Saturday, December 23, 2006

happy Christmas!

Well, tomorrow I am off to a little part of New Zealand called Peel Forest with 12 relations for Christmas and New Years. We have rented out a camp there; it is solar powered and we are all crossing our fingers that the power will survive us. We are also crossing our fingers regarding the weather; as usual, one spends all December bragging about a summer Christmas, and then a few days before Christmas, it starts feeling like it's midwinter. For the last four days, it has been absolutely pelting down with rain and it's getting colder and colder. Ugh. The weatherman says it will clear up by Christmas Day but one never knows whether to trust the weatherman. As a writer in our newspaper said yesterday: 'It's summer! How do I know this? By the rain hitting my roof like a machine gun shooting six-inch nails.' I was downtown yesterday scurrying around the central city with an umbrella, and it was really quite amusing watching the poor tourists who have been inveigled here on the promise of a dream-like New Zealand summer on the beach.
Well, at the very least we are taking plenty of board games and reading matter with us, and (sigh) I have essays to write. And Christmas is Christmas. Bad weather won't get in the way of the best parts.
Regarding Christmas, this is a verse I've been thinking about quite a bit this year, from Isaiah 9, which is really quite applicable to Christmas: The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. It's not much but I like it. Have a merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Top 5

I have been inspired by JenKneeBee's splendiferous list to make myself a list of Top 5 Guys, as in actors. It took a little thinking. I will admit that some of them are very predictable choices. But a few are possibly not. Here we go:

1) Of course, Colin Firth was always going to be number 1. No one could ever surpass his performance of Mr Darcy. His limpid deep eyes, his shaggy brown locks, his general air of I-don't-give-a-damn... The scene pictured to the left would have to be about my favourite scene of a movie ever when it comes to wanting to undepress myself.

2) Ahh, Antonio Banderas. As well as being a rather cool Puss in Boots which shows he has a sense of humour and can do cool choking-cat sounds, he can do roles like Che in Evita and sing as if he wasn't really an actor. And then, Zorro was just so cheesily fun, and anybody who has Anthony Hopkins as their elder mentor-figure could hardly help being great!

3) Johnny Depp. As he is rather a popular choice currently, I decided to avoid pictures of Captain Jack Sparrow and go for the scarily lovable Edward Scissorhands. But really, whatever he does, he is just so cool, and so versatile, and so clever, and so good-looking that I could have got any picture off the net and put it up here... I just happen to love Edward Scissorhands! (Allright, so I don't think Edward Scissorhands is necessarily great-looking... he did make me love him though!)

4) Jean Reno is my secret crush. He's so French looking and so symmetrical. Just being French and having a great accent makes him jump up the list, but I think it's his symmetricality that is his greatest asset.

5) Okay, so Tom Hanks is balding and he looks like your average elder brother, but is there anyone better to ride off into the sunset with? I wouldn't admit it to most people, but I liked You've Got Mail better than The Passion of the Christ. And I always cry in his chick flick movies and want him to get together with Meg Ryan. And he's such a great actor in other movies, like (obviously) Forrest Gump or Road to Perdition or The Ladykillers any other ones like that.

Scarily, all these men are at least double my age. :)

