Saturday, 29 December 2012

On Prejudice and Movies

How often do references to things relating to James Bond films or Star Wars films crop up in every day life?    The answer always seems to me to be 'quite frequently'.  There can be few people in any country where this blog is read who have not heard of James Bond and at least some of the characters who appear in Star Wars.

I, for example, know that Ursula Andress walked out of the sea dressed in a white bikini (who does not know that?) and that Darth Vader, R2D2 and C3PO appear in Start Wars as do Light Sabres.  I might dredge up other morsels if questioned more specifically on James Bond but, on the whole, my ignorance of these topics is astonishing.  "So what?" you may well ask and, until recently I would have taken the view that not being able to complete Trivial Pursuits games nor half the quizes The Family play was a small price to pay for not having to endure those films.

Generally speaking I don't like science fiction nor fantasy and Bond and Start Wars seem to fit those categories rather well in my mind.  So how come I am, and have been since I first read it in the early '70s, addicted to The Lord of The Rings?  Why did I think Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Trilogy was superb and compelling?   Why do I admire the ideas behind Anne McCaffrey's 'Ship' books?  The answer, it occurred to me a few months ago, is blind prejudice.  As that is a trait I find absolutely unacceptable in most walks of life I decided that I had better think again about James Bond and Star Wars.

So last week I hired the DVDs of Dr No (the first Bond Film from 1962) and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Episode 1 of the Star Wars Trilogy from 1999 - the sequence in which the six films should be viewed is, I discovered, the subject matter of  many articles on the internet). 

By the standards of modern film making and even TV series The Bond film seemed amateur and silly - but then it was made half a century ago.  The Star Wars movie did nothing for me but it was interesting to see some of the characters of whom I have heard (although not Alec Guiness's character).

Will I watch some more?  Yes.  I have the second of each series waiting by the television and when I have some ironing or a quiet evening then I may well educate myself further.  Never again will I be able to claim that I have never seen a Bond or Start Wars film right through.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Thankful Thursday

It has just occurred to me that this is the last Thankful Thursday post of 2012.  Another year is drawing to a close.  Another year when those of  my generation are closer to the end of our lives than the beginning.  No, I'm not being morbid.  That's not in my nature.  It's a simple statement of fact.  It does, however, make one think.  It has made me stop this evening and look out of each of the windows of The Cottage at the various things I can see.  It has made me think about the fact that these are things I am so very lucky to be able to see.  It is now over 14 years since I was diagnosed with cancer: a cancer that, had it not been treated despite the fact that there were no symptoms and no indication that it was there, might have claimed my life within months rather than years.  It makes one think that every day is a day to be savoured.

Since then Dad and Mum and my Uncle have died, Carol's and my son Andy has died and, in fact, countless others have died as well.  Two relationships which were very special in my life have also ended.

On the other hand I have become closer to my son than I could ever have imagined and consolidated my friendship with my brother.  I have old friends whom I treasure beyond anything I can think of (and some of whom I don't deserve).  I have made some of the most wonderful friendships possible with people I didn't even know in 1998.   Since that date I have acquired a surrogate family and a second Country and lived a life which back then I could never even have dreamed of. 

If I died tomorrow I would die one of the most fortunate people on this planet.

For that I am very, very thankful. 

I thought that I would just add a few photos from the 120,000 plus that I have taken since 1998.  They have been chosen from the digital images on the computer and are very much what I have spied in my hasty trawl over the last hour or so:

Gaz before our climb up the Clisham, Isle of Harris, 2004
On top of The Clisham, Isle of Harris, 2004: the perfect day - we could see from St Kilda to Cape Wrath to the Ardnamurchan Peninsula
The aftermath of The Hurricane, January 2005 two days before Pat and Dave moved to The Island
Pat, a born and bred townie, up out of her comfort zone in 2005. Now she's embraced Island life more than most.
My New Zealand home
The Californian coastline at sunset, 2004. Perhaps not the most beautiful sunset I'd ever seen but an unforgettable holiday with a dear friend (it was leap year and on the 29 February in California I received a proposal of marriage - but I'm still single)
One of my longest-standing friends and a daughter - Ontario, Canada at, you guessed it, Halloween, 2005
A sight I never thought I'd see: San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge 2004
Catriona aged 4
Heli-hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier 2005
And as Bugs Bunny would say "That's all folks.".

