Thursday, December 11, 2008

Merry Christmas

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear ones
The old and the young

As promised the more magnanimous magic of Christmas special! I recently received an email from Team Taylor's head cheerleader - Denene - that she has graciously allowed me to share:

We have the kids school prizegiving & play tonight and it always gets me. There is something beautiful about children singing, and being a catholic school they really feel the meaning of Christmas. The kids have taken preloved toys and food to school to donate to those in need (like St Nicholas- who was the original Santa). All that aside Christmas becomes about family rituals. Every Christmas day the kids put on a show (singing for their supper & presies) and this year Finn is on drums, his cousin is on his electric guitar and the others are singing to 'All I want for Christmas is you'. It is hilarious watching my 3 year old on his ukelele in his shades rocking and head bashing to it in the practice sessions! Christmas means squishing three families into the bach and sharing great food. Christmas reminds me to be grateful. Christmas means I receive decorations from my friends around the world who I miss, and my kiwi decorations get mailed over to them. So decorating my tree each year tells a story of different friends and different places and times. And as you can see above, every year I am a big Christmas geek and make a special card with my kids on it! My Nanna keeps all of hers on her bookshelf up all year long. (This year we are actually taking the kids to the mountain to see the snow too!)

She's dead right, isn't she! Christmas is about remembering all those great relationships we have, and every family has it's own traditions and rituals that make it a special time of year. My own favourite all time Christmas was the one when Jacky and I made each other gifts. So much love and thought went into that Christmas!

The Sivaks are equally expansive with their preparations and decorations. I remember when we lived next to them in Wakefield they educated us into the rituals of a Polish Christmas.

Denene's email reminded me of the times when I was maybe Finn's age - Ross (always two years younger than me) would wake me up at about 4.30am on Christmas morning and we'd creep out to see what Santa had left us. Our dining room and lounge at 18 Korma Ave, Royal Oak, Auckland had a glass dividing door that Santa would pull closed before he left. We wouldn't dare open the doors but we'd sit for what seemed like hours (and probably was) looking at the tree, the wrapped gifts, and the detritus of his visit (the empty glass and the crumbs from the food we'd left out the night before). Eventually mum and dad would emerge and we'd be bursting to open the presents. We were both spoilt rotten!!

The three English Christmases we had were definitely the best of the recent years. The season of goodwill to all is matched with cold weather, snow (Jade and Samantha where we lived in Leigh-on-sea) and a really special feeling. I especially loved wandering around Oxford St. with all the decorations and lights.

So all in all - wherever you are, whatever you're doing, whoever you're celebrating Christmas with, whatever the future holds in store for us - right now this is my chance to wish you a great family Christmas and a peaceful holiday season.

Love and peace (on Earth) - Warren

Monday, December 8, 2008

Update 40

And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over and a new one just begun (nearly).

At the risk of gaining instant grinchhood, labeled a Scrooge McDuck or worse, a kiljoy - I'm afraid this is going to be my bah humbug Christmas post. To be blunt -I'm not a huge fan of the New Zealand Christmas experience. After experiencing cold winter English Christmases I am even more aware of the fakery attached to our festivities. Is there anything more daft than a sweltering hot day and people dressed up like they come from the north pole? Fake snow and reindeer, tinsel and flashing lights on fake pinetrees do not float my boat.

I suspect this lack of Christmas cheer on my part is part of my DNA and is something I've unwittingly passed on to my children. I know dad shares my feelings of unease and I know Keegan and Jade do too. It's a tacky time in many ways.

Santa being an invention of coca-cola (nothing wrong with coke!) is appropriate given all the commercialism that runs riot as well. Unfortunately the feeling and religious significance (at least in New Zealand) runs secondary to how many tacky presents there are on offer. The staff Christmas function at school was a bizarre one in many ways, capped off with the 'secret Santa' gifts. I'm sorry - but a load of tatty $5 lolly packs or 'joke' gifts from the $2 shop doesn't move me. The fact I couldn't drink any alcohol because I was still feeling icky didn't help one bit either.

So is there anything good about Christmas? Well yeah, there are some things - some of my favourite movies are set at Christmas time (About A Boy, Love Actually, Die Hard, and der - National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation). They take a largely irreverent view and acknowledge the tension inherent in the season - Die Hard has large scale violence and family disfunction at its heart - perfect. The National Lampooners have Chevy Chase attempting, and failing hilariously, to have an 'old-fashioned family Christmas' while putting up with unwelcome family 'guests'. Also perfect.

