Wednesday, July 31, 2013

1st Swim for August! - off to Vegas! - Te Papa Tongarewa Museum

Hi there

Today I went to The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa to see their new exhibition "Colour and Light".  Impressionist paintings:  Renoir, Monet, Cezanne, Degas, etc.  I loved that many of these artists, close up,  seemed to have gone very 'dotty' with their work.  But when you stand back, the scene comes in to perfect focus.  I was deliciously happy to discover an etching by my just-about fave artist, Tissot.  There are only two other Tissots in New Zealand.  I have several books on the guy, and I love his work.

Then I rushed to Hataitai Beach for a swim with J,  Yay, number 1 swim completed for August.

This will be my last message for three weeks.  Off to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  I have tried to persuade my friend/ house-sitter to do a few blogs for me, but she refuses to take over, even when I offered to write her a couple of brilliant scripts!  Oh, these old people, you just can't teach technology to us-er-I-mean-them....

As usual, I am worried about several things when I arrive in the United States:

1  Looking like a country oaf when I keep both the knife and fork in my hands whilst eating.  Americans look so elegant, eating with just a fork.  They have been trained to place the knife down on the plate when they don't need it.  Darn us kiwis, with our British way of eating.

2  My accent.   I am a very-fast-talker-and-no-one-out-ofNew-Zealand-can-really-understand-me unless..... I ..... talk ..... very ..... sloooooow.

3  Tipping.  I feel so embarrassed attempting to do it.  I never know how much to give or exactly how to go about doing it.  We don't tip here unless we are in a really really really high end restaurant.

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, adieu.
Adieu, adieu, to you and you, and you.....

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Swim, Liberace, Gandalf, and Stone Street Studios

Hi there
9 pm, Tuesday.  Busy day.  J and I got in our 7th - count it again, 7777777 - swim at Hataitai Beach today. Whoopeee!  Two people today called us 'brave'.  I think that's the new catch-word.  It's better than 'mad'.

My Auckland friend who is down in Wellington to housesit for me when I'm in LA and Vegas next week, dragged me along with her to the Roxy Theatre to see "Behind the Candelabra" at the the International Film Festival this evening.  Michael Douglas and Matt Damon (especially Damon) are really good in it.  In America, I believe, it's a television movie  - the two main actors are nominated for Emmys.   I think it really should be viewed on the big screen because all of that Liberace finery, feathers, furs, bling, jewelled pianos, candelabra, etc can surely be better seen in all its glory.

Here's some news:  Tomorrow the new plaza/precinct/whatever-it's-called will open in Miramar.  There will now be only one street instead of two at the crossroads.  There will be room to eat out doors and ... wait for it .... there will be a statue of Gandalf, made by Weta standing close to the Roxy Theatre!

And here's some more news, reputed to be true:  At the end of March next year, there will be a first-time Miramar Festival.  And it's going to be held in the grounds of ...... tantan-ta-raaaaa!!! - the Stone Street movie studios. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Hataitai beach swim, friends coming from Auckland, Earthquake, etc, etc

Hi there

J and I have done our 6th swim for July at Hataitai Beach!   J had the checkout operator and surrounding customers at Countdown Supermarket owl-eyed in awe as they stood spellbound listening to a dramatic rendering of 'my swim in the cold sea!" that she had taken barely one hour before.  And, guess what? -  J's audience didn't call her  'mad'.  In fact, her bravery was applauded.

 Here's a pic taken this week from opposite the beach.  

Great news on the house-sitting front!  My Auckland friend and her loved one are arriving this morning.  Yes, after all the will-we?-won't-we? kerfuffle over the Wellington earthquakes, they have decided to grant my house their illustrious presence while I'm away in the United States.  Actually, I think it has a lot to do with the fact that my friend has bought loads of tickets for the Wellington International Film Festival and didn't want to see the money go to waste!  She will be haring off around various picture theatres in the capital while her husband no doubt sits and admires my weedless garden,.

We had a big-ish earthquake (in comparison to the dozens of small-ish hardly felt earthquakes we've been having lately) the night before last, and this time it was my friend A J who trembled under the mightiness of it, as I slept through the entire night.

