Thursday, December 27, 2007

my Christmas present to me

Yup - I have just ordered a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ8 from a Parallel Importers in another city. My camera died in Thailand after a mishap involving a kayak and, er, the sea, and I have been borrowing one for the last few weeks, and finally I have found the camera for me. I couldn't afford a digital SLR but this one is at the higher end of point-and-shoot digital cameras, and, even with postage, this is a lot cheaper than getting it at a camera shop in my city. I've seen several very positive reviews of this camera, one going so far as to say there is nothing wrong with it, so I am very excited about getting my parcel in the next few days.

How was everyone's Christmas Day? Mine was sunny and beautiful. We had a fantastic brunch at my sister's house in the late morning - Eggs Benedict, pancakes with mixed berries and cream, croissants, fresh orange juice, COFFEEEEEE. My sister has just sold her house and so it was bittersweet that it would be our last Christmas there - it is a lovely cosy old villa with a cottage garden and a swimming pool. Then we had a barbecue in the evening at my brother-in-law's parents' house. Boxing Day was not so nice, weather-wise - it rained all day - but today is another perfect summer's day, and my gran and two aunties took me to the beach via the hills for lunch. I love summer!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

it's Christmas time

Tagged by Lynette... ( - no linkage due to decrepit old computer that lets me do nothing)

1. List 12 random things about yourself that have to do with Christmas.
2. Please refer to it as a ‘hoopla’ and not the dreaded ‘m’-word…
3. You have to tag specific people when you’re done. No “if you’re reading this, consider yourself tagged” stuff is allowed. The number of people you tag is really up to you — but the more, the merrier to get this ‘hoopla’ circulating through the blogosphere.
4. Please try and do it as quickly as possible. The Christmas season will be over before we know it! Let’s involve as many people as possible!

Hmm, so here goes:

1. I always wake up early on Christmas Day. Even as an adult. I can't help it. It's exciting!

2. This year my Secret Santa (we have that system in my family) asked what I want and I requested either a complete surprise, Coldplay's album "Parachutes", or the Oxford Book of Carols, which is a beautiful book of singing/piano music with carols from all over the world arranged beautifully.

3. Being in the southern hemisphere, sometimes I feel like I've missed out on Christmas pop culture. I have never seen real mistletoe, mulled wine is a bit impractical at this time of year, I have no idea what eggnog contains and used to assume it was an eggplant drink, it never snows here in December unless you're on top of a mountain, it's the wrong season for holly, the list goes on. There are lots of benefits to a summer Christmas but one year I would love to spend Christmas in Germany or somewhere cold.

4. I have played both a cow and a poplar tree in nativity plays at our church. Should I explain? The first was the innkeeper in a nativity musical (the main character was Mary's donkey). And on the other occasion I was Polly Poplar, the heroine of the drama - all the other trees at the nursery were being bought as Christmas trees but I was too ugly, being a poplar, until an angel came and decorated me with Christmas lights and then I was beautiful! It's hard to pretend to cry when you have a tree costume on.

5. My mum died around Christmas time so lots of people assume Christmas must be hard for me. Actually Christmas seems to give some meaning to Mum's death, for me. Although I can totally understand that some people in similar situations find it very difficult.

6. I have two particular pet peeves about this season - people who think Christmas is an evil or unnecessary thing with pagan roots that Christians shouldn't participate in, and people who decide that since they aren't Christian they should try and stop other people from celebrating. Ie, the man in Wellington last year who rang noise control because the Salvation Army band was playing carols on the street, as they do every year, complaining it was offending him and usurping his right to religious freedom. Killjoy.

7. Another pet peeve is the Christmas music that plays in malls. Sheesh, it's already noisy and hellish enough in there without Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or Jingle Bells playing over and over. I have never been unfortunate enough to work in a mall over Christmas but I heartily pity those who do.

8. I like waterfights and barbecues at Christmas. I know that this year we will have the latter, but everyone's too grown up for the former now, unless I enlist my nieces and nephews. Oh, and that's right - I have a cast on which I'm not allowed to get wet or walk on - looks like a fun Christmas for me.

9. My sister wrote a Christmas musical for our church one year, as part of the composition element of her music degree at uni. I still have some of the music and I still think it's really good.

10. (edited because I suddenly remembered this) One of the nicest things about getting a real tree when I was a kid was that it would always be too tall, so Dad would lop off the top with a saw. I was allowed to put it in a smaller bucket, decorate it myself, and keep it in my room as my own mini-Christmas tree. Kinda cool.

11. Last night our neighbours invited my dad and I and some other neighbours over for a Christmas barbecue. It was so nice feeling part of a little community.

12. Next year at Christmas time there will be two more members of my family.


Edit: *scream* Must! Tag! Someone! Layling, Tusk, E., slskenyon, and Patty, if they read this. And the Ukrainian Mafia.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

cliche or truth?

I have over the last two months seen one movie about three times because I loved it so much - it was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen. I won't say what it was because if I do I'm about to spoil a really special moment in it for anyone that hasn't seen it.

Actually, what I write here isn't going to sound all that original or "special". It's a bit of a cliche, in fact.

In this film, someone's father has always given them the advice that success isn't all life's about. Instead, what matters is to have tried.

Despite this being a really sweet moment, the first times I watched the film it just washed over me, to be honest. Yeah yeah, that's what everyone says, heard THAT before. Third time through, I stopped to think. The one thing I want to be successful at (- writing -) is the thing I'm most scared to attempt. My major reason for not hunkering down and writing The Novel, instead of just sitting round excusing myself and waiting for The Idea, is that rejection is a little too frightening. More frightening is making the attempt and then finding out that I'm a crap writer and I can't actually do it unless I want to sell my soul and do Mills and Boon. This has always made perfect sense to me even if I don't admit it.

(Of course, an element of my inaction is just pure laziness.)

But then I thought, suppose some day I die, which is more than likely. Will I really be lying on my deathbed surrounded by adoring hordes of descendants, or with my life flashing before my eyes in the midst of some tragic accident, thinking, "well, at least I never got rejected by a publishing company"?

I've got to get on with it. Just do it. Bite the bullet.

There are probably about ten cliches in this one blog post, not least that "trying is the most important thing". Maybe this particular cliche hasn't used up all its truth, though.

And at least if I write the novel and die without seeing success, I can delude myself into believing it will be published posthumously, make my grandchildren rich, and ensure for myself a well-kept tombstone.

