Wednesday, January 30, 2008

naughty me

We-ell, I have been so boring the last little while that I've had nothing whatsoever to write about on here (unless, of course, you're interested in hearing about my sleeping patterns or what I ate for lunch - please let me know). Instead, I have had a little bit extra spending money for various reasons, and have been utterly extravagant in a way I do not usually allow myself to be - I have bought books instead of getting them out of the public library first! Horrors. But quite satisfying. So, in lieu of an interesting blog post subject, here are the books I have bought:

The Masqueraders, by Georgette Heyer. A totally ridiculous book, as are most of Heyer's, about a sister and brother who come back to England disguised in opposite genders as they were involved in a rebellion in the late 18th century - ridiculous, yes, but very fun. I've read it before but wanted this one to add to the growing collection of Heyers in my bookcase.

A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, by Marina Lewycka. Maybe this appealed because I've heard so much about the Ukrainian Mafia - I don't know. But it sort of just leapt off the shelf at me and was the first one I read. Set in the UK, it's about a woman trying to rescue her 84-year-old émigré father from a 36-year-old woman from the Ukraine who wants to marry him for British residency and his pension. A very funny book, it's also at times quite serious, and goes into the family's past that brought them to the UK and the feuds they have to overcome to deal with this new threat. I loved it.

Mere Christianity, by C. S. Lewis. I have read this before several times but my copy is very second hand and has been falling to pieces for a while. Finally (hooray!) I have bought a pretty version. I think everyone should read this book.

Rosetta, by Barbara Ewing. I have only just started this book but so far it's going quite well. It's a historical novel, set around the time of the French Revolution, and as far as I can gather will be about a young woman who has always fantasised about visiting foreign places, especially the Rosetta of Egypt which she was named after. I'm always a bit cautious about buying historical novels because I often find them either tedious, inaccurate, or too fixated on sex - but so far this doesn't seem to be too much of any of those!

Atonement, by Ian McEwan. Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2001. Okay, so I went to see the movie, I loved the movie, and only then did I want to read the book. I thought the movie was incredibly interesting, the way it plays with reality and fiction, and thought it must be a very good book that inspired such a movie. (I was also for the first time in a long time rather impressed with Keira Knightley. What a surprise. And James McAvoy is slowly becoming higher up on my list of good actors.) Haven't started reading it yet because I anticipate it needing commitment - but as soon as I'm through all the light tempting Heyer-like reads, I'll get into it.

Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster. I used to love this book but haven't been able to read it for a while because my version is so threadbare (like Mere Christianity) that a significant number of pages are missing. Then I saw the 1955 film version of it, with Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron (which was fun, but not perfect) and decided I need to buy it. Can't find it anywhere - too old, not popular enough here - so it is currently under order at Whitcoull's. Can't wait till it arrives.

Now comes the really, really naughty part. Last year I saw on TV the latest miniseries version of Jane Eyre, with Toby Stephens as Rochester and Ruth Wilson as Jane. I LOVED it - have been waiting for a good version like this for ages - and have been waiting for it to come out on DVD ever since. Hasn't happened. So yesterday I swallowed, went on Amazon, and bought it - despite the extra price for postage to NZ and the possibility that a Region 1 DVD may not play on NZ players, although I'm pretty sure it will.
While I was on Amazon, I got even naughtier, and looked up Northanger Abbey, a TV version that was made last year and looked excellent, from the five minutes I saw on YouTube. I've always loved the book (which is, of course, by Jane Austen) and decided that since I was getting something else, I may as well make the most of postage costs and get this too. Then I got naughtier again and noticed that if you bought Northanger Abbey with a 2007 TV version of Persuasion (my favourite Austen novel and an adaptation I didn't get to see but is apparently very good, according to my friend Katie) they were both cheaper! Sooo... I am waiting for three 19th century novel DVDs which were not cheap given the exchange rate, are totally self-indulgent, and two thirds of which I have not seen before. I'm too excited about getting them to care much, though.

Edit as of February 1: This is only going to make me look more extravagant, but... there are two more books I forgot to mention!

Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton. Set in Perth, Western Australia, where I recently spent five months. A really, really fantastic novel about two families who live alongside each other in a huge old Perth home in the fifties or sixties. Beautifully written, it raises some important questions and doesn't cop out.

