Thursday, September 30, 2010

Feeling windswept and weary

west coast NZ

You know what?

I haven't unpacked my clothes yet.

I've looked at the books I brought back -- mainly because I'm in the grip of a Janet Frame frenzy, because I'd never 'got' her before in the way that I suddenly do, whether it's geography or age, I don't care -- and pulled out all the souvenirs and presents, and stashed the brown paper bag full of brochures and guides. But I haven't done more than open my big green & purple backpack to get out my toiletry bag. The rest is sitting there on the bedroom floor, daring me to pick it up and leave again.

Best Beloved usually makes some comment about my part of the bedroom floor or asks whether I want to get my washing out so that he can run it through the machine (he's the washing person of the house) but so far he hasn't. He walks past the bag quietly, so as not to startle it, or me.

I'm not going anywhere, but it is strange to be back after going somewhere that I really loved to be. Most holidays find me gagging to be home, to be back in the studio, to be in Canberra with its lovely wide sky and fierce sunsets (which were the things I really missed). But this time I really felt reluctant to return. It isn't casting nasturtiums at the people I hang out with in Australia, it's just that I really connected with Dunedin, because it had so many qualities that I carry around in my head as a kind of destination wish-list.

So I guess that means I will go back sometime. Donald-the-Special-Collections-Librarian and I hinted to each other that another residency down the track could be a good thing. He's in the habit of inviting people back, an excellent habit.

In the meantime, I am in the grip of an inertia, not helped by the slow transition to my usual waking hours. BB is delighted that I'm waking at 6am, nodding in my chair at 9pm. That's his ideal routine, whereas I prefer the 7am to 11pm scenario.

I got my own copy of the Prime folio in the mail the other day, and am happy to say that I still like it now that I've had some distance from it. Donald keeps sending me all the nice feedback he's receiving, and yesterday I got a lovely response from one of the poets.

I'd ripped up a few of the dud prints and made them into cards, and sent each poet one thanking them for allowing Otakou Press and I to use their poems. I've had emails from a number of the poets liking their particular posters, and yesterday I received a postcard from Les Murray, saying all sorts of lovely things. I don't know where to put it! Maybe I'll print off all the nice things and make myself a feedback box...

I have to get motivated soon, because in two weeks I have a huge task to achieve in collaboration with byrd: PRINT BIG, a Megalo group exhibition in conjunction with the National Gallery's 2010 Print Symposium (if you like or make prints, come along! To both events! It'll be epic!).

But I'm not going to get too flurried until after tomorrow, because tomorrow is my 43rd birthday, and while it's not as exciting as turning 42, I'm sure it will have its merits.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Akaroa at the end

Hello from lovely Akaroa, on the Banks Peninsula just out of Christchurch.

Best Beloved has flown home to attend his Big School (he's doing a degree in Social Governance or some such ponciness) and Bumblebee and I are having three lovely days just hanging, based at a purple-painted 1865-built backpackers hostel called Chez La Mer. It's the nicest place we've stayed to date: big comfy beds with hot water bottles, not electric blankets (we hates them, preciouses), fully-stocked kitchens, games, books, no tv, free bikes to ride, free wireless and best of all, a pub right next door with a pool table (Bumblebee is ecstatic).

Chez la Mer 100924
Here I am, sitting with my laptop, in the little courtyard that comes with our room at the front of the hostel, watching the people in the street, while inside B does some homework (it's amazing what you can get out of him when bribed with games of pool).

We've had two earthquake aftershocks: yesterday at 6.30am, which apparently I slept through but B didn't, and one at 3.40am today, which I felt but he slept through, so we're even. Everyone here is over them, and can't wait for them to stop, and I can't say I blame them. Christchurch is looking quite orderly again, but every now and again there are cordoned off areas with piles of rubble, or shops with half their walls gone. It's quite dramatic (and byrd, if you're reading, I'm taking lots of photos and have lots of Demolition ideas...)