Monday, December 17, 2007

being a bridesmaid

When one of my best friends told me earlier in the year that she was engaged and she wanted me to be a bridesmaid, I was a) stunned as I hadn't even met her boyfriend; b) honoured and SO happy for her; and c) just a little bit panicky. Last time I was a bridesmaid it was for a very considerate sister who spent a lot of time making sure each of her bridesmaids felt comfortable in the dresses we wore. But when we were at high school, my friend (let's call her Jane Doe) would often tell us exactly what her wedding dress would be like and how her bridesmaids would wear baby pink, baby doll dresses with a white sash. I can think of few dresses less likely to compliment my figure and colouring than that, and so I (probably unjustly) panicked, assuming my friend would be one of those brides who dresses her bridesmaids in clothes that would suit HER and not them.

I panicked even more when she asked me to try on a dress in a store called Portman's that sells clothes in both Australia and New Zealand. I tried it on - a beautiful shiny red - but it wouldn't quite do up, and it came almost two thirds up my thighs. *scream* I think Portman's makes clothes exclusively for ballerinas. My friend gave up on that idea very graciously and looked elsewhere, finally buying dresses at a shop called Ezibuy, and buying two different sizes for me just in case one didn't fit right. My panic has been toned down over the last few months, mainly because I didn't think about it, but today Jane Doe brought the dresses to my house to try on.

Well, I did. The smaller size fits me perfectly and it is BEAUTIFUL. I am so relieved. Over the last year or so I've found it impossible to find a single dress that doesn't make me look like an elephant, and somehow my friend finds one without me even having to try it on first. Here is the link if you want to see what the dress looks like - it is the red one on the right -

THANK YOU JANE DOE! Bring on the wedding (Feb 9).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

haere mai

So - I'm home. Arrived at 2:20pm on Thursday 13 December, exhausted after leaving Perth at midnight. Lucky because I travelled by business class and was able to use the Qantas Business class lounge in Sydney, with free food, magazines, wireless internet and soft comfy armchairs. I am still jetlagged (this timezone change is a killer - I have to get up at 3am and go to bed at what feels like 4pm) and I have Business to attend to in the form of enrolling for university, making hospital appointments, informing Inland Revenue that I AM in NZ and therefore don't have to pay extra interest on my student loan, applying for travel insurance - and so on.

I have come back to:
- heavenly, heavenly cold weather. When I came out the airport door, it was rainy, misty and windy. BLISS. Such is a New Zealand summer. It's only started to get sunny today. And when it gets warm, it won't be too dry and it won't be too humid. There will be hardly any flies, no poisonous spiders, no snakes.
- Dad, my sister and her husband, my two nephews aged 9 and 7. Alex, the younger, said to me on Thursday - "when are you going to get married and have babies?" (I am the only one in the family who is still resisting.)
I snorted and said, "I don't know, never maybe."
Alex replied, "Well, you're lovely, someone should marry you!"
As little as I want to get married right now, isn't that just so sweet? Who wouldn't want to be around a kid like that?
- old computer and slow, restricted internet. I cannot use facebook and my gmail and blogger accounts only display the basics - no photos can be published today. Right now it is still funny.
- a soft bed. For various reasons the mattress I slept on in Oz was built like a log and my sleep now is long, luxurious and uninterrupted.
- people who are like me. Even chatting to the airport staff who wheeled me through Christchurch Airport reinforced this. The Aussies I met were on the whole great, and hardly all that different from me. But being back here reminds me this is where I belong, this is where I fit in. No more New Zealander jokes. No more overemphasized imitations of my accent. No more slightly different standards of politeness.
- a mall in which I inevitably run into at least three people I know every time I shop there. One of the lonely things about Perth was walking around town or mall or beach and knowing I would see nobody I knew even vaguely. Today I met some friends at a cafe near Riccarton mall and besides these friends I bumped into four other people I know. Christchurch is a small, small place.

It's good to be home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

ho ho ho

Sailing in Penang, Malaysia in a regatta on 21 November, on a 52ft yacht called the Resolution of Whitby.
Me and another crew member while we waited in the stinking heat for the wind to come up.
My brother driving. Yes, he had fun.

Christmas meme from Lynette:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper for sure. Even without ribbons etc it looks prettier. There's something about a big chunky parcel you can't peek into that a shiny bag can't beat.

2. Real tree or Artificial? Fake's better than nothing, but I lurve real Christmas trees. NZ pine trees are straggly and they drop pine needles everywhere - but they smell so good! And Christmas lights look so much prettier in a real tree.

3. When do you put up the tree? The last few years we haven't had one - my Dad's not a fan of disposing of them (he gets all the dirty work), apparently they won't burn and they just sit in the garden gradually getting uglier and uglier all year. But if we do, we usually got one a week or so before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down? When even I have to admit it's dying.

5. Do you like eggnog? I have never had eggnog. I'm not opposed to trying it but it's not the most encouraging name.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A chocolate fondue set from my sister Felicity.

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Not one we use every single year and is an integral family custom, if you know what I mean. I saw one last year after Christmas at Trade Aid, though, which is a Mexican one and it was the coolest thing ever. I'm really tempted to buy it this year if they still have it.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My Dad.

9. Easiest person to buy for? My niece Lydia. She basically loves everything to do with animals or crafts or reading or jewellery etc etc etc. Or her brother Lewis. He is constantly obsessed with several things - last year it was crystals, volcanoes and medieval torture devices. A breeze.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail. Not that I've got organised this year...

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? ---- A blank. I can't remember anything bad enough that I didn't want to get it. I'm a hoarder and a scavenger.

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? I'm not a fan of Christmas movies per se. However, there is an exception, and it's Love Actually.

13. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Don't think so. Oh yes, one year I got the same book from two different people, so I gave it away or something like that.

14. What is your favorite thing/things to eat at Christmas? Scorched almonds (and lots of them), sparkling grape juice, gravy (with meat, of course, but I'm open as to type of bird), pavlova (legendary Kiwi dessert - I think I've mentioned it on here, oh, some fifty times), roast veges.

15. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Well, it seems that compared to everyone else I am tasteless but I like coloured ones. The problem with clear lights is that they always seem to be on boring Christmas trees, the ones that have been actually designed and have symmetrically placed ornaments. Our Christmas trees have always been eclectic, disorganised and a bit odd-looking - and I like it that way.

16. Favorite Christmas song? What Child Is This, and O Come O Come Emmanuel. Great tunes, fantastic words, minor key, not overdone by modern singers.

17. Travel at Christmas or stay home? It doesn't matter - I want to be where family are.

18. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Nope. Dasher, Donner and Blitzen. And of course everyone knows Rudolph.

19. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Morning.

20. Most annoying thing about this time of year: Politically correct policy of ignoring everything that's good about Christmas and trying to make it a hygienic, plastic, uninspiring, and utterly BORING celebration of consumerism.

