Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crazy Coromandel

Leaving Auckland ferry terminal for the 2 hour run to the Coromandel

Me on the 'flying bike'

Jacek of Mensa Poland has a twirl in the giant hamster wheel

The swimming hole in the river

A friend from Mensa Japan fights 2 others in the water cannon game
One of the many odd contraptions you can play with and not avoid the dousing

A beautiful tiled bridge halfway along the Driving Creek Railway

Driving Creek Railway pic taken from the 2nd train as we followed the first one around the hilly spirals

View from near the top of the railway

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Now and Len

Leonard Cohen at Vector Arena 29-10-10

It's been three weeks since we came back to NZ. It took two weeks for my system to catch up, sleep to work properly, and to rid myself of the tonsillitis I developed on the homeward legs.

At least summer is kicking in here and we are able to once again laze around in the outdoors world that becomes uninhabitable in the winter months.

It has been full on since I got back, what with catching up with a month of paid work, helping to get Mensa NZ ready for the IBD (International Board of Directors) meeting which was here last week, and associated other stuff. oh yeah, and interviewing new tenants for one of the rentals. Now sorted as I've just signed up a lovely family from the UK who couldn't provide a NZ reference but offered 3 months rent in advance instead.

Friday we went to the Leonard Cohen concert and was amazed by the power of his voice, at 76 yrs of age he still sounds smooth and strong.  At the start he said "I don't know if I'll be back this way again so I'll give you everything I've got tonight". He was on stage for almost 3 and a half hours. We were getting exhausted. He ran off the stage doing a little dance and waving his arms like a gypsy. The supporting band were all great musically and his female trio of singers Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters sounded truly sublime.

I cannot believe the shops are filling with Christmas items. It always seems too early, and always seems wrong in summer despite living here for 18 years.

PS I will post a few holiday photos here before long

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's all a bit Greek here....

Several times in the last 10 days we've had occasion to roll our eyes and declare that "It is a bit Greek here".

After a few days in Corfu and a day trip to Paxos we ferried to the mainland at Igoumenitsa and then drove down the coast to the Island of Levkas, which is tied to the mainland by a causeway.

The Greekness is evidenced by the following key features that contrast with our NZ life:
1) Lack of service. Businesses just don't seem all that interested in taking our money off us.
2) Apalling road signage. I reckon the transport dept gets a kickback for the volume of petrol sold as we've spent quite a few gallons driving the wrong way or looping around to work out where we are.
3) Pure ineptitude, summed up by the hotel laundry that took 3 days to wash 2 pairs of jeans, 5 shirts and some undies and managed to ruin 2 of the shirts: one stained with pink splodges, one with holes the size of walnuts in the front.And they folded it all up and didn't say anything but we wondered why they delayed giving it to us until the morning we were leaving town.
4)Mess. Natual beauty spoilt by rubbish. Everywhere. Such a shame.

Why then are we thinking of living here? Hmmm.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hooting and Howling with the Wild Beasts

I love this song. How come I never heard of the Wild Beasts until today. Thank you BFM.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mid winter blues-berries

I'm writing this with the lovely smell of a blueberry cheesecake baking in the oven. Little things like that really cheer me up.

I don't know where July & August disappeared to. One moment they were there and then 'whooosh' it's almost September. I'm not complaining mind you - it means there's only a couple of weeks to go until I fly north.

I don't remember such a busy winter. First there was the International Film Festival. We saw 14 movies in 2 weeks of July, mostly documentaries. The highlights were 'Exit Through The Gift Shop' (the world's first street art disaster movie), Roman Polanski's latest 'The Ghost Writer' , 'Oil City Confidential' about the British band Dr. Feelgood and the Norwegian black comedy/drama 'A Somewhat Gentle Man'.

Then there was the Mensa AGM weekend quickly followed by the NZ Skeptics conference (both in Auckland). In between those I've been working full-time (shock horror!) albeit 2 days a week from home. The extra work is due to the need to write a functional specification that is currently running to 120 pages.

I also discovered - a cool site. For a small monthly fee you get to download music and you can also listen to streamed music you haven't bought in full, so you can really decide what you like, unlike iTunes where you only get a 30 second sampler. is more like streaming radio where you get to select the albums to listen to.

Mostly due to the costly house re-roof we didn't have a proper holiday since Vietnam in 2008, so we are making up for it with a trip to Hong Kong, England, Greece & Poland. The weather has been mixed lately. Not too cold - 18C today. Hopefully when we get back in mid-October it will really be summer here. As usual, escapees from the wintry north will be welcome to visit.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I'm new here

...well not really - as I have been a stranger for a while. Been hunkering down for winter in Auckland. But the Film Festival is starting next week so we'll be putting our coats & boots on and watching a few big screens. Am particularly looking forward to seeing 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' about Banksy, and the new Polanski film 'Ghost Writer'.

Today, wishing I was in the U.K. where Dylan is headlining the Kent Hop Farm festival supported by the amazing Laura Marling & others.

This is very beautiful. I recommend listening with your eyes closed. "I maybe crazy but I am the closest thing I have to a voice of reason"... (Gil Scott Heron)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Some of the people can be all right part of the time...

I've never seen this video before but the lyrics to this have cracked me up every time since I first heard it about 35 years ago

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Musical preview: The Hold Steady

I've liked their earlier music and this up-coming release sounds pretty good too...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mr Zevon speaks from beyond the grave

I have to admit I don't know what happened in the 70's - I seem to have missed out on Warren Zevon completely. I only discovered him by accident last year when I happened to hear 'My Shits All Fucked Up" on the TV show Californication.  Tamsin & I were watching at the time and we looked at each other and said "who IS that?" As soon as the show finished we googled the words and discovered the man.  I downloaded a couple of albums from eMusic which are all good, and disappointedly found out Warren had died in 2003.

