ride around town, looking at pianos and exploring the city. I will have to get used to ridding on the wrong side of the road again…still the drivers can’t be worse than in Toronto.

Graduation Sillyness - Posted on 5th May, 2006 at 14:00

Here are some photos from my rather belated graduation celebration. In truth it was the first time I actually saw my degree as I graduated in absentee while I was living in Canada. Now my degree can finally go on the wall down degree hall at Mum’s place. Anyway the lunch was great! I love Don Bo’s…especially their fish laksa…mmmm After picking all the gala, breburn, golden delicious, granny smiths, packham pears, bon cretien pears, grapes, tangelos, grapes, limes…not to mention the FEIJOAs…I have finally finished picking the fruit!!! I have to say it was a very pleasant feeling driving the last 3 bins out of the orchard. Right now I’m staying down with Scott and Cat, hacking away at their garden. Who ever thought it was a good idea to plant the whole garden in ivy should be shot. Its take 4 of us with all manners of tools…including spades, clippers, crow bars, chainsaws…not to mention a lot of elbow grease to sort it out and all the dead plants that the ivy strangled *Sigh. Three trailer loads later…you can actually see the land for landscaping. Shame I’m not around for longer to finish the plans. But with only 2 days to go…I really should get around to packing my bags some time…

My Shadow & I - Posted on 4th May, 2006 at 05:57

In my office on Friday At a quarter to four I saw my shadow Slip out the front door With no way of knowing Where my shadow was going “I must find out!” My curiosity growing I grabbed my trusty Coat, cane and hat And made my way Quickly through the back Down on the street There was no fuss He paid two dimes And caught a bus “Where is he going? I must find out!” So I hailed a taxi To follow him about I followed my shadow At a rate of great knots Till the bus stopped Down at the old docks My shadow got off And got on a boat With a horse and cows Some sheep and a goat I followed my shadow And boarded a ship With a pirate named Roberts And a parrot named Kip Not Knowing where We sailed away We sailed away For a night and a day Until we reached A far distant land With towering rocks And hot white sand There my shadow Got on a camels back And rode into the desert With one single whack “STOP STOP!” I shouted “Now why can’t you see? That you’re my shadow Your suppose to follow me!” I hired a yak And make great haste “I must find my shadow I’ve no time to waste!” I rode and I rode Across sand, dirt and rock The sun sizzling hot While buzzards did flock I didn’t know how Much further I could go The sun so hot And the yak so slow Day turned to dusk And still he rode on A tiny black dot And then he was GONE I hurried my yak To catch up quick “He’s getting away!” I said with a kick Then under the moon Way up in the sky In a hot air balloon My shadow flew by I found a balloon vender Whose name was Spike I hired a super speedy Balloon pedal bike I pedaled and pedaled As fast as it would To catch my shadow As soon as I could At the break of day I followed him down I followed him down Back to the centre of town In the midday heat We finally did meet We smiled shook hands Down sunny Fleet Street “I hope you didn’t mind The busses, taxies and boats The camels and yaks And horse and goats!” “You see I like to get out. I like to be free To adventure about.” Explained the Shadow to me “I find your work Really a bit of a chore All work and no fun Is a bit of a bore!” “I understand completely!” I smiled meekly “But lets go together Then we can go weekly.” Together we walked Down the old street A happier couple You never did meet From then every Friday At a quarter to four We both go together And slip out the front door

Back at Kai Iwi - Posted on 3rd May, 2006 at 00:21

Visiting Jenni - Posted on 3rd May, 2006 at 00:20

Yeah my IDR arrived today!!! - Posted on 24th Apr, 2006 at 02:28

Finally I have my international drivers license!!! I kind of thought it would at least similar to our New Zealand Drivers license, but no…its very different. Looks more like a miniature passport…except someone has written by hand my name and contact details! What’s more they have given me little cute circles over every i…much the same as I did in high school. You would think that an international document could at least be typed? Oh well...at least I’ve got 12 months of international driving…Canada here I come! I can’t wait to drive across to the East Coast. May be even get to visit Meredith in Maine.

Some Feijoa FYI's...not sure if I agree with the added sugar...& has anyone ever heard of a Pinapple guava before? - Posted on 23rd Apr, 2006 at 02:32

The Feijoa (Feijoa sellowiana, synonym Acca sellowiana), also known as Pineapple Guava, is an evergreen shrub or small tree, 1-7 m in height, originating from the highlands of southern Brazil and northern Argentina. Whole and cut feijoas. The pulpy fruit is green, chicken-egg-sized, and ellipsoid-shaped. It has a slightly tart taste, and is not fully ripe until it falls to earth in autumn. Some people prefer to eat the fruit before this occurs. This plant is monotypic in its genus. Like the closely-related guava, the fruit pulp has a gritty texture which is utlised in some natural cosmetic products as an exfoliant. German botanist Ernst Berger named Feijoa after Don da Silva Feijoa, a Spanish botanist. It is a warm-temperate to subtropical plant that will also grow in the tropics but requires some winter chilling to fruit. In the northern hemisphere it has been cultivated as far north as western Scotland but does not fruit every year, as winter temperatures below about -9°C will kill the flower buds. Large quantities are grown in New Zealand, where the fruit is a popular garden tree, and where the fruit is commonly available in season. It is also possible to buy Feijoa yogurt fruit drinks etc. in New Zealand. The fruit is usually eaten by cutting it in half, then scooping out the pulp with a spoon. Sugar can also be added to the exposed surface of the pulp at this time. If the utensils needed to eat it this way are not available, the feijoa can be torn or bitten in half, and the contents squeezed out and consumed. An alternative is to bite the end off and then tear the fruit in half length ways, exposing a larger surface with less curvature. The teeth can then scrape the pulp out closer to the skin, with less wastage. They can even be eaten whole, with only the junction to the plant cut off. The skin does have a rather bitter flavour though, so most people avoid this method. A feijoa can also make an interesting addition to a fruit smoothie Feijoas can at times be slightly rotten inside, without this being extremely obvious from the appearance of the skin or firmness of the fruit. Because the fruit has only a short shelf life, it is less suited for sale in a grocery store than more durable fruit, because of the effort needed to rotate and sort the fruit, and the wastage involved. Feijoas are therefore shipped when still firm, to minimize these effects. Feijoa flowers Some grafted cultivars are self fertile, most are not and require a pollenizer. Seedlings may or may not be of usable quality, and may or may not be self fertile. In the native range, the pollinator is a bird, but bees can accomplish some pollination, especially large brawny bees, such as bumblebees or the large carpenter bee.

nz herald artical - Posted on 20th Apr, 2006 at 04:43

Auckland research breakthrough throws light on dyslexia 20.04.06 By Simon Collins Ground-breaking Auckland University research has found that people with dyslexia appear to be trying to read with a different side of their brains to other people. The research breakthrough, which found that dyslexics try to read with the right side of their brains, may eventually help scientists to work out a way of helping them learn to read. About 7 per cent of people have dyslexia, where they cannot identify words or letters or connect them to sounds or meanings, or miss out parts of words when they read. The condition is not related to intelligence and has affected many famous people from Leonardo Da Vinci to Albert Einstein. It is believed to be inherited because it runs in families, affects more males than females and is more common among left-handers. Auckland University psychologist Karen Waldie said overseas studies had found that the left side of the brain, which controls language in about 95 per cent of people, was not activated when people with dyslexia tried to read. Using a new magnetic resonance imaging machine, she has found for the first time that reading produces an increased blood flow in the front right lobes of the brain in people with phonological dyslexia, the most common kind of dyslexia where people cannot associate letters with sounds. "Our images are showing that these folks are reading with the completely opposite side of the brain, in the same area, where you might have more spatial or positional information being processed," she said. "The implications are for diagnosis, and also for understanding the disorder because the Ministry of Education doesn't recognise it as a neurological disorder. "We can now rule out some misconceptions about it. This is not because of poor education or laziness or behavioural problems or motivational or attention problems. We are looking at a brain which is atypical." Until now, dyslexia has been regarded as incurable. But Dr Waldie said reading was only a recent development in human history and the new evidence showed that it was not always fixed to the same part of the brain. "With speech, we have evolved over 50,000 years. That means our left hemisphere is really, really specialised for speech," she said. "Reading is different. It's more flexible in the way the brain works. It tends to recruit other parts of the brain because reading is complex." She said genetic studies had traced dyslexia to abnormalities in particular chromosomes. Other studies suggested that the condition developed in the later stages of fetal brain growth in the womb. But her work suggested that the brain might be able to change later in life. "I don't think there will be any magical treatment, but I think the brain might be more plastic than we originally thought," she said. "We now know that the brain develops and grows over the whole lifespan. Before, we would say that by adolescence, that's it, there's no more development. "So I think there is potential, once we understand the brain better, to help dyslexics."

Seamus the Tooth Fairy - Posted on 20th Apr, 2006 at 03:59

Here is the next story for you to enjoy! The original idea came from Cam during one of our brain stroming sessions...it's taken me a while to finish...and it still can do with some improvements. Feel free to make comments and copy and paste them into emails. I'm happy to accept any surgestions or ideas. Seamus took his map and list of Children out of his knapsack as he flew towards the centre of town. First on the list was one Miss A. Dupont at number thirteen Harvard Street. Seamus often wondered why people always insisted on thinking of such boring names for streets. For the rest of the way to his destination Seamus tried to think up some fun names for roads. There was Wrong Way, Dead End, or lostagain Place. Seamus had certainly ran into plenty of those kind of roads before, but what about Dinosaurs Close, Loopde Loop, Lollipop Lane and Snails Crossing? What fun that would be! Finally Seamus reached the Dupont’s Residence, now he just had to find a way in. If he was really lucky their would be a window open in the children’s rooms, otherwise he would have to try squeezing under the door or even worse, he would have to come down the chimney. ‘Why do parents have to make things so difficult,’ thought Seamus. ‘Why not just put it in an envelope and leave it in the letterbox with the letters T.F inscribed upon it?’ Seamus could see some curtains rustling in the gentle breeze out side the window of Miss Dupont’s room on the second floor. Without a second thought, Seamus flew straight through the open window towards the old four-poster bed. Suddenly a large black shape sprung out of the shadows, catching Seamus’s nap-sack in its jaws and shaking him back and forth. “Oh help!” Cried Seamus, clutching for his wand in his trouser pocket. Seamus had always been awful at defensive charms; things had a habit of going terribly wrong. In Seamus’s fright and panic he waved the wand wildly above his head and “BANG!” The cat turned into an old grey teapot and fell to the floor with a loud clang. “Oh dear!” said Seamus “Is that you Mummy?” came a sleepy girls voice. “Oh dear! Oh dear!” Said poor Seamus. Seamus barely enough time to dive into the toy box before the bedroom door was flung open by Mr. Dupont; striding in to the room to investigate the loud noise, wearing his pink polka dotted Pajamas. Prodded by strange shaped dolls with blond hair and squished by building blocks, Seamus had to wait uncomfortably for what seemed like hours until everyone in the household were all fast asleep again. He ventured across the floor, crawled under the pillow and exchanged the lost tooth for a golden coin. Seamus flew quickly towards the window and BANG! Hit some thing with a thud. “Ouch!” groaned Seamus rubbing his head and staring at the closed window. “Now how will I get out?” Said Seamus. After much difficulty Seamus managed to squeeze under the Miss Dupont’s bedroom door and flew out through the chimney to complete the rest of his evening list. By the time the sun began to rise Seamus returned back to the Castle tired, sore with burses and black with soot. At the gate Seamus met one of the royal servants waiting for him. There always seemed to be someone waiting for him and it was ALWAYS bad news. The servant handed him a piece of parchment and left. The note read: (Your presence is required immediately. You are to report to the Queen Tooth Fair at ONCE!) Seamus gave a long sad sigh and made his way to the royal chambers. “Now Seamus,” began the Queen, “This is the umpteenth disaster this week. How many times to I have to remind you to FOLLOW the golden rules. Between getting lost, leaving all your money under the wrong pillows, almost bankrupt the palace, not to mention disregarding the second golden rule and tonight almost breaking the first golden rule. ‘A tooth Fairy must never be seen!’ I expect much better from you tomorrow and now, GOODNIGHT!” Seamus skulked to his room and crawled into bed. “I try to be a good, I’m just no good at being a tooth Fairy. All I want to do is make people happy.” Seamus set off to work the following night down through the clouds and off towards the countryside. The first tooth collection of the night was one J. Hodges Jr. who lived with his grandfather Mr. Hodges Sen. Sen. at number Forty Four Gerald lane. Seamus always liked traveling through the country. The air smelled of sweet fresh grass and royal penny. Seamus passed a heard of sleeping cows, camped out under the stars, curled up right in the middle of the paddock, surrounded by lush green, green grass all ready for their big breakfast the next day. Seamus flew up Gerald Lane and arrived at the Hodges residence. A beautiful little cottage with a well-tendered garden surrounded by rose bushes. “Bother!” said Seamus J. Hodges Jr’s windows were all locked fast. Not wishing a repeat of last nights unfortunately chimney experience, Seamus flew around the cottage searching for a way in. On the far side of the house Seamus found an open window. Remembering the Queen’s Stern words, Seamus cocked his head and listened. The only sound he could hear was Mr. J Hodges Sen. Sen. snoring. The snoring was so loud it reminded Seamus of the time he had to collect a young sleeping giants tooth. The giant snored so loudly Seamus had to stick his fingers into his ears every time the giant breathed in. Seamus peered into the room; all was still, with no sign of Hostile animals. Seamus carefully made his way to J. Hodges Jr’s room, removed the tooth from under his pillow and slipped the coin in its place. On the way out through Mr. Hodges Sen. Sen.’s room something on the bedside table caught Seamus’s eye. There in a tall glass filled with strange liquid were two sets of strange white shapes. Seamus flew closer and stopped, stunned in disbelief. “The Queen is never going to believe this!” said Seamus There in the glass was a whole set of teeth, stuck together in two rows. Seamus left his whole nights worth of coins under Mr. J. Hodges sen. sen.’s pillow and fetched the teeth. The teeth were too big for his knapsack, so Seamus had to carry one set under each arm as he flew back to the castle. Smiling to him self and doing a happy jig Seamus hauled the teeth he had found into the royal chambers like they were golden trophies. Seamus stopped smiling when he saw the Queens stern face. “Why are you home early Seamus and why are you carrying around a set of false teeth under your arms?” said the Queen very unamused. Seamus was suddenly very embarrassed and went bright red. “I…err…um…” Stuttered Seamus. “I kind of ran out of coins.” “You mean to say you left your whole nights coins on those ‘false teeth?” Demanded the Queen. “Why this week alone you have cost the palace a fortune in coins. On Monday you left all your nights worth of coins to a teething baby shark…” “How was I suppose to know fish don’t count?” thought Seamus “On Tuesday you left all your coins to a young giant…” Said the Queen “But it was a really big tooth!” thought Seamus “And tonight you left all your coins to a grandparent for their false teeth?” Continued the Queen. “Seamus this must STOP! The whole palace is running out of coins. You are by far the worst tooth fairy in the history of all tooth fairies!” As punishment for his false teeth blunder, Seamus had to spend the rest of the night polishing the castle gates. As the other tooth fairies returned back to the castle from their evening duties they whispered about him, pointed and laughed at him as they passed through the gates. Seamus overheard comments like: “…and he doesn’t even know how to use a wand yet…so awful he has to report to the Queen daily I heard…doesn’t even know who is parents are…he will never be a tooth fairy!” “All I want is to make people happy!” sighed Seamus The following night Seamus tired very hard to follow all the Tooth Fairy Golden rules and had, had an almost completely successful night. The last collection for the night was one Miss J. Cook. Seamus didn’t need his map to find this residence. Mr. and Mrs. Cook had five girls Hannah, Rianah, Susannah, Rosanna and Johanna and all were under 7 years old. Mr. and Mrs. Cook owned the local delicatessen and always had something yummy cooking over the fire. Seamus enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Cook’s delicious cooking smell, but not the attention of the family guard dog Brutus, who enjoyed terrorizing Seamus. All the windows of the Cook Residence were shut tightly. Seamus flew up to the front door and peered through the letter slot. The coast looked clear and all was quiet. Seamus crept thought the opening, into the kitchen, down the corridor and into the children’s room. There in a large bed slept all five of the Cook girls. “Now if only I could remember which of the five girls is Johanna?” Said Seamus Careful not to wake the girls, Seamus started to crawl from one side of the bed under the pillows. Seamus felt like a dwarf digging for treasure under a mountain made of feathers as He crawled and crawled and crawled under each pillow till he got to the very last pillow and there was the tooth. He replaced the tooth with the last coin from his knapsack, happy to have completed the night’s collections without an incident. ‘The Queen will be happy’ He thought. Seamus flew from the children’s room down the corridor, into the kitchen and stopped! There sleeping in front of the door was Brutus the dog, guarding the exit. “Oh help, I’m trapped!” said Seamus sitting on top of the table lamp. There was only one other way out and that was thought the fireplace and up the chimney. Seamus didn’t like the idea of being turned into fairy toast by the fiery cinders, but neither did he want to end up as Brutus’s midnight snack. Seamus slowly approached the fireplace, its flames rising dangerously high. He held his breath and dashed for the chimney. Suddenly one of the logs sparked catching poor Seamus’s cloths. He soared up the chimney like a fiery arrow, out the top of the chimney and down, down into a water trough out side the house, landing with a hiss and a splash into the cold water “Now I know how a roasted marshmallow feels!” said Seamus. Seamus’s clothes were in tatters, ruined by the flames. Poor Seamus picked up his knapsack and had to fly back to the castle with only his shamrock necklace and his knickers. At the castle gate Seamus met one of the royal servants waiting for him. The servant handed him a piece of parchment and left. The note read: (Your presence is required immediately. You are to report to the Queen Tooth Fair at ONCE!) Seamus walked into the royal chambers, standing in nothing more than his necklace and his singed green knickers. “Now Seamus…” Began the Queen and then she stopped and stared and stared again at Seamus’s shamrock necklace The Queen’s eyes widened her mouth dropped open. “Send for the Lord of the Lepricorns at once!” she instructed her royal servants. Moments later with a flash of gold and a cloud of green smoke the Lord of the Lepricorns appeared. He was a little man with a long white beard, a round kindly face and sparkling blue eyes. He was dressed all in green with even a green pointed hat, boots and even a green handkerchief. “You beckoned, you Highness?” he inquired in a gentle voice and gave a little bow. “Yes,” said the Queen with a smile. “I think I may have finally solved the mystery of the missing Lepricorn!” The Lord of the Lepricorns looked Seamus up and down for a moment, spied the shamrock necklace, grabbing his hands and began doing a happy jig right there in the royal chambers, spinning around and clicking his heals. The Dance was so much fun and seemed surprisingly familiar. Seamus forgot all about his lack of clothes and joined in the jig. With another flash of gold and puff of green smoke Seamus and the Lord of the Lepricorns left the royal chambers. The Queen gave a sigh of relief. She was happy to escape Seamus bankrupting the palace. The Lord of the Lepricorns was happy to have finally found the missing Lepricorn after all these many years. And you couldn’t find a happier Lepricorn then Seamus, who turned out to be one of the finest in the land. Why in his first week alone he quadrupled the amount of four leaf clovers in every field, He succeeded in tying the end of the rainbow to a mountain so all the towns people could get to the pot of gold and on St Patrick’s day Seamus would soar though the skies over the celebrations, showering the town in gold while doing flips in the air and kicking up his heals with joy. “Finally!” Said Seamus. “Finally I can make people happy!”

Happy Easter!!! - Posted on 13th Apr, 2006 at 14:37

Easter just isn’t the same without Hellen with her Easter bunny ears and tail. Admittedly this is the 2-year I have been away from Family. Mum left me a caramel egg…mmm caramel…and Dad gave me some marshmallow eggs…so I’m already to start celebrating. Unfortunately the Feijoas don’t take holidays…nor the Cats or the gas prices…now over $1.60 a litre and rising…so it going to be a stay at home holiday. With no farmers market this weekend I’m at a bit of a loss what do to with 14 boxes of feijoas…as kids I remember selling them at the side of the road…I could always try that again. For all those that have read, commented or contributed to my stories I greatly appreciate it. I’m just about finished my next one…only three to go before I leave. The hard part for me is trying to keep the story less than 10 minutes long…I can’t imagine any parent being happy with their phone line being tied up for 30 minutes with ’Story Line.’ As Hellen pointed out I need to be more ‘focused’ and less ‘wordy.’ I think what I need is an editor. Any takers?

Cats. Cats, Cats - Posted on 9th Apr, 2006 at 16:45

I have spent the last three weeks house sitting, Cat sitting and Farm sitting. Not necessarily in that order. I have really enjoyed having such a huge space to live and play in. However then there are the cats. Until these cats I thought dogs were demanding creatures. No sooner do I even look like I’m preparing to sit and I have cats vying for my lap. Then there are times I’m busy playing piano or typing and one cat in particular gets right up on to the keys and bunts my hands to remind me of what I’m suppose to be doing. Not to mention they follow me around the house. So much for low maintained animals. I will be very glad when I can hand them back to Sarah. The Feijoas have landed And I thought the apples and pears were bad! Right now I’m picking about four boxes a day of feijoas. Crawling around on all fours for hours on end, plus all the sorting is not my favorite activity of choice. Just when you think you have finished clearing an area, you turn around and another dozen have fallen. However, with the Tui singing in the background and fantails keeping me company, the itchy long wet grass isn’t so bad. Busy weekend This weekend has been one of the most social in a long time. I went to two parties and managed to visit Gran and Granddad, Janneke and Luke, Cam and Co, and Bruce Sue, Zoë and Quinn. Preparations for traveling overseas It seems I have barely unpacked my bags and I’m off again. If all goes well with passports, visas and what not, I should be able to fly out next month. I’m currently looking at the 10th of May…so if your reading this and I haven’t caught up with you yet…now is a great time to give me a call or drop me an email. The number where I’m staying is (09) 4267070 or for those still in the Northern Hemisphere that want to get in contact. (649) 4267070. Finally all synced up Better late than never, but as I probably won’t be continuing with globat next year I have synced up all my email accounts with my apple mail. Its taken quite a few hours of downloading…so far I’m down to the last 600! Oh well!...

What a rip! A whole terabyte and I get a limit of 1000 emails...boo! - Posted on 5th Apr, 2006 at 19:10

Ok…and were good! So I had a few email problems the last few days…and I thought that it was just that no one loved me! I got in contact with Globat and discovered that all though I have a terabyte of space I can only hold 1000 emails on their server…and I kind of had that in my sent box alone. So…after a mass deletion from my sent and trash box…no more emails should bounce. Another reason I love Globat! I wonder if Gmail has a 1000 email limit? Well anyway…if you have tried to email me over the last 48 hours please send it on again! Cheers!