Otherwise, we've been in complete rest mode. We got here late in the afternoon on Wednesday, after I completed my last commitment for the residency: an interview with Radio New Zealand for their Arts on Sunday program (will be aired sometime soon, they'll let me know when, and also the podcast link). After that, with BB gone and all done, I switched off completely. We put our bags in our room and went for a walk down to the harbour (took all of five minutes) and took in the serenity, watched over by a full moon. Bumblebee was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all and had a surge of energy and joy -- he started leaping around like a spring lamb and expounding loudly about the loveliness and peacefulness until I reminded him that he was actually destroying it all and maybe he should leap joyfully around quietly? Heh.

We've seen a LOT of spring lambs, which is the best thing about travelling in NZ at this time of year. The freaky weather is balanced by the gorgeousness of lambs either lying peacefully on the grass with their mothers, covorting in twos and threes around the paddock, or suckling, tails spinning happily as they drink. It's so life-affirming to watch them.

There is an abundance of nice shops and galleries around Akaroa, probably because it's an easy daytrip from Christchurch, and people come here to buy nice things and eat good food and then go home again. When the locals hear that you're staying a few days, they love you. In my case, when I tell them that I came here for less than a day 20 years ago and was determined to spend more time here, well, I'm being treated like royalty. If you get here, don't miss LAVA Gallery, full of fun quirky locally-made things. I found myself a wonderful pendant carved from the base of a beer bottle. Very NZ-looking and personally less problematic than buying a piece of Maori greenstone or bone (I don't feel comfortable wearing them, it's not my culture, although B bought himself a lovely piece to wear and loves it).

The food is good too; I had a chicken, cranberry and brie pizza at the pub the other night, and it was great, although NOTHING beats the blue cod fish pie I had at Stewart Island. I can still smell and taste it in my head, and the memory will sustain me for years. last night we cooked for ourselves and ate it while playing Scrabble. I've almost whipped Bumblebee into a worthy opponent, although he needs a lot of help with word ideas and spelling. We're pretty even opponents at Chess, which makes games fun. No tv (and an additional Gameboy ban) means that we're taking the time to read and play together, and we're having a lot of fun.

Today we're going on a harbour cruise to see the local attraction: rare Hector's Dolphins, which are very little dolphins that love to play around the boats and check out the hoomins. Hopefully we'll see some penguins too.

Tomorrow we head back to Christchurch, where we're going to stay in a hostel that used to be the jail, sharing a cell together! Should be fun. I'm also going to visit a fellow letterpress printer, see how his equipment fared in the quake, and also pop in to see one of the Aged Poet's sons, who plays in the orchestra there.

Then we'll do some creative packing and fly home on Sunday. That's unless I chicken out and stay here. Sigh. It's tempting, but the government is crap (have you heard the latest scandal?) and I like my Canberra life quite a bit, I suppose. :)

Unless I get the chance on Saturday night (although B wants me to take him to a movie), I think the next chance or inclination to post will be when I get home. We've got one of those flights that means we'll have to move fast between the international leg and the domestic one, so there won't be much sitting around except for at the beginning when we're waiting for our first flight.

So, o my goodness, it's all winding up. What a fun time it's been. Must do it again sometime!

(I'll post more photos sometime soon, just haven't had a chance to do the latest batch!)


The cruise was WONDERFUL. We saw rare white-flippered penguins (very little penguins), and lots of lovely fat basking fur seals, and right at the end (just when the guide was starting his 'oh well, that's wild animals for ya' apology speech, we saw the Hector's Dolphins. Beautiful little lithe and slightly frilly dolphins, playing coy at first, then getting into the swing of things and playing up for us, leaping and doing backflips.

And -- I made a joke a few weeks ago about the likelihood of running into people we know in NZ, but it was only half a joke -- we were on the boat with an old friend from uni, whose son is in Bumblebee's year at his high school (they know each other, but don't 'hang out', so to speak). She and her partner and their three kids are doing NZ in a campervan, and, as with us, the weather hasn't been very kind to them. Mind you, today was perfect -- blue sky, warm sun, wind not too windy (although it's picking up and greying off now, a few hours later).

