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.

like a rolling stone

This afternoon I've followed the trend and googled my genealogy. It all started with a book I was reading of interviews with Kiwi veterans of Gallipoli in the First World War. When I read the account of a medic, I was suddenly struck by the sporadically recurring urge to know more about my paternal grandfather, whom I never met, who was a medic in the First World War, and was wounded at Bapaume in the Battle of Amiens, in the name of King and Empire.

I quickly typed in "Silas S------" and four pages of results appeared, none of which were my grandfather - however, there were several mentions of my great-great and great-great-great grandfathers who were also called Silas S------.

The younger of the two was the first S------ to come to New Zealand, and also the first surgeon at Christchurch Hospital, in 1862. I knew that already. He was mentioned in the lists of those coming through the Port of Auckland on ships in 1861. It turns out the elder was a physician of evidently some importance as his name is mentioned throughout London's medical periodicals around the 1840s to '50s. One medical journal has a letter from him detailing an unusual case of a twin birth he presided over, and he writes from Guildford St, Russell Square, London. Russell Square! That's in Georgette Heyer books! Automatically my great-great-great grandfather goes up a few cool notches.

I also found a website an American S------ has created centering around the S------ family branch of which I am a member, and he lists famous S------s. For example, a general in the US Civil War or explorer Captain John Gabriel S------ of Scotland - but most recognisable of all - make sure you are sitting down - none other than MICK JAGGER'S GRANDMOTHER was a S------!!! I am very tenuously related to Mick Jagger! Of course I'd prefer Bono or Jane Austen, but still, you can't be too picky!

This also makes me remember a very exciting day when I visited the main Christchurch public library and checked out the births, deaths and marriages files for family history. Among other things, I found my great-grandmother's marriage file and discovered that she was an illegitimate child. She had taken her mother's surname as a child, but it named her father as one John I----, and suddenly I realised in a flash why her son and my dad had the really weird middle name of I----! It was extra exciting because my dad had never known, and as his father was a very upright Brethren man it is unlikely he would have given his son that name if he had known either. So I was the first in the family to discover a slightly grey sheep. I felt very clever.

I am loving that you can find so many cool things on the internet now, simply by googling a name, things that we couldn't have known otherwise.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

why i think little boys are cool

Over the last week I've noticed three incidents in which little boys were involved in some sort of subterfuge which struck me as rather funny.

1) At the supermarket I noticed a little boy pacing around the confectionary bins, looking rather like a cat pacing around a caged bird or rodent. You could almost see him drooling. Finally, just as I pointed him out to John, my brother-in-law, he looked back and forth a few times, opened a lid and grabbed some lollies, and then sprinted off to the other end of the supermarket where he must have pocketed or eaten his booty in some shady corner.

2) Today at the beach I saw three little boys swinging on a sign that had been pushed into the sand labelled 'swim between the flags'. Of course it fell over. They made several attempts to push it back up, but were way too short to do so. The obvious step to take was therefore to bury the sign in sand so that no one could see what they had done!

3) We went up to the "hills" on Monday (I used apostrophes because what Australians call hills are actually mounds) and after a long walk we ended up at this beautiful old pub with big gardens and live music. We were sitting near a family of small boys, one of which was very attentive to Ruby (my baby niece) and kept telling her things like "I've got gel in my hair!" or "I'm just going to look at the birds, but I'll be back soon, OK?" At one point I looked over to see one of them, aged probably about four, sneaking behind a fencepost and taking a hefty swig of his dad's beer.

My conclusion: Little boys are cool. I'm not sure if this is morally sound, but it was definitely interesting to watch the logic of small males and wonder if perhaps we adults have passed on from that stage of subterfuge or if we just manage to conceal it better? And besides that moral consideration - it was just pretty funny.

Edit: Today my sister's friend and kids came over and two-year-old Thomas* was making "ice cream" in the garden out of leaves and sticks, and handing out different flavours to the adults. Thomas gave me a leaf and left in a blaze of completely unintelligible noise, so the next time he came inside I asked him in that aren't-you-cute voice that I hated when I was a kid, "What have I got, Thomas?"

He looked at me disgustedly. "A leaf."

I have learnt my lesson and will never patronise a kid again.

* This is the bit where I say 'not his real name'.