Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Friday Photo

I took this about 18 months ago, on the shore of Lake Rotorua, so he's an inland gull, a member of one of the hundred or so gull species; these red-legged ones are the most common we see on our coasts, along with the bigger Pacific gull.
The sun was just starting to set, and there was a nice quality to the light which picked up the colour of the rust on the pole.


Happy Friday - and Happy New Year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Favourite Shots of the Year #3

Wintry light

These are photos which I took in midwinter this year in Northland, New Zealand. They were all taken between 10.00 am and noon.  (Click to enlarge)

It was very cold; there was rain about, the sun was struggling to come through, and the light was strange, eerie at times:

Mussel Farm and Barge (and Blue Heron)

Mussel Farming

Mussel barge

Mahinepua Bay

 Sorry to post so many - I couldn't decide which to leave out ...   

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Friday Photo

I've decided to indulge myself and start a weekly Friday photo post. Just because.

I was going to post this one as part of Thematic Photographic's favourite shots of the year - until I realised that I took it last year....

Driftwood on the beach after an autumn storm, May 2009.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another TP favourite Pic

Little boys in Turkey are traditionally circumcised - it can be done at birth, but is often delayed until they are 7 or 8 years old. On Circumcision Eve they have a big party, receive gold coins and other gifts, and dress in a costume which is meant to look like that of a King or a Sultan.
In Istanbul this little chap was happy to pose for a photo, and his parents gave their smiling consent when I asked if it was ok.

I love his expression. Am I just being fanciful when I say that I can see excitement, pride, shyness and fear in that little frowning face?

See more entries in Thematic Photographic 128.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Why become extinct?

I am in increasing danger of becoming a dinosaur.

I'm not old. Sure I'm the other side of 50, but not by much. And 50 is only considered old by anyone under 18, or shop assistants. And computer technicians.

I'm not ancient, or elderly, or decrepit. But here's a few random indications that I am showing dinosaur tendencies:

  •  I like manners. 
Good manners are important. They oil the wheels of society and make it possible for people to get along smoothly.  I'm not talking here about whether you should eat your peas off your knife. I'm talking about treating each other with respect and consideration, about being aware of what would make someone else's day easier or more pleasant.
(Thomas Carlyle) 

  •  I believe in the apostrophe. 
The apostrophe is a valuable little creature. It has a purpose in life.  It has meaning. It has validity..... well it does when it's used properly.


What's so hard?  Why can't teachers teach kids to use it, and why can't people remember those rules?

What's even worse is when people aren't quite sure where and when to use an apostrophe.

So, they put one before every s.  

Just to be safe.

  • I cannot understand why people can't get along with each other.
I'm talking about families, neighbours, races, religions, countries. Why on earth do some people think that they are the ones with the answers, and everyone else is wrong?
Be nice to each other, folks. Guess what - it won't hurt you!

  • I don't like selfishness!
 We need to share stuff, ok? There is only so much food, air, land, fossil fuel etc to go round.

Maybe it's too late already. The world is in our hands.

Many countries around the world are about to celebrate what is euphemistically called the "Festive Season".

The nominal reason for these celebrations had a message for his followers, and that was to love one another. For 'love' include understand, tolerate, appreciate, like, care for, make allowances for......

Hmmm - I think I've moved away from the initial point of this post to some extent - I'd better stop right here, before I upset someone...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Favourite Shots of the Year #1

The new Thematic Photographic challenge is around favourite photos, and we've been given 3 weeks for it - whew!

This year I have done some travelling, thanks to a small bequest and a promise I made to the person who left it to me. That promise was to "just get out there and do it!" So I've made a start - and I mean to keep on going.

First, Barcelona, where my son lives. Click on photos to embiggen.
Three four Five favourite shots from that fascinating city:


Palau de la Musica Catalana

Street performer on the Rambla
Street scene

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pencil it in

Recently I saw an article in a design magazine about an exhibition of sculpture and other items carved out of pencils.
I was totally fascinated! One artist featured was Dalton Ghetti, who makes incredibly detailed and intricate objects from pencils.
Dalton is a carpenter, who has been making his tiny graphite designs for about 25 years.