Friday, July 26, 2013

5th swim for July at Hataitai Beach

Hi there

J and I got in our fifth swim for July.  It's a bit of a drag having to plod ... and plod .... and plod forever out into the water before it even gets up to our waists but the swim is always worth it, and it's even more so when we get out from the water - we are on such a high!   J was saying yesterday it's a good thing that dozens, hundreds of others haven't discovered the joys of winter swimming.  Then, we'd just be two of many.  It's real nice to have the beach to ourselves without paddle-boarders, kayakers, rowers, yachters, other swimmers, jellyfish, and stingrays.

I'm still trying to persuade my Auckland friend not to wimp out about house-sitting for me when I'm in LA and Vegas.  Psheww, what's an earthquake or two!  Wellington is as safe as houses.... whoops, wrong comparison: houses are not all that safe during earthquakes, are they?.   However, stand by, I am sure I can wear my friend down.  She and her husband have already purchased their plane tickets, months ago.

I went to the Roxy Cinema, in Miramar, Wellington.  They have this really old piece of movie apparatus on display.  Nowadays you can get moving pictures out of  a hand-held camera.  Isn't it totally incredible how far the world has come with technology?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Public Trust Building unsafe? Plus... 4th swim, August

Hi there

One of my favourite Wellington structures may be pulled down because of the earthquake.  It's the over-a-hundred-year-old heritage-rated Public Trust building, corner of Lambton Quay and Stout Street. It has been deemed unsafe and none of the office workers are allowed back into it.  Creative New Zealand is housed there.  I hope the building can be saved.  Up to the insurance people, I guess. 

Authorities have been working their way through buildings in the CBD and yesterday they discovered the lift tower besides Luke's Lane was threatening to topple over. Apparently, a few ramps in parking buildings around the city have also been deemed unsafe.


J and I conquered the ocean at Hataitai Beach once again yesterday. Despite illness(es), the earthquake, storms, the SF convention, and other stuff intruding, we've made it to four swims for July (four a month is our minimum per winter month).

Our one concession to winter is to wear a t-shirt over our bathing suit.  The trouble is that we're both wearing black t-shirts and we worry that passers-by may think we're in wet suits.    No, no, folk, no wimpy wetsuits for us, we are in the water in somewhat freezing glory.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Dare to hope no Big Earthquake coming?

Hi there

Well, I only felt a couple of ultra small earthquakes yesterday.  I didn't even bother to get off the couch and hide-er-I-mean-bravely-take-up-position under the table.  Both after-shocks were over practically before I registered they had started.  The tremors are ever-so tiny now. 

My friend in Auckland rang me last night:

"I don't think Lloyd and I want to come and house-sit for you while you're in Las Vegas," she said.

Huh?  What?  At the time,  I was knee deep  in the middle of double, triple, quadruple cleaning duties just because of her promise to come to Wellington..  "You can't let me down," I whimpered.  "I've cleaned the cutlery drawer.   And the stove .... fridge ... carpets .... windows .... I've even weeded the garden for you!".   My friend well-knows, 'weeding the garden' for someone is a supreme sacrifice of my time.  It is not an honour I give lightly to many.

"It's just too earthquak-y down there," she said.

"Tch-tch.  No, they're only itty-bitty tremors.  Nothing to get excited about.  By the time you get here, they'll have stopped.   I promise." 

Could I promise?  Oops, how could I promise there wouldn't be another big quake, if even the Earthquake Commission, and geologists, and NIWA folk can't do that?

"Please...." I begged.

My friend said she'd think about it, gauge the news bulletins and earthquake reports over the next few days..

Oh dear.  To heck with worry over earthquakes -  I'm now worrying like mad that, maybe, I've cleaned my house for nothing!.




Monday, July 22, 2013

Things getting back to normal - except for the Wellington quakes!

Hi there

7 a.m. 23 July NZ time:  People were asked not to go into the CBD yesterday and it was blocked off while surveyors and inspectors checked the area.  Schools and the university were closed.  There were no trains. Today most everything is almost back to normal.

