Monday, May 30, 2011

Crackle but don't pop

At school the Year 10s have been doing food, and though they're learning French, we came across the sinful Schwarzwalderkirschtorte in the textbook today, which was unkind as it was the last lesson of the day and they were hungry. C'est typiquement allemand, they were meant to say, but they were drooling too much to get the words out.

Comparatively stricken in years though I am, I had the same reaction to seeing this cake in the cafe at the castle in Cochem - though I was able to resist buying a piece. Having travelled a lot in Australia and also in the US recently, I have to say I was struck by the relative absence of really fat people in Germany. Stout Fraus, certainly, but none of that over-the-top (literally) wobbliness that is so much more common elsewhere. And that's despite all that Schlagsahne, and the Kartoffeln, and the Bier.

And, as a crunchy snack that promises A Hearty Enjoyment, how about a slab of pork crackling? Mmmm, das ist lecker! (I do like the token gesture towards healthy eating represented by that shred of lettuce leaf.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

High-five genes!

Photo by Steven McNicholl published in the NZ Herald of their category winners at Friday night's Canon Media Awards including, as recipient of the Student Journalism Award, none other than the Firstborn. What a proud moment. (FB pretty thrilled too.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dough nut*

Teaching German today, and how satisfying was it to be able to begin the class with "Letzte Woche war ich in Deutschland! Ich war auf einem Schiff auf dem Rhein" - especially since the class had just got to the dative case. Teachers love that sort of thing. (So do skites.)

I returned to the Head of Languages the route map she had lent me of the Rhine from Mainz to Cologne, from which I discovered, rather belatedly, that the boat had, in the night, slipped past Bonn, which was rather a shame; and also Linz. Linz, I pondered, and then remembered: The Jackdaw of Linz. More pondering, during which I struggled to remember any details of the Brothers Grimm tale of that name - something along the lines of The Musicians of Bremen, I thought - before finally having to resort to Google. And of course it's not a fable at all: it's the title of a book about Hitler's art thefts, and his ambition to make Linz (another Linz, his home town in Austria) into the art capital of Europe. I hate it when that happens. Especially when I'm still jet-lagged with a head full of fluff.

*That's a misplaced possessive apostrophe, by the way: they don't have them in German. How ironic that it's been used correctly, and yet it's still wrong. Apostrophes, eh? They just can't win.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Rise Up Christchurch*

It's been three months now since the Christchurch earthquake. The figures are appalling: $15 billion in losses and costs, making it proportionally twice as costly as Japan's quake and tsunami. In the central city there are 900 buildings to be demolished; in the suburbs, over 200,000 badly damaged homes. There are 300 km of broken sewers. And then there are the 185 people who died, and those who've had limbs amputated and other serious injuries.

There was a telethon on TV, the usual thing with celebrities doing silly things and urging viewers to donate, which they did; and there were also heartening accounts of survival, endurance and community spirit. Everyone has ideas about how to rebuild the city, and right now the main feeling is for low-rise, naturally enough with memories of the CTV and PGG buildings so fresh. It looks as though there's going to be some spirited debate about the Cathedral and the other signature buildings that everyone knew and loved: rebuild as they were, or replace?

There seems to be an idea that to put them back as they were would be architecturally dishonest and unimaginative, especially as they were anyway only mock-Gothic, built in the second half of the 19th century; and that the result would be fake. But that's what they did in Germany, when they lost so much of so many cities. Most of what I was delighted by and took photos of last week was reproduction, rebuilt in the 1950s and later to look medieval, reconstructions of buildings that had been destroyed. Evidently much of those half-timbered frontages with their decorated plaster and slate roofs are literally facades, with modern buildings behind. Is that dishonest?

There are plenty of new buildings, towers of glass and concrete, that architects presumably took pride in designing - but they aren't what I wanted to record in photographs; and they aren't what would have given the citizens comfort and reassurance after they had lost so much during the war. I do so hope that the people who rebuild Christchurch give at least equal weight to emotion, as to intellect.
* I'm afraid I don't know who to credit for this amazing photo taken from the Port Hills of the city at the moment of the 22 February earthquake, when Christchurch history split instantly into Before and After.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Nasssty

No market for this sort of thing in New Zealand - shows you how despised possums are there, since rats, mice and rabbits are well-represented in toyshops.

How bored I am!

My flight has been delayed a further half hour. I realise this is nothing like Heathrow in the snow, or Schipol after the volcano, but it's pretty tedious. What I'm really missing now is natural light. The nearest I can get is the tinted glass in the public areas, where all the seats are taken. The Qantas lounge, while comfortable, is entirely windowless.