A little help...please!!! - Posted on 31st Mar, 2006 at 17:34

I'm putting together another story. I really love the ideas, but would really appreciate a little help. Please leave comments or email me at stories@michaelrobinson.co.nz The Magic Paintbrush Hannah would often spend hours lying in the long green grass looking up at the sky watching the clouds float bye, trying to guess the creature each cloud contained. She was sure that each cloud had its won special creature if you concentrated hard enough. When the sky was clear and blue, she thought about what she would like to do when she grew up. When Hannah visited the zoo with her Mummy and Daddy, she was sure she wanted to be a monkey trainer and loved watching the monkey’s play and trying to teach them tricks. While watching Safari documentaries at school, Hannah was sure she wanted to be an explorer, discovering new animals and plants species and charting the unknown lands. At night Hannah would stare at the night sky and wondered what it must be like being an astronought, knowing the secrets of the universe, like whether the moon was really made of cheese or if Melvin really did come from mars. Hannah was stretched out in a field one day looking up at the sky when some thing fell out and landed with a thud next to her. Hannah got a bit of a surprise, as she had never seen anything fall out of the sky before. The thing had a black handle with a strip of blue and white cloud and beautiful black soft bristles. “Well, that’s odd!” said Hannah. The brush’s bristles were so soft they tickled her chin when she stroked it against her skin. Later that day Hannah showed the brush to her Mummy and told her the story of how it fell out of the sky. “Did it just?” said her mother “Why don’t you take that brush and your imagination and put it to work. There’s paper and paint up stairs.” Hannah had never been very good at painting, her teachers would tell her off for painting over the lines in her colouring-in-book. Hannah tried to paint a big brown fish, but it ended up looking like a big brown blob. “Hmm…”Said Hannah “That wont do!” As she was pondered what else to paint, some thing strange happened. The blob seemed to wiggle a little and then slowly it opened one eye and then the other and with a bit more effort the blob formed a mouth. “Heelllooo!” Said the blob. Hannah thought she must be dreaming, as she was sure that blobs couldn’t talk, let alone paintings of blobs. “I say,” carried on the blob “You could have given me a few more features to work with! But never less the sky’s the limit and I’m here to teach you how to paint!” Hannah spent the rest of the afternoon learning all about correct postures and hand techniques and how to mix her paints to make any colour in the rainbow. Next she learnt all about how to paint lines. Thin lines, thick lines, and long wiggly curly lines. As soon as Hannah would lift her brush off the paper the line would come to life and zoom all around the page. By the time Hannah had finished painting for the day, she had to rescue the poor blob that was ducking and weaving just to keep out of the way. “Right,” Said the blob after he relaxed on his empty page. “I think that is quite enough for today’s lesson! Lets get started first thing tomorrow! Oh and be sure to bring some fruit.” “Thanks!” said Hannah positively thrilled with her new friend and of course the magic brush. The next morning Hannah woke early, excited about her next lesson. Hannah gobbled down her breakfast, raced though her chores, grabbed some fruit and sprinted up stairs. “Now Hannah, where could you possible be in such a hurry to?” Said her Mother. “Can’t stop, got to paint!” Cried Hannah careering up the stairs. “I’m ready.” Said Hannah grabbing her paints and brush. “Right,” said the Blob “Today we are painting still life.” Hannah arranged the bananas, apple and pears on the table. Her first attempt at painting fruit was a disaster. The apple looked like a green bowling ball, the pear like a milk jug and the bananas like yellow sausages. Still life didn’t seem very exciting, so Hannah gave each fruit eyes and a mouth. The apple looked at the other fruit and gave a loud laugh. “So what are you guys supposed to be? The Ugly fruit club?” chuckled the apple. “Ha,” said the pear “You can talk, you look like your ready to go bowling.” “Boring, boring, boring. Still life is so boring.” Said the bananas together in unison. Hannah agreed and decided to draw a monkey to spice things up a bit. Next thing the monkey was juggling the fruit up in the air and doing tricks. Now that s more like it!” said Hannah The blob rolled its eyes. “Your suppose to be painting still life. It’s supposed to be boring! Now lets see if you can’t paint some more… ahh…fruitier fruit.” Hannah sighed and started again. By mid morning Hannah had an excellent bowl of fruit all looking good enough to eat. “Hey!” said Hannah as the monkey swung though the painting and snuck off with a banana. “Now we have the boring stuff out of the way, your next project can be any thing you like.” Instructed the blob Lucy didn’t have to think very long before squeezing some more blue and white paint on to her palette. Lucy set to work on a blue sky and some fluffy light clouds in the background. Slowly the clouds began to roll in. The first cloud was a big blue sperm whale. It swam into view doing elegant rolls and summersaults, Spurting white cloud. Next was a galloping zebra, followed closely by a hungry looking tiger. Next a giant boat came steaming across the horizon, followed by a heard of gazelle, elephants and giraffes. And so on and so on. “Well done!” said the blob “Next lesson is tomorrow afternoon and this time bring a live subject.” Hannah thanked the blob and raced down to fetch her Mother to show off all her fun paintings and to meet her friend the blob. When Hannah’s mother came up stairs all was quiet. The blob was silent, the Monkey was still, and the fruit it was juggling hung motionless in mid air. Even the clouds had receded back to the horizon. “But they were all moving.” Said Hannah “Honest.” Hanna’s Mother said that all the paintings looked lovely, gave her a kiss on the head and went down to fix lunch. The next day Hannah brought Boris her dog along for her next lesson. Boris took a little convincing to stay still, but eventually he curled up and went to sleep. Hannah concentrated very hard and spent the whole afternoon getting the painting just right. Boris opened his eyes, looked at the painting, cocked his head and gave an excited bark. The Boris on the paper woke up and started barking and wagging its tale. And so it went on all summer during the school holiday. Lucy with her magic brush, paint and paper, painting up stairs, in the field, up a tree, at the beach and everywhere in between. As the end of Hannah's holidays were drawing near, one night at dinner her mother said “This year your father and I have decided to send you to a private boarding school in town. The education is said to be much better and there will be more pupils your own age.” “But Mum...” said Hannah “I don’t like the city, I want to stay in the country with all my friends and animals.” But Hannah’s mother would not listen and so that year Hannah had to move to the city. The different animals and creatures Hannah had painted over the summer grumbled as Hannah carefully packed them all away into a large scrapbook. The school year did not start well. The art teacher insisted she must only use ‘approved standard school issued equipment’ and made the whole class paint only still life for months and months on end. To make matters worse, the head mistresses insisted that all dorm rooms must remain immaculately tidy and under absolutely no circumstances were any pictures to be attached to the wall. At the end of Hannah’s classes, she would slump back to her room exhausted. First thing she would do was stand her scrapbook against the wall and let the pages breath. Hundreds of animals and creatures would come streaming out of the book and roomed around the walls enjoying freedom from their confines. Hannah was extremely careful to ensure all the paintings went back in her scrapbook for fear of being caught or worse…having the painting scrubbed off. Sometimes Hannah would sneak her magic paintbrush into art class, but it usually ended in disaster. Once hung on the wall, her creations never wanted to stay in their own page and ran a muck on other students work. And of course Hannah was always to blame. Hannah lived a lonely existence; the girls frowned at the weird country girl. Who always had some odd coloured paint on her clothes or hands. In the evenings Hannah painted in her room and during the weekends she enjoyed taking her painting of Boris the dog for a walk around the city on her canvas bag. The best spots were quiet parks or empty alleys where Boris was free to roam about her bag barking and sniffing. Today the cheeky monkey decided to come along for a ride as well, sneakily snatching things like ice creams and other goodies off advertising boards or drawing moustaches on posters of models when no one was looking. While walking down a practically deserted street Hannah heard what sounded like a blues harmonica. The music had a sad strange quality about it. As she walked towards the sound of the music odd black dots whizzed bye. At first Hannah thought maybe they were some kind of insect, but as they passed, Hannah was sure she heard distinctive blues harmonica rifts. As she got closer to the musician the air seemed thick with black dots swarming around a sad young man playing the Harmonica. Hannah watched with wide-eyed amazement. As the Young man played his soulful music, black dots came shooting out of the Harmonica, circling around him a few times before zooming off in another direction and as the dots circled he would play another blues rift over the circling dots, adding different rhythms and ideas. It was then that Hannah also noticed the strip of blue and white clouds on the front of the harmonica. The monkey gathered a bunch of dots, that had got stuck on Hannah’s bag and alternated between juggling them or clumping the dots together and ridding them around the bag. Boris was also busy chasing some of the slower dots around Hannah’s bag. “That sounded amazing!” Said Hannah brushing some of the dots out of her hair with her fingers. “I’ve never heard or seen anyone play like that before.” “Thanks.” Said the boy with a smile. “Sorry about the dots. They don’t bother most folks. If fact you’re the only other person I know who can see or hear them. The boy reached down and scratched behind Boris’s ear. Boris was drooling and wagging his tale. “Well,” Said Hannah “you’re the only other person that my paintings feel comfortable enough to show themselves to. I guess Blob doesn’t count seeing he is a painting after all. By the way I’m Hannah.” “Pleased to meet you, I’m James. I think its safe to come out now blue.” Said James. A small dark creature emerged from James’s nap sack. It was made from thousands of dark dots all clumped together to create a black ball of shimmering energy with two eyes and a big smile. “Blue here taught me how to play this harmonica. By chance do you come from the country as well?” Asked James Hannah and James spent the afternoon chatting. Hannah told James all about the how her parents made her shift to the city, about the horrible art teacher that insisted on only still life, the horrible head mistress that didn’t allow any students to put any pictures on her dorm room walls, the horrible snobby girls that ignored her simply because she was different and worst of all how horrible it is in the city and how much she missed the country. James listened attentively and nodding sympathetically. James told Hannah about how he grew up in the country and how much he missed the fields of green grass and exploring the forests, visiting his friends and animals. “But let me tell you a secret!” said James, leaning in closer and whispering. “When I get sick of the hustle and bustle of the city. I simply close my eyes and let the music take me away. Some times I visit my home in the country, the ocean or even strange countries I don’t know the name of.” “Wow!” said Hannah. “That sounds incredible. I wish I could travel to!’ “May be you can” Said James “Maybe you can!” As it was getting dark they both went their separate ways. When Hannah returned to her dorm room she quickly locked the door, let the paintings out of her scrapbook, got out her magic paintbrush, paint and pinned two large sheets of paper to the wall. The Magic paintbrush felt alive in her hand, it seemed to wiggle and twitch with anticipation. The brush moved in Hannah’s hand like it had a mind of its own, compelled to draw something, but what? Finally the brush was finished and there on the wall was an old wooden door. There was a loud click and it slowly creaked open an inch. Hannah’s paintings that had been rooming around the walls saw the open door and suddenly all zoomed through and out of sight with sounds of great gusto and rejoicing. Hannah reached for the handle and opened the door slowly, the door creaking loudly on its hinges. Hannah took a deep breath and walked through.

Everett Barrow the orchidist - Posted on 31st Mar, 2006 at 17:19

Everett Barrow was an orchidist, as was his father, his father’s father and his father’s father’s father. Everett grew up with his two older brothers near a small village, in a large orchid, with a view all the way to the sea. But Everett was not like his two older brothers. Everett’s older brothers were big strapping lads with strong dark features and spoke with big hearty voices, while Everett was of a more delicate nature with a long and thin body, an extremely pale complexion and rarely spoke in more than a whisper. At Dawn while his older brothers slept, Everett could be found walking through the fruit groves whispering to the trees. But despite his small size, Everett was the fastest apple picker in the valley. By the time his brothers rose out of bed, with out the use of a ladder, Everett had filled two large wheelbarrows full of fruit ready for them to take to market. Everett had a knack for knowing just what apples and pears were ready for picking and was so fast his brothers joked the trees must knell down for Everett it to pick. Everit would tend the trees like they were part of the family. Tenderly caring for each tree. Carefully watering, pruning and nurturing. Under his loving care the trees gave a double harvest every year. Springtime was Everett’s favorite time of year. Firstly because the fruit trees looked so beautiful covered in fragrant blossoms and secondly, Lord Vladimir’s youngest daughter would ride her horse through the orchid admiring the petal wonderland. Everett would walk beside Elwyn and describe all the fascinating intricacies and secrets of an orchisdist and Elwyn would tell him all about the many styles used for riding and all about horses. Everett’s older brothers would laugh and say “Nothing will become of it Everett. An orchidist can never marry a Lords daughter!” Despite his brother’s warnings as the years passed, Everett and Elwyn enjoyed each other’s company so much that Elwin would ride her horse through the orchid every day. They both decided that they would very much like to get married and so Everett went to ask for Lord Vladmir's blessing. But when Everett asked Lord Vladimir replied. “A poor orchidist marry my youngest daughter? Why how could you even afford ‘a’ wedding, let alone keep her?” Everett had saved a little money, but it was true the Barrows were not wealthy and barely had enough money to pay their taxes let alone enough for a wedding. Everett loved Elwyn and went back to the farm very disappointed. All that night he racked his brain for a way to appease Lord Vladimir. The next morning at dawn as Everett was picking the pears for market he noticed some thing shinning at the top of the tree. There glistening in the morning sun was a huge golden pear. Everett was so happy and grateful he kissed and thanked the tree. Now he was sure to meet Lord Vladimir’s approval. Everett returned to Lord Vladimir’s residence with the solid gold pear and asked again for Elwyn’s hand in marriage. Lord Vladimir steered at the golden pear with his greedy dark eyes. Wondering how a poor orchidist could have such riches. He said, “I see you have acquired much wealth, but what kind of life style can a mere orchidist offer my youngest daughter?” Everett was disappointed again. It was true that Everett did not have many possessions and shared the old Family Barrow house with his two older brothers, but he was sure Elwyn would be perfectly happy with the residence. A sad Everett returned back to the Orchid and all that night he racked his brain for a way to appease Lord Vladimir. Lord Vladimir was very curious as to how Everett came to posses such a large amount of golden wealth and sent one of his servants to follow and spy on Everett. Lord Vladimir’s servant followed Everett home and the next day watched closely as Everett walked through the orchids whispering, tending to the trees and went about his morning picking. The servant could have sworn the old pear tree lowered its branches as Everett skillfully climbed the tree and there at the very top was a golden pear. The servant quietly slipped away to report his discoveries to Lord Vladimir. Everett was so surprised to find yet another golden fruit that he threw his arms around the tree trunk and gave it a squeeze hug. Everett purchased all the land below the orchid all the way down to the sea. He had two splendid houses built for each of his brothers and turned the old Barrows home into a huge manor with even maids and servants. Then again Everett approached Lord Vladimir for his youngest daughter hand in Marriage. Lord Vladimir was a greedy man and after hearing the tale of the golden pair tree, decided that he wanted the tree for him self. Everett told Lord Vladimir about his recently acquired land and residence and again asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. This time Lord Vladimir agreed, but on one condition. That Everit must hand over his gold bearing fruit tree. Everett, who would have happily handed over all his riches to be with Elwyn agreed at once. The following spring Everett and Elwyn were married in the orchid. Elwyn wore a crown of apple blossoms and a dark pear wood ring. Everett and Elwyn lived happily in the large manor in the Orchid and had many children. In the spring the family would ride their horses through the Orchid under the blossoms that now stretched all the way down to the sea. As for Lord Vladimir, the pear tree refused to grow nothing but bitter pears to remind him of his greedy ways.

The Mystery of the feijoa - Posted on 24th Mar, 2006 at 22:54

To clear up the mystery of the foreign feijoa here is a few pictures…mmm…most people cut the fruit in half and scoop out the insides with a spoon…but I’m more of a eat the whole thing kind of guy. Feijoa and apple pie is really nice, fejoa juice is a bit tart for me, but feijoa wine is delicious! New Zealand in just moving into the feijoa season with great gusto.

Lucy & Hubert the Hermit - Posted on 23rd Mar, 2006 at 13:12

Here is the next installment towards Bearworks Books! It’s just the first draught, so I greatly appreciate any emails, suggestions and comments. Hope you enjoy! Lucy lived with her Mum and Dad in a large city. It had many large buildings and factories with many large smoke stacks, puffing out large plumes of smoke day and night. Everywhere in the city were large amounts of busy traffic, making a large amount of noise. Everyone had to talk in extra large voices, just to be heard over the large racket. Lucy didn’t like the buildings, the factories, the smoke or the loud people. Summer holidays were Lucy’s favorite time of the year. In the weekends Lucy’s Mum would make Yummy baked goodies, Lucy’s dad would pack the old car and they would drive to the beach for picnics. Lucy would spend the day frolicking about the sand dunes, the fields of fluffy-bums, chasing the seagulls along the beach or collecting seashells. At low tide Lucy liked nothing better then exploring around the rocks and investigating the many rock-pools. Some rock pools only held a hand full of water, other were as big as swimming pools. Full of wonderful and interesting creatures. One day Lucy found an especially large rock-pool, she peered down into the waters and some thing strange happened. One minute she was sitting down looking into the clear, blue water and the next she was at the bottom of the pool looking up at the distant blue sky. Lucy found herself in a beautiful garden surround with delicate seaweeds and shells, with an orded little vegetable garden with rows of sea lettuces and sea cucumbers. At the back of the garden was a lovely little cave with a door made from a huge black muscle shell. The muscle shell had the name Hubert inscribed upon it and a little notice saying no visitors. Lucy knocked on the door, but no one answered. “He won’t answer.” Said a voice. Lucy turned around and there was a mother sea horse and her two little foals. “Oh, hello” Said Lucy a little surprised. “You see,” carried on the Seahorse “Hubert is a hermit crab. No one has seen him in quite some time. He will not receive visitors and rumor has it, he only leaves the cave during the middle of the night to eat and attend his garden.” “I see.” Said Lucy even more curious to meet the mysterious resident. “You two stop that at once.” Said the seahorse. The two little seahorses had been tussling and playing with each other and had accidentally got their tales tied in a knot. After their mother had untangled the little foals, she gave a curt wave of her tail “Best be getting off before it gets dark.” She said as she herded the foals away. “Wait!” Cried Lucy “How do I get back to the surface?” But the sea horses had already galloped off. Not knowing what else to do and feeling a little hungry and tired, Lucy ate a sea lettuce. The lettuce tasted deliciously sweet and salty. Nothing like the boring lettuce she was used to. After she had finished eating, Lucy lay down under a large bush of seaweed and went to sleep. During the night Lucy awoke to the sound of many little footsteps. The garden looked even more beautiful in the shimmering moonlight. There in the garden was a strange looking creature. It looked like a crab, but not like the paddling crabs she had swam with or the rock crabs she found hiding under stones and boulders. “Hello,” said Lucy The creature got such a fright it jumped right of the ground with all six of its feet. Almost choking on the lettuce it was nibbling on. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you, I'm just a bit lost. I found my self in your garden and I didn’t know where else to go.” Lucy stuck out her hand “By the way I’m Lucy.” The creature eyed her up and down before giving her a hesitant delicate shake with his smaller claw. “My name,” Said the creature, “is Hubert.” “Oh,” Said Lucy “So you must live in the cave with the no visitors notice?” Hubert gave a solemn nod and a long sad sigh. “Its so terribly embarrassing.” Said Hubert “Who ever heard of a hermit crab living in a cave? We, the proud travelers of the sea, our little houses safely on our backs, traversing across the great wilderness. But here am I too big for my old shell and no new shell to travel.” Hubert shook his head sadly. “What would my brothers and sisters say?” “There, there.” Said Lucy giving Hubert a reassuring pat on one of his many legs. “I’m also lost, I too am unable to find my home, but I will be sure to keep my eye out for a new shell for you.” Hubert gave Lucy a great big smile. “Thank you so much, I am very grateful, but if you are lost, may be you should try the all-seeing-oracle. She is sure to know the way back to your home! She lives at the bottom of the pool. Just follow the patch all the way down.” Lucy said that was a great idea and that she would be sure to set off at sunrise. Hubert weeded his little vegetable garden, gave advice about the ocean and told Lucy stories about when he was young traveling the oceans with his family and Lucy told Hubert all about her life in the city. As dawn approached Hubert gave Lucy a sea cucumber for breakfast, went back to his cave and Lucy set off down the decorative path leading away from Hubert’s garden, to see the all-seeing-oracle. The windy path gradually opened into rolling hills of green algy and beautiful bright yellow seaweed that towered above Lucy’s head. It reminded Lucy of visiting her great Aunt in the countryside. All around, the hillside began to bustle with motion as creatures stirred from their slumber and began going about their morning duties. Herds of snails made there way slowly out to the algy fields to graze, Small swordfish sharpened their noses on sharpening stones. An octopus drifted past Lucy taking her eight children to school, one carefully in each tactical. A family of jelly fish were eating their bowls of jelly for breakfast, a rock crab cutting the little lawn out side his crevice, his claws snipping the green grass, Sea monkey’s played and swung through the seaweed, while Little fish chassed each other in and out of the seaweed groves. Eventually Lucy made it to the centre of the rock pool and there surrounded by five large rock pillars was the biggest starfish that Lucy had ever seen. Many creatures were lined up in front chatting and waiting patiently. “Excuse me,” Lucy asked a group of little snails in front of her “you see I’m looking for the all-seeing oracle.” “You’ve come to the right place,” said the snail indicating to the starfish with one of her stalky eyes. “But how can the oracle be all seeing if it doesn’t have any eyes.” Said Lucy who was sure that Starfish don’t have any eyes. The snails gave a loud chuckle. “The whole ocean is her eyes, she hears whispers from across the whole sea and creatures come from miles around.” Eventually Lucy made it to the front of the cue. The starfish looked even bigger up close and she felt a little nervous. “Come, sit down and rest ya bones for a while” said the Oracle Lucy sat down next to the starfish. “Ahh…now tell me all your problems my girl, lets see if we can’t find some solutions!” said the Oracle Lucy told her all about how much she disliked the city and how she loved coming to the beach for panics and that the last thing she remembered was looking into a rock pool before she ended up here. Lucy said she loved it here, but didn’t want her Mummy and Daddy to worry about her. “Never you mind, my we thing, we’ll have ya back in a jiffy.” Said the Oracle “What you need is the ‘shell of direction’, and it will lead you, anywhere ya wising to go.” “Oh, thank you!” said Lucy “But how will I know if it’s the right shell?” The big starfish lifted a tentacle and drew a shell in the sand with four markings in a cross shape. “Find the shell and ya find ya way back home, but before ya go, let’s see if I can’t help with your problems in the city….hmmmm.” The Oracle pondered for a while. “Ahhh…have ya ever heard of a keeper” Lucy shook her head. “Ancient prophecy speaks of a magical bond between two creatures…for any person blessed with the sea shell gifted from a creature can always return back to the ocean in their dreams. Before ya leave the sea, may be ya might meet such a creature eh? Find the shell and it will shine the way home. Now go!” said the oracle with a wave of her tentacle. Not knowing where to find the ‘shell of direction,’ Lucy thanked the oracle and carried on in the same direction up the rolling hills on the other side of the pool. Everywhere Lucy looked were shells. Big shells, little shells, fat shells, short shells and long skinny shells. There were so many colourful shells. Shells with strips, polka dots, swirls and splashes, but every where Lucy looked the shells were filled with things that crawled or slithered and certainly none that looked like the ‘shell of direction. Lucy sad hello to a passing family of whelks; mother and father taking their huge family for a ride in the country on their backs. As Lucy wandered up through a patch of long seaweed grass she chanced upon a giant black round shell with four white dots. “Could this be the shell?” Said Lucy Lucy gave the giant shell a couple of loud raps and waited. Not a sound came out. Then slowly an eye on a long stalk peered out the end and gave a long slow blink. Slowly the head of a large snail appeared. “You rang?” Asked the snail in a deep sleepy voice. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry to disturb you,” Said Lucy “you see I’m looking for the ‘shell of direction’ and miss took you for an empty shell.” “Mmm…”said the snail. “It happens to me all the time.” The snail closed its eyes and then after a long thoughtful pause “mmm…you might have more luck at the shell graveyard.” The snail closed its eyes for an even longer pause. Lucy thought the snail must have fallen back asleep. “Um…. Please, where might that be?” prompted Lucy “Mmm…what…oh yes…the shell graveyard. Go up the hill, down the cavern…through the forest and down into shell graveyard. Lucy didn’t like the sound of the shell graveyard, but with no other ideas she thanked the snail, that seemed to be sleeping again and carried on up the hill. As the hill got steeper the thickets of seaweed got thicker and thicker, until she had to push and wiggle her way between them. Eventually Lucy stood at the entrance to a large cavern through the rocky hillside. The cavern was rather steep and Lucy enjoyed jumping from rock to rock as she made her way to the bottom. The cavern opened up and there in front of here stood a forest of anemones, glistening in the morning sunlight. Their delicate tentacles waving in the gentle currents. Lucy began picked her way though the forest, the rhythm of the swaying anemones tentacles almost hypnotic. Their waists were like white thick tree trunks and their tentacles, delicate translucent fronds. Lucy wasn’t looking where she was going and suddenly she put one foot into a hole. She tried to lift her foot out, but it was stuck. Lucy looked down as she felt cold tentacles slithering up her leg holding her fast. “Oh dear!” said Lucy “Help!” cried Lucy panicking, but no one was there. Lucy tried to remember some advice that Hubert had given her about Anemones. “What was it?...point your toes and giggle…no that wasn’t it…point your toes and wriggle you foot…hmm…Point your foot and wiggle your toes?” “That was it!” said Lucy Remembering Hubert said anemones had ticklish tongues. So point your feet and wiggle your toes. Lucy pointed her trapped foot and wiggled her toes as hard as she could. The anemone began to chuckle, the more she wiggled her toes the louder it giggled, until the anemone shock with laughter. Eventually its tentacles were shaking so hard, they let go of Lucy. Lucy quickly lept out of the anemones reach, very glad to have escaped its grasp. For the rest of the way through the forest, Lucy kept her eyes fixed on the ground. The forest came to an abrupt end and there stretching to the horizon was a vast array of shells, with out a plant, flower or living soul in sight. The light in the cavern seemed dimmer, casting long dark shadows and the silence was positively gloomy. This must be it, thought Lucy, the shell graveyard. The surface made soft crunching sounds as she walked though the deserted grounds, the shells dark, empty and spooky. There were more shells then Lucy had ever seen before in her life! Lucy wondered how she would ever find the ‘shell of direction.’ Still if nothing else she was positive she could find Hubert a suitable shell. Lucy walked and walked and walked and walked for what seemed like hours, unable to find a shell with the right markings. Just then, something caught her eye, a soft red glow in the distance. Lucy walked towards the distant light. The source was a huge pale blue shell with four glowing red dots. “Could you be the shell?” asked Lucy. She gave the shell a couple of raps, just to be sure that it was empty. This time nothing stirred or slithered out. Lucy tried to lift the shell, but it barely even moved, she tried to push and pull the shell, but wouldn’t budge. It must be the shell thought Lucy, but how will I ever move such a heavy shell. Lucy was still trying to think what do to when two sea horses came galloping over the forest and though the graveyard to the end of the cavern at full tilt. Lucy wished she could gallop with them too. As the horses came trotting back, Lucy could over hear them arguing over who was the fastest and as they came closer, Lucy recongnised the foals she had met yesterday. “Hello,” said Lucy The foals didn’t expect to see anyone in the graveyard and were surprised and embarrassed at being caught. The larger foal plucked up enough courage to speak. “Mother doesn’t like us racing through the graveyard, you won’t tell will you?” it squeaked. “Hot a word!” said Lucy smiling, the sea horse looked relieved. “But maybe you could help me with this shell? It might be a bit too heavy though.” Said Lucy “Ha, TOO HEAVY”, bayed the smaller foal. “I’ve moved heaver stones in my sleep!” So the horses agreed to take the shell as far as Hubert’s Garden as it was on their way home. The Horses both attached their tales to the shell, while Lucy got to ride in the shells hole. Then they were off. Speeding towards their destination. Lucy had never ridden a horse before and felt like princess in her chariot. In no time at all they flew over the graveyard, the forest, up the cavern and all the way back to Hubert's garden. The horses panted slightly, as they lowered the shell to rest in Hubert’s garden. Lucy untied the blue ribbons from her hair and gave each a beautiful bow around their necks. “You promise not to tell about the graveyard?” Asked the Large Foal “Scout’s Honor!” said Lucy. The sea horses were thrilled with their blue bows, because there’s only one thing better than being the fastest sea horse and that was being the most hansom. Tired from all her exploring, Lucy sat down by the vegetable garden and ate a lettuce. Then she curled up and slept. Later that evening Lucy felt a gentle prod. She rolled over and there was Hubert beaming down at her and looking very excited. “Lucy, what is that most incredible shell?” asked Hubert. Lucy smiled “It’s the ‘shell of direction” She said Lucy told Hubert about meeting the oracle, getting stuck in the forest, searching for the shell in the graveyard and about the two sea horses. “The Oracle said that the shell would shine the way home for me.’ Said Lucy The shell was glowing even brighter than in the graveyard. “I’d say you must be going in the right direction then eh?” said Hubert “Yes,” said Lucy “but I can barely move it. You would think that the all-seeing-oracle, knowing how small I am, would direct me to a smaller shell!” Said Lucy Chuckling. “Well,” said Hubert in a small little voice, “I…I could carry the shell for you…if you like?” “That” said Lucy “is a fantastic idea.” Hubert almost lept for joy. He stood in front of the shell and wiggled his way into the entrance. “Ahh…fits like a glove!” Said Hubert strutting around and turning each way to admire his new home. Lucy laughed at Hubert’s antics. “I think its time for you to get some more rest; we have an early start tomorrow.” Said Hubert settling down beside Lucy for the night. Lucy agreed with a nod, curled up and went straight back to sleep. That night Lucy dreamt about being back in the city. The large ugly buildings, factories, traffic, people and noise. When Lucy woke up in the morning, she wasn’t so sure she wanted to go back. Hubert was already up, battening down the hatches and closing up the cave. “Won’t be back here for a while!” Said Hubert merrily. After a large breakfast of sea lettuce and cucumbers, Hubert and Lucy prepared to set off. “Right!” said Hubert as he swung his new shell around the four dots flickering. “Which way then?” He said “Hmmm…” said Lucy “Try turning again, but this time slowly. That way!” exclaimed Lucy the four dots glowed bright red. This time Lucy took the small path leading up and away from Hubert’s garden. Lucy had never seen Hubert so happy, as he pulled the shell up the slope, chopping any clumps of seaweed that got in his way with his claws. Chomp, chomp, chomp went his big right claw, while his little left claw plucked at the more delicate seaweeds for sampling. “Oh, I do love foreign foods.” Said Hubert gobbling on bits of seaweed. All the while Lucy kept an eye on the four glowing dots to make sure they were going in the right direction. For lunch Hubert prepared seaweed rolls wrapped up sea lettuce and after a short rest they set off up the hill again. As the day wore on the hill just got stepper and stepper, until it looked less like a hillside and more like a mountainside. It got so steep in places that Hubert had to put Lucy on his back and use his strong claws and sturdy legs to pull them up the slope. At sunset they both rested. The view down the valley was incredible. Lucy could see all the way to the centre. Hubert’s garden a tiny speck on the landscape. All bathed in the fading golden orange sunlight. “Where do you think you will go, now you have your new shell?” asked Lucy “The ocean!” said Hubert with a dreamy look on his face. “The endless wilderness. I have plenty of exploring left to do!” “I suppose I shall have to return to the horrible city.” Said Lucy frowning. Although Lucy missed her Mummy and Daddy, she certainly did not miss living in the big city. In the evening they camped out in the open, Hubert comfy in his little house and Lucy resting against his shell. That night being so much higher up the stars seemed even brighter and before Lucy fell asleep, Hubert pointed out some famous sea creature constellations. Like the running sea horse, the great giant squid, Willy the wise starfish, Harold the brave hermit crab and Lucky fin the fish. Lucy giggled and laughed at some of the names before falling fast asleep. Sunrise seemed very bright the next day as they set off, the four dots leading Hubert further up the hill, Lucy watching closely as she rode upon his shell. Lucy was sure that the sun was getting brighter and brighter as they made there way higher. By mid day Lucy had to squint her eyes against the bright glare of the sun. “This is a very strange place indeed” Said Hubert coming to a stop. Just above Lucy’s head was a beautiful glass ceiling, rippling and shimmering in the sunlight. “Before you leave for your world Lucy…I…I would very much like if you would be my keeper and have my shell.” Said Hubert “Then when every you wanted to escape the city, you could come back to visit me in your dreams any time you like!” Lucy gave Hubert a big hug and many kisses and promised to find him a new shell, she shed a few tears as she said good-bye to Hubert and walked towards the light. Lucy opened her eyes. She was curled up in front of a large rock pool. The sun was bright on her check and the wind ruffled her hair to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Lucy sat up. Had it all been but a dream? But there in her hand was Hubert’s beautiful pale blue shell with the four red dots. Lucy put Hubert’s shell safely in her skirt pockets, looked around the rocks and found a splendid empty old cream shell with delicate yellow strips. It wasn’t as beautiful as Hubert’s shell, but she was sure Hubert would like it all the same. Lucy went back to the rock pool and there on the edge was a tiny creature with one claw bigger than the other. That must be Hubert thought Lucy placing the shell in front of the crab. Hubert wiggled his way into the new shell and shook the shell in a quick wiggle of appreciation. Lucy bent down and gently lifted Hubert up in her hand and carried him towards the sea. “Here is your ocean” Said Lucy “I wish I could go with you now!” Lucy placed Hubert safely under the tide on a rocky ledge. Hubert gave a happy final wave and clambered off for his grand adventure. Lucy made her way round the rocks and back to the beach, very glad to see her parents still lounging on the picnic rug. “Did you have a nice time exploring?” Asked Lucy’s Mother. ”Oh yes!” said Lucy “The best adventure yet!” Later that day Lucy’s father drove them all back to the city. The large buildings and factories, still pumping out large plums of smoke, the large amounts of busy traffic and the people talking with large voices over the top. But each and every night there after, before Lucy went to sleep, she placed the shell to her ear and listened to the ocean. And each night in her dreams would return to the sea. Some times Lucy would visit the garden, or the oracle, but mostly she would visit Hubert and listen to all his tales and adventures under the sea.