Finally, the boat, which was a catamaran, put on a big burst of speed to get back on time, and we charged through wind speeds of about 100km. I was right at the front of the boat, with my sunnies on -- and B was inside the boat looking bemusedly on as only a patronising teenage son can do -- and my hair streaming back, holding on for dear life and loving it. It was like having a facial with Vicks Vaporub. Actually, it was every (grown-up) kid's fantasy, like hanging your head out of the car window on the freeway and not having a parent shout at you to put your head back in before it gets knocked off by a roadside sign. My hair's now a tangled knotty mess, but my cheeks are pink and I feel like a million dollars.

Awwww... do I have to come home?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Winter wonderland


No, we didn't get to go to Milford. Sigh. That's me, on the ferry to Stewart Island, enjoying the brisk air at the back of the boat.

I'm writing from Wanaka, north of frenetic Queenstown. It's off-season everywhere but the ski fields, and half a day in Queenstown yesterday was enough for all of us, validating our decision to go to Wanaka for a snow experience. Queenstown is for the tourists, Wanaka is where the locals hang out to ski. It's MUCH quieter, and almost as pretty.

Wanaka Spring

Today, after an entertaining couple of hours at Puzzling World (different, but similar in many ways, to Tasmazia), I am staying home in the motel room to get a huge amount of washing done and photos sorted and labelled while the boys go off in search of snow. They didn't have to look far -- we can see the snowy mountain tops from the room, and just as they were getting into the car snow started falling on us, although not for long. So they went up to the ski fields, and spent a few hours flinging snowballs at each other. They came back dripping a little while ago, changed into freshly tumble-dried clothes, and went back to Puzzling World (all day access once stamped). I'm enjoying the solitude. And the facebook gaming. And the sun that just started coming through the front window.

Last night we cooked our own meal (love motel rooms with full kitchens). Tonight we're going to Cinema Paradiso, one of the town's attractions, to see a movie. Lucky us, the cinema is right next door to our digs.

So: since I finished my residency, what have we done?

1. A tour of the Otago Peninsula, looking at Larnach Castle and the other beautiful houses along the way. We took a Monarch cruise on the harbour waters to see seals and birds; we went 1km out to sea and found an albatross heading back to land to mate, then we turned the boat around and followed it in and watched it circle on the (relatively weak that day) winds, gaining altitude until it could land on the tip of the peninsula, and saw it land (well, face-plant would be a better description) for its first time in ages. Magic.

2. We drove down the coast via the Catlins, stopping to see lighthouses, waterfalls, caves that closed ten minutes before we arrived, a fossil forest on a beach and other marvels.

3. We had a chance to fondle cats at Bluff, then caught a ferry over to Stewart Island and Ulva Island, as I mentioned in the last post.

4. We didn't get the chance to see Milford Sound, but we cruised on Lake Te Anau and had a look at some young limestone caves (as opposed to all the old caves we've seen in Australia) and a gorgeous glowworm grotto.

5. On the way to Te Anau we walked on a long cold windy beach with an amazing view of tall snowy peaks, and watched fossickers looking for gold in a stream running onto the beach. The beach also has precious stones washed on to it regularly, beautifully tumbled by the sea. We talked to a fellow in long white gumboots carrying a bucket who walks up & down, inspecting what the sea washes up for his crystal & gemstone gallery.

5. Motivated by the boys' disappointment at not going to Milford Sound and not seeing a kiwi on Stewart Island (you need to go to the uninhabited side of the island, something we couldn't do), we went to a Kiwi Park in Queenstown and saw some captive kiwis. BB thought it was a trashy thing to do, until I pointed out that we'd paid to see Tasmanian Devils in Tasmania, and he'd been ok with that. We all really enjoyed the experience, and witnessed them being fed and also watched the sparkiness (or spikiness!) of female/male kiwi relations...

