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.
Making friends is a funny thing. After swimming near a guy most mornings we got to chatting a bit… which is to say he got to chatting a bit as he’s obviously good at that. He came to our housewarming party and we have an invite to brunch for some unspecified time. We’re of an age and have some business things in common.
So when he invited me to his annual Easter weekend swim off Waiheke, of course I’d like to join. The only catch is that it’s a nude swim, from a nude beach.
Well, there’s a first time for everything. Body parts have been exposed to the air, and lightning didn’t strike anybody dead. And we had a nice swim!
A week ago we joined Isabella and a couple of her friends at Taonga Moana, a choral event staged as part of the Auckland Arts Festival.
The name means something like “Treasure of the Sea”. There was a complicated storyline about migrating birds, and Maori gods, and pollution.
The music was beautifully executed to my somewhat experienced ear, but was too hard for me to truly enjoy. The forms and rhythms were mostly too abstract, the harmonies too complex. There was a video backdrop showing various images and words. Also too deep for me.
I would have loved to hear this performance and discuss it with someone who really understands choral music, and specifically modern high concept choral music. Was this show ground-breaking or derivative? An excellent example of the genre or merely pretentious? But not having such a person close at hand, I had to settle for my own opinion. Great singing, but not in service of an inspiring work.
After yesterday’s marine excursion I was in no shape to join my pod of swimmers for today’s rough and tumble adventure. The wind and waves were too high for me.
But we’d planned a post-swim BBQ and I didn’t want to miss that! So we went down to the beach and took a walk before joining the gang for brunch.
Here’s a pied shag drying off after his morning dip.
This bronze plaque at the base of a pillar caught my eye. I expected something about the Queen, or maybe a dedication of the beachside improvements including that nice walkway, or something like that.
But no… in an extraordinary act of self-importance, the North Shore Rotary Club would like to tell you how long the beach is! But not even that… they just want to tell you how far it is to their other plaque. Sheesh.
Armed with that information, we headed over to Christina’s house for the BBQ, where a good time was had by all.
Heading back from the post-swim BBQ (more on that later), we detoured a bit to visit Tank Farm. The picture above doesn’t quite do justice to how this looks in context… it’s a pretty dramatic half-mile hole in the ground! We appreciate the sense of humor in the cautionary sign, probably not official Auckland Council issue.
This is one of the oldest volcanoes in Auckland. It erupted about 200,000 years ago. For most of that time, it was a freshwater lake right next to the sea, but at some point the crater wall collapsed, allowing tidal waters to enter, along with a whole lotta silt.
It got the name Tank Farm because the US Navy started to build fuel tanks here in WWII for its planned assault on the Japanese. But the course of the war changed before the tanks got past the foundation stage, and now all you can see are faint round outlines along one edge of the crater.
One of my workmates is a keen fisherman, and he organized a charter boat yesterday for a few of us to go out and enjoy a day on the water doing manly things (or further deplete the already overtaxed fishery depending on your point of view).
It ended up being just four of us plus the captain. The boat, called the Westicles, was not the kind of big luxury fishing boat I sort of imagined. But with just us, a big boat wasn’t economically viable, so away we went.
Ah, the feeling of the wind in your face. And in your back and butt and shoulders as you hold on for dear life in 4-6 foot swells during the hour and a half trip out to the supposed magic spot.
Just before getting there, we spotted a bunch of birds who had obviously found the fish already. The shearwaters fish busily on the surface, while the gannets hover and then dive… quite a sight.
We pulled in close and deployed a drogue — which probably has a different name — to keep us drifting in a more controlled way.
The actual fishing was different than anything I’d ever done. The wonderfully light rods are rigged up with a big round weight painted like an eyeball, which slides freely on the line. There are a couple of hooks camouflaged in a sort of plastic hula skirt. You plop that into the water and let it drop to the bottom. Then you slowly reel it up just a few feet. If you get a bite, you just keep reeling… no yanking to set the hook. And if they haven’t bitten within a few cranks of the reel, you drop it down again.
At that first spot, we mostly got bites as soon as the lure hit the bottom, but many of them were too small to keep. And then after a while they just stopped biting… the whole group must’ve moved on.
We tried another spot, and another, and another, with little success. Now it’s getting onto 2 o’clock, meaning we should be heading in soon.
We tried one more spot, and it was marginally more active, and then we saw another group of birds not far away. Fish jackpot! We were pulling up fish as fast as we could… which is saying something because we were in about 150 feet of water.
We all got our limit of 7 snapper. I was King of the Boat for the 51cm fish shown above. By next week I will remember that length as 61, or was it 71? The captain kept saying it was an unusual day for the small size of the fish we caught. Supposedly that large eyeball jig should really appeal to big fish and less to small ones.
But, as John Bunyan said in Pilgrim’s Progress, “Behold how quickly Man’s triumph turneth to Guts.” OK, actually I just made that up. Remember that big luxury boat I wasn’t on? Well, on that boat, while you’re sipping Prosecco and nibbling on canapés , the hardy crew of islanders fillets your catch and gives it to you wrapped in butcher paper. Not so on the Westicles.
I haven’t cleaned a fish since living in Missouri 25 years ago. These ones were cold and slimy and had sharp spiny fins. At least now there’s YouTube, so I got some tips that helped a bit. Note to self: sharper knives.
Lee roasted a couple of the fish while I took a long hot shower. They were actually really tasty! And then moments after dinner was done I was asleep in front of the TV.
All in all, it was a good day, but if there’s a next time it will be on that other boat!
This parking garage at the University of Auckland’s Epsom campus is on top of what used to be a volcano known as Te Pou Hawaiki. That means Pillar of Hawaiki, Hawaiki is the ancestral homeland the Maori came from… but despite the similar name nobody thinks it’s the same islands we call Hawaii.
According to the field guide, it was the second smallest of all the volcanoes in the city before it was quarried out to become a World War II bunker, and then was used as the civil defense headquarters up until the 1970s.
It is just down the road from the Epsom Bowling Club, which is where we have band practice on Tuesday nights. The bowling greens are surrounded by lava rock retaining walls, which I suppose could have been quarried from this little fella next-door.
I think this is the last of the volcanoes I can walk to on my lunch hour, and I did that today. The first time I climbed that hill I thought that the Maori name was particularly funny, because I thought it looked like the word “puke”. But now I understand that it’s pronounced more like “poo-keh” which I guess is still a little bit funny.
The field guide told me that this volcano was a lot like the others that I’ve been to: it had been inhabited and covered with both defensive structures and food storage pits before the Europeans got here.
I can take this opportunity to offer a punctuation lesson… In the title, an American copy editor would add a couple of periods. However, here in New Zealand, all of those words like Mr Dr Mt St Jr and so on don’t take the period. I like the style, it’s a lot cleaner.
Another volcano so small you could be forgiven for driving right past it. it was bigger, 70m in height, but we quarried is all away. So in fact what I saw behind the playground was just a man made hill.
Above… We had to drive across town to pick up a table we’d bought online. The Te Atatu peninsula is gentrifying now, but used to be a relatively tough part of town (by Auckland standards anyway). But they have a beautiful shoreline park so we got our daily steps in with a nice walk. That’s Lee almost hidden behind a truly gargantuan tree stump.
And then on a different day I turned right instead of left at the bottom of my own street and found a whole new trail.
All these beautiful city parks aren’t exactly the kind of attraction that make you want to fly halfway around the world to visit, but they do make it nice to live here.