Having stood so recently, though, in Anne Frank's house, where she and her family lived quiet and dim for more than two years, the last thing I'm doing here is complaining. Honest.

Broken promises

Here I am at Melbourne airport. Again. For 6 extra hours, sigh.

The journey was going so swimmingly (which is to say, not - literally, that is) after setting off to the airport in Amsterdam at 3pm. To London, short wait, good sleep on the way to Singapore, even shorter wait - but then after boarding we sat at the gate for ages while, wait for it, the galley fridges were repaired. Late leaving means late arriving, so we missed the connection that would have got me home to Auckland by lunchtime.

So now I have 6 hours to kill at my least-favourite airport before arriving home to drive across the city in rush-hour. But I am at least in the Business lounge, showered and refreshed and diverted by the novelty of this pancake machine which after some promising humming and flashing of lights, spits out two tiny pikelets that are nothing like the generously-sized hotcakes in the photo. Something else that doesn't deliver.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

No, really, where am I? And when?

It's very confusing to arrive somewhere after flying for over 12 hours, eating, sleeping, watching movies and TV, and carefully setting your watch as advised to 5 o'clock and then suddenly realising you have absolutely no idea whether that's am or pm.

Turns out it's pm. So that's another night flight ahead of me, yet here I am ready for a new day, sigh. That was thanks to the very comfortable Business class on a lovely new A-380. Nice one, Qantas.

Next stop Melbourne, sigh - but least I won't be getting caught up in that horrendous baggage claim hall scrum.

Where am I again?

Hmmm. Here we are, killing a bit of time at Heathrow, the three of us left now from the group, and the harridan on the airline lounge desk wouldn't let one of us in because his card was ruby, not silver, and his ticket's only Premium Economy not Business, so we all politely said Thank you (for nothing) and came out to wander the shops.

So then I looked for something typically English to photograph for this post and chose good old Boots the Chemist. Except, as I took the photo, one of the checkout people barked at me, "You can't do that! You can't photograph the sign!"
"Why not?" I asked, astonished. "Says who?"
"Store policy," she snapped. "Delete it!"

So of course I did.

Welcome to Britain.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rhymes with 'hamster jam'

No prizes for guessing the location, man. We had to pack our bags and disembark for good this morning, which was rather sad: five days on this lovely boat wasn't anywhere near long enough. We were only just getting into the rhythm of the cruise and now they've chucked us off so the real passengers can move into our suites and settle in for fifteen days all the way down to Budapest, lucky things. It's cruel.

I've just been through the Anne Frank House, only 30 years after my first attempt to visit it. It's a busy attraction, but it still resonates, being in the very house, climbing the same ladder-steep stairs, looking at the pencil marks on the wallpaper where Anne and Margot's heights were recorded. Very serious stuff, but well worth the wait.

And now I'm wandering the streets, crossing canal after canal, leaping out of the way of unstopping cyclists, and realising that my Panorama-stretched stomach isn't going to be satisfied even by two breakfasts. The thing is, apparently, to look for coffee in a cafe, not a Coffee House - you know? Something quite different on offer there.

The final day of a famil is always hard to fill, loomed over by the prospect of that immensely long journey to come. Heigh ho.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Echt Kolnischwasser

We woke this morning in Cologne, the cathedral's 157m high twin towers (one of them hung with the inevitable scaffolding - the builders still in after 800 years) looming black against the cloudy sky. The cleanest part of the building is the corner repaired after WW2: the cathedral itself we were told used by Allied bombers as a landmark and so not targeted. Far from avoiding mentioning the war, our guide Detlev referred to it constantly, even discussing the Jewish issue and suggesting that it was because they were so well integrated into German society that they felt safe here as the war approached, and so became trapped. "And then came along a little Austrian with a Charlie Chaplin moustache."

Inside the cathedral, the ceiling soars so high that it makes the building feel narrow, though of course it's a huge space. The stained glass is lovely, and includes a modern one that's made of colourful pixels, no pictures at all. The main attraction though, literally (pilgrims do bring so much money into a town) is the carved and gilded sarcophagus containing the bones of the Three Wise Men - of whom only one understood what made an acceptable gift.

Cologne's other claim to fame is Eau de Cologne, and I trailed through the Hoch Strasse pedestrian shopping precinct that could have been almost anywhere - Subway, McDonald's, Bennetton, C&A, Esprit - and found it at 1477 Glockengasse. (That's 47-11 in Germany, not 4-7-11, by the way.) More scaffolding over the rather elegant building with distinctive turquoise features, and inside the gorgeous smell coming from a continuously-flowing fountain of cologne splashing into a bright brass basin. Ahhh!