 About 35 buildings have been damaged, but not that badly, I don't think.  The Mayor, Celia Wade-Brown, has told us that thanks to Wellington's strict building code re earthquakes, we were lucky to get away with not that much damage.  Our code has always been even more strict than Christchurch and Auckland because we are on a faultline.  For many years now, all new tall buildings have to have earthquake (movable) foundations.

There were a few dozen little quakes last night.  I slept like a log, woke about 1.30 a.m.-ish, and found out later there was a 5 point-something earthquake around about the same time.  Maybe it woke me up? -  I'm just glad I didn't know.   Oh, I only crouched under the table once yesterday.  The aftershocks will go on for quite some time.

I am so sad for the people in China who have just had that massive earthquake,.  A Chinese earthquake help team came and assisted us when New Zealand  had the huge Christchurch earthquake.

In a way, it was hilarious yesterday in the shops.  So many of us had never bothered getting our emergency earthquake kits made up.  I went into Bunnings Hardware Store and it was like attending a first day sale at Kirkcaldies, or Harrods, or Selfridges, or Macy's,.  Hundreds of Wellingtonians were grabbing torches, barbecues, camping stoves, candles, and portable toilets.  In the supermarket,  it was toilet rolls, water, paper towels, baby wipes, tinned food.   My friend, J ,was jolly cross when she toddled in to Countdown to get her usual health food bars and found the shelf empty,.

It's odd to still see the normal programmes and commercials on television and radio.  Last night was the final of "X Factor: New Zealand".  Life goes on.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Relaxing(?) after the Wellington earthquake

HI there

9 a.m. Monday.  I don't think many Wellingtonians would have got much sleep last night, worrying about when the next quake would strike.  There were hundreds of little quakes apparently that were too deep for most areas to feel.  Quakes seem to be radiating out further, to mid North Island  (even as far as Napier) and further down the South Island, with Cook Strait/Wellington in the middle getting the worst of it.  The main quakes have been centred just out of Seddon (near the top of the South Island).  Messages on television and over radio have asked people not to go into the CBD today as the buildings have to be checked, and there are no trains operating.  The airport is back in operation.  There is lots of fallen masonry and cracks in buildings.   Thank heavens, I've had no damage in my house, not even a falling ornament.  The shaking and rumbling was horrific.  My neighbour rang me up, very frightened.

The Las Vegas Guardian newspaper (the one that broadcast last month that Mandela had passed away) put up a big headline about Seddon in AUSTRALIA having a 6.5 earthquake, and that it had reached Napier, also in Australia.  There is a Seddon in Australia but it didn't have a quake, and there is a Napier in Australia but it's thousands of kms away.   Fire the reporter......  Or better still, in a fortnight's time one angry kiwi will be hitting Las Vegas and she will be on the warpath.   Yes, it's me! 

I have to rush out today and make up my earthquake kit!  

It is awful, hunched under a table, and wildly thinking, "Will I die in this quake?"  Or ... "If I survive this quake, will I die in a follow-up one?"

10.50 a.m. Mond. ... Oh goodness, another little earthquake, 5.3 magnitude, just struck - I had to run to get under the table.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Third earthquake in Wellington

Hi there

A couple of hours ago there was a third earthquake in Wellington.  I was standing at the kitchen bench salting my steak.  I threw my salt cellar frantically in the air and ran to get under my dining room table, clutching at the legs.  The quake lasted 30 seconds and was the worst so far.  6.5 according to one tv station and 6.9 according to another.  There have been lots of little swarms over the last few days but I've only felt the three main ones.  Luckily not one ornament broke at my house, the cabinet didn't fall, no windows smashed in.  Phewww, safe.... for the moment.

The scary thing is that there will probably be more earthquakes. Wellington, I believe, is on the same fault line as San Francisco.  Our fault line goes right along The Terrace which is the street adjacent to Lambton Quay, Wellington's main city street.

Apparently in the city, about 7 km away, there has been falling masonry, cracked buildings, power outages, etc.  A hotel has sort of lost it's sixth floor.  Because it is dark now (6.30 pm Sunday, as I type this), much damage will not be discovered until tomorrow.

