Monday, June 29, 2009

three degrees of separation

The godfather of the pastor at my church was an interpreter for the British Embassy in Moscow. He met Stalin on numerous occasions. To use the bathroom in the Kremlin from the room where diplomatic negotiations were carried out, he had to walk through Stalin's bedroom (one single iron bed sitting in the middle of the room). He heard the Soviet leaders cracking jokes which made no sense at all then but make all the sense in the world now. He heard them talking about people who had been discovered as not very "loyal" and had been "shifted" to "another department".

I think there's a danger for me, studying history, to treat it like a branch of English literature. Gathering information and sorting it into a pattern; making clever deductions, links, arguments; compartmentalizing and boxing and fitting in; writing with clarity and creativity. All of which is necessary but sometimes masks the fact that this stuff actually happened. It's REAL. It gives me a little shock to be reminded that what I'm doing is something important and something that needs to be remembered, something that really happened to real people who disappeared off the face of the earth.

Friday, June 26, 2009

leaving, on a jet plane

It's all getting real, and when it's getting real, it's getting exciting.

I am holding plane tickets in my hot little hand RIGHT NOW - okay, so a few seconds ago, as right now, I'm typing. They look like this:

Aug 6-7: Christchurch > Sydney > Singapore > London

Sept 29-Oct 1: London > Singapore > Sydney > Christchurch

Along with this is an Oyster card (slightly discounted rates for public transport in London, which is just ridiculously priced from the point of view of New Zealand dollars), a Eurail pass for Eastern Europe, and an ISIC card (international student card).

Free accomodation is practically sorted in London, a HUGE thanks to several acquaintances who have offered to have me to stay (or who agreed to my offer of myself to stay!). Extremely cheap accomodation in Brighton for one week is almost sorted. Probably within the next week flights to Europe will be sorted.

I actually bought the flights a week or two ago, but I was so freaked out by the amount of money they cost, and by the amount of work I have to do before I go, that I didn't really think about it.

Anyway, me? A poor student? Somehow managing to get to Europe this year? I've always expected that, sometime in the next ten years, I would be able to go. But definitely not this soon. That is probably why it didn't seem at all realistic. But now... I'm very, VERY excited. And very grateful.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I went down to Dunedin on the weekend, with one of my sisters and her family, to see two other sisters and their families! Had an absolutely lovely time hanging out with my siblings, their spouses, their kids. We stayed with the sister who has just moved house - and by gum it is a good location. They are still in the city but up the hill and around the peninsula a little, so from their kitchen window they can see out to sea, but if they take a short walk in the other direction, into the reserve right next door, they can see right down the harbour on the other side of the hill.

I went for a walk on Sunday morning to catch some views. I love that sunrise in winter is quite late, so these photos didn't require extreme earliness. That view was quite something.

There's something about Dunedin in the sun that is just - phwoar. It's still freezing cold, but it's the prettiest city. If only it were always sunny there!

I also enjoyed playing with my sister's cute dog, who was a tiny wee puppy last time I saw him and is now a boisterous but reasonably well behaved Jack Russell/bichon frise cross. We took him to the dog park, where he and other dogs delighted us. Example: this hilarious video - Oscar and a big German Shepherd playing hide and seek. Enjoy!

If you're the praying type, I'd appreciate you glancing at the post previous to this.

prayer request

The baby of a facebook friend of mine was kidnapped last night. Please pray.

Monday, June 15, 2009

even Elizabethan playwrights need their privacy

I've been planning planning planning today for my European trip. Tomorrow I will buy tickets, then I will knuckle down and work really really hard so I have enough done by the time I need to go. But today was devoted to travel.

I google-mapped the British Library, where I will be spending most of my time in London, and found this street view picture of it:

View Larger Map

You will probably need to fiddle with this picture a little by turning it slightly to the left and slightly upwards, but...

I think it's hilarious that Google Maps picked up the picture of Shakespeare on the wall of the building and automatically blurred his face! And so I am sharing it with you!

By the way, as I write, there is a rat making merry in our kitchen. It is FREAKING ME OUT. It is at times like this I wish I was a) rich so that I had my own fully rodent-secure house, and b) married so I wasn't lying in bed by myself trying not to feel tense and frightened. The drama over the last week... all caused by one rat and one mouse who have taken up residence in our flat and have so far outwitted all attempts at trapping/murdering them. I used to feel slightly bad about the fact that we have to kill them just because they want somewhere warm to live... I no longer care. I just want to sleep securely.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

washing machine from hell

Just a quick note - if you are feeling depressed and need something to cheer you up:


Actually, go to it even if you're already happy. It made my WEEK.

Make sure you read all the comments.

Update: This whole story has gotten pretty crazy - it's been on national news, so far almost 150,000 hits on the page, and a range of t-shirts have come out based on the illustrations. All over the last 24 hours. Crazy! The illustrations are now being sold for charity.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009


I am probably going to be going:

here: Krakow, Poland;

here: Prague, Czech Republic;
here: Vienna, Austria
here: Budapest, Hungary;

and here: Ljubljana, Slovenia!

Turns out I didn't have to pick just one place :) and I am EXCITED!

Saturday, June 06, 2009

David Bain

New Zealand has, over the last three months, been watching an important trial take place. The retrial of David Bain, fourteen years after his family was murdered. Bain was convicted in 1995 of the murder of his father, mother, brother and two sisters, and spent the next twelve years in jail. In 2007, the Privy Council decided that this was a "substantial miscarriage of justice". The re-trial has taken place over the last few months. Yesterday evening, the jury returned a verdict of "not guilty" on all five counts of murder.

The other theory of what happened is that his father, Robin Bain, killed the others while David was out of the house, and then killed himself. David returned, and found his entire family dead.

The horrible thing about this case is that there is just not enough proof either way. There are damning circumstances on either side. But never proof. The police happened to "lose" a lot of important material that could have had a bearing on the argument that Robin Bain did it. So there will be a large amount of people around the country who still believe that David did it. Right now, he is probably the most famous person in the country, and he will never be allowed to forget this case and move on fully.

I don't think he did it. But even if he did, I wonder how it happened that he ever got convicted in the first place. It seems that the police and the media made some rather huge assumptions, even tampered with evidence, didn't follow up other leads, and it is absolutely shocking that the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" was so distorted in this case at the beginning. It is incredibly frightening that an innocent man--or at the very least a man who could in no way be proven guilty--should be left to rot in prison for thirteen years, only being given a chance to appeal his case because he was lucky enough to find a wealthy and determined supporter, Joe Karam, to fight for him and shell out millions of dollars for his cause.

I am only happy that David Bain is now a free man. I hope he can move on with his life, and be left alone by the media, who were following him like hounds last night in the hope of emotional footage (which they got). I am also extremely happy that New Zealand does not have the death penalty - at least Bain got his chance to appeal at all.