I also like some Christmas songs. Top 5 (oh who's kidding - there are only 5): Wonderful Christmas time - Paul McCartney; Happy Christmas (War is Over) - John and Yoko; Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) - Darlene Love; Listen, The Snow Is Falling - Yoko Ono - technically not a Christmas song but the B side to the awesome Happy Christmas (War is Over) and about snow which leads me to; Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow - Frank Sinatra. When I write them down I realise there's a lameness to each one but kitsch is the name of the game is it not?

The other good thing is the holiday - six good weeks of summer holiday is major project time. we've got some decorating to do as I ripped off a lot of wallpaper during the year (doh!), the roof needs painting and I want to build a bird aviary. All that and the normal repair jobs that I've saved up all year.

Books - the holidays will also be about reading (exciting huh). I've stored up quite a few books during the year and apart from the dull as dishwater educational stuff I should read I'm planning on getting into Sarum and the Lennon bio that Jade bought for me recently (comes with excellent reviews!) You'll remember a large chunk of this year was taken up with reading 'London' by Edward Ruthurford, well Sarum was his first humungous historical novel.

My next post will be more magnanimous I promise - until then I'm looking forward to school finally finishing for the year next week.

Before I go - Happy Birthday to Adam for today (11/12/08). He's 22 and I love him!

Love and peace - W

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Update 39

The update before Christmas edition with fake beard and pretend snow!

Well - not the greatest two weeks of my life I'd have to say. Jade brought home a virus last week while we were frantically trying to redecorate her room as a surprise on her birthday (28 November). She'd been sick at work and within about 20 minutes of collecting her I was sick, then Jacky, then Samantha. Wow baby were we sick. Jacky ended up in Base Hospital thanks to a mercy dash by Michelle. Turned out to be the noro virus that has closed wards and even killed people. We were all really dehydrated and plus I had a head-cold as well. Talk about a misery guts!!

But we're all back on deck now. Jade has finished her external exams - luckily the day before she got sick, I'm still at work for another week, Samantha is working at the New World butchery again and Jacky is still receiving physio for her shoulder and about to go to the gym regularly to improve it further. All and all it's been a crappy year for her. We're keen to see the back of 2008 in many ways. It hasn't been stellar!

Ross and dad sent some images of the gang test driving their home built train (picture is Lynda and Hayden doing his Casey Jones impression). Thought I'd share them with the world (video is of Hayden and Scott).

And while I'm in the sharing mood - here's a picture Leda sent of an Aussie dust storm she found herself embroilled in.

Current grooving to the Once soundtrack (supplied by Samantha) and some early Jefferson Airplane. I wandered into the record collection yesterday after a hot and sweaty lawn mowing/ sheep wrangling session (that sounds vaguely rude doesn't it) and I just felt like listening to some west coast sounds (San Franciscan Jesse is still about and we had a lovely meeting with his dad, half sisters, step-mom who came to NZ recently for a camping holiday and who are now part of the whanau - means extended family guys). So Jefferson Airplane Takes Off and Surrealistic Pillow got a thrashing!

All fer now - don't over-indulge (I've lost count of how many seasonal functions I've attended recently). I think Tina and S.O. are back in Aotearoa - not sure - give us a shout out Teenie. Pat/Randy must be due to return as well. Bumper Christmas wishes to y'all.

Love and peace - W

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update 38

1 Family stuff: Keegan has been successful in gaining a cinematography position/apprenticeship in Auckland - exciting times for him as he plans to relocate and begin to fulfil those dreams. Samantha and San Franciscan Jessie staying with us. Samantha Mary (pictured left with friend Flo) is about to restart work at New World for the summer. Jade has had two exams so far - biology was a bit eugh, English was okayish apparently. Jacky has ended with the wallys at Skinforme and is relaunching herself into hospital nursing on a casual basis. It's been a stressful couple of weeks all up!

2 Nature watch and a weather report: cold in the mornings (rain and grey skies this morning frinstance), then hot when the sun burns off the clouds. That kind of combination means that everything is growing like crazy. All the animals are keeping the grass under control, mainly because we've closed five paddocks off for hay which we'll do in December/January. We donate three paddocks to the farmer next door in return for him cutting and preparing two paddocks that will give us over 200 bales for 2009.

