Advice from a friend, Liz Gilbert and Hemingway

As you know, I haven’t posted for a long time. This is mainly because I didn’t have anything to say. There was always something else to do. Two people prompted me to start again.

Firstly, my friend Deirdre Knight’s most recent Vlog and her planning technique  written in her bullet journal, shocked me out of my Netflix haze. I will never be able to plan my month the way she does but I could set a couple of goals. Therefore I decided to blog once a week for November, a modest plan.


Still though, I thought that I had nothing to say that anyone would want to read about. I had already read Liz Gilbert’s Big Magic, one of the best books on creativity I know, and just this week I picked up on the first of the new TED interview series and she was their first candidate.

Liz always makes it clear that writing is hard work, you need to get on with it and just do it. She wasn’t some overnight sensation with Eat Pray Love, although it has now sold over 10 million copies. She  wrote for years, working two jobs, before she published this first successful story. I actually found this story quite tedious but absolutely loved her second novel, The Signature of All Things.   It couldn’t be more different from EPL.

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Anyway, Liz belongs to the writing school of, “stop whining and get on with it”. She also emphasises that it doesn’t have to be great, it just has to be your best effort.

As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: “That’s actually not my problem.” The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.

I love the get- out -of- jail card of self-forgiveness! I am lazy, and I lack self-discipline but right now I don’t care if no-one ever reads my blog. I like the act of putting things down and not worrying too much about all that. I still have nothing to say but I’m going to say it anyway, at least for November. It won’t be Movember for me so I’m making it Suevember. Call me a narcissist.

Hemingway also has some things to say about writing.

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Well, yes, that’s a good idea but I think it’s also okay to write about great movies, or photographs or anything you like really.

I haven’t written anything new for 6 months. But hey, self-forgiveness! Thanks Liz.

I can accept that I’m not a “real” writer and still enjoy the act of putting something down. I’m happy with that.

The Trouble with Netflix

I foolishly got hooked on The Good Wife, before I realised it has over 120 episodes over 7 seasons!

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I also couldn’t wait for the final season of Bron  (The Bridge) to reach our far flung shores so I bought it and watched it over two days. Brilliant as always and sad to see it finish but also good too. I think 120 episodes would wear the whole concept out. Sofia Heilin as Saga Noren is my all time favourite character. My strong advice is to stick to the Scandinavian version.

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Viewing these days, means no waiting for the next episode, you just sloth out on the couch and watch and watch and watch. It’s even making me a bit anti-social as I am so happy to come home and binge. It is all so tempting to just watch one more…so I googled and found this article, What happens to your brain when you binge-watch a TV series.  It is quite a balanced article and doesn’t just tell you your brain is stuffed but it does comment on the antisocial thing.

“When we substitute TV for human relations we disconnect from our human nature and substitute for [the] virtual,” says Dr. Judy Rosenberg, psychologist and founder of the Psychological Healing Center in Sherman Oaks, CA. “We are wired to connect, and when we disconnect from humans and over-connect to TV at the cost of human connection, eventually we will ‘starve to death’ emotionally. Real relationships and the work of life is more difficult, but at the end of the day more enriching, growth producing and connecting.”

 If you find yourself choosing a night in with Netflix over seeing friends and family, it’s a sign that this habit is headed into harmful territory.”
A second article by the Business Insider, was less promising about the ill health effects of binge watching.
“Binge-watchers reported more fatigue, insomnia symptoms, poorer sleep quality, and feeling more alert before going to sleep. Overall, those who binge-watch had 98% more chance of having poor-quality sleep than those who didn’t.” Read more here.

Anyway, there it is, I’m getting ahead of myself because November starts tomorrow. Have a good week. Might have time to watch a few more The Good Wife episodes, I’ve seen about 27 so 100 to go. I not available for outings for the next month.  FG

Faces Places

I saw this lovely documentary last week, called Faces Places.  As the NZIFF says, ” In this utterly charming documentary, octogenarian French director Agnès Varda takes to the road with the young photo-muralist JR, creating artworks, looking up old friends and finding new ones.”

Partly I loved it as it traversed the French countryside but mostly because of its humanity and the beautiful photos they made. Agnes Varda is a quirky, lively and highly intelligent woman and weirdly I had been unwittingly following her fellow photographer, JR’s Instagram where Agnes continues to feature.

Film columnist, Amy Taubin continues, ”

“88-year-old Agnès Varda, working in collaboration with the young photo-muralist JR, reminds us that big themes can live in small places – and that every life yields something to celebrate. As the two travel across France, looking up old friends and creating artworks from photographs of the people they meet, a friendship blossoms, and with it a wonderful free flow of ideas and observations.”