Monday, December 18, 2006

it's a scandal

The airport has changed its voice thingy when you drive in! (see two posts back, thing-that-makes-me-happy #22) I am unhappy. Now, instead of going "WELCOME!!!!" it says "Welcome." Now, on the assumption that anyone who reads this blog will visit me in New Zealand someday, I will never be able to share the joy with you. How sad.
I have been to the airport twice today. I got up early in the morning to pick up Dad, whose flight was arriving at 8am. Got there, waited two hours - no sign of Dad. Started to imagine he'd been arrested, kidnapped, or had collapsed somewhere with a life-threatening illness. Got some nice airport men to help me but they didn't know where he was. Went home wondering if I was mad and had got the wrong day/flight/time. Nope, I was right - but Dad's first flight, to Auckland, was late and by the time he rung me, I'd already left the house. He arrived at 1.05pm.
All the same, the first trip wasn't a complete waste. Whenever I wait at the international arrivals section, I always think of the opening scene of Love Actually where a Hugh Grant voiceover talks about how his depression is always cured by going to the Arrivals gate at Heathrow. (That is, unless his father fails to turn up.) I like watching the people who arrive, or the people who wait. I guess the sort of person they're waiting for; age, sex, relationship to them.
There was one grandfather waiting for his daughter and her family. When they finally came out of Customs, her three little boys went running at him shouting "Grandad, Grandad, Grandad!" and giving him big hugs. Very cute. Next minute: "Can you take out your teeth?"
Another little baby boy arrived with his dad to see his grandfather. He had obviously just started to walk confidently, and was swaggering/swaying all over the place with a huge proud grin on his face. He kept walking past me and looking at me mischievously because he knew I couldn't not smile. I think airports must be heaven to kids of that age - all those flat carpets and big empty spaces.
There was a whole group of people waiting for someone and I was trying to guess who it would be. It was tricky because the people were all of different ages and not all related. Finally a young mum and dad walked out holding three tiny babies - imagine travelling with triplets who were under a month old! Brave, brave people. They should be applauded.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Okay, so we celebrated Thanksgiving a month late and it was our own take on it, but tonight myself and those from my uni Christian group who are still in Christchurch over the summer met up and had a Thanksgiving dinner. I really think you Americans are on to a good thing with holidays like that. A few weeks ago we were discussing how cool a tradition Thanksgiving is, and how it's such a pity New Zealand doesn't do something like that (ie eat lots) for our national holidays. We just throw mud at politicians and get a day off work. So... we decided to change things! We talked and played pool, and then we had a dinner, with turkey and roast vegetables and gravy and salads and wine and all that yummy sort of stuff, and lots of dessert. I made a sticky date pudding with butterscotch sauce - yum...
In between courses, we sat round the table and each said what we were thankful for and then prayed. It was really lovely. I am thankful for:
- my dad, and my siblings.
- getting a great job this year that I really enjoy.
- having been given more than one way to express myself.
- being free to take my life in several different directions.
Photos: my sister's cat Missy who was enjoying scratching her back and soaking up the sun on the hottest day yet this summer.


My cocktail! At Valentino's.
The bridesmaids.
Katie in her huge heels stumbling across the gravel carpark.
Marielle and the bridesmaids. As you can see, she looked beautiful.

Well, the wedding's been and gone and it was a lot of fun. I hadn't thought it would be different at all, but it is, going to the wedding of one of your peers and not just older siblings or distant relatives or people at your church. Maybe because you can't help but think 'what if it were me up there'! I must say, yay for being single and unattached because the thought of getting married now is terrifying.
The service was at St Andrew's church, and was really nice. Basically everyone was smiling compulsively for an hour or two. The reception dinner was only for family and the bridal party, so my group of friends went out for dinner to Valentino's where I tried my first cocktail... and, ominously, liked it a little too much. :) Had the most delicious ravioli I've ever tried. Then it was out to Rangiora and the reception venue where we listened to speeches, wandered around a random little museum the venue owner has attached to the hall, danced and socialised. Home by 1am. 'Twas nice. And now I am off to church for the carol service.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the small pleasures of life

Natalie and Amanda arrange the lights behind the main table. Note the beautifully folded napkins. Natalie works at a reception venue so she taught us all the cool little details about setting up a wedding dinner.
The cake table. As it's pretty much certain no one at the wedding will notice this, please take note of the beautifully pinned up tablecloths around it. Are they not skillfully done? (by yours truly...)

The final result.
Photos above: This afternoon is a friend's wedding; last night five of us went out to the reception venue to set it all up. It's a low budget wedding as the couple are both still students and 20 years old, but I think we managed to do a rather good job! Although my fingers still smell like rubber from blowing up balloons....