On the way back to the boat, I passed the road tunnel that gets closed off when the Rhine floods, as it has pretty dramatically throughout Koln's history. The last time they pumped it out, they found 6000 fish trapped there: a good indication of the health of the water of the super-astonishingly busy Rhine. (Shame they all had three eyes.) I've been very impressed by how clean and litter-free the river is.

Along the rail bridge above are thousands and thousands of padlocks engraved with lovers' names, who click them on and then throw the keys into the river. Very sweet - and modern, too: I found one engraved 'Sonia und Julia'.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Moseying along the Mosel

Panorama took a sharp left at Koblenz for a detour up the Mosel, a winding, narrow river between Internet-incompatible steep hills, the Panorama squeezing through several locks with literally a foot to spare each side, taking us up to Cochem so we could go inside a castle, for a change. It was a - hmm, can't  avoid this - fairytale castle, all turrets and towers and ivy and stained glass windows, ancient but rebuilt in the 19th century by someone who knew what a Disneyland castle should look like. Rather less happy-kingdom, it was taken over by the Third Reich for several years, but now belongs to the town again and is just lovely inside, decorative and furnished with antiques, and surprisingly warm, and full of interesting touches like the lock that has metal guides to help people the worse for drink to find the hole for the key.

The town is another that's mainly pedestrian because of its narrow lanes, and it does make for a relaxing feel. Today's guide, Marie-Luis, was almost normal except for her enjoyment of the story of the poor goat squeezed in a wine press to see if it had been eating the grapes, which inspired a fountain in the town. She seemed to miss the similarities with the castle's Witch Tower, for flinging out women suspected of magic to test their mortality.

And now we're on our way back down the Rhine to Cologne tomorrow, to see the huge cathedral and sniff some perfumes before heading away north to Holland and Amsterdam and the end of our cruise on this very comfortable but hideously fattening ship (tonight's 8-course wine-matching dinner a case in point). But in the meantime, there are nightingales to enjoy, singing out there in the dark.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Schlossed

I don't know what it is about the guides we've been having. Stefanie in Frankfurt had us route-marching round the city; Georg in Mainz flitted off at crazy tangents and carried, sweating, a fat folder all the way round with him, just to show us three photos from it; and today Marie was manic, telling us emphatically "You will enjoy zis!" (wagging finger) and spending as much time warning us about uneven steps as talking about the remarkable collection of musical machines in the museum in Rudesheim. And in every photo I took of her, she has her eyes closed.

We saw a huge, fine marquetry player piano with six violins fitted into it, a bizarre and very creepy puppet orchestra that included monkeys in 18th centure clothes, and most amazing of all, a little silver snuff box that didn't play music: instead a miniature bird popped out, complete with feathers, and sang totally authentically. It was a lovely museum - and Rudesheim is a pretty town, all narrow cobbled lanes and restaurants and quirky shops (laughing dog toy rolling on the floor? Almost irresistible) and restaurants, at one of which we drank the local special coffee with a generous shot of their Asbach brandy and a splodge of whipped cream. Set me up nicely for the Museum of Medieval Torture with its real thumbscrews, racks and scolds' bridles: horrifyingly ingenious, all of them, in how they exploited the weaknesses of the human body.

But today was mainly about castles: 28 of them along the Rhine, all sorts, shapes, sizes, materials and designs. Something for everyone! It got a bit like Wimbledon at one point, when the river was narrow and dangerously swirling, and the steep hillsides each side were dotted with castles and draped with astonishingly precipitous vineyards. And pretty towns and villages, onion-domed churches, half-timbered hotels, swans and ducks, and lots and lots and lots of barges and trains.

Hund-ert? Nein, nur einer.

German German shepherd (shepherd).

Really? Why?

I don't think this is funny at all. I think it's a tissue of lies. An atishoo of lies, even.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

God bless this ship

Smash! Rigged up from a long boat-hook, the champagne bottle broke over Panorama's bow as it should when Lisa Wilkinson (Australian TV person. Apparently) sent it flying with the usual platitudes and a typically Aussie promise to scull the spare bottle afterwards. Then we all scuttled inside out of the cold spitty weather (it's been lovely all the rest of the time) for some worthy if dull speeches, and substantial canap├ęs to stave off starvation before our 8-course dinner.

We got under way while the speeches were on, so when we sat down to dinner there was a movie going on outside the windows - like the virtual fireplace in the Royal Suite on board, but real - so whenever the conversation lulled a little, there was the scenery to comment on: hills, vineyards, traditional houses, trees, fishermen, swans, onion-domed churches... Just lovely. It's going to be very dull going home to a dining room window with a static display.

