Wednesday, 31 December 2008

hoodoo breaker

I decided if I write anything today I will have broken the curse of inaction once again. My wife was loaned (passive tense) a copy of Ann Lamott's bird by bird and an impressive piece of work it is.

I am now all afire again to get rid of the great portrush novel (gpn) out of its current occupation of dictating an existence in daydreams.

I'm starting (positive note) at the railway station. I thought to myself that the introductory setting of a station throws up images of connections, missed connections, arrivals, departures ... all that kind of stuff. Oh holy God, am I thinking of the Enigma of Arrival? So? What if I am?

Today is New Year's Eve aka ne'erday if I believe the Sunday Post, a much favoured paper in our house on a Sunday. My mother always bought the Sunday Papers from McNicholl's after church. She claimed she was nervous about the minister seeing us or anybody else for that matter buying the papers. if this was the case why did she persist? The paper shop was only fifty yards (hey, let's see that's uh, just trying to do metres here, that's uh - fuck it I can't do it without a calculator) from our church and we all seemed to arrive at once. By all I mean the various congregations. The Presbyterians and the Church of Ireland and the Methodists (us) all were released from worship at around the same time. I think the Catholics got out of mass earlier just to spite us.

McNicholl's, The Gift Shop, was a great place to buy albums from at Christmas. The Beano, The Dandy ... If one was missing from my Christmas stocking I could count on buying it from Jim McNicholl. I hope I'm not mixing this memory of early consumerism with Brown's shop. I know we got my comics in Brown's - 'You mean comic magazines, Macmillan', said Mr Wallace, our Latin Teacher, when he asked about my reading material outside of school.

Do modern teachers humiliate their charges today? I nearly said I hope not, but maybe that kind of vicious treatment helps you to grow a spine or if you're lucky it doesn't and you have to become a writer.

That's enough. I've busted the hoodoo.

Happy New Year everybody.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Graduation day

Wednesday 10th December

Polly processes down George Street.
Polly graduates in Dunedin Town Hall.

Photos terrible. Darn! I was the photographer. Double darn!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Graduation excitement

Tuesday 9th December 2008

We are invited to what I believe is a tea-party for James - an opportunity to celebrate his achievement and meet his family from the North Island. Polly and James have been friends practically since she began her degree at Otago and he has helped us out from time to time with stolid good sense and humour. I don't usually attend social functions for reasons I don't care to share here. Special friends get different treatment and it would have been a churlish act on my part not to lend support when it was often given with no reciprocity looked for or required.

We turned up in good time at the Hutton Room, Otago Museum and discovered it wasn't just James' do. All Maori graduands from Otago had been invited with their whanau and friends to celebrate their achievements and give thanks to their family who had supported them on a difficult journey. Apparently while overly represented in the prison population, Maori find it difficult to get through the doors of our tertiary institutions. Why this should be I do not know. I will not debate the issues here. I came from a country that seemed to be overtly sectarian and exclusive and know full well the complexities of trying to unravel, solve, treat, cure or identify conflict.

When I first came here and learned of Te Tiriti I was thrilled. A partnership, says I. One set of people is not privileged over another. Way to go Kiwis! I learned to pronounce Kia Ora and was astounded to learn it was a Maori greeting. When I was a boy in the Saturday matinees of yore Kia-ora was the soft drink you bought in the interval - if you remember, they used to show a big picture and a wee picture

We met a friend of Polly's in Akaroa and proudly I exclaimed "Kia Ora!" She gave a look of shock, horror and distaste muttering: "No need to use that here. I think they get enough already."

As I say I have known and experienced prejudice at first hand and I fear I no longer have time for it.

We had a wonderful if deafening time as an enthusiastic brother or two let great yells out of them. As the spokesperson said you won't get the opportunity for loud roaring as you tramp across the stage of the Town Hall tomorrow!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Brain calming

The brain does be calming down I'm happy to report. Last night and the night before I did not awake with dread and fear at 2.00 a.m. and be unable to get back to sleep. You know what? Mantras don't work. I thought that once my mantra was learned and ready to be silently repeated (instinctively) the mind would cease racing. i know I'm always ready to advise other with racing minds how to stop it interfering with sleep or how a simple four syllable repetitious phrase might get your shoulders down from your ears and all the tension would leave you upper body. It is a great trick when typing, peeling potatoes or chopping onions. I won't include hand washing dishes because that is just so relaxing in itself.

Washing dishes, washing dishes, soothing,
satisying, grease removing
how I love to wash a dish.
Make it two, no make it three
aw the hell with it
bring 'em all on
spoons and knives and forks and pans
cleansed by my evahluvin' hands.

Hey, jingle memory alert:

Now hands that do dishes
can feel soft as your face
with mild green
Fairy Liquid.

I have to remind you all that Fairy Liquid is a registered trademark and is the property of a big old company somewhere out there in the detergent universe.

Nanowrimo started at midnight on the First of November 2008. I can't get on to the site to upload the beginnings of my 50,000 word novel. The servers must have melted. Every year the nanowrimo team tells you how they have it all worked out, better servers, getting us to log in well in advance and check our settings, see the new features so we don't keel over from user unfriendliness, blah, blah and then bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeach - I can't get on to upload the first tremulous words of the great Portrush Novel.

Give it another couple of days, so.

Good to be back.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Recent terribleness

Alas recent upheavals seem set to continue. I most humbly apologise for the break in transmission entirely due to circumstances within my control.

All will be revealed at a later date.

I hope to be settled before nanowrimo begins.

Going by today's date, that doesn't look likely.

À la prochaine

Monday, 13 October 2008

Missing blog post

Oh wow. I am in shock. I use the ScribeFire extension - mostly - for a quick stream of consciousness flow and then post and then and then and then (oh what next, Hughie?) I publish to my blog and then read then edit with the blog's own editor. I like this system and it is in keeping with 'more than one way to do something' - I think that is a perl mantra - there's more than one way to do that in perl'.

I was peering at my blog just the other day when I thought to myself: 'There's a post missing'
Then I thought: 'Nah, there's nothing wrong with your memory, man. Bright as a button for your age. (Over 14)'

I fired up my ScribeFire extension which I seem to remember updating a couple of days ago, incorrectly as it turns out, and discovered two instances of the 'missing' post which I did write. Ominously there were no references on the scribefire interface to my blog and the first-run wizard appeared to ask me if wanted to set up a blog account.

I have two blogs so I dutifully re-entered my personal details. On one blog, after logging in, I discovered the missing post. Some memory, eh?

I must pop over to the ScribeFire site and see if that was a buggy update (it wasn't - so sorry ScribeFire). To lose one blog is sad, to lose two is downright carelessness.

Lately I am tired. I went down to Uni this morning with the missus and we saw posters advertising Helen Clark on the campaign trail. I haven't seen helen in the flesh but when one of Polly's student chums who was forming part of the welcome committee told us she had been delayed by an hour with fog at the airport I just had to go home. Oh well.

In  the absence of a decent anarchist party I urge you and every New Zealander of voting age to vote Labour.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Mandriva spring

Let me make one thing clear in advance of the following comments. I absolutely love, adore, think it is only gorgeous, PCLinuxOS. Currently installed on my Desktop hard drive is PCLinuxOS Minime 2008 lovingly tended and configured by me to my own low standards. Minime is a slimmer faster booting version of PCLinuxOS 2007. News from the PCLinuxOS team - Texstar's ripper gang - is scarce concerning the next release which could be argued was due some time ago and could also be argued was due when it is ready and not before.

Linux users are no different to any other fanatic on the planet - we have our favourite distros as they are called - and can barely stand a mention of a rival Linux distribution. Naturally any mention of Microsoft is only tolerated when it is clearly scathing or abusive.

The reasons for hating Microsoft are clear to Linux fans but not to the rest of the world who do not know there are such things as operating systems (rightly so) and refer only to their computer as my computer. Questions such as : What version of Windows is on the machine you just purchased from Noel Leeming? might elicit a hesitant response and an offering up of the brand name of the manufacturer (Dell; Acer etc.).

Most of us would fall into that category I expect. But for those who don't there is a problem of proprietary, non-free, restrictive, software licencing and for those who care passionately about freedom the answer seems to lie in using only, and I mean only, free software. This includes a free operating system - for without an operating system you cannot have your Dell or your Acer etc. You would have a desktop or laptop sized silent unresponsive dust collector in your living room, den or office.

So by switching to Linux (Gee, I wanna do that. How do I do that?) we can set the world free or at least make a start. Er, not quite. A person, in the know, would already see that I have caused grave offence in one of the free software universes. That's right. I should of course have referred to the not-a-version-of-Windows operating system (OS) as GNU/Linux. Linux is not the OS. Linux is the kernel. GNU (GNUs Not Unix) provides the free tools that make it possible to have a functioning Operating system on your computer. It would appear that Linux is easier to write and say than GNU/Linux if I am being kind. But I'm not in a kindly mood. Not for nothing did my best friend once give me a birthday card with a 'grumpy old git' badge attached.

