Saturday, 26 May 2012

An honest effort

I'd like to think that all I asked of my children when they were young and competing in various sports was that they made an honest effort.   It probably started out that way, then we discovered that they had been blessed with natural talents in certain areas and I came to expect more of them, I'd feel frustrated if they didn't give 100% all the time.  I'm glad to say that didn't happen often.  And that the performances that impressed me the most were when they achieved in an area in which they didn't have a natural talent.  

My kids' running ability did not come from me, unbeknowst to me I'd married into a family of runners.  The grandchild that has inherited the running gene is Georgia.  

When the cross country race at school started yesterday, my son, daughter-in-law and I were a bit puzzled to see a tall (for the age group), slim girl way out front right from the start and asked, "Where is Georgia?  Can't see her."  She should have been somewhere at the front.  The runners were on the far side of the field below.  Before too long, Danny said, "That's her out front." and Heather and I argued that girl was too tall to be her.  Then the runners drew closer and I felt a tear in my throat as I recognised her father.  How did I not see it immediately? - the same composed, upright, confident, easy, efficient style. 

It's a long race, a lap around the school field to sort out the contenders before crossing the road and heading over rough farm land, down a steep hill, through a creek, up a steeper hill on the other side, along a ridge, out of sight to goodness knows where after that, and then the return. 

There were no other runners in sight when Georgia came back up that hill, still running at an easy (looking), steady pace.  A smile for us as she ran past and back into the school grounds.  Only another 70 metres to the finish line, still no-one else in sight.  

But, she got to the finish line, right up to the line, and a teacher leans down and says something to her and back across the field she had to run - she'd gone the wrong way when she entered the school grounds!   She was about 20m from the point where she had to turn and go the other way when another girl entered the field.  I think Danny was the only one of us that was confident she "still had enough in the tank".  He was right, she still won by about 20 metres.

I'm so proud of her.  Yes, she has the natural ability but she has also inherited her father's quiet confidence in his ability and his determination to give it his best effort even when it hurts. (Georgia's quote:  I thought I'd swallowed poison my throat hurt so much!)  And to keep giving it everything even when winning does not look likely.     

I'm also very proud of Krystal.  She doesn't have Georgia's natural ability and could easily have run with the pack but she didn't, she did the very best she could.  When she came back up that last hill, she was suffering, stumbled on the rough ground and almost fell.  But she carried on, trying till the end and came fourth in her age group. 

An honest effort!

Krystal, running easily at the start

Thanks, Heather for the photos - I'd forgotten my camera.

Friday, 25 May 2012

FSO - Made by Hand

The topic this week is Made by Hand.  I'd been thinking (in an idle fashion because this topic just did not grip me) about where I might find something hand made before I read the hints we are provided with each week.  Too late, I'd already gone down the dress maker path.  Wearable art always catch my eye.  My grand-daughters enter the Wearable Arts contest at their school each year but I can't imagine them putting in the time necessary to construct this, which is made from bread bag clips.  The bottom featured the bread bags themselves and the necklace was made of little pieces of toasted bread. 

This was produced by a student in Diploma in Fashion Design at NorthTec.

Back home at my place the constructions are a bit more simple.  But give a child an old box and some cellotope, pencils and paper, sit her in front of the heater on a cold day when she feels a bit off colour and those little hands will construct something.

Last Christmas the grand-daughters were allowed to decorate the cup cakes.That might sound like a strange Christmas Day activity but they loved it.  And it's never too early for them to learn that many hands make light work. 

My daughter keeps her hands busy producing this:

I've posted this before - a tiny hand made bead - but every time I look at it I marvel at the patience involved.

After Māori arrived in New Zealand, around 1250, they discovered the useful properties of flax. The nectar from its flowers made a sweet drink. The roots could be crushed to make poultices for skin infections, and to produce a juice with disinfectant and laxative properties. The gum from the base of the leaves eased pain and healed wounds, especially burns. The leaves themselves could be used as bandages and to secure broken bones.