“She is nearly 90; he is 34. She worked with Jean-Luc Godard; he looks like Jean-Luc Godard (and, much to Varda’s consternation, will similarly not take off his sunglasses). And yet, the movie is barely five minutes old before it’s clear that these two are a screen duo for the ages… Varda has always possessed a warm and compulsively watchable screen presence, and the pint-sized iconoclast still has more pep in her step than most of us have ever had… JR is an absolute joy (and a mensch, to boot)… Teasing at times, quietly deferential at others, he taps into his co-star’s inherent sense of wonder and creates a canvas big enough for her to fit all of the ideas that she’s still dying to project.” — David Ehrlich, Indiewire

“In her magnificent, groundbreaking, nearly 60-year career, this is one of her most profoundly personal and exuberantly populist works. A tour de France that is both a romp and a meditation on photography, cinema, and mortality, with brief appearances by Mimi, the scene-stealing cat, it is at once poetry and the naked truth, shape-shifting before one’s eyes, and promising ever more pleasure with each viewing.” — Amy Taubin, Film Comment

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I have yet to figure out why JR carts a cardboard copy of Agnes about but I suspect it is because she is unable to attend things like Hollywood award shows.

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Regardless, I highly recommend it if you want a leisurely, touching viewing.


Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and a PS about Whips.

I had the privilege of being the celebrant at a very old friend’s (as in years, we are both spring chickens really), son’s wedding. It was in Christchurch and it reminds me how much clearer the seasons are down there.  There are very distinct markers of the different seasons. I still have the double doors wide open here in Auckland and even though it is stormy it is still very warm. Christchurch is around 16-18 degrees during a nice day in Autumn and drops to a much cooler evening temperature.

Fortunately the wedding day warmed and cleared by mid afternoon and the ceremony was held in the Edmonds Factory Gardens which was well-dressed in her autumn finery.

It was a perfect place for the exchange of vows on a lovely autumnal day.

I was also lucky to be staying with friends in their beautiful villa. They are keen gardeners (well, one of them is) and the head gardener says he likes a faint air of neglect about his garden. Nothing too pristine. It is gorgeous.

Sculptures by Graham Bennett

Inside this villa I spend my time pulling the smooth running roman blinds up and down, (it is so satisfying) and admiring yet another vignette I hadn’t noticed before. It is not “artful”, bought for effect from a designer interiors shop, but rather a visual history, memory and future  of lives lived in this place for a long time. It is emphatically not a museum, always new books, and materials and interesting artwork. 

I spent minutes at a time, just looking at the way these flowers arranged themselves.
A bear and a bag, time travelling.
The perfect red.

I understand the move towards clutter free and vaguely try at times, but there is such pleasure in memory of times past and visiting my friends has helped me get over the  “too much stuff” mantra and enjoy my things. I have rarely bought anything without a memory to go with it,  the little brass and very wonky candlestick from a junk shop outside Versaille, for example. It doesn’t serve any “useful”purpose but it does vividly remind me of that lovely day in Paris. It has also reminded me that it needs a good clean with Brasso! The tile beneath it was a gift from a friend while we were travelling in Spain.

One small candlestick can really trigger a wealth of sensations of a day at Versailles.

One of my favourite things in my friends’ villa is the nature table. The very name swings me back to primary school where we had a slightly dusty collection of birds’ nests, tiny stones, leaves, seed heads and bird skeletons. The musty smell of earth and dying shell fish gets right up my nose just thinking about it.

This modern equivalent is set up in my friends’ house because they have a couple of young neighbours who are regular callers. They contribute to the table as well. I think it is a work of art.

Thank you for a lovely visit. You know who you are.

On another topic, I am becoming concerned with my binge tendencies, no, not alcohol but rather Netflix et al. A friend gave me 8 series of Game of Thrones! A disaster for my social life or even my ability to be civil on the phone. I am completely ambivalent about women’s roles in the series but I can see that I will end up watching all of the episodes. That means, I’m a couch potato who is short with people on the phone and I am definitely reading less right now. I have two favourite characters …

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Totally in love with half-man, Imp.

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Arya must be the best 10 year old role model for girls around.

And finally as a PS to my last post, a young friend sent me this article.

Now I’m in my 50s, young men want to date me: Welcome to the world of WHIPS. Read more here 

I’m not sure it applies quite the same to women in their 60s … but hey we Whip(per snappers) are around.

Have a good day. FG

Apparently, I’m mean.

Findsomeone dating page conversation. Name has been changed. I’ve edited anything that might identify him.

Me:  Hi DH, I really like your glasses 🙂 and yours seems like a kind profile too.

Me: While I’m within your age “range”, I’m genuinely interest in why you exclude women of your own age?  If I did this you would be too old for me to consider.

DH: I have just been thinking that up to my own age ought to be fine. I would like to be with someone who looks after their skin.

Me: Do you look after your skin?

Me: You expressly say in your profile that beauty comes from within. I have excellent skin by the way, how is yours?