The people who talk about Linux and badmouth Microsoft are plain misinformed and ignorant of the history of the Free Software movement. And in doing so they let off the hook one of the most restrictive manufacturers of computing equipment the binary world has known. Apple. That's right, Hughie, you tell 'em. That cuddly little Apple, the mac, eh. Cute, isn't it? I love my mac. You might as well say you love Idi Amin.

On my Desktop PC I have a Windows 2000 partition and Minime partition. On the Acer Notebook lives a Windows XP partition and also a Kubuntu partition. Ubuntu and Kubuntu are Linux distros which are supposed to make life easier for people to make the switch from the Windows Operating System they didn't know they had in the first place to the world of GNU/Linux and a treasure trove of free software. The part about free software is mostly true. Some purists argue that no non-free software belongs anywhere near a GNU/Linux box and that we should if necessary build our machines from scratch avoiding hardware which requires proprietary drivers. A graphics card like NVIDIA would be a no-no as NVIDIA do not release details of their software to the world so the free software developers cannot write suitable drivers.

Oh, man, I am way off topic. I got fed up waiting for PCLinuxOS 2009 so I got a live-cd of Mandriva Spring 2008 and had a run at it on the laptop. I didn't like it and it also exhibited a startling bug which if I had done the updates would not have been there so I uninstalled it. I don't really like Kubuntu or Ubuntu, on which Kubuntu is based. Ubuntu is a Gnome based computing environment whereas Kubuntu is a KDE based environment. Us open source , free software afficionados loves our freedom of choice and the freedom to insult Gnome users or Xfce or Enlightenment (whoops! I'm doing it again, Enlightenment is a window manager - a chap could get killed for using the wrong terminology in this world).

Anyway I put the Kubuntu on the laptop and did the updates. It's fine. It sits there. I'm back in Windows XP.

I decided to have a look at available distros and saw there was a Mandriva RC (release candidate) 2009 just out. I thought to myself, now there's a thing. That's some development cycle. I've just got the spring edition and here is a very soon to be released distro with 2009 attached to its description.

I went back to the repository where I got the spring download. Of course, of course, of course there it was april 2008. It was a spring release but not bloody New Zealand's spring.

I've only lived here for six years. I can't remember everything.

I hope I have caused grave offence to all you apple macintosh users everywhere, but just remember this a restrictive licence is a restrictive licence.

Don't forget: Boycott Microsoft

Y'all have good day now.

Catching up

Yesterday - Monday 6th (sixth) October I visited my old classroom on the 6th (sixth) floor of Radio House in beautiful downtown Dunedin. The mission was to attend a talk from writer Vivienne Plumb who is in town with her play The Cape. The talk was made interesting by the reading of her own work. Her talk was brief so she was spared the awful questions that visiting writers get asked:

Are ye makin' any money?

Where do you get your ideas from?

I have a great idea for a story. Will you write it up and we can split the profits?

I've bought all of your books and read them over and over again as I have no life of my own.

Is it true there are only [insert whatever number here you have seen on the web] plots in the entire world?

I was hoping that some of chums from the creative writing class of 2007 would be there and - hooray - two of them appeared. Marion and Morag. It was great talking to you both after the presentation.

Our guide, Diane, has had her next creative writing course approved and was excited by the news as indeed was I. At this stage it has not been given funding and so it has one more fence to leap before her eager students can sign up.

This is a level six paper and will guide the creative writing student towards publication. A sizeable body of work would already need to be in existence I had better get writing!

Better get writing, better get writing, better get ... this is the whole point of the thing for me. I have a hard drive littered with scraps of text and no cohesion. Maybe I could just join them up in a big free wheeling lump of text and pass it off as the literary sensation of the year.

Now that I have the laptop talking to the PC Desktop I can start stitching and then when February comes I wil have a BIG lump of wordiness to whittle and sharpen into the tastiest prosepoem since the last tasty prosepoem.

Fever on me. Goodbye.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Cutting grass

What can I say? The lawnmower man is back.

The winner of the Katherine Mansfield Award for 2008 is Julian Novitz. Well done Julian.

The winning stories are usually downloadable from BNZ as Portable Document Files but it seems I am too hasty looking for them today. The BNZ site has had a makeover. I have been reading about the pitfalls of website makeovers recently. It seems that particular task is very attractive to clients, in this case BNZ, but is of no benefit in terms of user satisfaction to the BNZ's clients/users. If anything it makes site users uneasy especially if the change is sudden and done without their prior knowledge.

Dunedin City Council has upgraded their site recently. Currently it is live. I haven't checked all the things I used to do on that site recently but rest assured I will and report back some time.

I'm cutting grass today. Remember? I can't do everything.

If that seems a tad acidic you all have a nice day now.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Sore fingertips

I have been practising for my latest career kick-start. Polly borrowed a guitar for me from a young lady I haven't met - thanks Amanda. I left my guitar in Donegal on moving here. We thought that it would not be long before it was replaced by a brand spanking new narrow necked Yamaha or somesuch - sorry I'm a bit vague about that sort of thing. All I know is I have small hands and can't really play wide necked guitars. I can just mange a barre on a narrow neck but even there it is uncomfortable.

Six years later and no guitar until last week my fingertips are having diffs in holding down the steel strings. One of the tricks I was given years ago to toughen fingertips was to tap them lightly on the range. However, that won't work in our present accomodation as the main heat source is a gas fire.

But I'm getting there. I applied in person for my Dunedin City busking permit yesterday and I am valid for a year of supplying outdoor entertainment. A bit more practice with my three chord trick and I'm off down to The New World entrance. See you there ...

blue moon of Kentucky won't you keep on shining ...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Christchurch beckons

At long last I am leaving the valley for a couple of days. The cats are going to St Leonard's. They have stayed there before. The last time was when we moved house. They share a cell room next to an interesting breed of cat called Maine Coon. They are beautiful creatures, but hey, there's nothing like your own.

Be back in a couple of days.

Sunday, 21 September 2008


The ould clock is tickin'. It'll be here soon. get your typing fingers ready. Write a novel in a month!

This'll be my third year of entry. I haven't completed the course; crossed the finish line (whatever) but I am fascinated by what pours out in the early phases of this strange adventure. Free writing is a good way of getting rid of the writer censor perched on the shoulder - you can't do that; that's not how you spell 'mendacious'; and you call yourself a writer; hang yourself whydoncha?

Last year I saw criticism of people who freewrote for the entire month. The people who criticised freewriters said that the fifty thousand words and beyond should be plotted and coherent. That meant - to my mind - that these writers sat down every night on their honour and wrote coherently without previously plotting or laying out narrative structures and finished (I suppose) a 50K + novel. I worry about people that could do that.

I know that when Kerouac pumped out On the Road in three weeks Truman Capote said, "That's not writing. That's typing."

That is a smart, funny comment. But it seems to me that even if Kerouac was speeding and buzzing, whizzing, flying along on with his teletype roll keying out On the Road, he was left at the end of his run with a huge raw lump of material. Surely no one is suggesting that it all arrived in the bookshops without editing.

Now hang on, wasn't the unedited mind splurge of tijean to be released unedited this year or last year. (update - according to Amazon, Viking did publish the unexpurgated roll in 2007)

Here's nanowrimo to be getting on with. The site might be in lockdown mode at the moment but sure you can lok for yourself and bookmark the site. Remember you are on your honour not to have the whole novel laid out in your head or on your corkboard before you start in November.

Door frame attack

Got out of bed for pee.
No idea of time.
Decided not to scrabble blindly on bedside table for torch (I always knock it over).
Made it to door avoiding cats, shoes, end of bed (end of bed is tricky. a chap could get maimed).
Door frame launches unprovoked attack.
Hugh stunned.
Hugh still standing when Polly clicks on her light.
Blood on brow.
Door frame unharmed.

Friday, 19 September 2008

As we get older

Blinking flip! I was back at the doctor's again today.

Also, ominously, he dropped his voice at one stage and said, as he explained something to me, doubtless blindingly obvious to the great unwashed, "As we get older."

I use that line all the time, I thought until today, ironically.

Anyway, it is to do with the appearance of aches and pains leading me to believe that both hip joints were disintegrating on Wednesday night.

It may yet be the case. A dose of paracetamol and a daily Vitamin D tab for a week might reduce the aching joints.

Now class, what might we add to this starting phrase: As we get older ... ?

No prizes.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Trip away

Spent some time re-reading, re-engaging, re-writing a poem I am not happy with. My overnight mind worked on the problem and when I woke it said leave it alone for today. Think of something else.

I mentioned yesterday I had been to the barber's. I forgot to mention I got way too much off the top and sides and now resemble Dumbo. You see while one is still a living breathing mortal person and prey to all the ills of earthly diseases and terrors one's ears continue to grow. Outsized ears are concrete proof of personal growth.

