Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Right now I'm staying in a hotel that's exactly my size. The bed is just the right length for me, the shower head barely clears my head, there is precisely one piece of paper in the handy folder, which is good, because I had to leave a note about the power to the kitchen area having shorted out. (I haven't had a cup of tea this morning. I won't get one until midday because the water is off in the building I'm working in. The pain!) So it all kind of works, but I wouldn't want to be John's or Morgan's height and staying there. The problem is that I can't remember the name of the ogre who had an Inn and stretched or shrank people to fit it, or this post would have had a much more interesting title.

On Monday, I went to see a chick flick called Just My Luck. It's a workable example of its genre, although no real surprises. I think that Serendipity, with a similar premise, did a far classier job of setting up elaborate coincidences and making them work. Still, it reminds me that the genre of Romantic Comedy, one of the most contrived around, gets most of its entertainment value from the secondary characters - the two leads have too many restrictions on what their characters can be like.

Georgette Heyer is back in print. :-D She, too, writes highly contrived romances, and they're a lot of fun. She's noticable for using a lot of Regency slang which I can only assume is correct, because most of the phrases she uses I've only read in her books, but I will add for your consideration, gentle readers, the phrase "I must have returned" which is a genuine period phrasing because the more sophisticated verb phrase "I would have had to return" or even "I should have had to return" had not yet been invented. I also note that she makes the distinction between the "will" of volition and the "shall" of obligation. ENGL224 is a course that rocks!

The computer program I'm working on is giving me some results that I don't understand. This is very frustrating.

Take care, all.

EDIT: And in other, happy, news, NeonGraal has trumped the rash of Aucklanders recently announcing that they're pregnant by announcing his engagement. Many congratulations and felicitations.

One of the pleasures of staying in a hotel is being able to bum around in your underwear entirely free of worry about wandering flatmates, neighbours or random visiting vicars seeing that which they ought not while you're making yourself a nice hot cup of tea. This is only a good idea, however, if the fire alarm doesn't go off.

Monday, June 26, 2006


I am Not having a Good Day.
Maybe if I sell my first-born child to Murphy he'll back off a little...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

How Things Change...

So I'm up in Auckland for a couple of weeks pretending to be an engineer again, and I'm struck by how things are changing around me. We have a new boss, Lee Finniear, whom I got to meet for the first time today (he seems a nice bloke), but there are also other bits and pieces like people moving and shops closing that I think everyone who lives here takes more in their stride because they happen so gradually. For instance, this really cool cafe called Alleuia has changed it's tables. This makes me sad, in a petty kind of way, because it was the tables that I liked most about the place - they were all mismatched and sanded down rescuees from second hand furniture shops and they were, well, cool. Except someone decided that they wanted posh shiny tables now and an essential part of the place's laid back atmosphere has dissapeared. And it's not particularly important, but once again I'm reminded that you can't ever freeze a place (or a person) in crystal and expect them to be exactly the same when you come back as when you left.

Friday, June 16, 2006

No More Exams For Me...

La la la.
(Well, for this term, anyway.)

I also got confirmation of the site that I'm going to study in Greece: Eleusis, otherwise known as that place wot Theseus came from in The King Must Die. I guess I'm going to have to do some more serious reading than an historical adventure novel. ;-) (Although, the lists of sites says that I'm sharing the site, but doesn't say with whom I'm sharing it. Go figure.)

And now I'm back at home having my first cup of tea since 7am this morning. O Tea, how I love thee, let me count the ways...
I spent the afternoon bouncing around the campus (and town) playing Change-Of-Course Hopscotch and making sure that Babe has enough food for while I'm away. On the plus side, this meant some interesting conversations with Robert Easting and Matthew Trundle about a) travelling through Greece and b) what courses are good to take for an easy A. Matthew thought that Salient should run an article on the latter, but declined to comment on his picks for the shortlist. Probably wise of him.

Ah, the irony. I was putting off getting changes signed off in the hopes that I'd be accepted into CREW255 and could do it all in one fell swoop. I had to give up on that idea, eventually, because the professor running the Greek Field Trip was complaining about people not setting up their enrolments properly. What just arrived? My acceptance into CREW255. (Which, incidentally, I'm very happy about.)

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

On Studying...

