Sunday, 25 September 2011

A perfect audience

On Thursday night I went with a small group of friends to see The Mouse Trap.  And I didn't even have to shell out the airfare to London to see it.

Two of my talented work colleagues were performing in the first ever New Zealand production of this play that has been playing continuously (or continuously playing?) to audiences in the West End of London since 1952.

One of these actresses made a point of telling me that when I attended I must clap when the lights go out.  Having been reminded that this is important to the cast, I passed the message on to Chris and Lucy who were part of our party and we resolved to be a good audience.

What that actress failed to add was that towards the end of the second act the lights would go out briefly, someone would scream and the lights would come on again briefly to reveal a murdered person and a screaming actress (yes, the one who had reminded me to clap when the lights go out). 

What resulted was two of the audience members starting to clap as the lights came back on to reveal the murder scene!  When I realized the lights had come back on, I had such difficulty concealing my laughter that I failed to notice who had been murdered.

No, I am not your perfect audience!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

And a few more

The more photos I take in black and white, the more I am convinced that it is the best way to capture images around the cow shed at milking time.   As I set out to walk to the shed with my younger son I realized the battery light on the camera was flashing so wasn't hopeful of getting any shots at all, but they held out long enough for three clicks.

I can see the same two cows in the shot above, still keeping an eye in me.

Inside the shed, my older son had the milking underway.

My younger son is home from Brasil to celebrate his 40th birthday and to take part in the Rugby World Cup festivities.  I was so content just being in his company when he was here that it didn't dawn on me to take any photos of him.  I must do better at his party next Saturday night. 

Friday, 23 September 2011

FSO - Sepia or Black and White

"Show us your town or your part of the world in Sepia Tone or Black and White."

 This was part of my world as a child, before the days of colour photography even - threshing corn on my grandparents farm.

Black and white creatures in black and white.  This is Sammy, my grand-daughers' dog having a rest on my front deck while he waits for the school bus to come.

The next few I posted a couple of weeks ago - black and white cows feasting at the feed bins:

and where they go to be milked:

Finally, more pampas grass in sepia tone:

 Pop over here to see black and white and sepia toned photography from the rest of the team.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Hail storm

I'm so grateful my grandmother taught me how to appreciate a good storm. One of my favourite childhood memories is enjoying storms in the company of my grandparents.

But I don't like being caught out in them.  To me they are best appreciated at home.  

This afternoon we didn't need the weather forecasters to warn us there were lightning strikes on the way, the darkness of the early afternoon, the threatening skies was a good enough warning.   The sky was truly impressive but I had no time to stop and take a photo, the first strikes came when I was still about 10 minutes away from home and I was intent on getting home so I could enjoy them in comfort.  Well, that was the plan.  The onslaught of hail put a stop to that.  It came on so quickly and so heavily that I had to stop quite suddenly or risk running off the road (I was on a bend).

The heavy rain that followed had melted most of the hail on my front deck by the time I arrived home and managed to dash inside, grab my camera and reach out the door to take the photo.

But there was enough of the storm left to keep me happy now that I was safely home. What a great way to destress after heated words at work.  My patience, which is never one of my virtues, had been stretched too far after a fourth days of feeling off colour.  I really needed a good storm!

Friday, 16 September 2011

FSO - the Letter T

A human T?

Water tanks:

Two tractors on a truck:

And a few towers- small, medium and large.  I cheated on my favourite one, it's from the archives.

Pop over here to see the Ts from the rest of the FSO team.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Family footy reunion

 It's been over two years since I've had my four children together in the one place at the same time.  A football match may seem a strange place for that to happen.  But this was no ordinary footy game, this was a Rugby World Cup fixture.  And despite the fact that my children said I looked like a Canadian logger's mother all rugged up against the wind, no logger's mother could have been happier.

 That's my little grandson enjoying his first ever rugby game in the middle front.

The new stadium at Northland Event Centre was a sea of festive red. Not just festive in colour with the red and white flags of Canada and Tonga flying but festive in spirit.  The official attendance was just over 17,000 which is a huge crowd in this part of the world and it seemed every single one of them was there to enjoy the game regardless of the outcome.  The Tongans far outnumbered the Canadians in terms of flags and fans but the Canadians seemed to have the craziest costumes.  As we walked in to the grounds with our Canadian flags and face paint we passed a mass of Tongans supporters who gave us a loud cheer.  And the atmosphere was like that all around the grounds.

 My four grand-daughters decked out to support their Canadian uncle.

The weather during the morning and early afternoon had been pretty lousy.  Strong wind and nasty showers.  Many, like me, had their red regalia hidden under warmer coats.  The coats were needed as the wind didn't go away but just one very light shower passed over one end of the ground quickly.  It was strange to see the rain go across the other end of the field and everyone around us was donning their raincoats in preparedness but the rain blew away.  Too much hot air up our end perhaps?