Next we'll head up the West Coast, if the Haast Pass is open, and catch some glacier action. After that we'll wend our way up and over and back to Christchurch by next Wednesday, when BB flies out to attend his Government School classes. We'll stay on a bit longer, until Sunday, probably hanging out at lovely Akaroa and surrounding bits.

How's this for a happy holiday snap?

Swinging Ulva

Ulva Island has a couple of rope swings on them, which made B's day.

A choice selection of holiday snaps here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I'm sitting in a backpackers lodge in Te Anau (and the only way I remember how to pronounce it is by activating my Laura Branigan Te Amo earworm, which has been extremely annoying), using very slow wireless, and feeling a bit disappointed.

We just went to the Info Centre to book a glowworm caves cruise for tonight, and found out that the Milford Sound road is closing tonight and won't be reopened until the weather settles out... maybe tomorrow, maybe in three days. So we might not get to see Milford Sound, which is such a shame for the boys (I've been there before) but I guess this is just one of those things when you travel to wintery places in Winter.

We're all a bit tired and snappish, but it's a result of having fun. For the last two days we've been at Stewart Island, the third Island of New Zealand, and yesterday spent the afternoon at Ulva Island, a small bird sanctuary in the inlet of the island. We've seen so many fabulous birds, including Kakas, Robins, Tui, and a large flightless beach-foraging bird (not a Kiwi) that I can't remember the name for: Weka? Weba? Something like that. I have a bird book, but it's over in the other building, and I'm just happy to be sitting right now.

We stayed at the most wonderful Bed & Breakfast, called Jo & Andy's B&B. Jo & Andy are two older people with oodles of life experience who set up a B&B to give themselves better entertainment than the TV, by the looks of it. The house is charming and stuffed to the gills with books and places to read them, and is clean but not overly clean (dusty ornaments but clean floors, which to me says conscientious but too busy to be constantly dusting). Jo is more business-like, and is obviously The Boss in an understated way, and Andy is the handy dreamer, who builds his own fish-smoker in the back yard (I can still taste his home-made smoked salmon) and adores talking to the visitors as he rolls a cigarette (smoked outside) about anything from world politics through to last month's hit movies, all with a big grin on his face, and frequent and joyful use of the word COOL. Once we got talking, we kept talking. It was great. He also makes his own bread, and provides a hearty breakfast every morning of oatmeal & muesli and yogurt mixed with banana and blueberries, followed by a poached egg on his homemade toast. Yum.

Andy is also a masseur, and yesterday afternoon I got one of the best massages I've ever had. That was after Ulva Island, which I'd been thinking of giving a miss because the morning had been a sheet of rain, but Andy told me that the weather there is so variable that I should 'just do what you want to do and let the weather follow you'. So we went to Ulva by watertaxi -- seeing penguins swimming in the water next to the boat -- and once we got to Ulva, the sun came out. Good old Andy.

That's it for now. I've got lots of beautiful photos, but will wait until I get to more stable internet before I upload them. Hope you're all having a fun time where you are too!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Moving right along


finished: overview

brown paper packages

and dusted.

folio cover

wayzgoose viewing

wayzgoose gathering

(of course, there are more photos at flickr)

I've cleaned up the studio, packed up some parcels to send home, and left the place ready for the next project.


Now we're on holiday, and leaving Dunedin today for a two-week jaunt around the south island, including two nights on Stewart Island. I'm not sure what sort of internet access I'll have, but I'll blog when I can.

Just would like to thank everyone who has participated in and contributed to this residency in any little way, whether making me a cuppa or reading a post. It's been fabulous.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Catch it while you can

My television appearance last week has come on line, and I suspect it's for one week only, since there doesn't seem to be an archive page...

Watch it here if you dare. I'm sandwiched between a few other guests; the whole show is 29 minutes long, but you'll find me between 13:07 and 18.10 minutes.

I pleasantly surprised myself, as it all went by in a blur and I was nervous that I blathered, but apart from being all chin and hands, I didn't too too badly with the very short time I had!