A Christmas Summary

At 1900hrs on Boxing Day the temperature in the shade on my deck was 28℃ (82℉) and, unusually for Hawkes Bay, it was quite humid.   I had every door and window open and there was a slight breeze but thank heaven that by the time it got dark and now that it's near time to hit the hay the aircon is working overtime.

It's been a quiet and very enjoyable Christmas. First breakfast and opening the stockings and presents. Then I came back to The Cottage whilst The Family went for a walk and then we spent the afternoon in the pool.  Dinner and Monopoly (Edinburgh version).  My particular days have not been helped by the fact that I developed a cold on Christmas Eve, snuffled my way through Christmas Day and blew my nose all the way through three large boxes of tissues today.  However I've discovered that if you have a thick head the best thing is a hot afternoon in the pool.  That was Christmas Day afternoon and was the best I felt for the three days.

The simplest presents can be the most interesting
and the most annoying
Doesn't everyone wear Mi Piaci pumps for breakfast (and drink Bucks Fizz).
Playing Piggy in the Middle: and I was expected to catch it that high! It even overshot Catriona by a mile
It took me a bit by surprise when I realised from this photo what a two-tone body I have.

I always know if I've got a cold (which, I'm pleased to say, is a rare occurrence) because I don't usually drink whisky but when I want a whisky mac (whisky and green ginger wine) I know that I have a cold.  I've got through quite a lot the last three evenings!  

Now for bed.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Absolute Inertia

Yesterday (Sunday) I started the day really early with a list.  A list of all the people to whom I had to write and email or speak with on the phone together with the things I had to do (like start the trifle for Christmas Day dinner).  I then had breakfast and went to the supermarket thinking that I would beat the inevitable crowds.  How wrong could I have been.  At 9am the supermarket was busier than I can ever recall seeing it before.   Fortunately I went to the supermarket where you pay a bit more but where the checkouts are well-manned with two people to each checkout and a number of self-checkout places too.  So when I'd finished my small shop I went straight to an empty self-checkout and was out quickly.

Then I seemed to fall victim to a sort of Sunday Inertia and my day disappeared without so much as einem Augenblick.  I did write some emails and read some blogs and watched some evening television (Joanna Lumley in Greece - I want to go there!) and ended off with an hour on the phone to a dear friend in Scotland (ending just on the stroke of midnight) before falling asleep at about three minutes later.

In 40 minutes on this dreich morning here in Napier I am due at the gym.  Perhaps when I get back I will have enough adrenalin running through me to make sure that I finish the list today.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Little and The Large

The first of my pictures is of an undefined and unrecognisable little fly which could be a Black Fly which is found throughout New Zealand (of which Sand Flies are one sort which appear in the greatest numbers in Fiordland and Westland, South Island, where, on a humid, sunny day up to 70 can be squashed with one clap of the hands).  I think that these are the little buggers that inflict considerable unpleasantness upon my person.

We also have mosquitoes or mozzies of which I think this may be one ( although I cannot be sure) of the 16 types found in NewZealand of which, apparently, few normally bite people.  I'm not convinced about this one either.  It looks to have considerably evil intentions to my mind.

And yesterday I discovered a  Crane Fly (Giant) (Austrotipula hudsoni) on the ranch slider:

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thankful Thursday

Just a quickie today.  Not because I haven't got loads for which to be thankful but because  I had some pictures that I took recently that I wanted to use - honesty is, I usually think, the best policy.

Roast Tomatoes
Lavender essence for drinks
Champagne and lavender essence
Champagne with strawberry liqueur
At dinner on the night before Jamie left for his gap year in Europe and China Wendy had produced some unusual drinks: lavender and strawberry which, frankly, I though sounded rather awful.   I'll give most things a try though and I did realise that even if I didn't like the taste the colours were rather photogenic.  The essences were topped up with champagne and, I have to confess, were both unusual and much more pleasant than I had anticipated.

