Monday, 29 April 2013


Miriam has settled in well at her new home.  We meet regularly and it's good to see that she feels confident.  We regularly take her out: a coffee, a doctor's visit, and she'll come home for the day on Mother's Day. I still miss her but have realised how necessary it has been to make the decision to let her go.  There are still enough challenges ahead.

Dunedin Town Hall: The Octet at the RSA Revue 2013

Last Thursday night, Miriam, Ray and I enjoyed being part of the audience as the RSA Choir gave their annual ANZAC Day Revue performance in our newly refurbished Town Hall.  The choir and their guests gave us a fantastic time.  Bart has been singing in this choir for nearly twenty years and we are always proud to see him being part of a dedicated group of men.  I've been trying to get Foster and Ray interested in choir singing but alas, no luck so far.  'Just because you and Dad like to sing in choirs, doesn't mean we do!'  OK, no problem!!  I don't trust my voice any more but am glad Bart can still enjoy this soul-healing pastime.  At the end of June we'll be in the Town Hall again when he takes part in Verdi's Requiem with the Dunedin City Choir.  Oh, to be a tenor!
Bart ready to sing.

On Saturday we had music of a different kind.  Some of our delightful neighbours in the house next door study music papers at the University of Otago's Music Department and on Saturday they had a house-warming party for their friends.  It was lovely to hear their hilarity. Earlier Clinton and Max had wheeled our barbecue away and as trustworthy neighbours we had been asked to 'cat-sit' their equally delightful young cat Jenny.  Victoria came over with Jenny's basket and her toys and we did have challenging fun trying to keep her inside.  But all went well and Jenny and basket went home at 11 p.m.  Miriam was allergic to cats so after our Liesel died we never did get another cat.
Jenny and Rabbit
This has nothing to do with music but on Friday our back yard neighbour's designer rabbit escaped its hutch by burrowing a hole through the grass underneath the cage and started to enjoy our vegetable garden's selection.  It especially favoured the leeks!!  As these neighbours were away Bart put the gorgeous long-floppy-eared creature in our cat-transport cage.  I chopped up carrots and beetroot leaves.  Jenny, on one of her visits, played tic-tac with the rabbit and probably wondered why we had put her playmate in the cage for the night. The next morning the rabbit was happy to explore the rest of the garden and play with Jenny, go back in the cage at night and spend the day having vegetable-freedom until the neighbours arrived home on Sunday evening.

Back to music again.  Sunday afternoon's Verdi's La Traviata on the Concert Programme was a wonderful occasion.  I do hope we'll get to see it here one day as part of the Metropolitan Opera HD Live Series in our Dunedin Rialto Cinema where I was fortunate to watch this afternoon Donizetti's Maria Stuarda.  What a treat it is to sit and listen to glorious music and watch world-class performers who take our minds away to a totally different world. Today, Joyce DiDonato's voice is divine and her singing and acting as Mary, Queen of Scots was sublime, sublissimo!  I admit I sobbed a lot during the second part and even the 10-minute drive home didn't manage to get my emotional level back to normal.  Even now, several hours later, I still can feel it in my shoulders!

Wednesday, 24 April 2013


Turmoil in the sky

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day when we remember the men and women of Australia and New Zealand who died in war time, giving their lives so that people in their home countries could continue to live in a free world.  We must remember them.
My own memories as a child in a European country at war are still vivid.  I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to talk to an expert about those often horrific experiences which had left me with nightmares and I feel a deep sadness for those who did not, and still do not now have that opportunity.

The following is a short excerpt from my unpublished novel The Orange Garden where the main character, Anna, visits a War Cemetery in Oosterbeek, The Netherlands.  She then remembers her first attendance at an ANZAC Day Dawn Service in Dunedin.

"Anna drives to Oosterbeek. Near the Old Church stands a monument. Not One Shall Be Forgotten.
Her mind turns back to New Zealand. The Anzacs.
How many graves of New Zealand and Australian soldiers will be at the Arnhem-Oosterbeek War Cemetery?
Large trees, rhododendrons, azaleas, flowers everywhere at the graveside. A memorial stone THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE. White crosses spreading endlessly. So many of them. Far too many. Four RNZAF casualties from New Zealand.
The Cross of Sacrifice at the far end. The sacrifice of war. A war that affected so many people. The cross that faraway families of the deceased had to bear. Grieving from a distance.
Around her people turn to each other, hugging, crying. A young man stands next to her. 'I'll never forget this.'
She remembers the day her village was evacuated, walking next to her mother in the long queue, wanting to help push the pram that held Ada. She closes her eyes, sees the foreign soldiers in their khaki uniforms standing outside the large villa, distributing tea and white bread. Lifting her up, 'How little you are. You are so beautiful. This is why we came. To help you.'
Because of their sacrifice, we had the opportunity to make a new life.

Anzac Day in Dunedin earlier in the year. She'd called Belinda: ‘Will you come with me to the Dawn Service?’
I'll meet you outside the Early Settlers Museum.’
In the early morning darkness they gathered quietly around the cenotaph, the air chilly with the first light frost of the season. It was hard to distinguish the faces of old and young people who’d gathered to lay wreaths at the base of the monument. Fresh, green, sharp-pointed leaves dotted with white roses and velvety carnations.
Anna had looked at people standing around her. Had they come to share with others the memories of those who died in the wars? Perhaps even for some those memories were so painful that they still didn't talk about it, didn't allow any silent anger and hurt to surface, afraid of not being able to control that pain.
As the booms of the gun thundered across the Queen’s Gardens, over the city and up the hills, Anna shivered. The daylight gradually appeared as the Returned Servicemen Association's male choir sang Gwahoddiad: 'And He the witness gives to loyal hearts and free, That ev’ry promise is fulfilled if faith but brings the plea’.
Later, their frozen feet slowly thawing near the open fire in her living room, Anna passed Belinda a mug of coffee, ‘That sound. That horrible sound of the gun, reminds me of those guns and the noise of the planes during the war. I'm still petrified when I hear a low-flying plane. Have I ever told you what Dad and I did on our first Anzac Day here?’
Can’t remember, Mum.’
Anna passed Belinda a plate with speculaas. ‘We got up early and walked to the Queen’s Gardens via Anzac Avenue. Dad and I were so moved by the service that we didn’t talk much on the way back, but as we were getting close to home Dad said, “Let’s go to Mount Cargill.”'
We stood at the top of the hill in the hazy stillness of that autumn morning. We didn't talk. It was too hard.’

Leaving the cemetery with its many white crosses Anna walks to the car. She thinks, Belinda did understand when she said on Anzac Day, Those memories are part of you. But she couldn't see that understanding. Not then.
All these years. So much distance between them. Between Anna and her daughter. Thank God she came with her to Holland. Thank God the barriers are dissolving."

Sunset in Wanaka