DH: I take care, but age has clearly had some effect,


On chortling over this exchange with women friends I was surprised and a little disappointed to be described as mean, or that I would never get a date with my attitude. I was also told men like women with long hair..right well I’ll be rushing to grow my clipped tresses then, NOT! (I have a theory about this).

FFS! it was International Women’s Day last week. My being “mean” makes it sound like DH has some sort of disability and I’m picking on him.

Apparently it is a scientific fact that men look in the mirror and see themselves as better looking than they are and women think the reverse. Judging by the toothless, unattractive men on dating sites looking for women 10 years their junior and at 63, are considering “children sometime in the future”. I just wonder which future planet they are on. Still I guess the hint was in the title of the website, Findsomeone – it seems to suggest an air of desperation -like just anyone???

Perhaps I could put in some more conditions- no liars, cheats, hypocrites, and people who can’t spell “dining” or use the apostrophe correctly. Perhaps I’m a hypocrite too, I am really not into facial hair, even Santa is scary.

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In terms of progress in women’s rights we are still waaay behind. How long do we sit on our hands and say, yeah it’s terrible we don’t have equal pay, that so many of us can still #metoo, that so few women are still represented on boards, in positions of power and as MPs. We in New Zealand have finally crept up to 38% representation in parliament, which compared to the rest of the world is considered “good”. I’ll consider it “good” when it is 50%.

I hope that you take the time to watch this interview regardless of your gender or politics.

I was sad to hear the three top rated TV series of the year all involved terrible violence against women including rape and murder. I too, have watched these shows and enjoyed them, such as The Killing. I am heartened though, by the outrageously good women detectives.

  • Chief Inspector Sarah Lund: Sofie Gråbøl below is the main character in The Killing.

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The other thing I like is that their bruises don’t miraculously heal overnight, they wear the same clothes to work, they shower after sex and look genuinely tired after working very long hours. My favourite character is the woman on the Asperger spectrum  who plays the lead in Bron (the Scandinavian crime thriller, translated asThe Bridge). Sofia Helin is in the role of Saga Norén. A fourth season has just been shown overseas and I am really looking forward to seeing it here. If you are prepared for the addictive nature of the series and can stay up until 4 am to “just watch one more episode”, then I highly recommend it.

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I have never been an avid TV watcher and when Netflix came out I scrolled though a friend’s Netflix and couldn’t find a single thing that appealed to me. It was only when Netflix offered a free month’s trial that I became horribly hooked. I now realise it refers you to other series if you  like something and it is good to get referrals from friends with similar tastes. Trouble is, I watch it all the time and it is to the detriment of reading and doing other things.

Here are my favourites so far:

The Day Will Come– totally grim and based on a true story of young boys in an orphanage in the 60’s. It stars my favourite Danish actor Lars Mikkelsen as the school principal and Sophie Grabol from The Killing. It’s a difficult watch but the day does come finally.


I’m not usually that into American stuff but I got caught up in this one and will watch the latest series when it comes to Netflix. I really like actor, Clare Danes who plays the lead.

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Marseille – starring of course, Gerard Depardieu. He is very polarising  but I enjoyed these two series, particularly the second one. He plays the long standing Mayor of Marseille in this story of politics and intrigue.

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Often I don’t want to watch scary stuff, I just want something light but reasonably engrossing so if you feel like this, check out Girl Boss, Grace and Frankie (stick with it, don’t be put off by the first episodes), Princess Cyd (movie not series), Lovesick and Sensitive Skin, (I saw Kim Cattral in the lead but there is a UK version with Joanna Lumley).

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In the last few days, on recommendation from a friend, I watched The Honourable Womana UK thriller with again, a great couple of female leads and in fact, with a large number of great female roles. The trouble is, I watched until 2 am and missed my walking group this morning. I think it was worth it but now it’s raining and I can’t get my walk in.

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To my delight, among my friends and family there are lots of babies being born in the next few months, so I’m wishing them all well and getting my knitting needles out.

Wishing you a great week, and don’t forget to grow your hair and look after your skin. FG

and don’t get like these ugly old bags…lol

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Image result for sexy women with short grey hair

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I’m marrying (hopefully)

my best friend’s son to his fiancee as I have applied to be a marriage celebrant.  ( I hope I gave you a scare after that title :)).  It is quite a long process and there are no guarantees and an interview hurdle as well, but it has got me thinking about poems and readings that are suitable for weddings.

I had two readings at mine as follows, firstly,

I am yours
You are mine,
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart,
The small key is lost.
You must stay there forever.

It was reportedly an anonymous poem and Polish but I have since found a longer version on line 

In your eyes,
I have found my home.
In your heart,
I have found my love.
In your soul,
I have found my mate.
With you,
I am whole. Full. Alive.
You make me laugh, You let me cry.
You are my breath,
My every heartbeat.
I am yours
You are mine,
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart,
The small key is lost.
You must stay forever.