The roast tomatoes were lovely both to eat and photograph.  I often use roast tomatoes not just because I love eating them but because they provide such great visual impact.

So today I am just giving thanks for food and drink and for the opportunity to share these thoughts.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The End of The World

I haven't been reading about the Mayans.  So, no, I don't mean that as in 'The end of the world is nigh' but as in 'New Zealand is the end of the world'.

We were looking up at the sky and discussing the fact that you never see aeroplane vapour trails in New Zealand. 

You come to or go from this country.  You never transit through it to anywhere else internationally only internally or possibly to some of the Pacific Islands - in which case you would never fly over New Zealand's main landmasses at vapour trail altitude anyway.

Funny really because I can't think of any other major country where that is the case.  Unless you know otherwise.

PS I recorded 38℃  on the terrace in the shade at 1100 hrs this morning.  It was wonderful.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

My Teachers C 1950.

In the last post I mentioned that my teachers at prep school didn't look like the teacher whose picture I posted.  These were (some of) my school's teachers circa 1950.

Top Left to bottom right: Mrs Ratchfiord, Miss Twomey, Miss Rimmer, Miss Dowling, Miss Rose ? Mrs Williams, Mr and Mrs Flynn and ?

Monday, 17 December 2012

My Last Puketapu School Prize-giving

When I first came to New Zealand in 2005 Catriona was at Pre-School (Kindergarten or Nursery School).  On her fifth birthday in 2006 she graduated to Puketapu School and joined her three brothers.  I was here for that.  Her brothers have left for Napier Boys High and, at this moment her oldest brother has left that school and just arrived in Switzerland and started work under the Eiger for his gap year before Uni.  Now aged eleven Catriona leaves Puketapu School in a couple of days (she could actually stay on for another two years but she's going to another school as a weekly boarder).  I will have been to every Puketapu Prize-giving whilst she has been at the school.  Tonight was the last one I will attend and I am proud and thrilled to be able to say that I was there.

I would just say that Puketapu School (of which Wendy is a Trustee) is a wonderful school in its environment, educational and socio-economic contexts.  It makes me realise just how privileged we are to live here.

The school Kapa Haka performance
The grass is banked so you can't see the children and parents in front of me: hundreds attended on a very warm evening.
Three murals, the school band's drums and the School cups
The younger pupils perform a song and dance routine
I don't recall any of my Prep School teachers looking like this
or dressing like this - I could show you my school photos!
These classes made a whole orchestra from instruments they had made: this is just a few.  The performance was awesome.
The school Dux.  Says it all really. (As an aside only, I suspect, in New Zealand would you see affluent children going barefoot to the school prizegiving because it's just a normal thing to do).
This is the traditional reminisce by the Year Eight leavers who tell the world some of the amusing (and embarrassing) things they recall about their teachers and fellow pupils over their years at the school.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

What Age Are You?

I'll put my cards on the table.  I think I am middle-aged.  Of course if you don't know how old I am in years then that won't help you judge the accuracy of my opinion.  Of course you may never have thought about it.  After all, why should you?

What caused that outburst?  An email exchange (you really don't need to know the details!) with a dear friend:
Me: Payment for a (very) misspent youth and younger middle age now that I've reached older middle age.

Dear Friend: We're middle aged?  Who are you kidding?

Me: Haven't they told you yet. The 60s are now the old 50s.

Dear Friend: Nope.  Anyway, 50 is quite old.

I've sort of thought about this all day and decided to do some research.

Google it and the dictionary definition is: Noun.  The period between early adulthood and old age, usually considered to be from 45 to 65. (So, my dear friend, 50 is still on the young side of middle age).

Apparently the medical definition is between 40 and 60. (So, my dear friend, 50 would be in the middle of middle age).

Frankly Wikipedia wasn't that helpful on the subject.

However Robert L Adams who seems to have cornered middle age has a considered essay on the subject at that link and concludes that middle age is that point in your life when you shift from seeing the future in terms of your potential and begin to see it in terms of your limitations. 

The problem with that definition for me is that I still see my life in terms of  the future whilst being very much aware of my limitations.  So I'm not sure whether I'm middle-aged or not.