3 Currently grooving to: new Snow Patrol is on high rotate.

Lots of photos in this post. First some pictures of our bedroom - not to be kinky - but to show you the bedside cabinets that a student at school made for us. Isaac is part of our wood technology year 12 class and I was his client for the year. His brief was to match our bedroom furniture and create two bedside cabinets. He's done a fabulous job! We're really happy with them and here they are: Roger and Deirdre have just returned from their northern hemisphere excusion (like Steph and Dunc; Team Taylor this year - a trend!)and supplied a picture which I hope they don't mind sharing here (in return for some more Purdy archive material). First of all - the Marbecks. I'm a bit disappointed Rog isn't modelling the knotted hanky look but you can't have everything I suppose. Okay so to the archives, or more specifically Samantha's archives. First up a picture taken at Planet Hollywood in London. I took my A level students (yes this was pretty much my whole class!) to see the Globe and do some theatre workshops. Samantha tagged along for the day and loved the Globe. My teacher friends thought I was insane taking students on a trip (no one ever does - too risky!). But I'm glad we went. The Globe is amazing and well worth a look. Next is a video of us on the tube, no idea when and why but cinema verite at its best folks. Note the Harrods' bag held by Mrs Purdy!!

On the way back to NZ we stayed in Anaheim for a while to experience Disneyland (really is the happiest place on Earth). This is Jade and me walking back to our hotel - the Anaheim Hilton. Here we are at the Pirates of the Carribean ride.
Fanfa at Disneyland.

In California we fell in love with the International House of Pancakes (IHOP) - here is yours truely looking content, about to launch into my second (okay, okay - third) helping of divine IHOP pancakes.And that's right I own a lot of Beatles shirts!

This picture celebrates one of our rituals whenever we went into London to shop or sightsee. The NZ icecream shop in an arcade off Oxford St was run by some eastern European swarthie types and who knows if it was really NZ icecream but it tasted great and made us think about NZ.

We lived at Western Rd in Leigh-on-sea for about 2 years. One of the advantages of this location was its proximity to Hadleigh Castle. It was our popular destination for walks. This picture is of 'the Africa tree' which was on our walk to the castle. Why was it called that? Jade named it so and that was that. It was a great place to sit, watch trains in the distance, look for squirrels, and think.

While in Harrods Jacky visited the (I thought rather tacky) shrine to Diana and Dodi. I found Harrods too cluttered and it was a real mish finding a toilet and then finding the troops again. And no music department!!

To finish here's one of my favourite sequences. Just before we all left England to fly back to NZ Samantha and I took a fond last look around my favourite part of London. Tottenham Court Rd contains the best music store in London - Fopp - and is the gateway to Soho and all the other superb music stores in London. The weather was appropriate for our mood. I can vividly recall the instant these photos were taken.

More archives (less Wozza hopefully) next time! Love and peace - W

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Update 37

A sigh of relief first up - the senior prize-giving happened yesterday - the year's most formal assembly for the school and all went well. If you want to see my speech it's at my Principal blog.

I haven't done a weather report for a while now and it's hot - hot enough to boil a monkey's bum in fact. The last three days are like God decided to turn the Stratford thermostat up to 'HOT'. With hot comes radiation/sunburn (everyone is whitey white white because of our ludicrously long period of no sun) and burning hot cars, a search for shade, and rolled up sleeves (I refuse to wear short sleeves and a tie - does NOT look good!). The animals at home are all clinging to shade and water now becomes an issue. The water-tank will run down and down without any rain to speak of and we'll need to go to the well again.

Lack of water reminds me - Samantha is home for the summer (I'm the only male at home - therefore the only one to take short showers). She did well at University in between the various protests and social events and will head back to Victoria next year. Jade has finished school for the year (all seniors finish with senior prize-giving) and has her externals starting next week - first up biology. Adam and Keegan will be joining us for Christmas which will be great.

Having a bored Samantha at home ("There's nothing to do here" in yer best whiney voice and I see you nodding Pat) has meant the bonus of some video footage that she's posted on youtube. She's promised the next one to have some of us. In the meantime enjoy.

Currently grooving to some vinyl - Hendrix's Band of Gypsies - great music for sunny lazy days.

Take care everyone - see you next time (only four more weeks of school to go and then summer holidays - yeh!!!).

Love and peace - W

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change has come!

It was hard not to get caught up in the emotion of Barack Obama yesterday and especially towards the end of his speech with the quiet litany of, "Yes, we can"s being repeated back to him by the audience.The resonance with Dr Martin Luther King was clearly there. Dr King's dream has, amazingly, come to be -

"when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Looking at the audience at Obama's victory speech - it was that mix that Dr King dreamt about.
It did all feel like a surreal deam actually - could it really happen? A country that less than 50 years ago was segregated and viciously racist - could that turn around so much that a black American could be called 'Mr President'?? Well apparently yes - it could. When I turned on the TV this morning I was half expecting a different result. This little post is my chance to say - Wow! And thanks for providing some much needed inspiration in 2008.