You are my inspiration,
And my soul’s fire.
You are the magic of my days,
You help me laugh, you teach me love.
Each day I rediscover you,
You are my greatest gift.
I am yours
You are mine,
Of this we are certain.
You are lodged in my heart,
The small key is lost.
You must stay with me forever.

Secondly a Margaret Atwood poem,


Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

My favourite poem for myself these days is by Marge Piercey

Why Marry at all? A poem by Marge Piercy

Why mar what has grown up between the cracks
and flourished like a weed
that discovers itself to bear rugged
spikes of magenta blossoms in August,
ironweed sturdy and bold,
a perennial that endures winters to persist?

Why register with the state?
Why enlist in the legions of the respectable?
Why risk the whole apparatus of roles
and rules, of laws and liabilities?
Why license our bed at the foot
like our Datsun truck: will the mileage improve?

Why encumber our love with patriarchal
word stones, with the old armor
of husband and the corset stays
and the chains of wife? Marriage
meant buying a breeding womb
and sole claim to enforced sexual service.

Marriage has built boxes in which women
have burst their hearts sooner
than those walls; boxes of private
slow murder and the fading of the bloom
in the blood; boxes in which secret
bruises appear like toadstools in the morning.

But we cannot invent a language
of new grunts. We start where we find
ourselves, at this time and place.

Which is always the crossing of roads
that began beyond the earth’s curve
but whose destination we can now alter.

This is a public saying to all our friends
that we want to stay together. We want
to share our lives. We mean to pledge
ourselves through times of broken stone
and seasons of rose and ripe plum;
we have found out, we know, we want to continue.

This seems like a lovely commitment poem to me.

As a strange aside, I enjoyed  reading Deborah Hill Cone’s article in the Canvas this weekend about how enjoyable sex is for her in her fifties.  What it is really about though, is love.  She says,

You can read the whole article here.

I like to think I was among the first to recognise that  Captain Correlli’s Mandolin had the meaning of love pretty right. It has become a favourite at many weddings these days and rightfully so.

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“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don’t blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being “in love”, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”
― Louis de BernièresCaptain Corelli’s Mandolin

I also like this one from my favourite chap, Leunig from his book, When I Talk To you 

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Dear God, 

We give thanks for places of simplicity and peace. Let us find a place within ourselves. We give thanks for the places of refuge and beauty. Let us find such a place within ourselves. We give thanks for places of nature’s truth and freedom, of joy, inspiration and renewal, places where all creatures may find acceptance and belonging. Let us search for these places in the world, in ourselves and in others. Let us restore them. Let us strengthen and protect them and let us create them. 

May we mend this outer world according to the truth of our inner life and may our souls be shaped and nourished by nature’s eternal wisdom. 

I am not a religious person but I can imagine that if I do get to be a celebrant then some readings may well be religious and they are a rich source of literature.

I am a believer in ceremony though, that such a commitment as marriage needs to have some mystery and formality. It is possible to literally get married in under five minutes.  I like to think that for the couple and their family and friends, this ceremony should be a still moment in time, declaring their love for one another and that everyone feels a part of supporting that relationship.  I would relish the opportunity to help couples say what their hearts tell them even if they find it hard to articulate.

I hope I get accepted but it is not a done deal at all, I think they look at numbers and types of people as well as just the person’s application and there are probably loads of grey haired older women like me out there already playing a part.  But fingers crossed as then I’d  get a chance to reread loads of love poems in preparation!  I am going to do the ceremony part anyway for my friend’s son, with a celebrant present to sign the documents. My main worry is that I might want to cry and I just can’t do that and spoil the ceremony.

Please send me your wedding vows and poems you love , or ceremonies you really enjoyed to help me get started. FG

Seven Wishes by Fiona Farrell

A straight account is difficult

so let me define seven wishes:

that you should fit inside me neat as the stuffing in an


that you should stand inside the safe circle of my eye

that you should sing, clear, on the high rock of my


that you should swing wide on the rope of my hair

that you should cross rivers of blood, mountains of


that I should touch your skin through the hole in your

tee shirt

that we should exchange ordinary tales.

Happy Tuesday, FG


Cleaning frenzy, a cute trick I discovered and Loving Vincent

Let me start with the trick, although you may all already know about it. I foolishly didn’t turn my car off properly recently and ran the battery down. When I recharged it, all the radio settings had disappeared and the backing camera wasn’t working. That would be okay if the instructions were in English but as they are in Japanese I really struggled to fix it.

