Archive for November, 2006

A little housekeeping

Sunday, November 26th, 2006

Please bear with me while I freshen the blog up a little.

Robert Altman

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2006

Strange to relate, last night we watched Gosford Park and today we learn of Robert Altman’s death. From the impact of M*A*S*H‘s mirror on the Vietnam conflict and the knowing movie industry inside jokes of The Player to this year’s film interpretation of the US public radio series A Prairie Home Companion (the wonderful work of one of my favourite broadcasters and authors Garrison Keillor), Altman was never a Hollywood favourite but he was hard to ignore.

Ron Mueck at The Brooklyn Museum

Tuesday, November 21st, 2006

Even viewed on the web, the installations of Ron Mueck are startling and hard to process; so they must be stunning in the flesh.

Job done – except for a door handle

Monday, November 20th, 2006
One of the reasons we chose the home we now live in was it’s potential to expand to meet the needs of our growing family or, more accurately, the growing needs of our family. While the four bedrooms upstairs, the decks and the section around the house provide plenty of room to sleep and move around outdoors, the open plan area downstairs means that we all tends to end up on top of each other in the combined kitchen-diner-living-office area. Unsurprisingly, this lack of privacy and space can lead to frayed tempers, heated debates and the odd slammed door.
Before – utility room and office area
Most Kiwi homes seem to have, either by design, conversion or addition, a second living space variously called a family room, rumpus room, kid’s den or sleep-out in the case of a separate unit. Half the ground floor of the house was taken up by a double garage with a utility area in one corner and, even during our first viewing, we were measuring and planning how we might covert it into another living space. In the months since we moved in, the garage was used as a storage and dumping area while we settled into the house. However, once I had built a new shed next to the house and moved the remaining boxes, bikes, bits and bobs in to that, the way was clear to convert.
After – office area and door to utility room
We called in a local builder, John, who replaced the automatic garage door with a window and ranch slider, rewired the space with halogen lights and lots of power outlets, built two stud walls and relined the ceiling. This neatly divided the space into a large sunny L-shaped room opening onto the front of the house and a smaller laundry/workshop with a door to the side passage. With the building work finished, SWMBO donned her ‘Changing Rooms’ hat and set about painting the rooms to her usual standard – those who saw how she transformed our London flat will know what she can do with a few cans of paint. With the decor sorted, John the builder returned to tile the utility room and last Friday, after I had smoothed and filled the holes in the concrete floor, we had underlay and carpet fitted in the larger room.
Before – the view from the homework/craft area
Not one to let the kettle go off the boil, SWMBO cracked the whip on Saturday to push the project to completion. As she headed off to a business seminar with her direct marketing colleagues in Auckland’s CBD, I juggled the usual ‘taxi’ run to the sprog’s dance classes with picking up a few last minute things to complete the conversion. Once back home, I relocated our home office furniture and family computer to the designated ‘office’ corner of the new space and installed and configured a new wifi network and broadband connection to serve the whole house.
After – the view from the homework/craft area
The last major job on the ‘Honey, do!’ list was to hook up our old UK television/video combo to a budget DVD player that sprog No.3 won in a school competition a couple of years back. Having warned that, as a UK unit, it’d only play region 2 DVDs, I and the kids were pleased to find that it happily plays DVDs from both regions 2 and 4 – a nice surprise in this day and age of locked-down formats and built-in obsolescence.
During – the not-quite-finished snug area, which will double as a guest room when fully furnished.
The next morning brought Sunday, the supposed day of rest, but any thoughts of kicking back and doing nothing were soon banished. In an up-to-date twist of the ancient practice of bartering, I agreed to trade a breakfast meeting spent business coaching friends through the planning needed to expand their business for a three-seater couch they no longer needed. After trailering it back to the house and installing it under several excited sprogs, we all sat down to a brunch brunch of bacon, eggs and homemade baps.
Before – garage door ready for removal
Soon after that, the guy who cuts our grass turned up to repair the damage his wife had visited upon our water tank connection with a brush-cutter two days previously. This is no small matter- like most of rural New Zealand, there is no mains water supply here and precious tank-stored rainwater is all there is to last us the summer, unless we order in extra deliveries by tanker lorry at some expense. No sooner was the repair done than a guy turned up to buy the garage door we’d removed and sold on Trade Me, the local equivalent of eBay. The bundle of lovely green dollars barely touched my skin before they passed to the clutches of SWMBO, who announced that she was off to look at beds for the guest area of the new room. After two days with barely time to draw breath, I was beginning to wane and as the afternoon wore on, the sore throat I’d been nursing all through a hectic week at work decided to undergo its own conversion into a head cold and a raging temperature.
After – ranch slider and window replace garage door
Having decided that a hot lemon and honey would ease my fevered brow, I was boiling the kettle when SWMBO rang the house. From the checkout at the bed store, she announced that they could deliver the bed she had just purchased but it would be an extra $60, so could I kindly hitch up the trailer and go and get it please? As I hooked up the trailer and start the Pajero, I found myself thinking that, should I ever undergo reincarnation, I would inevitably be reborn as a water buffalo – one destined for a life yolked to a plough in a paddy field with SWMBO as the whip-cracking rice farmer. That said, an scant hour later, I was back home with the new twin trundler bed unloaded, unwrapped and installed in the new room.For all the hassles and the ‘drama’, as they say round these parts, the flexibility the new rooms offer us is more than worth the effort. We now have a separate utility room where the laundry gets done, the big freezer sits and I can colonise a small corner for a work bench and tool racks. The main room is now a place that offers a snug hidey-hole where the sprogs can hang out with their friends (and, no doubt, boyfriends in the years to come) and guests can sleep in comfort when they visit; an area from which SWMBO can build and command her growing skin care and supplement empire and a light and airy table for the inevitable homework, crafts and hobbies in the years to come.