The only tools he uses are a razor blade, a sewing needle and a sculpting knife - and he doesn't sell his work, only gives it away to friends

Stunning stuff, huh?

Ghetti is originally from Brazil but now lives in Connecticut.

These pencil carvings really appealed to me because I love little, intricate things.

Here is a different approach, by Mizuta Tasogare:

And these are a different type again. They're by Dave Brock:

What incredibly clever people...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Monday rave: why I love being a teacher

  • I like that it's never, ever boring - and as someone who gets bored easily - that's a real bonus. It's never the same from one day to another. Or from one year to another.
  • I like the energy, creativity, ideas, and  humour of the colleagues I work with.
  • I like the energy, creativity, ideas and humour that I get from the students in my classroom.
  •  I like that I get to (justifiably) spend money on books and movies.
  •  I like it when a student or a group takes an idea and runs with it. I'm a big fan of veering off at tangents.
  •  I love it when kids are racing each other to get in the door so that they can be the first to see what the "Word of the Day" is - and I really love it when so many of those words turn up in their writing.
  • I love sitting on the stage at Prizegiving - with a number of tissues at the ready - and seeing the fine young people who are finishing their secondary school career.
  • I love that I get paid to be passionate about books and poems and song lyrics and films and words.
  • It's fantastic when a student gets so involved in something that they are really angry or upset - like when Othello is sooo blind to Iago's evil, or when Piggy dies....
  • I like that I sometimes enter my classroom in the morning feeling grumpy for some reason - I'm tired, or it's raining, or some political skirmish has broken out in the staffroom - and realise 20 minutes later that I'm feeling great!
  • I love it when a student points out something that I hadn't thought of.
  • I love those Christmas cards which tell you how much they have come to love English.
  • and I especially love being a teacher when it's the first day of the summer holidays!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thematic Photographic 127: Family (2)

On a happier note

My grand-daughter, aged about 19 months:

And her new brother, about 20 hours old, taken yesterday:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thematic Photographic 127 : Family


This man was my father.

When I was born, he was 65 years old. My mother was 45. He had been married for more than 30 years to a woman who was institutionalised for most of those years, because of mental health problems. They never had children. Finally, her death liberated both of them.

A few years later he met my mother, a widow with four daughters, the youngest of whom was about 9 years old. They married, and he was a wonderful stepfather to her girls – but he always spoke with regret of never having had a child of his own.  So, although she must have previously felt that her days of having kids were finished, and although it must have been scary to become pregnant at her age, she allowed that to happen.

He doted on me. Everyone said that they had never seen a man adore a child as he did me.

When I was 3 years old, and he was 68, he died, suddenly, of a heart attack. Apparently, I became sick with grief when he “disappeared”.
I wish I had known him. Because of his age he was probably never going to see me become an adult, but I wish I had known him long enough to have some memories of him. What memories there are, are buried deep in my psyche, and are more like scars.

I know little of him, sadly – my mother spoke of him very little, and the few things I do know came from the two eldest of my half-sisters. He was a farmer. His parents were born in Scotland, and emigrated to New Zealand for a better life. He was very tall – 6 feet 4 inches. He loved me.

I have my father's colouring, his bone structure, his chin. My son has his height, and we both have his enquiring mind and his intellect.

Hei maumaharatanga

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Thematic Photographic 126 : Night

This week's theme is Night, and Carmi asks why some night-time scenes seem so sad.
 "There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery."  ~ Joseph Conrad
Van Gogh - Starry Night over the Rhone

There are so many connotations around darkness, blackness, death... Many of us have been fearful of the night as children, and night often suggests danger and evil - just think of all the links to bad deeds, ghosts, vampires. It all goes along with the sense of night's all-encompassing darkness, and its taking-away of our sense of sight.

"Fooey! The porchlight is burnt out, and I can't see whether it's dark outside or not."  ~ Dave Beard

Humans were daylight animals from their beginning, until fire then electricity came along, and night is innately associated with our feelings of vulnerability when we cannot see. Scary stuff is concealed by darkness.
Image: NASA

In nearly all societies and cultures, there are stories and myths warning of the dangers of the night.
"The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve. 
Lovers, to bed; 'tis almost fairy time."  ~ Shakespeare
And the sadness?
If you are feeling down, lonely, frightened, then all of those feelings are magnified when night comes down.

