Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Smooth skills

I've noticed this phenomena in the past occasionally when working on a new skill such as knitting or driving. Taking a break (not too long, not too short) from practicing my new skill can mean I return to my practice to find I have dramatically improved. (Sadly there are many more examples of the opposite effect, and my outdated website is the most obvious example. I knew how to update it once but I can't remember any of it now which is why it languishes in mid-2005).

This week the lucky skill is papier mache. Loyal readers will remember that back in March I took a few classes in papier mache and had so much fun that I launched into about 10 simultaneous papier mache projects. Unsurprisingly my combined inexperience and ambition led to the production of a number of disappointingly lumpy, warped and otherwise less than polished pieces. (Some of them were ok and I gave all those away before taking photos of them so you will just have to take my word for it).

Then I decided to move across country and found myself spending a month of my life in a very tiny room with no chance to unpack my paper and paste and make a mess. Now I have space and light and solitude to create and my new papier mache projects are coming along with thrillingly smoothness.

Except for the bowl (destined to be a Fruit Bowl of Equanimity) I started to cast onto a balloon mould. Frustratingly the paper just wouldn't sit flat so I left it for a while to dry before applying more layers and when I came back it looked exactly like a crumpled shower cap and the balloon had shrunk to the size of a mouse. Lesson: make sure there are no holes in the balloon before beginning papier mache project.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


While unpacking into my new place (for the next few weeks anyway) I listened to RadioNew Zealand's Saturday shows which are the best- or at least those most closely aligned with my tastes and interests. My highlight this week was an interview with Matisyahu, the Hasidic Reggae dude. I was introduced to Matisyahu by my daughter who, knowing my passions for Jewish culture and Jah music, was pleased to turn me onto a new performer who bridges those worlds.

Although he was raised a Reconstructionist Jew (one of my favourite kinds) as a young adult, already heavily into reggae music, Matisyahu joined the Crown Heights Lubavitch community and now lives a fully frum (observant) lifestyle. You may question how it's possible to be a pop music performer and an orthodox Jew but the interview demonstrated it in action. Sam Wicks, the RNZ interviewer, informed Matisyahu that he was calling on a Shabbat in New Zealand. Matisyahu asked if Sam was Jewish and when he said yes, Matisyahu politely but swiftly ended the interview. When they spoke again two weeks later, Matisyahu explained that he couldn't be the instrument for another Jew to break the Shabbat injunction against working, even if Sam didn't have a problem with it. He is well known for refusing to perform concerts on Friday nights (Shabbat goes from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) but he said it was the first time that an interview across the date line had been an issue.

Anyway, the eventual interview was played along with a good selection of songs from his album showing his range of reggae, rap and beatbox styles, his religious lyrics and mixture of English, Hebrew and Yiddish languages. You can listen for yourself by downloading the Music 101 show for 27 May at the RNZ website.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Vampires in Narnia

Last Friday's dress up theme at Narnia was 'Vampires', which happened to co-incide with a) the usual St John's Ambulance crew breakfast and b) a fundraiser for Hospices. Kate's fabulous vampire-bride costume complete with fake blood dripping down her chin and neck was perhaps too convincing in such company. ONG was the only other staff member to make much of an effort but her medieval style black velvet tunic was so hot that she almost fainted mid-morning and had to revert to a t-shirt.

My excuse for only the most cursory of vampire gestures (bite mark drawn on my neck with red pen) is that I was involved in a painfully drawn out process of moving homes made more agonising by the persistant downpours which kept interrupting my efforts to get things in and later out of my car with out saturation. Most of what I am schlepping around the country with me are art supplies (ie expensive paper and painstakingly made plaster casts) and paper in particular doesn't respond well to moisture.

Fortunately or unfortunately my 'could do better' in costuming was rendered insignificant in the chaos reigning when I arrived at work. Not only was every table still full at what would normally be a quiet time, but the kitchen was bursting at the seams with people. The old chef was lying face down on the floor in the pantry (face practically in the dush pan) receiving therapeutic massage from his cousin Ash who was camping it up for anyone who had to squeeze past to get to the food. The brand new chef was being tested by cooking 50 breakfasts in his first three hours in the tiny kitchen, shared with Lindsey who was on dishes and tuneless whistling until they started some serious male bonding over expensive car talk. Kate, and the other two female staff were serving, making coffee and generally running around. I literally couldn't imagine where I could fit into this mayhem but within an hour Ash and both chefs left for the day and I got to work trying to replace the food flying out of the cabinet as fast as I could make it.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Toilet Bowl of Mr Igor Fluffy Bum

Sometimes a still pool
Sometimes a gushing torrent
Objects float, sink, disappear
It all smells so interesting.

I wish I could dive in
Without getting wet.

The Fruit Bowl of Equanimity

Sometimes overflowing with soft and fragrant fruit
juicy, delicious, tender and abundant.

Sometimes empty except for three dusty, blackened leaves.

Sometimes a generous harvest ripens slowly
and monotonously.

Sometimes a rainbow of variety
is enjoyed one by one
until only the bruised fruit remains
summoning tiny flies.

The bowl embraces the impermanence of the fruit
with steadfast equanimity.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Disney Tapes

Working at Narnia is hilarious. I arrived this morning and was enveloped in a furry group hug- the heating was off and so staff were draping themselves and a few of the customers in (fake) fur coats from the Wardrobe. Later the Other New Girl, who started the same day as me last week, arrived to wash dishes. Turns out that she and Ash share an unholy passion for show tunes. Their singing and excitement rose to off-pitch and fever-pitch respectively when ONG brought inside her tapes of orchestras playing Disney tunes. Such fun!