 A Tongan brass band entertain the crowd as the players from both sides warm up  
(Tongans in the foreground)

And the outcome?  In an entertaining game Canada got the first points, fell behind and came back to win.  It seemed the majority of spectators were encouraging whoever was behind at the time.  We shared the tarpaulin we had laid on the ground to keep our bums dry (and pull up over us if it rained, you have to plan ahead when you are in the cheap seats) with a group of girls who switched sides so many times, they didn't know who they were barracking for in the end.  The Canadians were very happy with the result as in the last RWC (in 2007) their best result was a draw.  

 I enjoyed it all so much.  It couldn't have been a better family outing.  We had fun walking with the crowds to and from the games, the good natured banter.  I was even impressed with the sight of red tail lights as far as the eye could see ahead of us on the way home, something I can't recall seeing before.  (And I normally hate heavy traffic.)
A big thumbs up to the organisers.  You did Northland proud.

Go the Wallabies.

Monday, 12 September 2011

RWC Fever

The Rugby World Cup is the premier international rugby union competition. The tournament is one of the largest international sporting competitions in the world, surpassed in scale only by the FIFA World Cup, the summer Olympics and the Four de France.

And right now New Zealand is gripped in its fever like never before.  And, believe me, in a rugby mad country, that is saying something.  New Zealand is hosting the 2011 Rugby World Cup.  

The inaugural tournament was held in 1987, when the All Blacks, the New Zealand national team, became the first ever champions and the country has plunged into despondancy every subsequent four years when they failed to win it again.  Some even see the outcome as a prediction for the government at the following elections.  The governament in power at the time of each loss is judged harshly.

This year the expectation on the All Blacks is huge.  Home game advantage and all that. 

Here in the north we will have two games, featuring three teams, Canada, Tonga and Japan, all teams that wear red.  So Paint it Red is the theme.  Whangarei has been spruced up ready to welcome our international visitors.  I am doing my best to get into the spirit of things, have flags flying from the front of my deck, giving equal prominence to Australia and New Zealand.  There's a strong wind today and Ireland blew away! 

I can't compete with this place, though.

And in another corner of the same premises they have painted it red:

I'm looking forward to Wednesday and the game I will be attending, Canada Vs Tonga.  I tip Tonga to win but will be supporting my Canadian son-in-law and half Canadian grandson.  I'm so glad Tonga will be playing, the Tongan community in Auckland have been fabulous in their enthusiasm and support of their team and the event.   The scene from the wonderful opening night that clings to my mind is that of a big, burly Tongan player with tears of emotion streaming down his face as he sang his National Anthem before the start of the first game.  I'm glad I have a Tongan flag flying.  

But do you want to know what the best, the very best, thing about it all is?  My younger son is returning from Brazil to enjoy it all.  OK, he might have come home for his 40th birthday anyway but the RWC sealed the deal!

Go the Wallabies!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Lost chicks

When I stopped at the lookout/picnic area just south of town on Tuesday afternoon to my delight, six chickens boosted the number of wild fowl that live there.  Mother hen was doing a good job of keeping them close and away from the road.  Helped by earlier visitors who had scattered the last of their chips on the grass.   A few times in the past I've seen the man who stops to feed them proper chook food a couple of times a week.  The little flock knows the sound of his car and come running out of the bushes before he turns off the highway.

I was standing there again on Thursday, looking in vain for the rest of the chicks - but there were only two left.   Another car pulled in and the young man who joined me, had a little bag of bread crusts for the birds and said there had been eight chickens on Monday.  He collects food scraps from his mates in the lunchroom at work and stops to feed them a couple of times a week.  "She's not a very good mother, this one.  None of her chickens survived last year."  Then, with a cheeky grin added, "That's what you get when you live on the wildside!"

All around the country little flocks of chickens live on the wildside, have taken up residence and thrived at roadside stops - picnic areas, scenic looksouts and the like.  Sometimes these places are in the "middle of nowhere" miles from people or towns.   At some stops they are a tourist attraction.  I often wonder how they got there. 

Some believe they are refugees from battery farms but I've seen them in isolated places where it is impossible to imagine this probability.  Some flocks consist mostly of roosters and it is surmised that early morning and loud cock-a-doodle-doo-ing has led to them being thrown upon the roadside rather than killing them.  But how do the hens find them?   Because invariably there are a few hens in the mix.  

However they get there, they are real survivors.  They have to contend with rats, cats and roadside traffic.  Mature birds learn to stay away from traffic but little chicks? 

Invariably they look very healthy.  They survive on what they can scratch around and find - insects, bugs, berries, with a bit of luck a nice far worm, and food thrown to them by passersby.  No doubt there are other regular Good Samaritans in addition to the two I have met, who find pleasure in stopping to interact with the little flock I visit.   Seems they eat just about anything.  There are never food scraps laying around. 