Now - I am going to blatantly copy Stacy and make a list of:
Things That Make Me Happy
1) Making lists.
2) Writing in phonetics. Seriously, you all should try it sometime.
3) Going out for meals. Especially when someone else is paying.
4) Buying nice clothes.
5) Leaving the lawns to grow a little longer than is tidy, then mowing them. Cutting through all that grass is so therapeutic.
6) Christmas carols.
7) British comedians. Especially from a little while ago like Monty Python or Flanders and Swann.
8) Jane Austen. There is something so satisfying about finishing one of her novels.
9) Wrapping up Christmas presents. Isn't that just so fun? You get them all crisp looking, and tie curly ribbon on, and make little cards or labels for them, and then you arrange them under the tree... *sigh of contentment*
10) Finding little jokes in things that no one else finds funny. I look mad, but at least I enjoy myself.
11) Thinking of names for my hypothetical children.
12) Writing a story I think is good, or even just writing a sentence I think is clever or funny. This also makes me nervous though in case I'm the only one who likes it.
13) When the Korean students I tutor say or write something funny... eg "That ballroom is too small. You must blow it." (That was yesterday, and what she meant was 'balloon'.)
14) On a similar note, when I'm tutoring and someone really doesn't get something, and I spend a while trying to explain or demonstrate it, and suddenly they click. What a great feeling.
15) Drinking a milkshake.
16) The sunlight on a clear summer evening.
17) The smell of coffee or freshly cut grass.
18) Playing the piano or recorder or guitar, especially with other people.
19) When children like me.
20) U2 songs played loudly.
21) Jazz playing on the stereo while I cook.
22) Going to the airport. When you drive into the carpark there, an electronic voice says "WELCOME!!" in a very corny voice. It's so fun to talk along with it.
23) Similarly, talking and singing along with The Sound of Music. My sister and I could probably talk along with the whole movie.
24) Getting a really hard song just right on the piano. Or playing a really loud song with a super dramatic crescendo. There is no better way to destress.
25) Getting mail. Real mail, not bills or official letters or anything like that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

five favourite Christmas songs

I've been tagged by Stacy, so...

my Five Favourite Christmas songs are (if I manage to restrain myself to five):

1. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen - screw feminism, I love the tune.

2. Mary's Boy Child

3. A Pukeko in a Punga Tree - yay for New Zealand!

4. O Holy Night

5. Ding Dong Merrily on High

Honourable mentions go to: Little Drummer Boy, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Te Harinui, Good King Wenceslas, The First Noel, and the Cradle carol (the really old obscure one that goes 'lullay lully thou little tiny child'). If I were to choose a modern carol I like... can't remember the name but it's set in New York and sung by Irish people!! I'm sure there's some more I've forgotten.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

pleasures of the flesh

Well. Yesterday I went a little crazy after I finished writing my essay, and I decided to get out all the Christmas decorations and overdecorate the lounge. This was a really good idea because if I waited till Dad came back he would try to stop me but now he can't! Heh heh. So I got out every single decoration we own, strung up the Christmas lights I got last year in the Boxing Day sales, and proceeded to make the lounge look really, really silly. But I am so happy! I turned the lights on and they twinkled away (they have a controller and you can change the way they twinkle, how cool is that?!) and I played carols on the piano and bellowed away with all my lungs. There is a nativity set on the piano, tinsel everywhere, decorations hanging on all the doorknobs, snowflakes on the walls, a small fake Christmas tree on top of the TV and so on. I'm also going to try to make a wreath for our door.

Then this afternoon I went shopping! My friend is getting married on Saturday, which is a very bizarre feeling, and so obviously I need new clothes. I bought a blueish-greenish A-line skirt, a black singlet, a little thin black cardigan that looked terrible on the rack but nice on me, and peridot earrings. (I put them last, for emphasis, because I love the word 'peridot'.) It's really a very bad thing, but I can't deny it - successful shopping makes me happy! Especially when it happens fast. I am not a browser. I was going to try to find some shoes as well but I spent a little over what I was expecting... so I'm going to be good and wear old ones.

Now I'm about to go out to my sister's house in Lincoln for dinner. It's about 30 degrees celsius (a shocker in our dry Christchurch climate) and they have a swimming pool... what bliss...