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. This is written from the perspective of Death, looking at a small German girl called Liesel during the war, a girl who saves books from book burnings and whose guardians hide a Jewish man in their cellar. Quite unique, it is also a heffalump of a book (though very readable), and this is one book I had to read before buying as it was a little more expensive given its size.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

scanners are good

My dad has finally got a scanner, and I have been playing around all evening with family photos. I thought I'd share some - I love these, for me they capture all the romance and humour of another era. Enjoy!
My mum (right) and her two sisters at the beach in the fifties, with their first car.
Sigh... I wish I was a kid in the Victorian era... This is my great great grandfather, Ernest Schwass. Fortunate wee munchkin.
My great grandmother Nell. Her husband had a passion for photography. I love this. It's the sort of photo I can't do even with digital technology.
My great grandfather on his motorbike with Nell and daughter Betty (my gran's sister) in the sidecar. Styly.
My grandmother, Olive. She hates this photo and thinks it makes her look dowdy, but I think it's just so cute.
Gran (left) with her parents and Betty at the beach.
My gran's sister-in-law and her husband, Milly and Reg. This photo makes me wish I had met these people.
My mother (on right again) and her two sisters with Santa Claus. I think this is beautiful.
One of the coolest things tonight was finding out that somehow my great-great-great aunt on the female side looks almost exactly like me. Creepy!

I know Stacy decided against sharing family photos on her blog, but does anyone else have some cool ones that they could share without offending anyone?!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

on being a girl

I've always felt glad that I'm a girl and not a boy (and no, I'm not sure at which point I'll be able to start calling myself a "woman"). But sometimes, girliness makes me feel a bit vulnerable. Here are several reasons why this week I felt glad I'm girly:

1) Four days this week I looked after two nephews aged 9 and 7 who are in the middle of school holidays. Besides making me respect even more the fortitude of full-time parents, this made me super happy I'm a girl. When my nephews got bored, we couldn't go running around kicking a ball etc because I'm still unable to walk, and so we had to think of other things to do. Lots and lots of board games, DVDs, books about technology, and Lego. Which is all very well, but I can't help feeling happy that when I was a kid I was able to do girly things like making pretty crafts or playing with paper dolls, things that are totally boring to my nephews, but SO MUCH FUN!

2) Probably the thing I am most looking forward to about walking again is shopping. And if that's not girly I don't know what is.

3) You may remember my post about a month ago on being a bridesmaid. Well, today I met up with Jane Doe the bride, and two other bridesmaids, and Jane's friend who will be doing our makeup and hair. We ate hot cross buns and chips, and had our makeup done and our hair styled, and it was so fun! I feel PRETTY! My eyelashes are so stiff and long I feel like they could inflict a puncture wound on someone. Our hair is half tied back and the rest is a cascade of curls, while Jane Doe's blond hair is tied back in a very elegant low bun. I love doing girly stuff! Three weeks to the wedding... yay!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sir Ed

Sir Edmund Hillary is dead and somehow we Kiwis all feel the loss. I'm not sure how it comes about that someone I've never met who came to fame climbing mountains embedded himself into the national psyche like this. But I think it is because of this:

Sir Ed was a Good Bloke. He almost set the standard for it.

He attacked whatever he set to do with cheerful perseverance.

Among a young country of people who have always had trouble identifying who we are, he set for us the standard of what it means to be Kiwi - whatever limits are set upon us by our size, our insignificance and our circumstances are meaningless. Kiwis must "knock the bastard off" in whatever our sphere of life, cheerfully and with a smile, without losing our humanity or understanding of what is truly important. Kiwis must respect the world we live in, and the people who inhabit it with us.

Sir Ed was the conscience of New Zealand. If Sir Ed took the trouble to say something, we all listened. A few years ago when Mark Inglis climbed Everest, the first double amputee to do so, but passed by a dying climber without stopping to keep him company in his last hours, all Sir Ed had to say was that in his time that would never have been done - and no more excuses would do.

Sir Ed was a man of action. The schools and hospitals he set up in Nepal speak for themselves.

Above all, Sir Ed impressed us with his love of life, his strength of character that was obvious right up until his death, and his refusal to let anything hold him back. His death will leave a real hole in our country's life.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

a story that will be funny in two years

Okay, so you know how I was getting my cast off on Monday? Well, it's off! (And that's not the punchline.) Unfortunately there was no skipping around shopping for me - I found it even harder trying to learn to walk again, and I go even slower. Anyway that was all very depressing until Wednesday, when it got even worse.

I fell off a chair.

There is no dignified way to say it.

And landed on my right heel and ended up sitting on the kitchen floor going "Owwwwww! GET ME ICE!!!" and bursting into tears because I've only just got out of a cast and probably was going to have to get back into one.

