Tuesday, September 30, 2008


We have two Chinese Silkie chickens, who roam the garden and lay a steady supply of eggs.
They were given to us by a student and Sophia has named them, Tuppence and Froth.

Chinese Silky Chickens are an unusual breed of chicken that looks very soft and fluffy.
Silkies are one of the oldest breeds of chicken!
They have a very mild temperament and are affectionate, tame, quiet and happy to be handled.

However, they are different from other chickens in a couple of important ways.
Chinese Silkies can’t fly.
They also can’t swim.
Other chickens have four toes on each foot but Silkies have five.

All Silkies have black skin, black bones and grayish-black meat!
Their Chinese language name is wu gu ji, meaning "black-boned chicken".

The first written account of this breed came from Marco Polo, who mentioned chickens with fur-like plumage in his Asian travelogues in the 13th century.

Once they were introduced into the West in 1874 Dutch traders told people that they were bred from a rabbit and a chicken!

Trust us, to even have unusual chickens!

Monday, September 29, 2008


Went up to the Waitakeres this weekend and on a tramp to the Upper Nihotupu Dam.
It was greener than green, and hanging trees of kowphai in flower were filled with squabbling tuis!

There were remnants of olden days and railway carrier rusted relics along the side of the path. The waterfalls were white and frothy and made a huge noise - but this time no-one was swimming there as it's a little cold still.

At the bottom of the walk was the dam one side, the lake the other! Quite a drop on the valley side! Yet so peaceful on the other.. We had our picnic and giant cookies for the walk back!

Then we headed further up the coast for coffee and more giant ferns (all going through a mad growth spurt at the moment!)

Once again the sun shone and we ventured to my favourite haunt - Piha.
The black, volcanic sand has started warming up in the sun, the breakers were huge because it was low tide and the surfers were there in their dozens!

Lion rock looked hazy because of the spray and Greg and Sophia clambered round to The Gap and back along the clifftop. I soaked up some rays on the beach and watched folk drown and get pounded by the waves!

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We have a morepork in our valley! We have heard him quite distinctly the last few nights! "More-pork"..
In Maori these little native owls are called 'ruru'.

The ruru are an important part of Maori mythology, for example, many of the carved figures seen on Maori meeting houses,(marae) have had their eyes modelled on Ruru, and when performing the war dances of the haka and the pukana, the glaring looks from the Maori warriors imitate this little owl.

In Maori mythology, the ruru, which hunt by night and have a melancholy hooting call, is associated with the spirit world.
The ancestral spirit of a family is thought to take the form of Ruru.
Known as Hine–ruru, the “owl woman”, Maori traditionally believe that these owl guardians have the power to, protect, warn and advise.

According to these beliefs, the presence of a morepork sitting in a conspicuous place nearby, knocking on a window or even entering the house signifies a death.
The high piercing call of the morepork however, is thought to indicate good news on the way (a good thing too, because he's hooting every day)
The morepork is New Zealand’s only surviving native owl.

They are found in mainland New Zealand’s forests and on many offshore islands. They are speckled dark brown, with yellow eyes and long tails, and are only about 29 centimetres long from head to tail.
The larger laughing owl, which used to be in New Zealand, became extinct in the 20th century. So, the morepork is fully protected.

Several Maori sayings use the morepork:

Etia anō āku mata me te mata-ā-ruru e tīwai ana
Me te mata kāhu e paro noa rā kai te tahora!

My eyes are like morepork eyes turning from side to side,
Like the eyes of a hawk who soars over the plain!

For those of you who've watched or read Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' series he chose the morepork owl as the symbol of the city of Ankh-Morpork in his novel!

Saturday, September 27, 2008


You work this one out - horse & buggy and a wheelchair? Really?

Watch out overhead in Australia!

Your guess is as good as mine!

On a bridge? Who is that leaning out of the helicopter?

A bird of paradise?

Friday, September 26, 2008


My friend Sue sent me this photo from Venice - to add to my 'bizarre' road signs.
Lovely image to indicate 'broken/temporary pavements, take the utmost care'
Would you describe that as a temporary pavement?

Is he inspecting the pavement or is that a hole, or is he falling?

Thursday, September 25, 2008


Legend has it that the Maori tribes made their journey to New Zealand in waka taua canoes, the best known of which are Aotea, Arawa, Kurahaupō, Mataatua, Tainui, Tākitimu, and Tokomaru.
Some of the canoes, including the Āraiteuru, are well known; others including the Kirauta and the sacred Arahura and Mahangaatuamatua are little known.
One theory suggests that in 1350 AD, in a single fleet, the tribe's journey began in the original convoy of seven canoes.
Others think that the journeys were made seperately and took place over several centuries.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


In the Māori language a waka is a Māori watercraft, usually a canoe, ranging in size from small, unornamented ones (waka tīwai) used for fishing and river travel, to large decorated war canoes (waka taua) up to 40 metres long and able to carry 100 people.