I've heard these little flocks described as Road Island Reds and Layby Leghorns.  Would love to be able to think of something clever to call "my" birds.
And they are free.   If I were a chook, this would be the life I'd choose.

Friday, 9 September 2011

FSO - Grandparents Day and Patriot Day.

We don't celebrate either of these days in New Zealand but I would have no objections to a Grandparents Day. 

My mother is the senior grandparent in my family.  She raised 12 children and has 28 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.  I hope I got that count right!  Needless to say she has never learned to be idle.  To this day her fingers are always busy. 

 To all the grandparents who are feeling a bit old and past their best, may your grandchildren be your pot of gold.

HappyGrandparents Day and Patriot Day to those who celebrate these occasions.

The shoot outs of the rest of the team can be found here.

Monday, 5 September 2011


An incident on my way to work on Thursday has set me off on a number of rants about courtesy.  I know.  It's an old fashioned word and I fear it's becoming an old fashioned trait.  

A noise I had never heard before coming from the rear of my car, brought me to a halt on the side of the road.  No, the noise caused me to bring the car to a halt.  Halt, is that another old fashioned word?  I'm full of them today.

Anyway, there I was on the side of a country road, wondering what the hell the noise had been.  I tentatively drove forward a bit and yes, there it was; backed up off to the side again and still it was there. Hmmm.

My first thoughts were a bit panicked.  Not another car expense so soon after losing my rear bumper on the road last week!  That won't be repaired till next week and already something else has gone wrong. Last week I had barely stopped before a neighbour came along and rescued me.   But there were no knights in shining (or otherwise) armour on Thursday morning.  The road was traffic-less for quite a while.  8 am.  A bit early for the farmers to be heading to town, especially at this, their busy time of year.  

The first vehicle to come along, the work vehicle of a roofing company with two men on board, didn't even lose speed as it whizzed past.  Late getting to a job I guess. But, hey, I had the bonnet up and was obviously a woman alone.  (I know the noise came from the back and I don't know what I expected to find but thought I might as well check the oil and water while I was there.)

Neither of the two drivers who did stop was remotely interested in my predicament, neither asked if I was OK, they both wanted to know how far to the Lodge or had they gone past it.   They both probably thought how lucky they were to find someone to ask for directions.  Didn't even bother to say thanks as they went on their way. 

I should say here that I didn't need their help at that stage, I had already rung my son and knew he was on his way and I'd told him not to hurry as I knew he was busy, but they could have asked.  I'd go so far as to say, should have asked.  To my way of thinking, they should have asked, even if they didn't want to lend assistance, they should have at least asked.  To both these young men I would appear elderly.  I stress I don't think I am but the media would tag me as such.  

But the one that had me steaming a bit was the van full of teenage students from an out of the district High School (they, too would have been heading for the Lodge) that slowed slightly, then carried on.  The driver would have been pulling in to the Lodge entrance by the time I finished thanking him for his courtesy, for the great lesson he had just given those young people on a caring community. 

Four vehicles in the hour I sat there and not one driver showed any concern for me.  I must add, none of them were local people, no neighbours.  

There were another two incidents that day that really had me wondering if courtesy is a thing of the past.  They were just little things and they couldn't be described as rudeness more a lack of good manners, a lack of courtesy, of caring for others.   It saddens me.

The good news is my son took about 4 seconds to announce I had a small stone lodged in my brake pad, it was nothing to worry about.  He was right, by the time I had driven about 100 metres, it was gone.  I felt a right idiot!

Coming home later in the day I saw an Enviroschools flag flying at the Lodge entrance and looked it up.  Yes, that's where the high school students would have been heading.   It was the first day of a series of workshops for students on possum control.  Hopefully, in the long run we will benefit from this practical programme.  (But I still think practical lessons in courtesy are just as important.)

Friday, 2 September 2011

FSO - Human Labour

Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.

Here on the farm the apprentices starts their learning young.  As anyone who has trained an apprentice knows, it is not easy the first time the apprentice tries a new task. 

The easy relaxation before the task is undertaken:

Can turn to apprehension as the learner undertakes the new task:

Sometimes the master just has to look away and hope for the apprentice has listened carefully to the instructions.
When the task of the day has been mastered its time to build relationships with the other farm apprentice:

Meanwhile, the other senior farm worker is hard at work.  Don't know how I achieved the weird effect in this shot, I think I moved rather quickly when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tail lift.  But I like it.  I think it adds a soft and almost romantic touch to a job that is certainly far from either.

The FSO topic today is Human Labour.  Pop over here to see the interpretations of the rest of the team on  this topic; they are bound to be many and varied.