I recently found a copy of his biography "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon" in a book sale and am reading it interspersed with the John Lennon biography by Phillip Norman. I don't think there's any risk of me getting  confused though, Warren was a one-off kinda guy.

Here are a couple of songs for the initiated or un-Zevon'd

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Laura sings beyond her years

When I heard the Guardian rate Laura Marling alongsides Dylan, Laura being a mere girl of just 20 from England, you can imagine my scepticism.

However I am amazed to find she has a fantastic voice. This song 'Devils Spoke' sounds like a cross between Led Zep and Joni Mitchell. Her new album "I Speak Because I Can" is a great record.

The song below is the title track.

On the home front, we've bought a load of fishing gear and plan to fish us some snapper over Easter. They are called 'pannies' I think becuase they fit just nicely in the frying pan.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Citizens of Womadia gathered, danced, ate, sang and departed

New Plymouth hosted WOMAD over the weekend, and it was our third return to the festival where we became citizens of Womadia. It's such a great site, spread over the beautiful Brooklands park with 3 main stages and 2 smaller stages so there is always something worth seeing and a chance to talk to the artists during the workshop/chat sessions. More than ever the audience was mixed of all generations from babes & toddlers to grannies with walking frames -  a real family gathering.

Saturday was only dampened slightly by a feint sprinkling of rain and did not diffuse the joy and energy from the crowd or the bands.  Sunday the sun shone all day and I could see large doses of sunscreen being applied along with beer and other substances.

Best acts for me were Calexico from Tucson Arizona (saw them twice), Babylon Circus (France) and House of Shem (NZ). Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (Chicago) looked interesting but we missed their performance and saw their workshop where they played a little bit of music. It was hypnotic though.

Babylon Circus made the crowd dance and forget the light shower of rain... (I am near the front of this bouncing crowd)

Calexico rocked with Southern US and Mexican flavours...

Luckily we were able to stay with the lovely Patricia and Richard who looked after us splendidly. A good weekend all round. And the wonderful Mount Taranaki shed its usual veil of clouds for us ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


This is pure poetry in this little known song.
And I always laugh at the line that rhymes Angelina with Subpoena.

Well, it’s always been my nature to take chances
My right hand drawing back while my left hand advances
Where the current is strong and the monkey dances
To the tune of a concertina

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Our boat

Today we took the boat for a test run (sea trial) and it passed, so it will be ours by the weekend.
I managed not to embarrass myself by reviewing my breakfast, in fact I didn't feel at all queasy.
Still need to think of a name for her.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tunstall does Tangled

Excellent cover.

Love KT's voice and seems she may be a Bobcat too...

Postscript, I've just found this one too - she is definitely a Bobcat

And another - this gets better and better. I love Billy Bragg too. Some good finds today.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bob and Obama and a nameless boat


Great shot. They both seem really pleased to be there. 

On the home front, it is hot and humid which saps my energy so I am largely being lazy. 

We are shortly going to spend a few days at a beach bach near Whitianga with my cousin who has been travelling around NZ for the last few weeks in a bid to escape the frozen waste of northern Europe. 

When we come back we will take delivery of our boat that we are in the process of purchasing and will sign up for Day Skipper and Marine Radio courses. More will be revealed next week. In the meantime we are need a name for the boat and I have been given approval to use a Dylanesque name, so am thinking of a song title or character. So far on the possible list are:
  • New Morning
  • Desire
  • Isis
  • Jokerman
  • Baby Blue
  • Expecting Rain
Any other suggestions welcomed.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bob sings at the White House - beats snow storm

Apparently it was a day earlier than planned because of the "snowmaggedon" on the US East Coast.

He sang the Times They are A Changin', quite an appropriate song when you consider this verse...

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

You can see a selection of official Dylan videos here

Monday, February 8, 2010

An 'appy alpaca birthday

My birthday celebrations this year were spread over several days, and good fun it was too. Thursday I was at work and in the evening Paul & Jaz were busy (at the AC/DC gig and French classes), so we went out for a meal altogether on Friday instead.

The food at Verbena was excellent - and as good as the Engine Room.

On Saturday John, Jaz, Mark & I drove out to an Alpaca farm near the Kaipara harbour and stayed overnight there. The hosts Hans and Chris were very entertaining and it was great to get up close with the Alpacas, including a few day old little-un that I was able to hold. The farm has over 200 alpacas of various breeds. One paddock was in quarantine as they were about to be flown to Germany for export. We hand fed the females with buckets of a fragrant mixture that contained cumin and ginger.

Bob news: Dylan and others, including Joan Baez will be performing at the White House in a 'Celebration of Civil Rights Music' on the 10th Feb. The show will be streamed live here

Friday, February 5, 2010

Black sheep in white shorts

Ralph, one of my work colleagues is currently on day 4 of the 14 day 'Ride for Heart'.

Yes, he is cycling the length of New Zealand to raise money for the Heart Foundation. You can watch him in the clip below (he is the black sheep in white shorts), and if you are feeling even a little bit generous please donate a few dollars to this worthy cause by going to this page. It's simple, fast and totally secure and the money goes directly to the Heart Foundation's bank account.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pigeon Impossible

This is great.

It took the guy 5 years to finish it, and it has won all kinds of awards since its completion last May. He started it as an effort to learn how to do 3D animation.

A rookie secret agent is faced with a problem seldom covered in basic training: what to do when a curious pigeon gets trapped inside your multi-million dollar, government-issued nuclear briefcase

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy 2010

Auckland skytower at midnight.

We saw the display from our street which is across the harbour bridge. Whoever took this photo had a better vantage point than we did. But it only took us 30 seconds to get home and we had no parking problems :-)