Hey! We are taking a trip on Friday. I may have mentioned before that I hadn't been outside of Dunedin for some considerable time and was over the moon when a day trip to Oamaru and the sacred cottage of Janet Frame in Eden Street. I have proof with this picture of Janet's family linoleum and my scuffed shoes.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


Lately I have been visiting barbers again. For years I avoided the barbershop due to the arrival in early 1960 of rebellious male hair growing. After I ceased reciting 'long hair good, short hair bad' there weren't all that many barbers left. But the same hairy revolution had spawned the unisex salon and it was possible to get a good cut that didn't resemble the cruel balding of the army recruit. One of the drawbacks of the unisex salon is that you have to make an appointment which we never had to do at the barber's.

Yesterday I was in Selwyn Graves where I have had my hair cut before. Selwyn's proud boast is that they have two chairs which means you don't have to make an appointment. They actually have three chairs now, it is just that the sign on the street outside the shop hasn't been updated yet. There was no one waiting on the bench but when I got right inside all three seats were occupied and it looked like all three customers had just begun their shearing.
I really, really hate waiting for anything - no matter how good or useful. I hate waiting at the doctors or the dentists. What was the point of making an appointment if the friggin' quack is late? Worse, I always, always, always arrive early out of courtesy. Oh maybe that part isn't true. Somebody told me once that if you arrive early and the next apointment hasn't arrived they let you go ahead. I don't know what parallel world that person lived in but I can assure you, dear reader, that no such reward ever followed my early arrival.

Back to the barber.I was able to plan my day all over again. Then I watched one by one the customers receiving the scissors and wondering who would soon be finished. Then I saw in the mirror facing me a static view of the barber to my left cutting a customer's head and also the back view of the girl assistant who had been sweeping the floor not two minutes ago. Of course I was looking at a highly realistic painting of the barber that I had not noticed before. I hadn't noticed the young lady sweeping the floor before either so that was two new things. No writer would say that was time wasted. It should have been three things but when I tried to see the signature of the painter I hurt my neck twisting round.

I ran out of a barber's in London where I had been sitting for over an hour waiting for a cut. As I hurried away I heard the shop's doorbell tinkling and a shout of anguish. I looked back and the barber was waving me back and pleading with me to return. I made up my mind to keep walking. He let out another pleading cry and I went back. What a performance.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

A Fantail runs through it

Yesterday I accompanied Polly on one her field trips to the Dunedin Botanic Gardens hunting for tree families (a weird lot the botanists). We were seated enjoying a picnic lunch when a small fantail landed on her head. She kept very still while it rummaged for insects in her thatch but failed to find any. It came back several times and repeated its efforts. I slipped off my hat - bought in a sale in Ballantyne's, when we still lived in Christchurch - but the tiny fantail ignored my barnet in favour of the wife's.
According to the native kiwi no fantail has ever landed on her head before. I'm glad she told me this as I would have thought it an everyday occurrence in this exotic land.

How I know New Zealand is exotic is that your apples are juicier. Whether this a result of buying them from the Farmer's Market in Dunedin every Saturday (while stocks last) and not the dry specimens from the supermarkets of old Ireland I cannot say. I am tempted to think that the apples we bought in Ireland no longer came from Co. Armagh but possibly were imported from some useless orchard in Europe thanks to the complicated European Union rules and regulations surrounding what used to be referred to as the Common Market. When I hear farmers in New Zealand lauding the EU subsidies and attitudes to agriculture I can only pray that it never happens.

Similar opinions surround the Celtic Tiger and how New Zealand might emulate such a runaway success. Short answer is, 'You can't.' We aren't comparing like with like. The Republic of Ireland embraced the European Union like no other nation. From a seriously dirt poor nation to a modern hi-tech country in a short time was a result in the first instance of lots and lots of lovely European money. Motorways were built, roads improved and slowly but surely standards of living got better and people's expectations of life were enhanced.

In the nineties during the white hot excitement of the digital revolution workers had to be imported into our island nation because the supply of any countries most valuable resource - trained and trainable humans - wasn't there. More money! Training the natives. Entice emigres back! Uh, is this sounding familiar? Good. Don't fall for it. It is an illusion.

Take my advice. Stop with the dairying already and bring back the sheep. Oh and one more thing - I will vote for the party who does not tinker with daylight saving. Smoke and mirrors, folks, smoke and mirrors.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Great news

The baker of the cake pictured in the previous post has offered to assemble another one for us in a couple of weeks.

Now isn't that something?

Monday, 8 September 2008


Today is our birthday. No, I'm not using the royal 'we'. Polly and I share the same birthday.

Here is a picture of last year's cake.

Nothing like this has appeared today.

We went to a turkish kebab shop on George St. There we had kebabs, coffee and baklava.

Happy birthday to us, happy birthday to us und so wieder.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Another week goes by

I'm sitting here wondering why I have missed an entire week at the blog interface. [pauses for thought - gives up and moves on to the next item.]
I was reminded of my blog when I met Diane at the country market on Saturday. Apparently someone found my reference in an earlier post to the course I and eleven other disciples completed last year with sifu Diane guiding our way. Just think - twelve more scribes pushing on the door of New Zealand literature.
The more writers the merrier I say.
During part of last week I decided to experiment with direct cable connections. The idea is to make a simple home network without recourse to hubs, routers or switches. I had an category 5e cable already and after some reading I discovered I could connect the cable directly to the ethernet ports on the laptop and the Desktop PC. I also found to my joy that I would be able to configure my PC to connect via the laptop's network interface card (nic). My poor PC has been sitting down here in my writing cellar unable to access the world wide web through internet access as it does not have a wireless card. Only one thing prevented me from setting up the physical and logical configuration straightway! That's right. Full marks to the man at the back. For a direct cable ethernet connection one needs a crossover cable. I was downcast. Not to worry. I went down to my local store where I bought my 4GB usb memory stick. He didn't have any crossover cables but when I told him I already had a straight through cable he said all I needed was an adaptor. Sacred blue! I didn't see that in my readings. Ecstasy short lived. When he went to fetch one they had all been sold.
I hiked back up the hill a broken man with promises of one on order for next week. Next week? I'm not a youngster I might be dead by next week. Home again and back on the net. I find that crossover adaptors might be purchased in a number of stores in Dunedin. Oh, well I can wait until the next day, if the Lord spares me I'll do a trawl of the usual suspects and if the worst comes to the worst I will buy a crossover cable brand new.
The very next day I discovered that the usual suspects carry plenty of cables but no adaptors. I am weakening but decide after a quick trip into the New World for a fix of Mars Bar to pop over to the Office Warehouse to see what they've got. Plenty of cables. I decide to ask someone. This by the way is the first time I have been in the Office Warehouse that someone hasn't landed on my shoulders asking if they can help me with anything. The young man I spoke to took me back to the same display that I had just been browsing, agreed that the Warehouse was not carrying the product I required, then, wait for it, told me where I could buy it and gave me directions. Now there's a customer help service for you.

I went where he suggested and I got my crossover cable adaptor for cat 5e.

The actual configuration tale between Win XP and Win 2000 can wait to be told - very long process. It didn't need to be, but it was. Oh dear me, yes it was.

Monday, 1 September 2008

A whole week

Last week's getting well and a sick acer aspire notebook with sick internet connection has kept me from my diary.

So there.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Hind legs

Well I am on my hind legs again. Yesterday (Sunday) I was up for most of the day and survived. The day before (Saturday) I had a practice run - not literally you understand - but I found sitting or standing much too wearing that I limped forlornly back to bed and into the most comfortable position I could find.

Today I will book a session with my doctor who should have been seeing me four weeks ago for my annual check up. By tomorrow I will be able to walk down. We thought about ladling me into a taxi last week but the thought of trying to get in to a car at this end and then trying to get out at the other end and then sitting - ouch - in the waiting room, then struggling to rise when called and then - presumably - being lectured about undertaking such a foolish journey when damaged put me off completely.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


Surprisingly I'm no better. Was standing for a wee while but the pain was unbearable. Don't know about this stiff upper lip thing - I tend to scream and don't care who hears it.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Back again

I was up early and looking forward to a trip down town - I walk down from the Pinehill Road most every day as does Polly. I had done my foot exercises like a good boy. These consist of sitting on the edge of the bed before taking a single step and stretching the plantar ten times with each stretch being held for ten seconds. When I finished I went to the sock drawer and then went back and sat once again on the dge of the bed. As I leaned forward to encase the first foot in its woolly container the most excruciating pain shot through my lower back. I screamed.

Twenty minutes later I was apologising to Polly for my unseemly screaming and swearing and feeling mildly relieved after a dose of paracetamol. After the slow painful finding of a position that is sort of bearable I am back in bed.

I know from past experience that there is no universal advice that one can follow for lower back pain. Some people can work through the pain and continue on their (less than merry I would hazard) way. Others can't move in any direction - my hand is raised here - and rest until better.

The last time I hurt my back, see earlier post, not all that long ago, it was the first time in ages and I rested briefly, then got up and moved around the house at a snail's pace. The next day I even walked down the town and back again feeling like superman.

