I’m bowled over

I’m at band practice tonight, in the Mount Eden Bowling Club. Lawn bowling is a big deal in New Zealand, and it evokes in me a picture of a bunch of very old people not doing very much, except for drinking stealthily between rounds.

But this score sheet that I am seeing tonight for the first time suggests that however slowly they seem to move, their sense of humor is completely intact.

Wheel People

The Birkenhead skate park on Saturday morning.

It’s especially cool to see the sk8r dads teaching their wee sprats the fine arts of skating and the even finer arts of standing around looking languidly dangerous whilst wearing a pink unicorn helmet and matching knee pads.

Lake Pupuke

A big volcanic crater that’s filled up with water over the last 100,000 years or so. Unlike nearby Tank Farm, Lake Pupuke’s sidewalls were never breached by the sea, so it’s still completely fresh water (but the ocean is just a few hundred meters away).

The lake is popular with paddlers and rowers. It’s surrounded by pricey homes, parks, and the old pump house , which now has a theater and cafe.

Over the edge

We needed a larger cutting board and hadn’t run across one so went searching online. This bamboo board is wonderful! The way it lips over the edge makes it extra stable (the countertop is perfectly square so that helps). And I thought showing it off with the knife I brought back from my trip to Germany 20 years ago is a nice way to tie old and new.

I took the above picture with ‘portrait mode’ so the background focus is fuzzy. I took a couple of other exposures where the effect is even more extreme, it really works…

ANZAC Day 2021

Lest we forget…

What a difference a year makes. In 2020, we stood on the little balcony at our old house in Parnell and listened to the dawn service on the radio. We were ‘together, apart’ with all the other people on the street, in full lockdown. COVID-19 was still new. We didn’t know how many of us might die in the coming year.

But then we were spared… lockdown worked and COVID is mostly a thing that happens elsewhere. Last Monday we all celebrated ANZAC Day with big crowds, military drills and parades, bagpipes and fly-overs. After my morning swim, I listened to the service in Devonport and wandered along the beach a bit. Then we went for a nice lunch.

Even if just for a minute, the holiday demands/allows a moment to consider all the possibilities we face as humans. Here we are in this life in this peaceful time in this healthy place with this much comfort. But other places, other times, are so very close, and so very different.

In much of the world, we humans have a lot of control over those circumstances these days… it is possible as individuals to not shoot each other, to wear the masks when there’s a bad virus in town, to vote for one candidate over another. In other places, poverty and propaganda make it harder to exercise those choices, which I guess means it’s even more important that those who can, do.

Toi Tū Toi Ora

There we are, totally color coordinated during our visit to the Auckland Art Gallery survey of contemporary Māori art Toi Tū Toi Ora. It’s billed as the biggest such exhibit ever. You can take the virtual tour if you want to visit.

The experience was structured to follow Māori creation mythology… we proceeded from darkness into light, from light to life, etc.

The art was artsy, some we liked more, some less. The artist / curator statements were especially high tone, aka pretentious. I can recognize intellectually that the significance of a lot of this artistic journey is lost on me, but that doesn’t necessarily make the explanations enjoyable…

Some of our best moments were actually watching our fellow museum goers, including an aging surfer dude and the staunch young activist above.

Neither of us is an unequivocal art gallery fan, but this was a fun afternoon (and followed by a really nice French restaurant dinner).

Takapuna Sunrise

Normally I only post my own photos here, but this one is so spectacular that I wanted to share it. It was taken by one of my fellow ocean swimmers who went out early the other morning and got this just before jumping in the water.

A Piece At A Time

Lee’s latest project. All the glass is left over from the lead light class we took a couple of years ago. The birds were given to her by Isabella, part of her mother’s estate. The little table is part of a set of nesting tables that we bought at an auction sometime back.

All Politics is Local

On the right, Trevor Mallard, Speaker of Parliament. In the center, seated and appearing to listen raptly, Lee and I. I will say parenthetically that the name Trevor Mallard sounds even more comical with a New Zealand accent, at least to my ear… the syllables are accented more evenly than in American dialect and the last part is pronounced just like the word lard. But whatever his name, he is the Speaker of Parliament and that ain’t nothing.

Our freshman MP, Shanan Halbert, has impressed us with his energy. If you hold an event bigger than a child’s birthday party, Shanan will be there and he will take a selfie and he will post it on Facebook.

