Monday, December 29, 2008

A weather contrast

Sunday dawned a glorious blue sky. Unfortunately neither of us had slept well. I'd been awake from 2 until 5 am and read for an hour before drifting off in the spare room as dawn was arriving. Lack of sleep makes me grumpy so we didn't do much. In the afternoon we packed up some salad and fruit and let Jaz & Mark drive us to Long Bay park for a picnic and a walk over the coast path. The tide was way out so we avoided the steepest hill by picking our way around on the rocks. The nudist beach was well populated. Lots of sunscreen was slathered on as the day was hot.

Today is humid, warm and raining. Perfect weather to spend the day painting an empty rental property. The agents are convinced the colours of the walls are putting people off renting it. Oh joy.

In contrast, Mari sent this shot from her phone to my email. She is skiing in Poland's Zakopane district.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hazy Lazy Days of Summer

Such a lazy day, even more so than Christmas Day. The furthest I ventured was next door to Kim's to feed their cats and to the letter box to collect today's and yesterday's paper. Unlike England, our letter box is further away than our neighbours house, as we live down a ROW ("Right of Way") or private road. The letter boxes are at the top where the public road ends.

Basil and Micky are providing entertainment on tap, there's no need to visit cinemas and so on, and we have a multitude of turkey, ham and chocolates in the fridge. Reclining on the window seat I finally finished reading Barack Obama's 'Dreams of my Father'.

Most of the day was spent monitoring the transfer of 60GB of music from my laptop to desktop PC. This was triggered by the sudden realisation that the laptop had hardly any disk space left. I was loading a CD and a "low disk space" warning appeared. I carefully backed everything up to an external drive then down loaded up to date iTunes and copied them all in. All went well.

Not everyone knows that The Great White Wonder was the first semi-commercial scale bootleg album, and that Dylan is probably the most bootlegged of all artists.

Here's Neil covering Bob's 'All Along the Watchtower'

and 'Helpless' from the Last Waltz

Friday, December 26, 2008

Young decoyed by Cisco

So, after four weeks of religiously keeping all our doors and windows shut to contain the feline wanderings, apart from a few supervised outings, we decided today was the start of their freedom. They quickly disappeared into the thick bush clad slopes surrounding our decking as we tried not to act like worried parents. Micky came back after ten minutes with a sore paw and wailed at me when I went near him. He was alright again after half an hour of solid licking. They are on a steep learning curve about the delights and dangers of the non-carpeted world.

My best Christmas present came disguised in a large Cisco router box from John. I really thought I was being given some piece of internal gubbins to speed up my PC, but no, it was a decoy box containing tickets to see Neil Young. In Brisbane. Flights and hotel included. Woo Hoo. I'd been wanting to see him play here but he's only scheduled to do the 'Big Day Out' which is a notoriously hot, crowded and leery festival. This is a much better way to see Neil, in his own gig and on a mini-break.

Yesterday we just lazed around reading and went for a picnic near the beach. Today Jaz & Mark, Paul and his new girlfriend (Kylie) are coming for the whole turkey nine yards lunch. It has not yet made it to the oven so that's my next job.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Michaelmas and Basilicus

Sunday evening we saw 'In Bruges' which we'd missed during the Film Festival. Bone tickling black humour with a few pints of blood splattered. Not for the feint hearted.
Monday was a working day, but my last for the year.

Basil escaped, he must have leaped over the lower half (barn style) kitchen door to his freedom. Luckily I noticed his absence soon after and a search outside revealed the sound of his collar bell tinkling underneath the carport deck.

They are currently being called their 'official' names: Michaelmas and Basilicus. Hunting & gathering is in full practice mode as they take it in turns to race through the house proudly carrying some new 'find' in their teeth, usually a leaf or a piece of tinsel scavenged from the tree.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

2008 - Top Ten CDs

This Top Ten was inspired by Nik at Spatula Forum whose tastes overlap a little with mine.

My Top Ten is not limited to albums released this year but are CDs that made it to my ears in 2008. Notably three of the artists, Cat Power, Sufjan Stevens, Calexico, I explored after hearing them each cover Dylan on the soundtrack album of the movie "I'm Not There". That CD escaped this list by being added in 2007.

Most of the Amazon links have samples for listening.

1. Bob Dylan - "The Bootleg Series Vol.8: Tell Tale Signs" (2008)
I succumbed and shelled out a pile of Kiwi dollars for the 3CD boxed set but it was worth it. Disc 1 has been on almost continuous play in my car since Ocotber. It's great driving music. The combination of Bob's grisly voice, ambiguous lyrics and bluesy sound make this my number 1 of the year. The alternate versions are welcome, especially 'Mississippi', 'Can't Wait' and 'Ring Them Bells' and the new tracks are delightful: 'Red River Shore' and 'Huck's Tune' make the project worthwhile. Every time I hear Bob sing "All the merry little elves can go hang themselves" it makes me chuckle.
After many years singing in The Wallflowers, Jakob released his first solo album and I hope there will be many more to come. He's managed to write and sing a beautiful collection here without being typecast as "Son of Bob". The only album this year where all tracks have a 4 or 5 * rating; my faves being 'Valley of the Low Sun', 'This End of the Telescope' and 'Evil is Alive and Well'.

I got into this after seeing Australian Xavier perform at the Whitianga Blues festival in March. Its not really blues though (it was a very broad festival). It's more like New wave/Aboriginal/Blues/Folk with touches of Reggae and Dub thrown in. I read he learnt to play the didgeridoo by practising on a vacuum cleaner hose. Top tracks, 'Better People', 'White Moth'.

