Walking back home: joy of serendipitous pavement art

It’s not a long walk home from aerobic dance class, just five small blocks, and I’ve walked that route hundreds of times. But it’s still full of beautiful surprises. Walk home with me now and I’ll show you what I saw tonight.

  1. Small bunch of grapes, elegantly squashed.
Small bunch of green grapes squashed on the footpath
Squashed grapes: a sweet bouquet with a juicy shadow

2. A question mark on the footpath.

Question mark on footpath
Huh? Just what I was wondering…

3. A gloriously decorated parking spot.

Number 23 on footpath with yellow and white squiggles
Carpark no. 23 comes with mysterious runes

4. A tree with a splendid pair of antennae

Tree with street lamps apparently growing from its crown
Is it a tree or a very large insect?

5. Ngaio tree growing in the gutter: good luck, darling.

Miniature ngaio tree trying to grow in a dry gutter
Miniature ngaio tree trying to grow in a dry gutter. So far so good.

6. Road cones are a beautiful sight if you’re waiting for fibre-optic cable to reach your property.

Road cones in Queen Street
Road cones in Queen Street: progress

7. Before installing cable, workers put squiggles everywhere. But I don’t like the look of this one.

Workers' notes painted in purple on pavement: Dunk
Purple prose: but what are they going to dunk?

8. Nearly home, and it’s crab-apples and lichen: cute, ay?

Crab-apples and lichen on Queen Street footpath
Crab-apples and lichen on Queen Street footpath

As my friend Dale says, ain’t life grand? If we are lucky enough to be able to walk, such visual delights are just around the corner. If our luck stretches to a smartphone, there’s a bonus.

I tend to notice very small things, and take pleasure in them. And I’ve got a theory about why this is so. I believe that’s an echo of a Japanese aesthetic, and I thank my time in Kyoto for this extra layer of delight.

Exotic fabric finally finds its function: a TV cosy

Friends know that I’m a fabricaholic. A few years back they gave me this luscious blue, gold and purple fabric from Bangladesh.

It’s stiff when ironed, and crumples shortly afterwards. It’s semi-transparent and yet firm. Elegant, yet camp. Symmetrical, yet erratic.

Now, what to do with this cloth? For us fabricaholics, that’s never an issue. You keep it, doh! You store it in a cupboard and every now and then you take it out and experience it. Finger it. Touch it to your face. Lap up the colours, stroke the textures. Place it in the sitting room as an artefact on view. Meditate on it. Tuck it away again.

A beautiful fabric does not need to DO anything. It simply has to BE.

Nevertheless, this fabric has now been put to work. It has lost its privileged existence and does two jobs.

How are the mighty fallen!

One half of this glamorous cloth is now thrown over food on the dining table, to keep flies (and Ursula the cat) at bay.

The other half, with two seams, now tucks over my TV screen to soften its intrusive glare. I hate the way my TV used to dominate the room, a large black announcement that TV was the very purpose of this space, even the purpose of my day, of my very existence. Now the TV is disguised and robbed of its power by a strange garment. This showy, exotic fabric, once a magnet of attention, is now an invisibility cloak.

Friends have named my invention a TV-nightie (more accurately, it’s a dayie), or a TV cosy. What would you call it?

Daily prompt: Fabric


Doctor, security patch, flight plan: analyse my dream

cartoon of woman flying, the key to security
My dream, your interpretation

OK, nothing so boring as someone else’s dream, ay? I’ll be brief. Here it is:

I’m looking at some HTML5 markup. I’ve been told I need to insert a password to fix a security breach, but where, how?

My ex-GP, retired after 4o years of doctoring me and others, steps up. She knows what to do. “I’ll show you,” she says.

And she spins in two quick dance moves, fast as skating, then soars in a flight, 7 metres or so, lands, does it again. “See?”

“I can do that,” I think.

Clues to help you in your analysis

  1. For years I did all my own HTML and CSS (no big deal)
  2. Recently I shucked off a stressful, thankless responsibility
  3. I had flying dreams for years, then stopped (in my 50s? why?)
  4. I have an unresolved security issue on my computer

Your turn: tell me what you think it means!

Just for fun, OK? Nobody has to be “right”. But trust me, I am extreeeemly interested to know what you think.

A parsimonious new year: an easy resolution

Christmas wrapping paper for 5 people, 2017
Christmas wrapping paper for 5 people, 2017

When grandchildren are almost grown up, buying fewer gifts could be an easy transition, we hope. Looking at the wrapping for the gifts we shared this year, we’re already on the way. Only a few years ago, I seem to remember the wrappings filled a large rubbish sack.

It’s a sad fact that at 18 and 21, grandchildren #1 and #2 don’t actually believe in Santa any longer, so Santa can take his duties rather lightly. As for me, I gave #1 a voucher for an editing course (with me as tutor), and #2 a Tibetan brass bowl that I’ve had for years. Un-ching! Parsimonious.

A year of non-shopping

I wouldn’t call this a resolution, rather a casual decision that became inevitable. For an entire year, I intend to buy no new clothes or gimmicks or stuff, beyond the necessary.

Relax, I will still buy food. And stationery… when I’ve used every piece of paper in the house. Books: let me buy a maximum of 2 new ebooks per month—that’ll get me active reading classics and using libraries. Clothes: I hope to get by without buying even a pair of socks.