What really settles it for me, though, is that I was, according to my Mum, born with my pension book in my hand.  Which I think was a way of saying that I was born old.  Well it took me until about 60 to start getting young and I was just about there at 65.  So I've decided I'm not even middle-aged yet.

As my Mum said it was bad manners to ask a lady her age I'll not pursue the question.  However if anyone wants to offer an opinion on how old they consider themselves to be they are most welcome so to do.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Not Screaming But Shouting

I've now had five sessions at 1 To 1 Fitness Studio in Napier over the last couple of weeks.  Why?  Principally to strengthen my legs in the event that I have my knee replaced sometime soon but also to get my legs fitter because they were getting very loathe to move in the morning which at my tender age was not a Good Thing.  I'm not very good at self-motivation when it comes to things like gyms which is why this is a good option: no slacking and the whole of your fitness regime supervised and monitored - a sort of shared personal trainer service. 

Anyway, I digressed.  I was obviously a bit fitter than I thought because even on my first day before they upped the hardness regime I had no real difficulty with the equipment which involved the cycle, cross-trainer and the walking machines.  Upper body exercises and weights were quite another thing and my muscles screamed for me to stop and only my stubbornness managed to get me to the end of each set exercise: just.  Until today.  Today on the worst exercise (crunches) they just shouted loudly.  Wow.  Progress.

As I was doing the crunches and realised my muscles were not screaming but shouting I thought of what has become one of my favourite poems:

Not Waving But Drowning
Stevie Smith

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he's dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thankful Thursday

The Family had multiple choice options yesterday.  So I donned my Uncle Graham hat and fed the children and friend and then took Catriona to her school drama night in which she was performing.  

This is Catriona's last year at this school before she goes off to boarding school so I will have seen her right through from pre-school to her senior school and never missed a prizegiving nor, so far as I can recall, the annual drama evening.
I feel very privileged and very thankful to have had this opportunity in life at a time when I've been able to give more time to it.  It is one of the very few 'if only' things in my life: if only I had made the time from my work to attend all my own children's functions.  Next time......

In the meantime I am very thankful that I've had a second chance.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

The Blackhouse by Peter May

I really should resurrect my book blog because last night I finished Peter May's book The Blackhouse.  I can think of no book I have read for many years that kept me so riveted to it: particularly towards the end when I couldn't put the light out until I'd finished it.  It's complex (though not really complicated)  and, in parts, implausible (are not most novels?) but the characters and places are so real it's uncanny.  Having lived the majority of my years on Lewis makes it all the more poignant and I can see many of the characters in people I know or am acquainted with.  Contrary to at least one reviewer I do not think it is insulting in any way to the people of what has long been my home.  Every place has it's characters both good and bad and Lewis is no different.  Some of the less central characters who are there for the embellishment of the story though not from Ness are immediately recognisable (sometimes as an amalgamation of real people).

The descriptions of the Island and the places (I'm fortunate enough through my work, for example, to have been all over the Lews Castle before it was declared dangerous and closed to the public) are wonderfully evocative of the place and reading the book here in New Zealand I was transported back to Lewis: almost like being beamed there à la Star Trek.

Oh yes, the story.  Police officer, unpleasant senior police officer, friendly and loyal police officer colleague, murder, deaths and so much more (some of which would sow ideas which could give the stories - this is not one story - away).  Frankly you don't need to have a synopsis: it seems to me in many ways that the murder is just a way of having a setting on which to hang (sorry) the characters who are really what I think the novel is all about.

I would stick my neck out and say that I think that anyone I know who reads this book will enjoy it at one level or another.  

I bought it on Kindle (as I will now do the others in the trilogy) but when I return to Lewis I will have to have the real copies as well.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle

Gillian Murphy PHOTO Ross Brown
Gillian Murphy (Principal Guest Artist) Photo: Ross Brown
I love ballet.  For those of you who were not following this blog at this time last year we went to see, and I blogged about, Sleeping Beauty at the Napier Municipal Theatre.  I am fortunate enough to be able to see more ballet here than I would ever be likely to see in the UK.  As soon as the annual programme is announced and the tickets are put on sale I immediately book the seats.  So the best seats in the house for next March and November are already booked and paid for.  Early bird, worm and all that.  So on Saturday the cream linen jacket came out once more.  It's one of the few occasions when, on the whole, I see people, relatively speaking, dressed up in Napier.