Google came to the rescue of course. One person mentioned Google Translate 

It’s a magical free app that has a camera setting where you can simply hold the camera up to the text and it will translate into any language you want. So I sat in the car with my phone and held it up to the Japanese text and managed to find camera on off/on toggle and hey presto, backing camera working again. I didn’t have quite so much success with turning the GPS off though so my car is constantly giving me instructions for driving in Osaka. I am going to need more help with this from my neighbour.

Apparently in a lot of cars there is a setting where you can change the whole caboodle to English but unfortunately I couldn’t find that. I do think there are lots of uses for the app though. A friend of mine recently visited Japan and had a doozy of a toilet with a complicated set of instructions on the wall. Sadly, they couldn’t read it so the bum flushing, warming or whatever options were not accessible. But with Google Translate,  their next trip could be very different.

I couldn’t capture the camera text but you can also save the instructions and the translations as a photo so I just used it on a French poster of mine to show you.

The translations are not always perfect but it helps.

I guess this may sound like my life is a little sad… but I love decluttering videos and have now got on to cleaning videos. I blame my friend Deirdre and her zone cleaning series. I basically enjoying watching a cleaning pro at work. Now I know I will never, ever have a system. Firstly I am too lazy and secondly I’m just not that great at it. (Mainly I’m just lazy). Also I just like watching the videos in admiration, not the actual cleaning itself.

However, I am definitely shallow and easily inspired so each time I watch Deirdre’s Vlog, I ended up doing some little thing- the cutlery drawer, the wardrobe chuck out and so on. The really scary thing is last night via Deirdre’s link, she mentioned this other vlogger’s 30 day challenge. I ended up watching a 20 minute vlog on cleaning the sink! Sophia is this slightly manic cleaner of all things domestic. I’m not sure I’ll ever watch another one but as she has 306,000 views it can’t just be me… I couldn’t find the 30 minute cleaning one but there are plenty more as an example. I prefer Deirdre’s more low key approach.

The upshot of this viewing pleasure was that at around 9:30 last night I cleaned the kitchen. ( I know I know, I can hear the sighs of admiration at this riveting piece of news).

Preparing to clean the benches.
I even figured out how to remove the oven door and remove the glass. I was only brave enough to take out one sheet of glass as I have had a previous experience of removing the glass and the entire thing exploding on me.
Ta dah! clean kitchen. 10:30 at night…

Moving on, I also went to Phantom Thread and as The Listener gave it a rare 5 stars, I had high expectations. I did really enjoy the movie but would maybe have only given it 4 stars.  “Set in 1950’s London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.” I found Alma quite disturbing as she leafed through the poisonous mushrooms reference book in the kitchen.  Daniel Day Lewis made an interesting but entirely unsexy, in my opinion, Reynolds. I get a bit tired of the older man/younger woman thing and secretly hoped she would run off with the young doctor.  Not to mention the hoards of women slaving in the sewing room using their well-honed skills to create the garments. No recognition there and I bet the pay rate was crappy too.

I wasn’t that fussed on the Elizabethan themed clothes as a rule either. although this wedding dress was quite divine if you are into that kind of thing.

I’m going to see Loving Vincent this Friday but am hoping the animation and all the swirling doesn’t give me motion sickness (no really, it’s quite hard to watch). This is how they made it, so it will be fascinating just seeing that alone.


We painted the first frame as a full painting on canvas board, and then painted over that painting for each frame until the last frame of the shot. We are then left with an oil-painting on canvas board of the last frame.

Only two artists’ works have literally stopped me in my tracks and one of them is V VG. I saw his almond blossom painting in Amsterdam, many years ago  and it literally took my breath away. When you see paintings in books, it is hard to imagine the size and this was a very large painting. More recently I saw his The Church at Auvers-sur-Oise, 1890  in the Musee D’Orsay  and I  was mesmerised by it. 

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There is no way a photographic image can do this painting justice.


Incidentally, the other artist is John Pule. Quite a few years ago, I was wandering the streets of Wellington and stumbled across a gallery and went in. It was glorious and there were several John Pule giant canvases covering the walls. Wow it was gorgeous. There is a big one in the Auckland Art Gallery if you are interested. I found them very moving, not sure why.

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I’ve since continued to admire his work and really like his tapa cloth inspired colours too. Once again you need to see them and not just a photo.

Have a good weekend, FG


Two fact, one fiction

I learn so much from true stories and I’ve been to two such movies this week.

Firstly, Darkest Hour – a with a great cast and about a crucial moment in British history.

My knowledge of most things is dim at the best of times but I had no idea that they rescued over 300,000 troops from the battle of Dunkirk. I knew it was successful because of the flotilla of civilians who went to help but hadn’t realised the scale of the operation. My mind doesn’t deal well with figures but that is basically the population of Christchurch being lifted off the beaches by 879 private vessels. Hard to believe or imagine as it is a long round trip and most could only do it once according to a learned friend. I guess in my mind it was a few thousand and certainly not a massive chunk of the British army. (Call me stupid). I can’t bring myself to see the movie Dunkirk, with Sam at aged 25 and all those poor young men like him it is just too awful to contemplate.

