Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Engine Room

I'm not entirely sure who took this photo, but it definitely wasn't me because I am in this photo.

On Tuesday night I saw The Engine Room at BATS Theatre. It was amazing.

Granted, I could be considered biased because I happen to know and love the majority of the people involved in the production - enough so to wear a giant Robert Muldoon head and walk about while flyers for the show are handed out. But I see lots of shows by people I know or with people I know in them and I feel like I'm pretty honest. I definitely wouldn't rave about one unless I actually felt compelled to.

So I can honestly say I think The Engine Room is one of the best shows I have seen in Wellington all year. It is very clever, it is very funny, and the performances are energetic, hilarious, moving, and highly satisfying. I learned some things, it made me think about some things, and it reminded me why I love theatre. It's also very relevant at the moment because of the Rugby World Cup and the imminent election.

And both the reviews so far agree.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sewing the day away

On Sunday I welcomed daylight savings by staying in bed until 10am reading the winter issue of Extracurricular. Then, after enjoying homemade pancakes with bacon, banana, and maple syrup thanks to my awesome Mum, I stayed in my pyjamas sewing until 3pm. I listened (and attempted to sing along) to Celine Dion circa 1996 and Dusty Springfield. It was an extremely good time.

I took my sweet time making this very basic pillow, mainly because I could. It's for my 4 year old cousin, Maggie, hence the material. Two Christmasses ago I made her older brother a Thomas the Tank Engine pillow and while he has since shifted his attention from Thomas to toy soldier figurines and the All Blacks, the pillow still sits on his bed with his soft toys. Apparently Maggie sometimes borrows the pillow for her soft toys, so her Mum asked if I could make her a pillow of her own.

Like the Thomas the Tank Engine pillow, this one has a separate cover which can be taken off and washed as my aunty is a washing fanatic. If I make another pillow like this (which I most probably will considering the latest addition to the family, baby Isla, will surely need her own pillow in a couple of years' time to complete the set) I'll make the top (patterned) layer's edge longer as it's just zig zagged and ironed over 1/2 an inch which isn't quite flash-looking enough.

While I really like my sewing machine (which due to lack of space has been sitting in its box since I moved house in February), I still love my Mum's sewing machine the most. I think because it's what I learned to sew on and because it's metal, so I somehow feel like I can't break it - even though I'm not in the habit of throwing sewing machines around the room or any other activity that could actually break one.

Mum's sewing kit is starting to get a bit worse for wear but whenever I see it it's like being taken back in time to our house in Martinborough. I tidied it up a bit before I put it back in the cupboard this time around (because I'm such a dutiful daughter/it's messiness irritated me) and there were old blouse patterns from when Mum used to sew a lot, some wide gauzy star ribbon from the troll doll house I made and decorated when I was about ten, 'M. Jacobson' name tags from when my sister lived at the Wairarapa College hostel and all her clothes had to be named, the old sellotape tin Mum has always used as a pin unitentional time capsule.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Up in the clouds

The view from my window seat on the 5.35pm flight from Wellington to Christchurch last night was pretty impressive.

The horizon above the clouds reminded me of a photo in a series taken at Lake Eyre, 'a flat, arid salt sink in Australia' that feature in this month's National Geographic. I'm not in the habit of buying National Geographic, I got one to take to my grandfather for my recent visit to him in hospital, and I've never appreciated just how amazing some of the photos in it are. My Dad used to have a subscription and I didn't bother looking at each month's issue because I thought it was all animals. Oh foolish youth.

I'm hanging out in Hurunui this weekend with Mum. I had the most amazing giant whitebait fritter for lunch.


Tonight I think I'll get my knit on. I've finally started a scarf for my sister that I bought the yarn for ages ago. I'm knitting it in moss stitch which I have decided is actually my favourite ever. It's got such a cool texture. Whether this scarf ends up making it to my sister or not, I cannot guarantee...

