Saturday, December 29, 2012


Thanks to Elephant's Child, I have been prompted to post my five best books of 2012. She writes:
"I am joining John Wiswell from The Bathroom Monologues in a blog hop about our favourite reads of 2012.  Not necessarily published in 2012, just books we first read this year which for one reason or another we loved."

I'm going to join in too!

I see from my list on the right that I have read 52 books this year - or will have, when I've finished the current one, which will be before midnight on the 31st. It doesn't seem many - one a week - but considering the hours I work, it's not surprising that the total isn't higher. I am somewhat embarrassed that I haven't read ANY non-fiction books this year. That's unusual. There's lots of sci-fi and fantasy, a great deal of crime fiction, some short story collections. Here, in no particular order, are the 5 which  stand out most when I look through the list:

Creole Belle by James Lee Burke

I have read every single one of the Dave Robicheaux novels. This, the latest, by an author who is now 76 years old, is one of the best. They are thriller/crime novels, but not as we know them, Jim. They are set in New Orleans; the beautiful, lyrical prose brings that luscious city alive in a way that turns it into one of the books' most unforgettable characters.

This is a resurrection story, a gripping and un-putdownable description of a battle against evil men and the "known and unknown forces that corrupt and destroy even the best of men." (Amazon)


Reamde by Neal Stephenson
 This sci-fi technothriller has enough plot twists and turns for about 5 books. It's hilarious, exhausting, geeky and endlessly (at nearly 1000 pages) entertaining. It jumps around the world in a fashion to rival any James Bond movie, and includes as much action, even more violence, and some brilliantly endearing characters. I just loved it.


I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Protect the diamonds. Survive the clubs. Dig deep through the spades. Feel the hearts. I am the messenger.

Many readers of Zusak's hugely successful The Book Thief have expressed disdain and disappointment about this book, which was written earlier and is classified as a Young Adult novel. I have the advantage of not having read The Book Thief (I can't read Holocaust/Nazi Germany literature) and I found this book intriguing, interesting, and very memorable. Several of my senior students (18 -year-olds) insisted I read it because they were having huge 'debates' (read arguments) about it. When I had read it, I certainly joined in the discussion...

The hero, Ed Kennedy, has a quest to fulfil. As in all good quest stories, there are obstacles, mysteries, opponents, and rewards. It's definitely in my top 5 for the year.


The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen

This is a gentle, delicate story of two sisters, set in Wisconsin from 1947. Nothing much happens, but the book is full of surprises. I really enjoyed the way the story is cleverly manipulated and gradually revealed, so that the events which have shaped the sisters' lives and brought them to their present situation are slowly peeled back.

I loved the sense of place in this book, and the voice of the writer is confident and assured. It is her first novel.


An Unexpected Guest by Anne Korkeakivi

This is another book in which at first sight nothing much happens - when, in reality, a great deal happens. It takes place in Paris, in the charged surroundings of diplomacy and international relations. The central character, an American of Irish descent married to a high-ranking British diplomat, is preparing for a dinner party, and the whole book is taken up with those preparations. However, under the surface there are tensions and secrets - familial and political, past and present. They threaten to derail both the dinner party and Clare's husband's hopes of promotion.

Many reviewers have compared the author to Virginia Woolf, and the book's plot does bear many links to that of Mrs Dalloway. I think that the story, and the writing, stand on their own very successfully. 

"Like her protagonist, Korkeakivi's writing is cool, calm and composed."  
(Alison McCulloch, The New York Times )

Please go to John Wiswell's site if you are interested in taking part in this 'blog hop'

Thursday, December 27, 2012

TP 227: Warmth

 Christmas Warmth

The temperature here on Christmas day was about 26˚C (79˚F), and the weather was very humid and drizzly. 

Sophie was keen to be outside, but didn't fancy getting wet...

By the time the turkey was ready, we weren't just warm - we were HOT!

I was very happy when the cool of evening eventually rescued us:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Industrial Disease

Industrial Disease is what Carmi has named this week's Thematic Photographic topic.

Maybe the biggest factor in industrial dis-ease is the car

Auckland Harbour

Some people think graffiti is an eyesore


Hydro-electric power stations don't improve the beauty of the landscape

Clyde Dam, Clutha River

Near where I live, the old gold miners left a lot of industrial rubbish lying around.
One person's industrial disease is another's tourist attraction...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

In the Shade

Thematic Photographic's theme this week is Shadows.
To see other ideas on this theme, go to Carmi's Written Inc.

I have always liked the shadows that are thrown by late afternoon sunshine, 
especially in autumn or winter.

For example, the shadows on this hillside accentuate the corrugations of
  an ancient Maori  fortification (pa) site

The shadows take over in a patch of native bush (N.Z. for woods or forest).

These cricket nets are waiting for summer to return:

Meantime, kids play rugby in the shade:

Elsewhere on the grounds of my school the shadows have turned  
the building blue -

and the sun and shade between them bring out the colours 
of the flax bush:

“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won't do harm - yes, choose a place where you won't do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.”