I was going to close by saying that the only outstanding task on my list is to fit a door handle to the utility room door but, as is the way in this house, another job has just been added with SWMBO informing me that ‘the new fangled wifi-server-thingy’ is not working. If you are reading this, then you’ll know I have fixed it and am back to just the door handle.

Kapa Haka

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Kapa Haka is the term used for the traditional Maori performing arts. The term kapa haka derives its meaning from two words: kapa (to stand in rows) and haka (M?ori dance). Kapa haka requires the performers to sing, dance, have expression as well as movement and combine all these elements into each performed item. In this sense, kapa haka also acts as a sign language, as each action has a meaning that mirrors the spoken words.

Here, our youngest sprog is making the ‘wiri’ hand gesture. The wiri represents the world around us, from the shimmering of the waters of a bright sunny day, to the heat waves rising from the ground to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

The boys of the Taupaki School Kapa Haka group perform the ‘Ra! Hupane, Ka -upane!’ part of the Ka Mate haka, the original of the two haka used by the All Blacks before their rugby internationals.

The newer haka, “Kapa o Pango”, features the controversial throat-slitting gesture which has received so much criticism – usually from the national press of the opposing team! For more information on the kapa haka and Maori culture, try

Just like in the movies

Saturday, November 4th, 2006

Click on image for larger versions

An unusual event interrupted my pottering about in the garden yesterday. I was in the middle of cat proofing my ‘square foot gardening‘ vegetable patches, surrounded by chicken wire, tools and the odd sprog, when I heard a sound one normally only hears in films.

Buuuur-bup-bup-bup … buuuur-bup-bup-bup … phut-phut-bup…

I looked up and saw a small jump plane tracking low across the clouds and blue sky above the township and seemingly trailing smoke from one engine. It was making the kind of noise that came from Ginger’s Spitfire shortly before he ‘pranged his kite’ in those ‘how the RAF won the war’ black and white movies of my childhood. A few seconds later, four skydivers exited the plane in close order, opening their canopies almost instantaneously while the plane lazily turned west. Shouting for the sprogs to come and see and grabbing the camera from the kitchen counter, I returned to snap a few shots, rationalising that I had obviously got it wrong and the smoke was simply vapour trail (unlikely at that low altitude in this warm weather) or a skydiver’s cannister that had malfunctioned in the plane (very unlikely but still possible). As I clicked away, I was aware of the noise again.

Buuuur-bup-bup-bup … phut-phut-bup…[silence]

Abrupt silence – never a good thing when flying I suspect, except in gliders maybe. As the skydivers slipped from view and into the paddock behind the local pub, I wondered whether I should dial 111. I didn’t. Well, for one, I wasn’t sure of what I had just seen – was it a plane in trouble or simply throttling back to reduce the prop wash for the skydivers? Did jump plane pilots have parachutes? There’d be a loud explosion if the plane had crashed, surely?

Later, at the school firework display, which the whole township attends, the jungle telegraph was in overdrive – the skydivers were rehearsing for a pre-display jump when the plane got into trouble. The pilot managed to walk away from a landing that left his plane upside down amongst the vines in a local vineyard. Not one to miss a trick, the head teacher raffled some of that vineyard’s latest output as ‘plane crash vintage, never to be tasted again as ten rows of the vines have been totalled by the plane!’

A write up and video report of TVNZ’s version of what they’re inevitably calling ‘The Grape Escape’ can be seen here.

Picture: TVNZ