Gosh, isn't the self healing power of the body a wonderful thing? My bum! In the morning I would have killed for morphine. I stayed in bed and took it easy for the next three days or so. It passed eventually until today - drat, drat and triple drat.

I'm in bed. It is sunny outside - cold but sunny. The cats have deserted me. I sincerely hope that today they do not appear with muddy paws. Now that we share a house with another human paw tracks on polished wood floors and kitchen work places are not encouraged. Trust this year to be damp and yucky.

Polly has gone to Uni and I am posting from my warm pit.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


I don't usually go out without my spectacles if I can help it. I got reading glasses 8 years ago because Polly got fed up with me complaining that solving the Times crossword had lost its sparkle as the print size had changed.

What a difference an artificial lens makes. I have been assured in my latest eye test that the prescription has barely changed since I started wearing them. However my own experience tends to suggest that I am more dependent on my specs than I care to admit. All print is a blur now and so are people's faces. Earlier this year I bought what I thought was a three DVD pack of Season 5 Part 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a clearance bin at The Warehouse, The Warehouse where everyone gets a bargain.

When I got home and with trembling hands (very fond of Buffy, I am) ripped Buffy from her pink, Warehouse bag, booted myself into spectacle mode I discovered I had bought a three video cassette pack. Tchah!

We don't possess a VCR. We have been watching DVDs on our PC since 2000 anno domini or common era if you're that way inclined. I held on to the cassettes thinking they would make a useful stocking filler for a Buffy fan who didn't watch DVDs.

Recently we moved house and discovered our housemate owns a VCR. Last night I found the cassettes after much swearing and ripping open of still sealed cardboard boxes with helpful things written on them like 'Linen and Other Stuff'.

Happy ending? Nah. One of the cassettes was the same as the first one. We are missing the set of episodes that begins with 'The Body" where Joyce Summers dies.

The final cassette is complete but we can't bring ourselves to watch it without seeing the missing episodes.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Freezing darkness

Winter in Dunedin - and please, I love you Dunedin - is a big pile of freezing blackness. I love it. It keeps the kids off the streets. Yes, there are still places where children play on the streets. I must admit I was startled to see them when we first moved here. The novelty soon wore off when my eardrums reacted badly to the high pitched timbre of the child screech. Jeez it is a grater.

One other thing hasn't changed. The kids play around every other property save their own. Surely this is a universal.

I am freezing, I am going to the library via the bread shop (Brumby's) and the New World. In the library I am going to continue my research on post-modernism and drive people mad with the smell of new baked bread.

I used to be a library assistant and despite my natural libertarian impulses mainly involving freedom of information I have to restrain myself - now an ordinary user - from rapping noisy students over the knuckles with a metre stick, removing their skateboards, sticky drink cans and whatever else I deem inappropriate in a study environment.

How did we ever get to the moon and beyond?

Return voyages

I was writing about a trip I took to Dublin when I was about fifteen and fancied myself as a beat thanks to Kerouac. I remembered who I went with and where we slept on the way there and where we stayed in Dublin - St Stephen's Green - but nothing of the return journey. Also my travelling companion seemed to morph into someone else after two night's worth of memories. After that he becomes someone else who I definitely remember being in Dublin with but not how I got there. The second companion was knowledgeable about painting which companion number one was not. Thankfuly there is fiction for those tense moments when memory fails.

If you are reading this Buzz or Streak, I remembered your nicknames. Buzz is probably one hundred years old now. Streak was a biker with a nasty habit of falling off and breaking his limbs.

Maybe one of them'll remember how I got back to Portrush.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Free Software Foundation

Richard Stallman was talking to Kim Hill on Saturday. I missed her public lecture in Otago Uni last week. I enjoy mostly - please note that 'mostly', I will return to that qualification later - listening to the discourse between her and her subjects. She or someone - a dedicated team of researchers perhaps? That seems unlikely for Radio New Zealand National sounds like us - does their homework and she is seldom ill prepared. For example this weekend when Richard first referred to the operating system known as GNU/Linux she knew that when he expanded the GNU acronym - Gnus Not Unix - it was known as a recursive acronym. Impressive eh?

I wonder if this is a standard interview technique either rattle the interviewee or instil respect in the same - you don't scare me pal, I know some of your arcane jargon.

I must ask around in my formidable brigade of Radio Interviewer Colleagues (are you there Vanda?)

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Mona Minim

Holy Jeekers, the things you hear on National Radio in the early hours of the morning. Last week and also today we were snug and warm in our bed and listening to Mona Minim and the Smell of the Sun. What a treat, treat, treat. Janet Frame no less. 'Spect the rest of youse knew already that she wrote the blessed thing. Smart bums!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Snow showers

How wonderful. The New Zealand Metservice short work of fiction has hit the hail on the head this morning. Dunedin is cold and it does have snow showers.

Yesterday - Thursday - was a superday. Sun shining, folks out in their shorts and jandals - they still had purple legs and drips hanging from their noses - but man they were happy and that's what counts isn't it?

I was in the 'all new' Countdown yesterday. I think the 'all new' description refers to the enlarging of the space for displaying liquor.

Gone is the single line queue for the 12 items or less tills. This is a mistake of the highest water. Yesterday I picked the wrong line and stood for ages with my one purchase - a box of signature brand paracetemol (this is in no wise an endorsement of this product - it just happened to be the cheapest).

At least Countdown doesn't call them express lines. If they did that would surely cause a riot. I am sure most people naturally pride themselves on their knowledge of shopper psychology and weigh up the clues presented to them before joining a particular line. Probably the biggie is "Golly gee there's only one customer in this line!"

What we havent noticed is that the till is stuck; the customer hasn't got their card, purse or wallet out yet. All of these things take time.

Once a young fellow in front of us had to have parts of his already meagre purchases removed bit by bit until whatever money was left in his account matched the cost of his food. I was trying not to stare but I couldn't help but notice that he was flushing with embarrassment. Whoops, there go the bananas! Blush! Darn, that was the cabbage. I think he left with a tin of beans and a Moro bar.

I regularly hold up my line now as I fumble for my glasses to read the new micro eftpos swipes sneakily introduced - I first encountered them in The Warehouse and the New World. First they want you the customer to perform the swipe (Why does the card always go the other way round?) and then press the miniscule buttons which if memory serves are now in different positions (oh right the nine is down there is it? sorry, sorry. not sorry at all)

Next stop library get book - Teach Yournself Braille.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Snappy camera

My first camera - a snappy camera - cost 2/6d* (two shillings and sixpence; half a crown; half a dollar - take your pick). I got it from Woolworths on a day excursion to Belfast. I could hardly wait to take it to school the next day. My pride and excitement vanished on observing the class clown displaying his brand new snappy camera! Worse to come - he had a case for it and a strap so he could hang it round his neck. Since I had no camera case my little camera stayed in my schoolbag.

I was thinking about my snappy camera when browsing the various groups on flickr who try and reproduce through digital manipulation the kind of photographic effect got from mass produced cameras - lomo and holga.

My mother didn't think I could actually take photos with it but I whined and begged until I got a film and then had to whine and beg until she got them processed for me. The only photo I can clearly remember from that first and only batch was an electricity van parked outside our library. Now hang on, it wasn't a library then it was a catering college.

The van was out of focus and tilted from the horizontal but it must have been the best of the bunch if that is the only one I remember. There weren't any more photos from the snappy camera as there was a growing awareness that my mother wasn't trying to spoil my fun but she could not afford to indulge a small boy's hobbies.


My back is still sore. I was out for a walk yesterday and felt fine. Today I am shuffling again. A short Tai Chi exercise eased it a while ago but I feel it stiffening again.

*Memory decay - the camera might have cost 7/6d

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Lower back

Amazing apparatus the lower back. I survived our last move with nothing more than a slight stiffness after moving boxes of books and sundries from the house to the car; up and down dodgy steps; repeat process at other end or destination if you prefer.

I've had neck and back problems for years and years and years. My very first sign of the weakness of the human body - weakness despite, or perhaps because of, the evolutionary process - was the tearing of the fencer's muscle after a vigorous bout of digging and raking when I was a beardless youth of nineteen. For those of you who haven't experienced this little joke of Nature it goes something like this. You walk along the street, any street, any town, no matter, then Whap! The upper body is suddenly and painfully folded at the waist and your chin rushes down to greet the knees, a pair of fellows it has not been acquainted with for a while.

Being a young man and not long married I was much afraid. I had left school at fifteen without completing my medical degree so had no idea what was happening. Cause and effect had not entered my reasoning at this tender age so I went and saw a man who had stayed on at school and then spent long years at medical college, to wit, a doctor.

As I was making my appointment with the secretary I was seized round the middle and once again my upper body was folded rapidly towards the same kneecaps my chin had chatted with not two hours ago.

"Oh," she said as I disappeared from view below the counter. "You are in a bad way." She waved me into the waiting room without consulting her Book of Appointments for a date two weeks away when most illnesses have safely passed their self-limiting period and there is no need to bother Doctor.