So after I'd waited an hour and it hadn't got any less painful, Dad took me into the ED. Finally I got sent through to Orthopaedics and had an x-ray done. Phe-ew. It's not broken again. And I'm on painkillers. Happy happy. Still, it just shows - you can get all intellectual and think you're so smart, and then you fall off a chair, and suddenly you're incredibly stupid. The worst part was explaining to the hot-doctor-with-English-accent what happened.

I went to see a physio today, and she thinks it should be okay after 48 hours if I put ice on it regularly etc etc, and then I can try learning to walk again.

Part of me wishes that when people ask me "so, how was your summer?" and I say "crap" and they say "why?", I could say "I broke my heel twice." But the rest of me is so relieved I haven't done more lasting damage.

Honestly, I feel like the last week and a half is the most emotional of my life. I've probably burst into tears at least once a day. Mostly because I've read a sad book or something but I'm not usually this high-strung... I think.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

right now

Being a cripple over the last couple of months has meant I've needed ways to entertain myself. And these are some of them:

Kate Miller-Heidke's album Little Eve. I bought this just before I left Australia (she's an Aussie chick) but only really started listening to it a few weeks ago and was very pleasantly surprised. This woman was trained as an opera singer and it comes through in her musicality, expressiveness and the way she tells her songs, yet they are really contemporary, quirky songs. She reminds me a bit of Regina Spektor but she never goes too far with the quirky factor. Almost every song is a winner, but my very favourites are "Make It Last", "Space They Cannot Touch", "Don't Let Go" and "Bored With Me". I especially love that in "Don't Let Go" she sings about friendship rather than romance - a neglected topic I think. I would recommend this album very highly and I give it five stars!

Flight of the Conchords. The first season played in NZ while I was away, so someone lent me the DVD when I got back and I have been thoroughly enjoying them. With typical lack of foresight or taste, TV NZ decided this group wouldn't take off, so they went to the States, and now have taken NZ by storm. I have been enjoying them so much, as have my sisters and brothers who literally roll around in hysterics when they hear songs like Business Time. Other favourites of mine are I'm Not Crying, Sally I Love You, and anyone who did high school French will love Foux de Fa Fa.

Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones. This novel won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize but even before then I have been wanting to read it but for some reason never got around to it. It is set in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea in the early nineties, when there was a violent conflict I had never heard of before. The story is about how the only white man in the village takes over the school when the violence starts, and reads the children Dickens' Great Expectations. It's a wonderful novel about the power of a story, narrated by a child, and is a moving and challenging read. I am very happy with my purchase, and equally happy that the author is a Kiwi. Hooray!

I have been wanting to see the German movie Sophie Scholl - The Final Days for ages now and finally watched it yesterday. It is inspired by a real person, one of the few heroines of Nazi Germany and one of my role models - a 21-year-old student who dared to speak out against the Nazi regime and the war. It is beautifully made. Sophie Scholl is played by Julia Jentsch, who is superb, and the rest of the cast is also very strong. Overall, though, it is a movie about a real event, and the real event is so compelling that that is the overwhelming strength of the film. A few years ago a film was made about the final days of Adolf Hitler. I'm not sure if it was intended, but this film about the final days of a brave and true heroine contrasts so emphatically with Hitler in his final days that I can't help but be moved.

Op Shop's album Second Hand Planet. This is a Kiwi band who have been quite popular here for a while now. The first single off this album "Maybe" was one of those songs that was played over and over on the radio so that I hated it. After the initial craze was over, though, I actually started to quite like it, especially when another single came out which is called "One Day". They are a little bit in the same style as Coldplay or Keane or U2, vaguely. I particularly like the songs off the album called "Noah" and "Nothing to Hide" but I have to admit that the rest of the songs are a bit of a disappointment. There's not much variation from the "Maybe" model except for the two single slowish songs ("Nothing to Hide" and "One Day"). So - an okay album. But not great.

Anne of Green Gables - The Sequel. I got this out on DVD on a whim, remembering how I'd enjoyed the Anne of Green Gables movies and books when I was younger, and found myself loving it all over again. I know everyone says this but I love Gilbert Blythe. And Anne is so cool. Now I'm going to have to read all the books again! In a way it's so nice to be able to have time to fill with things like this that are there for pure enjoyment.

So - what has everyone else been getting into lately?

Monday, January 07, 2008


I got my cast off today. There'll be no immediate wandering for me, I have to wean myself off crutches for the next two weeks.

Firstly, I'm a little suspicious of the doctor I saw today at the hospital. He said I didn't need to see a physiotherapist unless I had major stiffness after a few weeks. Every other doctor I've seen has said this injury will definitely require physiotherapy and hard work. So I'm going to visit a GP asap for a referral.