(It's having a rest here against a cushion at the house I babysit at on Tuesday nights. They have so many cool things but this cushion is one of my favourites. The label on the side says, 'Seam'.)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lives real and imagined

A few Sundays ago heralded the return of classic movie Sunday, sans Ed, which we lamented (when we weren't devouring delicious roast dinner).

We watched Thelma & Louise. I had seen it before when I was about 15 but quickly realised that I had forgotten almost everything about it, except how it ends (and even then I remembered that a bit wrong).

It's unquestionably a great movie for the simple fact that it has two redheaded women as the main characters (played by two great redheaded actresses). It also keeps you guessing as to what will happen next and has some amazing scenery. However, I don't quite see why it has become a symbol of female empowerment. I can see why women love it - I'm sure the friendship between Thelma and Louise is one many women can relate to and their characters are both very likeable. But ultimately, left to their own devices, Thelma and Louise make some pretty bad decisions. Sure they are better off without their respective boyfriends, but are they really better off come the credits?

Last Sunday I went to see the documentary Senna at The Embassy. I had never heard of Ayrton Senna before and have no interest in motorsport, but I had read rave reviews for the documentary and was invited by some friends from my old work.

It was so good. Maybe because I have no interest in Formula One racing it was like an insight into another world and Ayrton Senna was such an interesting character. While racing is a huge part of the movie, the movie is really about a person - an intelligent, charming, single-minded, ambitious man with a very strong belief in God. He was also a babe, which helped.

The next day I told pretty much everyone at work that they should see Senna. Realistically, I don't think it would be everyone's cup of tea and I do like documentaries a lot so that probably helped. But the politics, the chain of events, his massive celebrity status in his poverty stricken home country of Brazil (even though he came from a wealthy family) all make it a compelling film. I commented afterwards that I would have liked to have seen interviews with his sister and his mother, instead of just hearing their voices over home video footage or racing footage, but then I read an article that said the director didn't want any 'talking heads' like so many documentaries have and I agree that that choice meant that, somehow, it felt more like a movie than a documentary.

Anyway, I loved it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Another example of small things that are awesome

The other day I hung out with my four year old cousin.

We made an awesome crown, had a tea party, and went to the park where her brother joined us in feeding the ducks. It was slightly crushing, though, when after making the crown we took turns 'presenting' each other to everyone and she said, 'Presenting....Megan!' (which is my sister's name). This has gone on since the day her older brother could talk - no matter how many times I tell them otherwise or point out the difference, they always think I'm Megan.

They're just lucky they're so cute, otherwise I probably would have given up on them by now.

The baby wasn't having a very photogenic day, which is sad because she was wearing a really cute knitted white hat with a purple flower. She is very well stocked with knitted items - including the booties and cardigans from our Nana - which makes me feel less bad about my attempted booties being such a fail. I can't even give her the amazing baby shrug of 2010, because her mother hates mint green. I have, however, given her the baby pinnafore I made at my sewing classes last year. I can't wait to get a photo of a real live baby wearing something I made!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Town and around

Last week I went to a conference (for work) held at the old Museum Building. I'd been to a work-related awards thing there one evening a few years ago, so I knew it was a pretty cool building, but this time I was able to look around in the lunch break.

The building is now home to some of Massey University's fashion and design students, so I got to see some great fabric prints displayed in the stairwell foyers. I love the Art Deco details in the building, it seems like the perfect place for creative wee students.

On Saturday night I went to Love Story at the Penthouse in Brooklyn. It was very strange but also very funny and lovely. It was great to see a different (and probably a lot more realistic) side of New York city. The filmmaker sees a woman on a train and asks her on a date, then he has real New Yorkers suggest ways for the 'story' to progress. By the end you're not sure what's real and what's not. It's quite clever. The filmmaker is a New Zealander and he Skypes his Dad back home in the Bay of Islands for advice. His Dad is hilarious. Those were my favourite parts of the movie.