When I got into to see Doctor I explained the symptoms. He looked at me like I had killed someone and got me to stand and bend, touch my toes or something. I could do that without any problem. He then launched into a diatribe about work shy youths and something else I missed or have forgotten while being escorted out the surgery door.

On the way home I managed a grim impotent smile as my body jackknifed again: "Told you I was hurt."

My sweet and trusting nature has always made excuses for that Doctor and his behaviour. The same Doctor told my wife she was pregnant when she wasn't. In nineteen seventy whatever it was there were only four doctors practicing and they would not take patients from one another.

As I read that last sentence I am struck by how much power these people had over the rest of us. I think it was about ten years or so before new younger Doctors appeared in our towns with strange ideas like listening to patients.

When I appeared in one of these doctor's surgeries with the same symptoms I had earlier reported the injury was immediately recognised, described for me and treated correctly. And so was I. Treated correctly, I mean. What a difference that made to me and doubtless many others breathed a sigh of relief when the cartel retired and the new helpful medics appeared in our midst.

Where was I? Oh yes. Lower back. I moved a whole pile of stuff on Saturday, rolls of carpets among them. Got away with it, I thought. I was sitting on the edge of the bed after my shower the next morning, singing along with my earworm (Deep within my heart/lies a melody/a song of old San Antone ...). I leaned forward to pull on a sock and Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Instant pain and a shocking inability to do anything but shuffle after the first agony slowed down to a bearable ache punctuated with sharp intakes of breath and out-loud-ouches as something somewhere in there not far away from the surface pinches and nips.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Carry on camping

Portrush to Armagh
Portrush to Dublin
Portrush to Brittany
Portrush to Portstewart

Currently doing some much needed computer maintenance. Some of you might recall before there was ethernet there was sneakernet. I am running up and down the stairs from the cellar to the living room with my USB stick - I have to call this something else - when I remember what I really, really, really need from the Desktop to this little notebook.

Anyway I wanted to remind myself to write something about camping - no, Virginia, not the hand on the hip sashaying kind of camping - but real honest to goodness uncomfortable sleeping bag nonsense of the great outdoors.

More later - honestly

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Dream fiction writer

I'm sure we've all done it at some time - dreamed the plot of a novel or maybe the canvas of our next painting. In the still dark morning I woke up convinced I had cracked not only the plot and the characters of a short story but that I had written the bulk of it. I was also convinced I remembered every word of it - how could I forget? It was as fresh as a daisy, forgetting was not a possibility. I just needed to fall asleep to get the remainder.

I fell asleep dreamed the end of the story and then went to Las Vegas played a one armed bandit I had never seen before and hit the jackpot.

I woke up broke and storyless.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Royal Society of New Zealand

I like the look of this:

Manhire Prize

Manhire being Bill Manhire of Victoria University and maintainer of the Creative Writing Programme at the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand.

Last year I obtained an Advanced Certificate in Creative Writing from Aoraki Polytech in sunny, down-town Dunedin. Two days a week, five at the beginning of each term, we would gather, we twelve plus our guide (she hates the word teacher) Diane Brown, on the sixth floor of Radio Otago House. In the stuffiest room on the planet we would practice our art, fulfilling the urge to create.

When it came to graduation I do not believe I have had a happier or prouder moment than when I mounted the stage at Dunedin Town Hall to receive my Certificate.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

An apology from the heart

Dear NZSA/PEN Otago/Southland Branch colleagues,

I have failed you.
Some of you, I know, depend on the weekly newsletter update, to keep in touch with life in something called the wider world. Forgive me.
The real correspondence secretary will contact you with the time and place of the ceremonial snapping of my Swan Fountain Pen (a family heirloom) to denote loss of status and face.

It will probably take place in the Octagon before the schools get out and the children invade the area below the Robert Burns statue to swap gossip and the latest chemicals for their Friday and Saturday nights out.

Believe me it is the last time I put my hand up for anything. For those of you who were not at the first meeting of the year - there were many absentees (you know who you are) - a question was asked: would anyone like to do backup, a Plan B, for the occasional time the correspondence secretary was absent or otherwise engaged?

Muggins here stuck up his shiny freshly washed paw thinking: I could do that!

When the time came to do it all circumstances had changed. Muggins had moved house, no longer had the same ISP and could not send the newsletter as a list due to restrictions on the size of his new internet mail provider.

Most of you, it would be fair to say in my defence, know nothing of your e-mail clients and their vagaries. Three of you cannot receive mail from my server. Is that my fault?

Oh, coffee's ready (to be continued)

Saturday, 19 July 2008


Cheering crowds of Australian teens were warned of the dangers of depraved sexuality in their society by a man wearing a dress.

Neither his holiness, Pope Benedict XVI - vicar of Christ - nor his ecstatic followers showed any symptoms of irony recognition.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Never did find out

I don't know what the scuffers were doing in Stuart Street.

There was nothing in the ODT
that I could see.

What would cause
them to gather
inside a legal chambers entrance
and park their cars almost
on the pavement
causing us to slow down
and stare into their eyes -
strange, cop eyes?

Those eyes say: We know you,
we know all about you.
Keep your nose clean pal,
or you'll hear from us
sooner than you think.

Monday, 14 July 2008


Climbing wall - Cadbury's chocolate
Policemen in Stuart St. (what was that all about?)

Saturday, 12 July 2008


I am posting this from the magnificent Pine Hill/Liberton/Dalmore suburbs of Dunedin. I know views aren't everything. I love the motorway.

We got moved on Monday morning. Two new men appeared and disappeared just as quickly. We weren't worried. They had got a call back to the yard to swap trucks. The truck they would be bringing back was smaller which given the problematic access proved to be a blessing. It was good to get shifted

Saturday, 5 July 2008


We have been packing to move house for the umpteenth time. Yesterday - Saturday - was meant to be day the movers came to shift us. Naturally it snowed. Just as well really as the mover's office hadn't passed on the peculiarities of our location to the two inappropriate men who turned up.

It's not just that we live on a hill on a badly maintained gravel road but the distance from our house to where they could park the truck is considerable. The men had not been given this information. Our concerns were probably treated as neurotic by the people in the office who never get out into the field to see conditions for themselves.

The older of the two, who was also the driver, sized up the situation pretty sharpish and we decided to abandon the project for the day. He said he would have to get a third man and try again on Sunday or Tuesday.

Today is a beautiful day. From my window I can see across to the harbour cone - the snow has gone. It looks like he wasn't able to organise a team of three. We cannot contact the office which advertises as being open seven days a week. We have left messages, called the contact numbers on the answer phone and can get no-one.

In an information rich society this is pretty rich.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

We don't give out guest's details

A couple of weeks ago the daughter of a friend of ours from Portrush, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland arrived in New Zealand. We sort of knew she was coming and were looking forward to seeing her. P knew her as a child and her father asked us to make contact when she got here.

We got this mad e-mail from the UK saying that she had finished her exams and had had a messy session in the pub and she was now packing her things while her travelling companion was dying his hair grey in the sitting-room. Must be a young fogey, I thought. No travel details and worryingly the mail was full of lolspeak

Two days later we got an e-mail from Christchurch, New Zealand announcing that she and her travelling companion were in a hostel with a phone but no mention of the phone number or the name of the hostel. She did include her mobile number and a suggestion that we should txt her.
P duly txted the child (a very recent law graduate, which is not readily apparent from her writing style ... lol) and then we waited and waited and waited ...

A day and a half later we get another mail saying she hadn't heard from us and she'd just topped up her phone logged in to her email account and seen a mail from us saying we hadn't heard anything since she txted us and she was now in Dunedin lol. She and her travelling companion (echoes of Graceland) were in a backpackers near the Octagon and she and he were of to the peninsula today with someone they met the night before who had a car and could we meet up later lol.

Not a bother we thought. But where was she staying? We still haven't had any direct communication with the lass. Anyway we sent her our phone number and address and waited and waited ...

Next day we sent her a mail saying we still hadn't heard from her and gave her directions to the market at the railway station. After market, P hadn't seen or recognised a small northern irish girl (people do change over ten years and I was no help because I'd never seen her) we thought rather than do nothing we would head up around the Octagon and check a few of the backpacker hostels.

The first one we went to said they didn't give out details of guests. Pardon us? Apparently the question 'Do you have a young friend from Ireland by the name of [name withheld] staying here?' may not be answered. Someone lurking in the background (the manager, as it turned out) who had perfected his shifty, drug dealer, pimp look came over to repeat 'We don't give out details of guests.'

We tried a couple more hostels - they answered the question without fear of breaching an, to us, unknown privacy protocol. We went home, but not before sitting beside Burns' statue and eating a lump of chocolate-y goodness from a well known stall in the Farmers Market.

Later that day we got an excited email from lol to say she had organised a party of other backpacker guests to search for us down in the market. They did this apparently by walking round and shouting out P's name. If you know what P's initial stands for you'd have thought someone had lost a parrot. Also the grey haired young fogey announced their whereabouts by having our names called out over the railway announcement system (I didn't know they still had one lol). But dear me we had gone back home by this time.

