On the road again

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I’ve been biking in Central Otago again, undoubtably one of the most picturesque areas in New Zealand. It has a multitude of walking and biking tracks, if that’s your thing. And biking is a thing for my in-laws and me (to a lesser extent). Or, maybe I should rephrase that to the less brave. I was down here almost two years back with Kerry, to ride part of three tracks: the Rail Trail, The Roxburgh Gorge and The Dunstan Track, some of which we were about to repeat, but rather differently as it turned out. That’s me above, on the Roxburgh Gorge Trail last week.

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Caravaggio revisited

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From The Soul and the Blood advertisement

Two weeks ago I took myself to see the film Caravaggio: The Soul and the Blood, which was part of the Italian film festival showing in our local cinema. I am a big fan of Caravaggio, and three works in particular, which appear in the movie. To think that I almost missed seeing these works in the flesh when visiting Rome some years back. The accidental way this came about is quite funny, I think, and why I’m reposting the story I wrote in 2018 about this experience.

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The Christmas Doll

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Rosemary

Funny, just when I thought I had nothing to post, I turned my head and saw Rosemary sitting in the corner of my study, my ‘walkie talkie’ doll from childhood. I met Rosemary on a Christmas morning when I was six years old. My sister also received a doll, but there was something different about our parcels. Mine had a note pinned on. It read something like this. “Dear Vivienne, I have an apology, but on the way over one of my reindeer stood on your dolly, and now its ‘Mama’ doesn’t work. I know your parents will have it fixed as soon as they can. My best wishes, Father Christmas.” My reaction?

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New Year Usa, Japan 2002

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I met Mutsuko in Nakatsu. She wasn’t part of the art group I wrote about in my last post, but she was an artist all the same. She was years younger than me but we connected right from the start through our love of travel and art. Her family home was in Usa, just a few kilometres from Nakatsu, and I visited often. Mutsuko was a teacher of English, but loved teaching me Japanese. Our classes were weekly, but often shorter than planned as she liked to show me the sights in her wee Toyota. I was introduced to her family, as well as the Sagara family whose girls she taught. And when my husband came to visit, he got to meet them all too. It truly was a special time.

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Finding a saving grace

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Usually I am up reasonably early, take off for a walk once I’ve finished my chores, returning refreshed and ready for ‘work’. But, lately, I have been staying in bed longer, reading, not wishing to face the world. I do go out eventually, masked while walking, and steer clear of others coming too close. I look at at the clouds, the sea, and the trees still in blossom, to help lift my spirits like they usually do. But my heart is heavy, as the Delta strain of Covid has hit New Zealand and we are in lockdown again. I miss my family terribly. One week has become two, and I have done little artwork or writing. I knew I had to shake myself out of this slump, and gave myself a little drawing project to complete. 

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It’s been a crazy few days

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Belated gift. Artist: John Drawbridge

It all began with me couriering an artwork to Melbourne, as three of my son’s planned trips to New Zealand were cancelled through Covid, and I had intended to pass this over to him when he came. The artwork was intended as a gift when they’d finished house renovations, a year or so back, but I have been a bit slack. You see, I had promised him that I’d do an artwork as a house-warming gift. I did get as far as sketching the idea, but then I just didn’t get around to doing it. That dratted procrastination thing again. But, when I spotted a print in an art store window, by an old tutor of mine, I knew it was the perfect present, and I brought it immediately. I packed it securely for travel, and sent it off to Melbourne last Monday, anxious about it surviving the trip. I was thrilled when Duncan phoned to say that it had arrived safely and he and Harriet just loved it. I got to talk with my granddaughters too, which was great, as It has been a long time since I’ve seen any of them. Then, Beatrix the eight year old said, “Can you draw a sloth for me, NaniViv?”

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Punakaiki to Nelson

At Punakaiki Rocks

We continued our West Coast travel northwards. The weather was no better by the time we reached Punakaiki, and it was clear I wasn’t going on any horse trek here. I have only ridden a few times, but always thought that I’d like to learn to do it properly – some day. Probably never now. And then there was the scenic flight over the glaciers which quickly became an unfilled whim, but once we walked around the Punakaiki (or Pancake) rocks, we held no remorse for losing those dreams.

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Franz Josef to Punakaiki

It is true, that the weather was lousy the day we drove to Franz Josef, and the road flooded in patches, but we arrived safe and sound at the Alpine Glacier Motel. It was hard to realise that mountains surrounded us, as the sky had lowered to road level. Rain, and hunger saw us drive to Alice May’s restaurant for dinner (although it was a mere 5min walk), for rain continued to fall. This is THE place to go to dine, for three reasons: the friendly staff, whitebait omelet, and to read the legend of Alice May. One of twelve children, from Hawkes Bay. She worked as a hotel maid, fell pregnant, and was rejected by her lover when she lost the baby, when he’d originally promised marriage. She shot and killed the man, and was imprisoned. The Socialist feminist movement petitioned widely for her release, and she was, six years later. Later, after moving to the South Island, she married Charles O’Loughlin and they had six children together. Jennie O’Loughlin, the owner of Alice May’s restaurant, is one of Alice’s many grandchildren. Amazing story.

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Down South again

Last week, Kerry and I headed off for another South Island adventure, with family this time. No bike riding, but a train trip on the TranzAlpine, through the Southern Alps to the West Coast. On the day we left home I dressed for the cold, boots and all, as Christchurch, our first destination, is always colder than Auckland in winter. On the plane, I felt like a swaddled babushka and sweated in my seat, while I looked out in awe at the snow-clad Kaikoura Mountains on the East Coast. What stunning views. And luckily I had the window seat. And, yes, I was the photographer this time.

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The painting that found its way to me

Oil, by John Frederick Lingard Fowlds.

I was thrilled when my brother phoned a few weeks back to ask If I would like a painting of our Dad’s. It is an oil of the Hutt River looking towards the far hills and had hung on various walls of houses my mother had lived in since my father’s early death. When she died ten years ago, the painting came into my brother’s possession, and now, it has found its way to me. There is mention of this painting in my recent book The (almost) True Story of a Man Called Jack.

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