On Sunday I went to Maranui again seeing as I have a newfound love for it. My friend Lauren and I had brunch there (it was definitely worth the queue that stretched almost the length of the stairs) and as we were waiting to pay I suggested we try out the mystical palm reading machine. Only 50 cents to have your fortune told, a bargain! Lauren was highly disappointed when all my levels (the helpful categories include creativity, friends, success, health, love) were higher than hers. I assured her that the only reason my levels were higher than hers was because she warmed the reader up for me. Now we want to go to a real palm reader...

During the week the amazing-and-lovely-and-soon-to-abandon-Wellington Hannah Smith alerted me to the cutest thing ever. TINY crocheted things at Deluxe Cafe. A matchstick! A drawing pin! To scale!

There are also tiny food items. I love tiny things.

This diorama was taking bids, it was already up to $100. Whoever made it must have a lot of patience.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Yesterday a group of us came out of a team meeting to find everyone gathered around one of the few windows on our floor, peering out. I helpfully quipped, 'Why is everyone looking out the window? Is the world ending?'

Turned out the world wasn't ending, not immediately anyway, it was just GIANT AMAZING HAIL.

When the hail continued steadily and strongly, a whole lot of us rushed outside and stood on the footpath, exclaiming and taking photos. The hail stones were the biggest I've ever seen and it was so cold they stayed on the ground for quite a while, even after the hail had stopped falling. When I walked home at 6pm there were still little piles of it in patches along the footpath.

It was so exciting and strange to see everything blanketed in white that I felt like it almost made up for missing the snow while I was away. Some guys from the office block opposite us came out and scooped up handfuls of hail. They managed to make some big hail balls which they then threw at each other and people looking out from the windows above.

I momentarily stepped out from under cover to stand in the hail - unfortunately, unlike snow, it hurt.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Read it

I think I've had blogging exhaustion after my almost-daily efforts while on holiday. But records don't write themselves, so I'd better make a note of the two books I finished while I was away. One of which took me about four months to read.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing is giant; the print is tiny, the pages are thin, and it is generally just a tome of a book. The book begins as a novel told in the third person but is interspersed with sections from four notebooks in which the main character, Anna, is recording her life in the first person. These different coloured notebooks record her political life, developments in her writing life, her personal life (dreams, affairs, troubles), and a novel she is writing which is very similar to her real life. To begin with, I loved it; and actually I mostly enjoyed it until towards the end, even though it got a bit confusing - switching from 'Free Women' the novel, to bits of notebooks, to Anna's novel-in-progress which was very similar to her life in the novel 'proper'. I was waiting for the golden notebook to finally tie everything together nicely, but ultimately it didn't do that and after investing so much time in the book it seemed like a bit of a let-down. Especially after perservering through the last few sections of the book in which Anna descends into madness - it became irritating because she kept saying, 'X happened and I could tell I had fallen even deeper into madness than I had ever been before.' The first few times it was fine because, of course, how would you know if things could get worse or not, but after a while it got a bit repetitive.

Lessing has said she wanted to capture a time in history and I do think she achieved that; it was interesting to read about the British Communist Party in the 1950s, the living circumstances of various people in society, and attitudes towards women living alone. Since its publication in 1962, The Golden Notebook has been hailed and condemned as a feminist work but Lessing has said herself that she never intended to write a feminist novel. She was more interested in breakdowns, the fragmentation of personalities, the effect of the world at the time on various individuals, and I think this is pretty clear in the last third of the novel.

I'm glad I finished the book - being set so firmly in London, perhaps it was appropriate that I did so on a plane leaving London - it felt like quite an achievement. I'd be interested to read another of Lessing's novels, but I think I'll wait a wee bit first.

The next book I read was completely different and perfect for reading on a plane. Tina Fey's Bossypants was pretty light reading but very funny (my lack of sleep may have made it even funnier) and seeing as I love reading about people's lives, it satisfied my nosey-side. For a memoir, Tina Fey doesn't actually give much away and that's one of things a lot of the reviews of the book comment on. But it was the same when I read Joy Cowley's memoir, you just have to accept that the writer is only going to tell you as much as s/he wants to and you just have to take what you get and enjoy it. Especially with a memoir, rather than an autobiography.