Secondly, when I asked the doctor how long I should expect the pain to last, he said it could be permanent - broken heels don't fix as easily as other fractures. As a surgeon in Perth told me that with physiotherapy I should make a 95% recovery, I am half suspicious and half freaking out. I've never been a big sportsy person but the idea that this could restrict me from going on long walks in the country or things that up until now have seemed so natural is frightening and upsetting. But I have no idea what "permanent" in this case means - I really hate how doctors tell you just enough to scare you and then forget to tell you the details.

So anyway, I'm not taking this doctor's word as final and I am definitely going to get me a physiotherapist. I'm not sure if I merit healing as this injury was basically caused by my own stupidity, but I'd really appreciate it if anyone could spare a prayer for me.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

the joy of womanhood

Last night two of my sisters and I went out for coffee. One is pregnant for the first time and the other has three children and before I knew it they had launched into an intimate womanly chat involving each of my elder sister's labours in quite some detail. I had never heard how horrible labour can be before and I do not want to hear it again. I don't think I will ever make the mistake again of thinking of childbirth as some precious, non-traumatic experience, every moment of which a mother treasures forever. And I think I will have to forget a lot of what was said if I am ever to consider having children again. (I really think that if they sent a whole lot of women who had had difficult labours in to speak at Sex Ed classes, the numbers of unplanned teenage pregnancies would drastically drop.)

The funniest moment, however, was when some unsuspecting male sat down along the cafe couch from us with a newspaper in hand - my pregnant sister had just launched into a description of the stretching exercises and tools a pregnant coworker of hers uses to prepare her nether regions for labour. It took maybe half a minute for the penny to drop and then, slowly, our eavesdropper turned carefully away and slid further down the couch while we grinned with satisfaction and continued our discussion. That alone, I think, made womanhood seem worthwhile again.

The photo: I went to the zoo today, accompanied by five children, sister, her hubby and my dad, aaaand my new camera, which arrived about twenty minutes before we left. Hurrah! I love it. 12x optical zoom. Yummy.

Friday, January 04, 2008

I'm a wreck

Today has felt like an emotional rollercoaster. This afternoon we saw off my sister Janet, hubby John and baby Ruby from Christchurch Airport. Back to Perth they go. I lived in Perth with them for five months last year and needless to say I have got very attached to that little girl. They came back to NZ for Christmas soon after I arrived back but now they're gone again, and I probably won't see them for at least a year, by which time Ruby will be in her terrible twos and she will have a little sibling and she probably won't remember me.

I am a sucker for airport scenes. I just can't handle them. It's very embarrassing and I always end up with a pounding headache.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

my resolutions (of sorts)

It is just under a week until I can finally get my cast off (broken heel, see November '07 posts) and although the preceding five weeks actually went pretty fast, this week is about the slowest of my life. I am getting so frustrated! So, I am going to be make an effort to be positive on here. Instead of new year's resolutions, I am making a list of what I am going to do on Monday when I can walk again.

1. Wander. I will go into town and just walk, around the botanic gardens, the museum, the art gallery, the arts centre, by the river, and so on. Wherever I feel like, without having to think everything through beforehand or getting dropped off at the most convenient location.

2. I am going to get a souvlaki at Dimitri's on Colombo St, the best souvlaki place in town.

3. I am going to go for a looooong drive, with nobody else. Maybe up the hill or to the beach. Maybe convince Dad to let me borrow the car and go away for a night somewhere. (I really need to buy my own car.)

4. I am going to go to Alice in Videoland and get out a DVD - Sophie Scholl - which I've been wanting to see for ages. (Alice's is a really big video store with a whole heap of arty/foreign/classic/alternative/etc films as well as the normal range. It's slightly inconvenient to get to and I'd have to return this, a new release, the next day, so I haven't managed to get it out before.)

5. I am going to go swimming.

6. SHOPPING! Clothes, birthday present for a few people, wedding present for a friend, anything that takes my fancy within reason.

7. I am going to play the piano and use my right foot to pedal. I have been using my uninjured left foot for the last few weeks, which feels a bit strange.

8. I am going to take my (new) camera and go for a long walk and take lots and lots of beautiful photos.

Of course, the nature of my injury and its treatment means I may not be able to walk properly for a while. I will have lost basically all my muscle strength in my right foot and lower leg. I don't know if I'll be able to drive straightaway and apparently I'll need a lot of physiotherapy. Bummer. But at the moment I am trying to look at Monday as my date of release from prison, or I will just find it too depressing.