Cat, real name Chan Marshall, does mostly covers here, except for 2 originals one of which is "Song to Bobby" for Dylan. 'I Believe in You' is also here, and she has a superb version of 'Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again' on 'I'm Not There'. Something tells me she's a bit of a Bob cat. Her version of 'New York New York' is very slow, bluesy, perfect for her soulful vocals.

This is poetry set to music. His voice is so close you can almost feel his breath on you as he whispers in your ear. Perfect for nighttime listening. I was never a fan and this is the first Cohen album I've tried. Some people say he does music to slit your wrists to, but this is joyful music. I'm loving it. There are touches of humour too: "Took my diamond to the pawn shop but that don't make it junk". He's in his 70's and still touring.

A return to great form. David still sounds like Talking Heads on some tracks. The title song he croons slowly...

"I ride on a perfect freeway
Many people on that road
I heard the sound of someone laughing
I saw my neighbors car explode".
I am going to see him perform in February.

7. Sufjan Stevens - "Illinoise" (2005)
This is the second in a planned series of fifty albums referencing US States, on the "Asthmatic Kitty" label. I was tempted to explore Sufjan after hearing the beautiful version of 'Ring them Bells' on 'I'm Not There'. Some tracks have long and curious names (that annoyingly don't appear in full on iTunes or iPod display) - such as "To The Workers of the Rock River Valley Region, I Have an Idea Concerning Your Predicament, and It Involves Tube Socks, a Paper Airplane, and Twenty-Two Able-Bodied Men." and "A Conjunction of Drones Simulating the Way in Which Sufjan Stevens Has an Existential Crisis in the Great Godfrey Maze" . The songs are dream-like, delicate and thoughtful/provoking.

We saw the Parisian based trio at WOMAD 2005 and they soon had the crowd up and dancing. A mix of French, Argentine and Swiss, the sound is tango mixed with electronica and dub punctuated with vocal interjections. It's catching.

Named after a town on the border of Arizona/California, this is another band I found on 'I'm Not There' where they had a hand in five of the Dylan tracks. They produce a unique sound that conjures up arid deserts, Mexican gringos and spaghetti westerns but with modern lyrics. Best track, 'Sunken Waltz'

I was a late starter and am slowly exploring Bjork's catalogue. This is the best I've found so far. She uses an array of sampled objects to create beats and soundscapes, including shuffling cards on "Cocoon" and "Hidden Place"; snow being walked upon on "Frosti", and ice being cracked and smashed on "Aurora". Top Tracks, "Hidden Place", "It's Not Up to You". Fragile, hypnotic and intimate.

An honourable mention goes to Nick Drake who I wrote about in July. I've discovered all three of his albums this year, with 'Bryter Layter' just pipping the others for enjoyment.

A merry and musical Christmas to one and all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Everything including the kitten sink

Why does work always get busier and busier to the end of the year when you feel the need to wind down? Particularly seems to be the case here in NZ where Christmas marks the start of the Summer Holidays. Happy to say though that I have only 1 working day left in the year; after Monday I am on holiday until Jan 5th.

The boys are into everything and have to be periodically banished to their nursery for some quiet time. They've just discovered they can get onto the dining chairs which lead to the table where its a short hop onto the kitchen bench. They seem fascinated by the sink. Despite regular dousing from my water pistol they keep going back. I found Basil dragging an overripe strawberry across the carpet earlier. It was one I had rejected for my muesli this morning and had dropped into the waste disposal sink.

One of my favourite aspects of summer, apart from the warmth and long evenings, is the abundance of cheap and delicious berry fruit. I'm having blueberries with everything at the moment.

A package arrived today containing a CD collection of chilled out contemporary music from Denmark. It was a present from my hairdresser! Very strange. But it sounds quite nice.

I finalised my gift shopping today and there's quite a decent sized pile under the tree. I tallied up I had bought & wrapped presents for 26 people (if you count small children). John on the other hand has 4 people to shop for. We joke that he has no friends, but its not true, its that I am better at shopping!

Ring them bells for Christmas (The alternate version from Bootleg Series 8 Disc 3)...a beautiful song.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Damage control = a water pistol

The pot plant that Micky tipped over on the weekend is looking a bit healthier today. The cleanup was quite extensive as the plant had been recently watered and fell from a height, spreading wet earth across a swathe of beige carpet.

Now I have 2 plastic water pistols strategically placed so they can be easily grabbed. The aversion therapy seems to be working well so far. On being hit the offending kitten immediately backs away from whatever he was interfering with and stops to lick himself dry by which time he's forgotten what he was doing and runs off to find drier activities. Great invention.

Kim, who photographs houses amongst other things told us she had to make a house look saleable that had been ransacked, the doors etc removed. There were even holes cut in the floorboards so the (presume) tenants could sit down without bothering with frivolities like furniture, their legs hanging below the boards. That'd be a great house to lose a kitten in!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Floored Salmon, Christmas in Fallujah

I wrapped and posted a boot-load of presents for overseas as well as doing quite a bit of work at home on the Pharmacists survey database on Friday.

On Saturday we caught up with Jaz & Mark back from their Vanuatu honeymoon. Then our card playing neighbours Kim & Shayne came over for dinner, which had to be rescued from the floor after the oven tray complete with beautifully cooked salmon slipped from my hands. They were both very brave, saying "It's OK, we don't mind eating off the floor!" But we didn't have to let them sink to that. There was enough un-floored salmon to go round with the prawns, potatoes & salad. The rest was fed to cats. We tried a variation of Canasta called Samba which was quite different, involving three packs and a lot more melding along with a bit of meddling with the rules.

Despite a hangover, John had to deal with a server crisis at the data centre this morning to rebuild a machine so I took the opportunity to do some Xmas shopping on my own.

Tonight we went to Blitza to scoff pizza then into town to watch Billy Joel. I'm not all that keen on his music (to me he's ranked along with Rod Stewart) but both John & Paul are fans from way back. I blame it on those years they lived in an out-post of the USA called Nassau where culture was in short supply. However, I enjoyed the concert, especially the Young-esque song "Christmas in Fallujah" - that would be at home on Neils "Living With War" album. He also did a very bluesy "New York State of Mind" and crackedsome half decent jokes while sitting at his piano which rotated a few times to give both sides of the venue a look at his well-worn face. I was surprised the audience was less grey and cardiganed than I was expecting.

This is the song I liked performed by someone I've never heard of...

Below - Basil and Micky up to mischief....

We'll be putting the Christmas tree up tomorrow but not sure how long it will last with these two.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Skydiving kitten

The effect of working for 9 hours yesterday instead of having my usual relaxing Tuesday to myself means I feel a bit cheated this week. Am also suffering from an aching shoulder, probably the result of too much mouse work.

On the feline front, Basil and Micky are settling nicely into their names and racing around the house like crazed derby horses whenever we let them out of the 'nursery'. After the vaccination on 15th we can start to introduce them to the outside world.

We were all sitting in the upstairs TV room last night when Basil had a lucky escape. He took a flying leap onto a box of tissues on the wooden top rail, skidded on the lightweight box whence both he and the tissue box plunged two floors to the dining room. As I looked over the edge I saw him bounce cheekily onto a chair and run off. A close inspection showed him to be shaken but not broken. He was quickly off again wreaking more havoc elsewhere.

My draft tax return arrived and a quick glance through looks like I may be owed a couple of thousand in tax refunds. Hooray for loss making property investments.

I've been listening to and really liking Leonard Cohen's CD "Ten New Songs". Its not new - I think its a couple of years old but the songs are great. His voice is just right to listen to at the sleepy end of the day. This is one of the tracks.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Basil and Mikky take a bow

At last we reckon we have names that suit the two boys. Don't know how we got to Mikky (or Micky) with the ginger one except to say 'he looks like one' !

They are growing fast - three feeds of super kitten food a day is having a noticeable effect. Noodle is tolerating them from a distance. They love playing in the bath and running and sliding across the wooden kitchen floor. Great fun to watch.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

James Bond and a brazil nut dream

What a glorious weekend. The stick-on plastic thermometer on the front door showed over 30C, but that was with direct sun.

Saturday was a lazy day, a brunch in St Kevin's arcade and a wander around Borders followed by a relaxing afternoon on the garden hammock. I was restrained and only bought one book and a CD. John got an armful of books with his birthday vouchers. In the evening we went to see Quantum of Solace in Takapuna and managed a quick nosh and a stroll on the beach before the film. I wasn't impressed compared to the last 007. Way too many explosions and fast editing. I had trouble keeping up with the plot. I guess they do that to make people watch it again and again, but it just annoys me and makes me determined never to watch it again!

I had a strange dream in the night. I was looking in a mirror and saw a brazil nut sticking out of my ear so I pulled it out followed by several bright orange/brown leaves and some small branches. I looked into the sink and there was an autumnal pile of foresty leaves and nuts. Then I woke up. What can it mean? I had eaten a few brazil nuts earlier but they've never appeared in my dreams before.

We are making progress in the cat integration programme. Today we let the little uns have the run of the house while Noodle kept an eye on them from the sofa without wailing or howling. Things are looking up. But I had to extract Basil from sitting in a up-to-now bushy and healthy pot plant. He got a smack and a growl from me and the plant looks rather battered and bruised. He did this three times and then I moved the plant.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Wedding photos

There is now a website of photos of Jasmine and Mark's wedding. The photographer was Kim assisted by Shayne: they are our friendly neighbours, occasional canasta playing dinner guests and parents of the kitten-loving boys Dylan and Jesse. The newlyweds are sunning themselves in Vanuatu.

I went to the gym this morning but otherwise have spent most of the day working, setting up a database for a survey of pharmacists.

Am going to have to start gift shopping this weekend or it will be too late to post things to all those far flung places....

The kitties are being called Basil & Gerry on a trial basis.


The beautiful voice of Odetta who passed away this week, age 77

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Naming rights

Update: Basil seems to be sticking but we are not sure its right, and we've no idea for the ginger one. Currently under consideration: Barnet and Stockwell (shows our London roots). As you can see we still need help...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kitty heaven

Today was the work Christmas lunch, so not much work was concluded with everyone leaving the office at noon, and I was home by 4.30 in time to catch the neighbours leaving, they had been for a kitty-visit.

I spotted an ad in the paper for a David Byrne gig here in Feb so just booked some tix online. I have a few of his albums including this recent one with Brian Eno. I also entered a draw to win luxury box seats to see Neil Young at the Big Day Out. I'm not sure I can bear to spend a whole day in a crowded hot arena with 20,000 bouncing yoofs just to see Neil headline the show. Must be getting old :-)

I'd forgotten the pleasure of lying on the floor while wee furry paws wander around patting, licking and generally playing with me.

They still have no definite names as nothing has stuck. Some being mulled over: Basil & Pesto, Bob & Dylan, Marx & Lenin, Siesta and Napper, Bobby & Zimmy, Joey & Senor, Mocha & Chino.

Definitely ruled out: Bradford & Bingley, Marks & Spencer, Smith & Caughey, Kirkcaldie & Stains (the latter two are NZ department stores like Debenhams).

Bob sings about a different type of cat:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Eight new legs = pandemonium

I am typing this with a ball of warm fur on my lap and another snuggled behind me on the chair.
Sunday, after the coffee had kicked in and we'd tidied up the house we visited the SPCA in Mangere to view the cats needing adoption. After a few rounds of the residents we chose a pair of 10 week old males.

One is all black, fluffy with a few long white hairs in his ears and under his chin. The other is pale ginger, stripy with gorgeous eyes.

Name ideas so far: Basil and Pesto or Bob and Dylan – any other suggestions welcome...

News travels fast here: our neighbours' 2 boys were on the doorstep when I got home from work, demanding “I wanna see the Kitties!!” in Kiwi accents. Kim had to pry them away but the younger boy came back about 9pm in his PJs to say goodnight to them.

Noodle hasn't exactly embraced her new house mates. Despite being the youngest of three cats she now has to deal with role reversal being the oldest. Our first attempt at introducing them she wailed and hissed so we are taking it gradually.

Mr & Mrs

As you can see from the pic below, it was a stunning day in every way. The weather was superb (it was picked based on Ken Ring's forecast), the bride & groom scrubbed up very nicely and the day went according to all the precision plans apart from a couple of minor niggles.

Saying of the day: Kim the photographer "Oh no! You're in dappled light" :-) I would have thought thunder and rain would be worse but apparently dappled light is a wedding photographers worst enemy. Dappled or not, Kim did an amazing job. The photos are great.

The proud father of the bride is upstairs putting together a website with some of the photos. Watch this space.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

and the bride was radiant ...

In summary: it all went beautifully well. More detailed reports later when I feel human again (coffee may start the process but I think it could take several doses).

Friday, November 28, 2008

Married 3 times before supper

The wedding rehearsal was last night so Jasmine has been married 3 times already and everyone knows how slow to walk to match the music. Some of us have bets on how far she'll get into the church before she has a cry. We retired en masse to the Cock & Bull afterwards for nourishment. John had a specialty called Yorkshire Beef - a plate sized yorkshire pudding stuffed full of roast beef, onions and gravy. I thought about it but went for the snapper with garlic mash and salad instead.

Jaz moved in with us on Weds for her last few days & nights of singledom. She seems very calm and focussed and her phone keeps beeping to remind her of preparations that need actioning. Most of these require ribbons, bows and glue of some sort.

This news item about a Japanese man who released thousands of worms on a train so he could see "women shake their legs" has to be one of the most bizarre stories of the week, along with the kangaroos found smuggled across the Polish/Ukraine border.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Facial pheromones fix flighty felines

Noodle's behaviour has improved since we started using Feliway, a plug-in vaporiser that distributes cat facial pheromones that humans cannot smell. It has really calmed her down; she's now coming downstairs, socialising with strangers and playing with a ping pong ball.

Last night we had a working party to prepare wedding related items. There was a lot of hot glueing, printing, guillotining and stuffing chocolates into organza bags. A fair few chocolates were also taste tested along the way. Despite a ribbon emergency all went well. Today I located the required packets. I am amazed that there are so many kinds of ribbon in the world - its all news to me.

Typical of Auckland, yesterday was cold, windy & wet and today is hot, sunny and humid. But I'm not complaining. The temperatures in Queensland where Dee & Bruce are living have been getting up in the 40's - too hot to go outside much at all - and Europe seems to be plunged into snow and ice already.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Clean windows, strange dreams

Friday I went to the gym where I am being punished for having three weeks away by the keen young staff trying to get me back on track, they are increasing the weights until I can barely manage 10 reps per machine. Feels good afterwards though. I also had a sudden spurt of spring fever and cleaned all the windows, which if you know our house is quite a feat, as its almost all windows. It makes a big difference when the sun is out to see clearly and not through a layer of grime and cobwebs.

Saturday, to the garden centre and bought some flowering plants and shrubs and we did a major overhaul of the pots and planters on the decks at front and back. I'm not a plant expert but the gardenia smells amazing and the frangipani looks beautiful. It is so much tidier and welcoming now - ready for a round of summer barbecues and social behaviour.

I left John hosing off the decks and went to Jaz's bridal party. It was a very civilized version of a hen party with lots of lovely ladies in their summer frocks, bubbly and punch and snacks and silly games, but none of the rude stuff like throwing up in the street or tying the bride-to-be to lamposts. I took some pics but came home with someone elses camera that looked like mine. (I only had 2 glasses of punch). Anyway, I'd better not post their photos here! One game involved a prize for whoever had the oddest item in their handbag; someone had a capo and pick. All I could muster was some eyedrops and rice paper. Next time I go to a bridal party I'll make sure I have a jar of pickled herrings in my bag.

Today the weather looked variable but we risked it and drove north to Wenderholm for a walk around the estuary and beach. It was beautiful up there. Hardly anyone else around and lots of birdlife and fish jumping.

Deirdrie called and we had a nice catch up. She & Bruce moved 'across the ditch' earlier this year and are in a small mining town called Cloncurry, about an hour from Mt.Isa (Queensland). They are planning to do a couple of years there so we may go to visit next year.

As the afternoon grew dark and overcast I tried to read Obama but fell asleep on the sofa. Last night was interrupted with strange dreams, but not as strange as those I had almost every night in Vietnam. I don't know if it was the diet, the heat or something else but the dreams there were vivid and memorable. I spent each morning regaling others with my nightime adventures.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Wedding approaching

A continuation of the marriage theme - from the 1974 Planet Waves album, Dylan's 'Wedding Song'..

Call me soppy but I'll probably dig out some more 'romantic Bob' in the next few days.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sore toes for a good cause

Only just over a week to Jasmine and Mark's wedding. I wore the sparkly shoes to work today to try and break them in. Not too bad for comfort. Had several comments from work colleagues on the sudden upgrade to my usual boring footwear.

Noodle is still sad and lonely but she's a bit more normal and no longer hiding out in the guest bathroom at the top of the house. We've decided to go to the SPCA after the wedding to look for a wee brother to keep her company.

Have finally gotten around to reading Barack Obama's 'Dreams from my Father'. It's interesting, honest and revealing. A better insight into him than I got through reading the Biography 'From Promise to Power'.
The engagement was this time last year at One Tree Hill ...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Snake eating etiquette

Several people have asked me what the stir fried snake was like, so here is my easy 6 step guide to snake eating. Bear in mind the dish was offered as a special treat and 3 of our group agreed to try it whence the snake was specially purchased and charged for in addition to our pre-arranged all-inclusive (bar snake) Mekong homestay.

1. Try and avoid eating snake whenever possible

2. Failing step 1, if politeness or curiosity get the better of you, it is better to have it made into soup rather than stir fry. Even the locals told us afterwards that stir fry is not a good way to eat snake.

3. Make sure there is something to eat apart from the slithering kind. Plain rice and clear cabbage soup will suddenly appear exceedingly attractive propositions.

4. Peel the skin off the snake chunk. Even after cooking the skin will be tough like leather and stripy with snake patterning.

5. Nibble the bones you have revealed, suck them if you like. Don't worry there is no real meat to get stuck between your teeth.

6. Smile politely. Say 'delicious' thank you, and pass the plate to the left while tucking into that rice and soup. Later you can sneak into the packet of coconut covered peanuts you bought at the service station.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Multipersonality Infidel

I love this : "I And I" from Infidels.

Been so long since a strange woman has slept in my bed.
Look how sweet she sleeps, how free must be her dreams.
In another lifetime she must have owned the world, or been faithfully wed
To some righteous king who wrote psalms beside moonlit streams.

I and I
In creation where one's nature neither honors nor forgives.
I and I
One says to the other, no man sees my face and lives.

Think I'll go out and go for a walk,
Not much happenin' here, nothin' ever does.
Besides, if she wakes up now, she'll just want me to talk
I got nothin' to say, 'specially about whatever was.

Bob, U2 and James Joyce

I'm not a huge U2 fan. Some of their stuff is OK.
I tripped across this today... altho Bob is now 67, I guess the list just gets longer.

In Celebration Of Dylan's 50th Birthday
Fifty reasons why I love Bob Dylan
By Bono
  • He is not dead
  • He looks like fifty
  • He sings like a swarm of bees
  • He is interested in the names God gave to the animals
  • He plays the guitar like James Joyce
  • He wore capuchins before anyone else did
  • He wrote Tangled Up In Blue
  • He wrote Senor Senor
  • He is no slave driver
  • He can't be made upset
  • He knows that irony doesn't have to be the enemy of the soul
  • Blonde On Blonde leads to Acid approximately one year
  • He writes two songs: one for her and one for Him
  • He mixes up God with women
  • He recently rhymed rolling hope to bowl of soup
  • Allen Ginsburg loves him
  • Walt Whitman would have loved him too
  • He wrote The Ballad Of Hollis Brown
  • He will be in your town soon
  • He is very nice to me
  • His best songs were not written in the sixties
  • He doesn't risk his head for us cowards, man!
  • He is not pseudo-religious
  • He didn't die at the cross at the age of thirty-three
  • T-Bone Burnett thinks he's good
  • He is Jewish
  • He is a great story teller
  • He sings better than ever
  • He wears clever shoes
  • Rock 'n Roll is thought of to be intelligent
  • He didn't die foolish
  • He always smiles as if he just wrote a great song (most of the time)
  • He wrote Every Grain Of Sand
  • He turned around the Beatles
  • Country Rock is just a little better than Jazz Rock
  • Roy Orbison was a friend of his
  • He is funny
  • He thinks Liam Clancy the best ballad singer ever
  • He didn't reproach our version of All Along The Watchtower
  • He has quite a lot more than three chords and the truth
  • He knows that some words can be dangerous
  • Hoods look great on him
  • He wrote Visions Of Joanna
  • He wrote Idiot Wind
  • He wrote Brownsville Girl together with Sam Shepard
  • His children turned up good and they think the same of him
  • He is not Elvis
  • He is not Jimi Hendrix
  • He is not Jim Morrison
  • He is not dead
James Joyce playing guitar...

Spring cleaning

Saturday saw a sudden burst of activity as we hired a carpet cleaner (wet-vac thingy) and shampooed all the living areas and hallway. We traced the unsavoury smell to a dead mouse that had climbed to the top of the curtains and expired on the wooden pole - probably a relic of Noodle's foraging. The weather has been superb since we returned. Summer is here.

We have been amazed at the neighbourhood reaction to the loss of Zappa. Following the mass delivery of the letter on Friday, we've had 10-12 phone calls from pet owners with messages of sympathy, a card, a rose, and several visits from neighbours who we didn't know at all, including a family with young children who gave us their drawings of cats and flowers.

We've also been given information that we believe identifies the dog, although of course we have no proof. At least the whole neighbourhood is alert to the fact that there is a dangerous dog being let out on its own.

Noodle is hunkering down 95% of the time in the top bathroom where she feels safe. She ventures down for food and goes out a little during the night but she is obviously feeling the loss of her big brother, like we are. Silly things keep reminding us of Zappa's presence, or lack of it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sadness turns to action

After 2 days of grieving we wrote this letter. I delivered it this morning to 130 houses in ours and adjoining streets. I've just been back 2 hours and already had 6 phone calls from concerned neighbours. One has given us a strong lead as to the location of the dog. We are hoping this never happens again around here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A terribly sad day

I couldn't bring myself to write this yesterday. Writing it makes it seem real and it feels like a bad dream.

Zappa was not here when we got back from holiday early hours of Monday morning - and didn't show up all day Monday. On Tuesday morning John searched all around the nearby bush and then found his body on the beach.

Piecing together what friends and neighbours heard, it seems a stray dog chased him towards the beach on Sunday night and he drowned. He had bite wounds on his legs. We were on our way home at the time it happened.

He had such a wonderful personality and was a big part of the family. We have buried him next to BotBot. We are all devastated.

Our lovely lost boy.

Monday, November 10, 2008

and a few Hanoi street scenes...

and part 2

Statue of a soldier wielding an oversized three-pin plug (Hanoi).

Relaxing at the Mekong river house - before the night time chorus.

Mekong riverside homes.

Playing 'spot the kiwi' in the river out back of their house.

Vietnam views part 1

A few pics - more later.Saigon traffic before the rush hour.

This reclining buddha rests a few hundred steps below the 'large' buddha that looks over the town of Nha Trang.
A local demonstrates how to get in and out of a small entrance to the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Vietcong to hide from the US soldiers.

Nha Trang beach after the rain.

Mekong delta blues

Back home (just - thanks to Qantas)! A 'ticketing error' on their part led to a missed connection in Sydney and we didn't get home until the early hours of today - I am not going to work.

Plenty of stories to tell but I just want to sleep and wonder around the house zombie-like, revelling in the joys of a large cup of earl grey tea. Vietnamese tea mostly came in thimble-sized cups or was served with sweetened condensed milk.

The final few days were spent exploring Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City). A friend had warned me it wasn't as interesting as Hanoi but I really enjoyed it. It wasn't as crazily disorganized as the capital but had plenty to see and do and an air of sophistication that escapes Hanoi.

The War Remnants museum (previously known as the War Crimes museum) had a gruesome display including bottled remains of infants disfigured and deformed due to agent orange exposure. I was shocked that some were born as recently as 1996.

We also had a boat trip up the Mekong which involved a night in a traditional riverside home. The evening passed relaxing in hammocks on the porch, chewing on stir fried snake, slatherin on mozzie repellent. Then came time to sleep: imagine seven people in one room on agonizingly small stiff camp beds, boats thundering past, muddy water sloshing under the gappy floorboards along with a cacophony of outboard motors, snoring, farting, coughing and nigh time mumblings - oh and a baby crying, a dog barking and roosters crowing all night. Everyone got up about 5am and wandered around looking shell-shocked. The next night back in a 3 star Saigon hotel we didn't complain about the impossible to stand up in shower - it was heaven!

More blog catch ups when my sleep-meter is back to normal.

P.S. I am elated about Obama and slightly depressed about John Key.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Chillin in Hoi An

After a frantic couple of days on the move from Hanoi to Hue and Danang we are in Hoi An for 3 days. There is a lovely old town here, and plenty of shops & cafes. The first hotel we were put in was a real dump and we rebelled and staged a kiwi revolt. After a couple of short phone calls we were upgraded within an hour to a place just a few doors along with lovely spacious room, clean bathrooms and beautiful swimming pool.

We gave the tour guide the afternoon off so we could swim and lie by the pool ordering food and drinks to our hearts content. I rediscovered the joys of a Green Dragon (Syrop de Menthe with 7Up) while listening to Bob's TTRH shows about travelling round the world on my 'pod. After several days on mini buses and walking through hot temples and museums this is a much needed break.

Our drive yesterday took us over a mountain range close to the 17th parallel and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We stopped for lunch at China beach where John gave a 10,000 dong note (about $1.2o NZ) to a beggar and soon found he had twenty ladies following him yelling "how 'bout me, how 'bout me, me have12 babies."

No way to upload photos - but taking plenty - will post some when home.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Hanging in Hanoi

A quick post from humid Hanoi.

We've been here since Friday morning - with a day and night up at Halong Bay over the weekend. The junk we stayed on was quite luxurious. Amazing cave networks in the hills. Just 7 of us in our group - all Kiwis. One lady from Birkdale! We kayaked from the boat to a lovely beach, swam in perfectly warm water then back to the boat for a ten course meal. Every kind of seafood known to man served as a separate course. Seafood soup, prawns, crab, clams, whole fish and on it went - and that was just for lunch!

Ho Chi Minh is away having his 5 year renovation so we went to his museum instead of the mausoluem. Best sign so far - "Visitors are asked not to wear their shorts inside the pagoda".

Traffic is incredible; there is no safe way to cross the road here. You just have to look ahead and hope all the mopeds and bikes will flow around you, which they seem to do. It helps being larger westerners as we are clearer obstacles than some of the small locals.

We go to see a water puppet show this p.m. then catch a flight to Hue for a couple of days then onto Hoi An for 3 days. John is enjoying his birthday tour. He's only had one 5am phone call.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Going, Going, Gone to Saigon

Last night I got feedback from the class on my 2 short stories. They were both quite well received, one person thought the language was 'sublime'! Useful hints too on how to improve things.

I cast my advance vote for the NZ election this morning. The poll station had just opened and they seemed a bit unsure of the process, but the deed is done even though we both know that John's & my vote effectively cancel each other out.

The suitcase has been dusted off and packing has commenced. I may manage a blog post or two from Vietnam....

Monday, October 20, 2008

The politics of sin may require sunglasses ...

"Dead man, dead man, When will you arise?
Cobwebs in your mind, Dust upon your eyes.
The glamour and the bright lights and the politics of sin..."

- Bob Dylan "Dead Man, Dead Man"

Not one of my favourite songs but the words go well with these annotated election hoardings I spotted on the weekend.

This early song is jam-packed full of funny images.

"Now, the man on the stand he wants my vote,
He's a-runnin' for office on the ballot note.
He's out there preachin' in front of the steeple,
Tellin' me he loves all kinds-a people.
(He's eatin' bagels
He's eatin' pizza
He's eatin' chitlins
He's eatin' bullshit!)"

- 'I Shall Be Free', from the Freewheelin' album

There's also a line in this about making love to Elizabeth Taylor - just bear in mind it was written in 1962!

Instant birthday party... just add water

Saturday night I managed to pull off a secret that had been under construction for about 4 weeks prior - a surprise birthday party for John. I'd told him we were going out to dinner with Jaz and Paul so he was smartly dressed (i.e. not up a ladder painting the house or deconstructing a server in the office).

All the guests gathered at a neighbours and at 7.30 came en masse to ours. I made sure he opened the door at which point about 20 people sprung upon him waving balloons and popping poppers and pressing gifts on him. It was great to see his face. The shock tactic must have worked because he even enjoyed the silly party games we'd organised - Pass the Parcel, Squeak Piggy Squeak and so on. Great fun was had by all - into the early hours of Sunday.

Some of the younger revellers (the birthday boy refuses to appear)...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Waxed, pampered and Berkoff'd

Very glad Friday came around after a hectic few days at work.
Well, my first short story has been submitted to the class of 15 students and tutor. Next week it will be discussed in the class. It will be interesting to get objective feedback; so far it has only been read by a handful of close friends.

This morning I went to the gym and then onto the spa to use up my voucher on some serious pre-holiday pampering that consisted of shaping, tinting, waxing and polishing -sounds like a car groom, but for my eyebrows, legs and toes!

Tonight after scoffing a juicy steak, baked potato and salad we went to the theatre to see Steven Berkoff.

You need a good feed to see Berkoff , I found - it can be quite draining.

He is in Auckland for 2 days performing his self-penned "Tell Tale Heart" and "Dog". His plays are full of energy, aggression (and quite a bit of swearing) and black humour - great stuff. I've seen 'East', 'Greek', 'West', 'Decadence', 'Kvetch', and his version of 'Metamorphosis'. Most were by the Auckland Theatre Company. All good, and tonight was the first time seeing the man himself.

The first character was a Dickensian madman who stepped us through in minute macabre detail how he had killed and dismembered his neighbour - an old man with one vulture eye. Black and hilarious.

The second was an East-end skinhead with a slobbery vicious dog - the audience was asked to pat the imaginary beast - which morphed in and out of the skinhead character so smoothly that you could not tell them apart except the dog spoke with its tongue flicking in and out. Half the audience looked stunned as some of the acts depicted with the dog were quite gross.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


This site lets you experience the native kiwi birdsong that we enjoy due to the tract of bush surrounding our house. On a daily basis with windows open or when outside on the deck we are privileged to hear the Ruru (Morepork), the Tui and the Piwakawaka (Fantail).

"Bird on the horizon, sittin' on a fence,
He's singin' his song for me at his own expense.
And I'm just like that bird, oh, oh,
Singin' just for you.
I hope that you can hear,
Hear me singin' through these tears."

'You're A Big Girl Now'
1975, from the "New York Sessions" not the official Blood On The Tracks version...

"I got a bird that whistles,
I got a bird that sings.
But I ain' a-got Corrina,
Life don't mean a thing. "

"Corrina, Corrina" 1963 The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan

Monday, October 13, 2008

Second time around...

... I found myself sitting at the table with the phone in front of me, not sure if I wanted it to ring or stay silent. This time it rang. A polite and efficient voice said "I'm putting you on hold for Jim Mora". Straight away I could hear the conversation had already started, people were laughing and I felt like the last person at the party. Despite the very short space - it was all over in about 90 seconds - I managed to get a couple of lines in.

Most importantly I managed to say "chihuahua" - thereby saving face by meeting the Monkey's challenge. Now I feel all-powerful. Bring on some more weird challenges one and all!

Oh - and the discussion about "thinking causes people to eat more" was inconclusive and mostly off-topic. I think someone proposed that 'thinking about what to eat next' was the worst type of brain activity in this respect.

Mmmm - I think I'll have another banana...

Noodle has been sneezing the last few days so we took her for a long overdue check up at the local vet. She sang and yowled in the car and then played all nice & cute for the vet. She didn't even complain when the thermometer went up her bum or the large tablet went down her throat. She's been declared fit & healthy and 'verging on obese'. Wait til they see Zappa!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Debt, Hell, Pizza and other nasties

A local Pizza chain called "Hell" had this billboard near Green Lane roundabout.
I laughed out loud the first time I drove past this. Their pizzas have names like Greed, Lust, Gluttony.

Margaret Atwood is one of my favourite writers. If you haven't read Oryx and Crake I strongly recommend it. Here she writes in the Wall Street Journal about debt in society and in literature. An interesting view. Also, an interview with Margaret in the Times.

It really is a dog-eat-dog world. Dogs seem to be highlighted for me this past week. First there was the incident last weekend with the 2 rogue canines running amok and scaring the daylights out of our two cats, then there was Friday's 'chihuahua incident'. Now I hear that Mari's little one Filou has been savaged by a large dog and is in doggy-hospital with damaged paws... poor wee thing. If only all big dog owners were responsible, like my big Sis Val and her four Groenendahls... (also known as Belgian Shepherds). To say she is crazy about them would be an under statement. This one is called Anoushka.

And wee Filou in 'recovery' atire ....

Friday, October 10, 2008

Radio (non) appearance

Strange Day. Worked hard at the gym. Had coffee & a chat with Judy afterwards. She's off to Paris for a meeting.
Soon after I got home I had a phone call from a lady called Noelle McCarthy - she of Irish accent that used to be on BFM and now works at National Radio. She said Jim Mora had suggested I take part in a light-hearted radio talk later today on the topic "Does thinking more lead to increased eating". *

It was to be the final 5-10 minutes of his afternoon show. I tried to stall her, even offered to pass her on to a nutritionist I work with, to no avail. She was very persuasive. So, I agreed.

I spent the rest of the day worrying about what to say and how to make it funny. In between I had a hair appointment, which lasted 2 and a half hours, the whole time the hairdresser was asking if I would like this or that I could only think "hurry up and get on with it, I've got to be on the radio".

The time came. I felt prepared, the time came, and went. No phone call. The chosen topic seemed to be "Would you like to win the $24m lotto prize?" instead. All I can say is 'I was prepared'. I will be giving Jim some stick about this - I think he now owes me a favour!

The frustrating thing is, a friend who I've previously referred to as the Blue Galactic Monkey, sent a TXT challenging me to use the word 'chihuahua' on the radio and I accepted this challenge, knowing she'd be listening in down in Christchurch. So, I had prepared a suitable phrase to achieve the result - a grin on a Monkey's face. What a missed opportunity!

*My only qualification for this is being a member of Mensa, having a love of food, and being on some list of 'previous mugs who've obliged NZ media with interviews'.

On a brighter note, my much awaited (but over priced) Tell Tale Signs 3 CD box set arrived from Amazon, so I am consoling myself with Bob on the player and 2 books to browse.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


This says it all ...

Thanks to '4th time around' posting this on the Political World forum of Expecting Rain

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Steaming with creativity

Monday was uneventful. Work - home - dinner - tv etc

Today I went to the gym where particularly friendly staff enquired "what sort of work out I'd like today". I said "medium-tough" and managed to push heavier weights on most machines except the tummy cruncher which had me stumped after 5 and had to have the weight lowered from the 70kg I'd managed last week. Maybe I've been extra slothful with my tummy lately!

After a swim I sat in the steam room for quite a time. I must have built up my tolerance to the heat and I was drifting off in the haze and hiss when I had an interesting idea for a short story to submit for my writing class. It revolves around a woman sitting in a steam room talking to a man who is not there - well he is and he isn't - he's a ghost. Anyway, it was such a vivid idea I rushed to get showered, hair dried and went straight to the front desk to ask for a sheet of paper and then to the cafe for a latte and scribbled the ideas down. As soon as I came home I wrote the story - 4 pages in 3 hours and now feel quite pleased with myself. It's a start anyway. I shall look forward to my next steam room visit.

We are under a 'severe storm warning' threat for the afternoon/evening and it has just started to belt down outside. Both cats lying around looking lazy but peeved.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

How Dylan chose his career...

"Carelessness. I lost my one true love. I started drinking. The first thing I know, I'm in a card game. Then I'm in a crap game. I wake up in a pool hall. Then this big Mexican lady drags me off the table, takes me to Philadelphia. She leaves me alone in her house, and it burns down. I wind up in Phoenix. I get a job as a Chinaman. I start working in a dime store, and move in with a 13-year-old girl. Then this big Mexican lady from Philadelphia comes in and burns the house down. I go down to Dallas. I get a job as a "before" in a Charles Atlas "before and after" ad. I move in with a delivery boy who can cook fantastic chili and hot dogs. Then this 13-year-old girl from Phoenix comes and burns the house down. The delivery boy — he ain't so mild: He gives her the knife, and the next thing I know I'm in Omaha. It's so cold there, by this time I'm robbing my own bicycles and frying my own fish. I stumble onto some luck and get a job as a carburetor out at the hot-rod races every Thursday night. I move in with a high school teacher who also does a little plumbing on the side, who ain't much to look at, but who's built a special kind of refrigerator that can turn newspaper into lettuce. Everything's going good until that delivery boy shows up and tries to knife me. Needless to say, he burned the house down, and I hit the road. The first guy that picked me up asked me if I wanted to be a star. What could I say? "

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dogs and floating disco balls

Friday I shopped for a few things for the upcoming holiday - shorts - swimming cossie - toiletries - sandals etc

I also caught up with some paperwork and my 6 monthly GST return, and helped John envelope all his invoices.

Woke this morning to barking and in the interest of our cats took a look outside. Two large aggressive dogs - not sure of the breed but could have been pit bull - were galloping around in the front and then tore off in to the bush. Zappa didn't show up until a few hours later and Noodle hid herself somewhere under the house until about 4pm - when she slunk in, belly on the ground, head twitching left & right, well spooked. I hate it when people don't keep their dogs under control. I think these 2 were with a guy in a truck who was delivering a load of soil to a house up the road.

Today we got stuck in and fixed a few things around the house, including a leak on the spa pool pump, and then J started painting the side of the house we hadn't got to last year. While at the spa pool shop I couldn't resist a floating disco light ball - to add a touch of glamour to our dark pool. It is battery driven, floats and sends various patterns of coloured light into the water. Tacky but fun.

Listened to Tell Tale Signs about 10 times over from the free NPR stream - I plugged my laptop audio output to the HiFi system and sound quality is great. It sounds very bluesy so John's not complaining about the Bob overload (so far).

Pics from recent walks - Cheltenham beach (yesterday) and Cornwall Park (last week)