21. Favorite ornament theme or color? As said before, I don't like having a theme. I like some disorder.

22. Favorite thing for Christmas dinner? Roast chicken. A BIG one.

23. What do you want for Christmas this year? I would love to finally get Coldplay's first album Parachutes. Other than that, I appreciate creativity.

24. Who will you tag for this meme? Anyone whose name is Rhonda.

Coming up: Leaving Australia. My thoughts.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

the Christmas spirit

Some photos from Phi Phi Island in Thailand: My brother and family on the long tail boat at the Phi Phi Islands
A long tail boat from outside
Around the coast of Phi Phi Ley, a smaller island, and near where we snorkelled. The island itself was just beautiful - it felt like we were in a mini-fjord at times, with those big rocky walls, except the water wasn't very deep.
The beach outside the place we stayed on Koh Phi Phi. The restaurant was right by the beach, and the swimming was amazing - right by our doorstep.
The sunset on, funnily enough, the night I broke my heel.

Guess what? I'm going home next week. The insurance company just rang to check flight details with me. Leaving here on the 12th, arriving on the 13th. I will have been away from Christchurch for exactly five months. I'm so excited! Anyway - onto the main blog business:

It is December, which means I'm feeling Christmassy - of course. I know it's possible to get a bit silly about Christmas, but I love it too much to be sensible. I can't wait to start wrapping up presents and decorating and cooking etc - almost all of which will be, of course, very difficult on my gammy leg but I'm sure to try! This morning I spent a long time on iTunes going through carols and buying a selection for my listening pleasure - carols are almost my favourite thing about Christmas. I bought:
- Good King Wenceslas
- Joy to the World
- God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen
- Es ist ein' Ros' entsprungen
- Ding Dong Merrily on High
- For unto us a son is born (from Messiah)
- The Coventry Carol
- O Come, O Come Emmanuel
- Stille Nacht
- What Child Is This?
- Fairytale of New York (okay, so a little different to the others, but this is almost the only modern Christmas song I actually like)
- Away in a Manger (with the alternate, less common tune, and sung by Ella Fitzgerald)

Favourite carols, anyone? Any recommendations?

Also, all this dwelling on Christmas made me remember an email my sister sent me last Christmas which I have probably shared on here before - but it always cracks me up, so here it is:

"It is that time of year and we better get ingredients this weekend and start baking our Christmas cakes, if you have not done so already. Thought I would pass on this wonderful recipe to all of you. Read it, you will be inspired to get baking!
1 cup of water
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup of brown sugar
lemon juice
4 large eggs
1 bottle Vodka
2 cups of dried fruit

Sample the vodka to check quality. To be sure it is of the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink.
Take a large bowl, check the vodka again.
Turn on the electric mixer.
Beat one cup of butter in a large fluffy bowl.
Add one teaspoon of sugar.
Beat again.
At this point it\'s best to make sure the vodka is shtill OK.
Try another cup .... just in case.
Turn off the mixerer.
Break 2 leggs and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.
Pick fruit off floor.
Mix on the turner.
If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers pry it loose with a drewscriver.
Sample the vodka to check for tonsisticity.
Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Who giveshz a ***.
Check the vodka.
Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts.
Add one table.
Add a spoon of sugar, or somefink. Whatever you can find.
Greash the oven.
Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and try not to fall over.
Don't forget to beat off the turner.
Finally, throw the bowl through the window, finish the vodka and kick the cat.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

the return of the... girl

Hi everyone, I'm back! Back from my wonderful holiday abroad, being dissipated and leisurely. I had such a great time, doing things I've never done before - my favourite was snorkelling at Phi Phi Island, in Krabi. We spent three nights on the island and I am going back for sure. It was paradise. Another highlight was sailing on a 52ft yacht in a race in Penang harbour (Malaysia). Of course, I was absolutely no help except as extra weight, but I had fun!!! This is a photo of my two-year-old nephew Frank on the long tail boat we hired to take us snorkelling, swimming and so on. My niece and two nephews are like FISH. It's incredible.

Of course I did lots of shopping (pashminas, paintings, a few clothes, a few utterly useless things that are pretty nonetheless, lots of presents), and even more inevitably, lots and LOTS of eating. I will make a list for you: satay, nasi lemak, thosai, roti canai (my favourite), pad thai, green curry, tom yum, steamboat, Thai grilled chicken, papaya salad, ice kacang, dumplings - and so on and so forth.

I will be posting here some of my best photos from the holiday over the next couple of weeks, probably, but if you just can't wait, here is my photobucket album of them. I'm also perhaps posting my travel diary via a link, later.

So everything was wonderful and it was a great holiday... except... if you ever happen to be dropped off by a long tail boat at a floating pier on Phi Phi Island in the middle of the night at high tide - wait for the tide to go down. Do NOT jump onto the beach. Or you too could end up with a broken heel. Thai doctors will try and tell you it is a sprained ankle, and then charge you thousands of baht for a very small cast and crutches. And then you will come back to Australia (or wherever), x-rays will be taken, and it will turn out that it's broken, that you need an even bigger, heftier cast, and that the cast must stay on for a further five weeks. And that after the five weeks you will need physiotherapy for a while to make a 95% recovery.

I am so disappointed. This means I am going to have to cancel my holiday in Sydney on the way back home as it's just not possible for me to do any walking further than to the letterbox. I can't even carry my breakfast to the kitchen table. Luckily for me, my travel insurance company is going to foot the bill for a direct flight home - a real blessing as I'm not sure what I would have done otherwise. Still, it's very depressing. Good thing I bought all those DVDs in Asia, eh... *wicked and guilty smile*

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

so long, farewell...

... auf Wiedersehen, goodbye. Not permanently. Actually for only two and a half weeks. I'm flying to Singapore tonight, from whence I shall fly to Penang, Malaysia (isn't that just the most pretentious way to phrase something?!), and from whence we shall drive to Krabi, Thailand at some point in the two and a half weeks. I will see you again on the 2nd of December - with, no doubt, far too many photos.

Monday, November 12, 2007

the pros and cons of fauna

I saw that huge spider this weekend. It was outside the window where I sat reading a book, relaxing at these fantastic rammed-earth cottages we stayed at, near a place called Dunsborough south of Perth. We think it was a Huntsman spider, which are BIIIIG, but apparently harmless to humans. Still... I kept my eye out for it pretty devotedly, I can tell you, just before I went to bed. Both fascinating and terrifying.

We also saw cute little geckos and, from a cliff, a whale of some kind, and later, some dolphins swimming up the river. We did not see kangaroos, which my sister and brother had promised we would see at dusk because the last time they stayed at those cottages there was a herd of about forty.