Study continues apace. I've now finished rereading Love's Labours Lost, and I'm starting on the "Song of Songs" from the Authorized Version of the Bible, which has steamy bits. For instance, from Chapter II:

9 My beloued is like a Roe, or a yong Hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh foorth at the window, shewing himself through the lattesse.
10 My beloued spake, and said vnto me, Rise vp, my Loue, my faire one, and come away.
11 For loe, the winter is past, the raine is ouer, and gone.
12 The flowers appeare on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
13 The fig tree putteth foorth her greene figs, and the vines with the tender grape giue a good smell. Arise, my loue, my faire one, and come away.
14 O my doue! that art in the clefts of the rocke, in the secret places of the staires: let me see thy countenance, let me heare thy voice, for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance is comely.
15 Take vs the foxes, the litle foxes, that spoile the vines: for our vines haue tender grapes.
16 My beloued is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lillies.
17 Vntill the day breake, and the shadowes flee away: turne my beloued and be thou like a Roe, or a yong Hart, vpon the mountaines of Bether.

Reynolds (ed.), "Song of Songs", Authorized Version in ENGL224 Texts 2, Wellington: Victoria University of Wellington, 2006, p124.

It's Cold

And I have a very rare enthusiasm for household chores. Chop kindling? Sure. Wash dishes? You got it. It's the best way to keep warm. I should probably do something about cleaning out the bathroom, but I guess that will depend on what the rest of the afternoon is like...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

In which I talk about my family.

I spent the past weekend in Waikanae visiting Gran. This actually means visiting Gran, an uncle, two aunts, a random assortment of dogs and whichever cousins happen to be floating around that weekend. My mother's side of the family tends to be tall, extraverted, sporty, and a wee bit daft. Many are, or have been, teachers. (1) (I always find myself emotionally reverting to an awkward, gawky thirteen year old when I'm around them, alas, which is frustrating, because they're all lovely, just a bit intimidating when encountered en masse.) My father's side of the family, in contrast, are less tall, relatively strait-laced, still interested in sport, far more introverted, and used to run to churchmen. (2) That last changed when my grandfather Herbert Edward, in Oxford training to be a priest, woke up one morning and realised that he didn't believe a word of it, and ran away to Egypt to be an engineer. He somehow ended up in Rhodesia as a schoolmaster, and they've run to teachers since. But anyway, this is talking about a visit to my mother's mother, who lives in Waikanae, and the random pieces of information I learned there and the random activities I did there.
- Michael has a new girlfriend, Sarah, who was brought up for inspection that weekend. She seems quite nice, is from Hampshire, was a lawyer, but is thinking of taking up primary school teaching. She likes skydiving, which is where she met Mike.
- David has a new girlfriend, Jane (?), who was brought up for inspection last weekend. I think she's something to do with the NZSO, but the details came from Gran, who is about to be 88 and is having short-term memory issues right now.
- I watched a rugby game yesterday. Apparently it was quite an important game, or something. Anyway, I lost the family sweepstake on the scores - a dollar I'll never see again...
- Michael has been accepted into the new intake of firemen and is going to Rotorua for training, thence to Auckland for his new post.
- Helen is studying for a golf referee's certificate.
- Mum and her husband John (3) are off on a cruise somewhere. I don't think she actually said where, but she's been very bouncy about it.
- Barbara's dog Jazz took me for a walk out on the beach on Saturday. This was fine while she was interested in catching a tennis ball, but when she got bored she neatly deposited it at my feet and took off home, pausing only to occasionally laugh at me and roll in smelly stuff.
- On Sunday I took myself for a walk out on the beach, which went much better. The end result of all this walking is that now that I'm back home in Wellington, all I really want to do is sleep. Am trying to stay awake until this evening so that I don't jetlag myself.
- Gran's eyesight and hearing are going, and she feels the cold very easily. :-/ (She spent much of last evening looking out blankets, hot water bottles and heaters for me. I woke up at midnight sweating from the heat.)
- Gran has a copy of The Apple of my Eye, a travelogue of New York by Helene Hanff which I hadn't read before. I highly recommend it.
- Grandad Pegg (the Herbert Edward who ran off to be an engineer), was so loved when he came over to NZ on a visit that the Hutt Men's Club had a special dinner to see him off. Gran Pegg, in contrast, remains in Gran Hay's memory as an 'old tartar'.
- My Great Grandfather West (Gran's father), died the day of a general election, having made such a huge fuss about wanting to vote that Gran had to arrange for an invigilator (or whatever you call them) to visit his nursing home, which time all the little old ladies decided that they would rather like to vote too, and it took all afternoon, much to the matron's disgust. (It made them miss their afternoon tea.) When Gran asked him who he voted for, he said "That's my business", rolled over and went to sleep and didn't wake up, never having found out if the side he wanted to win, won. (Next election, remember to vote, kiddies.)
- My Great-Great Grandmother West was in Napier during the 1931 earthquake. Great-Granddad had to go and fetch her because her house slid halfway down Bluff Hill and she had to live in the Hutt with his family for the next five years. She was apparently not best pleased about this. My Great Uncle Jack used to refer to her as 'the witch in the kitchen'. (I talked to Gran quite a lot, this weekend.)