Lots of random thoughts today: Bob Dylan's songs about 'Hurricane' Carter and Medgar Evans; Dr King's - "I have seen the promised land"; Rosa Parks photo; the Rodney King beating/video; the movie 'Mississippi Burning'; The Rev Jesse Jackson with spontaneous tears of joy; Rod Steiger in 'In the heat of the night'; Apocalypse Now's Beverly Hills bridge scene (Willard "who's in charge here?", black soldier "aintchu?")- not sure why but it's there with Hendrix' 'There's a red house over yonder' inside my brain for some reason; us (Jacky/Jade/me) watching the victory speech yesterday in a kind of awed state...

One of the best images of the victory speech was at the end when his running mate Joe Biden and his family joined with Barack and Michelle Obama and their daughters -Dr King again -
"I have a dream that one day, ... little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

Only fitting that I should add Dr King, Rosa, and the Obamas to the inspiration page.

Love and peace and hope - W

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Election

You may not have seen this clip - I caught it by accident on some CNN coverage of the election. There is a longer version as well - go to youtube and search on 'don't vote'. It's slick and cool and hollywood man. I hear polar bears can swim!

Some election stuff - Obama and 'Ah you've done it again' have spent over $US1 billion on their campaigns! And the campaigns started about 2 years ago!! That's a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of energy.

Fingers crossed that the people do the right thing and all the pundits/pollsters are on the money!

Love/Peace - W

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Update 36

A very brief catch up for you all: It's been a busy busy busy time since my last update, which seems like yonks ago. A long weekend (Labour weekend) has come and gone and school is hectic with final preparations for seniors leaving/external examinations. I needed some physical labour so I decided to build something - photos tell all you need to know. I also moved 4 metres of metal for a new driveway (shucks - twernt nuttin). So now I'm not only mentally exhausted, I'm metally exhausted (oh dear).

I shudda put summit on the deck chair I now realise.

My pergola/pergoda type thing from two angles - pretty nifty huh!

The driveway looking from our front door.

Jacky is also cream crackered - her new job is meaning long hours, but we soldier on. Sports wise I'm guttered by the Arsenal result v Spurs (4 all!!!!!)then another loss (to Stoke) but Rochdale are doing the business at the moment - 2 wins in the last few weeks.

Jade is gearing up for her external exams and I'm gearing up for the next two weeks -prizegiving and farewell events for our senior students. Also coming up (finally) is the US presidential elections and the NZ elections. Next update will hopefully feature Barack Obama as the new Pres. Till then chickens -

Love and peace - W

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Update 35

I've finally seen a couple of films that are worth talking about/sharing. The two films are thrown into stark contrast (pardon the pun) by watching IRONMAN and being really disappointed with it. I was a huge comic book reader in my youth - favs Spiderman, Tarzan, The Fantastic Four, Sgt Rock, Thor, and Ironman and I have expectations that I'll enjoy the movies as well. Ironman is about Tony Stark who has no superhuman powers, merely a fertle imagination/brain. In the comics his suit was always having a last minute glitch and he had to muddle his way through. No mystery why I identified with him huh. The movie was junk (and yes I'm not expecting high art but is a decent story too much to ask?). Instead we get the usual computer generated images and yadda yadda yadda. So as a reaction I rented ONCE and THIS IS ENGLAND. I loved them both for making me think. Once entertained me with an unusual plotline - no romance here but some depth of relationship and some great great music. It's a likely Dumbo movie. This Is England has lingered long after the experience of watching it. About a 12 year old who is befriended by some harmless skinheads and then some dangerous white supremists - it has a wide range of emotions and the ending gives me hope! Not easy to watch at times but an important film. Here endeth the film reviews.

Finally - photo time and some more oldies but goldies - these are all Leigh-on-sea era photos. Starting with the semi-detached we rented in Victoria Rd. A 2 minute walk from the sea (the Thames estuary) in one direction and the high street (the Broadway)in the other.
These next few are from the aforementioned two minute walk to the seafront:

and the old leigh fishing village:

Love and peace - W

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Update 34 + Inspiration 7

A picture of Stratford's unique glockenspiel clock-tower leads off the latest update (dad asked about it and here it is - on Stratford's main road with the mountain in the background).

The inspirations are, of course, my sons and daughters. They may in fact be shocked by this news but they inspire me in a variety of ways - none of which I'll bore you with here (and embarrass them with as someone in Wichita Kansas may be reading this). I actually wanted to frame them on the right hand side a la Beatles 'Let It Be' cover but I lack the skill - they are four parts of a whole and they inspire me!