The ballet on Saturday night was Giselle which has had rave reviews. In my humble opinion well deserved rave reviews.  I had not seen it before although I know Adam's music for the ballet well.  The Royal New Zealand Ballet's Giselle web site is has more information.  Their 2013 programme and information is here.  

This post probably sounds like an advertisement and, in a way, it is.  I appreciate that relatively few of my readers are from New Zealand but whereever you are if you want to see artistes with this sort of athletic ability and poise then go to the ballet:

News Image
Advertising Photo for Royal New Zealand Ballet
Information: The images on this blog are from widely publicised sources.  I do not hold the copyright but am working on the basis that as they are being used to further the aims for which they have been distributed that will be acceptable.  If it's not I will happily remove them.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Post of the Year - So Far

I get a little irritated when the Car of the Year 2013 is announced in September 2012 or the Book of the Year 2012 is only open to books published before the middle of the year.  Which is why Pauline's post Introduce a Friend gets my nomination for Blog Post of 2012 - So Far. 

Of course there are so many posts of considerable merit even in my tiny corner of Blogland but this one really struck a note and it's not just because I know the writer and her friend.

I can think of quite a few posts by many Blogland friends which have gladdened my heart at the moment I have read them and sometimes they come back to me but just occasionally there are posts which really make me stop in my tracks and stick in what passes for my mind.  Of course it's a very personal choice and it's nothing to do with any particular post being 'better' than another one.  It's all very subjective.

So, for example, I can never forget Jenny's Objects in the Background from her blog An English Travel Writer.  For many that might be a very ordinary post compared with many of Jenny's long and interesting descriptions of her travels but to me the photo was magical and memorable.

Then there was the post a few months ago by Jaz of Treacy Travels who has stopped blogging for the moment (which saddens me because it was Jaz who started Thankful Thursday and she has been inspirational) but who posted  in August Thankful Thursday: The Power of Words.  That post contains so much from very useful advice to sentences to stop you in your tracks when you know what Jaz has gone through in the last few years.  (I've just noticed that I never commented on that post.  I must have been overcome at the time.)

I'm rather sorry that I started this because the more I think about it the more I realise just how many wonderful posts there are amongst those whose Blogworlds I inhabit and there will be posts I come across or remember which I wish I had mentioned.  Most of us write perfectly ordinary posts which are usually interesting or entertaining and have photos showing us each others worlds.  Some of those posts have inspired me to look at physical things more carefully or look at my ideas from a different perspective.  Some like Adrian's have been educational (geographically and politically!), amusing, controversial, always entertaining and with superb photos. 

Are there posts out there which you would nominate - so far?

Saturday, 8 December 2012


This morning lying in bed in a semi-wake state I suddenly became aware of a very odd noise and thought that Martin must have come back from his morning walk (Wendy already having gone to the gym) and popped in to see me for some reason and the noise was him walking along the deck.  I would, of course, usually have been up and about at that time but had been later than usual going to bed.  The noise continued for a few seconds then the rumble developed into a good shake.  It is quite weird lying in bed watching the house shake and rattle around you which is what it did for, I would estimate, about 5 or 10 seconds which seems a very very long time when it's actually happening.  

My first thought was 'what am I supposed to do?'.  The usual advice is drop into a crouch position but I seemed to recall that if you were in bed then you were supposed to stay there and cover your head with a pillow (assuming there wasn't something likely to fall on you).  Given the construction of The Cottage and the fact that it rests on piles the worst that would be likely to happen is that it might move on the piles.  There is no masonry and no heavy roofing tiles.  Of course by the time all this has gone through my head the quake was over and the shaking had stopped.

The quake was centered 20 k SE of Tokoroa and 94 miles (151 km) NNW of Napier.  It was 175 k deep and was magnitude 5.8.

Just before I returned to New Zealand there had been a few quakes felt in the area but in the times over the last eight years I've been in the country I've felt relatively few quakes (perhaps a couple of dozen at most) and only a couple as severe as today.

