Friday, April 29, 2011

It's true

I'm more than a little excited. Especially because my friend Hayley who is living in London at the moment sent me some Royal Wedding commemorative bunting which arrived on Tuesday and was hung up straight away. And tonight we're having a wee Royal Wedding party at which we'll eat cucumber sandwiches, pikelets with jam and cream, drink champagne and watch the live coverage. Will she have her hair up or down? Will her dress be awesome? It's good to have something nice in the news for a change, I don't care what any of the curmudgeons say.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New boots

I love them so much. When I wear them I feel like I'm living in Little House on the Prairie - even though they're entirely impractical for prairie life. Maybe if the Ingalls family came into a fortune the Mum would wear boots like these to town or to the 'sugaring off' dance in the big woods. I can just imagine them peeking out from under a big full skirt and dancing all over the floorboards of a log cabin.

Monday, April 25, 2011


This morning I went to the ANZAC day dawn service in Masterton. I hadn't thought about it or planned to during the week, but yesterday someone mentioned it so when I went to bed last night I set my alarm for 5.15am and decided if the weather wasn't awful I would go along. When my alarm went off it was quiet and still outside so I threw some clothes on and drove to the centoaph at Queen Elizabeth Park. It started lightly raining as the first hymn was sung but luckily the real rain held off until later in the morning when it really set in and poured down for the rest of the day.

I have only been to two ANZAC day dawn services before, the first one was in Martinborough when I was about 12. I remember that one really affecting me - the sun coming up as the last post was played, a small group of people gathered. It inspired me to write a short story about a woman whose husband died at war - I don't know that I'd like to read it now, it's probably very sentimental.  But I remember being very pleased with it and my teacher liking it at the time.

The second one was in my last year of Wairarapa College. All of the prefects are required to go and as Head Girl I had to lay a wreath on behalf of the school with the Head Boy, then then we all went back to the Principal's house for breakfast. All I remember of that service is hearing one of the private school girls singing very loudly and thinking she was just showing off...

I have to say, I was pretty uninspired by this morning's service. I think my view of the proceedings was coloured early on by a mention of the Rugby World Cup. Surely there are better illustrations of why it's important to remember our history than the Rugby World Cup (I really wish the Edinburgh Fringe was on at the same time as the RWC so I could be out of the country, I think it's just going to make me grumpy for two months or however ridiculously long it's going to be).

Anyway, I'm not saying I think ANZAC day should be some rousing glorification of war because I am in no way a fan of guns, bombs, or senseless loss of life. But I do think we should remember all those young men who got promised an adventure and never came home again as well as all those involved in other ways - nurses, typists, machinists, those bringing up children alone, knitting socks, fundraising. And what I saw this morning just didn't seem to honour that. It was all very routine and dry. The only songs sung were hymns that hardly anyone knew and the National Anthem. Some of the popular songs of the WWI and WWII eras capture the emotion of the times much more accurately and I feel like even one in amongst the hymns would have been far more effective. The brass band were all there but they weren't used except for one lone trumpet player playing The Last Post. There is some beautiful and horrific war poetry that, had any been read, would have spoken more to me than the one unfeeling speech that included Rugby World Cup references.

Clearly this is only my opinion and it won't be shared by everyone - if I had the service done my way it might mean more to me, but it would equally not be someone else's cup of tea. And surely these services were originally put together by people who served in or lived through war and the pattern has been maintained over the years. But while we hear a lot about how attendance numbers at ANZAC day services have increased in recent years, I think the numbers could just as quickly decrease unless the services are made more accessible to those who haven't had any experience of war and its realities. I think it's important to remember and honour those who died, but I also think it's important to remind people of or try to give them a feel for the damaging reality of war.

It's definitely a hard balance and there are perhaps services in other parts of the country that achieve it, but the one I went to seemed more about formalities and going through the motions than any actual emotions.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hamilton Gardens

In the last of the 'Hamilton is great' saga, I present: the Hamilton Gardens.



The Hamilton Gardens are the coolest gardens I've ever been to. We were only able to stay for about an hour as we had to get on the road back to Wellington, but we had an excellent guide in Alex's Mum and managed to see lots. It had been raining but luckily it stopped by the time we got there and we managed to ignore the distant drone of the V8 Supercars in the city. My favourites were the Italian Renaissance Garden (complete with a Romeo and Juliet balcony which we had to put to good use) and the Indian Char Bagh Garden which are both part of the Paradise Garden Collection.

Next time I'm in Hamilton I will definitely go back because there's still so much we didn't get to see and there were some gardens under construction such as the Tudor Garden and the Surrealist Garden which sound very cool.

Just before we left we looked at a huge carving which had some characters strangely similar to ones in our show...a drunken Rowland the Owl and a menacing Toot perhaps?

Also, I am so proud of my design efforts! I have felt like my blog has needed a shake-up for a while but I wasn't sure I could get the size of the banner at the top right. With yesterday being a holiday I mucked around for a bit trying things out and I am very happy with the end result. It's amazing what I can do on Microsoft Paint...I'm pretty much a design genius. And I discovered my best karaoke song last night at approximately 1am when we had The Fringe Bar all to ourselves. This long weekend is working wonders for me.