My everlasting , hazy knowledge of Dunkirk is of course, from The Snowgoose by Paul Gallico. I’ve spent many an hour listening to  or reading, and ultimately sobbing over that story. I loved Fritha and always imagined I might name my girl child after her! Everyone else commented that it would sound like I was lisping. Oh so cruel. I didn’t realise it was subtitled, “A story of Dunkirk” as a child as I was utterly focused on their relationship and the snow goose.

The Snow Goose book cover

But I do remember Philip Rhayader going off to rescue the soldiers in his little boat.

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Churchill is an unattractive character but I am utterly admiring of his refusal to surrender and I like the notion that it was the civilians who saved the day. I loathe the scenes where men in suits are standing around a  map with pins on it playing with young men’s lives, the way 4000 men were sacrificed to “distract” from Dunkirk beach debacle. And of course, the reminder of a woman’s place in theses things- at home or in the typing pool or invisible. Having said that, both my mother and my father were in the airforce during the war and for my mother it was liberation from drudgery in a small town in the Lake District. It change the entire direction of her life when after the war she joined my father in Roxburgh. Worth seeing. By the way, apparently they made up the whole scene in the subway.

The second “true story” I watched this week was The Washington Post. Meryl Streep has long been a hero of mine both on and off screen and I was very impressed with Tom Hanks too. Once again, I’m ashamed to say I couldn’t have told you very much at all about the Pentagon Papers as I not only have problems with numbers and geography, I also have problems with dates. I do know though, that one of my brothers was conscripted and had to go to Burnham to train for the Vietnam war. Thank goodness he didn’t have to go but I do recall him telling me that he had to run a mile with a gun above his head because they found a stamp in what was supposed to be an empty pocket of his uniform.

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This was a surprisingly gripping movie and when Katherine Graham (Streep) finally tells one of her board to fuck off, politely, when he is trying to shut down the printing of the papers I wanted to leap up and cheer. There are so few good roles for women, particularly older women and there weren’t back then in real life either. I also found the actual printing of the newspaper fascinating. So strange to see thousands of pages all being photocopied too. These days, a discreet USB and you’d have the lot- although I guess you would need the passwords so it could be a whole lot harder. Definitely worth seeing.

And while this is a  factual film comment page I also saw Call Me By Your Name after seeing the headline below.

Sensual in all ways, food, wine, sex, flowers, scenery, houses-languid, summer in Italy, slow and beautiful to watch. A kind of sexy Year in Provence, all the stuff to convince one to up sticks and live in Europe! It did rain but that just made the place look even more romantic. I’m pretty sure fiction can tell us as much about the world as fact too. Relationships require as much strategy and planning as war and the armoury and skirmishes are much the same.
In a very un pc way I’d enjoy having a gardener and a cook and housekeeper doing all my stuff. I thought the characters were rather rude and ungrateful. I found myself thinking and “what’s the magic word?”


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Good looking…especially the older ones…

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Nice place for a summer wine.


I’m not sure I would call it the best movie of the year but certainly a lovely way to escape the NZ heatwave one afternoon.There are some really good movies coming up too so looking forward to them. FG



Conservation and Compassion and Cooperative Living

It’s a deliciously warm Auckland Friday and I am thinking about Womankind. A friend of mine mentioned that there was a magazine available that had no advertisements and this appealed to me. Without having read any of the magazines I asked a friend to swap my Listener sub to Womankind for Christmas. It seemed to take ages to arrive but happily it was in my post yesterday. This month’s issue concentrates on Tibet including essays, stories, the environment, some history, treading the spiritual path, and most interestingly a story called The battle for the boy Lama which is about the Dalai and his choice of successor and the Chinese intervention in this. I hadn’t realised that the boy he chose and his parents have all disappeared. Presumably either jailed or murdered by the Chinese authorities.

The paper feels nice and the illustrations and photos are rather lovely. I usually just flick through a magazine in an hour or so but this has a great deal of compelling material and it is one I would like to keep rather than pass on.

There’s lots of emphasis on quietness and how important time in peace and solitude is. Something I am possibly not great at. As Sara Maitland in her essay, What it means to lose silence, relates, her trip to London to indulge in very agreeable things became a cacophony of sound 24 hours a day, and for her it became “hellish”. She goes on to say that many people believe that the core of creativity is expressing your true innermost self, something I agree with. She also thinks it makes you happy, so I must try some more silence.

I know that I could definitely stop work and not miss it even though it is an interesting and rewarding job most of the time.

They have a compassion challenge this month – can you refrain from making negative comments about yourself and others for five days? This was  followed up in the magazine with 12 women’s diaries of their five days.