I really liked the small insight the book gave into being a female in comedy, espeically improvisation, because it's still true that the majority of roles women end up playing in improv are the wife/girlfriend, secretary, mother...When I did Politics: The Musical with The Improvisors a while ago, I came on a few scenes in and announced I was the co-leader of the Green Party because up until that point I had been an MP's wife and a private secretary and I was like, 'Hold on, I'm not having that.' Fey also makes the point that people ask her all the time what it's like being a woman in charge of a sucessful US sitcom, i.e. being female and being the boss, but no one asks Donald Trump whether he finds it hard being a man and being the boss. Fey might give very little away, but she does make some important points.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Home again, home again

Well, I'm home. I've been back in Wellington for a week now and, surprisingly, the post-holiday blues have yet to hit. Flying back into Wellington airport I cursed living in a city where landings are never fun, but the sun was shining and I was happy to be back.

After a particularly bumpy start to the flight from London to LA, I finally finished a book I've been reading for about four months and started a new one. Customs in the United States were decidedly unfriendly, the guy who checked my passport made me feel like a criminal for travelling by myself. 'You've been to all these countries by yourself? Why?' When he asked which city I was born in, I made the mistake of saying, 'Masterton...but it doesn't really qualify as a city!' He was not impressed with my joke.

My flight from LA to Auckland cemented my love of Air New Zealand. We were on one of the newly refurbished planes, so even economy seemed flash (as did the toilets!). There were so many movies and tv shows and songs to choose from and even when the lights were dimmed and most people were sleeping, the cabin crew still came along every hour or so to check if anyone who was awake wanted water. Little things like that make such a difference when you're seven hours into your second twelve hour flight. En route from Auckland to Wellington, I finished the book I'd started on the flight from London, so I felt very productive. I watched a good movie called Toast about chef and writer Nigel Slater's childhood. Helena Bonham Cater plays his step-mother with whom he starts to compete for his father's attention through baking. She really makes the movie.

I arrived back at the flat feeling very awake and had all these grand ideas to unpack and then go off visiting people. I unpacked and quickly realised I wouldn't be going far at all, as I started to get very tired.

I went down the road to get some lunch and buy some groceries and had to take a photo of my haloumi and potato rosti stack from Baobab. I can now authoritatively say that Newtown has some of the best cafes in the world.

By 3.30pm I could hardly keep my eyes open and kept bumping into things, so had to have a little sleep. At one point I woke up and had no idea where I was - I panicked trying to work out whether I was at Chrissy and Piet's in London or Lisa's in Edinburgh or whether that really was my bookshelf across the other side of the room. I forced myself to get up at 5.30pm and make some dinner and I managed to last until 9pm.

This past week hasn't actually been too bad, I babysat Monday night, had a night at home on Tuesday night (during which I fed some of my flatmates duty free gin I'd bought), went to Eight at Circa on Wednesday night, went visiting Thursday night (the bus stop above was on my way home), and to Masterton for the night on Friday.

I got to meet my new wee cousin Isla yesterday. She is pretty tiny and generally lovely.

Everyone seemed to like their presents - I wasn't sure Hunter would be a fan of the tartan tam o'shanter I got him in Edinburgh but he put it on straight away and declared he would wear it to mufti day. Note the frost on the grass through the window behind him - it was COLD on Friday night.

Last night I went to the album release of St Rupertsberg - a very cute all girl band. And today the sun was shining again so I went for a walk with my friend Kelly along the beach at Lyall Bay and, unbelievably, to Maranui for the first time. The view is excellent and the food similarly good. This summer I definitely think more time at the beach is necessary.

All in all, I am very happy to be home. People keep asking what the highlight of my trip was and I keep saying I don't have one in particular because I loved it all. Paris was great so I guess that was a highlight. But after a week of work - and while everyone at work was very happy to see me, they didn't waste any time in giving me lots to do - it seems very far away now.