Other than Australian fauna we walked through a forest of GIGANTIC trees, a "Mammoth Cave" that felt like a cathedral, and around the cliffs near a lighthouse. By the time we got back to Perth this afternoon it was at least 35 DEGREES, or at the most 39. (That's around 100 degrees fahrenheit.) So this evening we went for a swim at the beach - the swim was bee-autiful. The flies were out, however, and this time, they bit. I personally stayed off the beach and in the water as much as possible, and I will take this opportunity to say that I cannot understand West Australians who lie there in their bikinis or speedos looking totally unconcerned at the number of flies crawling around on their backs.

(To be fair, apparently this year is much worse than normal, because of a wet but warm spring. Don't let me put you off visiting Western Australia.)

3 sleeps until I fly to Malaysia! Yippee!

Friday, November 09, 2007

the soundtrack of my life... so far

The soundtrack of my life - it's the name of a story I wrote a while ago which I can't bear to read now - but more relevantly it's the concept of my brother-in-law, who thinks that everyone has a virtual soundtrack of songs that are "fate songs". Not only are they songs you like but they are songs that meant something to you at that time. This is my attempt to write down what I think could be my album of fate songs. Obviously, the last few years are always going to seem the most eventful because I can actually remember the songs I listened to and the things that happened. But I've had a go at the early years too.

Babyhood: Phantom of the Opera. Okay, so most parents don't play their baby songs about murder, seduction and intrigue but apparently this was my favourite music - and I still love it.

Toddler: Jesus Bids Us Shine... with a clear "blue" light, according to my version of the children's hymn I would not stop singing and didn't understand a word of.

In the Hall of the Mountain King (by Grieg) - In our household this was known as the troll music. Classical music was definitely not boring then.

A Whole New World, from Aladdin - When I was a kid my sisters and I used to do a lot of singing around the piano together, which I loved. I remember lots of laughing and, at risk of sounding corny, that fantastic feeling of acceptance and understanding that comes with sisterhood. Some of our favourite songs were from a Disney songbook and this was one of the best. It makes me feel nostalgic.

Age 9-10ish: Moonlight Sonata (Beethoven). This was a major turning point and one of the most obvious fate songs on this list for me. It was the song that I thought was heavenly that I decided to learn to play on the piano by hook or by crook - and once I was able to play it, I had got past the drudgery of learning an instrument and I was in love with the piano.

Age 13ish: I Will Survive, Gloria Gaynor. Grooooaaaaan. Aaaaaaggggggghhhh. Stupid "relationship" with silly "boyfriend" - in which I was totally overdramatic and is too embarrassing to think about much. Anyway, when he dumped me, I used to sing this all the time because, obviously, a 2 month relationship at age thirteen warrants this kind of emotion.

14: Oh Daisy, Zed. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of them - they're a Christchurch band that I was completely obsessed with for a while. I, like, got Ben and Adrian's autographs! And Nathan wrote me a birthday card!!!! This was the beginning of a stream of obsessions which (obviously) I am still in the throes of. I'm beginning to think that I must be obsessed with something or I'll die.

15ish: Strong, Robbie Williams. For those who don't know the lyrics: You think that I'm strong, you're wrong, you're wrong. My mum was sick with cancer all through high school and I was very insecure about a lot of things - but somehow some of my friends were jealous of me for things like good grades, and I couldn't do anything right without feeling guilty about it or anything wrong without them being pleased. It got on my nerves just a bit.

17: Saving the World, Brooke Fraser. And while we're waiting, we could try saving the world - or are we storing that up for a rainy day? Got me interested in social justice. And is also a very cool song.

19: The Scientist, Coldplay. Nobody said it was easy, it's such a shame for us to part - nobody said it was easy, nobody said that it would be this hard. Mum's death. I am not exaggerating when I say that this song was playing almost constantly at the time in my stereo and in my head.

20: Nothing Ever Happens, Del Amitri. Just because I think they're great lyrics...
Bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs / While Angry from Manchester writes to complain about all the repeats on TV / And computer terminals report some gains on the values of copper and tin / While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs for the price of a hospital wing / Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all / The needle returns to the start of the song and we all sing along like before / Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all / They'll burn down the synagogues at six o'clock and we'll all go along like before / And we'll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow...
In short - my cynical and slightly angry phase. Another song from this phase - Mad World. I'm not altogether sure this phase is over and I'm aware I might not even sound like I'm passing through it - but let's just say the last year has not been filled with daisies and bunny rabbits.

At the same time, On Fire, Switchfoot - When everything inside me looks like everything I hate, you are the hope I have for change, you are the only chance I'll take... And just to make it absolutely clear, to me, "you" = God.

Age 21: Welcome Home, Dave Dobbyn. There’s a woman with her hands trembling - haere mai / And she sings with a mountain’s memory - haere mai / There’s a cloud the full length of these isles / Just playing chase with the sun / And it’s black and it’s white and it’s wild / All the colours are one / So welcome home... This is a song written by a Kiwi for Kiwis coming home. About a fifth of New Zealanders do not live in New Zealand - at the moment, that includes me. We Kiwis don't have a reputation for jingoism but this song makes me tear up and I'll be playing it on my ipod as the plane lands in Christchurch on 24 December.

Also age 21: Liquid, Jars of Clay. This is the one thing, the one thing that I know / Blood-stained brow / He wasn't broken for nothing / Arms nailed down / He didn't die for nothing. So in summary - I'm basically confused at the moment, as anyone who reads my God blog will probably have guessed - but this song expresses the only thing I know right now as well.

(Feel free to be tagged if you want.)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

life lessons from literature

Some people see reading as a waste of time - I see reading as a way to gain valuable and practical life lessons, which are as follows:

1) from Pride and Prejudice - When proposing to someone, do not insult their family.

2) from The Firm, by John Grisham - If something seems too good to be true, distrust it. It is probably run by the Mafia.

3) from The Lord of the Rings, by Tolkien - Don't get too attached to your jewellery.

4) from Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte - Never marry someone without checking up on their family mental history.

5) from Journey into the Whirlwind, by Evgeniya Ginzburg - Truth actually is stranger than fiction.

6) from All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque - War sucks.

7) from anything by Agatha Christie - If something bad happens, always suspect the most unlikely person, OR anyone with an airtight alibi.

8) from Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding - Never date cads.

9) from I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith - A surefire way to get rid of writer's block is to get someone to lock you in a tower until you've written five pages.

10) from Darkness at Noon, by Arthur Koestler - Logic is not all it's cracked up to be.

11) from the Bible - God is nice and he likes me.

So there you go. I tag anyone who likes books (or, if you prefer, movies or TV).