My Crappy Monday - Posted on 20th Mar, 2006 at 01:34

My Monday Night After a morning writing and working down the farm, I cleaned Mum’s OLD boy racer and picked Alei and her Dad up before 2pm and took them to the airport. We arrived with 3 & a half hours to spare, only discover the flight was hours delayed. With a previous arranged dinner engagement and no cell phone still…I was wondering what the best course of action was. So much for getting away at 4pm with plenty of time before dinner. So with only a payphone to call and with out the couples new number memorized, I ring the numbers I still have in my head…i.e. their parents number…no answer…crap…I will leave a message…I ring again, no luck. So then I dialed every other person I could remember who knew the couple…no luck. Getting desperate I called the restaurant and said that the plan was delayed and that I wouldn’t be able to make it. After a grueling 4 hours at the airport and $18 dollars in parking fees I’m ready to go home…I drop Alei’s Dad off and make my way back to Waiwera. I call the couple’s home number…no one there…I call their cell phone…and they are still waiting at the restaurant…oh crap…and just by coincidence…there is my best friend Cam also at the restaurant…crap…and here I am over a hours drive away…apparently my message to the restaurant got scrambled…and they were told I would be there "in an hour?" Oh dear…drunk a few glasses of wine and felt very sorry for my self and went to bed. Good Night!

Pat and Pickles...the next story - Posted on 15th Mar, 2006 at 14:49

This story has been floating around my brain for a while now, just waiting for the right inspiration. Pat lived on a little island off the coast of Cape Reinga in a lighthouse with his Cat Pickles. Pat spent most of his days cleaning, repairing or painting the old white lighthouse and at night, Pat would light the lighthouse beacon to worn the passing ships of the little island and its many dangerous rocks. Then he would make his lunch for the next day. Pats favorite was sandwidges with bright red strawberry jelly jam. Then tired form his long days work, Pat would make his lunch for the next day and climb into bed. Pickles already fast asleep. One morning pat awoke to discover that his bright red strawberry jelly jam sandwidge was gone. “Oh dear, Oh dear?” said Pat “Where could my bright red strawberry jelly jam sandwidge have disappeared” scratching his head. “Mr Pickles did you eat my lunch?” asked Pat pointing at the empty plate on the bench. Pickles simply meowed innocently, purring and brushed against Pat’s trouser legs. That night pat lit the lighthouse beacon and made his bright red strawberry jelly jam sandwidge, left it on the bench and before going to bed, put Pickles out for the night. “Naughty Cat!” Said Pat shaking his finger at Pickles for having eaten Pat’s lunch the night before. Poor Pickles was locked out all night. In the morning when Pat got up he discovered that his bright red jelly jam sandwidge was gone again. “Oh deary-me!” said pat scratching his head even more confused. Pat opened the front door and let a cold Pickles inside. “Oh, Mr Pickles,” said Pat “I'm sorry for having doubted you.” That morning Pat opened a special can of sardines for Pickles, before going to work. That day while Pat put a fresh coat of white paint on the out side of the lighthouse, he pondered just who the night sandwidge thief could be. “Perhaps mice?” said Pat to Pickles as the cat chased butterflies around the garden. That night Pat lit the light house beacon, made his bright red jelly jam sandwidge, put it on the bench, but this time, surrounded it with a dozen mouse traps. With a nod of satisfaction, Pat went to bed pickles already fast asleep. The next morning Pat awoke and went to check on his sandwidge, Snap went a trap on Pats left big toe. “oooowwwwe!” Said Pat as he jumped wildly around the kitchen, his arms flailing about. After nursing his sore toe he discovered his bright red jelly Jam sandwidge was gone again! “Bother!” said Pat “Not mice then eh Mr Pickles?” he grumbled. During the day as Pat shined the lighthouse’s large glass windows, he concocted a cunning plan to catch the sandwidge thief. That night after he lit the lighthouse beacon and made his bright red jelly jam sandwidge, he filled a bucket with water and placed it above the kitchen door. Pat was sure he would hear the bucket of cold water crashing down on the thief. Satisfied with his trap Pat went to bed, Pickles already asleep. The next morning Pat got out of bed and walked into the kitchen. CRASH went the bucket of cold water on to Pats head. Pickles jumped out of the way as the coldwater sploshed over the floor. “Ka-fue!” Said Pat as he noticed his bright red jelly jam sandwidge missing again. During that day as Pat was filling the paraffin fuel for the beacon another idea struck him. That night Pat lit the lighthouse beacon, made his bright red jelly jam sandwidge and put it on top of the bench. This time he put a set of small bells on top of it. “I’m sure I will catch the thief tonight.” Said Pat “Those bells will make such a racket!” Pat went to bed, pickles already fast a sleep. That night Pat dreamt about strange terrible monsters creeping into his kitchen and stealing his favorite bright red jelly jam sandwidge and then creeping into his room and tickling his nose and eye lashes. Pat woke with a sneeze! Sitting up in his bed, in the light of his night lamp, Pat saw dark shapes moving on the wall. As pat looked the black things began to make shapes and the shapes began to make words. “I must still be dreaming?” Said Pat rubbing his eyes. But there clear enough to read were the words ‘YOUR BECONE’S GONE OUT.” Pat jumped out of bed, grabbed his night lamp and ran up to the top of the lighthouse. The room was dark, the beacon a dark silhouette against the night sky. There in the darkness Pat could see the light of a large ship heading straight for the island. “Crickey!” said Pat hurriedly pulling out a match and quickly lighting the beacon. The ship sounded its big foghorn, the ships lights swinging right as it quickly changed direction. Pat gave a sigh of relief and went back down stairs. Before gong to bed he went into the kitchen to check on his lunch. There on the bench were more of these dark creatures crawling all over his bright red jelly jam sandwidge. Pat moved closer with his night lamp and to his astonishment he realized, just what the dark creatures were. “ANTS” Cried Pat. Pat was so thankful for the warning he left his sandwidge for the ants and went back to bed. Pickles already fast asleep. The next morning when Pat woke up he discovered his bright red jelly jam sandwidge gone, but here in its place were the bells and the word ‘thanks’. “No problem!” said pat as the word broke up and the ants scurried away. So from that night on Pat mad TWO bright red jelly jam sandwidges, one for the next days lunch and one for the ants and every morning after the ants had taken their sandwidge, they left a little thank you note. And in return if the lighthouse beacon ever did go out the little ants would tickled Pats nose and eyelashes and wake Pat up. And so it was in the lighthouse on the little island off Cape Reinga .

Janneke and Luke's Wedding - Posted on 14th Mar, 2006 at 18:51

Here are just a few photos to give you an idea of how fantastic they both looked! Congratulations to you both! It's been a long time in the making, but I can't think of a couple better suited. For extra photos or the unsqueezed versions check out More photos at photos.michaelrobinson.co.nz

Prince Pachu Patrokolate - Posted on 13th Mar, 2006 at 16:09

Over the last 3 weeks I have been helping my best friend Cam put together a some stories for bearworks books. A site dedicated to offering free audio stories for children of all ages. So far I have only written two, but there were lots of fun! Here is one I wrote at Whangamata. It is dedicated to Jane & New Zealand Chocolate….mmmm…Chocolate. If you interested in helping please go to: www.bearworksbooks.com Prince Pachu Patrokolate Was very fond of Chocolate He ate it Morn, noon and night He ate it by candlelight Chocolate was his favorite dish For breakfast he ate a chocolate fish For lunch he ate a chocolate frog For lunch he ate a chocolate log Prince Pachu Patrokolate Wanted a palace of chocolate With chocolate chairs, chocolate stairs Chocolate thrones & a chocolate phone His servants went near and far In search of every chocolate bar They bought every bar in sight So the prince could have a bite The whole kingdom began running out “Out of Chocolate” the Prince did shout “That certainly will not do!” So he sent his servants two by two He sent them to distant lands He sent them over white-hot sand He sent them over land and sea To be back in time for tea The servants came back with Chocolate white, brown and black Tin fulls and goat fulls Bin fulls and boat fulls But the prince soon ate it all His favorite royal bat and ball Even the chocolate royal throne And the chocolate telling phone At last he was down To one very last bar There was no more chocolate From near to far Prince Pachu Patrokolate Slowly opened the chocolate But there in his royal hand Was a little chocolate man “Pachue!” said the little man “You have eaten all you can! Now that you’ve had your fun There’s no chocolate for anyone” “There’s no chocolate for The chocolate mouse There’s no chocolate for The chocolate juice” “No chocolate bars Or chocolate treats No chocolate eggs Or yummy eats” “You selfish man You’ve ate the lot Now you simply must STOP STOP STOP!!!” The little chocolate man Wiggled his little nose And cast a magic spell That’s how the story goes The whole kingdom Turned to chocolate And poor Prince Pachu Patrokolate Couldn’t eat a bar of it! No the prince couldn’t Take a single bite He said” Take this Chocolate out of sight!” The Palace walls Its glittering halls The pompous statues Of poor Prince Pachu Piece by piece the Palace was taken apart Hauled away by Hand, boat and cart Until it was gone Every last bit Till alone poor Prince Pachu did sit Then who should appear? But the little chocolate man He took prince Pachu By the right hand “Now you know what happens to greedy so and so’s Remember to take great care And only eat your OWN share!” With that the chocolate man Wiggle his little nose The Kingdome came back The story goes Prince Pachu Patrokolate Was very fond of Chocolate But only one piece a day. “Just one. No More.” he would say

Auckland City - Posted on 13th Feb, 2006 at 17:46

Arriving back in the city, things seems pretty much the same, but I admit I appreciate the skyline and crazy slopes more...flat cities are just so boring…give me a few dozen volcanoes any day! Having to work with the whole N,S,E,W thing was such a chore in Toronto splendid flat organization. I don’t have a lot of time to explore right now, but I have had a few walks around town and taken a few pictures. I can’t stray to far away until I’m no longer required on call. If all goes well hopefully things will finish up later on today and I can escape North for some sun shine *Sigh

The many faces of Toby! - Posted on 12th Feb, 2006 at 00:56

"I want a jolly jumper!!!"

One of the most unpleasant couple of days so far this year! - Posted on 12th Feb, 2006 at 00:28

Here I am safe and sound back home in New Zealand, I have to admit I really…really…REALLY didn’t like the flight back to New Zealand! Leaving for the airport at 9am on Friday Morning on the 10th only to arrive in New Zealand at 5am on the 12th was not the most pleasant experience of my life! How ever thank to Cam…I was whisked away from the airport and with in the hour I was swimming at the beach! Ahhh…New Zealand waters… Dawn if you are reading this blog…I would be extremely grateful if I could make an appointment. My work injuries are really playing up after the flight over. Email me…please…please…please! My day has been mostly successful, NZ customs took way too long, but I still managed to squeeze in two swims, a game of chess, a quick look around the grounds of the Chelsea Sugar Factory, visiting BJ and Toby, Mum, Gran and Granddad…oh and I ate 3 separate servings of ice cream, twisties, dark NZ chocolate, hokey pokey and three delicious meals thanks to the Kennedy’s and Curry’s. From now on I’m stuck with Hotel food until I finish business in Auckland. Needless to stay I would rather be at Kai Iwi Lake! Ok its not quite how I intended my day to turn out…I was really hoping to see more folks today…but my poor jet lagged body was very unaccommodating. Tomorrow, time willing I will, get a new NZ sim card for my phone, have lunch with Dad and visit Jan and Ray.

Farewell Bash - Posted on 6th Feb, 2006 at 17:56

I had a small farewell bash with a few friends from work on Friday. The night was organized by Jenni and was held at ‘Madison Avenue Pub’…rather non-descriptive considering it has six different bars on multiple levels. Eventually we made it through the drunken Mayhem, up several flights of stairs and ended up in the same place. I discovered about half a dozen different Canadian beers I hadn’t tried yet. Whish in truth is more beer than I have drunken since February last year. But what better excuse then leaving the country to sample the local colour. The only causality of the evening is when I knocked my last beer over while opening a present. I am now officially ‘Canadian’ with my bright red hoody with ‘Canada’ in white scroll. So many, many thanks to all who showed up and Jenni for all the organizing. The weather was positively awful on Saturday. Blistering cold winds and rain. However it provided the perfect day to sleep in and play cards and board games…and of course nurse my swollen head. Sunday I ventured out into the cold and went ice-skating down town at city hall. There was a mixture of winter events including ice sculptures, break dancing and live music. How the musicians were able to move their fingers al all, let alone in any coordinated fashion is beyond me. After a few hours of skating, I defrosted my frozen limbs with a hot chocolate before making my way to ‘China Town’. What a strange and colourful part of the city. If you were to apperate in ‘China Town’, one might wonder what country you had descended upon. So many markets and shops filled with strange delights…even the sidewalk becomes a busy place to sell the latest movies on DVD. Trying to decide where to eat for dinner was difficult, as was choosing what to eat from the menu. To top my evening off I rolled my way up to the ‘Tango Loft’ for a few hours of Dancing. I felt positively out of practice, especially at the high tempos. Monday, Tuesday, I’m back at work. Wednesday, Thursday I will get all the last minute preparations complete and Friday I fly out…and Sunday NZ time I will arrive back in NZ at 5am…not a very Godly hour, but at least I will get a sun rise.

HOPPING MAD - Posted on 3rd Feb, 2006 at 09:45

This time Globat has gone too far…with out my permission Globat has ‘automatically’ upgraded my account and billed me $43 dollar NZ. Needless to say I am hopping mad! And still my account doesn’t’ function properly and still globat hasn’t replied to my ‘help ticket’

LAST DAYS IN CANADA - Posted on 2nd Feb, 2006 at 11:21

Moving out of my little apartment went extremely smoothly. The weather was perfectly sunny and warm with clear blue skies around. People were wandering about in t-shirts! I was very glad to have an engineer and a physicist helping out too! AKA (Jane and Mary) Getting my queen size bed to stay on the roof racks of Mary’s red station wagon was quite an engineering feat! I still had to take my front door off to get the couch out, but compared to getting it in by ‘myself’ it was remarkable easy. The whole shift and clean up was completed, by the end of the weekend. So many, many thanks for all the help. I couldn’t have done it with out you! I think back to the mad rush of trying to move out of the flat in Auckland. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate when you have your own personal transportation. Thank goodness for Cam, Mum and Jan who stepped out to help out. I remember one of the last things Jan said to me before I left for Canada “If you ever get in to trouble, just give me a call and I will come and collect you.” With only a few days left in Canada, I guess you I didn’t get a chance to take you up on your offer, but cheers! :-) it meant a lot to me. Speaking of transportation, I will really miss being able to hope on the TTC. If only Auckland had a citywide transportation system that only cost $2.50 per trip. While I lived in Auckland I caught the Train as much as I could, but the cost of public Transportation though out Auckland is ridiculous. With public transportations inconvenience and high cost, apart from parking there was no advantage over driving. Another case of politicians selling off public assets to save money. Unfortunately also a simple way to cripple any future improvements that could have been made to Auckland’s public transportation…i.e. Subways, monorail! And the result…Gridlock for hours of rush our traffic. * Sigh Of course running New Zealand’s biggest state highway right through the middle of the city also wasn’t the smartest idea. OH AUCKLAND, HOW I DON’T MISS YOUR TRAFFIC! But I digress…no more TTC for me…back to traffic on the right side of the road (namely the ‘left’) and driving a car again. Back to family, friends, NZ waters and dairy products galore!!! Ps cheers Marilyn for the well wishes!

My last weekend @ Apple - Posted on 24th Jan, 2006 at 09:24

My last weekend @ Apple I finished my last weekend with apple, until I leave Canada. Possibly one of the most grueling weeks in Months, with 12 or more hour days. I’m greatly looking forward to a few well-earned days off. I have commenced work on my Toronto Documentary project and complete the subway transit section. It has become clear to me what a mammoth task creating a documentary is. Firstly the planning, then collecting enough footage and sound bites, I have the added problem of collecting these separately as my Digital Camera is so old and doesn’t capture sound. Then theres all the editing, in the small amount of free time I have to allot to this process. The winter here seems non-existent and I am concerned that I won't get ‘one’ snowstorm before I fly out. I have been dying to go tobogganing and make a better snowman…my last looked more like town pinwheels stacked together…hmmm Strange to think last year I couldn’t wait to see the last of the snow gone…typical that now I have all the gear for the cooler temperatures and its un seasonally warm! I say goodbye to my little apartment this weekend. Its all over cheery bright yellow walls and cupboards. It’s under floor heating and jolly furnace. Things to share The other day I bought some Authentic Chinese dried noodles, I checked the price and ingredients, but what really sold me was the USAGE…either it’s a ploy to seduce the buyer into believing the noodles really are authentic…or simply the company was too cheap to get the information translated correctly…anyway the following reads: Ingredients: Wheat flour, water, Lye, Vegetable oil Usage: Put the noodle into boiling water, lo simmer 2 minutes the noodle will automatic splitting, then stir the noodle, adding oil and vegetable, it is more taste it can do as pan fry noodle, clipping up the noodle, after the water dried it can then fry. Globat I have hosted my site with ‘Globat’ for the last year now and despite major problems with their servers over the last 3 months…the reason why I haven’t been able to upload to their photo gallery…I really can’t complain considering the 2500 MB of space only cost me $53 dollars for the year. However this year I have run in to trouble with globat. As the end of my term was running out, did I get a reminder, or maybe a letter asking about my satisfaction with the company or whether I might like to up date to a terra byte...no I get billed $145 NZ dollars for the same product that originally cost me $53 dollars. Upon further investigation…yes it is in the fine print…you must contact globat 15 days prior to the end of your term…other wise you will get billed…and of course all sales a final. So…I still have my crappy 2500MB of space…with a photo gallery that still wont function…even after contacting their help desk twice…and emailing the company…but with no results or follow up. Needless to say I am frustrated with the situation and I’m feeling quite foolish for not reading the fine print again a couple of months ago.

Things I learned in 2005 - Posted on 5th Jan, 2006 at 10:06

Things I learned in 2005 • Spring doesn’t start at the end of February. • You can be straight and enjoy dancing • Finding a job in a foreign country with no contacts can be challenging • Canadians are all right Eh! • Salmon tastes delicious • French Canadians aren’t necessarily Snobs • I miss the waters of NZ much more than I could have ever possibly imagined • Living with out a piano is no way to live at all. • North America doesn’t know anything about chocolate • I can enjoy living in a cold climate, but suffer terribly in a hot climate • Under floor heating is Fantastic

Work..work..work..pause..Christmas..work..work - Posted on 25th Dec, 2005 at 18:14

For all those who are unaware of the hazards of Christmas while in a foreign country…one of the biggest trials and tribulations would the time difference between locations. December is by far one of the busiest times of the year…yes of course there is Christmas, plus preparations for holidays and of course the new year. What I didn’t count on is the fact New Zealand celebrate Christmas a day earlier than Canada. Which of course I completely forgot about, until about 48 hours before. I must admit work has kind of been occupying a disproportionate about of my time and the long months of late night shifts has left me a little frazzled. Ideally I would have gotten up early in the mornings leading up to Christmas…or just stayed up really late. However, with failing energy reserves and absolute lack of mental brainpower and inspiration…usually I savored the quiet times. Then as if being punished for my lack of preparation my stream of broadband dried up *sigh So needless to say I found my self faced with a lot of letters to write, a very short fleeting time period to write them in and no Internet to send them. So I apologise if I missed you. I worked late Christmas Eve…NZ Christmas day…and between the busy workload, franticly tried to contact family back in NZ. Once again…I was met a huge work load…so calls were few and far between…so once again I apologise if I failed to reach you. Then ahhhh…Christmas…sleeping in, loads of presents and New Zealand chocolate…mmm…chocolate. I had roast chicken for lunch and for desert pumpkin pie…mmm…pumpkin pie. Thank you to all of you for your well wishes and Christmas greetings. I appreciate every one of them!!! Oh well…back to work for Boxing Day… Ps Hey Here is a link to Hellen's & Alex's Travels...it contains zillions of awesome photos...and I'm very Jealous!!! http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/Menu47.html Pps Hey Zoe...photo removed...but you looked great as a crazy nutter.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! - Posted on 24th Dec, 2005 at 08:59

Merry Christmas to ALL!!! Please visit: http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/Christmas/Menu36.html Visit for your own personal messages! Lots of Chirstmas hugs and kisses Love M

Reflections of growing up on the farm… - Posted on 14th Dec, 2005 at 12:06

While rolling around in the snow and throwing friendly fluffy snow balls, I got to thinking about past times back at ‘Alligator Swamp.’ Of course there isn’t any snow there, but I spent days down at the river with friends rolling around in the mud…wrestling and having mud fights. After a good coating jumping back into the water, the metallic flavor of the estuary and the smell of mud in your nostrils. Or venturing in our mud cladded suits to the local road to scare the tourists or say hi to the locals. And of course at high tide there were always plenty of trees to dive or jump off, not to mention the tarzan swing. It was always a great thrill to climb as high as you could and leap off clutching the rope for dear life. Then of course there was the canoeing BBQ’s, bonfires. I always found it extremely peaceful drifting down stream with the currents, surrounded by mangrove trees, their aerial roots sticking out of the water. If you were still and quiet enough you could drift right past the shags and king fishers. Whenever there was a big storm it was always a thrill to see what got washed up the river, ridding large trees down stream and seeing if Malcolm’s little bridge would make it through unscathed. But I digress...snow fights and mud fights…mudslides and tobogganing…so different, yet some how so similar.

Some thing silly... - Posted on 13th Dec, 2005 at 10:08

For the sake of just being plain silly...and hopefully putting a little cheer in your day! Just Me, Cam, a foam pie, bucket of water, flour and a few eggs for good measure! Enjoy! http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/FileSharing21.html

My Birthday Bash! - Posted on 12th Dec, 2005 at 09:01

Thank you to everyone for the birthday cheer!!! I declare my birthday chocoholic day! I haven’t seen sooo much chocolate in years. I got 5 bars of New Zealand Chocolate including two gynormus bars of milky bar and dark chocolate from Ray and Jan!!! I spent the morning enjoying my birthday spoils before heading off to work. But after work I went to see the ‘Lion the which and the wardrobe.’ Despite the mad dash from work at 7pm for the 7:10pm film, I got seats right in the centre!!! I thoroughly enjoyed the film. The animals were excellent and the film was beautifully paced. Not like the hurried, rush of ‘HP’. You got strong feel for Narnia, even if Aslan could have been a bit bigger…even Susan was taller. All and all, despite having to work…I had a very pleasent birthday. Plus I had my snow fight and made my first snow angel. So a big thanks to everyone for all the txts, emails, cards, phone calls, stories, presents and CHOCOLATE!!!

Skating at City Hall - Posted on 8th Dec, 2005 at 07:48

I have been looking for skates for the last few days with no success! Trying to find a 7 Wide, is a bit tricky second hand and I don’t have a budget for buying new skates yet :-( As I have been waiting the last 9 months to go skating…I just hired a pair…and $9 latter I was tearing around the outside rink. I have to admit the first time round was more than a little shakey. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in a warm climate. Skating was that once a year event, or special treat. Mum would pile us kids into the car and we would get lost driving around Auckland, until we found the rink. The last time we went that I could remember was when Hellen was tot, who insisted on running around on the ice in her sneakers. Anyway…Yes I was a bit rusty. But really it’s a lot like rollerblading over an oil slick…especially with my blunt blades. After an hour or so, my feet were positively numb. At least I didn’t fall over, as I had Dancing straight after.

***HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRAN*** - Posted on 7th Dec, 2005 at 07:08

Dear Gran and Grandad I’m thinking of you both as we march our way through December. I think it will be one of the few birthdays I can remember when I didn’t spend it with the two of you. I like sharing my birthday with You Gran. It has always made the day extra special, but being so far removed from New Zealand at this time of year feels very strange. I wish you a very Happy Birthday Gran!!! I’m sure Grandad has something up his sleeve for you ;-) I have to spend my birthday working, but after work I will go out to dinner with a few friends and hopefully catch ‘The lion the witch and the wardrobe.’ It was always my favorite of the Narnia series, followed by ‘A horse and his boy.’ I miss you both and of course your piano Gran…You will have to play a little ditty for me. Take care. Lots of extra squeeze birthday hugs Love Michael

Janneke and Luke's Wedding Invite - Posted on 6th Dec, 2005 at 15:28

I got this very cool wedding invite from Janneke and Luke. I don’t know who did the photo on the cover, but I thought the composition is awesome and the inside very stylie. I really like the fact that you have chosen Wenderholm gardens as your wedding venue. I was always preferred the more relaxed beach or country wedding, than being in a confined space. Somewhere you can breathe, relax and afterwards go for a dip! Then when I read that your reception was at the Puhoi Hall, I had to giggle…you couldn’t have picked a venue brimming with more local cultural colour and history. I would be absolutely delighted to attend…in fact I wouldn’t miss it! See you on the 17th of February!!!