I thought I might give it a go. Haven’t done very well so far after a reasonably distressing email but I’m trying. Let me know if you do too and if you keep a diary please share it.

There is also an article on Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo who is the most senior Western Tibetan Buddhist nun alive today, famous world-wide for spending 12 years in retreat in a Himalayan cave, surviving temperatures of below -34 degrees Celsius. (If she can do that I guess I could probably cope in Dunedin…see below).

She has written several books that look interesting and there is also a documentary about her life if you are interested. It is called Cave in the Snow.


My son is an ecologist and I find it quite comforting to know that he and many others of his ilk are beavering away protecting our our flora and fauna and I am always delighted to receive pictures from Sam  as he goes about his work. At the moment he s going out in the evenings to retrieve our native gecko so that they can be safely looked after while roading goes through. Their markings are quite subtly different from the non-native ones so I’m guessing it isn’t easy.

Have a look at this little cutie.

I also visited the Banksy exhibition on in Auckland with Sam and while it was interesting, it was very crowded and far removed form the kinds of places Banksy worked on his art.  I strongly suspect he wouldn’t have liked the merchandise either, not really his style.

“…street artist curator George Shaw says making people pay for the show takes away from what Banksy is about.

“You’re precluding the people who would potentially benefit most from it, younger people, from going to see it because they can’t afford to get in.

“What would Banksy want us to do? Are we doing stuff that actually fits in with his ethos and his belief systems?”

Read more here about Banksy

This is probably my favourite and is in some ways, a little like my favourite cartoonist, Leunig.

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The Art of Banksy

Eco villages:  I’ve long thought about an eco village with friends. I’m not talking sharing (I hate sharing..) but eco houses on separate titles around a village green with maybe a shared swimming pool. I came across this concept in Dunedin today. It’s called the High Street Co housing Project 

It is run along similar lines to Earth Song here in Auckland. However, this is brand new, hoping to start this year and super starred for warmth and insulation.

Maybe one day. I would need to get out of Dunedin in the the winter but with the prices down there I could afford it. I am a Dunedinite born and bred so I know what I would be letting myself in for. France every winter mmmm sounds lovely.

Dunedin railway station in winter
April at 'Le Ruisseau Perdu'
But I would be in France 🙂


Happy weekend everyone. FG

Still clinging on to holiday mode.

Despite the moon boot I’m wearing because of a small fracture in my ankle, I am still managing to get away on holiday. I have recently been down to the Wairarapa and stayed in the lovely little town of Greytown. not true to its name, it is far from grey and has been voted prettiest town in New Zealand and I’m inclined to agree with that. The main streets are lined with lovely villas and the historic buildings house some stylish wee shops. I was on a non-buying effort but I couldn’t resist the art shops and paper shops.

I spent far too long in the Kotare Art Gallery.  I loved the cards done by local artist, Janet Atkinson.


Kotare Art is the working studio of Greytown artist Sandy Wong; best known for her New Zealand bird and tree paintings, owls, anthropomorphic steam punk characters and the occasional abstract.Sandy was absolutely lovely and I bought (sigh, as usual), a bird for Sam and a butterfly sculpture for my sister’s birthday.

Sandra Wong, butterflies. You can buy any number you like.

The other shop I returned to is a small art shop called The Village Art Shop. Janie Nott is a quirky artist whose husband runs the shop and I have bought her cards before as they really appeal to me. They are full of whimsy and humour.

To “shop” the main street, allow yourself a few hours as there are plenty of good cafes along the way. As always I like to look at the real estate and dream of the country idyll. The good thing about the Wairarapa is that there is a train to Wellington.

Of course it is also wine country and we had fun tasting and eating at local vineyards. Here I am enjoying a platter at Loopline Vineyard.

We also enjoyed an informative chat at Olivio Olive Grove, tasting not only the pure olive oil but also the cumin, chilli, vanilla, lemon etc, infused olive oils. The owner recommended some of them with icecream desserts.

If you haven’t had the Mount Bruce Pukaka experience I can highly recommend it.  At the risk of sounding daft, seeing the white kiwi really was a magical experience.

She is really quite a large bird.
Here she is in the dark. We had a front seat view as she pottered about right at the front of the enclosure.

From the website:

On 1 May 2011 Manukura, little white kiwi, hatched. This was a delightful surprise to the rangers and team at Pukaha as she is the first white kiwi to hatch here and, as far as we know, the first white kiwi to hatch in captivity.  

You can see Manukura every day in our nocturnal kiwi house. She shares this with another North Island Brown Kiwi called Turua. We are hoping that in the future they will be more than ‘just friends’ and will mate.  She has quite a cheeky personality and at times is a little mean to Turua and chases him around. It does make for great kiwi viewing though!

