Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

I wish all of my blog friends a peaceful, healthy and productive 2014.
May everything turn out just the way you hope.


I made this card on a picture by New Zealand photographer Grant Sheehan, who has just
published a book about this country's lighthouses. 
I greatly covet this book, and I intend to use my Christmas book voucher (Mr A gives me one
every year, bless him)  to buy it just as soon as I can get to a bookshop.

The picture shows the Cape Campbell lighthouse illuminated by a full moon.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Best Reads 2013

Thanks to Elephant's Child, I too am joining John Wiswell from The Bathroom Monologues in a blog hop about our favourite reads of 2013.  Not necessarily published in 2013, just books we first read this year which for one reason or another we loved.

I have read a reasonable number of books this year, and have picked these out as the ones I really enjoyed, and which I have thought about most often. They are in no particular order.

1. A Perfectly Good Man  by Patrick Gale

An unlikely storyline - a parish priest under stress. This is a quiet novel which slipped under my skin and held me fascinated. The characterisation is brilliant, and as Julie Myerson says in a very good Guardian review the main tension is not in the "what" but in the how, why and when.

I liked it so much I read another Patrick Gale book, Notes from an Exhibition, which I enjoyed just as much, if not more. The man is a craftsman; a very good writer.

Review here.

2. The Dog Stars  by Peter Heller

If I was forced to pick one of the books I read this year above all others, this would be it. It's (another) post-apocalyptic world, but for once it's not all death, destruction, hopelessness and ugliness. Hig, the pilot, has lost his wife, friends, everything to the epidemic which has perhaps wiped out everyone except him. But he refuses to give in to despair. In what remains of Hig's world, there is hope and the possibility of help and kindness.

And there's a dog.

3. The Ocean at the End of the Lane  by Neil Gaiman

I don't really need to comment on this, given that it's just been named Book of the Year for 2013 by The Independent. If like me you're a Neil Gaiman fan, you've probably read it. If you haven't, you should do so immediately.

Gaiman says, "I've never written a book before that was so close to my own heart - a story about memory and magic and the fear and danger of being a child."


4. River of Stars  by Guy Gavriel Kay

This book has been included in John's list, and also those of several other contributors to this bloghop.  I have been a fan of Kay's books since I first came across The Fionavar Tapestry in the 1980's, and have devoured everything he's written since. This is one of his best. It is a fantasy world, but one which is set in a rich and carefully researched historical setting which may possibly have been 12th Century China. It is beautifully written and totally enthralling,

5. People of the Book  by Geraldine Brooks

I would not put historical fiction into my top 3 genres, (or probably even my top 10). However, I had read so many glowing reviews of this book that I decided to read it, and I am so very glad that I did. It is a wonderful detective narrative, inspired by a true story. Events move from Australia in 1996, through the Bosnian War, World War II, then to the final resolution of the mystery in 15th Century Barcelona and Seville.

See The Guardian  review here.

6. The Son  by Philipp Meyer

This is the story of Texas, developed through an astonishing family saga told by three members of the McCullough family: Eli, his son Pete, and Pete's grandaughter Jeannie. All three speak in the first person, and their narratives are cleverly interwoven in a way that left me unable to put this book down.
I am no expert on Texan (or American) history, but I now know a bit more than I did before; I found the content riveting. Comanche raiders (and yes, Eli is kidnapped and brought up as a Comanche warrior); Mexican bandits; massacres and seductions; grass, cattle and oil; blood, power, greed and corruption. They're all there.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


This topic took me straight back to Australia in October a couple of years ago. 
A friend and I visited the Otway Fly, 2½ hours' drive from Melbourne.
The walkway is built among the treetops, and is 30m (98½ ft) above the forest floor - if you 
climb the 'spiral tower', you will be 47m (154 ft) up. 
I don't normally feel too comfortable with heights, but this was a great experience.

Please click to enlarge.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Last Night's Sunset

I didn't think that I would get to take any new photos to post for this theme, but last night we had a beautiful sunset at the end of a very hot day.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Last Day of School

Tomorrow is the last day of this school year at my College.

What on earth shall I do with myself?