Confused yet?

(1) The exceptions being Mum, me, and my sisters, except for the teaching and being a bit daft part. Yes, even my older sister Alexandra has a streak of eccentricity, although I think she'd die before admitting to it. [waves Hi to Alex]
(2) The exceptions being my cousin Jot who is an extravert's extravert, and my father, who was an eccentric's eccentric.
(3) As opposed to John, my ex-defacto-step-dad, and John, my boyfriend. I had a lot of fun explaining the multiplicities of Johns to my sign language teacher when we did the module on family relationships. He took it in his stride.

Edited to add: Whakapapa? What whakapapa? :-)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Review: in a fishbone church

A while ago, I complained bitterly about how bleak New Zealand books were. Someone (Morgan) suggested that I try Catherine Chidgey as being somewhat less dour, so when I saw a book by her in the Uni bookshop I decided to give her a try out.

Well, to be honest, the book is still pretty dark. It's written in a style (that seems to be popular with the literati set) of structuring the narrative as a mosaic - there are continual filmic cuts between characters and timeframes without many cues to the reader to help them adjust to the changes. I posit that cinema cuts are easier to cope with in cinema because the visuals can get more information through quickly than the linear word-by-word info stream of a novel. On the other hand, my experience of in a fishbone church (and Baby No-Eyes, Patricia Grace and Below, Tim Corballis) is that of a very complete all-encompassing experience, so maybe one of the points of this style of writing is to approach the wider info-stream available to films. I still find the style very tiring to read, though. In all three of the books I've mentioned there's no real centre of mass to get to grips with, nor is there an ending that provides much closure, they just go on and on and then stop (1). I also find that I need to pay a lot of attention - small details that appear in passing in the beginning of the books are referred to with much more context near the end.

Of the three, they're all uncomfortable in terms of content. Baby No-Eyes is right up there as a counter-discursive, 'writing back' kind of book; Below seems to exist primarily in order to torture the reader; and in a fishbone church is more subtle, but still disquieting, I think because of the continued threat implied into domestic situations: hair combs that scrape bone, eating swans full of shotgun pellets, being nearly drowned in a bath, and so forth. I'm going to change my opinion that this darkness is somehow endemic to NZ writers, however, I think that it's more part of the desire to be perceived as a 'serious' and 'literary' writer. As an inveterate reader of science fiction and fantasy, I find I still like having a nice solid story to get into, rather than having to understand the psychology of the characters from every conceivable angle. Also, because these novels are all set in situations that are potentially real, there are few sources of external conflict so the authors need to provide internal psychological tension in order to have something worth writing about (2).

My overall verdict? Interesting, but I think I'm going to slope off back to genre fiction for a while.

(1) To adapt a quote from the movie Amadeus: "You don't even finish your songs with a bang so that the audience knows when to clap."
(2) The exception being Baby No-Eyes which includes a major land demonstration.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


So we just had an incredibly hardout, incredibly fun game in which we drew against Not 2 Serious, who are not only at the top of the league, but have only previously lost one game this season. So not only am I feeling extremely pleased with myself, but I'm still so hyper my hands are shaking.

Way to go, guys!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Existential Angst

So I had this odd feeling yesterday afternoon - "Must Study" which was very weird because I didn't have anything I needed to study for. By some strange plot of the University, two of my courses are now complete - I had final tests for them yesterday morning, a third is virtually complete - the last assignment is going pretty well, and I only have one exam to study for, which isn't for two weeks. So to all those students who are currently rushed off their feet - I feel somehow that I should be one of you, but I'm not, and it was making me jittery.

All better this morning, though. :-)