Lisa was called the Godmother of the Ship and presented with a bracelet that was apparently traditionally made from the anchor chain, which kind of conjured up images of her sleeping with the fishes like the other sort of godmother - but hers was a dainty silver version, a fine reward for some very undemanding work. Her partner is a Peter FitzSimons, a Wallaby has-been who constantly wears a daft red bandana that's beginning to irritate our group, and some of us hatched a plan to turn up to dinner tomorrow all wearing bandanas of our own. We were experimenting with the serviettes - possibly the champagne played a part in all this - when one of us, who has had contact with Feetzie, suggested that mocking a humourless rugby player who's bigger than several of us put together was not a clever move. Tch, spoilsport.

Georg and Gutenberg

Hair on end, breathless, sweating and perpetually behind time, Georg gave us an entertaining tour of Mainz this morning, after we had awoken to find ourselves floating on the Rhine. Here again the central city is largely reconstructed after 80% being destroyed by the British in daylight air-raids in 1944. Georg didn't seem to bear a grudge. "Eighty percent destroyed means twenty percent survived," he said philosophically, taking us to see the 1000 year-old cathedral and the Altstadt where tall half-timbered houses lined winding cobbled lanes where the new leaves on the trees hid tuneful thrushes. No cars again in this big pedestrian area, which made for a relaxed feel even though it was busy with shoppers, posers and football fans winding up for the big game this afternoon against St Pauli from Hamburg. "Pirates!" said Georg.

The Farmers' Market was on in the town square, the fruit and vegetables clean, bright and shiny and arranged with military precision; and a big fat rooster at one stall sat obediently on top of a cage and never moved, despite being free to take off if he'd wanted. The cathedral was busy, too, with a choir and orchestra rehearsing for a performance and filling the building with music that took half a minute to die away when they stopped. Round behind it, a busker opera singer was working through the crowd-pleasers - Nessun Dorma, la Donna e Mobile - and further along the lane an elaborate living statue was done up as a metal fountain with actual spouting water.

We went to the Gutenberg museum to look at one and a half original Bibles and hear how poor Gutenberg, son of the city, was rooked out of the fortune he should have made from putting together other people's ideas to enable printing, the first media technology: "the Bill Gates of the fifteenth century." He died bankrupt and nothing remains of his workshop or even his body ("despite 1945 providing the perfect conditions for archeology"). Just a world full of books.

This evening it's the christening ceremony for the boat with champagne smashed over the bow by some Australian celebrity (Lisa Wilkinson - who she?) followed by a gala dinner and partying. Better get girding my loins.

Friday, May 13, 2011

I mentioned the war...

What a lovely place Frankfurt is! Lots of beautiful old buildings, half-timbered with tile roofs, ancient Cathedral, churches, cobbled streets and squares with pavement cafes doing good business (Apfelwein a local specialty), statues and fountains, so many trees all fresh green with new leaves, everything neat and tidy - I was very taken with it all as I wandered around and looked down on it from the top of the spire (328 spiral steps! Count them! And 328 down again...)

So I was surprised when I joined our walking tour with local guide Stefanie to hear her say that Frankfurt is considered a rather ugly city. That's in comparison with places like Munich, she explained - but as I haven't been there yet, or anywhere else in Germany other than Hamburg, I was looking at the place with different eyes, and I liked what I saw. She did explain that there's only one genuine 17th century half-timbered house left after the war, so much of what I was photographing, like these buildings, was reproduction. But still pretty! (And disconcertingly like Leavenworth, Washington.)

Several times she said how cramped and dark the old city was, with narrow lanes and no open areas, and how much better it was now, so I carefully asked her if, as far as this was concerned, the war was actually, ahem, a blessing in disguise? And she said yes! "Though not everyone would agree," she added darkly. Fair enough.

I'm pleased to have had today in Frankfurt. It was sunny and warm, I drank strong and sour Apfelwein outside under a trained grapevine in a courtyard next to a pastel-painted monastery, I walked and walked in total safety and was completely entertained, I came across Goethe's birthplace and statue and, at the other end of the literary scale, a Struwwelpeter fountain (his creator also born here), I spoke German to the natives and mostly understood the answers, and had a really enjoyable day. Even if my feet are both swollen and my knee hurts from all those steps.

Willkommen an Bord!

This is the view from my sofa, where I'm resting my feet after toiling up and down Frankfurt Cathedral's 328 spiral steps, as well as prowling all around the Old Town/CBD - very neat, pretty, historic, relaxed and well-used by the Frankfurters. The people, naturlich, not the sausages.