Mum's Birthday Card...thanks Mum xxx - Posted on 6th Dec, 2005 at 09:55

Dear Michael Tonight it is raining- such lovely wetness soaking into the parched earth. It has been quite dry which has been great for the lambs tails dropping off without going gooey. Tonight I am trying to think what I can post you for your birthday. I want to send you all the things that won’t post-the smell of my little pink roses, the golden elms in leaf, the feel of wet grass on your bare feet, the smell of orange blossom in the orchard, the buzzing of beehives that have not long arrived, the river in the moonlight, the sunrise through the mist, the smell of fish compost! Janneke’s smile, Luke with Halloween mask. Betty and Paul’s new carpet, Kali finishing her exams for the year, looking forward to Jan and Marleen coming. Scott and Cat’s New house which will be lovely as they make it their own, Gran’s salads that are too pretty to eat, Grandad finding a piece of macracarpa from our house and being delighted in the grain that comes when you wet it. Nana yummy nibbles and poppa’s smile. Hellen laughing and crying on the other end of the phone. Tim (Marleen’s nephew) and Maartje cleaning up your car so it looked great and cared for again. Russell chopping out gorse on the farm and clearing my power line, Lucie (my WWOFFER) working to right the orchard’s electrics and clear around all the trees and making new tree surrounds so I could take off the barrels, Derek and Morag’s wonderful production with ents and wood pigeons and all manner of birds and animals at Matakana. The taste of Kim Uhi’s wonderful grape juice, Kerry’s laugh, the sparks from the guy fawkes bonfire, the Catherine wheels that were successful and the one that wasn’t, the purr of Wilbur, the clucking of the hens, the softness of licorice’s fur, kicking the cat bowls off the hearth, the line-up of gumboots on the back porch, the call of the tui, the screech of the pukeko, the whistle of the shining cuckoo, the warble of the warblers. It’s so hard for me to imagine you so far away in such a different world. -My child who used to sit on the grass and listen to the birds. I love you. Happy Birthday Mum

"Oh well at least the ice cream won’t melt..." - Posted on 5th Dec, 2005 at 07:51

As the weather is chilling down, things are heating up at Yorkdale Mall. The crowds grow lager every day, the level of stress becoming more obvious on peoples faces. It would seem the festive spirit has been trampled by the stampeding hoards, all trying to cram into the stores to buy their precious gifts, all accompanied by the malls joyess Christmas music echoing off all the hard surfaces. But hey its still early in the ‘Silly Season’ and this is my first Christmas in Canada…there still hope for the Christmas spirit. A few comic strips come to mind as I ponder the coming month. 1. A picture of Santa with Santa brazing a magnum with the caption, “One more jingle and Rudolf gets it!” 2. Santa’s slay parked out side the apple store with the caption, “Sorry Santa were out of Nano in 2 gig black, try coming back in a few weeks!” I got my grocery shopping in early before work…I have a little trundler I walk down to the local Price Choppers…I get to have trolley races with the elderly people in my area, which is always fun…and as I made my way home in the falling snow I thought…’Well at least the ice cream won’t melt!’ Which of course is always a problem in New Zealand. I remember the mad dash trying to get the carefully rapped in paper ice cream from Orewa to Waiwera with out it melting. Mum, I got both of your parcels and greatly look foward to opening my birthday and Christmas presents!!! I was very surprised to have both so early, now the hard part will be not eating the contents until the appropriate moment. I was never very good at the whole ‘Delayed Gratification thing!’ I was always a great believer in play now, work later. You know the type of person that eats the desert before dinner. *Sigh Gran, I hope you are feeling better after your stint in hospital…I think there horrible places, I really have no idea how Scott can stand spending so much time there…a little of topic, I’m thinking of you and wish I could have been home to visit you.

Ginger Bread House 101 - Posted on 3rd Dec, 2005 at 20:10

I had so much fun...despite the fact I had to fight the constant urge to take a bite out of the house...and trees...and snow people...mmm...ginger bread! For the complete sequence go to: homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/Gingerbreadhouse101/PhotoAlbum20.html

The Calm before the storm - Posted on 28th Nov, 2005 at 07:01

I have been enjoying some well-earned rest over the last few days. I had a chance to catch up on the web, play in the snow and get a little sight seeing in too boot. I went to the AGO –Art Gallery of Ontario, not the greatest art experience of my life. After purchasing the tickets…yes you have to pay a general admission fee…plus coat and bag fee…plus any extra exhibits…any way I’m getting off topic. After I paid I was promptly told that over 75 percent of the gallery was closed!!! Now that wasn’t on their web site. Thanks for nothing. I spent about an hour looking around the crazy combination of works…given the fact that most of the gallery is shut I imagined that they would have reorganized the other 25% to best show the remaining works. Instead I find ridicules modern exhibitions…a room with chairs in front of two TVs playing the CBC, a keyboard and amp and some cheesy midi music. Another room was taken up with a bed with the sign ‘Van Gogh’s room’ containing a bed, table and dresser at weird angles, an entire hall way of high school students work and the largest room was dedicated to people who wanted to draw on the walls. Sure it’s modern, sure it’s gimmicky, but what a waste of space. I guess it begs the question ‘What is art?’ Now I understand there is a zillion answers to this question, however when I read the sign at the font of the gallery that said 'Art Gallery of Ontario', I imagined inside I would find a wide selection of art by Canadians in Ontario, from the I don’t know…last 150 years. Either the AGO changes its name to the Modern Art Gallery of Ontario or they actually display some of the rich work Ontario has to offer. Currently if you want to see the works of ‘Catherine the Great’ go by all means, but if you’re looking for Canadian art…I highly recommend you go somewhere else! After the AGO debacle I decided to walk up to the ROM- Royal Ontario Museum. Not only is it free on Friday afternoons, but what a lot to see, DESPITE the fact they were currently renovating. Sure it’s not Te Papa, but I thoroughly enjoyed what the museum had to offer. There was something for everyone. I especially liked the live insect displays. I have never seen cockroaches that large before. :-) The only down side was that the bio diversity map didn’t have New Zealand on it…Boo!

Congratulations Char - Posted on 28th Nov, 2005 at 06:21

I got an email from Charmaine Ford last night and just wanted to say congratulations!!! I have no idea where you get the energy to study full time, and gig and teach all at once!!! But I’m sure you recital was a great success. Cheers for the update Char!!! “As for what I'm up to - I'm about to do my 'final recital' 7pm tonight (!) to get my music degree. Been a long time in the pipeline...as I first started it in 2000, when I moved to Wellington. I decided to go back this year to finish off the 125 credits left to do. Been a rather full on year, as I've been doing the fulltime study thing, plus gigging 3-5 nights a week, plus teaching at the Massey Jazz School (where I'm studying) and also a bunch of private students. Not to mention the other touring I've been doing too. Phew.” www.charmaineford.com

A small review of Murray McNabb - Posted on 27th Nov, 2005 at 13:04

I have been working on creating a site dedicated to one of Auckland jazz pianist Murray McNabb. Please visit: http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/murraymcnabb/Personal18.html I have included pictures and music from Murray McNabb including the small review below. Murray McNabb is a primarily self taught musician. He has played professionally live and for radio programmes since 1967. In addition to McNabb’s composing, arranging and performing on piano and electronics through the 80s and 90s to the present Murray McNabb Trio and Quartet and Band R, McNabb has also performed in concert with visiting American Jazz greats including Tenor giant Joe Henderson, cornetist Nat Adderley, trumpeter Bobby Shew and blues singer Jimmy Witherspoon. He was also invited on stage with Don Cheery, Charlie Haden and Ed Blackwell. Trying to locate reviews and articles on Murray McNabb is like trying to chase a ghost. Placing McNabb’s name in google provides an absolute multitude of sites but little to no information. Many New Zealand musicians acknowledge McNabb or place playing with McNabb under their list of achievements. Movie buffs cite the composer from “Once were Warriors” or “Broken English”. The local press, from NZ Herald, regional papers and town council newsletters offer little but advertising for his concerts and gigs. The most amusing site I found was www.bandsforhire.co.nz that advertised McNabb’s music as: Jazz to light Rock, but SPECIALIZING IN 50's & 60s ROCK 'N ROLL - Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, The Beatles etc with some Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles thrown in. Of course I have no doubt that McNabb would have no difficulty in fulfilling any of the genres above, but the advertisement seriously understates Murray McNabb’s playing and abilities. Sadly Murray McNabb seems to be Auckland’s best–kept secret. A brilliant musician who’s creative, compositions and improvisations are second to none and yet recongnised by few. McNabb seems completely wasted on Auckland’s culturally inept Metropolis. A city where musicians are bottlenecked and pigeon–holed into playing cheesy pop covers simply to make a dime. I have respectfully posted a few samples of Murray McNabb’s trio and quartet work as a way of acknowledging McNabb’s musicality and in hope enlightening Auckland’s masses to its miss placed gem.

Brrrrrrrrrrrr...... - Posted on 24th Nov, 2005 at 07:53

Brrr…. The temperature is just keeps falling and I can’t help thinking of everyone swimming back in New Zealand…*sigh. Alei has come to visit from Newark and I’m currently chilling out and enjoying a few days off from the chaos of work. I am recovering after receiving a few LARGE bumps on the head. A fairly good indication of my poor state of being…exhausted and uncoordinated. Other than just relaxing I intend to do some touristy things and take Alei to the Royal Ontario Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario and maybe if the clouds disperse a little, even the CN tower. All those back in NZ make sure you catch a few rays and take a dip for me! Miss You all! This will be my first Birthday out side of New Zealand...which will be a bit strange. And this time I'm really OLD!

Hellen in Sri Lanka - Posted on 22nd Nov, 2005 at 06:50

I'll start by saying if you're the kind of person who lkes to get exactly what they want at the time they want - Sri Lanka really isn't the place for you. But if you can let go of expectations knowing that even though you ordered pineapple juice you're still probably going to get banana milk shake - with no explaination - then you'll learn to love this place. Everything has the potential to take 3 times as long here. We were caught out several times - like when the over crowded train had to shut down for repairs half way though our trip to Kandy and then we continued on for an hour in the dark with no lights on the train, which we had to stop for another 40 mins at another station to get them put back on. Luckily our starting point was really smooth (for Sri Lanka). With the exception that the Sri Lankan airlines was 1 and a half hours late - leaving us to find a smelly room at 12:30 in the morning for a crazily high price! On our first day our hotel manager set us up with a tour which we spontaniously accepted. It turned out that our driver, Mahinda, 50's, curry belly and balding, was heaps of fun and quite the party animal with a good sense of humour! He seemed to have the best hook ups with hotels and the whole time we were with him we lived like kings! > For a good price too! We did the historical ruins - looking at palaces and temples that are over 2000 years old. It seems back then that building huge pleasure palaces and giant religious monuments was the thing to do. And even if by the end of that part of the tour we felt a bit ruined out - we were blown away by the scale of it all! We also spent a lot of time getting to know elephants - they're everywhere and we even did a bareback tour through a lake on a really friendly 23 year old lady called Sita. The elephant orphanage was amazing too - with a herd of about 60 elephants all being managed by about 15 guys with little sticks while the tourists strut around with no boundaries taking pictures. Later in the tour we took to the mountains - which are pretty chilly at 11 degrees. They grow the tea up there. I was in tea heaven for two whole days!!! The hills are all patchwork quilts of tea and vegetables terraced all the way down to the bottom of the valleys. They are all worked on by Tamil women. While we were there unknowingly we went to a Tamil rally music concert and even had a song dedicated to us - we didn't stay too long though once we realised it was a political event! To end the tour Mahinda took us to Nillwella one of the most beautiful beaches down south. Our guest house Kadolana seemed to be the only one taking guests on the beach. We were often the only people in the water except for the occasional Sri Lankan. It was so nice there that after Mahinda dropped us off at Hikkadua and said goodbye - we decided to take ourselves back there - staying in Hikkadua only long enough to hire boards and we stayed in Nillwella another 4 days. It's hard to see how slow the progress is after the Tsunami. Peole are still in tents and if they had told me that the Tsunami happened two months ago I'd belive them. People still seem to be in grieving and the government seems to do nothing but complicate their suffering. They tell the people they can't rebuild on their own land if it is closer than 100 ms to the sea. (Commercial buildings like restaurants and guest houses aren't included in this law). (Ring any alarm bells???) People are being told they have to move to where land is available at the 100 m rule - often 13 km or more from their original homes. Of course the people refuse to leave their village and remain in tents and shacks. Politics (or politricks as Mahinda calls them) seem very messy here - being here before the election is a good insight but I'll never understand it. We have one day in Sri Lanka on the 15th of december and I'll be really interested to see what the after election out come is. Now I'm in india - that is another story! I'm glad I've had the Sri Lankan warm up though - it really helped. Lots of love to you all xxxxxxxx Hels

Winter Packages - Posted on 18th Nov, 2005 at 19:51

This evening my landlord Marilyn rang me to inform me a package had arrived. This left me very curious as I walked home upon the slippery snow filled streets. As I walked I was left wondering who it could possibly be from…Knowing Mum disposition of leaving things to the last minute…it kind of ruled her out…although my birthday is quickly approaching…so with limited avenues spent…it really was a surprise parcel. When I opened it I found a little card from Gran and Granddad, a bar of New Zealand Chocolate, but best of all…a container of Cookies baked by Gran!!! Gran you get the prize for the best present sent to Canada!!! The cookies were really scrumptious and crunchy! Thanks to both of you they really cheered my day! :-) Ps I will definitely have to take you up on your offer of a tin of cookies for my next trip away. Lots of squeeze hugs Love M

Pasta again? - Posted on 15th Nov, 2005 at 14:30

At work my pasta lunches have become a standard joke. Every day I break out the same ancient tupawear containers loaded with carbohydrate goodness my colleagues turn and ask “Pasta again Michael?’ Or “Did you trade your fridge in for a giant freezer!” With my work being so chaotically busy and my schedule varying as widely as it does I try and eat one substantial meal a day. Of course this only works about 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time I leave my lunch at home, or on the subway or street car…grrr…I think I have to blame you Dad for my short term memory…I’m sure Mum’s isn’t that bad :-)Anyway I would like to think that someone out there is at least enjoying a hot lunch. Of course I work at a Yorkdale Mall…so there are ‘other’ options, but if you have every been to the multi million dollar malls ‘food courts’…you would bring your lunch too. I can’t tell you the amount of times I have walked from vender to vender, waiting for something to tickly my fancy…only walk away disappointed. I noticed last week my freezer supply was severely depressed. In fact I had to throw in a few TV dinners just to stretch it out till my day off. But Today all is well in the land of the freezer compartment. It’s stuffed so full of meals I ran out of containers and could barley fit the yogurt ice cream container…mmm…yogurt ice cream. I’m still working my way though Hellen’s birthday cake…living solo does have its advantages, but I would love to have shared it with you little Sis. I hope your birthday was a success and your having a ball in India. Things here are chilling down…most people are bundled up in ski jackets, scarves and mittens. I seem to be consistently warm…I haven’t even got out my winter coat yet. Of course that could change shortly…the weather forecast has –2 tomorrow followed by –4 followed by –6 Degrees and were suppose to get our first snow in Toronto this week. On the up side I can’t wait to go skating. Yeah!!! Love to all, M

More adventures from Hellen - Posted on 14th Nov, 2005 at 08:11

Time in Thailand better late than never... Hey - so I never would have thought that internet was so hard to come by in Sri Lanka but it is almost impossible to find something that works and doesn't cost more than $4 NZ per hour. Right now I'm typing on a computer on which the space bar barely works and you have to slam it down to get any results - which is pretty annoying! So I wrote this down when Thailand was still fresh in my mind and I hope you'll forgive me for sending it as I'm leaving Sri Lanka. Thailand took a little bit of time to get under my skin but is one of the main places I'd like to go back to because I really don't feel like I gave it enough time. We took the train up to Surrat Tahni from Malaysia and threw ourselves on to a bus and then a ferry to Koh Pha ngan. On the train we saw our first live guns passing us back and forth attactched to the belts of the police who guard the trains. It was strange to have this leathal weapon bobbing past my nose while I was watching the rice paddies flow by. The ferry ride included this increadible Van Gough sunset - Alex got some surreal pictures. When we arrived we followed a whim - taking the advice of some fellow cab passengers and got dropped in Bankae. Then we followed some people who passed us on their bike back to their bungalows. They turned out to be Jane a Thai/Japanese guy who wants to come to NZ because he has read the ledgend about our fairies and wants to see one (and was a bit of a fairy himself) and Santa - I never learnt his real name - from Lapland. The place turned out to be really nice and easy going and right on the beach and we seemed to be the only swimmers. We rented a bike and started to explore the island. Alex took me on some crazy road which got more and more rough - to the point where I hadto get off and walk. Bankae is a sleepy little place and the only really happening thing there is the 7 eleven convenience store, which served us a lot of breakfasts and occasionally dinner. Its 24 hours because Koh Phangan is such a party Island. It was the place where you meet up with friends over a sausage or a slushy. The roti pancake lady (very yum) and a few other stalls would pull up in the evening to do their business too. We headed to Haddrin for some Island hussel. We found this great place on sunset bay which was up the hill. It felt so much like a summer batch and we happily relaxed - Alex on the hammock outside and me on the bed. That night I noticed some little bumps on my skin and thought they were strange mosi bites. They kept swelling and getting itchy. It was11:30 when we clicked that the mattress that was filled with fleas and there was no way to change the room. We switched rooms the next day but for the next four days I was covered in big red spots which were very itchy- especially on my neck! Apparently I scratched in my sleep - Alex had hardly any reaction! Haddrin was a good experience though - i bought a new bathing suit cause the one from NZ had completely died. We even caught upon some movies since the bars play movies all day. Charlie and the chocolate factory was definately a favorite! We went to the half moon party in the jungle which our Thai friend Ssad got us into for free. It was a cool set up but the vibe wasn't all for us and the trance music wasn't funky enough to get our groove going. So we ended up back at Ssad's house which had become our favorite hang outs on the Island. Lots of hammocks and pillows and a friendly cat called Messi. On our last few days we went on an elephant safari. I felt like our elephant wasn't really into it - but the antics of the other elephants with their drivers made up for it. They were getting their elephants to do all kinds of things like handstands and playing the harmonica. We left the Island and decided to head straight for Bangkok - we bought a ticket for the night train- it was coming at 11:30pm which meant we had to kill 5 hours. We stopped at a restaurant and drank green pepsi and then wandered the stalls. Some how in all the time stalling a cat peed on my bag that I use to carry all my valuable stuff in. So I rushed into a 7 eleven and had to convince them to let me have some shopping bags and allow me to use their bathroom. The major casualties was my camera case and its strap which had to be ditched cause the smell never disappeared. Bangkok is loud but has great food! There is lots of fresh fruit and cheap fresh fish! But american pop plays all day and night on full volume and it seemed like they had only one compliation cd that they left on repeat! The ear plugs only cut out half the sound in our room which was above the street! We hit the temples (Wat Pho being one of the best) and several suit shops - our tuk tuk driver was trying to up his petrol vouchers! Nice suits but considering how we were dressed I'm not sure why they bothered to even try to sell us anything! Out of bangkok and on to Kanchanaburi - I regretted not making more time for here because it is really lovely. We stayed in a raft house on the river - mountains were in the backdrop! We hired another bike and this time got completely lost while we tried to find the tiger temple. Thai people seem more than happy to give directions even when they don't understand where you are asking to go. Finally we fluked a road in the right direction and then found a woman who told us it was nearby and even wrote for us in Thai - 'Please help us we would like to go to the tiger temple. Please show us the way.' So at least people would know what we were asking for! We found the tigers - after driving constantly for 4 and a half hours! We did a few photo shoots with the Tigers - We were lead around and allowed to stroke them while the keepers took photos. I doubt I'll ever get a chance like that to run my figers through a tigers fur again! The next day we went to Erawan waterfalls. They span over 2kms and reminded us of what the pink and white terraces near Rotatua would have looked like. At the top we got to see monkeys bouncing around in the water. It was stunning all the way up and we lost track of time and had to sprint the 2 kms back down in 20 min - me in bathing suit and towel - which the monks thought was pretty funny. We made it for the last bus of the day - only just! I somehow managed to change on the bus! And that's pretty much what happened in Thailand. Hope you're all happy and healthy! Lots of love Hells

Hell’s Bells - Posted on 12th Nov, 2005 at 09:01

I was going to write you a poem for your birthday…but the only thing I could think to rhyme with Hellen, was Mellon. Some how writing a poem about Hellen’s Melons just didn’t seem appropriate. So instead I made you a birthday cake with chocolate icing-lots of cocoa and all sorts of sprinkles. Happy Birthday little Sis.

Halloween - Posted on 2nd Nov, 2005 at 08:01

I experienced a bit of Canadian Halloween! I can’t remember Halloween ever being a very big deal in New Zealand…in fact I can’t even remember the last Halloween party I went to…I do however, remember very vividly all the mid-winter solstice parties I had to endure…I do miss Mum’s pumpkin pie and mulled wine. Unfortunately I had to work evenings so I missed out on trick or treating. At least there was plenty of candy at work. On the way home the Queen Street East streetcar was a-wry with Halloween Costumes. There was an entire hockey team from the land of the living dead with ghoulish gashes and blood. A group of toga wearing geeks with implements sticking out of them, fairies, devils, maidens, and corpses bride. Not a boring ride home…except for the fact I had to walk the last quarter as the road was closed due to a Halloween accident. This week I have another run of late shifts. Not my favorite shift…but as its getting dark, by the end of the morning shift…it really doesn’t matter too much. On a rainy Monday morning rather than skulk around at home, I braved the weather and went walking up Don Valley near St Clair. There is a little path leading down from the over bridge I have been wanting to explore for a while. Don Valley although quite narrow has some huge lovely old trees. As the rain moved from light drizzle to sopping large globular drops, the autumn leaves were sent fluttering down in torrents. I spent the whole morning wandering around and taking pictures in the rain before heading to work. I’m still having huge problems uploading my photos with Globat…grrr…So visit: http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/PhotoAlbum15.html

The Ornette Coleman Concert - Posted on 30th Oct, 2005 at 08:24

After a really physically long hard day at work, I barely had enough time and energy to get to the 8pm concert…I didn’t finish until just before 7pm. I spoiled myself and got the slightly more expensive cheap seats…after my Sony Rollins experience…it seemed prudent. Sitting in Massy Hall I couldn’t help, but wish David was here to share the concert; after all he was the first person to introduce me to Ornette Coleman. Since then I have acquired many albums, but none that sounded remotely like the concert. At 75 years old Coleman sounds as fresh as ever. I was surprised at the amount of instruments that were lined up on the stage. Two basses, flugel horn, violin and drums. I guess I mostly have only heard Coleman play sax, but his flugel horn and violin are equally inventive. It was an enthralling concert…1 hour and 45 minutes of almost constant music…compared to the records; Colman’s tone seemed positively mellow. There were times when the tone was light and airy…a la Paul Desmond. The two base players Tony Falanga and Greg Cohen worked together beautifully, complimenting each other’s ideas and flying in perfect unison with Coleman. While Denardo Coleman on the drums provided a strong cohesion between all the players, with so many textures and angles. Intros, solos, endings were always a surprise. The traditional form was thrown to the wind in typical Coleman fashion. It was so refreshing not knowing what was going to happen next. Being on the stage with Coleman requires lighting fast reflexes and not for the faint hearted. At the end of the performance and the encores, I was left with a sense of fun and adventure. I found the concert both awing and inspiring. Thank you Ornette Coleman.

Getting Around - Posted on 27th Oct, 2005 at 11:09

The weather during our stay was a little bleak…fringed cold winds with a variety of different rain. The first day after freezing of my poor little ears and trying to catch a little of the local sights, I decided some inside activities were required. I went and checked out the biosphere, (the funky looking metal sphere entitled “Montreal 2”) Unfortunately it is closed on Tuesdays…so I took the metro up to the ‘Biodome’. The subways are very different from Toronto’s old run down stations. Montreal subway cars use rubber wheels rather than metal, so I am not forced to put my fingers in my ears every time there is a curve or the car has to stop. Secondly the stations are huge, with high ceilings and come with multiple digital projectors that keep you up to date. Its nice not feeling claustrophobic and crammed. Montreal subways are also as quiet as a library compared to Toronto…anyway I digress. The ‘Biodome in housed in the former Velodrome cycling stadium in the Olympic complex. The Dome re-creates four ecosystems and houses approximately 4000 animals and 5000 plants. Under one roof, you can amble though a rain forest, Polar Regions, the Laurentain Shield woodlands and the ocean environment of the Golf of St Lawrence. It was very pleasant to get out of the pouring rain and winds, but there was a definite lack of animals…I’m not sure where the 4000 animals hide out…but I couldn’t find them. In fact many of the exhibited animals were no were to be found at all. In the evening I checked out some of the local restaurants…I chickened out and decided I’d miss out on escargot. Then I fought my way through the weather and visited some of the local clubs. After coming from New Zealand, through the states and then to Toronto, I kind of took it for granted that smoking was illegal in public places. Not so in Montreal…here the cafes, restaurants, bars and clubs are all filled with lovely cancer inducing smoke. The service was very good in Montreal the Jazz clubs certainly have plenty of atmosphere. I think I would need about 2 weeks to get around to them all. On the last day there was only a light splattering of rain, so I made the most of the “good weather” and spent the whole day wondering around the city. I love the old down town, its old buildings (well for Canada) and quiet atmosphere. For lunch I dinned at Celine Dion, walked around the CBD, took the metro to some of the larger Churches, wondered the parks and then caught a lift back to Toronto. All and all a very pleasant, but short trip. Until I can get globat to come to the party you can view my photos at: http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/PhotoAlbum14.html

Getting out of Ontario - Posted on 27th Oct, 2005 at 08:02

For those unfamiliar with Canada’s geography, the country is made up of about a dozen provinces. Some are pretty small like New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. Some a little bigger like Nunavut or the North West Territories. Until this week I have only explored around Ontario. I’ve traveled from the Niagara Falls (the bottom) all the way to Algonquin. But until this week I hadn’t had the opportunity to travel out side of the Ontario Province. After I finished work on Monday I hitched a ride with a friend to Quebec. It’s about 5 to 7 hour drive depending on traffic. Thankfully traffic was light and I made my check in time…despite getting wildly lost. For the majority of the way traveling is easy on the 401. (Think HW1, but A LOT longer.) The sights along the way are pretty fantastic. The trees are so colourful and the landscape mostly flat with rolling hills. The signs make sense right up to the boarder between the provinces…then suddenly every thing is in French. The Canada I have known so far is left way behind and I feel like an intruding foreigner. Arriving was a bit of a fiasco…we missed HW20 so we had to enter the city via HW40…wouldn’t have been so bad except all our carefully notated directions became absolutely useless…then there was the fact the map I was using didn’t have a ledger or arrow north. Things were complicated further by the fact there was no English signs and I couldn’t pronounce the street names, desired off ramps were closed, a plethora of one-way streets, (think Dunedin) and a gazillion of no turn signs. Of course asking for directions is fun too, especially when they only speak French. Strange that Toronto has to have every single item in both English and French...I couldn’t help wonder if the city wasn’t designed specifically to keep out the riffraff of English speaking Canadians and tourists from their beautiful city.