Saturday, December 09, 2006


That title is not supposed to be as morbid as it sounds. Instead, as I scanned some of the Ship of Fools website this morning I came across some more "gadgets for God" that should be shared. When you pass on, why not get your family to buy you a Talking Tombstone? Or how about a Glow Grave? Or if you have lost someone special, why not send an Afterlife Telegram? For only $5 a word, we will find a terminally ill patient for you who will hunt down your loved one beyond the grave and pass on the message to them.

As may be guessed from this, I am having a rather boring day. I should be writing an essay but I just can't be bothered, so I'm doing everything else - washing the dishes, tidying the house, dusting, for goodness' sake. I may even go completely overboard and vacuum! My dad isn't coming back for another week and a bit, so I don't need to do this until Friday at least... but this is the sort of thing that always gets done when it's a choice of essay-writing or housework.

Actually, I'm having a bit of a direction crisis over my English papers. I haven't done any actual Literature papers since first year, until now, and over the last year I think I must have lost a lot of my Englishy leanings. I love History a lot more and I can analyse things in a much more sophisticated way in History essays. With this English essay I'm having trouble saying anything that doesn't sound banal.

Photos: this is why mowing the lawn should be avoided - it makes for nice photos. I have, at least, mowed the lawns where people can see them. But there seems to be no good reason to mow the lawns that only I can see, at least until my father gets back.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

advice to a discarded lover

This is a poem we studied in my New Zealand Literature class this morning. I thought it was rather cool and that I should share it. It's by Fleur Adcock.

Advice to a Discarded Lover

Think, now: if you have found a dead bird,
Not only dead, not only fallen,
But full of maggots: what do you feel -
More pity or more revulsion?

Pity is for the moment of death,
And the moments after. It changes
When decay comes, with the creeping stench
And the wriggling, munching scavengers.

Returning later, though, you will see
A shape of clean bone, a few feathers,
An inoffensive symbol of what
Once lived. Nothing to make you shudder.

It is clear, then. But perhaps you find
The analogy I have chosen
For our dead affair rather gruesome -
Too unpleasant a comparison.

It is not accidental. In you
I see maggots close to the surface.
You are eaten up by self-pity,
Crawling with unlovable pathos.

If I were to touch you I should feel
Against my fingers fat, moist worm-skin.
Do not ask me for charity now:
Go away until your bones are clean.

Monday, December 04, 2006

where's a sugar daddy when you need one?

I have decided I am not cut out for working. My soul is too sensitive. I have been tutoring for about six-ish months now and so far haven't had any criticism which means I am very lucky, I suppose, when you consider that I am tutoring kids with competitive parents who like to bargain. Today after I finished tutoring two girls aged 10 and 11, their mother said that she wants much more conversation and less grammar in the classes and that the older one finds it a bit boring because we don't spend as much time on conversation as she would like. She said this in the nicest possible way but I still find it very depressing to be criticised. I don't think I'll ever get used to it. Perhaps I should avoid politics as a career.

The thing is, the major problem I see with these particular kids' speech is that they make heaps of mistakes in their really basic English grammar, although they have a large vocabulary. Obviously, they haven't been properly taught the simplest verbs, like "I am" as opposed to "I is", or at least, they haven't remembered them very well. So even though we don't focus on grammar in our classes, I always slip some in when I correct them, because it is always their basic grammar that is wrong. It sometimes really annoys me how mothers have these opinions about what it is best for their child to learn and how. I guess that is the occupational hazard of ESL teaching.

Anyway (excuse the rant), I've decided that maybe I should win Lotto, be given a large inheritance from someone I've never heard of before, find a sugar daddy, or become a housewife, because I hate criticism, and it seems to me that whatever line of work I choose for my career, I'm going to have to face it.