This has been a big enough event for me to make a post out of it but let me put it into perspective.  The people of Christchurch have been having to go through this and a hell of a lot worse for several years now and are living with the aftermath of the earthquake and nearly 11,000 shakes since. (Yes, eleven thousand). To get an idea of what that means go to the Christchurch Quake Map for a real eye opener.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Frances Garrood, Novelist

I have now read Frances Garrood's three novels: all on Kindle. Usually I would write separate reviews (usually being a rather loose term given that I haven't written any book reviews for several years) on Eagleton Book Notes but this is one post and it isn't a review. Why? Several reasons: I follow Frances's blog and feel that I know her (to the extent that I am more acquainted with her than with any other published novelist) and although quite different there is a commonality shared by the three books.

Any book that starts off "Nobody expected Ernest to die.  Least of all Ernest." had to be worth some further exploration.  So I explored and found a source of enjoyment, pathos and a whole gamut of emotions.   One of the things that all three books have in common is that they are about ordinary (well, fairly ordinary) people doing what fairly ordinary people do.  Another is that I can't help the feeling when I read some of the interpersonal relationships that the author is speaking with a great deal of personal experience.  I know that there is a theme that recurs in the books of which I have some experience and I don't see that anyone could just imagine the emotions that go with being in that situation.  But then I'm not an author and I don't have a very vivid imagination.

Getting back to Dead Ernest this is not, in many ways, a comfortable book.  Leastways I found parts of it very uncomfortable indeed.  Unfortunately without giving far too much away I can't really say more.  

I enjoyed the books.  If you are a person who is very uncomfortable with emotional issues then you may, just may, be able to enjoy these on another level but you will miss out.  I'd suggest you give them a try anyway.  The order doesn't really matter.

I do know that Meike who blogs at From My Mental Library has written reviews of all three books.   I wanted to write the opening to this post without re-reading her reviews but I shall now go and do that and I would also suggest that you read her posts at Dead ErnestBasic Theology For Fallen Women and The Birds, Bees and Other Secrets.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Christmas Decoration

I got out my Christmas decoration today.

Thank you Fiona.

Thankful Thursday: Lemons

The Family have an orchard as part of the 5 acres in which The House (and The Cottage) stands.   It's not the sort of orchard that surrounds the property which are cultivated apple trees but an old fashioned garden orchard with a mix of fruits including apricots, plums, lemons and the inevitable hedge of feijoa.  My principle interest is the plentiful and never-ending supply of lemons for my morning cups of hot water and lemon (and the occasional gin and tonic!).

So today I am thankful for the fact that I live amongst such restful beauty and have a plentiful supply of wholesome truly organic lemons.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Journey From Dannevirke

As a change from the written word here are a few photos from the car window (I wasn't driving) on the way home from the croquet tournament in Dannevirke a week or so ago.

The central ranges down the spine of the North Island under big skies
Remnants of snow on the ranges - telephoto from moving vehicle through the haze.
Just a pic
Fairly typical Hawkes Bay farmstead between Wairoa and Hastings

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The Time Traveller's Wife

One of the things that I really wish I'd given a higher priority too is keeping my book blog up to date.  Not that I read all that much these days.  I always seem to have much higher priorities for my time: an incomprehensible statement for people like CJ and many of my friends.  Add to that the fact that I'm a very slow reader and the problem shouldn't be so big.  One of the problems in not keeping it up to date is that I often just cannot recall the ins and outs of books I have read over the last few years even though I have a reasonable recollection (leastways I think I do) of books I read when I was in my early 20s.

One book I've been trying to read is The Time Traveller's Wife , Audrey Niffenegger's début novel.  I started it several years ago and it's travelled back and forth between Scotland and New Zealand several times but despite many attempts and re-starts (several from the beginning) I've never got past half-way.  Last year I attempted to watch the film but even that defeated me and I didn't get past the first half hour.  I don't even know why I found it so hard to cope with.  Yesterday, however, I had a breakthrough:  I watched the film to the end.  