These war-canoes of the Maoris are not unlike the ancient Viking ships of the Norsemen.
Waka taua were also the most ornately adorned and carved and have a perforated, spiral carving that supports the carved figurehead in the tauihu (prow).

When we went to the Waitangi Day enactment, several of these war canoes, laden with warriors and tribal leaders, came in from the sea to the harbour. Quite a formidable sight!

Most Maori affiliate themselves with a tribe. Tainui is the name of the waka, or boat, on which the ancestors of that tribe who travelled to here; hundreds of years ago.

In New Zealand, when they arrived, they found huge trees, the totara and kauri, and a single tree could make an enormous waka.

In current Māori usage, waka is used to refer to cars...which is ironic!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


This was the winner of the raffle!!

Monday, September 22, 2008


At the weekend the Kayak Fishing Club took to the waters around Mission Bay.
Greg joined them and bobbed around for several hours, catching fish.
He narrowly missed winning the weight raffle and we had fresh snapper for dinner with a chilled bottle of Chablis.

Snapper (or tamure to the Maoris) are one of the most popular dishes here.
They were overfished in the 1980s, but have made a slow recovery, it's still an achievement to catch one!

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Hands ... when was the last time you really looked at them?
They are two multi-fingered body parts, and contain the densest area of nerve endings on our body.
Each one contains 27 bones and a myriad of different muscles.
Robert Wadlow has the largest recorded hand span ever recorded at 32.4 cm !
We use them to greet each other, in a handshake; to applaud performances and deeds, by clapping.
We can make them into fists to fight with them, or undertake hand-to-hand combat, or curl our fingers and hold a pen, to handwrite with them.
We even speak with them using sign language, communicate with them via computers; we can move with them, supporting our entire body weight on them..
We measure animals in handspans, and there are 324 words in the dictionary containing the word 'hand'.
We name sports , accessories, books, transport, weapons, people, professions, actions and objects .. all using the word 'hand'. Hand-made crafts are the most expensive and handsome men, the most wanted !
We decorate our hands with jewels and polish their nails, clothe them in gloves, oil them, cream them, wash them and build sculptures of them, all over the world..
Here are some that we have seen.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


This is the sculpture at Lake Wanaka.
It's actually called 'The Hand That Nurtures' and is by sculptor Llew Summers.
It symbolises nurturing, safety and protection as well as friendship, openess and honesty.

Of course - alternative 'titles' sprang to mind during our photoshoot! These ranged from:

'Give Us a Hand'
'One Handed..'
'Hands Free..'
'Into Your Hands..'
'Time on My Hands..'
'Hand it Over...'
'A Free Hand..'
'Hands Down..'
'Hands On..'
'Put Your Hands Together.."
'On the Other Hand..'

We could go on all day, of course!

Friday, September 19, 2008


Sky Tower is a New Zealand icon.
It is an observation and telecommunications tower in Auckland City and is 328 metres (1,076 ft) tall, and therefore, the tallest free-standing structure in the Southern Hemisphere, and the 12th tallest tower in the world!
It took two and a half years to build and opened in 1997.

It's designed to withstand earthquakes up to 8.0 on the Richter scale and hurricane winds, although it has been closed down once, since we got here, in the dreadful storms (see previous blog).
I have never been up it, but the girls have, with their grandma.
It has a glass lift, which takes you to the top - and I mean glass - top, walls, floor... ugh! I wouldn't manage that!

If you have the appetite for it, you can eat at the restaurant once you're up there - a revolving restaurant, (360 degrees in an hour.)
Of course, being New Zealand, you can bungy jump off it; and for the less brave, base jump off it..

At night it is illuminated all different colours and looks really beautiful.
I hadn't realised until recently that the colours it lit up at night signified special events!

For example, it shines red & Gold for the Chinese New Year, orange during the Auckland Festival, green on St. Patrick's Day, pink when it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and it was illuminated gold during the Olympics!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


At the moment my College is putting on a production of Les Miz.
I'm doing the makeup and tending to the egos of the performers; who are lovely, for the most part..
We are going to watch it later on in the week; always interesting to be a spectator, rather than down in the depths, only seeing the changes and panics.. wigs falling off, makeup re-doing, lost props, forgotten lines, accidents, 'missing' actors, and on and on..all part of the fun!

The musical version we're doing, is based on the French novel 'Les Misérables' by Victor Hugo, who wrote it in 1862.

The book, adapted to script and musicalized, examines the nature of good, evil, and the law, in a sweeping story that expounds upon the history of France, architecture of Paris, politics, moral philosophy, law, justice, religion, and the types and nature of romantic and familial love.
It's a breathtaking show on the London stage!

It's been a musical, audio, (on the radio), play, fighting show, a film, animated book, orchestrated, had a rock band named after it, and has been translated into several languages.
It was even mentioned in an episode of 'Star Wars'!
We're looking forward to how the students interpret it!