Friday, September 29, 2006
So far we've spotted three frogs and heard some lovely croaking (so we know they are not native because all NZ native frogs are silent). One big green one that we are pretty sure is a female Southern Bell Frog (introduced from Australia) or perhaps a Green and Golden Bell Frog (also from Australia). I think perhaps the two little dark ones may be older males because the females are bigger but they get darker when they are older. There's this handy frog identification guide but we haven't been able to get a good enough look at them to use it. They are very shy frogs with no interest in posing for identification purposes nor for portraits. I could have posted one of a number of photographs of the pond, and used photoshop to draw an arrow at a few pixels that Al swears is a frog, but honestly, you wouldn't thank me. As compensation I offer this most excellent of links to finish. Click here for some croaking.
Monday, September 25, 2006
I was visiting a family this weekend where, Rory, about 8 years old, turned out to have an even more extensive collection of possum bones than I do (I keep using mine in projects and having to collect more). We made up a few skeletons together on the old copper covered rudder of the sugar barge they live in.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
When I first met Princess she went everywhere with Ben as one of the most inconguous human-animal companionships I've come across. Princess was the archetypal twee lap dog and Ben a young surfer dude. He'd adopted her when his elderly neighbour had been forced by her deteriorating health into a home. His laconic affection for this most unlikely of pets (surfer dudes should have big macho dogs, surely) was one of the easiest ways to see past his cool image to his compassionate heart.
The last few years have been much quieter for Princess, with fewer surfing trips and loud parties. She spent a lot of time following the sun from cushion to cushion across Ben and Sarah's clifftop livingroom, overlooking the Cook Strait. She had an exceptionally good life with some unexpected twists and turns but always lots of love. I have missed her since leaving Wellington and I am very grateful that she visited my dreams last night like an puppyangel .
Monday, September 18, 2006
I did a lot of hitch hiking around New Zealand in my late teens. It was easiest to get picked up when I was alone, but felt safer when I was with another girl- though in reality some of the worst things happened with a hitching buddy. I rarely hitched with a guy, because it was much harder to get picked up. This was in the mid-eighties and I and my friends mostly were dressed as punks or other alternative style. I used to keep myself warm and entertained by singing and dancing on the side of the road and would flash big smiles at approaching cars, hoping to persuade them to stop for me.
The first time I ever hitch hiked was with a girlfriend who had done it before so I made her get in the front seat with the business man who picked us up. They were chatting and I was dozing and then they went quiet and I woke up to see him reach across to her lap. I looked over into the front seat and saw his fly was undone and he was trying to get into my friend’s pants. It didn’t make much sense to me so I said “What are you doing?” and he angrily stopped the car and left us in the middle of nowhere. It took us a while to work up the courage to stick our thumbs out again after that, but we had to so we did. The next ride was a van and neither of us were willing to sit alone in the front with the driver (who proved to be entirely harmless, like almost everybody who has picked me up since) so we both rattled round in the back for hours.
That experience made me careful but didn’t put me off hitching. I was on the dole and had lots of time and desire to travel but next to no money so it was an ideal way to get around the country. For about two years I travelled between
I had lots of adventures. The craziest trip was from
On the way back we got a ride with a man who said he would take us to the turn-off we wanted but he had to do a few detours to deliver magazines on the way. We weren’t in a hurry so we didn’t mind. I sat in the front seat and my friend sat in the back. He was quite friendly and chatty, asking us lots of questions about ourselves. Eventually I noticed that he was wearing a bra under his business shirt and pantyhose under his trousers. When he stopped at the first place to make his delivery I twisted around in my seat and was telling my friend what I noticed about his clothes. She showed me one of the magazines he was delivering and it was a newsletter for people into kinky sex. Then I saw that under my seat there was a tape recorder and I said “Look its recording” as I turned it off and then we saw the man coming back to the car. We were too mortified to try and talk about any of these things with him. We got out of the car as soon as we could and exploded into giggles.