On that same Facebook page he posted a note saying he’d be having dinner at a nearby restaurant (that we’d already been to and liked) and would anybody want to come? Done. It turned out he’d booked the entire restaurant, meaning there were about 50 or 60 dedicated Labour Party types and a few curious spectators like ourselves.

Trevor Mallard was there in the capacity of after dinner speaker and to present a few people with their Labour Party life membership pins. He told a few stories, which might have been more amusing to him, or at the time, then they were to us, or now. His phone went off while he was speaking, and he gets high marks for having a quack quack ringtone.

Shanan makes the third Member of Parliament I’ve had a conversation with. I’ve been in close proximity with the Prime Minister twice and had my picture taken with the Leader of the Opposition. And none of those interactions cost me a penny. Shanan has office hours every Friday within walking distance of home, and so did my previous MP David Seymour. Of course, that level of interaction with regular people would be impossible for American politicians… It would mean that Congress would have many thousands of members. But it’s amazing and wonderful to feel like politics is so accessible. I wonder how many US problems would recede if there were a similar level of connectedness.

Walkabout

For who knows what reasons, traffic has been worse the last few weeks, especially in the mornings as I’m trying to get to work. So, I’ve been leaving earlier and earlier to try and get ahead of the congestion. That’s not terrible… I’m usually awake anyway.

Some days I’ve been using the extra time for a longer swimming pool session (or a few minutes in the hot tub), and other times I’ve shown up at the office early to tame the email beast.

But on several recent mornings I’ve just taken a walk, something I’ve missed since moving to the new house and driving to work. Here’s a few pictures…

The old spiritualist society has turned into a boxing gym. I don’t know if boxing gyms are enjoying a worldwide spurt in popularity, or if it’s a local phenomenon… But you can’t swing a heavy bag around here without bumping into one.

Here’s a utility box painted by Paul X Walsh who I think is the best of the utility box muralists operating in Auckland today.

These cabbage trees are descended, supposedly, from the original cabbage tree which gave Newmarket its Maori name: Te Tī Tūtahi, meaning ‘Sacred Cabbage Tree Standing Alone’.

The sweetgum trees on this street were strangled by their previous metal frames. These new flexible porous mats should let them breathe a little better.

Garden art in Birkenhead.

Rangitoto

That’s Rangitoto, the largest and youngest volcano in Auckland. The early Maori saw it erupt… must’ve been something! It’s about 3 miles off shore, and forms an important part of the scenery.

I have been to Rangitoto before, but this time I wasn’t able to bring my camera. The photo above is from Wikipedia, but that’s about what it looked like on Sunday. I participated in a swimming event where we got ferried out to the island, and had to jump in and swim back to shore. Space for gear was limited, only whatever you were swimming in and the minimum amount required to keep warm while waiting for the start.

Although I have swum further on a Sunday morning, this was the longest I’ve ever attempted to go hard, in race-like conditions. Unfortunately, my electronic timing chip failed to record me getting out of the water, so the official results had me down as DFL — dead fucking last. But after an email with the timing people they updated the results so I take my place proudly in the bell part of the bell curve.

After a very nice lunch with my fellow swimmers (by coincidence at the same restaurant where my former clarinet teacher plays on Saturday nights), I only had enough energy to get home, sit in the hot tub for a while, and take a nap.

It was chilly and choppy in the water, and the complicated logistics of registering, taking the ferry, having gear shuttled to here and there, etc. all made for a long and not entirely enjoyable day. So, it’s an event that I can take off my bucket list, if I had a bucket list, but won’t likely feel an urgent need to do again. More importantly, it is another volcano to take off that list!

Eeewwwww, gross!

That is a picture of a dead rat, covered in flies.

Misty the mighty hunter brought that rat inside last night, meowing her usual call of triumph and waking us up.

Of course, at that time the rat wasn’t dead and so she and I had to chase it around the house for a while until I could get it into a Tupperware container. It was already grievously wounded.

In the middle of the night, groggy and buck naked, I didn’t have the presence of mind to put it in the freezer or figure out some other way to kill a rat without getting bitten. So I tossed it out onto the driveway, where it promptly expired. Not my most humane or most competent moment.

It has now been run over a couple of times, and the flies etc. will do their work pretty quickly.

Red sky at morning

This was the view from the parking garage when I got to town on Friday morning.

As I walked toward the pool, there was a whole crowd of people at the bus stop taking pictures of that fiery orange sky.

And the ‘sailor take warning’ proverb held pretty much true… Within 24 hours there was a big storm blowing through.

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