Maori women learned to obtain the strong fibre from the leaves by scraping the green flesh away with a sharp shell. This fibre was pounded until soft, then washed and sometimes dyed. Twisted, plaited and woven, it was used to create a wide range of items, such as fishing nets and traps, footwear, ropes and, when woven with feathers, clothing.

Then, as now, only the outer leaves - the grandparents - were harvested to avoid weakening the plant.  So there are still plenty of flax plants around to allow following generations to use the plant in various ways.

I'm looking forward to checking out the rest of the FSO team here.  Pop over and have a look - or why not join us?

Monday, 21 May 2012

pes planus ....

Ahh, yes, that sounds better than flat foot.   Not flat feet, I might add.  Just one.

I have a fallen arch in the left foot.  Actually I think it is falling, not fallen, because it didn't use to be like that.  But I suspect it has been falling for quite some time because the treatment is causing all sorts of aches and pains elsewhere in the body.  I think my body is taking even longer than my mind to adjust to the idea.

At first I thought my doctor had it wrong.  It's been hard for me to get it into my thick skull that the soreness in my foot was not caused by the plate I dropped on it a few months back.   An x-ray ruled out any broken bones or arthritis.  I accepted that but (self) diagnosed bruising.  But I had to admit after a while that I had that wrong, too.  

I accepted that I could walk less and less distance without it bothering me.  In typical me fashion I ignored it until it kept me awake at night.

So last week I went back to the doctor, all indignant - this sore foot is still sore!!  Like it's his fault I've been ignoring it for months.  Honestly, I don't know where that man finds his patience.

Even as he's trying to tell me the arch has fallen, I'm arguing that the pain is on top of my foot, not on the bottom.  So the poor man has to draw sketches and go into a detailed explanation before I believe him.  

But even then I am doubtful.  I don't rush off to do as he says but a few days later, when I'm good and ready, go to the chemist and buy the shoe inserts he suggests.  I put the darn things inside my shoes and notice that I can't feel the one in my right shoe at all but the one in my left shoe is definitely taking some pressure from my foot.  Ahh, maybe he is right.  We'll see how it goes.

And whaddyathink?  Four days later the foot pain has gone.  But, oh, my poor left thigh and hip.  I swear they are screeching, "It's the foot's fault.  Why should we suffer?"

No doubt they will adjust and accept the change before too long.  I think they are even slower at processing new information than I am. 

But, on the bright side, I have to admit that today I've been so thankful that all I have to worry about is a fallen arch.  I even like the sound of pes planus. 

Sunday, 20 May 2012


I'm almost sorry I found a link on Wikipedia to the artworks on Alan Gibbs' property, The Farm.  This reasonably recent addition is called Dismemberment. I'd rather not know that.  When it first appeared, I thought there were two separate structures, the bit closest to the road I took to be a fancy half round hay barn and the bit on the other side of the hill a giant trumpet.  But I can now see from the photo on the link that it is one 84 metre (275 feet) sculpture that lays in a dip between the hills.  It was created by Anish Kapoor.  It's spectacular but I don't like it's name.  I will persist in calling it The Trumpet. 

I took this photo on a day when there were lots of people walking around the farm, an unusual occurrence.  I tried to find out if there was a special event going on and failed.  But, in doing so, I came across this video which aired on TV a month to the day before I took this photo and the one that appeared in Friday's post.  It's about the huge steel arches that are on the skyline, to the right of this sculpture - and their creator, Bernar Venet.

Dawn Treader wondered if the artist could be the same one who made the rusty arcs in our town park in Vastergotland, Sweden.  I discovered he has works in Belgium, America, Japan, Austria, Switzerland, Germany- so why not Sweden?