Friday, April 22, 2011


While in Hamilton last weekend we visited Zealong, New Zealand's only tea plantation. When I happened to read about it somewhere a few weeks ago, I decided we had to go. And it wasn't too hard to convince people to accompany me.

It's oolong tea and there are three varieties: pure, aromatic, and dark. You can brew the same tea leaves up to seven or eight times and they're still good. I tried all three types and they were all nice, but I think I preferred the aromatic and the pure. Both had a weirdly milky taste and when we commented on it it was explained that it's from the oil from the leaves of the plants.

The story goes that the founder of Zealong noticed how well a camellia bush grew in his garden in Hamilton and thought how similar it was to an oolong tea plant. So he and his son imported 1500 oolong tea seedlings, of which only 130 survived after quarantine. From those 130 they have grown thousands of plants which spread over 50 hectares.

It wasn't the greatest weather when we went out on our little trip, but we still got to have a wander around, see the conference room they're building, and admire the lake and very orderly rows of plants. There's a deck for sunny days with a lovely view. It was all very quiet and nice with helpful staff.

And of course no weekend, or tea, would be complete without some sweet things.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Toot if you love Hamilton!

We did.

Our version of 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' - 'Girl with a Dead Face'

The fort of awesomeness - from the back

We loved it so much it's coming in three installments. Next up, Zealong - New Zealand's only tea plantation.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is that a V8 Supercar or a black comedy inspired by Enid Blyton and her daughters?

We're doing our show in Hamilton this weekend. 7.30pm Friday and Saturday at The New Place theatre at the University of Waikato.

We're taking a workshop on devising with students in exchange for venue hire. It's going to be vaguely amusing pretending that we know what we're talking about. If it turns disastrous our plan B is to make Ricky (who plays the third character who appears in the final scene) teach everyone stage combat.

We didn't realise until the other day that it's also V8 Supercar race weekend in Hamilton, so that will be interesting...

Monday, April 11, 2011

Stately weekend

On Saturday and Sunday Government House held open days so that the public could see where exactly their tax dollars have gone in the $40 million strengthening and refurbishment project over the last three years. I used to be able to see Government House from my old apartment and the whole time I lived there it was surrounded by scaffolding so I was very interested to see the finished product. My step-mum and little brother joined me for the outing; Hunter was not thrilled to be there but he didn't complain too much, especially considering this is what we saw when we got there:

We had to queue for almost an hour to get into the house. The newspaper said today that over 8000 visitors attended over the course of the weekend. Luckily it was beautiful weather while we stood waiting, and we had the sounds of an awesome brass/marching band to entertain us. I didn't know they could play such funky tunes!

The house itself is huge, I was surprised at how much of it was open to the public to wander around in. It was hard to take any decent photos as there were so many people, but I tried.

Even the radiators were elegant. 

There was some great art - this is a painting by Sir Peter Siddell. I've never heard of him but excellent work there Sir Peter. 

There was a lot of wood. 

This is one of the guest suites. Perhaps even the very one that Prince William stayed in recently (weirdly, there were signed framed photos of various members of the royal family on top of a piano in the house, I think it must be the ones who've visited/stayed there over the years).

$40 million is a lot of money. Especially considering some of the before and after photos of the rooms look much of a muchness. But the house is beautiful in a very grand sense and I think a lot of money was spent on earthquake strengthening, heating, plumbing and all those practical things that no doubt need updating once they've been around for 100 years. I'm glad I went for a nosy, there is a lot of history there and those working on the Conservation Project have endeavoured to preserve and enhance the house, its contents, and the landscape as much as possible. I think they've done an excellent job.

And increasingly, it seems like it wouldn't be a weekend without an afternoon tea. But I'm not complaining.

I think I'd much prefer this to the state dining room any day.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


The heel flap on my second sock of the first ever pair is one inch away.

I am determined to get the pair finished in time to wear this winter. And my new frugal winter lifestyle is going to be very conducive to knitting which I'm looking forward to. I need to save all my pennies so the pounds (and Euros) can looks after themselves come August...

I'm hoping to get through lots more books while in my savings induced hibernation. Last week I read a disturbing but extremely well written book - Room by Emma Donoghue. She captures the voice of a five year old unbelievably well. All the little quirks of language, it so reminded me of my little brother five years ago, 'But why you need that?'.

I won't give too much away but Room gets pretty gripping at points. I can't handle not knowing certain things so I am guilty of skipping ahead in books to find out and then going back and continuing to read. I did that a couple of times with Room and then about two thirds of the way through I actually sat up until 2am speed reading to the end because I really wanted to know what happened without skipping to the last page. Since then I've gone back and continued to read from where I got speedy on it, otherwise I'd feel like I'd missed out on really reading the book.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Condition: Deteriorating

On Saturday I drove to the Wairarapa (as opposed to taking the train) for the first time in ages and because I wasn't in any hurry, I was able to stop and do something I've wanted to do for years...

Hop the fence and have a look around the old Greytown Hospital. It's been closed for as long as I can remember, my sister was born there in 1990 and this entry on the Wairarapa in Te Ara: The Encylopaedia of New Zealand says it closed in the 1990s, but I can't find exactly which year. There are some photos of it in its glory days, including one of a nurse standing outside it in the snow. Snow! In Greytown! For now it's just sitting abandoned.

It seems such a waste.