Later that day, we got dropped off at the top of the pass and went to the public toilets to smoke a joint. Just then a bus from the Girls Home in
For years after I got my own car I would stop and pick up hitch hikers, but I have grown more and more cautious, slowing down to look at their faces before I stop. Once I was driving from
Friday, September 15, 2006
Every time I walk up Waiotu Block Road there are more signs that spring is on the way. The monochrome of lurid green pasture is now contrasted with banks of wild flowers. Forget-me-nots line the side of the road like a blue haze. Unidentified red, orange or pink flowers flourish in the tangled borders between pastures and tracks.
Lambs and calves are filling out, no longer the spindly new borns of a few weeks ago, they are sturdy and frisky now.
Birds seem to be busier, often in pairs. The other day as I rounded a corner I heard a strange sound: half croak, half screech, a terrible rent in the peaceful afternoon. I looked up and saw a grey heron flapping into the air a few metres of front of me. I don't know who got the biggest fright, the heron interrupted in its feeding or me to discover that the most elegant bird I know has the most horrible cry.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Whangarei sits on an East Coast harbour and is overwhelmingly focused eastward. But last week I was housesitting to the west, a third of the way along the road to Kaipara on the West Coast so it seemed like a good excuse to check it out.
The highlight of our day out west was stopping in the tiny village of Te Kopuru where Al had preached during his days at Theological College. The church was long gone but the main street was still lined with charmingly unrenovated houses and eccentrically unlandscaped gardens. This particular garden made spectacular use of buoys and other beachcombings. Other gardens featured hubcaps and painted tires. All had meticulously groomed lawns.
We liked the beach at Glinks Gully but not the more famous Bayley's Beach which had all the charm of a filthy parking lot, complete with jeep full of young men burning circles on the sand. We liked Dargeville: Al for the old clocks powered by solar panels, and me for the very nice sage suede shoes I found on sale in an independent shoe shop. It might just have been the long awaited sunshine but I got a good feeling about the town which seemed lively and friendly.
I'd been to Dargeville once before to visit the Zinzania Paper Factory where handmade paper is created from the rice grass chocking the local waterways. The rice grass arrived in the form of clay bricks from China used as ballast by ships arriving to collect kauri back in the day when cutting down old growth forest was still a growth industry. The clay bricks were dumped in the river and the seeds in the rice grass straw germinated with enthusiasm in the warm moist conditions of Kaipara. A hundred years later, after the dairy factory closed down, some locals decided to use the souvenirs of past economies to try and develop a contemporary craft and tourist attraction. Their paper is excessively lovely but, like all handmade paper made in the West, terrifically expensive. Only diehard book and paper fans like me are likely to make a special trip to Dargeville to visit see paper making, and there's not much else to attract tourists to town. So, I'm not sure how the business is holding up.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Monday, September 04, 2006
In the meantime I've been checking out Maungatapere which is characterised by dry stone walls. Some are so overgrown that they just look like giant caterpillars crawling around the edge of the paddocks. But plenty, like the ones pictured here remain as fine examples of the art of stone wall building.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Only Ash and Kate made the effort to Dress Up for Madonna Day, but don't they look Fabulous! We listened to Madonna tunes all day boogying along until the lunch rush crashed in.
Tim was immortalised as Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On. He noted early on that today is International Random Act of Kindness Day. His random act of kindness was to bring me a wooden spoon when I was plaintively wondering if there was a clean one anywhere in the kitchen. Zane and I shared a random act by deciding not to serve the dried up pie to the nasty customers but to give them a nice fresh one instead. The most random act I was involved with was being called 'sweetie pie' when I took a bald guy his muffin.
Ash would just like to let everyone know that she is single and looking. Single, handsome, rich men are invited to call into Cafe Narnia. I recommend using the code words 'banana banana' so Ashleigh knows that you are trying to hit on her. Anyone attracted to the other Cafe Narnia staff pictured here should know they are already taken.