Monday, November 25, 2013

In the Foreground

Thematic Photographic 270

In the Foreground is Carmi's theme this week. You may get the impression that I'm into posts...

Jetty posts

Bird on a post

Fence posts

Joined-up fence posts

broken (gate)posts

and bridge... railings

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sunday Snapshots

Last Sunday a friend and I went on a Garden Tour. It was hot, and by the time we had walked around the last amazing garden, I was footsore and weary. 
But it was a great day, and we saw lots of beautiful gardens and noted many interesting ideas. 

I didn't take heaps of photos - my friend, who is a forthright Lancashire woman, disapproves of people who spend all of their time peering through a viewfinder instead of enjoying the view.

My favourite garden was stunning, sweeping down a hillside from this 1970's wooden house:

The property was filled with rhododendrons, roses, maples, azaleas - but there were many unusual 
and rare plants which made it a work of art.

I was very envious of the views from one house, although I didn't like the garden (or the house):

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

That Golden Glow

Carmi, of Written.Inc, has set "That Golden Glow" for this week's Thematic Photographic theme. 
Like him, I also love late afternoon and early morning light, which bring a golden glow to the land. 

It was very late afternoon when we reached the Twelve Apostles on the Great Ocean Road between 
Melbourne and South Australia. 
The rocks positively radiated warm golden light:

This is the famous cat which lives in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul - famous because 
President Obama stroked him when they met. 
He stands in the warm evening sun which is coming in low through the stained glass:

And sunlight shining through flax leaves outside my classroom turns them golden...

Have a golden Thursday!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Naturally dirty ... TP 266

At certain times of the year we get sea lettuce growing in our local estuary - it can get 
really bad, making things unpleasant for windsurfers and yachties.

It washes up onto the foreshore, leaving a thick carpet of green when it is at its worst. When there are piles of it on the sand, decomposing in the sun, it smells horrible because of its high sulphur content.
There wasn't a great deal around when I took these photos.

Of course, Manu has to check it out.

See more at Written Inc

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thematic Streetscapes

For Thematic Photographic 265, Carmi has set the theme of Streetscapes. To see his and other pictures on this intriguing theme, go here.

Last week in New Plymouth, I came across a lovely bed of poppies in the middle of a 
3-street intersection:

Two days earlier, in Wanganui on a quiet morning, this was the view:

Monday, October 14, 2013

Tuesday Poem

I have been reading this poem with my Year 13 class, and like it so much that I thought I would post it here. Earlier this year, we read "The Things They Carried", Tim O'Brien's powerful novel about the Vietnam War.

What Were They Like?

1) Did the people of Viet Nam
        use lanterns of stone?
2) Did they hold ceremonies
        to reverence the opening of buds?
3) Were they inclined to quiet laughter?
4) Did they use bone and ivory,
        jade and silver, for ornament?
5) Had they an epic poem?
6) Did they distinguish between speech and singing?

1) Sir, their light hearts turned to stone.
        It is not remembered whether in gardens
        stone lanterns illumined pleasant ways.
2) Perhaps they gatherered once to delight in blossom,
        but after the children were killed
        there were no more buds.
3) Sir, laughter is bitter to the burned mouth.
4) A dream ago, perhaps. Ornament is for joy.
        All the bones were charred.
5) It is not remembered. Remember,
        most were peasants; their life
        was in rice and bamboo.
        When peaceful clouds were reflected in the paddies
        and the water buffalo stepped surely along terraces,
        maybe fathers told their sons old tales.
        When bombs smashed those mirrors
        there was time only to scream.
6) There is an echo yet
        of their speech which was like a song.
        It was reported their singing resembled
        the flight of moths in moonlight.
        Who can say? It is silent now.

Denise Levertov


 Images: here and here

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

What I saw on my holidays...

I saw...
trees dressed in their spring green:

a fascinating wind farm:


a desirable beachside residence:

gorgeous Botanical gardens:

pretty small towns:

intrepid surfers:

 an extremely cool footbridge:

and lots of baby ducks.

No doubt I shall expand further on these topics in future posts!

My best vacation is somewhere I could hide, 
somewhere warm and not a lot of people around. 
~Derek Jeter