I did have an emergency stash of food and clothes, but I kept diving into the food when I was dieting - hunting for forbidden goodies - and I never replaced the stuff.   Now, I'm down to one tin of tuna in my stash.  I might have to make that one tin of tuna last up to a week if there's a major quake.   Note to self: get out tomorrow and refill earthquake box.

We have always been told that it's not a case of 'if' a major quake hits Wellington, but it is a case of 'when' one hits us..

You can probably find information on our quake at

Third swim ... down! Second earthquake ... down!

This morning was our second (bigger) earthquake.  I rushed under the table again.  I must remember, to grab my glasses next time.  How awful it would be if the house tumbled down around me, and I couldn't see it!  Apparently, there have been a few little quakes since the bigger one the other day - and a few more after the one today, but I haven't felt them.

J and I have completed swim no 3 at Hataitai Beach for this month.  Yes-yes, it was cold and a watching bloke called us 'crazy'.  Still, that was a change from 'mad' which is the normal response.

Here's a painting J did some time ago of Hataitai Beach.

Why is that queue over there moving faster than the queue I'm in?

HI there

I was ruminating the other day, standing in line at PostShop, that whichever queue I stand in, it's always the other queue that moves the fastest.   I speak to loads of people and they say the same thing happens to them.  Is there a bunch of us folk who are forever destined to Get It Wrong?  Did the Angel of Good-Fortune tick my name off her list as baby-me, all bundled up and about to be handed over to the stork, was sent off to live my life?

At the supermarket yesterday, I decided to try out my theory.  I stood examining the queues at the various checkout counters.  Mmmm, which was the shortest?  Which customer in which queue had the least items?  And which small-purchase customer did I think would ask the operator for cigarettes requiring the supervisor to be called, along with the all-precious key to the locked cabinet.  All of this kerfuffle would add minutes to any queue-time.  (Oops, am I cigarette-profiling?  Sorry.)

In the end, I decided to go with the new-fangled check-it-out-yourself option.

Alas, it took me much longer doing this than if I'd queued up waiting for an operator.  It was probably my own fault.  Silly me, I had bought a camisole at Farmers just prior to my Countdown Supermarket visit and I had plonked the bagged camisole into my supermarket basket for ease of carrying as I rambled the aisles.  The self-check-out machine automatically registered the camisole's weight as I checked in and then got in a real filthy mood when I didn't run it across the bar-scanner. 

By the time, the supervisor had slowly rolled up and sorted out the problem, all the operator-checkout queues had  become devoid of customers, and-I-should-have-gone-that-way-to-begin-with.  Sigh.


I was wandering around the Wellington Botanical Gardens earlier in the year and found this cute duck family hanging around the small fountain in the rose garden.  I go so gooey over puppies, kittens, ducklings, chicks....

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Second swim for July at Hataitai Beach, Wellington, New Zealand

Hi there
Yesterday, we had our second swim for July at Hataitai Beach, and this time we got much (much) further than the previous day.  We are hoping for four swims this month.  I hope we can manage it.  But once we make up our minds to do something,  both J and myself get ultra-upset if we can't reach our goal.  So, excluding extreme storms, illnesses, holidays, locust infestations, and alien attacks, we intend to let nothing stand in our way with this month's 4-swim-minimum.  Oops, at this late date in the month have we committed ourselves...?

Most of the steps and surroundings that broke away from the deck during The Big Storm have been cleared away by Wellington City Council, but there were still, maybe, half a dozen bits of woods floating in the water around the shoreline.  Some of these scraps of wood had vicious-looking nails attached.  Yesterday, I forgot my swimming booties (aside:  I only wear them in the winter) and I was so scared trekking out into the sea from the shore.  Without my glasses, I'm as blind as a bat.  Who knew what nailed atrocity I might step on.

Here's a pic that J's fearless pet photographer took of us in the water.  As you can see, we have the moves down perfectly.  Esther Williams, eat your heart out!