Third Day - Posted on 21st Oct, 2005 at 08:48

For once we were the last to breakfast….still recovering from all the hiking and exploring from day 2. Keeping in mind we had to be at Toronto airport by 7 pm, it was decided to head South after lunch. So we decided to check out the local fauna and flora. We got to see some cool waterfalls…see pictures and drove up to ‘Eagles nest’ which while unfortunately had no eagles provided some awesome views and good hikes. Here the trees sported lots of yellows and orange…I love the space that the forest provides…so different from the NZ bush that at times can be so dense its almost claustrophobic. Walking though the deciduous forest was so tranquil and relaxing I didn’t really want to go back to Toronto. Eventually we made our weary way home…once again caught up with all the ‘Cottage Country Traffic.’ Oh well…

Day Two - Posted on 18th Oct, 2005 at 10:02

The morning was chilly and an early start with a hearty breakfast consisting of baked tomatoes and cheese, an omelet and hash-brown potatoes, diced pork and onions, with a cornflake topping…a little weird for me, but I was assured that it was perfectly normal in the North. Needless to say it bet my usual toast! After breakfast we drove North to Algonquin Provincial Park. What a huge park. The main road through is about 56 Km…and the park sprawls for miles!!! After paying our park entry, which involved squeezing around the bus loads and crowds of Japanese tourists, we made our way to the first hike of the day…’Beaver pond.’ We carefully choose hikes where the car parks didn’t allow for busses to turn around. The information brochure rated the track moderate. A mere 2 km with lots of ups and downs for plenty of good views. I missed out on seeing any beavers…apparently they are rather shy creatures…unlike the chipmunks and squirrels that chattered away as we enjoyed the view. We mostly kept to the tracks, only diverging once climb a rock face that looked like fun…I was glad to discover, I haven’t completely lost my sense of direction or my ability to find my way back to the path. It was nice to be able to open your ears and not have to listen to the sound of combustion engines. I realize I spend a large portion of my day and night in Toronto trying desperately to close my ears and ignore them. It was both a tranquil and revitalizing experience. On our second hike…not tramp…here the word only carries only one connotation…and its not walking through the wilderness…we walked the Booth’s Rock Trail. It was earlier desolated by logging and later replanted. Its hard to imagine that people would consider cutting down all the huge native trees…but I guess it was exactly the same in New Zealand…just on a larger scale. Once we managed to find a car park…miles out in the wilderness and we ran into a traffic jam…mostly due to peoples inability to park. Due to the high hiking traffic we decided to be rebels and walk in the opposite direction. It was nice not being stuck behind everyone…but the track was very steep and hard going. Nothing on the Heaphy Track…but enough for some fantastic views over Booth Rock lake. The trees put on a wonderful display against the perfect blue sky and water. We had lunch at the top sat about for a while enjoying the splendor. After a long day of hiking we made our way back to the B & B for turkey sandwiches…it was thanksgiving after all…mmm turkey.

Tales From Hellen in Malaysia - Posted on 17th Oct, 2005 at 09:55

Long over due - here is my tales of Malaysia. Which I'm sure you all know by now I really loved! There is one down side about Malaysia - that is the heat! It is really hot and takes about a week to adjust. Before the adjustment you are really quite subhuman and have to stop for Ice and cold things all the time or else you throw tantrums. The stamp your feel totally irrational kind! - That's all there is to complain about, everything else is great! We flew into KL on the 15th and turned up in Chinatown in the hope of some cheap guesthouses. I ended up talking Alex into some aircon - so glad I did - don't know if I would have survived without it! On our way to to the airport we discoverd that Indonesian and Malaysian are a very similar language - So all the handy little sentences we had learned went straight into use! It was great. That mixed with the fact that almost all Malays speak english made us feel really at ease. In chinatown the place we stayed called Luk Anne Hotel had two chubby chinamen running the front desk - they were like to clucking hens always telling us to watch out when we went out late and telling me off for carrying my purse out in the open - even though I assured them I was carrying almost no money. They were scared of black men and at the end of our stay they told Alex "You up weight" and to me "You down weight" which I thought was quite cheeky! The chinatown night markets are packed full of people and no moving air - it is really sweaty! We went looking for food and we definately found some good stuff. Coconut pancakes were tops, so were the fruit venders which all sold freash chunks of pineapple, watermelon and mango and other malaysian fruit I still have no name for. We got into the habit of red bean buns and soy milk here and continued it for the rest of malaysia! The best combo ever! In KL I managed to make it to the big malls everyone seems to get excited about - we fixed Alex's electronic stuff - his watch and Mp3 player - in the magic mall with no effort at all. We also made it to the Zoo! Glad we did too cause it made the whole jungle trip more enjoyable because I could actually see in my mind what the animals looked like when I was wondering blindly through the jungle getting bearly a glimps of these creatures. We got out to Malacca somehow in the haze of the heat. We stayed at this great place with a roof top garden. We spent a lot of 'sundays' - you know those sleep in an achieve very little days at this place. Chilling on the roof and wandering through town. The Rickshaws added heaps of character to this city - they were completely decked out with tinsel and plastic or silk flowers or any other strange thing they had decided was decorative. They also had a little boom box in the back so you could jive to the tunes while you were driven down the historic streets. We had the party rickshaw on our trip - lots of hiphop was pumping out the back of our trunk! We also ate cat here for the first time! Not that we knew at first - it was through ellimination that we figured it out. In little india? Go figure! Alex fed his cat to a waiting cat! Other than the cat experience food in malaysia is sooo cheap and good that we started eating like crazy. I miss it already. In Thailand it can be a bit more hit and miss. We've already walked out on a meal after it was cooked for us because it was so overpriced for what they tried to serve us! The jungle! We got ourselves hooked up with a lovely jubbley trip into Kenong Rimba which was nice and isolated and very beautiful. We had a personal guide and for half of the 3 days we shared our camp with a french couple and then it was just us and the guide. It feels more genuine when you're in to jungle almost alone! We smelt tigre pee and looked at elephant poop and watched monkeys leap cliff faces. The whole time I sweated like never before but I no longer felt like having a tantrum. The scariest moment was when the wind picked up on one of our tours. Trees fall so easily cause of all the termites. About 5 that we noticed fell while we were in the jungle and one had falling on our camp the week before. We were stuck in a cave till after dark that night waiting for the wind to stop and the rain to start. We walked home in the rain about 9:30 - it took lots of tea and condensed milk to recover! Sha the guide was cool and very on to it but you can still feel a bit jumpy when you're out of your zone. From Kenong Rimba we took the jungle train up to near the top of Malaysia and jumped on a boat out to the Perhentian Islands. They reminded us of the AbleTasman in the south Island. We met a guy called Frank on the Train who turned out to be a carny from the Circ di Sole he gave us a few laughs on the train and we ended up taking a boat with him the next day too. When we arrived at Di Lagoon - the resort we were staying at had its own bay with a marine reserve out the front we found we had been given the delux room - for half price. We did heaps of snorkling. The coral was amazing - sort of reminds me of gardens on the land only some looks like china lace and some of it looks like something out of a gothic grave. There were fish everywhere and you could stay out for hours cause the water was really boyant it took no effort to swim at all. The reef sharks were everywhere and could be fairly big - at first I refused to look at them, swimming in the opposite direction everytime Alex saw one, but after a close incounter with two which got so close I had to use my flipper to kick at ones head to scare it away I guess I got used to the idea that there was sharks in the sea. Just glad there was lots of fish for them to eat. We went out to ride the turtles with an Italian couple who were on their honey moon and in the bungalow next to us - we had a cool time chasing turtles and hanging off their shells as they grazed on the sea grass. I got to practice my rusty italian as well! And they invited us to visit in Naples - might take them up on that! Our last 3 days before we left were in Kota Bahru. The food there topped the food everywhere in Malaysia - that's why we stayed 3 days - we were meant to stay 2! The wet markets and the fruit markets were bursting with good stuff and one morning we just bought up large and gorged ourselve with fruit. So then we took a bus to Thailand - an that's another story. Which I guess I'll write about once I'm in Sri Lanka. Lots of love Hels

A time to travel - Posted on 13th Oct, 2005 at 06:22

With the discovery that Jane and I had a coinciding three-day weekend off work on Wednesday night, I decided it was high time to get out of Toronto and head North. Despite all my good intentions of leaving early on Saturday …things like, packing, planning and shopping took a little longer than expected. Eventually about mid morning we departed Toronto loaded with goodies and snacks to join the queues of Torontonians trying to escape the city for the long weekend. The further North we drove the brighter the autumn colours became. Brilliant yellows, oranges and fiery reds. We stopped at a few provincial parks along the way North. Here you have to buy a park pass…Not something that New Zealander’s would abide by, but I must admit, at least your car and stay are a lot safer. You don’t have to worry whether your car is still going to be there when you come back. Our first stop was at Darlington Provincial Park…a nice break from driving…with calm waters and plenty of flat stones for skimming, but the terrain was much the same as Toronto. Our second stop was at the Petroglyphs Provincial Park. Here we checked out the learning centre that was dedicated to the native Indians, the Petroglyphs…Indian Carvings into a marble rock face…completely enclosed in a large ugly glass enclosure. After we took a hike though the March trail and through forests filled with poplar, maple, and other colourful trees. At sunset we made our way to our serendipity accommodation. Due to our short notice and our late booking, finding anything near Algonquin seemed almost impossible over the weekend. Thankfully the B & B we stayed at had a cancellation so we weren’t stuck trying to sleep in the car…brrr. As dusk approached the autumn trees intensified, throwing entire hillsides into a blaze of colour. There were ohh’s and arrr’s around every corner. Dinner was a casual affair, after all the days activity, we simply went across the road to the local diner were every meal was under $8 and most of the menu was loaded with cholesterol. Then after a game of Settlers…Jane still consistently wins! With two more days of exploring…we called it an early night.

A time to rest - Posted on 13th Oct, 2005 at 06:21

This week has been busy but short. I finished at 12pm on Saturday and spent a sunny afternoon out at Beaches. Chilling out in the shade next to the lake and eating yummy food. Saturday evening I went swing dancing and had my second swing dancing lesson. I only learnt about 4 moves, but they were easily useable and interchangeable, with lots of spinning and twirling. I spent Sunday being extremely lazy…I made pancakes for breakfast, had lunch at the ‘Kiwi Kick.’ No kiwi’s I’m afraid, just an angry Spanish chief that didn’t seem too keen on serving…oh well, it could have been my scruffy clothes or maybe New Zealander’s have a reputation for being cheap. But either way after a spot to eat Jane and I made our way to High park. After being there so many times I feel less of a tourist. I quickly made my way to my favorite spot and spent the next hour feeding the many squirrels and chipmunks. Most are very tame and happy to take the peanuts out of your hands, while others take a little coaxing. Which is always well worth the effort. Part way though the serving the peanuts the little critters for not obvious reason all scattered. The chipmunks vanished and the squirrels ran up the trees making strange kind of little grunts and squeals. Food clearly did not enter the equation so we just had to sit and wait for what ever trouble, perceived or otherwise passed. Then it was business as usual. Eventually we ran out of peanuts and explored more of the park. Eventually we rested under a huge weeping willow next to the pond for some chess. Monday I crossed the border for a shopping expedition in Buffalo. I was in desperate need of clothes, especially with winter approaching. I no longer had a single pair of sock that didn’t have at least two holes in…along with most of my tee shirts. I guess that is what becomes of years of studying with little opportunity for indulging or frivolous spending…*sigh. I spent much more than I intended…but I get the feeling that is the nature of shopping sprees. But now I have lots of warm clothes and socks with out holes and low and behold the temperature has dropped about 15 degrees. I have also started back at tango and was really surprised that I hadn’t forgotten every thing over the last 5 months I have been neglecting it. If anything I feel more confident than ever before. I think the swing dancing might have helped…but so much fun!!! This weekend is extra long due to Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday. I am heading up to Algonquin Park with Jane. Were of for a long road trip with lots of adventures and sight seeing. Side Note to David: I’m sorry to hear about your loss. I spent a lot of time with Guido listening to you talk about Boris and Melbourne. I always envisioned meeting Boris at some stage. I’m sorry I can’t be closer and miss spending time hanging out listening to Frank Zappa and co, drinking beer and playing play station.

The weekend - Posted on 1st Oct, 2005 at 09:03

It’s Saturday at midday and I’ve just finished work. Today I got sent home early…apparently I have a wee bit too much over time! Oh well it’s a gorgeous day and I think I will go out and enjoy the last of the sunshine even if it won’t make 20 degrees today. Last night I went to see Serenity with some friends from work. Not a bad science fiction/western with CGI galore, crazy costumes, and David Newman did the scoring. I’m coming up to my first two days off in a row. I intend to go to the park on Sunday and hang out with the chipmunks, wander around the large park and probably have a picnic lunch and lie about for the afternoon. On Monday I cross the border to Buffalo in search of some warmer clothes and a few replacements…something I should have got on to a long time ago. When I got home late last night I found a package from Matt and Bejee. It finally arrived about 6 months late!!! Well better late than never. So thanks guys. I really appreciate the movie tickets, NZ calendar, warmers, but I’m not quite sure what to do with the NZ flag…I’m sure I will think of something. I managed to track down Gran and Grandad’s, Heather and Alan’s and Bruce’s Skpye address, but I know that there are plenty of others out there…so don’t be shy.

Work, Work, Work! - Posted on 25th Sep, 2005 at 14:38

Work has been extremely busy…I’m currently up to day 7 out of my 10-day week. I had a depressing thought the other day…I calculated that I spend approximately one day every week traveling to and from work. Well…at least I get to read some good books…if only I could get to the library during opening hours…grrrr. Things are cooling down here. Not a lot of colour on the trees yet, but I’ve had to start packing my jumper for the morning and evenings. A welcome change from the hot smog ridden days. I can finally skype!!! So I will email anyone who is interested times where I will be available to chat. My login is ‘michaeljohnrobinson’. Not very interesting I know, but at least it’s easy to remember. I am planning a trip to Montréal about the middle of next month, but other than that, I’m just trying to save really hard and pay off my dreaded student loan…Yes Mum…I know…I know

Sailing - another world - Posted on 25th Sep, 2005 at 14:27

Sailing Adventures I got this lovely email from Dad and thought I would share…I wish I could have been there to experience it in person! Sounds like a lot of fun. Sailing - another world. What an escape. I hadn't been sailing for 3 weekends in a row - woe. So with the weather looking a little bit hopeful I set off thinking I might even sail up to Leigh. The south westerly was much stronger than forecast and as I sailed out from our house I quickly had to reduce down to one sail and even then I found myself racing through quite big seas at 12 knots. I dived for shelter at "Still Bay" on Motuora and spent 1/2 the day walking around the sland and waiting for the wind to ease. About 3 I battled across to the shelter of the Mahurangi where I found calm seas but strong gusty winds. I explored around for a while and settled on Mita Bay (next to Sullivan's Bay) for the night. The night was pretty calm except for the occasional blast and some showers. Lots of fish jumping around the boat. Stayed in bed in the morning while I waited for the rain to clear. I kept in close to the coast just for comfort as I started for my trip home and had a blissfully peaceful morning tea at Te Muri. The last part of my trip home was across from Hatfields to Coalmine Bay near our place. I sailed most of this part of the trip on broad reach at around 14 knots! Yay! what a buzz! I love the space, the elements, the freedom. the power, the challenge.

Poem By Cameron Kennedy.net - Posted on 15th Sep, 2005 at 10:36

Oh..Kai Iwi *sigh 'Laying Down my Pen' by Cameron Kennedy When I die Don’t bury me or scatter my ashes Cremate my body and put it in a container Engraved with a poem Drop me overboard And let me sink into the cool green depths Of my favourite lake And let each time you come camping Remind you that once I lived And that now I sleep in peace In the place I most love to be Fall in love with the common pine trees That scatter the slopes of the hillsides And with the crystal water Where I used to dive down holding my breath To stand far below on the bottom With my best friend Eat at the picnic table where we used to play chess And remember when we lay reading in the sun Drink hot chocolates with scorched almonds From camping mugs And walk the sandy beaches at night With the water still warm on your toes Come during the week when the campers have gone And the lakeside is peaceful When you can hear the birds And the lowing of cattle from the farm And the whisper of the sea crashing on the coast Come when the wind is gentle And the clouds stop the sun from burning And when the water is only cold on your feet Come whenever you want to be near me This is where I loved to be And where I love to be remembered…

A little story I would like to share... - Posted on 15th Sep, 2005 at 08:19

The story I have to tell is no ordinary tale, about kings and queens or magic beans it is a story about a boy, but no ordinary boy, for once this boy had been a mouse. Like most tales about people cursed by wicked witches the transfigured creatures bare similar features and resemblances to their former selves, waiting patiently for the right rub, work or kiss. The same was true for this small babe, except this boy was a human bearing animal resemblance. The poor mouse’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Dingle was very up set and immediately fetched for Dr Field. Dr Field had a terrible time trying to check the Childs pulse and pupil dilations, due to the boy giggling whenever the Dr touched him and swinging the good Dr around by his tale whenever he came into view. After assuring the Dingles the child was in perfect health, he pronounced there was nothing further he could do. While the Dingles wondered what to do about their precarious position, a kindly round fryer approached. Upon finding the baby alone in the woods. Presuming the child abandoned he picked the boy up and carried him off to the orphanage. Unaware of the two mice hysterically jumping up and down. Mrs. Dingle waving her handkerchief in a vane attempts to catch fryer's attention, but like most Humans, the fryer was unable to hear their little shouts and screams. The little boy grew up in the orphanage, not too far from the woods, but not quite like the other boys and girls at the orphanage, because as he grew, so did ‘other’ parts of his body. Some parts, like his tale, he was able to hide in his trousers, but the ears proved more difficult. The boys and girls, servants and even the teachers used to laugh at him. Thankfully the boy having a certain liking for small dark spaces quickly discovered plenty of hiding places away from prying eyes. He also had a liking for sneaking around at night while all were asleep. Rather than eat with the other children at meal times, where the other children would tease him about his unusual feathers, he would sneak into the kitchen and secretly raid the pantry. The boys nibbling however did not go unnoticed. He had to step carefully around the many mousetraps the servants put out each night. Apart from the crust of bread, the boy often had cravings for cheese. Sometimes stealing the cheese right off the traps, some how it just seemed to taste better. Because of this the servants also kept many cats. Big ones, little ones, fat, thin and fluffy ones. Cats of all colours, black, white, gray and ginger. The boy had a strange disliking for cats. Maybe it was the way they leered at him, always following him intensely out of the corners of their beady eyes. But because of all the cats and traps, the boy had not ever seen a mouse. Not one! It was a fairly lonely existence, with no friends or toys to play with. He was forced to sneak old school textbooks back to his hide hole, where he could read and nibble to his hearts content. Of course the orphanage had a library in the attic. But Alfred had never been inside. The entrance was guarded by several large black cats. Upon approach they would hiss at him and glare the nasty yellow eyes. But if the swishing tales and sharp teeth and claws were not enough of a deterrent, there was always the Liberian. The stud3ents that were daring enough to brave the cats were said to have found poisonous snakes and deadly spiders in there books. Other not so lucky were rumored to have not come back at all. But the lucky students talked about shelves of books all the way to the ceiling on all four walls, with mysterious sealed room in the center. Alfred’s favorite class was science. Professor Pea, a kindly old gentlemen gave lessons twice a week. Unlike the other teachers who referred to Alfred as ‘boy’ or if referring to him ‘the Boy.’ Professor pea always called him Alfred and insured there were always plenty of interesting ‘spare’ text books in the classroom for Alfred to borrow, especially physics and chemistry, which were Alfred’s favorites. One afternoon while Alfred was having one of his reading-nibbling sessions in his hide hole, whom should he meet, but Dr Field? Just as Alfred had chanced upon the word ‘serendipity’ in an old heavy dictionary, the Dr ran up his trousers, up his back, scampered on to the boys shoulder and squeaked in his ear. The boy having never seen a mouse, let alone heard one before got such a surprise he dropped the dictionary fright on his foot, causing him to leap about almost throwing the Dr off his eparch. Once the boy settled down, the mouse began to squeak again in his ear and this time, even more to his surprise the boy could understand every word. “ Your Parents are so proud,” said the Doctor Beaming. “You’ve got your mothers eyes and your fathers ears!” The boy had never heard anything about his parents before. “My Parents?” he said, turning his head to see the old fellow more carefully. “Yes don’t you remember your Mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Dingle?” Dr Field returned the very next day with two large wrapped bundles. The larger one in his paws and the other wrapped in his tail. “What’s in the packages?” Inquired Alfred inquisitively. Dr Field had both a mischievous and devious look on his face. “You shall see, all in good time Alfred.” Tapping his pink nose. “I came as soon as I saw the witch leaving the orphanage. With any luck she wont be back till tomorrow!” Alfred allowed the little mouse to run up his arm to his shoulder then he picked up the mysterious packages, stuffed them in his trouser pockets and they made their way to the attic. As was expected, there was a party of large black cats waiting at the entrance of the library. Upon spotting Alfred and clearly able to smell Dr Field the cats looked more ferocious then ever. Some of the cats hissed menacingly, their white teeth gleaming while others crouched down ready to pounce. “Now, for the larger package I think Alfred.” Said Doctor Field Alfred reached into his deep pockets and removed the first parcel. Despite its size, it seemed remarkable light. Opening the package revealed only a mass of what looked like useless dried flowers. Alfred was confused. Could the Doctor have lost his mind? And how were a few dead plants going help defeat a horde of bloodthirsty cats! The cats noticed Alfred’s hesitation and started to advance on them. “You might like to throw a few of those sprigs towards them Alfred.” Said a perfectly calm and confident Dr Field. Alfred’s heart was pounding as the black cats closed in on them. He threw the dead looking plants apprehensively and looked over his should for a quick escape. When he glanced back the scene had changed dramatically. The cat’s eyes had taken on a glazed look. One cat looked positively cross-eyed. The fierce, scowling looks were replaced with a dotty kind of contentment. A minute later one cat was lying on its back rolling all over it; another large black cat seemed to be playing with it like a kitten. Alfred couldn’t believe their luck. “Come on then, lets go” Smiled Dr field Amazed Alfred walked towards the attic door throwing a few more sprigs for good measure. They reached the large door to the library unharmed. Alfred tired the handle and gave it a nudge, but it was locked fast. “Oh dear” said Alfred looking back at the half a dozed stupefied looking cats in case they had come back to their senses. “Not to worry. Now the second parcel please Alfred.” Alfred had almost forgotten about the second package. He reached again in to his deep pockets and produced the last small parcel. When Alfred opened it he found some strange looking bits of shaped metal. Dr Field slid down Alfred’s smooth arm and into his palm. “Hold me close to the key hole Alfred?” said the mouse mischievously. Once close enough Dr Field jumped nimbly into the lock wielding one of the strange implements over his head. Moments later the Doctor held out his little paw for the next implement. Seconds later there was a loud click and the door swung inwards with a loud creak. The Dr jumped back into Alfred’s palm. “Righty ho lets go then,” said the Doctor brightly. “ What was that plant?” asked Alfred taking one last look at the ridiculous site of the crazed cats. “One word.” Said a smiling Dr Field “Catnip” The sight behind the old door filled Alfred’s heart with joy. Books! Books as far as the eye could see. Books on every subject imaginable. Books from wall to wall and floor to ceiling. It was a while before Alfred noticed Dr Field tugging gently on his ear. “No time to dawdle, we must find that potion!” The warmth in Alfred’s chest quickly faded and was replaced again with a wintry chill as he remembered the ‘librarian’ and her potions. Dr Field used his lock picking devices again and soon they found them selves in a much smaller room. The contents of this small room made Alfred’s stomach squirm further. There were jars and jars of strange and horrible things like pickled spiders; frog’s legs bat wings, giant slugs, snakes venom and leaches. Dr Field hopped from Alfred’s shoulder to the nearest shelf and ran along checking the labels and contents. Alfred helped searched the higher shelves until he noticed the dusty old cabinet. The cabinet door opened with a loud click to reveal rows and rows of brown glass bottles filled with ominous dark liquids. Balding potion, shrinking juice, blisters and boils, essence of toad, eternal youth. Alfred squinted at the small labels. Most of the bottles didn’t seem at all useful and some were a bit scary. Dr Field seemed very interested in the “Eternal youth’ formula. Alfred chanced upon a potion labeled ‘witches switch’ for the bewitched and the transfigured. “Could that be the potion?” asked Alfred. “Could be” said the Doctor still keenly eyeing up the eternal youth potion. After a minute he said. “Lets take them both. Careful now” The Dr Climbed back on to Alfred’s shoulder and Alfred fetched the two brown glass bottles. Just then Alfred heard footsteps approaching and a key turn in the lock of the library door. Alfred froze his heart pounding. “What is this my precious?” Came a croaky female voice. Not wanting to be trapped in the small room Alfred made in dash for an escape but as he exited the small room he came face to face with the witch. “Oh” said the witch “It would seem we have an intruder amongst us.” her voice icy and dark. The cats seemed to have gotten over their stupor and swarmed around the hag’s legs. Dr Field panic stricken, attempted to hide behind Alfred’s shirt collar. “ We can always do with another door keeper,” said the witch eyeing the cats “The irony of a mouse, turned human, turned feline” sniggered the witch. Alfred stood there gaping, the two potions one in each hand. What to do... As the witch’s yellow eyes looked wicked as she reached into her cloak for her wand and brought it above her head, Alfred’s mind raced. With nothing left to do he heaved one of the bottles at the witch. It exploded on the wall above her head and rained down on top of her. The cats made a dash for it, but the witch was too late. The liquid fizzed violently and foamed over the wall. “Missed,” shrieked the witch glairing at Alfred. But then a change came over her face. Her hair began to change from grey to black and her wrinkles softened and began to disappear one by one. “What’s this?” she said in a less croaky voice. In the space of less than a minute the old witch had turned in to a beautiful but sinister young maiden, but she didn’t stop there. Her youthful figure just kept getting younger and younger until she began to shrink. “What’s happening?” she shrieked in much higher voice. Doctor Field crept round Alfred’s neck to get a better view as the witch slowly shrank to the floor, her clothes now far too large billowing out until there was one final squeak and she was gone. “Gosh” said Alfred “Shame” sighed Doctor field “I could have done with a drop of that! Oh well” The black cats didn’t seem at all sorry to see the witch go; in fact they were behaving quite unusually. Rather than hissing and attempting to scratch and bite, they circled Alfred, rubbing his legs and purring. “I wonder.” Said Alfred staring at the cats. “Do you think we could try out a drop or two?” asked Alfred The Doctor pondered the idea for a while ”I suppose it can’t hurt. But why waste it on a cat?” asked Dr Field Alfred took a dropper full from the bottle and squeezed one drop on to the cat’s furry heads. Alfred jumped back in surprise as the cats began to grow bigger. And as they grew their hair seemed to retreat. Paws sprouted into hands and feet, then the ears and whiskers disappeared to reveal boys and girls smiling faces. At once Alfred began to recognise some of the children from the orphanage. Soon Alfred was surround by cheering children hugging and kissing him. Poor Alfred when bright red. He couldn’t remember being kissed before. A chorus of thanks went up as the released children ran out of the library door laughing and giggling. “Well” said Dr Field “I guess that answers that question!” his tail swishing with excitement. “On to the Forest at once!” Over the course of the next few weeks Alfred spent most of his time after classes helping administer the ‘witches switch’ to the bewitched animals. The first patient was Mrs. Church’s son, who had to be rolled out of the house and was just as yellow and round as Dr Field described. Next was Mr. Church. Alfred had to climb up the tree where he was perched asleep. After that they made their way to the acorn grove that used to be Mr. and Mrs. Hazel and their five children. Alfred had borrowed a watering can from the orphanage and put a few drops of ‘witches switch’ before watering each tree. Slowly the trees shrank back into the earth until only the tips remained. The small trunks gave a shudder and lifted their root like feet and there stood the whole family of squirrels hopping about and chattering excitedly amongst them selves. While Mr. Hazel was expressing his many thanks, Mrs. Hazel scurried away and returned with gifts. Handfuls of the biggest whole walnuts Alfred had ever seen! Dr Field took Alfred to the little house under the chestnut tree where his parent Mr. and Mrs. Dingle lived. Alfred’s mother and father came out of their house to greet the feet of their large son. Mr. Dingle proudly shook Alfred’s little finger with both paws while Mrs. Dingle blew her nose on her tiny handkerchief with tears of happiness. “You are welcome to come home any time you like son.” She said “Thank you so much.” Said Alfred positively beaming at finally meeting his parents. “But I’m just not sure I’m ready to be a mouse yet.” Mr. and Mrs. Dingle looked a little saddened by this news, but Mr. Dingle said with a gently smile. “Follow your heart son and we will be very proud of you.” Alfred’s heart belonged in books, which he knew would be very difficult to read once he was a mouse again. Once word got around at the orphanage of what had transpired, the students took a very different view of Alfred. After science class Professor Pea took Alfred aside for a word. “There are many rumors going around the orphanage. Some of the other teachers don’t believe them, but I do! Either way one problem still remains and that is...we are short a librarian. The staff took a little convincing, due to your young age and what they describe as ‘your lack of credentials.’ But as none dare set foot in the attic, I have the pleasure of offering the librarian position to you. With the help of Professor Pea and a few friends from the forest, Alfred was able to transform the witch’s personal quarters into a wonderful little bedroom with a little space for Mr. and Mrs. Dingle to come and live so they could all be together. As it turned out Alfred made a brilliant librarian and before he was ready to leave for University he had read every single book upon the library shelves, even if he had to learn to control his nibbling.