By the way - last night we went down to the beach for fish and chips with some friends. It was about thirty degrees (celsius) and there was no wind. Result: FLIES. It was horrible. The sort of thing that should be a Hitchcock movie. And as soon as the fish and chips were ready, it was like we were surrounded by hundreds of flies. We had to eat through tiny holes in the paper and even then I think I only managed about six chips and a quarter of a fish before I was just too sickened to go on. There's nothing like a swarm of Australian flies to kill an appetite.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

irrational fear

I'm going to come right out and say it - I am scared of girls who wear huge sunglasses. They sit on the train looking straight ahead and not moving or smiling, and they don't seem to care that in fifteen years time, their children will be rolling around in hysteric laughter at the sight of photos of them. Although I don't find them funny at all, because they make me think of shows like Dr Who - they would be perfect candidates for aliens to possess and turn into zombie-type monsters. How scary would that be, all these girls floating along with arms in front of them squeaking "Exterminate! Exterminate!" and with HUGE mirror-like glasses on. Maybe behind the glasses could be red lasers, or the holes through which their souls were sucked out. Frightening.

So, what's your weird and irrational fear?

By the way, if any of my readers wear oversized sunnies - I am absolutely sure I would not be scared of you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

I am 21, 21 am I

Well, today (that's 30 October for all you people on the wrong side of the world) I turned 21. It's strange being away from home and having a birthday; other than my sister and brother-in-law, I think one person in Perth knows it's my birthday. But I got lots of cards and text messages etc from home so I feel a lot better.

I opened my cards/presents at breakfast. Among them was a card a lot of people from my home church signed which was very very sweet. Also there was the card pictured above, from my niece Lydia, who is ten. This is the poem she wrote inside it:
Action woman
Icing on the cake

I think she's destined for great things.

I also got this book, The Jane Austen Miscellany, from my niece Ruby who turned one six days ago (the one I am living with). Ruby has great taste for one so young.

I had a lovely day - I met my sister near her work for lunch, and then I went for a swim in the afternoon, and I did THIRTY LAPS. (I am so proud of myself. I have been going regularly for a couple of weeks now, and doing thirty or forty laps each time. I decided to take it easier today because after all, it's my birthday.) Then this evening when J&J got home from work, we had:
Cake. Janet's almost unbeatable Armenian nutmeg cake. Yummmmm...

Then this evening we went out for dinner to the Little Creatures brewery which is also a really popular bar/restaurant. Very cool. And Little Creatures beer is actually nice. My sister is going to kill me for including the lower photo; somehow my photos of her always make her look like an alien.

And in just over two weeks, I am off on my birthday present from my family - a trip to Malaysia to visit my brother and family, from whence we shall drive to Krabi in Thailand. Huzzah!

Monday, October 29, 2007

home from space

Someone who works for NASA sent some photos of the last shuttle trip to her grandmother who sent them to my brother who sent them to me - and I was amazed to see that this photo is taken from over my home! My city, Christchurch, is located inside that big curved bay, near the base of the curve. Besides the coolness of the photo itself, that is just so cool.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


For the last few weeks I have been going through books on Soviet Russian history, motivated by a slight panic that next year isn't that far away and I need to find useful books for History Honours. My motivation has slowly turned into real interest as I read anecdotes and information that are almost too bizarre to be believed. I'd like to share some with you - but before I do, here's as small a summary as I can write for the uninitiated:

From the mid-twenties to the early-fifties, Stalin was the dictator who ravaged Russia and surrounding nations. The thirties in particular were drenched with blood and one of the major things that happened in them is referred to as the Purges, in which Stalin systematically exterminated and exiled anyone who could possibly have anything against him and even those who obviously didn't, using the NKVD, the Russian police force who later became the KGB. They were given labels such as Trotskyist (Trotsky was another Communist leader who had opposed Stalin and eventually fled the country) or saboteur etc. Prisoners would be forced to confess to ridiculous crimes, and then to denounce others.

Here's some of the stranger stories that come out of this period.

- A 65-year-old woman from a collective farm near Moscow who met Evgeniya Ginzburg was somehow denounced as a trotskistka (Trotskyist), a term she was so far from understanding that she confused it with traktoristka (tractor driver), and said to cellmates in prison, “I don't understand, they don’t put old women like me on tractors.” Having received a ten-year sentence for Trotskyist terrorism, she asked Ginzburg, “Are you one of those traktoritski too, dearie?”

- A war game in the army had a marshal simulating attacking Russia from the west. "General Lukirsky concluded that the Red Army would have to retreat to the east, but they would stabilize their line just outside Moscow. He was arrested and shot for “letting the enemy get to the gates of Moscow”.

- Both arrests and charges operated according to a quota system. A cellmate of Evgeniya Ginzburg: “as a Tartar it was simpler to put down ‘bourgeois nationalist’. Actually they had me down as a Trotskyite first, but they sent the file back saying they had exceeded the quota for Trotskyites but were short on nationalists.”

- Made-up confessions were encouraged to be dramatic. "A workman from Kiev gave a detailed account of attempts to blow up a bridge a kilometer long with several kilos of arsenic. Another explained his activities in an organisation aiming at the construction of a number of artificial volcanoes in order to explode the entire Soviet Union. Another prisoner admitted that he had informed the Polish consul of the weather as shown in a forecast put up regularly in a public park."

- The Arctic explorer Papanin was trapped on an ice floe in the Arctic circle for weeks with three associates, one of which was a NKVD man, and a dog. His diary was later published, but censored. In the uncensored version, he writes that the explorers and the dog celebrated Stalin’s birthday and the other Communist festivals by holding demonstrations on the ice, marching up and down with banners, since none of the quartet would dare suggest that the activity was preposterous.

- From Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago: At the conclusion of a conference in Moscow, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone leapt to his feet, and the small hall echoed with stormy applause… for three, then four, then five minutes. The NKVD was standing in the hall watching to see who quit first! After eleven minutes of applause, the director of the local paper factory sat down – and everyone else stopped with a sigh of relief. That same night the factory director was arrested and given ten years.

- 'The NKVD built a case against a young man who was the champion stamp collector in the north Caucasion town of Kholodnogorsk, on the grounds that his collection contained a German stamp with Hitler on it as well as an English one with Queen Victoria that was worth more than its Soviet one with Lenin. The young man was forced to confess that he “led a counterrevolutionary organization masked as a stamp collector society”. '

- Prisoners in independent parts of the country independently devised large-scale denouncing, reasoning that this would drive the system to such grotesque extremes that society would collapse unless it was halted. One imprisoned doctor from Kharkov pleaded guilty at once and listed on paper the several hundred doctors of Kharkov, all of whom he knew by name, as enemies whom he had recruited. His interrogator balked at arresting all Kharkov’s doctors, and so the prisoner reported him for shielding members of a counterrevolutionary organisation.