The second week of the term break has come and gone - and the place seems empty compared to last week. Jacky has started her new job - a specialist cosmetic nurse for a company called Skinforme - so it's been me and Jade for most of the week. She's been doing some study and I've been in the garden hacking through the undergrowth. Having Samantha, Adam and Jenna (et al) was great. Apparently the boys were looking forward to their photos playing with the stones - they are on Jade's camera so I'll need to get organised.

Adam's tea drinking prowess is legendary and he'd love the article I just read in the new Guardian Weekly; seems younger Brits are changing from coffee houses to embrace the old-fashioned high tea. I loved the quote from a lady who owns the High Down Tearooms in Worthing, East Sussex, where business is booming. She says, "We are finding that a lot of people are getting fed up with national chains of coffee houses. They realise that a pot of tea and a scone the size of a dinner plate is better value for money". Excellent news!! I took Jacky and the girls to a tea house in Dundar, near Edinburgh, - the teas were excellent and the range of pastries came on a three tiered platter. Heaven!!

It's heroic unlifting tale time: We had a torrential downpour during the second week of the break and, of course, the remaining pregnant sheep dropped their bundles. I decided to move the whole kit'n'kaboodle into a more sheltered paddock and as I did so I noticed a ewe standing fixed to the spot by the banks of the river that runs through our place. With the downpour the river had swollen in size and pace. When I investigated I saw that a new lamb (hours old) had fallen down the bank and nearly been carried away by the flood water. Luckily the bracken and toi-toi had broken its fall. Jade and I then moved the new lamb and ewe to safety. Without the ewe refusing to budge from her spot I never would have found the lamb. So she's a hero in my book!

What have the rest of you been up to lately? Well Annette sent me some photos recently of her 60th birthday and news that they have returned for summer in Mapua, Roger and Deirdre have returned from their UK trip, Adam and Jenna are busy planning their big academic adventure to Japan, Samantha got an A on her recent film synopsis, Keegan has some great photos on this site, other travellers returning to NZ safe n sound have been Denene and husband, Greg owned up to supporting Spurs (he has no shame!), Pete has an exciting web project underway that will make him millions, Sallie has sent her brood mare to the stallion, dad is working on DJing the jazz hour at the Maygrove complex (it's hardly a retirement village - people there are more active than me!), Ross and crew are catching 'possums and reworking their aquatic complex (its hardly a swimming pool....), Tom is preparing the album for world wide exposure and global domination, and Michelle and Gavin have been over to participate in a bonfire! And that's only about half of you.

More photos of recent times. These are from various trips to Scotland while we lived in the UK. Oldies but goldies.
We stopped at the border on a wet, windy, smudgy day and took it in turns to pose with either side of the rock - on one side 'England', on t'other 'Scotland'. Jade, Jacky and me photo by Samantha. My turn to take the photo of Samantha, Jade, Jacky and Adam. Driving around the Scottish Borders region we came across this suddenly!

Third part of the catch up will have some Leigh-on-sea pics. Take care until next time - Love and Peace - W

Friday, October 3, 2008

Update 33

My cup runneth over - well the house is certainly full at least. Samantha is staying with three friends from University (John, Mike are both from Vermont and Jesse from San Francisco). They (left to right: Samantha, Jesse, John, Mike) are pictured cooking up bacon/pasta feast But wait there's more - Adam and his gf Jenna are also in situ. Keegan is working so couldn't make the trip down.

The week has gone fast (first of my term break). The birthday was groovy - Adam/Keegan/Jenna gave me a cool CD - Raconteurs newie, Jade baked a cake and gave me a cool Star Wars clock, dad bought me the lastest 24 box set, Jacky provided breakfast in bed/the last Seinfeld DVD set for our collection and some Jaffa Cakes, Michelle/Gavin surprised me with a gigantic chocolate bar and a box of biscuits. Apart from all that I got heaps of messages via phone, email, txt (Nana Pat, Ross, dad, Samantha all called for a chat). Thanks for all of the kind thoughts from everyone!

I've had a great time on the tractor this week - used the back blade to grade the driveway, harrowed all the paddocks a few times - that kind of stuff - very relaxing! Apart from that it's been a trip to the dentist and gardening making up the bulk of the week. And I finally finished Edward Rutherfurd's 'London' - meant I could catch up on some Guardian Weeklys and Mojos. Jacky is pictured with the latest lamb (and cutest so far)

I'm going to load some older photos from the UK for the rest of this post and spare you all from football/music ramblings for a week (mainly cos Arsenal scrapped a draw and Rochdale lost at home).

Jacky crossing Abbey Rd. Adam Jacky on the underground. And me on the underground
In Trafalger Square
In the snow at Leigh-on-sea. Watching the gunners at Old Trafford.

That'll do it fer now - more old stuff next time. Take care in the meantime - Love and peace - W