I hate having to go to sleep. Life is so short, there are so many things I want to do: it really irks me that I have to waste a third of each day in bed asleep!
"It is one of life's bitterest truths that bedtime so often arrives just when things are really getting interesting." ~ Lemony Snicket

Last night I went outside and thought once again that it is a shame suburban skies are so encumbered and made ugly by wires and aerials :


Good night!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Books, and more books

I don't usually do memes - but I can't resist this one. It seems such a strange collection of books.
I got the list  from Ampersand Duck

"Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.


Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.

Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt."

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2. Lord of the Rings – JR Tolkien

3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
(have read the first 4. will read the rest... some day)

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6. The Bible

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
(maybe 12 - 14 times..)

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34. Emma – Jane Austen

35. Persuasion – Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis

37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown (To my great shame!)

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52. Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding (blushes....)

69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses – James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal – Emile Zola (yes, really - but only 'cos I had to, at University)

79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession – AS Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day – Kazu Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down – Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

So... I've read rather more than 6. My mother used to read me Dickens as bedtime stories, so I guess I was programmed to read them again with great enjoyment as a teenager.  And I obviously went through a Jane Austen phase.
Of the ones I haven't read, I would have to say that none of them really appeals.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thematic Photographic 125: Sepia

I'm not sure I really know what constitutes a sepia photograph. I've looked at all the beautiful images which clever people have posted in response to this theme, and they seem to range from black and white to gold. And I don't have any sepia collection, so this is my sole contribution this week:

A friend's son walks in the harsh salt desert of Uyuni, in Bolivia:

Visit Carmi's Thematic Photographic - click the button on the right.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Rockers get it right


New Zealand is a small country. 
We don't have many underground mines, and thank God we don't often have 
disasters which kill a number of people at once.  

But this week the whole country is mourning the 29 men who died in a coal-mine calamity 
on the West Coast of the South Island. 
16 miners and 13 contractors became trapped in the mine after a large methane-fuelled 
explosion on November 19. A second bigger explosion on Wednesday of this week 
put an end to any hopes that the men had survived. 
And a third, smaller explosion rocked the mine yesterday, just five minutes 
before the time of the first explosion a week before.


Most of the men who died were New Zealanders, but there were also Brits, Australians, 
a South African.  And in a country as small and sparsely populated as this, everybody 
knows someone who has lost a son, a husband, a friend.

Last night, U2 were performing in Auckland, and made a moving tribute to the lost men by 
posting all of their names above the stage as they sang their song One Tree Hill, which was
written to commemorate the death of their Kiwi roadie and Bono's PA, Greg Carroll.

Rest in peace, 
and may those who are left behind find comfort 
in the love of their friends and families, 
and consolation in their memories of you.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

3 Things that Make me Happy on a Monday

Mondays aren't great, traditionally.  Although you're supposed to have rested up over the weekend, and be full of energy, it really seems a very long time until the next weekend.

Plus, it's been a long and busy day at school (aren't they all??).

I thought I'd do the positive thinking approach and post about 3 things that bring me joy.

#1 Lighthouses  There's just something about them: strength, pride, danger, loneliness. This one's at Castlepoint, a (normally) wild and windy place on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

Castlepoint Lighthouse

#2 Mosaics   I've dabbled a little in making some, and plan to do a lot more - some day, when time expands. One of the reasons I went to Turkey was to feast my eyes on the beautiful mosaic work:

Mosaic above door, Green Tomb, Bursa

#3 Water  Always makes me feel happy and peaceful, whether it's a lake, river or the sea.

Lake Rotorua, New Zealand

What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life.
~ Leo Buscaglia 

What cheers you up on a Monday?


Friday, November 19, 2010

Thematic Photographic 124: Candid

I love the total concentration of these small people, watching the puppy eat scraps after the birthday party:

And this one makes me laugh.  He's one of the top students of his year. He'd finished all of his work and had been given permission to sit in one of the old easy chairs and read.  It may look as if he's listening to his iPod, but no - he was sound asleep!

I can't resist an animal shot too.  Here's the star of  my TP 123, Manuel LeGrand, when he was a tiny puppy.