- One cabdriver’s interrogator wanted him to confess to his crimes without being told what they were. Eventually, after a long night of interrogation, he finally confessed, and was hit in the face for crimes he did not even know he had confessed to.

- There was a lack of hay or fodder for livestock – so Soviet agronomists created a new form of silage called ‘twig fodder’, officially proving that small branches of pine and fir trees were rich in calories and vitamins, assuming that horses and cattle would eat them. Anyone who disagreed was sent to a concentration camp. The result: starving and dying horses, and officials too scared to report what was actually happening.

Though the entire history of this time in Russia is tragic, there are other stories which I will not repeat that are absolutely heartrending. You may remember that sometimes I have written posts about becoming a tyrannical dictator and sending people to the gulag - well, I want to announce that further study of history has totally killed that joke for me and I will no longer be mentioning it.

If you are interested in reading the most well-written and amazing memoirs on this subject, look up Evgeniya Ginzburg's two books Journey Into The Whirlwind and Within the Whirlwind. Gripping and bizarre yet moving reading.

[These stories were taken from Stalin and the Shaping of the Soviet Union, by Alex de Jonge; chapter four Soviet Politics 1917-1991, by Mary McAuley; and chapter seventeen Stalin in Power, by Robert C. Tucker.]

Thursday, October 25, 2007

the statcounter post

I've decided it's time for the Statcounter post in which I reveal my hidden (or perhaps not-so-hidden? You tell me) obsession with myself - I've been collecting for some time now the keywords people use to find me, and besides your average "homework essays on jane austin" googling, some are really quite amusing or just bizarre. So here we are:

- girls having sex in jandals
Probably the fault of this blog post.

- career options jane austen lover
No offence - but I'm not sure there are that many. Please let me know if I'm wrong.

- a whitebaiting song
.... huh? why?!

- johnny cash tea party

- many sleeps distance horse walk
... and how they got to my blog from there I am unsure.

- how to check the gender for a golf ball goldfish

- boys as brides

- baby has lopsided crawl
I'm not sure if my blog will give helpful and/or sound baby advice...

- karrakatta cemetery ghost

- damn you jane austen
- i detest jane austen
- kill jane austen
- why i dislike jane austen books
I obviously chose the wrong title for my blog.

- rogaine gwyneth paltrow
I have no idea why my number one most hated sport has anything whatsoever to do with Gwyneth Paltrow.

- diy bouncy balls
Fun but obscure.

- schick quattro treadmill girl
Poor delusional man.

- whinging matilda
Hear hear. Sorry Aussies.

- secrets and shames of white people

- everybody's free to wear sunscreen! U2 will get old
Separately, not so weird, but together - confusing train of thought.

- Bach is like cosmos
Sounds profound but I don't get it.

- soccer players in undies
Well if they found it on my site I'm not complaining.

- austen persuasion feelings unused
How exactly does one 'use' leftover feelings from Austen, anyway? I am completely in agreement with this person.

- notes to play hey there delilah on the alto recorder
Umm... I dig recorders, and Hey There Delilah's a nice song - but it's not exactly difficult, containing maybe four notes, and why specifically the alto recorder?

- help the blind, the wayne barnes
Obviously another bitter Kiwi.

There were also a large number of people who found their way to my blog via incorrect song lyrics such as Robbie Williams' 'Strong' turning from "my breath smells of a thousand fags" into "margaret smells of a thousand fags", or U2's 'Yahweh' from "take these shoes, click clacking down some dead end street" into "take me shoose Trish maybe make me clean". Did you know you were mentioned in U2 lyrics, Trish?

Besides the point - a small girl turned one today in this household. We are all very proud of her. She is still extremely cute and just getting funner and funner to be around as we watch her figure things out like standing on her own and taking (assisted) steps. I was up at 5:45 this morning for present-opening; am I not an impressive aunty?

Friday, October 19, 2007

the places I must see before I die

This is my list of the modern wonders of the world, as it were, but only the ones I haven't seen - thus, I include nowhere from New Zealand, and I do not include the Grand Canyon or Yosemite, which I saw in 1999. One day I have to see all these places - I'm not sure if that's a practical aim, but I'm going to try and make it happen. I'm pretty flexible with the ordering, also - any of these places could have been at number one quite easily. But here it is:
1) Pompeii, Italy. The fact that this was unearthed only recently but shows life as it was thousands of years ago - pheeewwww. I want to be there tomorrow.
2) Machu Picchu, Peru. Rightly so, this is becoming a very lauded destination. I don't like to follow the trend but in cases such as these (just look at that photo), crowd behaviour isn't all that bad.
3) Petra, Jordan. I have wanted to go here for ages. My mother has been here, and a sister, and they both said it was one of the most amazing places they ever visited - and they've been to lots of places.
4) The Great Wall, China.
5) The Taj Mahal, Agra, India. This has to be the most beautiful building in the world. And from what I hear, it is all it's cracked up to be.
6) The Pyramids, Giza, Egypt. There is something mysterious and indefinable about these that is very alluring.
7) The Himalayas, Nepal. Ooooooooh, they're so biiiiiiiiiiiig.
8) The Acropolis, Athens, Greece. I basically chose this out of a whole heap of other places in Greece - Greece really should be counted as a wonder all on its own. But if I could just see this place I wouldn't be too unhappy - at all.
9) Angkor Wat, Cambodia. There is something so romantic about a temple that was devoured by the jungle.
10) The Tower of London, England. I'm not sure if this makes the list only for looks, but to be somewhere where so much of the history of our Western culture has been created and, arguably, brought to an end... well, I just really want to go.

That is my top ten, but I couldn't resist including the other nominees, which are:
a) Prague Old Town, the Czech Republic. Obviously.
b) Mont St. Michel, Bretagne/Normandy, France. The photos are like a fairy land, and apparently, so is the original.
c) The Kremlin and St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow, Russia.
d) Venice, Italy.
e) Stonehenge, England. Again, to be in a place so ancient - the very idea sends shivers down my spine.
f) Ayers Rock/Uluru, Australia. Unfortunately I will not be visiting while I am here in Australia this time. But this is probably the closest of my list of wonders so I will have to visit sometime in the future.
g) Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany. No explanation necessary, I think. All the same, I have it from a German friend that there is a much nicer castle near her home. :)
h) The Colosseum, Rome, Italy. History history history.
i) Finally, Gallipoli, Turkey. This may not mean much to the rest of the world, but to New Zealanders and Australians (ANZACs) it is a sacred site. I would love to be there for Anzac Day (April 25) ceremonies at least once.