Both the sculptors I've mentioned have their works in well known spots around the world.  Their works are seen by millions.  But here, in this place, are the biggest works the artists have ever created.  Actually all the works around The Farm are the largest the various artists have ever made.  And all we have to do to see them is to take the alternative route, State Highway 16, to Auckland.  Traffic is only moderately heavy on this road during long week-ends, when it is bedlam on SH1.  The rest of the time it's a pleasant drive if you enjoy driving because you do have to drive it. The road meanders through rural countryside, climbs some steep hills, has a few treacherous corners, a couple of picturesque lookouts over the Kaipara Harbour. 

Places to pull over are limited along this road but there is room to do so reasonably safely - just don't open the drivers door before checking if a vehicle is coming - just as the steel arches in Friday's post come into view.  And there's  plenty of space near the gate to The Farm. You can see a few sculptures without even getting out of the car. 

From the entrance you can see "Horizons" on the left of this shot, the fountain and "Mermaids" the blue structure. 

Move your eyes around to the right and there are those twelve "things" on the left of the Trumpet (in the shot at the top).  Don't know what they are and haven't been able to find out.  They are new on the skyline so maybe still under construction? Don't know.

Look further to the right and you see the huge steel struts (name unknown) with the elephant, giraffe and baby giraffe at its feet.

So that makes nine pieces of art right beside the road, just on the other side of an ordinary farm fence.  Mr Gibbs adds an artwork to his collection about once a year, so who knows what the future may hold.

Friday, 18 May 2012

FSO Gates and fences

Fences, we have so many of them in this rural area - and so many of them the same!   Farm fences, that is.  And all my shots are of them.  They have 5 or 7 wires depending on whether they are keeping in cows or sheep.  Sometimes the top wire is barbed to discourage fence climbing.   They do the job and don't block the view.

The next four photos are not from My Town.  They were taken, with this topic in mind, when I was visiting my daughter in Taranaki.

Sometimes there are fences within the fences, some to keep the animals in and others to keep the animals out.

Aiden thinks this gate is to keep the animals in, not to keep him out and pushes determinedly against it.  (Lucky there are no sound effects to go with this shot because he wasn't amused that, despite his best effort, he was still locked out.)

Most of our farm fences are pretty ordinary.

They get old and their staples rust.

I went back to see what I had submitted for Fences when it was our topic over two years ago.  I featured the fence by the gateway in the following photos then, too.  And I've posted about the property before.   It's beside  State Highway 16, which I take when I go to Auckland; a perfectly ordinary fence surrounds extraordinary sights.  Beyond this humble fence (with the little yellow tag that warns that it is electrified) lays Alan Gibbs'  1,000 acre farm/Sculpture Park.  He purchased the windswept site in 1991 and since then has commissioned priceless and epic works by national and internationally renowned artists.

In addition, the exotic animals of the farm, including giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, and yaks, create living sculptures.  I recently thought I'd managed to get a photo of a giraffe and an elephant but when I passed by again three weeks later there they were in exactly the same spot - sculptures.   (The llamas and people are real, there was some sort of open day going on.) 

When I was returning home I was thinking I must stop to get a photo of the gate to the property and figured it would be just my luck for the gate to be open.  I've never ever seen it open, even on the day when people could be seen walking all over the place, the gates were locked.  And, guess what?  The darn thing was open.  It's an extension of the fence on either side of the opening.  Then it joins on to the ordinary old farm fence, which I always think is incongruous. 

I can only hope that Mr Gibbs will one day open these gates to the public.  Well, he does that now occasionally to raise money for charity but an entry ticket costs $250.  Until my boat comes in, I'll have to be happy on this side of the fence.  Or, I should say, continue to be happy because I do enjoy stopping here and looking to see if there is anything new on the skyline. 