There was a sort of rolling earthquake (tremor) this morning in Wellington.  I was talking to my friend, A.J., on the phone.  She fearlessly kept on talking as I hared into the dining room and cowered under the table. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

swimming, Hataitai Beach

Hi there

Well, J and I have had a little bit of a glitch re our swimming, but we're now happily back on track.  Today we went to Hataitai Beach.  It was weird having to do the long wade (trudge?) into the water instead of plunging straight down from the steps.  The steps leading from the changing shed deck down into the water are no longer at Hataitai Beach because of The Storm. I hope Wellington City Council will rebuild them before summer. Wouldn't it be awful if they decided swimmers didn't need them any longer?  We didn't stay all that long in the sea because I think I have a bit of a cold coming on.  Usually, after my swim, my hands and feet usually turn into ice blocks for, at least, two hours.  Today, though, not at all.  Maybe we should look seriously at cutting down on the length of our swims at this time of the year?   Or not....   The trouble is, J and I are so competitive. Neither of us can bear (bare?) to be outdone by the other one.  It only needs one of us to wonder aloud about doing another width of the bay, and the other shouts something like "You're on!" and is off like flying fish.,

One of the regulars was there.  But he's not a swimmer.  He washes his clothes in plastic bags from the tap on the deck, then hangs the clothes somewhere to dry.

I went to the New Zealand annual science fiction convention last weekend.  I was roped in to sitting on a panel and when I agreed to do this I didn't realise that, time-wise,  the one session I wanted to see was  directly opposite my panel:  this was the session given by the guys at Weta!   Drat....  So, I was grumpy the whole weekend.  Especially when it also meant that because of the convention, I missed on hoofing down to see the NZ premiere of "At the World's End", with guests Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Martin Freeman, and Benedict ('Sherlock' and 'Star Trek') Cumberbatch .

Here's a pic I took of  a a guy from The Shire of Darton, the Medieval and Renaissance Society.


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Books - Great first lines

Hi there

"I am Ishmael" from the book "Moby Dick" has always been considered just about the best first line ever.  However, if I was to pick up a book that started something like "I am Brian ... " or Bob, or Shirley, I don't think I would consider it a marvellous beginning.

The bible of course has "In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth", a line that even today would be considered a great opening in any science fiction novel.

About forty years ago I came across the best beginning ever..   It was from the book "Lady Sings the Blues", the biography of blues singer, Billie Holliday:  "Mom and Pop were just a couple of kids when they got married.  He was eighteen, she was sixteen, and I was three."    But it just doesn't seem to have an impact nowadays when illegitimacy and under-age mothers barely rate an eyebrow raise.

However, I have a new Great Beginning.  It's from the book "Vampyres of Hollywood" by Adrienne Barbeau and Michael Scott.  It reads: 

"It took an x-ray and an autopsy to confirm that Jason Eddings had been killed with the Oscar he'd won for Best Actor just six hours earlier."

What a first line!  Short, to the point.  A murder for mystery buffs... an Oscar for entertainment fans ... an x-ray and autopsy for medical officianados.  And the title of the book betrays the fact it's about vampyres. (yes, the classy 'vampyres', not the over-used pedestrian 'vampires').  Nothing else is needed in my opinion.  I took the first line to the writers' group that I belong to, and we marvelled over it for hours.

Now, as my four readers know, I will be holidaying in America later this year.  By sheer amazing  coincidence I note that Vampyres of Hollywood co-writer and ex-'Maude' actress Adrienne Barbeau will be selling her books exactly where I'm going to be. I will try to stalk-er-sorry-talk to her.

Here's the cover of the book "Vampyres of Hollywood"  Don't bother to click on the words "Click to look inside" - though I know you will, it will be like trying not to finger a 'wet paint' notice, yes? - because it only works when you're on an Amazon website, sorry.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Martin Freeman Q & A session at Roxy Theatre, Miramar, Wellington

Hi there

Yesterday I attended a movie screening of "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy".  I prefer the original tv series where the story, because of length, was explored more leisurely.   I also love the audio version which I still listen to on long car journeys.  Having Martin Freeman (Bilbo, "The Hobbit"), however, in the film version was great casting.  I don't think anyone else could have done filmdom's Arthur Dent better

We were not allowed to talk to Freeman about "The Hobbit" or take photos of him during the Q & A session, sorry.  I did have a chance as he walked in the door, but by the time I dithered, he had taken a seat two rows in front of me.  During the Q & A session, surprise was expressed to Freeman that he would want to sit through the movie yet again but he admitted, with a grin, that he never passed up a chance to watch himself on tv or movies whenever he could.   He told us he hadn't seen "Hitchhiker" in a few years and before that occasion, not since the London premiere.  