So, what do you think? Would you add anything to my list? Have I missed somewhere unmissable? I have no idea if I'll manage all these places - but I will try. Even if I have to travel around in a bus that has "Young at heart" printed on the side.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Operation Christmas Child

Just because all the shops seems to have decided it's time to get ready for Christmas already, I'd like to draw a little attention to a fantastic Christmas charity. Operation Christmas Child is a project of the Samaritan's Purse organisation, and is going ahead in the States, Canada, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, Germany and Ireland, so chances are, if you read this blog, you'll be able to contribute. It involves filling a shoebox with small Christmas gifts for children affected by poverty, war or natural disasters, and is a really great way to spread the Christmas message and some love to children who are suffering. It's also kind of fun getting together this box of gifts - toys, sweets, stationery, hygiene items, clothing - whatever you may choose to give. Just make sure you check out the website first for the guidelines because there will be some things that are inappropriate or unsuited to send.

All the info is on the website - I think the collection week for the boxes in the States is November 12-19, but it's happening already in Australia. If you are in Australia you may like to look here for info.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

that's right - I am terrible at manipulating images

So when I find my Mr Firth and we settle down in a little stone cottage in Derbyshire with a border collie, and a library with entire walls of books and red leather armchairs, and a garden with clematis and wisteria and roses, and a gramophone, and we get down to the business of making babies - these are the names I like. I am advertising them here publicly so that I have effectively reserved them for myself - I know that my siblings read this blog occasionally and I live in fear of them exercising the privilege of actually being married and having kids and thus getting in first.

For boys:
Archer - I've always loved the nickname Archie but thought it had to derive from Archibald, but then I heard this use of it which is a cute nickname but also works as a grown-up name. This is my number one favourite and no one in the family is allowed to steal it. Nor close friends.
Harry - Okay, so he might be called Harry Potter sometimes. It's not as bad as it could be though. At least he's not Draco or something.
(Middle name options: Theo, Zachary)

For girls:
Kezia - after the character in Katherine Mansfield stories.
Elizabeth - this 'un will never go out of style.
(Middle -even first- name options: Rose, Jane, Zoe, Olive, Elinor, Chloe, Felicity, Amelia, Joy)

Bible names I quite like
Boys: Jonathan, Amos, Asher, Eli, John, David, Daniel
Girls: Esther, Hannah, Elizabeth, Mary, Eve

And now, on to the names I dislike or cannot use (= you are allowed to use them). Disclaimer: if you gave your children one or more of these names, please do not be offended. It is merely my personal opinion, nothing more.

Names that are a bit boring even if slightly pretty
Boys: Thomas, William, Michael, Joshua, Ben
Girls: Hannah, Emily, Anne, Charlotte

Names I wish I could use but can't (feel free to poach them)
Rochester - just too fussy and easily identifiable in literature. It would be like calling your son Heathcliff.
Crispin - cool, but even I have to admit, a bit silly.
Bono - Just Mean. Too fangirlish.
Boyd - ever since my friend named her cat Boyd.
Riley - ever since this became a girls' name too, and ever since my sister pointed out it rhymes with Kylie.
Darcy - again, Really Mean.
Frederick - a bit old-fashioned.
Felix - cool, but it sounds like a cat's name.
Alfie - a sweet nickname, but who wants to be called Alfred?
Anthony - everyone in NZ pronounces it wrong.

Gwyneth - I think this is such a cool name but for obvious reasons it's too connected with a certain famous person.
Grace - pretty, and my middle name, but too popular.
Bijou - too foreign - the poor kid would always have to say and spell their name for people.
Clover - too hippie-sounding.
Ingrid - technically pretty, but it has always sounded like it belongs only to snobs.
Margaret - I love this but it's a little old-fashioned.
Raven - for obvious reasons.
Kate - because my brother got in first.
Virginia - again, obvious reasons.
Mercedes - damn you, car companies!
Hermione - too Harry Potter... what a shame...
Phoebe - too many people dislike this name.
Beatrix - too suddenly popular/cool
Austen - sounds like a boy's name and is just another example of me wishing I could project my obsessions onto my kids. I'd rather they liked Jane Austen than refused to read her out of principle.
Wendy - I love that J. M. Barrie made this up, but I have just known too many nasty Wendys.

Names I will never use even if you paid me
Andrew - evil boy at my primary school.
Matthew - boring boring boring!
Kevin, Duane - obvious reasons.
Richard - if you have read Northanger Abbey or Persuasion, you will understand why.
Dylan - ugly ugly ugly!
Adolf - need I explain?
Stan - ick.
Boris - sounds like a member of the Ukrainian Mafia. Is also an ugly name.

Catherine, Caroline, Rebecca - all: BORING!
Amaryllis - self-explanatory.
Kylie, Nicole, Angela - for some reason, I have always hated these names. They sound like the sort of names you might give your children if you never finished high school. I'm sorry to be elitist, but that is the honest truth.
Lola - destined to be a showgirl.
Maud, Eileen, Doris, etc - the worst of old-fashioned names.
Olga, Gertrude - ugly ugly! Along same lines as Boris.
Barbara - ick. Your child could have the nickname 'Barb', which sounds like 'Boob', or, even worse, Barbie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

if only...

The tag I couldn't resist - from Jenkneebee who got it from Beck who got it from someone else - Ten Literary Characters I Would Totally Make Out With If I Were Single... which I am but I am not resident in a book, movie or television show.

1) Henry Tilney of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey. He is my first choice Austen hero, the coolest and wittiest man she wrote, I think. For example:
"And now, Henry," said Miss Tilney, "that you have made us understand each other, you may as well make Miss Morland understand yourself -- unless you mean to have her think you intolerably rude to your sister, and a great brute in your opinion of women in general. Miss Morland is not used to your odd ways."
"I shall be most happy to make her better acquainted with them."
"No doubt; -- but that is no explanation of the present."
"What am I to do?"
"You know what you ought to do. Clear your character handsomely before her. Tell her that you think very highly of the understanding of women."
"Miss Morland, I think very highly of the understanding of all the women in the world -- especially of those -- whoever they may be - with whom I happen to be in company."
"That is not enough. Be more serious."
"Miss Morland, no one can think more highly of the understanding of women than I do. In my opinion, nature has given them so much that they never find it necessary to use more than half."

2) Dobbin, from Vanity Fair. I get so annoyed with Amelia for most of the novel for not noticing how great Dobbin is.
3) The Phantom. Okay, so he murders people and kidnaps young opera singers - but it's a well-known fact that troubled musicians are irresistible! And despite the apparent ugliness, there is something super attractive about him - Gerard Butler's version at least.
4) The Sound of Music's Captain von Trapp. Yum-yum! Dance with me, Georg!
5) Inevitably, Mr Darcy. Quite apart from Colin Firth, Mr Darcy as a fictional character is very attractive at times.