Having a lovely clean-paper day today, sorting and sifting the prints and getting them ready for collation into the folio covers. Tomorrow I'm catching a bus to Oamaru to meet the boys and driving back to Dunedin with them. They're staying the rest of the week with me at the college before we head off on Sunday for a bit of a South Island jaunt, weather, wildness and all.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


OF COURSE they were ok. OF COURSE they touched down in Christchurch safely. OF COURSE I worried too much. OF COURSE, after talking to me on the phone, they plan to go and eyeball the damage as closely as they can before the authorities prevent them.

And now I'm light-headed with relief, and, perversely, realising that I have two days of solo existence left before they get to me, so I should enjoy it. Because I do enjoy it, when I know that everyone I love is safe and happy.

I'm going to knock this printing on the head now for a few hours, and then I might drop across the road to the museum's butterfly house to enjoy a bit of ephemerality.

In the meantime, you go and have a look at my Sister-Outlaw's blog, revived after a period of doubt. It is lovely to see her writing more than a twitter entry, and she is very good at it. Go and encourage her, as all talented single parents should be encouraged.

And here's a silly thing:


dugadugadugadugadug...COUNTDOWN!! This is the NZ version of Woolworths. Cute, eh? Every time I walk in I expect to see satin pants and eyeliner, and Molly behind the counter. Sigh!


PS: Happy Father's Day to Colonel Duck, who apparently was not only delighted with his gift of merino/possum socks, but with the fact that they arrived ON TIME, which is very rare in my world. Enjoy them, Dad, hope they feel nice on the feet, you deserve it.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Distracting myself

In my head, I was going to have finished the folio title page by lunchtime today, and then jump around a little bit feeling righteous, and then get a few other things out of the way, like some printing for the BIG PRINT show I'm doing two weeks after I return.

But that was before the earthquake, and tales of borked runways and impending aftershocks. My mind has been quite ruffled, and all my work has been slow and painstaking and what I can usually do in a couple of hours has taken me all day. So I've started printing the title page, but only just, and will have to finish it tomorrow before I go out to dinner with the master of Hardcore Bibliography, Shef Rogers, and his family.

My boys have left Canberra; they have made it to Sydney as I type, and are awaiting their connection to Christchurch, which is slightly delayed but running. The airport is open, and as yet they haven't experienced the threatened enormous aftershock, but evil weather with high winds are predicted, so I don't think I'll be sleeping soundly tonight. Their plane is landing sometime after 1am, and hopefully all will go smoothly until I can ring them at their hotel in the morning.

So, to distract myself, my work. Let me show you it:

Prime title page
Title page. The result of much chopping and changing today as I tried to get my head into gear.

Prime colophon page
Colophon page. I will show you the text in more detail.

Prime colophon deet 1
Some of the nicest, sharpest printing I've done to date, which shows that my learning curve reached a peak :)

Prime colophon deet 2
Suggested by Donald-TSCL, whom, you can tell now, is a Babyboomer. But it was a great way to rationalise any bad inking, so I'm more than happy to include Leonard's wisdom.

I also made a wee movie of myself in action, with a head, which differentiates it from the one the students made:

And here's a nice design student who came by to interview me for his dissertation and drool over the wood type:

design student

I'm going to write more later, about the tv stuff etc, but right now I need a nice glass of white wine and a crap video to distract me even more. Ciao.

The earth moved for me

I woke at 4.30 this morning with the bed moving as if I were very, very drunk. I had been to the pub the night before, and I had consumed a fair bit of cider, but not enough to give me bed-spins. Then I noticed the wardrobe swaying, and I realised that I was experiencing an earthquake. Just a wee one, although it was a bit scary.

This morning the town is abuzz and Christchurch is trashed. On the day that Best Beloved and Bumblebee are flying to it. Oh crap.

They haven't left home yet, and they haven't heard if their flight is cancelled. They won't until later in the day, because Christchurch Airport have only cancelled flights until midday until further notice. Still, CRAP.

All I can do is wait. And same for them. I hope Christchurch will be ok, too. It's a bit too much excitement for this duck.