Freeman told the audience that the only job he had ever had was acting, He went into the theatre straight from drama school, and was seriously thrown by lots of stagey directions, eg."banana the table" and "favour the wall".

There is a scene in "Hitchhiker" where he and others are running toward the "Heart of Gold" spaceship, and this was all before the days of CGI.  Pyrotechics were being used and, for some reason, the cast were being shot at with hard pellets .  Zooey Deschanel (New Girl) got shot in the back and yelled out to stop filming.  It was so highly dangerous.

Freeman said he so admired the scenery in the south Island, and he loved Stone Street Studios. 

He told how he loved working with Ricky Gervais, and that filming with the guy was hilarious.  Gervais had the cast in fits of laughter so much it was surprising they put out as much work as they had.

One (silly?) audience member asked Freeman who would he go for if he was gay.  Answer (tongue in cheek) : Bill Nighy!

He was also asked how a young person could make it in the business.  "You must love it  Love it!", Freeman shouted   He said a person must seriously want to act, and not just want to be famous.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I'm Singin' in the Rain, lah-de-dah-dah ....

Hi there

This week, I went to The Roxy picture theatre in Miramar, Wellington, New Zealand to see "Singin' in the Rain".  This is such a well-known picture to me that I was mentally chanting all the dialogue with the actors.   I couldn't get over the fact that the picture was in pristine condition.  Wonderful colours, so vibrant-looking.  "An American in Paris" will be on later this month.

I went to the matinee and, goodness, there couldn't have been one audience member under the age of 60!  Ah, nostalgia, it's a wonderful thing.  We were obviously all reliving earlier days.  I do believe the 20-somethings went to the night-time session.

The Roxy put on a devonshire tea before-hand for us.  Movie and devonshire tea came to only $12.50.   Good on ya, Roxy.

This coming Sunday, there will be a matinee of "Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy", another movie I know almost intimately.  And with the added bonus that Martin Freeman, the star of that picture and also Bilbo in "The Hobbit" movies will be doing a Question and Answer session afterwards.  I hope the audience will be given five or so minutes before the discussion to take photos.  And I mustn't forget to take my towel!

Here are two pictures.  1)  our devonshire tea.  2)  a small portion of the Roxy's 1st floor ceiling (2nd floor, for the benefit of my one American reader).  

The Roxy decor is art deco mixed with robotic!  If you want to go upstairs and see the ceiling, just ask the kind folk at the box office or in the cafe.  The ceiling is definitely worth a look.  The Roxy often have Weta staff exhibits on the 1st floor, too.  A 'Thunderbirds' exhibit will be featured soon.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Edwin: My Life as a Koont

Hi there

I went last night to the Wellington, NZ, premiere of the movie, "Edwin: My Life as a Koont".  Four of my friends had bit parts in it.  See, there you are, senior citizens are, indeed, needed occasionally

The movie was taken recently to a comedy festival in Los Angeles and it won its lead actor, Bryce Campbell, the 2013 Best Actor Award.  He was presented with the award last night.

What a nice evening I had, sitting by my friends and seeing a movie that had some very funny lines in it.  I recognised so many of the places, both in New Zealand and in Los Angeles.  There was much nudging going on as a friend's living room, artistic painting endeavour, and acting skills were shown to, well, if not the world, at least the packed house at the Paramount Theatre.  Ah, you're a real triple threat there, girl!

The foyer was thronged with the glitterati.  The mayor, Celia Wade-Brown  was there - she has a small role in the film.  I also spotted Jamie Selkirk oscar winner-film editor-and co owner of the Roxy Theatre in Miramar (another triple-threater?).

A good time was had by all.  So, congrats on making the movie, guys.