6) Daniel Cleaver of Bridget Jones' Diary. Okay - bad choice, I know, and totally not the sort of guy I'd be attracted to in real life. I think most girls are secretly attracted to Daniel Cleaver types, though; there's something a bit dangerous about him which appeals.
7) Dr Who. A recent addition to my fictional crushes roll of honour as I move steadily and surely towards becoming a dork. David Tennant is a particularly great Dr Who; charismatic, exciting, slightly odd.
8) Mr Rochester of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Of all my list, this is the one I most wish was not fictional. Mr Rochester is written as ugly, but he comes across as so powerful and magnetic a personality that you can't help wishing that. Recent TV adaptation with Toby Stephens as Mr Rochester - very successful.
9) Captain Frederick Wentworth, of Austen's Persuasion. Silly of me to have three Austen characters on my list, but I couldn't resist. There's always something about a man in a uniform. And a man who knows how to write a good letter.

10) Faramir, from The Lord of the Rings. In the books, Faramir is one of those minor characters who turns out to be a really good guy (he's the one who ends up with Eowyn). I think it's a pity he's not made much of in the movies, but I definitely had a crush on him by the end of Return of the King.

Monday, October 08, 2007

re last post...

Since the All Blacks lost their game with France and are now out of the World Cup, New Zealanders world over have been wallowing in self-pity and trying to find scapegoats - such as the English referee Wayne Barnes who remained strangely blind to French errors yet penalised New Zealand for any little aberration, and no, I'm not bitter.

Anyway, yesterday's post was going to be my only rugby one but then I saw some of the listings on TradeMe, New Zealand's form of eBay:

AB2007 personalised license plate.

"Four More Bloody Years! Bugger! We Choked!" - Holy Crap - Is Wayne Barnes Blind? History has repeated itself, and the All Blacks have lost to France. It may be hard but these may help heal your pain! These BADGES are Big 57mm badges reading:
It's just a stupid cup (I'm dying inside)
Four More Bloody Years
I love the Rotation Policy
I love the Conditioning Period
Wayne Barnes is a wanker

ALL BLACKS FLAG - LIMP AND WET. Flag is no longer required. Limp like the effort of the team it represents. Wet - like the wet fish of a ref we had to endure. Happy Bidding!

6 A+ Grade Nike Super far golf balls with "All Blacks: We Wus Robbed" printed.

COMPOSURE - Second hand excess composure. Left over from the All Blacks World Cup campaign. Useful for playing minor international rugby teams. However not recommended for playing major international rugby teams, for assistence in these matters please see my other listings as there is plenty of unused All Black passion and adrenaline.

And apparently some bright spark has put up the All Blacks team itself for trade.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

why I have followed the rugby world cup this year

Despite being a true blue New Zealander, I've never been obsessed with or even that interested in rugby, our national sport, or the All Blacks, our team. But being overseas and among hostile rivals for the Cup has really changed my attitude to the sport and so I want to explain here and now why it is that I have followed the Rugby World Cup in France with an all new interest this year.

1) The haka - well, this hasn't changed. I have always been a fan of the All Blacks' spine-tingling rendition of the Maori war dance at the start of their games. For a brilliant example of this check out this youtube video of it. (Highly recommended.) Much better, if I may say so, than the Aussie Waltzing Matilda which is all they could come up with in response.

2) The national anthems, sung at the beginning of each game. This is not a new tradition either but this world cup they decided to microphone the players as they stand in a line, arms around shoulders. It's great because rugby players are not renowned for their musical skills in general, and so you can giggle away whenever they hit the wrong notes at the top of their voices (which is frequently). South Africans - worst singers yet.

3) Watching Dan Carter play. This young man is from my town, does underwear modelling in his spare time, and also happens to be the best first five-eighths in the world. If you want to see another example of All Black hotness, google Joe Rokocoko.

4) Suspense non-stop for eighty minutes. Granted, this isn't always the case, such as in the New Zealand/Portugal game we watched at the pub which the All Blacks won about 100-3. But I just watched an Australia/England game which was only ever about two points apart, and I had a bet of 50 cents riding on England winning (against my brother-in-law) - phew! That was an exciting game! And I am now 50 cents richer!

4) Cool ads. This is categorically not the case on Australian television, but I have been sent some fantastic ones over the internet that are currently airing in NZ, such as this gingerbread man haka - yes, it has to be seen to be believed.

5) Watching Australia's Wallabies being beaten by England at quarter finals. This may seem poor-spirited and nasty, but I just really don't want Australia to win while I am living here. Australians are completely insufferable gloaters if they win anything, and if they lose, it is like it never happened. I can't wait to see if they even mention on the news tomorrow that they lost.

6) Crowd singing. For the English, it's Swing Low Sweet Chariot (if you can, listen to the Ladysmith Black Mamboza version which has the crowd actually roaring in the background). For the Welsh, it's Bread of Heaven. And I suppose (grudgingly) for the Australians it's Waltzing Matilda. There's something pretty special about a whole stadium of people singing while some men run around with a ball on a field.

7) Actually starting to figure out how rugby works. Watching closely enough to see why a penalty is awarded. Trying (unsuccessfully so far) to understand what a scrum is and why on earth it is needed. Etc. Suddenly rugby is beginning to make sense, and I've realised that it's not just a whole lot of brawny brainless men scampering around in cute black outfits; they've actually got lightning quick wits and strategy and reactions.

8) Australian commentators annoying the heck out of me. Their latest remark was a snide little comment on how a lot of New Zealand's players are of Pacific Island descent and how the rugby community should support smaller Pacific Island teams like Fiji and Tonga instead of letting the Kiwis take all their best players. Conveniently forgetting, of course, that a significant number of their players were born elsewhere, and that teams like Samoa have EIGHT players who were born in New Zealand! Anyway, before I am run away with by my feelings (spot the Mr Collins quote), these regular little bitter comments make me even more passionately an All Black supporter and a Wallabies detractor.

9) Watching the All Blacks lose by two points to France at Cardiff and thus being knocked out of the Cup was NOT a highlight. But watching another totally suspense-filled game makes it less humiliating that somehow the best rugby team in the world has yet again not won the World Cup (last time was 1987). Also, watching the French respond with Attitude to the haka this time round was pretty cool (see the video link on this page, "confront the All Blacks' haka", halfway down). Another comforting thought is that the next World Cup, in 2011, will be in New Zealand, and then we can really kick ass on home turf.

I really doubt that I'll get any comments on this post as my regular commenters have probably never even heard of rugby. So if you are Kiwi, sad, and lurking, please delurk, as the trend has been on blogs this week.