But back to the email. They had now left Dunedin and had gone to Queenstown and wouldn't be back this way. P mailed lol's father in Ireland and he said 'don't worry she's always like this' and included in his reply a mail from her explaining how she had forgotten to get the bank in the UK to lift her $50 a day cap and she had funds somewhere but they hadn't been transferred yet as far as she could see lol not that she could do internet banking yet lol and could he loan her the money that was missing in transfer somewhere in cyberspace just till she gets home to sort it out lol.

I'm sure lol and her grey haired fogey would have made entertaining guests for five minutes before I started calling the Old Fogey's Helpline lol.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Nivver again

Should I be bedridden from advanced tendonopathy I will nivver, nivver take anti-inflammatories gain. Nivver! Is that clear? Good. Now back to work.

Had my first trip downtown since falling ill which to me as a male person seems only marginally worse than falling pregnant.

She fell pregnant.
What happened?
Oh, you know. Didn't wash her hands or something. Yeugh. How do you think?

Where would we be if Enid Blyton, Richmal Crompton or Beatrix Potter had fell pregnant? Once they experienced maternity wear for themselves there's no telling what kind of writing would have flowed from those august, venerable and now dead bodies.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Writhing returns

So it goes. A short break from non-writhing to writhing. I've been writhing again and thinking of when ... (apologies to Jeff Beck).

P says to me on Saturday night: There seems to be a lot of traffic heading into town this evening.

Probably some sort of match on I tell her. I haven't actually heard any traffic over the noise of our stupid heat pump but she hears things that I don't.

On Sunday I discovered that Dunedin had its mid-winter festival the previous evening. And a good time was had by all I expect.

We got married in Greymouth on the 21st June 2002 - to have an easy date to remember as P puts it. We have a calendar for all the other dates of anniversaries of deaths, marriages and birthdays. I don't know where it hangs. I'm not really all that interested in marking events.

I don't remember when I gave up smoking for example. My reasoning being that I don't have to treat the ending of unhealthy habituation as another marker on the way to the tomb.

I do feel a twinge of something at the turning of the world again towards the light. I love autumn and the approach of dark evenings. Something comforting about pulling the curtains early and snuggling up to a roaring heat pump with a bowl of winter broth. Not too much liquid though as the trip to the dunny (gosh, very posh) is unpleasantly cold. Not as cold as it was in the house before the last one. Outside toilet!!! Wow! Should have had it crated up and shipped over to the museum in Oamaru.

Where was I? Oh that's right - dark nights and early burrowings. Autumn, winter, gimme, gimme. Keep summer and the stupid fiddling with the clock. What effect does political interference have on climate change by introducing daylight saving?

Spring's OK. Snowdrops, do you see? They'll be here soon.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

What's wrong with me, what's wrong with ...?

I woke up this morning and wondered what was wrong with me. The writhing gut pains of yesterday had disappeared and I felt almost human again. My thanks to all of you who wrote in and expressed concern. I will be fully functional again in no time at all at this rate of going.

Market was cold this morning but once again the crowds have thinned and it is a pleasure to stroll unimpeded by the mobbe. One can always use elbows (sharp weapons!) or casually swing a stout hessian bag filled with potatoes at kneecap height - both methods are useful for making one's way through the common presse.

Its good to be home. We are moving soon. More on that later.

An acronym can be a a TLA, but a TLA is not always an acronym. ram and faq leap out as examples. ram is ram but faq is eff-ay-cue

Friday, 20 June 2008

Called back by doctor

Well that's never happened to me before. I've seen cases of it in soap operas and feelgood films about health providers but I've never actually heard of it in real life where you get blood taken at the blood taking shop and a day later your GP rings up and says could you call in tomorrow and see him about the results. P was worried by the call but I wasn't.

Recall, I've seen the shows, I've watched the movies, all will be well.

My GP who will have to remain nameless never sees you at the time of your appointment. I am convinced the longer I wait in his waiting room the longer the germs and viral nasties have to colonise (or whatever they do) so it was no surprise to me to learn I had a nasty unspecified infection which is leaving me tired even after a night's unbroken sleep. A night hardly passes, though, without our wretched cats pitching camp on one's feet, legs, stomach, or bottom. Hacking up furballs at three a.m. is a favourite trick as well.

The infection is entirely unrelated to my inflammation problem so I now have another lot of medication to take. Medication! Me! Old "nothing stronger than a Disprin, thanks" is now writhing from the effects of rather strong antibiotics on the fauna of the guts. Doctor did say the effects will pass before the course of treatment ends.

Last night we watched the film version of Perfume

Very tasty film. Reminded me of the old style Hammer Horror flicks, especially the ones in the seventies when they were allowed nudity but still cut away at the slice of a sickle before it opened a throat from ear to ear.

Whoa, insides writhing again.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Wot, no posts since sunday?

I've been to the doctor for my painful heel condition. He does not think it is the nasty walker's condition - plantar fasciitis.

I have just got the new firefox

I have been using it first of all in the beta stage and release candidate stage. At some point in the beta phase I realised that stability was not an issue and uninstalled firefox 2 (goodbye my friend) and let the new improved, memory leak plugged (plus other enhancements) application be the browser which which I trust not to fall over while loading yet another stupid flash heavy page. (note to website designers - just because a technology exists does not mean you have to use it.) Even with what we laughingly call broadband in Dunedin (xtra - I can't speak for other providers) it is still a pain in the arse.

Firefox 3 it is. Of course the add-ons are the best bit of Firefox. If you like confusion they are also called extensions. I must list (no, no, not another list - Ed) my choices. For example I use the ScribeFire extension to post to this blog. It is also set up to post to wordpress where I have an only-once-published-to account.


TBC, meaning: to be continued, is a TLA
A TLA is a three letter abbreviation

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Sunny Sunday

As I wrote the title of this post I had a horrid flash of a poem I once tried to write about or for or to the memory of a friend of mine who had died. I don't think I got past the first line which was this:

On a raining monday day

Try as I might I was unable to move beyond this point. First lines are important. Yes? Yes. I have learned these things now. I have some stored away on another hard drive. We aren't networked in this house or any other house for that matter. I transferred 4.7 GBs worth of data on to this cute little notebook a while back. I forgot about it and was about to reorganise my videos on the original PC and got that "where in yarbolg's name have I hidden them now?" moment. I hoiked out the rewritable DVD and discovered there was only one video on the disk. Where were all the others?

I eventually found them on the notebook which means that there was more than one transfer but I have no memory of doing it. I decided to transfer them back to the PC. Still with me?

After setting up an image file I tried to burn it to the rewritable DVD but the software was having none of it. The program should have dealt with blanking the disk automatically but would not comply. Puzzle.

After a think I decided I would use a rewritable cd I had lying about and do the transferring in smaller chunks - they are small videos none of them more than 500 MBs. Then I remembered that the rewritable cd had died and I hadn't replaced it yet.

Eventually I realised that if my memory was so deficient I might have overlooked another matter. Very simple matter indeed. The question I asked myself was this: have you ever burned a DVD on the notebook? The answer I got was this: well yes, I think so.

I decided to check the spec of the cd/dvd drive in this machine. I found out that I could never have burned a DVD in this drive because it does not write to DVDs.

Happy, happy, sunny sunday.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Heels on fire

I decided after reading the current literature on painful heels that I had better see the doc post haste. I set off on my bicycle after lunch and fell off at the start of the cycleway from Ravensbourne to town. I gave myself about a minute for all the serious aches and pains to begin after the anaesthetising effect of shock before continuing on my way. None of them warranted much attention.

There's your irony again says I. Here you are on the way to the surgery and here you are compounding your injuries. When I got to the doctor's I couldn't get an appointment until Monday. I also discovered I hadn't brought the bike's security lock so I didn't want to hang around town although I would have liked to get a cup of coffee and a chocolate muffin to help recovery.

Now I'm home I find strained areas of my body and the cuts and bruises on my left hand make me look like a southpaw bareknuckle fighter.

Other than that it has been a lovely day. Very photographable if one had taken a camera out.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Heal my heel

Luckily I do not write with my heel, however I do like to walk with my feet. I try to walk everywhere and if that fails well I try to cycle everywhere. Now I believe I have inflamed my plantar fascia. Brilliant, eh? We walk to keep fit and end up with a flaming (inflamed) plantar condition caused by walking. Who says irony isn't part of this existence?

Part of the treatment is to rest. Nae wurries. I have no problem with that. There is no pain in bed. There are things I can do. Do all the stuff I should have done earlier in life or later or now: Read Coleridge's Biographia Literaria; Read Wittgenstein's Tractactus Logico-Philosophicus; Knit a jersey (cow or caramel); Write my acceptance speech for the Katherine Mansfield pot of money.

Bad time of year to see the doctor. I was in his surgery this time last year with very generously sick people who were happy to share their rhino virus with me.