Isn't it just my luck that the thing I really want to be is an author, and criticism is probably one of the main five points in the job description for that.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Hooray for Christmas!!! What better way to succumb to holiday cheer than to be tagged with a Christmas meme by Stacy? And what better photo to use than that of the dodgy Santa on the Auckland Whitcoulls Building? Unfortunately you cannot see the finger actually beckoning, as it does in reality, but the vision is almost complete. Note the leery eye and the overall oddness.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Has anyone ever had egg nog?
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? I've always understood that Santa gives you the stocking presents, and the other presents are from your family... or else it becomes a bit weird when your parents want you to thank Granny for the socks when theoretically they are supposed to come from Santa.
3. Coloured lights on tree/house or white? Coloured. :) Sorry, Stacy. I wouldn't mind white, but we've always had coloured, and Christmas is not a time to be progressive.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No. I'm not exactly eager to kiss anyone I may be spending Christmas with, thanks.
5. When do you put your decorations up? As soon as is humanly possible.
6. What is your favourite holiday dish? Truffles, very chocolatey ones. Or the little bowls full of scorched almonds. The roast meal, preferably chicken, with Mum's way of doing gravy, and as many roast veges as you can eat. Pavlova for dessert, with kiwifruit and lots of cream. Sparkling grape juice.
7. Favourite holiday memory as a child? If I can avoid being specific, just the excitement of being the young one who got to hand out the presents to everyone and build oneself a little pile over in a corner that one would then open as slowly as possible to savour the delights of materialism.
8. When did you learn the truth about Santa? Say what? Well, no, to tell the truth, I cannot remember a time when I ever believed in Santa. It wasn't because my parents were anti-superstitions or anything, I just didn't see how he could be true.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? No, we always wait until Christmas Day. I think being in the southern hemisphere where Christmas is all about summertime you don't really want to be sitting inside around a log fire opening presents at night-time. You want to be able to run outside and try out your new water pistol as soon as you've opened it.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree? Start with lights, then tinsel, and then put every single decoration I ever remember using on it.
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Neither. It's just not going to happen in New Zealand! Yay! Honestly, summer Christmases are the best.
12. Can you ice skate? Nope. Maybe more relevantly, I can't water ski.
13. Do you remember your favourite gift? The chocolate fondue set from my sister a few years ago was pretty cool. As a child, I guess the Playmobil zoo was a high note.
14. What's the most important thing about the holidays for you? I can't choose. I love the carols, I love the religious side of it, I love it when my whole family is together. I can't really separate them out.
15. What is your favourite holiday dessert? Pavlova.
16. What is your favourite holiday tradition? Singing carols.
17. What tops your tree? A beautiful little gold angel my aunty brought for me from Germany when I was three.
18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving. I would have expected receiving, but thinking back to my favourite present, a few questions back, I realised I didn't remember very many of them. I do, however, remember buying for other people and the excitement of buying something they'll really like and watching them open it. When I was a kid my mum used to give me about $10 to spend on everyone and so I had to spend about 50c a person, an interesting challenge. But I loved doing it.
19. What is your favourite Christmas song? That's a hard question. I like O Holy Night but so does everyone. Mary's Boy Child? Away In A Manger - the version with the less well known tune? God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen? Hark the Herald Angels Sing? There's a lot of really obscure carols in the Oxford Book of Carols that are really beautiful. I especially love the music from a Christmas musical my sister wrote for our church's Christmas play once. My favourite song from that went: "There he lies / in a manger sleeping / Lying there / Sleeping in a stable / Quietly go / Or the King of heaven and earth may wake and cry / Imagine that / Our God has come to save us as a babe / From highest heights / Born a peasant child to show the way / Amazing love! Grace such as this world has never seen."
20. Candy Canes! Yuck or Yum? Yummmmmm! I could eat fifty candy canes. I love licking them very very slowly so they get thinner and thinner and the red comes off until they're only white. All sticky goodness.

This year most of my siblings, nieces/nephews, and my dad and I are hiring out a camp at Peel Forest, a few hours away from Christchurch, over Christmas and New Years. It's going to be an interesting Christmas without Mum there, especially as it was a few days after Christmas that she died last year. I've never been someone who thought the passing of a year was really that significant but I've started to see how it can be. Hence the spending of Christmas in a completely new place this year.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Armour of God

O Christian brothers and sisters, are you looking for the perfect Christmas gift for your child? Do you want to protect and arm them against the Devil's snares? Look no further! Buy "Armour of God PJ's" for your child this Christmas!

Or if you are in search of some entertainment, listen to this recording a helpful churchgoer left on a pastor's voicemail. Make sure you listen after the original recording to hear it set to music!