Sunday, 27 January 2013


Pohutakawa at Macandrew Bay, Mount Cargill on the right
Today is such a glorious day and I just have to put the above photo in this blog.

 After my last blog I had a wonderful email from my friend Cocky and I want to insert part of it in this week's 'edition'.   Her words brought back so many memories and although they are in Dutch, I thought it would be good to put her voice on memory.

--- Dierbare en gekoesterde herinneringen. Vroeg in de ochtend zwemspullen verzamelen en samen op weg naar St Clair. Zwemmen in het heerlijk warme, zoute water. Met de zon op ons gezicht onder een strakblauwe lucht waarin af en toe een krijsende meeuw over vliegt. Ik kon jou onmogelijk 'bij benen' en dus zwommen we ontspannen in eigen tempo afgewisseld met korte! 'babbelpauzes'. De bonus voor de ontspannende inspanningen was een cappuccino/ espresso op het terras. Met een verse abrikoos. Uitzicht op de Pacific, plezier om de stuntende surfers, de warme zon en warme vriendschap. Het delen van gedachten, ervaringen en zwijgen. Het constante, rustgevende geluid van de golven. En terwijl het hier vriest dat het kraakt, de eerste schaatsmarathons op natuurijs worden gereden en de voorspellingen over een Elfstedentocht steeds luider gaan klinken, voel ik geen kou maar de warmte van vriendschap in zomers Dunedin.---

Dit zijn de beelden en gevoelens die voor mij gekoppeld zijn aan St Clair hot water salt pool. Een dagboek heb ik nooit bij gehouden maar sommige gebeurtenissen en indrukken staan in het geheugen gegrift. 

Thank you, Cocky, for sharing memories across hemispheres.  And I feel the same way and realise how fortunate we are, not only to look back on favourite times and places, but also to have access to so many ways of direct communication.  For our family the past week has been fraught with difficult situations which we luckily enough now could share straight away with our family and friends overseas.  And when, in a few weeks' time, we hear the results of these difficult meetings, we can do the same again and live in hope that the outcomes have been favourable.

We are also fortunate to be able to listen to music, as much as we want.  Classical music for us and now and then country or any other kind of music, but for Miriam it's Andrea Bocelli.  Every Saturday morning approx 8.30 we go to our fantastic Farmers Market near the Dunedin Railway Station and every Saturday morning a personal carer arrives at that time to help Miriam getting ready for the day. But before that I'm regularly reminded I have to put a CD on.  I then ask Miriam, 'which will it be today?'

  Miriam has always listened (and danced - before the stroke) to music, the favourites have been numerous but the last few years she loves to listen to Andrea Bocelli, and her favourite CD is still 'The Best of Andrea Bocelli Vivere.  She must know it by hard, tries to sing along in her own way, has the cover with her, looks at it (HIM!) constantly, and her favourite is the Celine Dion duet 'The Prayer'.   Miriam never lets me forget this routine since routine has become so important to her, more now than ever before.  Sometimes it's hard.  Very hard.  At five past twelve:  'Mum, lunch!'   'All right, darling, but I just need to hang the washing first.'  Grumbles, sighs and then a gracious 'thank you' when lunch finally has been made.   But I'm diverging, as I wanted to say something more about music.

Bart had a nine-hour melanoma operation in September 1998.  He was told to get his affairs in order as he most likely wouldn't see Christmas.  As part of his recovery, even during the radiotherapy stage, he would lie on the sofa and listen to J.S. Bach's cantates on the portable CD player which his work mates at the Otago Regional Council had given him.   The skills of an amazing surgeon, the power of positive thinking and the power of music have all worked wonders.
Thank you, Tony Allison, for taking this photo.

Bart on our balcony.  Photo by Tony Allison.
I'll end this blog with a photo of Penelope Todd and I sitting at the St Clair Cafe (again???  - do I do anything else?).  We not only share the love of books but also love swimming (calling it our medium!) and we have had some special times at this place, much as Cocky describes, the talking, the listening, the quietness, and then the amazing view of looking out to sea, just about pretending that we're on an ocean liner.  Penelope has written several books and has set up her own most interesting digital publishing place, Rosa Mira Books.

The sad news is that Penelope and her husband Raymond  (also a writer) will leave Dunedin at the end of this week, initially heading north towards Auckland.  We will miss them both so very much.  GO WELL, YOU TWO!

On dry land again:Penelope and Huberta, January 2013

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


My friend Cocky Janse from Holland at the Hot Salt Water Pool in 2009. 