~ E.M. Forster  A Room with a View

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Manu LeGrand

Kath Lockett is an  Australian living in Geneva. She writes a blog called Blurb from the Burbs, which I follow with great interest and enjoyment. She is a fellow dog-lover and often writes about her companion Milly; when I mentioned my dog in the last post, she requested a picture. 

So, just for you, Kath (and for me, because I love him to bits), is a short 
biography of Manu LeGrand.

We had always had big dogs (mostly, and preferably, Golden Labradors), because they are fabulous dogs and because I had always felt that smaller dogs were yappy and annoying. However one day I stopped on impulse at a sign that said Jack Russell Pups For Sale, and came away with a little chap who could just about fit into my cupped hands:

Here's what I wrote about him in an old post:
He doesn't know he's a little dog. He is not aware that his head is kinda too big for his body, and that he has the funny, stumpy front legs which some Jack Russell terriers have.  He always acts with dignity and decorum, and is as brave, affectionate and loyal as any dog we have ever had.   He firmly believes that he will catch every rabbit or pheasant 
he disturbs out on a walk; of course, with those legs, he doesn't.
He smiles a lot.

Thankfully, he's not at all a yappy little dog; he does have a good manly bark when needed.  Especially when he's treed a possum in the middle of the night.... !! 

Manu misses his friend Darcy, who died several years ago now. 
These days his best friend, apart from his humans, is Sophie the cat.

Our son gave him the name Manu, which I had always assumed was for the Maori word manu meaning bird. He told me a couple of years ago that he actually named him after Manuel, the Spanish waiter in Fawlty Towers!
At six and a half years old, Manu is always welcoming, always forgiving, always ready for a walk. He has heaps of personality, and he still smiles a lot, even when he's had a toenail removed...


I hope you enjoyed meeting him, Kath!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Flying into Summer

December 1st - officially our first day of summer. 
The dog and I went to a beach to look for birds to post on Carmi's Fly theme, 
but the tide was full and there were no waders around...

 There were some high fliers overhead

Of course, we still managed to enjoy our walk greatly. 
It was a beautiful, still morning

Driving away I spotted this blue heron, but when he took off 
he was lost into the trees before I could manage a decent shot...

"birds that rose and fell in the sky, like supplementary 
breathings of the tide"

~Janet Frame: 'The Edge of the Alphabet'

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Better Late than Gone Forever....

Okay so by the time anybody sees this Carmi will probably have posted a new theme 
and no one will in fact see this...

But anyway, here are my "Somewhat worse for wear" shots for Thematic Photographic 219. ( My only excuse is, we move house next Saturday. And Mr A is sick. And school is frenetic...)

There used to be a goldmine pumphouse here:

and there used to be a bridge here....

There used to be mine shafts here...

and there used to be a house up there, before the Christchurch earthquakes...

and there used to be a family here...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Random niceness

Saturday morning.

No school.

I walk down to the gate to get the newspaper, 
which, as it is the weekend edition with about thirty sections, is folded in half in the box.

As I walk back up the drive I open it up, and find:

What made the surprise even nicer was how carefully the little bunch was arranged - they weren't just stuck in any which way, but painstakingly arranged so that they formed a little posy:

As far as I am aware, I don't know the person who delivers our paper, 
but he/she certainly put a smile on my face this morning!

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.
                                                                                                     ~ Aesop 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Spring, continued...

In the garden today:

a lovely pink rhododendron

 a pretty pink-and-white weigela

old roses on an old fence


 and an iris of a delicate apricot shade

Have a sunny Sunday, everyone!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Travel, travel

Over at Carmi's blog, Written.Inc, people are posting fantastic travel pics for this week's Thematic Photographic theme.

Travelling is one of my very favourite things, so I found this topic rather daunting. I have so many photos - where should I go with this? 

I spend my working days with teenagers, and so eventually I decided to go with travel shots in which I've taken children and teenagers. Some I've posted before, some I haven't...

In 2005 I was lucky enough to take a group of students  to Shanghai. 
The Chinese exchange group came to New Zealand for 2 weeks, 
then about a month later we went there for 2 weeks. 

School was very different -

But McD's tastes the same wherever you go:

By the time we left to come home, the kids and their billets had become  good friends, 
and there were some very tearful farewell huddles:

In 2010 I was in Greece.
I was delighted by this beautiful bronze boy in 
the National Archaeological Museum in Athens

My favourite kid shots from my trip to Turkey are this one in Istanbul  
of a little boy celebrating his circumcision day:

and this group of children at the Mausoleum of Ataturk, in Ankara:

Italy, 2011. This is the Fontana del Panthon, in Rome

and I love the expressions in this school group photo in the Naples Museum

A little girl on Capri

and a less fortunate child, in a shed of other relics, at Pompeii

One of my all-time top 10 kid photos - two cherubs, in St Peter's Basilica in Rome

Lastly, two more school groups, one waiting to enter the Duomo, in Milan:

and the other in Vernazza on the Cinque Terre:

Hope you enjoyed some of my kids-around-the-world photos. 
Bon voyage!