Remember the wee rhyme from an earlier post?

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

The Last of the Potatoes

About an hour ago we dug up the last of the potatoes. There weren't enough to send the major root crop producers into a price war but we felt good that at least another month will go by without handing out cash for staples.

I'm pretty sure we can't grow rice on our section without major earthworks. I know if you see paddy fields in the moving picture shows - the seven samurai pops into my head as I write this - there is a deal of water involved, your rice plant being a tad more water dependent than other plants I could name like the umm ... like the ... water lily! I knew I'd think of one.

The deadline for the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards 2008 is looming - 30th June - and I stand ready to enter. Last year I had nothing to submit. Oh but this year, this year, I have a lump of writing. Last year something odd happened in the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Awards. Since I arrived here and came to know of the award all the major prize winners have been women and girls (there being a Young Writer's Award category). Last year three males won each category - premier, novice, young. That's good isn't it? Once there was a scarcity of women writers, disadvantaged by their sex apparently. Take the creative writing class I belonged to last year. Hands up who can tell me what the majority composition of the class was? 'sright, you at the front, women. You said it.

This year there were no men in the class. I know, I asked teacher.
It can't just be because the digital world has revolutionised us in the way it said it would - can it? I remember the basic promise made almost eleven maybe twelve years ago now. The digital revolution with the abilty to manipulate data will make us all artists, writers, composers, educators. If not educators at least teacher promised to be just another voice in the mix. I reckon the promise - exciting as it seemed to be back then when hardly anyone knew a bit from a byte - was based on wooly thinking. The democratising effect of society where every nitwit's opinion was to be given weight could be realised in the digital world - the world where nobody would even be expected to have work criticised or backed up with argument.

Oh dear my own argument has drifted a bit. Think, Hugh, think. Was it something to do with George Eliot, Acton, Currer and Ellis bell? Fine blokes all. That was it.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Election looming

There was recently a wailing and gnashing of teeth when it was discovered that a lot of New Zealanders were unaware that a general election would be taking place sometime this year.
I turned to my dear P, who shares my life with me, and announced that I was one of those ignorant creatures.

What, she asked me, what did I think all those opinion polls were showing Labour trailing way, way behind National?

I was flummoxed. Had they not been announcing polls every week since we arrived all those years ago in New Zealand? Yes they had. But apparently this year that sort of information is critical as we have the opportunity to change our government democratically - a task we will carry out and change the government not because of policy or anything crass like a poll with an error something or other of plus or minus something or other (this is to make polls sound scientific.) When National becomes this year's Government (or gets the most votes to attract smaller party's support) it will be because it is their turn. Pure and simple. Now there's science for you. It is somebody else's turn.

There probably will be people who think critically and will vote for the party with the best policies. These critical thinkers will be outvoted and the National Party will win this year's election. It is Buggin's turn, as the great Bernard Levin once wrote in The Times, before the landslide victory of New Labour and the long prime ministership of Tony Blair only lately ended. People had had enough of the Conservative Party and it was quite simply someone else's turn. The same will happen up there. UK voters will most likely vote overwhelmingly for the Conservatives.

P wants to escape a National Government but I would rather stay here than live under a Conservative Government in the UK. I have no great love for New Labour or Old Labour for that matter.

I am socialist by inclination, conservative by nature and an anarchist by education. Where I grew up, Northern Ireland, none of the major parties campaigned or organised. For a long time the Tory party was the Conservative and Unionist party of great Britain. Socialist parties were viewed with suspicion and I think when I came of age I was able to cast one vote for the Northern Ireland Labour Party before our Troubles began and then all voting became most assuredly sectarian. Me? After a period I abstained.

I have voted twice here. A sure sign of ageing.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

What snow?

Yesterday's visit to The Oatago Farmers' Market in Dundedin was a test of endurance. I had to eat a triple fudge brownie from one of the stalls before I was right. There were few people which is good. It was cloudy, this is also good. When it is cloudy you can walk from one end of the market to the other without being blinded by the winter sun. It was perishing cold. Great storms were forecast by Metservice and we were anxious to be home. Snow was forecast as well - I was quite looking forward with pleasure to a dumping of snow.

We had arranged to look at a new flat in the afternoon and were fearful of driving in the high winds and predicted dumping of snow. I fall for it every time. I think, or I am being slowly persuaded, that there is an alternative Dunedin and Otago peninsula in Metservice New Zealand's Weather Charts. The quickest and most reliable way to find out what to wear is stand outside for a minute or so. But no I still listen mesmerised by the Metservice's short work of fiction and often arrive at a destination fainting from heat exhaustion when dressed for forty below or whatever nonsensical figure that pops into their heads during the forecasts. Now how you going to tell me that climate change, global warming effects et al can be so reliably predicted when the forecast can barely get close to the next twenty four hours? Governments treat all such predictions as genuine science - egged on by a completely science illiterate population trained over the last twenty-five years or so by ecology students and greens. Once these people pooh-poohed science and now they are quick to rope in the nearest 'scientist' to firm up their claims.

The sole form of heating in our house provided by the owner is a heat pump. Now whatever background a heat pump has as a technological marvel - as in 'the manufacturer speaks very highly of it' it is not at providing comfortable warmth at an affordable price. Neither P and I can stand the dry warm air wafting at us. We had a Swiss girl board with us for a week. By the end of the week she had found herself other accommodation with a heat source that produced heat - to wit, a woodburning stove. We are about to follow suit.

I come from a very cold place (Northern Ireland) - I also was taught that I lived in a temperate climate (see post below) - and as a result suffer from cold related symptoms that have cropped up as the years went by. That was my warning to young people below - you will suffer later in life, just as life gets interesting in middle age you have to work harder to enjoy it through the gritted teeth of arthritic pains and the gasping of a severely compromised cardio-pulmonary system.

No more to be said. Trust your common sense. Cold weather equals warm clothing. Tee shirts, shorts and jandals equal idiocy and death.

And before the Greens and environment watchers destroy us completely with unmitigated propaganda - please, pretty please could you, would you, learn to think like a scientist?

I'll post some helpful hints tomorrow.

My winter hands are frozen.

No snow to play in. Bah, humbug!

Friday, 6 June 2008

Spoonbills come back

I am convinced by the evidence that the spoonbills have gone. When the tide has gone out and exposed the crescent of sand those whiter than white (the adverts worked Messrs Persil, Tide, Fab et al.) birds are absent. If there was such a thing as a soul washed clean from sin then the plumage of those birds would surely be the example in this world. Pity about the beaks, but then an indifferent agency with no reference to sin, salvation or redemption grew that subtle design.

I miss them. One evening in summer we counted fourteen in our tiny inlet. We counted them gliding in, feeding and flying away. I'm told they don't go far away from where we are in winter but it is too far for us.

Come back Spoonbills.

Watched Pierrepoint yesterday evening. No review. Just enjoy Timothy Spall and Juliet Stevenson.

Big gales a coming, bah. It has been a stunning 14.9 Celsius here this morning. Almost put my shorts on.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Shopping day

Thursday is shopping day. We go shopping on Thursday.
Today we went to town by bus.
It is cold.
I am cold.
He is cold.
She is cold.
All are cold.
Where are the quick?

I still see the baffled and oblivious wearing their shorts and jandals. Something seriously wrong with the educational system here in Dunedin, perhaps all of New Zealand. It is just not turning out thinkers. People who are able to listen to the weather forecast, read a thermometer or even pick up clues from the dress sense of others.

Dear children,
You do not live in a temperate climate. Whatever Miss Merboyles or Mr Chips told you, you do not live in a temperate climate. Outside of your family home, outside of the family car is a bizarre world of temperature fluctuations. If it is cold - that's when you shiver, blow your nail and have a drip from your nose - put on some warm clothes! OK? You'll thank me for it. You will.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Spiderman 3

Ah now, there's nothing like a super hero film in the middle of the week in the comfort of one's own home.

I have no intention of reviewing it.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

The Western

Westerns* on TV when this chap was younger so much younger than today. The following are in no particular order. If I remember a snatch of the theme tune it is to the right of the dash

The Tenderfoot - Easy lopin', cattle ropin' sugarfoot
Cheyenne - Cheyenne, Cheyenne, lonely man, Cheyenne
Bronco - Bronco, Bronco Layne
Wagon Train
Rawhide - long song, very famous (not a lyric)
The Virginian
Davy Crockett - Daveee, Daveee Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier
Have Gun Will Travel
Lone Ranger - William Tell overture with, presumably, the Lone Ranger yelling 'Hi yo Silver away'

I did a search for Television Westerns and I am happy to report that there were many shows I did not see. Gunsmoke, for example, is one of the famous shows I have never seen. Not so misspent a youth as I suspected.

Transmission times are crucial. Afternoons after school I escaped from homework and TV to the golf links and sandhills. I never developed the couch potato habit.

My late auntie and I had disagreed over the Virginian. She was furious when it came on. "How do they get away with it?" she would say. "Same thing every week."