Manukura is not albino (where there is a lack of melanin that makes pigmentation white and features pink eyes) she is pure white which means she is the rare progeny of two parents who carry the recessive white feather gene.

Totally cute overload.

There were lots of other interesting things to see too and you can incorporate a bush walk as well, if you aren’t wearing a moon boot.


We managed to include a small detour to Napier on the way home especially to visit Pasifica restaurant, As their website says, “You will not find white table clothes or snooty waiters. instead, you will enjoy true kiwi hospitality and generosity. Pacifica offers world-class food, an outstanding concise wine list, front of house staff that are knowledgeable, friendly, and professional in a relaxed quaint setting in the heart of Napier.

The above is is all very true and the wait staff are the same people who have been there each time we have visited. And it is very reasonably priced too with their degustation menu of five courses at a modest $65.00. We chose the seafood version and I was lucky enough to be the non-driver so I also did the wine match. The chef is Jeremy Rameka and the maitre’d is his wife Natalie who is absolutely wonderful.

This was the menu on the night we went but it changes every day.

I began with a bubbly called Squawking Magpie. Their website says, “Squawking Magpie, Gimblett Gravels is the flagship label, presenting wines of richness, strength and complexity, from a refined, elegant Chardonnay to a deep, concentrated Cabernet Merlot.” I don’t know about any of that but I bought two bottles of the bubbles on the strength of my one glass.

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The other memorable drink for me was the dessert match, a very sweet syrupy sherry (?) perfect for rich desserts. I am no wine connoisseur so take my recommendations with a grain of salt but I do trust Pacifica.

I was lucky enough to be given this bottle the next day by my dinner companion so I now need to replicate the divine chocolate bread pudding.

On the way down I realised I didn’t have much reading material and the forecast was rubbish as well as the restrictions of my moon boot so we stopped when I spotted a book sale in Tirau. For the princely sum of five dollars I found in very quick time, some books to read.

in summary:

My favorite TV series of all time was One Summer by Willie Russell. It must be close to 35 years old now but fantastic as long as you can translate the strong northern England accents.  He also did Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine. This book was a great holiday read.

The next book I read was Cleaning Nabokov’s House. I knew nothing about the author but again, it was a fun holiday read and I finished it in a day or so, so was engaged enough to read it at two sittings.

Three others to go but as it’s book club tomorrow night again I will have another book to read too.

Finally, don’t miss Three Billboards Outside Ebbing

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Frances McDormand 
as Mildred Hayes was superb. 
Happy January and if you are back at work I hope it is all bearable. FG

New Year Resolutions

#1 Cut out sugar.

That one lasted until 2 pm whereupon I decided it would be good to get rid of the sugary things in the house so I wouldn’t be tempted. Consumed two chocolates, one milk choc bar mini, large slice of butter-iced Christmas cake.

#2 Read more, binge-watch Netflix less 

Finished The Music Shop today by Rachel Joyce. 1 point to me. It was a nice Christmas read. She’s The Pilgrimage of Harold Fry writer. It has a similar flavour and style but a bit more charm.

Points off to me as spent afternoon binge-watching Sensitive Skin, Canadian version. Now tempted to find UK version as Joanna Lumley stars in it, although Kim Cantrell was pretty good.

#3 Get outside every day. Nope, blew that one as well. Still got moonboot on.

# 4 Reduce amount of time spent on Facebook watching cat videos, surgeries gone wrong and other weird shit. 

So don’t watch these.

Have been marginally better but it is only day one.

#5 Write a blog a week if for no other reason that just writing. Tick day one, week one.

# 6 Go to more plays and art exhibitions. Technically not new year but last week I went to the Corsini exhibition for the third time. Enjoyed this visit the most for some reason. Maybe more selective. Always a soft touch for cherubs.Such a good feeling going with my AG membership card. I can take a visitor too so if you want to go let me know. This is a good gift I think.

After the Corsini we went to

Yayoi Kusama: The obliteration room


Also spent a lot of time across the road at the Fingers Gallery trying on the Karl Fritsch rings as though I could afford them.

Developed a minor passion for Warwick Freeman’s white butterfly brooch. (Hint, Sam if you are reading this, my birthday is in April and they are $150, much cheaper than Karl…Mum.)

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Enough resolutions. At least I have taken down the angels already. I hate looking at old stuff, including plates on the table after eating at a restaurant and old Christmas stuff after Dec 27. However, apparently in the UK Easter buns are for sale and that’s just silly.


Handy tip: if those Commando hook tabs break and you are left with a well-stuck hook, do the following, heat with a hair dryer and then use cat gut or dental floss and gently ease down the back of the hook and voila! it comes off without leaving a mark.

Heading off to the Wairarapa for a few days tomorrow, so happy new year people. Let’s hope we see a lot less of the orange blob and N Korean nutter this year. FG