Meanwhile this is more my style of gate:

 I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the FSO team has to offer this week.  Will the fences and gates be to keep something in or to keep something out?  We can find out here.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Grumpy mother

I do a pretty good line in self pity when I'm feeling a bit off colour.  Once upon a time I didn't know how to sit and take it easy, no matter how I was feeling.  I took the "push through it" approach, ignore it and it will go away, give in to it and you will feel worse.  These days I just give in to it and don't think I feel any worse for it.  

Nothing much wrong, just a cold.  And during the time I wasn't plopped on the couch with my head in a book I've been thinking about Mothers Day.  My attitude to that has changed over the years, too.  I used to believe it was a load of old rubbish, commercialism at its worst.  I still think the commercialism stinks.

Why should anyone feel obliged to spoil their mother one day a year?  I never expected my children to transform themselves into angels one day a year.  Mothers do their mothering job and I for one never saw a need to be thanked for it.  

Once I began my own mothering I felt the need to celebrate my mother's efforts in the mothering department.  But she did it a dozen times over (yes, she had twelve children) and that really does deserve some recognition.   But me, I hadn't done anything I didn't want to do.  I had my four beautiful children because I wanted them, so why should they feel obliged to me? 

The gifts that meant the most were always those little things that only a child could see as a precious. 

My Mothers Day parcel today was precious.  The card was so obviously chosen by a son, the words he wrote inside were honest and sincere.  In buying my present the help he received from Georgia was evident.  A childrens' cook book, a macaron making kit, a tiny box of four pretty chocolates and a book. I've never made macarons in my life but looks like that is about to change.  I'm pretty sure Georgia thought that set was a cake icing set (and no doubt we will adapt it to be just that), and my son wouldn't have known the difference.   But I'm thankful that he knows whatever makes Georgia happy will make me happy.

In the top left hand corner is 15 month old Aiden's art work.  

On Friday Georgia created her gift for her mother.  The discussion on what to make had gone on for days.  She finally fished out a packed of macadamia nuts I had in the pantry, laid 5 in the bottom of each cup cake case and got me to melt chocolate to pour over the top.  She decorated the bottom of an old chocolate box.  A pretty and delicious gift, made with love. 

Friday, 11 May 2012

FSO Silhouette

This week's topic is silhouettes. Luckily I remembered when I was at my daughter's last week and there was a beautiful sunset.  

In the foreground is a Cabbage Tree/ti kouka which is one of the most distinctive trees in the New Zealand landscape, especially on farms.  They grow all over the country but prefer wet, open areas like swamps.  I've tried to grow them but I think my soil is too well drained.

 Last week I showed a stylised silver fern, New Zealand's national emblem, on the side of an Air NZ plane.  Here is the real thing, a tree fern, or ponga.  They grow in a variety of habitats, although they prefer damp shady places beneath tree canopies.  Again, I've had no luck with them.

I took this next one with the topic fences in mind for next week but am bringing it forward to this week.  I think it fits "an outline that appears dark against a light background" definition of silhouette. 

To see some really good silhouettes, just pop over to Friday My Town Shoot Out.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Small boats, large boats, new boats

You can see them all at the Town Basin.  Boats large and small.  New and .... hey, wait on, I'm yet to see one I would call an old boat.

This was my favourite last time I was there.  Loved all that highly polished wood.  Must be a nightmare or a real labour of love to keep in tip top condition. 

 We thought this one looked pretty new.

Imagine the fuel bill!

Then a eagle eyed youngster noticed the furniture inside was still in its plastic wrapping and there was more on the outside.

 Boats from far away places:

Couldn't see any sign of where this one came from except for the flag which we didn't recognise.  We had a meal and waited for a breeze to come in and unfurl that flag.

And even then didn't know where it was from.  The waiter said he thought it was from a Scandanavian country  which gave me somewhere to start when I got home and investigated.

Then the camera revealed what my naked eye hadn't noticed.  Yes, it is from Norway.

For me, there is no better place to pass time than at the Town Basin.  And I must admit that sometimes sets me off dreaming. Good dreams, there are never any stormy seas, just endless sunshine and blue ocean. 