Another Update from Hellen - Posted on 15th Sep, 2005 at 08:10

Hellos to all of you! Thanks heaps for all the replies - good to know what's happening outside of the South East Asia! Been having a pretty crazy time here. Lots of things you just can't write. I meet up with all the boys in Kuta 2 weeks ago - the 4 that were left; Merlin, Jordi, Nick and Jay. Got to say Kuta is probably the least likable place I've been in Bali - it truely is the town that Aussie built. There are almost more Australians than Balinese. Not wanting to disrespect the victims of the bombing a few years ago but I sympathise with wanting to try keep Kuta in check! Anyways, that aside I did have a really good night. It was cool to catch up with the guys, get some of the extra stories that Alex hadn't told me about - Emma and Hans make sure you ask about the exotic 'Banana massage'! We ended up in a bar that had live reggae music in true Bali Marly styles. We made it to Balagan with the boys about 4:30 the next day after picking up some tickets to Malaysia. Nothing was happening fast that day as we didn't have much sleep and I'm sure the bintang didn't help much either! Luckily the tickets arrived an hour after we booked them (so we are heading to KL on the 15th). The guys all went for their last surf and then it was a really sad goodbye! Had one of those realisations that I really wasn't going home for a long time. Both me and Alex sat on the beach for a while after feeling a bit sad and a bit alone but then we realised we don't have to work for another 4.5 months so there's not that much to be sad about! Balangan was really beautiful, amazing beach, mystical caves and cool reefs to walk around. I was staying in a place where all the surfers stay - and speak surf all day - and surfing was what they did all day and since the reef break was too scary for me to get out on I did start to feel a bit itchy after a while. So saddly after 5 days there I dragged Alex to Denpasar, stayed at Adi Yasa (same place I stayed when I was 11 - so little has changed in some cases). We spent heaps of time just hanging with the people there. Not many tourist attractions there so there are hardly any tourists which was cool. We spent heaps of time sampling the balinese baking - anything with coconut seems to be a winner! We also spent ages at the produce market again - I don't know why - it's pretty smelly but I could spend weeks there! I just find it fascinating. We got back to Ubud 2 days later and moved back into our home stay which is starting to feel heaps like home. Been finding all the best places to hang, like a crazy french book shop with a big reading pillow corner and the best juice bar and even the place with the most reliable cheap dinners. Trying to get to a performace every night! Took a bike into the mountains the other day and then out to Tirtaganga (water gardens) yesterday. Spent the night there and had a personal guide all the way round the mountain paddies and he even took us back to his house for tea and a cock fight (without the blades!!!!). I still think Tirtaganga is my favorite place in Bali. It is just so beautiful and so completely different from NZ. Back in Ubud today and I've got a cold so am taking it a bit easier. 3 more nights till we go! Cheers Scott for the info about public displays of affection being illegal in Malaysia (something new to me!!!) Lots of love and kisses Hells

A bit of bad luck!… - Posted on 15th Sep, 2005 at 08:02

I will NEVER eat clam chowder again…My beautiful day off, that started so well all went to pieces after getting food poisoning…very…very ugly. It make me appreciate eating normally and understand just how far away from New Zealand I really am. After several episodes on Wednesday night…I was unable to sleep nor get up for work the next day…resulting in my first sick day. Things slowly improved and although I can count the items of food I ate between Wednesday and Sunday on my right hand and was pathetically weak…making work a really struggle with massive amounts of shipments…things only got better and now I’m a bit skinny, but able to enjoy my bad eating habits at my leisure. I’ve spent a bit of time at the “Rex’ listening to Jazz and chilling. I’ve also been to a few flicks, including the ‘commercial success’ “The forty year old virgin.” A film with sporadic funny moments, but overall, a bit of a thin spread. I haven’t had a chance to get away…I’m still reminiscing about my last excursion North. I’ve also been drooling over the pictures Dad posted from his sailing expedition with Manu. http://homepage.mac.com/law.auckland/Invites1.html I’m sure they are just an excuse to show of his boat, but display some of NZ’s beautiful coastline. A side note: I’m looking forward to Tim Burton’s and Danny Elfman’s new work Tomorrow. It’s called the The Corpses's Bride and should be a hoot.

a wee note - Posted on 7th Sep, 2005 at 08:02

It’s a beautiful day in Toronto…lots of sun, crisp, clear with a gentle breeze…and I’m in the computer lab…oh well!!! I finally got around to checking my emails…thanks again for all the lovely letters…I appologise for my very delayed responses…until I get around to owning a computer things will remain a little tricky at best. I have almost recovered from my holiday’s sunburn finished the shopping…mmm, cleaning…grrr…washing…grrr, and I’m ready to go exploring about Toronto. For those of you with an once of time to spare you might like to check out www.bearworksbooks.com It has a few stories written by Cameron including one of my absolute all time favorites ‘The Fairy Princess’

I got this little email from the new Mene Family: photos on link - Posted on 7th Sep, 2005 at 07:03

HI there everyone, Mathew and I are so proud to introduce you to the newest member of our family. Born 5 weeks early on the 5th August 2005. He weighed 2440g or 5lb 6 for the non metric folk out there. Billy-Jo was unwell and in hospital for the 3 weeks prior to his birth. Everything went very smoothly with a 4 1/2hr labour and delivery after an induction due to Mum's poor health. After a week to recooperate we all went home, and Dad has been taking care of us ever since. Toby is well and healthy and has now gained a whole kilo since his birth (another 2.2lbs bigger). He eats like his Daddy and looks like him too! Sorry it's taken so long to reach everyone, mum has not been well, but is now doing great. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. Love The Mene Family

Wassaga expedition - Posted on 6th Sep, 2005 at 14:01

Camping The camp site came with about 10 x 3 meters of space and it’s own fire pit…an iron frame sunken into the ground to contain the fire, a grill for BBQing and a picnic table to boot. I might add the site had a gravel base…perfect for tent pegs. When everyone lit their individual fires for dinner the area reminded me more of a gypsy gathering with all the smoke hanging thickly about, contrasting with NZ’s summer fire bans. After six months I finally got ‘s'mores’ for those who aren’t familiar…it’s not an STD, but rather a Canadian camping dessert made with roasted marshmallows, melted chocolate and graham crackers. It takes bit of practice and patience, but is well worth the effort. We spent most of the first day at Wassaga beach…think Orewa beach at low tide, with its long walk out and many sand bars, but with fresh water. We arrived early Sunday Morning and staked our claim to a sandy spot. Unfortunately the sand is so hard I had trouble getting the sun umberella…the smallest I have ever seen…smaller than my rain brollies back home …stuck in the ground. Crammed under the mini 'brella Jane and I read, played chess, ate yummy food and got sun burnt. By the time, we left the beach closely resembled ‘mission bay’ with its packed ‘can’t get a bucket of sand’ sunbathers. Whenever I swim in a fresh water lake I can’t help think about Kai Iwi with its white sand and steep incline and clear cool waters. *sigh… The lake near the campgrounds was different again with long flat slabs of limestone and shale. The shallows were slimy and slippery, but the edge dropped over a meter and was good for diving. On the second day I went for two swims. One before breakfast and one before the drive home. Both were cool but delicious. A couple of other highlights of the trip were the ‘red’ squirrels, wild chipmunks and hot chocolates, lying under the stars by the lake. The one down side of the trip was hitting loads of traffic on the way home doubling over traveling time home…Just as well we had lots of music and Toronto drivers to keep us amused. All and all a wonderful way to spend the long weekend away from Toronto. I’ve posted about 30 photos under Wassaga expedition for everyone to look at.

Back to High Park - Posted on 31st Aug, 2005 at 14:32

Armed with a good book, yummy lunch, a comfy blanket, a huge bag of peanuts and of course my trusty Birkenstocks…I spent a relaxing day exploring the many little trails that weave their way through the expansive park I dedicated the larger part of the afternoon to lounging about and reading in the shade of an acorn grove. And there were the chipmunks… It is amazing what effect a bag of innocent peanuts can have on the local wildlife. I have never seen so many chipmunks and squirrels. As afar as nut collecting on the horizontal plane is concerned the chipmunks win paws down. Not simply for their share speed upon the ground, but also the fact they can fit up to 3 whole peanuts in their mouths before streaking back to their hoard and bounding back again. The tiny bundles of fur would run rings around the large squirrels and snatch the nut right out of their paws. Forcing the squirrels to retreat up into the trees to eat their nut in peace. Unfortunately the camera packed a sad…so no photos…sigh* I’ve been invited to go camping with Jane over the labor weekend. If all goes well, I will be playing in the sand dunes, swimming in a sandy-bottomed lake and eating smores….Yeah!!!!

A quick update from Hellen in Bali... - Posted on 30th Aug, 2005 at 09:26

Hi Lovely Peoples. Ok as promised I'm going to try paint out some scapes for you, so you have some idea about how things are going up here. I guess I have to start with the girls team: Me, Inge and (Ivan - who joined in although not a girl). - Verses the boys team which of course was Alex and his group of 10 guys who were surfing all over the place! -But that's Alex's story which I'm still dragging out of him bit by bit! Me and Inge arrived at Benoa - Villa Bintang and meet up with Ivan. A really amazing place! Traditional Bali style and lovely staff but the best thing about it was the breakfasts! Huge fruit platters, banana fritters and omlets the works! We would not have to eat until ten at night with that sort of breakfast in our tums! Spent the first two days lounging and getting massages and thinking I could never get sick of this! Then I guess you could say Inge did manage to get sick of it! Having what we can only figure an illergic reaction to something she drank! It was quite a worry but we kept on trucking and headed out the Nusa Lembongan anyways. I really had a strong feeling for the Island - seaweed farming was the main trade and the people we all really welcoming. No police on the Island so Ivan and I took a few trips on a bike while Inge was recovering. The beaches were stunning there especially 'devils tear' and 'mushroom' bay. (Wonder who named these places???) Snorkling was also cool - although we took the cheap route didn't hire a boat and tried to make our way through a seaweed farm maze and over coral as the tide kept dropping! No scatches here - but Ivan took a few! Leaving the Island we were picked up and driving to this unknown place of Ivan fathers friends. We had no idea what we were in for - but we had arranged to stay 5 days! So we are driving up and down the road searching for the house - letterboxes aren't really a Bali thing and finally we pull up outside a temple to try figure out where this damn house is! That was when out search was cut short when the staff came out to get us. The house was huge! I expected to see Heff walking out in his robe with a few bunnies in tow! A bit unnerving having people waiting on you but I kept telling myself that I'd be roughing it for 5 months so I might as well enjoy it! We had a car and a driver too - so we did lots of shopping and even made it out to the biggest volcano Mt Agung. Although I think to most mental part of our tripping was trying to shop at the huge Denpasar market. The food market parts stick with me the most - chickens - mostly dead some alive - and fish all mixed in with veges and fruit and the tiny isles you had to walk down which meant you had to brush against all these chookys and fishies whether you wanted to or not! But a cool experience! I had to drop Inge off at the airport last tuesday evening - so that was the end of the girls team! Was a bit of a teary moment when I realised that I was really staying for the long run. Thanks for the wicked times Inge! (Have named the cat Marmalade). Finally I found Alex after waiting at a different entrance for 15 mins and we all headed back to the house. The owner of the house tried to give us the hard sell over the next two days! He made us dinner on wednesday night and then he took us out to his other house in Bedugul - in the mountains - the next day. All a bit much for me and Alex (who was sick and trying to pass it on to me). Leaving the house in Penatih me an Al have made it to Ubud - staying at this cool home stay with mostly Balinese people and some french. We're just checking all the museums and performances out at the moment - I might even take up some dance lessons tomorrow. Get yourselfs over here! Lots a love Hels xxxxxx

Congratulations Bejee and Matt - Posted on 25th Aug, 2005 at 13:42

It would seem I'm a little out of the loop way North in Canada...I got the wonderful news from Cam just recently. Bejee and Matt finally had their first baby boy at 11:29 in the morning. A very Godly hour...hopefully you guys wernt up all night!!! The boys name...hopefully I got it right is Toby Samuel Sua Mene and weighed in at 5lb 6o, 05-08-2005

You guys - Posted on 17th Aug, 2005 at 13:58

To the Grandparents Thanks again for all the emails and letters. I greatly appreciate the updates To Bejee and Matt As we make our way into August you are both in my thoughts a great deal. I’m sure the baby must be almost there. I can’t wait to be an uncle and look forward to hearing the good news. To Scott and Cat Good luck with the house hunting…I hope you find something close to hospital. How is Dee Dee the guinea pig? To my little Sis I miss you terribly and wish I could have seen you before you headed off for you big O.E I will have to wait until you get to London and pop over some time. I would be honored if you would like to post a few blogs here about your travels in Asian and abroad. To Cam Hey Dude haven’t talked for a while…must catch up soon. I visit your site heaps. Keep your poems coming. To Mum and Dad I haven’t heard from you guys in a while. Still no skype as I don’t have a computer yet…but I’m working on it!!! Will keep you posted.

New York - Posted on 17th Aug, 2005 at 13:50

I took the Greyhound to NY after work at 9.30pm. The bus stumbled in to the ‘Big Apple’ after multiple stalls before it proceeded to die. It was a long drive with an extra 90 minutes of fun and games at the border that ensured that I missed all my transfers. I forgot how arrogant, rude and unfriendly New Yorkers can be. Trying to find out any wheres and hows was almost impossible. Naturally I first tried the ‘information both’… The attendant behind the glass was reading a magazine and barely looked up at me. When I asked for info…she gave me a rather dirty look, grabbed a couple of random schedules and went back to the magazine. Upon approaching a few staff for Greyhound I got “I don’t know” even before I was able to ask my question. With absolutely no help from the staff I eventfully made it to my destination. On Saturday I made it back to Central park…The idea was to picnic there for lunch…but the balmy 40 degrees forced me back into ‘Wholefoods Market’ for lunch. While trying to decided which salad for lunch I noticed a bounch of excited shoppers hanging around staring and pointing. I looked up and there is Angelina Joeline and her two Kids. By the time I had chosen my chilli chicken salad, mall security had arrived and were escorting her thought the super market. Strangely it seems perfectly ok to talk to super stars where your raving mad to talk to anyone else. Walking around the North end of Central Park I cam across the ‘Sheep Meado’ a strange name for a grass field considering the lack of sheep. Unless you count the mad New Yorkers who go there to bake under the mid day heat in their bikinis. The border coming home. It always strikes me as strange…after being given the once or twice over by the Americans at the border. The Canadians didn’t even look at the photo on my passport or check my bags of luggage. I appreciate their strong beliefs concerning “assuming positive intent’, but wonder why they bother to stop the bus. I can only imagine that the Canadians figure anyone able to get into the States is thoroughly pre screened. Coming back to the rainy Toronto was like arriving back to sanity. Plenty of photos for all!!!

Falling behind - Posted on 16th Aug, 2005 at 06:28

Saturday 6th After being introduced to Toronto’s night life on Friday…a loud and not all together pleasant experience…I made my way up to Waterloo for the Blues Festival. It was a very sunny day with out a cloud in the sky…or any shade of any sort…a fairly large oversight for the fair of skin…or sane individuals not wishing to get cooked. Once the sun went down things improved dramatically. The music was brilliant…decidedly better than Auckland’s ‘Blues, Jazz wine and cheese festivals.’…i.e. thousands of tiddly punters with a few jazz musicians thrown in for good measure…mostly performing on the flat concrete ground surrounded by the large crowds where seeing or listening…comes second to being shunted and pushed by loud drunkards. I was impressed by the Waterloo organizers and the swing dancers with their crazy stylings and gymnastics. After a few hours of subjecting our ears to a gentle pounding, Jane and I made our way towards the back of the crowds for a few games of chess. Unfortunately I only got one day off that week, so it was back to the dungeon on Sunday Morning. sigh…

Saturday at the Zoo - Posted on 2nd Aug, 2005 at 08:11

After working a late shift at work I caught a bus up to Waterloo to see Jane and Mary. The next day we were packed and ready for departure to the Toronto Zoo. We met up with Nick, (nice driving Nick) Anna, and Kaitlyn and all piled into Nick’s car. Which was very warm and cozy on the way there. I was surprised upon arrival at the zoo at the shear size of the car park… and the multitudes of parking wardens directing the traffic. It made Auckland Zoo car park seem pretty small. Strangely the size of the zoo itself is roughly the same if you don’t include the large expanses between the small enclosures or the water park. The Animals however are completely different. There were plenty I have never seen before…like snakes, spiders, moose, bears, etc The company was good and we managed to get around most of the exhibits, despite the heat, large crowds and screaming children, the day was very enjoyable and passed almost too quickly. Weary after our day in the sun we concluded the day with a nice dinner…which came with unlimited bread, soup, and salad…great, but kind of strange. I’m in the process of putting all the photos on the web…taking a bit longer than I anticipated…but there are a few to give you a good idea of Toronto Zoo. Thanks again to Nick for being such a marvelous driver (can’t wait to see the tutu) and everyone else who made it such a fantabulus day. I can’t wait for the next adventure!

A quick review for the Belkin italk, iPod Voice Recorder for Cam - Posted on 2nd Aug, 2005 at 07:48

Firstly you will need an Apple 3rd Generation iPod, 4th Generation iPod or iPod Photo as it won’t work on earlier models or mini’s and simply plugs into your 3.5 mm stereo headphone jack. You can plug an external mic into the device, but still only records in 16 bit mono WAV files at 8kHz…I’m guessing this is a piracy preventative measure. It does feature AGC or Automatic Gain Control with 30 dB Ratio with a pretty good attack time of 100 ms, but a slow recovery time of 3.5 sec…meaning it will drop the recording volume dramatically to prevent distortion when Frank trades fours on the crash symbol, but might miss Murray’s subtle piano work. A nice feature is the built in speaker that comes with 2 watts of power…not going to blow your hair back…but better than nothing. I think it makes for a great voice recorder for Alei’s interviews, but unless you desire a large drop in recording quality…I would stick to using your computer and a quality mic. Take it easy Dude.

Were going to the Zoo... - Posted on 29th Jul, 2005 at 07:26

A quick note! The weekend approaches and I can’t wait to take a trip to the Zoo with Jane, Nick, Anna and co…should be great! I kind of miss having my unlimited Auckland Zoo Pass. Thank you to the Grand Parents for writing such wonderful long letters!!! It sure made my day. A strange coincidence having both letters arrive on the same day! I’m still savouring the ‘Half Blood Prince’ and we are just over half way through the book. I have made start at uploading some NZ photos…they are a little random at present…I would like to have about 200 up by the end of next week. The link is: http://homepage.mac.com/new.zealand/PhotoAlbum5.html

Student Loans - Posted on 26th Jul, 2005 at 06:38

An intresting article from the New Zealand Hearld...it only took them over 10 years!!! What about all those who already owe so much money they have fled the country...ie teachers, doctors, etc...oh well it's a step in the right direction. The Government will scrap interest payments on student loans held by people living in New Zealand, Prime Minister Helen Clark announced today. She said the proposed change, which would begin on April 1 next year, would massively reduce loan repayment times. The policy would cost $100 million in its first year, eventually rising to $300 million a year. Helen Clark said the policy would form the second of Labour's seven pledge card election promises. Labour's first pledge card promise is to widen the rates rebate scheme. National last week unveiled it plan to give tax rebates on student loans, which it said would significantly reduce the time it takes to pay the debt back. Their policy is centred on making the interest payments on student loans tax deductable. Deductions would be made automatically by Inland Revenue, which would credit the money to the person's loan balance. National said the policy would apply from April next year. "This measure will facilitate a more rapid repayment of student loans by working New Zealanders," leader Don Brash said last week. - NZPA, HERALD STAFF

Tupperware Blues - Posted on 22nd Jul, 2005 at 07:52

This week consists almost entirely of night shifts…with lunch and dinner spent at work. I filled out my homemade Tupperware dinners with nasty TV dinners until I have more time and energy to cook…mmm. The biggest problem with nights is getting woken early by construction, people trying to beat the heat in the early morning and of course Squeak and Squawk up stairs. Also the lack of motivation to actually achieve anything before going back to work. I’m savoring H.P. with about a chapter a night. I might be able to draw it out for an entire month!!! I got my .mac account up graded last night. My ID is new.zealand…not very original I know. I hope to put a whole bunch of pictures from my tramping expeditions in the South Island over the next week. I leave you with a couple of links. The new game from the developers of ICO and my best friend Cam’s new site. Good to see so much of your work available Cam. How about a few of your stories to boot!!! www.cameronkennedy.net www.us.playstation.com/Content/OGS/SCUS-97472/Site/

Weekending @ Wiarton - Posted on 20th Jul, 2005 at 06:55

The short end: Waterloo, hockey, rain, thunder and lightning, driving, weddings, eating, swimming, sleeping, caving, more swimming, driving and back at work. The long end: Late Friday night I was rescued by Jane from the deep in the dungeons of Yorkdale’s concrete bowls. Carried away from smelly hot Toronto to Waterloo. Early Saturday morning on the way to Jane’s Hockey Tournament, we stopped in at Chapters…think Whitcoulls…to purchase the next ‘Harry Potter’ Book. We were met at the front door by a towering pyramid of books and a very bored looking attendant, who upon our arrival deposited a book in my hands. I was a little worried there would be line-ups…but there was barely a soul in the large store. The hockey finals were made even more exciting with rain, lighting and thunder. The rain pelted, the mud splattered and the girls/ladies/women looked to be having a lot of fun. After hockey was a mad dash North for the wedding. Between the pouring rain and Jane’s frantic driving reading H.P proved difficult. Luckily we arrived just after the bride…who wants to wait around anyway. The wedding was remarkably simple and casual. The bride went barefoot and one of the bride’s maids had a fiery red mow hawk. Speeches were short, dinner was yummy…mmm…salmon. Later Jane and I stole away for a midnight dip in Calpoy Bay…off Giorgian Bay. It was surprisingly warm and refreshing. About the temperature of Kai Iwi at dawn. The bugs were huge and congregated as a think dark mass around any direct light. They looked a bit like cicadas, but with thin dragonfly tales. Sunday consisted of spelunking…caving, exploring, hiking along the Niagora escarpment, swimming…more swimming and my first driving experience in Canada. Apart from reaching for the wind wipers instead of the blinkers, banging my left hand into the door in stead of changing gear and having to constantly remind myself to look right-THEN LEFT…then right again…it felt pretty good. I came back to Toronto for my late shift in the ‘rather’ remote stockroom, which was followed by an early 8am shift…not a pretty combination. I have included a few pictures of the hockey match and my trip North. Unfortunately I missed out on seeing “Willie” the famous Ground Hog. Back in Toronto, the heat doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. The temperatures are expected to stay above 30 degrees for the next week…with extreme heat and smog warnings all round…grrr….

Learning to sleep with the fan on... - Posted on 12th Jul, 2005 at 05:01

The temperature was over 34 Degrees yesterday, with humidex values making it feel like it was a scorching hot 40 degrees. Smashing the previous July 11 high set in 1987....grr....Gad its hot!!! An extreme heat alert was issued and is expected to continue this week. Cooling areas are offered 24 hours...needless to say my 20 inch fan isn't really cutting the mustard!

The Next Week - Posted on 10th Jul, 2005 at 13:30

It’s only Sunday and I’m already excited about next weekend!!! I’m getting way out of Toronto for my first long road trip north. The new ‘Harry Potter’ installment comes out on Saturday, along with Jane’s Hockey Finals and a brilliant ‘B’ SF film called Serenity comes out on Thursday night. A special thanks to all those who have contributed to my trip to Canada and for all the phone calls, emails and support I am truly grateful. A special thanks to my brother Scott. This week I have about finished paying off my NZ accounts! Yeah!!! Now I can start of my student loan…groan. It’s still plenty hot here and Banana and Ice cream smoothies are the best way to start any day… In case you haven’t looked lately I posted some very cute pictures of chipmunks and other goodies up on the photos link…also there is a very cool short story I was given permission to share.