Before I went swimming this morning I filled my No. 2 boobies with dacron.  I was so glad I found the bag with fluff (bought at Spotlight) while I was cleaning out the hot-water-cylinder cupboard which not only houses the hot water cylinder but also sheets and pillow cases for Miriam, scarves, handbags, table cloths for our round dining table, larger table cloths for when the table is pulled out.  Later out came the lacy doilies, more crochetted stuff,  a shoe box with pieces of soap, two swimsuits (one since thrown away), tablecloths, serviettes, lots and lots of 'nice' bags to put presents for others in, and lots and lots of brown bags saved for situations that need brown bags.  I'd been looking everywhere for the fluff bag and was glad I'd started the cupboard cleaning after having postponed it for months.

I need to ('want to' is probably a more correct word) insert these No.2 boobies into the top of my swimsuit before I leave the house for the swimming pool.  My excuse is that I do feel more 'dressed' this way when I'm swimming.

I have to give the background which made me think of numbering my falsies.  My husband, Bart, belongs to the Dunedin's Returned Servicemen's Association choir.  Twice a year this choir performs at their official concerts, as well as a concert on Anzac Day (25 April) and they sing at St Paul's Cathedral on Remembrance Sunday in November.   They are often asked to sing when it's time to finally farewell a singing companion.

For official concerts the men wear the No. 1 uniform - dinner suit, white shirt, bow tie, but for the other less official performances they have to present themselves in their No. 2 uniform - black trousers and, from this year on, a red jacket with a black collar.  They'll be looking so good.

Now back to the numbering.  After I'd had life-saving surgery in 1981 I was left with a painful arm.  My much respected surgeon suggested I'd take up swimming.  I was working full time and used to get up five days a week at 6 a.m. to swim before I'd go to work.  I have kept this up, but now only twice a week and starting a bit later.  It has helped enormously and I have always been grateful for Mr S's advice.  There's something about swimming, the regular breathing, the freedom of movement.  I am a different person then.  My only sadness is that I can't take Miriam with me in the water, she used to be such a good swimmer before she had the stroke.

A second mastectomy made me feel more 'balanced' and I then tossed up whether to become a flat-fronted swimmer.  I decided against it, and so the numbering system came into force.  My good No. 1's are left at home, they are heavy in the swimming bag and I don't want to damage them as they are very, very expensive.  But my No. 3 falsies go into the bag and I use them after swimming, they are light and much smaller, soft filled substitutes for my previous female glory.  They won't get wet and don't need replacing as often as the No. 1's.  Once home, I put them back into the swimming bag and so the routine is complete again.

I am glad I have this triple-spare-parts choice.  Don't get me wrong, it's taken me a long time to adjust to the status quo but I count my blessings that I have seen my children grow up and that I regularly can go to Dunedin's wonderful Moana Pool or the invigorating St Clair Hot Salt Water Pool (see photo of my friend Cocky who loves swimming as much as I do).

So here's to LIFE and to Numbers One, Two and Three.

Saturday, 5 January 2013


Keeping up with the internet

 Not only was it a very hot day in Dunedin - our thermometer here in Opoho reached 35 degrees Celcius in the shade  but also my new website was lifted into the internet space:

 Thanks to the amazing fast and professional work of Doug Lilly I am now the proud owner of a website. Scary, yes, but also exciting since the new year has begun with lots of serendipitous moments and I don't want to stop this flow.  

 Doug has created a modern, colourful and easy to operate website.  Of course I hope that it will promote sales of The Madonna in the Suitcase  but it especially provides a wonderful opportunity to show the paintings Miriam did before she had a stroke.  In those days she used to go to Queen's High School and produce a painting in exactly the one hour the students in the final year arts class had.  Her fellow students didn't understand how it was possible that she knew how to paint.  After all, she'd never learned about techniques or placement.  But she knew about colours, bright and bold colours, full of life.

Summer Saturday in January 2013.

 And now she works on her Word Find books and was intensely pleased when I recently managed to buy the latest February book

 Jumping from a summer's day to a summer's evening: at this time of the year I often see a kereru trying to find food in the Vergilia tree outside my study's window.  This photo is a few years old, the recent photo I took showed too much of my dirty rain-striped window.  

  Talking about birds, tomorrow the Christmas tree will go back to its box and the ornaments carefully placed in a large plastic container.  One of the ornaments is an owl, given to me by my American friend, Kitty Guthrie.  I met Kitty in 1990 in a Stage Two Greek Tragedy class and, as adult students, we had much to talk about.   Kitty died just before Christmas 2000 but I still miss her and her loving and stimulating company. 

Close-up of Kitty's owl.

Our very airy Christmas tree, Vergilia just visible through window.

   Kitty was a wise woman and each year I treasure her owl in our Christmas tree.   She showed love to us all in her own wonderfully spontaneous way.
She would have liked the following poem by Marion Woodman and Jill Mellick (Coming Home to Myself) :

There is no growth without real feeling.
Children not loved for who they are
do not learn how to love themselves.
Their growth is an exercise in pleasing others,
not in expanding through experience.
As adults, they must learn to nurture
their own lost child.