I pointed out that the same criticism could be applied to Coronation Street (twice a week in the previous century), but she would have none of it. If I wanted one of her Benson and Hedges I'd need to watch what I was saying.

Last night P and I watched The Claim (2000). When it got to the bit where Mr Dillon has a flashback and remembers selling his wife and child while drunk, I struck the arm of my chair and said, "The Mayor of Casterbridge."

It is comforting to know that one can still impress one's nearest and dearest after all these years. Picture my humble acceptance of her congratulations as the final credits rolled and there appeared an acknowledgement that the film was based on the novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy.

*the ones that made it to Ulster Television (UTV) and the BBC

Monday, 2 June 2008

Old telly adverts du temps perdu

for mash get smash

everyone's a fruit and nut case

wagon wheels are the treat for me
they're the biggest biscuit you ever did see.

kimberley, mikado and coconut creams
someone you love
will love some one

a mars a day helps you work rest and play

drinka pinta milka day

go to work on an egg

now hands that do dishes can feel soft as your face
with mild green fairy liquid

when your family come home at the end of the day
have a warm welcome waiting
a warm welcome waiting
for the look in their eye
tells you that they rely
on that warm welcome waiting
that warm welcome waiting

Tomorrow I might list some TV themes - more music see? All the ads above with the exception of 'go to work on an egg' and 'drinka pinta milka day' are sung - which makes them jingles and the odd egg and milk out slogans.
They are also earworms.

Note to self for tomorrow's post: sugar foot, sugar foot, easy lopin' ...

Sunday, 1 June 2008

June mug

This one of the adverts on UTV (Ulster Television) during the 1960s

Old Harry says it's great stuff for an Ulsterman's thirst - an advert speaking of Thwaite's Star Keg

By the time I was old enough to buy a drink Thwaites Star keg had gone. I was fascinated by the glass old Harry was using to drink his beer from. Known as a pint tankard it had a handle and dimples. On my first visit to a Public Bar the glasses had no handles or dimples. Beer pun alert: a bitter disappointment.

Now I no longer care about pint tankards, I drink coffee from my Warner Bros. (made in Thailand) mug bought from a shop in Dublin. It features Daffy Duck, Wile E. Coyote Foghorn Leghorn, Sylvester, Bugs Bunny, Pepé le Pew, Yosemite Sam and Tweety.

This is my favourite mug. When I go it goes with me.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Otago Farmer's Market

Foggy start in Dunedin today. So foggy we left the bikes at home and took the bus into town. Fruit and vegetables are the heaviest parts of our weekly shopping so I am happy to get the bus in and the bus back. I keep an eye out at the market for familiar faces. The instinctive need of the immigrant to be recognised and feel at home. I saw Diane as she was leaving. Usually we have a brief conversation but not today. Then, as I was attending our shopping trolley near the Pacific Rose apple stall, Jackie said 'hello'.

After market we went to Potpourri Café and had coffee and treats. My dormant nostrils erupted when they met the warmth of the café and I thanked the god of paper tissues that made me line my pockets with them before we left home.

A short stop at the Supermarket saw us on our way to the pharmacy for Disprin for me and muscle relaxants for P who has had a shocking three weeks worth of pain. Outside we discovered her keys were missing. She went on to Albany Street and I went back to the market to look for them. They weren't in the Lost Property at the market caravan. Nor were they at any of the stalls. Each of the stallholders advised me to visit the Market caravan. I could see what a circular thing this was becoming so I checked the Railway Station with no luck there either. I also went to the cop shop and the policewoman gave me a great bucket of keys to look through. I had an inward eye flash of a child being quieted by rummaging in the toy bin they have in horrible places like WINZ to project a warm caring image. I didn't find the keys there either.

I started for home - in a bit of a panic as my keys (whoops!) were still in my pocket and jeekersflipmeohmygosh how was P supposed to get in out of the cold. I'd already advised her to get the bus back home and let me worry about her missing keys. I hooked it down to Butts and stuck my thumb out and got a lift straight away. My accent still poses a little difficulty for Kiwis at times but once the driver worked out where I was going he lightened up and gave me his ancestry - Maori-Irish-Scottish. A good blend we both thought.

When I wheezed up our steep drive I found the door already open. Polly had already located her keys in the trolley in a place that would seem improbable to the rational mind. I really find the location impossible to describe without a diagram so I'm not going to do it.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Post hoc, ergo ...

Yesterday I noted I went out with wet hair and forecast dire consequences: cough, runny nose und so weider. Today I have a stuffy nose and slow release moist product. (Enough, enough we get the picture - Ed)

Anyway I wanted to say ' I told you so.' But my hand is stayed. Wet hair then sinusoidal problems the day after? Nah. This I believe is a logical fallacy.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. After this therefore because of this.

It takes ages for a good cold to develop. I lost heat through my head, that much is not in dispute. Or is it? I wonder.

Not to worry, a trip to the Pixie Dust shop will I am sure yield some useful remedies for a cold - garlic capsules; extra vitamins and an empty wallet. The last part wouldn't be hard at the minute.

Far better to buy a supply of Mars Bars; Smarties; Cadbury's Dairy Milk blocks (often on offer from The Warehouse, The Warehouse, where everyone gets a bargain), retire to the scratcher and emerge some days later completely free of cold or flu symptoms and in full possession of a horrid sugar hangover.

Best wishes

Wet hair day

Shopping day today. I went out with my hair wet so I'll probably get something horrible and noserunny and coughing-ly yeugh.

When TV first started in Northern Ireland it was infested with helpful Public Information films - I reckon it was because they didn't have enough adverts in the early days.

This is one set in a train and has the rhythm of train wheels when spoken:

Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases
Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

Trap your germs in your handkerchief
Trap your germs in your handkerchief
Trap your germs in your handkerchief

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Waiting for the plumber

Where are you G——? I sincerely hope you're not at home reading blog posts. By the time you read this one we will be dead. We will have died from hypothermia and the cats, as you will see when you get here, if you get here, will have nibbled and gnawed our bodies - a sight I hope will make you retch, you wretch.

Please come soon and connect our flue so we can light the fire. Please.

Yours faithfully,

Frozen of Dunedin

Monday, 26 May 2008

Early readings

In our house, 60s, we (me, Nelly and Minnie) read
  • The Newsletter
  • The Weekly News (aka Thomson's Weekly)
  • The Daily Express
  • Tit-Bits
  • Reveille
  • People's Friend
  • Woman's Own ( I only read the weekly adventures of Just William. No, honestly.)
  • Sunday People
  • News of the World
  • Sunday Post
  • The Dandy
  • The Beano
  • The Beezer
  • The Topper
  • The Hotspur
Last night I watched, alone, Polly not being well at present, The Iceman Cometh. Sounds good and literary eh? Oooo he's been watching Eugene O'Neill. Er ... no. This little gem comes from Hong Kong and its original release title is Ji dong ji xia (1989)

I realised after five minutes that I had already seen it - I didn't recognise the cover. Our Video Ezy store has reorganised its categories and Martial Arts has disappeared. You can still find Bruce and Jackie and Jet and Donnie in the store. But they might be in the Thriller or the Action or Foreign and Festival (a bizarre shelving of some of the finest films I have ever seen) sections. The Iceman stars Yuen Biao and Maggie Cheung. The martial arts are achieved with wire work which is disappointing. I didn't remember the plot - hi, no sniggering, there is a plot, there is a story - and the DVD froze in the final scenes so I forget how it ended. Never mind. I will lose no sleep.

Daily basis

I'm really trying for a daily basis.
Things I got in the post today:
two Live CDs from Canonical
1 x Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Desktop Edition
1 x Kubuntu 8.04

I fired up the Ubuntu Live CD when I got back from town. I see there is now an option to install and run from within a Microsoft Windows environment. Well that took me back a bit, for the very first Linux disk I ever got was called WinLinux 2000 and it ran from inside your Windows Partition. Later on when I became more familiar with Linux distributions and installed them on their own partitions I found out that the WinLinux 2000 method of running from within Windows was called UMSDOS

Oh, I likes a bit of nostalgia.

Currently on its own partition I have PCLinuxOS MiniMe 2008: a cut down version of the 2007 release. It has been a challenge installing all the bits and pieces to get it working just the way I like it. I know when Texstar and the Ripper Gang release the next big live cd of PCLinuxOS I'll be there with my ext formatted partition at the ready.

Must away and watch a DVD. No, I don't know which one yet. I'll tell you tomorrow.

Sunday, 25 May 2008


I am back after a long break. I am back because a fellow writer in Dunedin said she had begun blogging. I thought blogging would be easy. I'm always on my IBM compatible. It's not as if I have to go to somebody's house and beg a computing time slot.

My fellow writer's name is Vanda Symon, an extraordinarily busy person.

Yesterday after Farmers' Market, Polly and I went to the closing hour of the annual Dunedin 24 hour book sale. We bought some books. There was music from a group of people. If they were introduced I missed their name. My foot tapped.

This is an interesting link for New Zealand bloggers: