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)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Plainly painful Palin

After watching a few Palin interviews I am gob-smacked at how much she is in denial about. Seriously! Who would want this person to be in charge?

This blogger is capturing with brutal honesty the embarrassing moments that will hopefully lead to the end of Sarah Palin's bid for the White House.

I hate to say this but she's evidence why there should be a glass ceiling!!

Am waiting to see if some clips of the Thurs night debate appear - hoping she really f***s it up.

There must be scope for a joke about a Palindrome but I haven't thought of the punch line yet. Maybe - "If you want to go backwards as well as forwards...Vote McCain Palin-drome"

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tell Tale Signs - live stream

NPR has a live stream of the new Dylan CD - I think its for the next few days, until the official release. Listen here.

I managed to go to my class tonight without losing my keys!

Weds evening update.

What I've heard so far sounds Amazing. Can't wait for my CD to arrive.

Talkin Gibberish Blues has a detailed thought-blog on the tracks. He points out that Huck's Tune - a "seemingly beautiful song throws a couple of absurdist lyrics in it to show he's not getting soft." ... "all the merry little elves can go hang themselves" - great!!