Monday, 7 May 2012

Working Boats

When I wander around the Town Basin I'm usually looking with envy at the large ocean going yachts but, to be honest, I love all boats.  And a couple of weeks ago focused on the working boats.

I like the honesty of them, admire their tidiness.  Imagine the disaster that would result if this boat were messy.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


In Maori legend, Taranaki is a mountain being that lived peacefully for many centuries in the centre of New Zealand's North Island, Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu.

Nearby stood Mount Pihanga. Covered in a cloak of deep green forest she presented a stunning sight and all the mountain gods were in love with her.

Taranaki dared to make advances to Pihanga and was reproached by Tongariro and a mighty battle ensued between them. The earth shook and the sky became dark as the mountains belched forth their anger. When the battle ended the lovely Pihanga stood close by Tongariro's side. Taranaki, wild with grief and jealously, angrily wrenched his roots from the ground and left the other mountains.

Weeping, he plunged towards the setting sun, gouging out a deep wide trench. When he reached the sea he turned north and stumbled up the coast. As he slept that night the Pouakai Ranges snared and trapped Taranaki in the place he now rests.

The next day a stream of clear water sprang from the side of Tongariro. It flowed down the deep scar Taranaki had left on his journey to the coast to form the Whanganui River.

There are those who say that Taranaki is silently brooding and will one day try to return inland again to fight Tongariro. Consequently many Maori were wary of living in the area between the mountains.

Thank heavens for Wikipedia where they tell the legend much better than I could, although there is nothing brooding about Taranaki.  He's a perfectly beautiful mountain, much more symetrical and lovely than Tongariro I think.

I've just returned from visiting my daughter who now lives with Mt Taranaki easily visible from her home.  What a thrill it was to wake as my daughter pulled the curtains and see the snow capped peak through the window.  And how lucky was I?  The first snow of the season fell the day after my arrival. 

Well, sort of lucky, I did find the weather a little chilly but threw on many layers of woolies and ventured out on Day 2 to walk further along her road where there are unobstructed views of the mountain.   I was hoping for cows or sheep in the foreground but not at all disappointed with that lovely mountain.

I didn't give myself much hope of capturing Tongariro and Ngauruhoe away to the east.  I don't know how far apart these mountains are from Mt Taranaki - 250 kms by road, less as the crow flies; still, a fair distance.  I was happy with this shot in the evening light of Tongariro.

Until my daughter spotted it out of Aiden's window early on the morning I left to return home and grabbed my camera before she came to wake me (good daughter that she is!)

Justine is an excellent tour guide.  She is also an excellent shopper so I just had to tell her the four items I had on my shopping list and a few hours later, mission accomplished.   I took a photo of one of New Plymouth's most visible works of art before we headed in to the shops.  It's a 45 metre high fibreglass and carbon fibre Wind Wand sculpture, the city's millennium project.  It was moving gently in the breeze, I'd love to see it dancing in a storm. 

 When we returned to the carpark the sun had moved across the sky to give us the perfect shot.

And, of course, best of all I got to spend time with my youngest grandson, Aiden.  He really is a delight.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

FSO - Public transportation

Public transport is not something we have around here.  On a couple of occasions I have seen a large bus on our road carrying children to their school camp at Tangihua Lodge in the forest but I've been too busy getting out of their way on the narrow, dirt road to worry about a photo.  But there is a regular little school bus with the telltale sign of its travels.  I don't think this is it, ours is a little smaller but you can see it services a similar road.

It's quite different from its big brother in the city:

My form of public transport this week was the plane.  This wasn't the one, as I departed just after dark but it was the same size.   It might not be very big but it covered the 350 kms (217 miles) from Auckland to New Plymouth in 25 minutes and that's better than a 4 - 5 hour drive. 

I'm a bit late joining FSO this week, only got back home an hour or so ago.  The rest of the team will have their shots here.