There might be a few amongst you you have not read the novel nor seen the film.  For you here is a synopsis of the basis of the book:
Using alternating first-person perspectives, the novel tells the stories of Henry DeTamble (born 1963), a librarian at the Newberry Library in Chicago, and his wife, Clare Anne Abshire (born 1971), an artist who makes paper sculptures. Henry has a rare genetic disorder, which comes to be known as Chrono-Displacement, that causes him to involuntarily travel through time. When 20-year-old Clare meets 28-year-old Henry at the Newberry Library in 1991 at the opening of the novel, he has never seen her before, although she has known him most of her life.
The book, though a huge sales success on publication in 2003, did not receive the rave reviews that might have been expected with some criticism of its pedestrian writing and style and sometimes contrived though clever plot.  In general, the film received mixed-to-negative reviews. For example, The New York Times wrote that the film was an "often ridiculous, awkward, unsatisfying and dour melodramatic adaptation".  I had never read any reviews until I came to write this post (or if I had I've completely forgotten).  Perhaps sub-consciously I just didn't find the book satisfying.

Maybe now that I've seen the film I can one day watch it again so that I can appreciate all the bits I didn't take in and perhaps, just perhaps, I will have another go at the book.  It's one that I feel I ought to have mastered.

Monday, 3 December 2012

What Are The Odds?

Yesterday evening when Jamie was leaving I texted a friend who is travelling from Scotland to Hawaii at the crack of dawn Monday UK time just to make sure that she had completed her ESTA for the Visa Waiver for the USA.  "What's an ESTA?"  "Read the blurb that came with your ticket from the travel agent."  

I wonder how many people turn up at airports without the ESTA and cannot then travel to the USA or anywhere if they are stopping in the USA even as a transit passenger for 1 hour.  It's the stuff of nightmares.  After completing the on-line form and paying £40 it looks as though all may be OK for  my Scottish friend even though the ESTA confirmation hasn't come through yet.

I wonder what the odds are of a near problem in New Zealand making a bystander think of a friend on the other side of the world and just asking......

We'll see what happens tomorrow morning.

The All Blacks

When I was a youngster I was quite a passionate supporter of the Welsh rugby team.  That was in the days of Gareth Edwards - one of the greatest rugby players there has been.  Then I went through a period of complete disinterest in the game until I went to live in Scotland where, eventually, I ended up supporting the Scottish side whenever the rugby internationals were being played.  Coming to live half my life in New Zealand, however, suddenly meant that I had to take some hard decisions.

I've never been a nationalist and supporting a team just because I was born in a particular country has never seemed rational to me.  Seeing the All Blacks from the perspective of living in their country suddenly gave my rugby interest a new lease of life and when I'm here I support them fervently.  When I return to Scotland , though, something inside me compels me to support the Scottish team.  Privately I have some difficulty when the two teams meet.

So when the All Blacks played England at the weekend I fully expected them to win.  England had other ideas and their play was superb bringing the All Blacks' 20-game unbeaten streak to an end by 38 to 21.

Why am I mentioning all this?  Because of the All Blacks' attitude.  They took the defeat on the chin full of praise for England as the side that deserved to win.  There were no excuses from the All Blacks - no mention of fatigue or dramas with a virus during the week: just a simple acknowledgement that they were beaten by a better side on the day.

To me that is the true essence of sport.  It is the way most of us would like to see the game instead of the disgraceful incident in the game against Wales which hopefully will have brought to an end the All Blacks' lamentable behaviour on the European tour.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Gap Year

Jamie, The Family's, 18 year old first born has left for his gap year.  Even I, male used to a son travelling the world, was a bit on the choked side as Jamie got on the plane for his first unaccompanied flight via Auckland, Los Angeles and London Heathrow to Edinburgh before going on to Switzerland for the winter's skiing season (working) and then China to do a course learning Chinese.

The last hour had not been without drama when a problem with the visa waiver for the USA transit was discovered but with the help of the wonderful Air New Zealand staff at Napier Airport all was sorted in time for the first leg of the flight.

That's Jamie in the blue T-shirt
Poor light through a plate glass window at 30x is my excuse for the poor quality
Looks happy!
Ready for the off
Left behind!