I've never worked in a place where people sing, dance, laugh and goof around so much while still managing to get a lot of work done. Friday is dress up day with a theme chosen at random. Last week was 'senior citizens' for which I wore a fetching grey wig. Ironically it happened to coincide with the local Alzheimer's Society's coffee morning at Narnia. They thought it was pretty funny that we needed a special day to dress up as old people.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Up the mountain

I've been walking almost every day in the bush reserve of Mt Parihaka and Hotea River. It's a beautiful stand of native bush, with many kauri, some of which are pretty old, and an extensive nursery of 100 year old babies. On the way to the summit is an old pa site, an ancient Maori fortification. All that is left is the earthworks: pits and mounds and terraces and one hearth in what was once a whare (dwelling), all overgrown with bush but still visible under the greenery. The 'interpretive' signage is frustratingly sparse. There is a plan sketched and some general information about pa but the only specific information about this one is that when some European man stumbled onto it in 1842 all that was left were two posts and the earthworks. So it must be pretty old. Next time I go to the library I'll try and find out more about the pa on Parihaka.

At the top of the mountain (more of a hill really since it takes less than an hour to climb), there is a spectacularly ugly memorial to unspecified dead soldiers. Today when I arrived there was no one around, but a book was propped up against the memorial. A book! Alone in a park! Of course I had to check it out, for one thrilling moment I thought it might be my first wild Book Crossing experience. The emerald green cover had a kind of koro (curled fern frond) design and the title, in funky pomo font, was RealLife. I picked it up and a slip of paper fell out. A scripture quote and contact details. I looked more closely at the cover, in small print: The New Testament in Everyday Language.

Now, I've got nothing against the Bible at all, but firstly I do feel a much stronger affiliation with the Old Testament than the New (it's a Jew thing) so much so that presenting the Gospels without their foundation and context seems to me a lightweight kind of a read. And secondly, I'm sorry but the banality of the Good News Bibles I have flicked through in the past have prejudiced me against 'everyday language' translations. Give me a good contemporary erudite, or valid historical, translation and I'll quite happily reread my favourite bits (mostly in the Old, but there's some interesting stuff in the New too). But, this book? Fah! I put it back as I found it and walked over to sit on a nice shady park bench, cool off from my climb and amuse myself birdwatching.

Before long the peace was broken, the thrush squawked and flew off and two work men arrived. One proceeded to open one of the panels in the memorial (with much graunching and squealing of secret mechanisms) and squeeze his rather large self into the rather small space while the other provided helpful advice and comments, and investigated the book. I denied any responsibility for it's presence there when asked. And I believe that the men removed it as part of their maintenance activities.

Six tourists arrived and took over the viewing platform for twenty minutes or so, while I sat in the shade and looked for birds. How peaceful and quiet this is, I thought, lucky that I've never been here at the same time as a school group. It was a fateful premonition because minutes later the shrieks and shouts of young people with far too much energy after having run up a very steep hill began their unmistakable approach. As one, the tourists and I vacated the summit, as it was overtaken by lots of very excited children.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It is a truth universally acknowledged

One of the advantages of waiting ten years to watch the 1995 BBC adaption of Pride and Prejudice (starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle) , is that I've just watched all six episodes in two greedy, gorgeous gulps over one weekend. I might have reread the book for the tenth (or more?) time more quickly than that but something about watching on my little laptop with headphones made the experience almost as intimate as reading. It was worth the wait, with acting, costumes and sets that captured the wit and charm of the novel.

I've always been an Austen fan, but the height of my fandom was during my early teens. I still blush to remember that I paid to insert various quotes as 'anonymous' classified advertisements in the school newspaper. Such as "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife", the opening line of P&P. It was such a geeky thing to do that as far as I know the only people who noticed were the geeks who staffed the paper and who consequently befriended me, so it turned out alright in the end.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Job Hunt

I started first thing Monday morning and by Tuesday afternoon I had approached 16 businesses about part-time work: 13 cold-calls, three responses to advertised positions.

By Wednesday afternoon I was considering five offers, all from places that hadn't advertised.

Two offers I rejected easily because of less desirable hours/pay/job description. After some careful consideration I went with my original gut feeling about where I will most like to spend my time working. I've chosen to go where the boss and staff seem happy, relaxed and friendly and where I have minimal contact with the public and maximum opportunities to bake yummy counter food.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Home at last to the Yoga Space

I'm back Up North for a winter in and around Whangarei. It is noticably warmer, which is one of the reasons I am here and not anywhere to the South.

However, the main reason I'm in Whangarei in particular, is to work with my favourite yoga teacher, Corrine, at the Yoga Space on Roberts Street. My first class with her after six months (of flopping around at home to a Californian yoga CD) happened to be a pretty hard-core inversions class and before you could say 'Namaste' we were all suspended upsidedown, braced on ropes across our hips, hanging on the walls like a family of fruitbats. It is an indication of my trust in Corrine that I even attempted such a terrifying pose. However, while my classmates hung about hands free for many minutes, I clutched the chair in front of me trying to suppress little moans of fear and discomfort for only 60 seconds or so before carefully easing myself back to the solid comfort of feet on the floor. The rest of the session continued to be challenging, but fortunately nothing scared me as much after that startling start. By the closing relaxation I was feeling so good I almost cried with gratitude to be there, until I had to suppress giggles when the woman next to me started up a gentle snore.