The Sad Shepherd By Zachariah Scott - Posted on 10th Jul, 2005 at 10:54

The Sad Shepherd By Zachariah Scott “We learn from history that man can never learn anything from history.“ George Bernard Shaw The truth of the matter was that he, Morton Stevenson, was immortal and it depressed him. Everything seemed to depress him, but above all man. Morton Stevenson was not really Morton Stevenson. Before, he had been Ivan Kolwaski and before that, Deitrich Wolfgang, and before that Thorn Oalfson and before that his memory grew a little hazy. It was around that time that he had entered another major depressive episode and had tried, again, to kill himself. He was either Aiden Halfan or Nicholas Polopolis, it did not really matter, and his attempts at suicide had been spectacularly unsuccessful. He had thrown himself overboard in the middle of the ocean, intending to drown, but finding instead he had a three week walk, underwater, back to dry land. He had taken poisons whenever he could get them. He had committed harmless crimes which were known to carry the death sentence and allowed himself to be captured, to be beheaded, to be burned at the stake and even to be hung, drawn and quartered. Once, he had gone so far as to douse himself in paraffin oil, set himself alight and jump into a barrel of gunpowder. It had all been to no avail. No matter how sweet the nothingness he achieved with his forays into death, they never lasted more than a few hours and his body had somehow re-assembled itself, looking as good as new and consciousness was restored. Morton sighed again. Today at the local bank he had sighed when the teller had initially refused to give him money, because according the bank’s computer he was 65 years old and yet he, as the teller had pointed out, did not look a day over 30. Morton sighed a lot. Immortality was a problem. He was going to have to steal the identity of another person. It was becoming more and more difficult. In primitive times he had merely needed to leave the village he was in at the earliest sign of suspicions at his longevity, choose a new name, and another town. He was usually careful to leave at least 100 years before he ventured back through a village or city he had previously lived in, and by then anyone who might have recognized him would be long dead. Nowadays with computers, things were more difficult. Computers stored information on bank accounts, property ownership, credit ratings, births, deaths, passports and even scholastic performance. Assuming a new identity required the manipulation of numerous databases and last time it had cost a princely fortune to bribe the necessary officials. Not that money was an issue. Morton had opened a numbered Swiss Bank account in 1641 when a church backed Swiss moneylender had first offered the service. Over dozens of lifetimes he had accumulated wealth, working simple jobs so as not to attract attention and little by little he had saved. Interest had done the rest. Centuries of it. He now had more money than he could ever spend and yet still he worked in his simple jobs. All the while Watching. Watching and waiting, even through his depression when things seemed almost hopeless and the darkness of death a pleasant temporary escape. Morton’s first ever name was Scandor. The Grand Chancellor of the Great Galactic Council had bestowed it upon him when he had taken his vows as a Watcher of the Higher Beings of the Galactic Order of Keepers. Watchers were a special breed. Taught for centuries to recognize intelligence, altered to make them immortal, filled with compassion for life and trained, above all to observe. Watchers were sent as lone sentinels to habitable worlds where the glimmerings of intelligent life had been detected. Here the Watcher would wait, observing the intelligent species, learning its culture as it blossomed into a cohesive, productive society, with an acute desire to be reassured that it was not alone in the vast emptiness of space. At this time the Watcher would contact the Galactic Council and the species would be welcomed as equals into the Galactic Community. This was always an exciting time. A time of massive celebrations on an almost unimaginable scale. A whole new world of intelligent beings rejoicing in the knowledge that they were not alone. A great exchange of ideas and technologies would take place and the Watcher would graduate to Keeper. With their intimate knowledge and understanding of the new member world’s culture, they would protect it against technologies and ideas, which, however well intentioned, could cause harm. All Watchers knew well the story of how the Kalcoans had accidentally poisoned the atmosphere of Urchlich, killing all Urchlicheans with a well-meaning gift of fertilizing microbes. Scandor had been selected for ‘Earth’, and the engineers had grown a human body around him. It had taken him an age to learn how to use it and twice as long again before his movements were fluid and he could produce speech with his vocal cords. The Galactic Council had high hopes for earth. The dominant species had already developed fire and tools and was living together in small groups, cooperating for the greater good. The average time from this stage to species maturity was usually the equivalent of 3000 earth years. Morton grimaced. Before he had been sent to earth, the slowest species to reach maturity had been the Kronos. They had taken an extra 2000 years, a fact that made them the object of numerous good-natured jokes. The Kronos had deviated from the usual progression because they had elevated sexual pleasure to a fine art. Every Kronos spent at least half his life practicing to become an expert at sex, a fact which had slowed the development of the species in other areas, but which also made Kronos one of the Galaxies most desirable holiday destinations. Morton sighed again. He could remember when time was first measured by man and the year was named. That was almost 10000 years ago and he had been here long before then. Morton had no idea exactly how long he had been on earth, all he knew was that it seemed like a very long time. As far as he knew, his was the longest assignment of any Watcher. ‘Just my luck,’ sighed Morton. ’100 million planets with intelligent life and I have to get Earth’. To say Morton was disappointed with mankind was an understatement by several levels of magnitude. He had almost given up on them many times throughout history, but always it was the children as well as his own guilt, that held him to his post. Initially man had progressed superbly. Agriculture and then cities had developed. Societies became more complex, adding first a priest class with time for abstract thought and then a King class. Then had come the first wars. He could still remember watching those very first attacks. Seeing men kill and maim other men and women. Watching as cities burned and crops and animals were destroyed. Such waste. It was true that man did eventually develop large cities and a level or co-operation that had given Morton great hope that his task would soon be over. He remembered how happy he had been at the drafting of a common democratic law in Athens and then Rome. The fledgling republics had treated all citizens as equal and tolerance of different ideas was deemed a virtue. Socrates’ teaching on the importance of open debate had left him feeling electrified. Yes there had been slaves and wars with surrounding areas, but Morton had considered these growing pains, which he hoped would ease. He was plunged to new depths of despair when Rome’s senators became corrupt and then lost political power to a warrior emperor. In the depths of depression that followed, Morton had thought to take solace away from humanity for a time. He had wandered through near Asia, down through what is present day Turkey, Syria and Lebanon and down into the deserts of Israel. There, his depression had slowly eased over two centuries to a deep state of melancholy until he had felt able to walk amongst men once more. It was at this time that he had made his first fateful mistake. Morton shuddered with the memory of it. He had talked to two men who were also seeking solace in the desert. He told them of the great civilization that existed beyond the visible stars and that mankind would be welcomed into this galactic fellowship if it could only put aside hate and instead learn to love and cooperate. He had even explained that he himself would become the protector of humanity, the gatekeeper as it were, between man and the civilization beyond the heavens. The two men, James and John, had thought him a prophet and had followed him everywhere, asking questions. Morton had felt pity for them, and for mankind as a whole and had tried to teach them moral lessons by telling them stories from the past. Things spiraled rapidly out of hand and very soon Morton’s following had exploded. People journeyed for days into the desert in the hope of hearing him talk. Strictly speaking, Watchers are not supposed to interfere with the development of a race and so Morton tried to escape. He moved to other more distant villages but soon word of his location would be out and then the multitudes would arrive. Morton finally decided the only thing that would stop people following him was if he were dead. It would need to be a public death so all his followers would know. To provoke the authorities into arresting him and crucifying him was a simple matter. He had simply walked into their temple and overturned all their markets. He had feigned death on the cross. In fact he had feigned death for three days, certain that by now, the crowds must have dispersed and he would be free to resume his role as Watcher uninterrupted. It was then that disaster happened. Morton was seen and recognized by several of his followers as he escaped his grave. He fled into Asia for 400 years but the damage was already done. The story of his ‘resurrection’ spread like wildfire and over two thousand years of nightmare began. His originally brief moral stories were embellished and lengthened with each telling until they were set down in writing and became the basis of a congruent religion. Morton had watched with ever growing despair as ‘his’ religion divided into sects, split the Roman Empire and threw Europe into the dark ages. He moaned inwardly every time he thought of the misery, wars and death that had come from his well intentioned lessons and had sworn to himself never again to interfere with the development of man. Since that time, not a year had gone by without war on at least five continents. Morton’s mood remained permanently depressed, fuelled by mans conflicts and his own sense of guilt. Exacerbations in his low mood followed every major conflict. The crusades had been an especially difficult time. Crusaders, in the name of a religion that he had inadvertently founded, had attacked and destroyed what was left of the knowledge of the classical world in their zest to ‘liberate’ Jerusalem. He remembered how they had burned the books and scrolls in the library of Alexandria to heat their water. The library had been the greatest repository of human knowledge on earth at the time, holding countless texts, discoveries and technologies of the classical world. This knowledge was now lost forever. The pattern: a small advance in knowledge before a big step backwards, occurred again and again. And always, the technologies which remained were focused on ways of making more efficient weapons. The Napoleonic wars of the 17th and early 18th centuries had led Morton to another spate of suicide attempts and the two world wars in the 20th century had crushed from Morton all but the faintest trace of hope for mankind. There had never yet been a civilization that had not reached maturity. ‘It would be just my luck’, thought Morton, ‘to have discovered the first’. It was summer in London and Morton decided to stop in Hyde Park on his way back to his flat. He found a seat on one of the dark green park benches near the Serpentine Lake. From here he could see Speakers Corner. It was a name that made him smile. Speakers Corner. Established to encourage free speech, that beautiful idea which had failed for countless centuries to become more than a dream. In reality, Speakers Corner had been cleverly used by authorities to give political dissidents a platform from which they might incriminate themselves. He looked across Serpentine lake and remembered when Queen Carolyn, wife of George II had it made by damning the Westbourne River in the 1730s, thus depriving a whole London slum of clean flowing water. On the lake end of his park bench was a young women. He could tell she was pretty under her dirty clothes, with dark hair and fierce green eyes that looked as though they had seen too much. Morton had seen those eyes before in shell-shocked soldiers and refugee children. It was a look of numbness. The girl was clearly in the throes of some internal struggle. Morton was just beginning to relax a little when the girl took a deep breath. He could see she had decided something. “Mister, you can have me for 10 credits.” Morton felt a deep sorrow. One that stretched back over seven millennia, to the first prostitute he had ever met who had offered herself for half a rabbit. “How about I just buy you dinner?” Asked Morton. She looked at him gratefully. Morton took her to a small cheap diner where the girl ordered enough food for three days. Morton paid for it without commenting and slipped the rest of his money into her small bag of possessions while she was busily eating, leaving himself only enough to buy a paper. He took his leave, feeling very much like being alone, angry at a race that would allow a girl to lower herself to this. “Thank you,” she said, and her face forced a smile. As he walked home Morton bought a newspaper. He hated reading them but bought them regularly, always hopeful that there would be some good news - something to suggest mankind was making progress. There never was. The news was always war, murder, rape, assault, fraud, political corruption and racial intolerance. The headline on the front-page proclaimed ‘PM talks War’. He sighed, a long slow sigh and trudged toward his flat. How long would humanity continue to drown in unnecessary misery? As always, his only hope was the children. Perhaps the next generation would get things right. He was nearly home now and so occupied with his thoughts that he had failed to notice the boy sitting near the bottom of the steps leading to his front door. The boy, a child of about 10 stood up, looked quickly from side to side and then pulled a revolver from under his jersey. He pointed it at Morton’s chest. “Gi’ me ya wallet Gov’.” Morton looked at the boy incredulously, but duly handed over his very empty wallet. “Don’t you got no cash?’ the boy asked, clearly disappointed. “Not a single credit.” “Then gi’ me that paper.” Said the boy. “Can’t not take somefink.” As Morton presented the paper to the boy there was a loud bang. The last thing he was aware of was the boy calling him a freak, and then beautiful blackness. It lasted only minutes and consciousness returned. “Damn.” Said Morton. He lay in a pool of his own blood on the stairs outside his flat. No one had come to investigate the gunshot. Mankind just did not care. He looked at his chest. His shirt and jacket were ruined and there was a bloody hole in the centre of his sternum. It was already beginning to heal. Morton staggered inside. His sternum mended within hours, but the heaviness in his soul he knew would not heal. With this last encounter had come the final realization that mankind would never achieve enlightenment. The long years he had watched were for nothing. He would contact the Galactic Council and declare, for the first time in the history of the galaxy a race unfit for peership. Mankind would remain forever isolated and alone and ignorant in a universe of love.

Life in Canada - Posted on 8th Jul, 2005 at 06:15

Two months into the hottest summer Toronto has apparently seen in years…I am finally geared up for the heat, with my twenty inch fan, smoothy maker and a decent pair of jandles…I’m all set! In a moment of heat and a desperation to go swimming I ventured up to my knees in Lake Ontario, but made a quick retreat after discovering the temperature…it made swimming in the Able Tasmin at Easter seem positively balmy…brrrr My shifts at work have under gone more traumatic change…I’m now in the dungeon only two days a week and the rest I spend doing horrific late shifts…a dramatic deviation from my 8am starts…oh well, so much for good sleeping habits. I popped up to Waterloo on my break and got to see Jane score 2 goals during her hockey match and win her match against Cambridge! Plus play a little piano! Yeah!

The Kenny Garrett and Joshua Redman Concert - Posted on 6th Jul, 2005 at 09:32

Small rant…the white picketed VIP boxes at the back of the main stage marquee seem to attract the worst kind of people. Mostly pompous gits with their loud trophy girlfriends and corporate tickets To aid their illusions of grandeur, rather than supply water in the 30-degree heat, they were well plied with alcohol. The result is a very loud obnoxious bunch of smucks who insist on talking throughout the entire performance. Because really at the end of the day they are really only there for the free booze, a chance to enlarge their over sized egos and chat up their female co-workers. Rant completed…on with the show! Kenny’s opening piece was so fierce and fiery; I thought my eyebrows were endanger of catching fire. I spent the first 30 minutes with my mouth gaping, my eyes bulging and my hair standing on end. The level of intensity kept escalating insanely, with crescendo after crescendo from the quartet. I’ve never seen a drummer having more fun at those blistering tempos or with so many chops. He was more octopus than man, his body moving fluidly at the searing tempos. Who ever thought of using a tent during summer should be shot…rather than the temperature dropping after 9pm it just got hotter and hotter. The musicians slick with sweat raged on despite the heat. I’d say the pianist had the best luck as he could mop himself of with one hand while playing with the other. Joshua’s ‘Elastic Band’ really should have been termed 'electric band' as it sounded remarkably like ‘Weather Report’. Most of the night Josh ran his sax through a multitude of effects, from bad chorus, guitar and sustain. The set was only made worse by very poor sound engineering, that insisted on tweaking the thousands of watts to distortion. Josh made plenty of rude signs at them in hope that they might TURN IT DOWN, but met with little success. I spent about 20 minutes of the concert with my fingers firmly planted in my ears and they were still ringing hours later.

Te he he - Posted on 6th Jul, 2005 at 09:10

Cheers Scott

In a land far, far away... - Posted on 27th Jun, 2005 at 14:45

The computer down in the remote stock room is often set to Virgin Radio...and ever now and again I wonder if I'm hearing things...as the sound of the Haka comes pounding through....I got this small update from Scott..and suddenly things make a litte more sense: At the moment, the Lions rugby team (a combination of players from England, Ireland,Scotland and Wales) are here on tour. There are also about 65000 Lions supporters out here from the UK, so the whole country is feeling the effects. Last night was the first test and the All Blacks won.

Sonny Rollins and Massy Hall - Posted on 27th Jun, 2005 at 05:09

Opening night at the Toronto Jazz fest at Massey Hall. The old stage where greats such as Parker, Mingus, Gillespie and Davis performed. I discovered for the first time in my life what the term 'cheap seats' was referring to. As I booked far too late, I was stuck high up near the ceiling, way on the side, with a view of about half the stage...(when standing) with the 'Original' wood and iron seating dedicated to midgets. I'm very glad they no longer 'make them like they used to.' Sonny Rollins ambled on stage and the crowd errupted in to wild rock concert applause. The 75 year old sure can blow! No microphone required. He may not be as young as when he recorded "Way Out West", but his ideas are as lucid as ever. After all the years of 'Jazz Education', listening to countless first and second years quoting Sonny during their solos, it was revealing when Sonny barely played any quotes or licks all night. Lastly a word of advice when going to massy hall. Book early and spend the extra money and do not, I repeat DO NOT BUY THE CHEAP SEATS

Bobby McFerrin’s concert - Posted on 24th Jun, 2005 at 10:21

June 10 2005 Roy Thomson Concert Hall Toronto Canada One chair and a microphone set the stage at Bobby McFerrin’s concert in Toronto on June 10. In the course of the next hour and a half the master vocalist proceeded to delight and amaze the audience with his vocal feats, beginning with a piece of pure improvisation and giving new meaning to the term ‘one man band’ by singing a bass line and melody line and creating the percussion line by slapping his chest. In the first half hour McFerrin sang completely solo arrangements of originals, standards and improvisations; the highlight of this was his vocal rendition of Brad Mehldau’s head (theme) arrangement of the Beatles song Blackbird. After this McFerrin daringly asked for some audience participation, fortunately most of the audience seemed to be singers themselves, sounding as if they were a trained choir when responding to McFerrin’s instructions. He would direct them to sing a particular pitch or motif as accompaniment while singing bass and melody line over the top. A particular highlight was the rendition of Bach-Gounoud’s Ave Maria with McFerrin singing the Bach prelude accompaniment and the audience singing Gounouds Ave Maria, not only did they know the melody (and could sing it at pitch) but most if not all knew the lyrics as well. This piece reveled that there were some very fine baritones and sopranos in the audience. Another highlight of the evening was when he asked if anyone would like to join him on stage and attempt some interpretative dancing, much to his surprise and the audiences between twenty to thirty people of all ages joined him on stage, some of these dancers were planned (there seemed to be two or three school groups) but many were not. He split them into four groups and a few soloists and improvised for them to dance to. The results ranged from humourous to spectacular. The concert drew to a close with a surprise and unplanned (as two of the members were sitting up in the second balcony!) appearance of the local jazz a capella group Cadence who sang the standard Ballin’ The Jack, replete with a solo from McFerrin and McFerrin’s own five minute rendition of The Wizard of Oz from Somewhere Over The Rainbow through to “I’m Melting, I’m Melting”. Overall this was an amazing concert and the only regret is that it was not longer.

Down in the 'Dungeon' - Posted on 17th Jun, 2005 at 05:01

A change of scenery…I have been promoted down to the basement and given the title 'ICS.' Essentially it means I get to swing around the rafters in the stock room dropping stock from the top shelf and working about 50-60 hours a week… Unfortunately it means that I have worked the last 8 days straight…and I'm really looking forward to my day off… Busy reading 'Harry Potter' on the subway...got to do something to fill in the hours every day! Cheers Hellen for the package!!! I have already eaten all the chocolate, looked at all the photos and stuck the drawing up on the wall! So thanks heaps... I saw my first chipmunk on Sunday...at first I had no idea what they were...kind of like giant mice, but with short tales, but very cute...I wonder if you can keep them as pets???

A ‘WORKING’ Holiday - Posted on 9th Jun, 2005 at 08:59

The store seems to have exploded with customers. Any notion of holiday can be safely removed from the equation as I commence full time hours this week. Even at home I find my self playing with’ Garage Band’ and other apple goodies. On my day off I try and get away from the rambling suburban sprawl and Toronto’s city-scape...and with over 4 million populants...it can get a little tricky. I find my self down by the lake, with its undisturbed blue vista, longing for New Zealand’s coastline and its many little islands. On a clear day the lake view gives the impression of a large fish bowl, with its blue curving horizon. I’m still reading a lot, no surprise give the hours I spend traveling on subways and streetcars most days. Cheers to all those who have sent emails over the last week. I really appreciated all the goss from home. On my next day off I promise to write back.

The Yorkdale Apple Store Grand Opening - Posted on 24th May, 2005 at 06:57

I have to admit…it was the first ‘Apple Store opening’ I have ever seen…still none down South…but I had no idea there were ‘so’ many Mac fanatics in Toronto!!! It was an incredible day with about 1000 people lining up at 9:30am. It was so full on I lost complete track of the time…at 9:30pm we had to disperse the crowds and close up shop. But by the time I got home…I was so tired I collapsed on my bed and couldn’t move. The next day I got to repeat the process all over again…the cues were smaller, but the shop was just about as busy…Monday was a public holiday, so I spent most of it prostrate in the recovery position. I have learnt so much in 2 days…I can’t wait to get back to the store…my co-workers are the biggest ‘Mac Geeks’ ever…and I had a zillion questions answered. Toronto…well all is green…a lot of the trees here seem to flower well ‘after’ the leaves have budded…which is kind of weird…but beautiful. I have taken to short walks around my neighbourhood to unstiffen my poor legs and enjoy the green trees and blossom flowers and fragrances.

Toronto - Posted on 9th May, 2005 at 13:27

The last week has been so lovely and warm. I have enjoyed being outside and got back to exploring. On Sunday I even ventured out without my overcoat!!! I spent a couple of days exploring Lake Ontario's shoreline. First West…I walked to Humber Park and then on to Marie Curts Park (it was a great reminder that I have had very little exercise over the last 2 months) by the time I got home my legs were a bit wobbly. The next day I went East and walked past Neville Park until I ran into some large diggers and other heavy machinery…I watched as they sanded the beach…think Mission Bay. I took loads of pictures of the wild life, flowers, GREEN grass and almost green trees. I had my best day of training on Saturday…I got to spend the day playing with Tiger…all those cool gadgets and widgets and of course all the latest i-life goodies. Whats more I found a piano to play on and a ping-pong table…yeah! I caught a lift on Saturday with Jane to Mississauga and watched her final performance with the orchestra…for those unfamiliar with Canada’s geography…Toronto, Mississauga and Waterloo AREN'T just down the road from each other… While completing my training and waiting for the Apple store to open…”No Mum…its not a fruit growing company…think ‘Forrest Gump’.” I have been reading and reading. I have read all the Isaac Asimov I could get hold of…no small feat, the Narnia series, most of Roald Dahl and a few Canadian writers such as Barbara Smucker’s ‘The Amish Adventure.’ It gave me a few clue as to what all those black horse and buggies, unusual stylings and long beads I saw near Waterloo were all about. I don’t think I have read so much in the last 2 years…I might even provide some competition for the bookworms Cam and Alei. I took lots of pictures of the lake and wild life and hope to have them up next week…also I have extended my MP3 section to included a small selection of Auckland recordings…Just a taste to whet your appetite. Side Note…Im very sorry about Guido David…He shall be missed by all.

- Posted on 2nd May, 2005 at 10:24

My first two months in Canada rolled over on Friday and I finally found a piano to practice on! It took me a while to find the church...Toronto has this habbit of building EXTREMLY LONG roads...I guess they don't have to contend with all the volcanoes like Auckland...anyway the road is simply devided into East and West...while the locals tend to only give the address number and whether I end up at the right destination or completely the opposite seems to be a 50/50 split! Spring seems to have sprung...much to my happiness...the brown grass seems to green over night and the trees are producing the most wonderful new spring green leaves. Thank you Heather for the invitation to Manchester!

Swing Dancing - Posted on 25th Apr, 2005 at 09:29

On Friday night I had my first swing dancing lesson! The crowd was huge and the steps over easy and worked well to the canned slow-medium tempo tunes…However once the lesson was over, the dancers started arriving and the live big band started playing I quickly discovered my triple step was a little inadequate to deal with the crazy up tempo tunes. So I spent most of my night just chilling out and watching the dancers and later on the floorshow. The pros make swing look more like a mixture of gymnastics and acrobatics. I now see the necessity of the high ceilings and why they don’t dance under the chandeliers. On Saturday I helped Jane move from Mississauga to Waterloo, a remarkable easy feat despite the miserable rainy weather. The rain (which later turned into snow and then back to rain) hung around all weekend so I played my ipod, chess, checkers and back gammon. This weekends schedule with apple...9am-6pm...will be suitable different!!! I can't wait to start!!! Also I finally added some photos from the gorge!

P.S - Posted on 20th Apr, 2005 at 11:17

I got a call from Jackie Ross last night at 10:30 pm letting me know that I got the job with Apple! I start work on the 30th of this month!!!

The Waterloo Getaway! population 99,000 - Posted on 18th Apr, 2005 at 14:26

Firstly I would like to say a huge thankyou to Jane and Mrs Thompson for being such wonderful hosts! The extravagent delicious meals and goodies. Friday night I spent the evening listening to the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. They played Ravel's Mother Goose Ballet, Berlioz's Harold in Italy and Canadian composer Paul McIntyre's Aurora Borealis. The most intresting being "Aurora Borealis", which was a free form, themeless work with no keys. The Orchestra could certainly give the APO a run for their money! The Composer introduced the piece and talked a little about his Northern experiences and of course the Northern Lights that inspired his work. Saturday Jane gave me a tour of Waterloo including the market, its public University and local parks. The markets are kind of like the Puhoi Show, but every week, with Mennonites rather than Bohemians. I felt extremly at home walking around the many craft stalls and hand made goods. I also got to play not one but TWO grand pianos in the period of one day. I could not beleive my good fortune! The second time turned in a night of music jamming and great company. I laughed so much my stomach hurt. On Sunday Jane took me to Elora Gorge and we spend the day exploring, rock hopping, enjoying the sun and soaking up the landscape. I saw my first skunk and beaver, though both were a little on the stiff side. Dead Skunk smells about 10 times as bad as dead possum. Beavers are crazy animals with their flat leather tails, webbed feet, long front teath and large furry bodies. A day in the gorge and I felt so relaxed. It felt like I had been holding my breath since leaving NZ and could finally breath again. Yes the water is exceptionally cold...despite Jane's assurances. Crossing the shallows was fun...you have to balance on one foot while rubbing the slim off the rocks for you next foot hold. I couldn't help but liken it to my last Tango lesson where both parties stand on one foot while the lead moves through various contortions. At the otherside my toes weren't just numb, but refused to move for the first few minutes. Without a doubt it was the busiest weekend since arriving to Canada!!! Many thanks to Jane for an awesome time!!! Side Note: Cheers Gran for your letter...it arrived mid last week!

Back in Toronto - Posted on 14th Apr, 2005 at 09:51

At 7:05am on my last day in NY, I discovered my Train was due to leave NY for Toronto at 7:30am. This came as a surprise as I was quoted 9:40am. After the initial grumpiness of being woken early in the moring and receving bad news...I caught a GreyHound back to Toronto. In the end it worked out better for me...I was dreading the train trip home after my last experiance...and the bus only took 11 hours! Also the bonus of choosing where you eat... I had another interview with Mac today...I really hope I get the position...so fingers crossed! I have to say I have never been interviewed by 5 people sitting behind their power laptops before...hopefully I didn't come across as too nervous. I still can't seem to shake this Damn Flu...I went out...a little late...Tango Dancing last night and today the flu symptoms are back in force... I hope to be back on par for the weekend...I have been invited to check out Waterloo!!! I miss you guys...and think of you all often!

Central Park - Posted on 10th Apr, 2005 at 07:12

It was so wonderful to see all the daffodils out and the lush greens bursting forth into spring. New York is warm (as high as 17 degrees) and humid. Central park was a hive of New Yorkers out on mass. Caught between the people playing baseball, running, cycling, and roller-skating, were picnickers, families with little toddlers, the sunbathers and jazz musicians. Despite the crowds it felt really good soaking up the warm afternoon. Later I went and had a look at the Lincoln Centre, Metropolitan Opera house and the New York Opera house. After I went to the Chelsea Markets and tried out my new tango steps...Or at least attpemted too...I had no idea how different the steps are down here! And for good reason...there is less than a foot between you and the other dancers...Not a lot of room for fancy foot work. In stead I found my self shuffling around the floor and trying not to bump into too many people...not an easy feat. I don’t konw what Gustavo would have thought! I have put some more picture of Toronto, its wild life and a few muscians.

amtrak - Posted on 8th Apr, 2005 at 09:47

Leaving Toronto at 9:30am and arriving at NY at 9:40pm...Well I was at the train station at the right time... but some how it all went terribly wrong from there. Arrived in NY at 1:40am only four hours late. With only a 3 hour wait for the NJ train to Newark to begin opporations. Total travel time from Queen Street East to Newark 21HOURS!!! Clearly I was not impressed nor well by the time I got to Rutgers. I got to spend most of Thursday at the piano which was great and the performance went well on Friday. I am still recovering from a cold turned chest infection, but hopefully will have more energy to go exploring more of NY in the weekend.