When problem-solving = shopping

The thing is, my default reaction when I encounter a wee glitch is currently to go shopping. It’s pathetic. Smoothies too gritty? Buy a better tool. Ugly, crumbling gym shoes? Buy new. Paper shredder too feeble? Buy a bigger model. Sunblock too sticky? Buy another brand. Jug too small for making kombucha? Buy a bigger jug. And so on.

Once you catch yourself defaulting to an acquisitive mind-set (and by the way, what would your mother say?!) it feels horrible and you want to stop. So I have, already. I like gritty smoothies—call them gritties. My gym shoes are still comfy and strong. I don’t even need a shredder: give it away. Find the other six tubes of sunblock. Use the big coffee plunger.

Don’t get the stuff you love: love the stuff you’ve got

I’ll be interested to see whether any the following come to pass.

  • I get familiar with garments that haven’t been getting much wear lately.
  • I start to use odd items in inventive ways.
  • I discover lost treasures.
  • I give more, not less, to the charity shops.
  • I find an extra hour in every week.
  • I am more mindful of my brain’s behaviour.
  • I exude a sanctimonious glow and my friends flee in droves.

Right now, on 31 December, a year of no (or minimal) shopping holds no fear for me. You see I’ve done the no-shop thing before, for about 6 months, and it was easy and pleasurable. Because when you make that mental switch it feels so good. It’s a relief. And oh, it does make life simpler.


One hop to happiness: learning kicks in when needed

Phoenix rising from the ashes (public domain)

Love thy neighbourhood

Spring is here, and don’t we appreciate it. Today was my first long-ish walk on the hill behind my home for a few weeks. I’m a Polyanna at the best of times, and today I’m glad I was alone, because (internally at least) I was insufferably happy for far too long.

My hill: Mt Victoria, Wellington
My hill: Mt Victoria, Wellington
My path
My path (shared with other walkers and mountain bikers)
Old pine tree cut into seats for weary walkers
My future seats. Old pine tree half-processed for weary walkers.
My mate: periwinkles and me are  like THAT.
My mate: periwinkles and me are like THAT.
Oh! You took the words right out of my mouth.
Oh! You took the word right out of my mouth.

I hope that you can see these photos, and I haven’t over-taxed your computer or smartphone. Because they are everyday, ordinary, and special.

Do you love the neighbourhood you’ve got? I think it’s usually possible.

The toxic tentacles of OSANP (one strange and nasty person)

A dancing octopus
A glorious dancing octopus. Tentacles are its only common attribute with OSANP. Photo by DaugaardDK CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

My problems are never original. They are always in some sense generic, typical, almost universal. So when I write about them, it’s not because I expect you to be surprised or impressed. No, I expect you’ll recognise them.

Joy of the day — dancing!

Today is exciting and joyful because it’s the first of our 3-day dance season in Wellington. I’ll walk to the theatre at 4.45 (in 2 minutes) buying two bananas on route, ready for warm-up and tech rehearsal at 5.30. Hang out with friends while we organise our costumes and props and do panicky little rehearsals of tricky bits. And then dance dance dance our socks off, disoriented by lights and thrilled with our usual appreciative (ahem, discerning) audience. This year we — four groups of Crows Feet from four centres — do Climate Change, which is inspiring and entertaining too. Youngest dancer is 40, oldest is me at 77.

climate-image 2

For this weekend, I must banish an infuriating (and common) problem to the back of my neck.

The curious case of the non-voluntary volunteers

I’m chair of a small body corporate (i.e. group of 5 owners who share an old 6-apartment block). I’ve been on the body corp for 31 years without ever hitting an insoluble problem. In that time we have gotten rid of two white-collar criminal members, legitimately and without fuss. I’ve had the occasional hissy fit but our finances, admin, and property have been managed successfully for 3 decades by the owners, mandatory volunteers, amateurs obliged to cooperate in a professional job of work. We have almost always managed to comply with the letter and the spirit of the law. I’m proud of what we have accomplished.

Until now. Two years ago, by sheer chance, all the apartments except mine were sold to new owners. Three of the owners are great people, cooperative, generous with their ideas and time. The other one (who bought two apartments, aaarrgh!) is one of those OSANPs.

Curse of the year — the body corporate OSANP

OSANPS are not quite the same as other people. Alien in a suit. CC0 from Max Pixel
OSANPS (one strange and nasty persons) are not quite the same as other people. CC0 from Max Pixel

It’s a law of nature: every body corporate gets one of these people doled out to them at some point. All my body corp- friends have had their own versions, and I wondered why we were spared. Then the gods noticed their error and threw us a right humdinger.

It’s taken time to realise that this person lies by default, often with seemingly pointless lies that are spotted instantly. Makes promises, forgets and denies promises. Desperately wants to rule. Abuses and bullies anyone who opposes him. Has a contempt for the law and two abiding values: money and power. (Sound familiar?)

Yes, he’s a case study but what good does a fancy label do?

No more Mrs Nice Guy

Now I get it. He’s non-comprehensible. He’s almost like another species. He’ll never change no matter what we do so I’m getting tough.

He has recourse (through the very Act he despises) — he can take us to the Tenancy Tribunal, mediation, or the High Court. Meantime I want us to appoint a professional manager, just for starters.

And then… There will be ructions but A. we will have professional support and B. there would be ructions no matter how nice I am.

And then… I will get my life back. I will have room for the creative activities that are my lifeblood. I will revert to my baseline of steadiness and joy. That’s the plan.

Wish me luck. And tell me, have you been there, done that too?

And now… on with the dance!