Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I'm not going to list all of the reasons that I'm happy to see the last of 2012. 

Instead, I'll send a wish to all of you: 
have a great New Year's day, and a peaceful and healthy 2013.

Picture from here

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:

Saturday, December 22, 2012

'Tis the Season

I would like to wish you all peace and strength for the Festive Season.

Many of us have not had a good 2012. 
There have been personal losses and national disasters;
there have been failures of humanity and sanity.

Whatever your beliefs or ideals, I hope that you are able to celebrate, in some way, 
the end of one year and the beginning of another. 
Whether you are with friends or family or by yourself, 
whether you go to a religious ceremony or not, 
I hope it is a time of rest, relaxation and happiness for you.

Let's hope that next year's a good one!

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...

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tears and Pain

Over the last few days I have made no comments in the blogosphere about the 
terrible events in Connecticut.

I make none now, except to post this cartoon by Guy Body, which appeared in our 
national newspaper, the New Zealand Herald, this morning. 
I hope that none of my American friends will take offence at my posting this; these things happen in other countries as well.


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!