Cheers Dude - Posted on 3rd Apr, 2005 at 12:59

POEM BY CAM Leaving Home I walked from room to room Of the flat where we three had lived The rooms were empty then And the carpet had been cleaned I stood in the lounge where Mikie and I had sat in our lazy-boy chairs I remember the countless movies we watched together This is where we drank beer and played Playstation Where we first tried out our projector And where we watched the view and talked Mikie’s gone now – he’s in New York building himself another life I remember the meals we cooked in this kitchen The times we experimented together And sat on the couch while the other one cooked I remember making you guys fettuccine And nachos too spicy to eat Mikie’s room used to have a piano in it I could come in and know that my friend would be here To talk or just say hello – maybe play a few tunes But Mikie’s gone and this isn’t really his room anymore Just an empty box with wet carpet And some memories of happy times I walk slowly back to the front door We used this flat – we made it our own We used it then left And all that’s left is an empty shell The end of something we all shared Kristin cried when I told her we were moving out I guess she felt her home in NZ would always be there I guess I felt the same way This old flat was home to us for a year And the farewell is a sad one I’ll miss you old friend And I’ll miss what we shared here I close the door for the last time And walk down the oh-so-familiar stairs My next home could never be so special Thanks and goodbye…

The Flood in the Basement - Posted on 3rd Apr, 2005 at 12:48

The weekend takes a turn...I had a wonderful Saturday night out in Missasaga at the Living Arts Centre. I really enjoyed the evening and the music. Going home was a bit tricky due to frozen road signs, subway systems that go out of service half way home and falling concrete slabs cutting off trams along Queens. Sunday morning continued to be eventful...I got my package from Mum (Yeah!!!Thanks for the chocolate and cook book!!! I will put them to good use!!!)also with all the bad weather the sump pump went on strike and water quickly started filling my little apartment!!! I was quickly rescued and now its just a matter of drying things out! So much for a non eventful Sunday. On a positive note I am finally a memeber of the Toronto library and I'm currently making my way though Issac Asimov's robot series. Should be very handy for the 12 hour train trip to NY...I still have a few more days to build the stamina for the very...long...long trip south. Before you ask, yes it is half the price of flying...with Jetsco belly up, its not too cheap aye!

Toronto:The City & People - Posted on 30th Mar, 2005 at 09:53

In New Zealand we don't realy make a big Hoo-Ha about spring. After all the grass is still green and the leaves stay mostly on the trees. If anything the equanox gale's can make things more miserable than winter. I have come to the distinct realization that this is not NZ and I'm hanging out for the buds to burst. The weather made it into the double figures for the first time since I arrived and I spent half the day carrying my winter coat rather than clinging to it. Still I'm guessing I'm not going to see a lot of lambs and calves this year, except for on the menu. I found a piano store in Greenwood on Monday and was horrified by how much my technique has suffered since selling my piano. Sitting at the piano felt like being given a jar of candy and not quite being able to get the lid off. Are people in Toronto really friendlier? in a city where the social norm is to avoid making eye contact let alone any other of gesture that would remotely suggest recognition. Not being from Toronto I regularly exercise my right to break this rule. Mostly once people get over the initial shock that some is attempting to talk with them and isn't trying to scam money out of them, I have found people to be very polite and responsive. Still haven't found a Cam or David Equalivent...but I keep looking.

My life, but not as I have known it - Posted on 26th Mar, 2005 at 10:32

I met my first Racoon last night. A couple were waiting at my front door when I got back from the Rex. Very strange creatures indeed. They were about 5 times the size of a male possume and I was certainly more intrested in them, then they were in me. I watched with curiosity as they climbed vertically up the neighbours fence and strutted cat like along the top. Coming from a Land of birds and lizards I guess the novelty will wear off eventually.Now I just have the beaver, kyoty, moose and mountain lion to go on my list. Though I'm not sure I want them at my front door... Easter with out easter eggs...well thank God for the ipod...my little shiney box of sanity. I'm just about ready to write the book " How to exhaust 10 gigs of music in less than a month!" Today concludes my second week of job hunting and its pretty safe to say patiance is no longer one of my virtues. I'm very glad to hear BJ and Matt made it safely back to NZ. Billy if your reading this give Cam a ring on 4766856 as I'm sure he is keen to have you back in NZ! This weekend I intend to do a little more exploring of Toronto and take a walk along the lake shore, providing it isn't too frozen, plus hope to go ice skating at City Hall with a friend from my Tango class on Sunday. On the off chnace anyone is thinking about sending an easter Care package, you might like to consider custard powder and Baking powder, as I can't find any where starch isn't the main ingrediant. How ever I'm not sure if the white powder would get past customs. I'm very jealous of Mum, Sis and Scott and Cat. I wish I could be with you all at Whangamata and I'm thinking of you all. So happy Easter and I hope you get lots of Easter Eggs, hot cross buns and swims in at Whanga! A final note for those who have text me. Yes I can receive photos, videos and ring tone on my phone, but can't for what ever reason reply...so please don't think I am being a snob!

Back to the drawing board - Posted on 23rd Mar, 2005 at 10:27

Some bad news...the video store job was given to one of their already part time workers...you have to wonder why they bother giving interviews??? Naturally I am a bit perturbed and frustrated, but back on with the Hunt. There is a job in a mac store I am trying for...I know the perfect job, I get to play with macs all day and convert the heathens. There is very little advertised in the news papers, but some goodies with Monster.ca. I will be sure to keep you up to date!

A week with Alei and the great thaw - Posted on 21st Mar, 2005 at 09:22

My little house is starting to feel very welcoming and homely. I'm sure the fact I don't have to sit and sleep on the floor has a lot to do with it, but my house warming gifts certainly helped and, of course, a woman's touch. I have finally updated my photo section. I'm missing the internet almost as much as my piano! There is a few pics of Toronto, my new digs and my pet squirrel. the snow has been retreating over the last week, revealing patches of very dead brown grass. I'm excited about the prospect of some greenery to contrast the snow, steel, brick and concrete. Looking at the green heli shots from the Flying Dr Scott made me very jealous. During Alei's stay we decided to give our usual carbohydrates and three veg diet a rest and try some of the local gourmat's. If you get the right specials fish can be as cheap as mince back in NZ. So we got to try Salmon steaks, lobster, rainbow trout and snapper! It certanily was a pleasant change from my usual scrappings. Despite the multitudes of baked goods, coming back to my bachelor from the airport was a bit lonely and sad. How ever, come monday I will be back to my schedule of jazz and tango! Thinking of you all!

Tango Tango - Posted on 14th Mar, 2005 at 10:43

I had my 4th Tango lesson last night. It was by far the most challenging yet. I was taken under the wing of a fiesty 60-70 year old woman than ran me though a whole variety of steps for an entire hour and a half. By the end of the night I was mentally exhausted. I just hope I can remember enough for when Alei gets up here on Tuesday. I got a call from BJ today. They are just about ready to head back to NZ. I'm guessing I will have to wait a little while before I get to see BJ and Mat :-( Some good news...I have got a job at a local video shop. Its a huge store and at least I can start saving! I can't wait to add my photos to the web! They will be up by next week!

The Waiting room - Posted on 11th Mar, 2005 at 09:57

You can almost smell the level of anxiety in a waiting room full of applicants. An almost palletable taste. I should know I have been to many. I'm still surprised by the amount of large corporations that want you to pay any thing from $200-$600 for your training. I have also found a lot of gimmicks and disguised telemaketing jobs. Still its only my first week! I went to my first Tango lesson on Tuesday which was very interesting. Most of the woman there were about 30 years older than me...but very friendly and forgiving. On Wednesday night I took another lesson and was pleased to find some beginners closser to my age. I'm slowly setting up the basement. After several different second hand stores I managed to find a bed and sofa.

Job Interviews - Posted on 7th Mar, 2005 at 10:10

Hunting for a work is much the same process as hunting for a place to live. So far I have looked at everything from Drug Trials, office work, call centres and video stores. You can guess which paid the most. I get my first Tango lessons on Tuesday and Wednesday night.(Not including bumbing around the lounge with Alei) I just hope I can remember my left foot from my right. Random Note: You could make a lot of money installing door stops in Canada, as most walls have door knob holes! This week I will need to invest in some amplified speakers to plug into my ipod, as I am going quietly mad between my fridge (which is currently been locked in the bath room) and the washer and dryer up stairs...I need a little distraction. I am also missing my piano terribly and have itchy fingers. I saw a roll up piano that gave me the giggles. You literally roll it out and play! Thanks for all the lovely comments! I appreciate them all!

Settling in - Posted on 5th Mar, 2005 at 11:42

After much deliberation I decided on my place of residence. 97 Berkshire Ave Toronto m4m2z6 Canada Its a cozy little basement with heaps of space to store my things...both suitcases...and it has heated floors...great for drying out my wet socks. I still can't get over how much is going on over here at anyone time. The weekly entertainment guide is over half a dozen pages long! I hope to pop up to Edmonton for a few days and catch up with Bj and Matt before they fly back to NZ... I found my local supermarket and discovered Lobster for $12 YEAH, but butter for over $4 and milk for over $3 a litre...grrrr...

- Posted on 2nd Mar, 2005 at 09:54

It started snowing upon my arrival in Toronto and hasn't stopped since! I arrived in the afternoon after missing my first plane by minutes, thanks to NJ transit. I checked in to the Backpackers and went to the mall...which was huge...and bought a cell phone. My number is 001 6472905979. I went to a great Jazz club called the Rex. I very please to announce Jazz is STILL alive and kicking in Toronto. Theres gigs here 7 days a week from 6:30pm till midnight during the week and later in the weekend. I have been hunting in earnest to find a place to live...I have walked, trained, bussed, and trammed my way round a fairly large portion of Toronto GTA...I haven't found what I am looking for yet, but I do have a better idea about Torontos Public Transportation...and its very good! A few differences I have noticed: Snow is measured in feet rather than inches Transportation works Subway Systems and stations make sense Rubish bins come with recyling options Sentences are finsihed with the word 'eh'

The Subways - Posted on 26th Feb, 2005 at 10:11

Yesterday I decided to explore just how far the subways really do go. First I took the N up to Astoria Boulevard and had a look around for a bit then I took the A train all the way to Rockaway Park Beach. I spent a couple of hours wandering along the beach before my nose was frozen stiff and I was forced to retreat back to civilization. Stomping along the desolate snow covered sand was a treat. There was plenty of trash, lots of shells and some extremely cute birds that reminded me a lot of the NZ dotterel. It was nice to get away from all the skyscrappers and concrete for a day and go to the beach. Eventually I made my way back into New York and went to the museum. Later on today I hope to go to the Chelsea Markets and catch the Milonga Tango. My body has finally adjusted to the time zone and I have ferocious appetite!

Metropolitan Museum of Art vs The Empire state Building - Posted on 24th Feb, 2005 at 19:17

The last couple of days I have been enjoying the incredible Museum! It makes Te Papa look very small and insignificant...you could fit all of New Zealand museums and most art galleries under the same roof. But you really need weeks to explore rather than days. I also made it up to the top of the Empire State Building...a bit of a disappointment...its about as high as the old BNZ building in Auckland...but with cues for over an hour. It was freezing even with my new winter coat...which is coming in very handy as its STILL snowing.

snowing again - Posted on 21st Feb, 2005 at 17:55

I’m having a wonderful time playing in the snow and ridding around on all the various subways. Today I gave in and bought a warmer jacket and some warm leather gloves. My NZ overcoat wasn’t quite cutting the mustard with all the white stuff. It’s not too bad, the weather isn’t so different from Christchurch in winter. Last night I took Alei out for dinner at a nice little Italian restaurant in NY for her birthday. I would love to go there again...but I’m not likely to find it again...there are way too many restaurants in NY. For photos go to photos.michaelrobinson.co.nz I having some problems posting on this site.

Flying To New York-learning to love the crowds and cues. - Posted on 20th Feb, 2005 at 19:06

Every flight I took required several lines, some like LA went from with in Terminal 1 outside and round a couple of blocks to Terminal 2, but after discovering there is a cue to get into Central Park...I guess it is something I will have to get used to! Cues and masses of people seem to be the norm here from trying to get into the mall, buying your groceries or just trying to find a seat at the foot court. Six months were definitely worth the long wait.I finally got my first nights sleep in the last 5 days...thank god! So far I have been walking in Central Park, Guernsey’s Jazz Auction preview, Herbie Hancock’s New Directions concert and even got some sleep! Pretty busy day all and all. Still getting used to it being 30 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 30 degrees Celsius.

My last night in NZ - Posted on 17th Feb, 2005 at 03:32

A chorus of cicadas sing their sweet good byes as we pack the camping gear in to the boot. Kai Iwi provided the perfect departure from NZ. Crisp sunny weather, with crystal clear waters. Cam picked me up from my last exam and we drove straight up to the lakes. Playing chess, reading, sleeping, and going for at least a dozen swims has been a welcome reprieve from Auckland life. I spent another today chasing some resemblance of order from under the chaos that was our home. I got my marks back from my exam and have finally got enough points to graduate! So we celebrated my success at the farewell party. I am so excited at the prospect of seeing Alei and the beginning my adventure that I haven’t slept in days. Although I'm not looking foward to LA airport, I can't wait to touch down in NY and then onto Toronto! To think my first major cities for the country boy at heart!

The Secrets out - Posted on 9th Feb, 2005 at 21:05

For all those that don’t know…I have moved my schedule forward a month, just in time for Alei’s birthday! I have finally sorted out all the appropriate visas and tickets and I’m set to fly out the 18th of Feb! So in about 8 days! A big thank you to all those who have helped make this possible, especially Cam…for having to listen to all my worries and woes, & Scott for the extra push! So…if you want to catch up before I go, now is probably a very good time! Excuse me while I go back to bouncing off the walls!

Sleep...Never! - Posted on 7th Feb, 2005 at 02:39

It’s only Monday and my heads already spinning! I have a lot of study left to do before my final Monday exam! I also have an interview with the American/NZ Consulate General, an appointment with Dawn, sort out some ticketing issues, sell the last of my belongings and I’m home and hosed! As you can see…MP3 isn’t too far away…but I’m having some real problems with the photos. So for some more random photos go to: http://photos.michaelrobinson.co.nz When I get to NY and Canada, I will probably end up sticking the bulk of the photos there. I talked with Billy Jo earlier today, I still can’t get over the fact she’s going to be a Mummy!!! Just my luck Mat and BJ are moving back from Canada to NZ the same month I leave for Toronto…very ironic  I will try get in touch with everyone still in NZ and see if we can’t organize some sort of bash!

Let the Sale begin! - Posted on 30th Jan, 2005 at 13:21

It has been an interesting week learning to live without a car…I’m guessing I will have plenty of opportunity to get used to the idea over the next few years. But given the limited public transportation systems in NZ…you really can not go far without private transportation! Now I just have to sell the rest of my hardware and I’m all set for my trip! Pending on the Canadian Embassy I Plan to depart on the 23rd of March…I would love to sneak away earlier, but visas, and saving provide certain restraints! Right now I have steer my concentration away from such wonderful distractions and finish off that 1 point left toward my degree…I have 2 more assignments worth 25% due this week and an exam on valentines no less!

Film and Advertising - Posted on 21st Jan, 2005 at 16:39

This week has been hectically busy with uni and catching up with a few friends and family! I rewarded my self for completing all the assignments ON time, (a big THANK YOU for all those who I conned into helping! I really appreciated the support) and went to the FREE landscape exhibition at Auckland art gallery. After memorizing most of usual suspects, I was delighted to have some new work to feast upon! My favorite was a landscape painting of the Puhoi valley from the 1940s. Apart from working at the video store, I think I will try and get some rest before winding back up on Monday and beginning the whole process again. Oh well only 59 days to go!

Summer School 101 - Posted on 12th Jan, 2005 at 03:45

It’s kind of hard to believe I’m only in my second week of summer school and already I’m struggling to keep up. I now understand why Uni DOESN”T recommend taking 4 points in 6 weeks…I have two assignments due next week and both are worth over 25% :( So far the highlight of the week was a drill during Film History…30 minutes of sitting around in the sun, talking about films and watching the girls drawl over the Firemen. I put my 2005 calendar on the wall…thanks to "Mr cryo-molecular endocrinologist" …cheers Dude! Only three Months Until I can get to New York!

Silence Between Stranges - Posted on 10th Jan, 2005 at 06:41

I though I would share some of my scratching and musings as I waited, caught between trains during their holiday time table.
The Silence between strangers
Standing in a line of people
All separated by social virtues, restraints
And independent personal space
All with common life styles and existences
As close as brother and sister genetically
But so far apart in spirit
What if we were to give away our
Zombie state and being, Our social silence
What if every afternoon at 4pm
The station was filled with souls
Talking about their dreams and ambitions
Their calm blank cow like expressions
Replaced with passion and enthusiasm
Though our new found technological gadgets
I feel we have forgotten what really matters
That we CAN make a profound impact
What we do affects our surroundings
Events and other peoples lives
I’m not suggesting that we should
Put away our super advanced space age toys
But simply look at what we have
And share it with those around us

Waiting for the wind to change - Posted on 10th Jan, 2005 at 03:35

A BLOG especially dedicated to the many faces and hair styles of my best friend Cam

Watch this space - Posted on 4th Jan, 2005 at 07:10

I have finally taken the plunge and secured my self some real space with gobat.com. I have been umm-ing and ahh-ing over a whole variety of providers, while watching my current account approaching its limit. I have been saving rigidly for my trip to the US, and have been staving off any superfluous spending, but when gobat offered 75% off…I couldn’t resist. Now I have 2.5 GB of space to flaunt and 75 GB of transfers. Needless to say I’m thrilled with the new prospects and can’t wait to get things up and operational.

Back At Summer School - Posted on 3rd Jan, 2005 at 11:15

Summer School I start back at uni in a few days. Chasing that elusive 1 point!!! I decided on film history and advertising and the media…One point and two papers you might ask? Firstly there is NO 1 point papers and secondly…if I’m stuck at uni five days a week…I might as well get a little government sponsorship! Here a few photos I took on a trip out to the Auckland Botanical Gardens…tucked away in the MIDDLE OF NO WHERE! What kind of thriving metropolis places its Botanical Gardens over 10km out side of the city centre?

"Oh for the love of Christmas!%@#^" - Posted on 28th Dec, 2004 at 02:34

Thank God the whole stupendously ridicules, tragically commercial, traumatic festive drama is over! Now it’s just a matter of surviving the pathetic, vernacular seething masses, trying to squeeze as much driving into their holiday period. I have the job I always dreamed of! The pay is crap, but I’m master of the video store a couple of days a week. It works well around summer school…Damn that 1 point! It looks like its going to be a very quiet New Years…I’m stuck working till 11pm and open the shop the next day! Anyway I wish you all a very happy new years! Ps Don’t forget to write a message! It can get a little lonely here!

Parnell Gardens - Posted on 23rd Dec, 2004 at 10:21

The Curry Wedding! - Posted on 19th Dec, 2004 at 09:12

The Final Verdict - Posted on 16th Dec, 2004 at 02:51

At ten o’clock on my birthday, I sat with Bruce and Cam in Warren Drakes office, waiting for the final verdict from Auckland University in regards to about 10 credits, from Christchurch Jazz School. After months of correspondence and negotiations, with multiple professors, I was a feeling little nervous. It came almost as a shock when Warren announced I would receive all the appropriate credits! So not a bad Birthday present really...and to top it off, I got my years marks. I got A’s in all my performance papers and B’s in pretty much everything else…So needless to say, I’m a pretty happy chappy!

Winter Gardens - Posted on 15th Dec, 2004 at 09:54

I took my camera for a gentle stroll around the winter gardens.

Dawn at Kai IWi - Posted on 9th Dec, 2004 at 02:49

Perfect sunny weather, 8 swims a day, hot chocolates, clear star filled skies, chess and sun burn. The perfect mix.

The Whangamata Flash - Posted on 9th Dec, 2004 at 02:33

I took the trip to Whanga and attacked the knee high grass for Granddad. It was my quickest visit ever, as I had to get back to Auckland that night. I finished the lawns and headed to the beach just in time to watch the sun go down and share my fish and chips with the seagulls. After a lengthy walk on the beach the trip, I made the long and laborious way back to Auckland.

One Tree Hill...well at least it still has the hill! - Posted on 5th Dec, 2004 at 03:51

I’m still waiting for my daily run around the local park, to become the ‘irresistible urge’ that I was promised. It’s been a month and although my fitness level has increased dramatically, I can’t help think there has to be a more enjoyable method to get over my piano flab and studio tan. I’m very thankful to have somewhere so wonderfully green, with no concrete or smelly cars. It provides me with all the space, grass and animals of being back on the farm, with the convenience of living in the city. I took the camera for some exercise too.

*Christmas Mayhem* - Posted on 28th Nov, 2004 at 05:35

My First Auckland Santa Parade I can’t believe this parade has been going on for over twice my existence and I have never gone before…than again with 250,000 stressed parents and screaming kids…its taken me a while to build up the courage to attend. Frankly, Queen Street just isn’t long enough! Hellen and I spent most of our time perched on our tippy-toes. Next time I will have to bring a bigger box. And the prize for the noisiest and most obnoxious marching band, goes to “Auckland regional Council!” Sorry no photo…my fingers were too busy embedded in my ears.

Kiwi VS Kea - Posted on 25th Nov, 2004 at 01:23

Small brown, flightless, shy, half blind, anti social, nocturnal bird VS Dark green with striking red plumage and an endearing, mischievous highly social curious nature. How did the kiwi become our national icon? The kiwi definitely has a uniqueness, and mystery. It has dozens of oddities that set aside from the rest of the NZ bird species. For example it is the only bird in the world to have nostrils at the tip of its long beak. But the Kea has the ability to adapt quickly, a highly developed social organisation and an unusual propensity to play. Like coyotes, crows and humans, Keas are "open-programme" animals with an unusual ability to learn and to create new solutions to whatever problems they encounter. Exploring and manipulating the objects in their environment, Keas are known for their individually, rather than social learning and is rated as one of the most intelligent birds in the world. What better bird to represent to NZ. For those who want to make a more informed decision before we change out national symbol. Here are a few links: http://www.kiwirecovery.org.nz/Kiwi/AboutTheBird/TheKiwiFamily/ http://www.nzbirds.com/Kiwi.html http://www.nzbirds.com/Kea.html http://www.doc.govt.nz/Conservation/001~Plants-and-Animals/001~Native-Animals/Kea.asp

NZ Jazz Scene - Posted on 24th Nov, 2004 at 00:43

Presently I am trying to rally enough support to create a site dedicated to the NZ jazz scene. I have been granted permission from a number of musicians to use some of their material I have recorded live over the last few years. But still have to sort out funding and construction issues. Until then I hope to add some more functionality to this site including a section on Auckland jazz scene, with a different MP3 every week, and appropriate links to sites and albums. I checked out a number of NZ sites including www.jazz.co.nz which seems to be under reconstruction, but couldn’t find anything like I am suggesting. I would love to hear some opinions. email@michaelrobinson.co.nz

Kai Iwi Lakes - Posted on 22nd Nov, 2004 at 10:05

At the truly un Godly hour of 6 o’clock on Sunday morning, Cam and I scramble into my car and started the 3 hour road trip North. We watched the clouds grow lover and lower as the weather drizzled, spattered, rained and eventually poured down, as I wove through the bendy roads and tiny rural towns. Miraculously, upon our arrival the weather cleared up, the clouds departed and we settled in for a few days of sun, skinny dipping, reading, writing and chess. The fresh water lakes are crystal clear, surrounded by white sand and have a steep declining shelf. Perfect for Cam and I to test the limits of our diving abilities. Its been far too long since the I last visited the lakes and immersed myself in its enchanting majestic beauty. Once the fizz boats went home on Sunday we had the lakes to our selves, which was divine! Unfortunately I got a LITTLE bit sun burnt.

Justin & Rachel's Wedding - Posted on 22nd Nov, 2004 at 08:11

Grey Lynn Festival - Posted on 22nd Nov, 2004 at 06:54

The Grey Lynn Park Festival is a community based free one-day event that is organized by a non-profitable community Trust called the Grey Lynn Park Festival Trust Board. The event came replete with pancakes, a perfect summer’s day and plenty of sunscreen. I spent a lot of my time perusing though the many stalls and tents and drinking out of coconuts. Along with the regular commercial tents there were plenty of arts, craft and yummy food. The turnout was huge…well over 100,000. Think Christmas in the park, but with plenty of alcohol and without the Christmas clichés. The sprit of the event was about supporting the community, with a focus on family and local cultures. There was loads of great music with an entire section dedicated to Latin music and 11 different bands over the day on the main stage. The only hard part was afterwards when I painted Granddad’s workshop roof! Roofs, hot sun and paint are not a good combination!

Kelly Tarltons - Posted on 19th Nov, 2004 at 06:16

After the chaos that was Auckland Uni, I find myself with an overwhelming amount of free time on my hands. During this time of great luxury I have been trying to update my decrepit, feeble excuse of a CV and sort out some cross crediting issues. On an extended break I took a trip to Kelly Tarltons. Being a member is cool…I can’t say I make the same friendships as Auckland Zoo, but the underwater experience is mesmerizing!

The Drive North - Posted on 19th Nov, 2004 at 05:16

On the way back from my last excursion up north on Wednesday, I stopped at Hatfeilds and played with the bunnies. They remind me of Whanga…It would be very cool if I could grow them all over the lounge…I’m sure Cam would love it!

Dan Rules - Posted on 19th Nov, 2004 at 04:24

I would just like to take the opportunity state once and for all 'Dan rules...'

Family ketchup - Posted on 18th Nov, 2004 at 09:39

I have finnaly got around to posting the photos from our last catch up! Just in time for the next wedding! Oh well better late than never!

Three Cheers - Posted on 18th Nov, 2004 at 09:02

A quick note to say a big thank you to all the people that have kept me sane over the last year of my study! This academic year has been the most challenging in my life. I owe a great deal to all those family members that have supported me thoughout the year! Also cheers to all the musicians that played on my recital and the people running around behind the scenes...You know who you are!

A little overboard... - Posted on 18th Nov, 2004 at 08:17

Since I was kindly donated a digital camera, I have been snapping about 64mb a week...I have emailed about a gig of photos to various people and realize that there just has to be a better solution... As I can only add one photo at time...I will have to be rather selective...but hopefully I can make a dent in my collection!

Welcome to my website! - Posted on 17th Nov, 2004 at 23:50

My goal is to provide a site that showcases some of the more intresting photographs I have taken over the last few years. A place where friends and family can check out what I'm up to and my latest pictures. Of course I expect that things will get a lot more intresting once I leave NZ! Over the next few weeks I hope to create catalogues and galleries. I would also like to say a big thanks to Dan and Cam for helping it all to happen! Unitl next time watch this space!

Cheers Dan - Posted on 17th Nov, 2004 at 01:52

I will be sure to have plenty of fun!!! Thanks for all the help! Keep an eye on this space...I should have most of the details up by the end of the week...

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