The boat, Avalon's new vessel, Panorama, is just lovely. It's literally brand new, so I'm the first person to stay in my room. It's actually a suite (they're all suites on the top two levels) with marble bathroom, Occitane toiletries, desk, big television, FREE WIFI and sliding doors that open almost all the way across, so it's like turning the whole room into a balcony: clever idea. Can't wait to get into the inviting-looking bed tonight with its fine sheets - but there are still miles to go, figuratively speaking, before I sleep. The city to explore some more, then cocktails, fancy dinner, wine...

Hard old life, eh?

Go, Qantas!

In the Premium Economy loos: classy, or what?

Singers: a city out of time

I have absolutely NO idea what this meat item is, glistening with fat at a shop in Changi Airport here in Singapore. But it looks delicious!

This is a huge and sophisticated airport WITH FREE WIFI and tempting shops and long corridors stretching off in all directions, and people from everywhere looking dazed as they head off everywhere else.

Feeling a little dazed myself, twelve hours into the journey with another eleven to go (flight times only), two time changes already and my body with no idea at all of where/when it's at. I'm hoping to be able to persuade it to sleep for most of the next sector.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Gute Reise! (hoffentlich)

So, here I am in Qantas's rather understated, but pleasant enough, lounge, mourning being too late for the Bircher muesli they do so well here, and looking forward to the flight to Sydney, in Business. Shame it's only three and a half hours...

Then it's a more or less immediate transfer to the Premium Economy flight to Frankfurt. I flew PE with Air NZ to Perth, and it will be a hard act to follow. I hope they score. Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oy, oy,oy!

Show-off Sydney

One day I must find out why it is that planes don't just swoop down and land without all that silly circling: can't they slow down and descend as they approach land over the ocean? But at least it makes for a good view as you come in, and Sydney's one of the best. Shame the phone is turned off at that point.

Scalloped beaches, cliffs with white foamy feet, bush right up to the city margins, and then warm orange tile roofs surrounding that wonderful harbour, and sometimes even the bridge and Opera House. Tch. Showing off even before you land!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Free WiFi for the people!

Back on the NZ Herald's cover again, yay, with the Tasman showing off its glamorous face - and the centrefold too (with MY title, for once: score!) I hope the Bay of Fires people will be happy, that they'll get some bookings because of the story, and that Matt and Kate won't get fired for being outed internationally as bare-faced liars.

What is getting more attention though (Twitter! Facebook!) is the guest Comment I did on page 2, in which I froth at the mouth yet again about hotel WiFi and the swingeing charges they impose totally without shame for something that should be as standard in a room as the bed. As the unconcerned Hilton rep said, "it'll come" but in the meantime, we here at the forefront of digital technology are once again putting our blood pressure at risk by having to cope with dunder-headed people dragging their feet and holding back the rest of us who can see so clearly how things are meant to be.

And not just hotels, as a friend pointed out: airports too. They should all be like Dubai, where she says there's not only free WiFi throughout, but also sockets for plugging in and charging. Why stop at hotels and airports, I'm thinking now? Free WiFi everywhere! All the time! For everyone! Even Hilton Man can see the future; dammit, tomorrow is the future.Why wait?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Suite as

It's been another of those weeks: stories out in a couple of publications about Queensland and Washington state; stories sold about the West Coast, Amazon and Victoria; working on Western Australia; as well as beginning to focus on next week's crazy flit to Germany for a 5-day cruise along the Rhine, and discussing the itinerary for June/July in the UK.

That's why Germany is a there-and-back, since I'll be in Europe again so soon: though it does seem rather a waste of free flights, with so much richness and variety right there. But the five days will be fun, on the maiden cruise of a fancy suite-only ship, calling in at Gutenberg, Rudesheim and Cologne (Glockengasse Nummer 4711!) and ending up in Amsterdam.

I've only been to Germany once before, to Hamburg, and once to Amsterdam too. That was the last stop on the Big Trip from NZ to Britain: 16 countries in 6 months, flying on 16 different airlines on 26 flights. I kept a diary (in a notebook! Longhand! How untechnological) and the last entry finishes like this -

>> We didn't lose anything, we didn't have anything stolen, and we never misplaced our bags. We saw a lot of places, did a lot of things, spent a lot of money and had a lot of fun. Now we're arriving back at the same time as many other British holidaymakers, and I can imagine being asked where we spent our holiday. We'll reel off the list of exotic names, and end up with Amsterdam. "Amsterdam!" the tourist from Rhyll will say. "The wife and I went there. Did you see Anne Frank's house?" "No," we'll have to say. "Shame, you really missed something there. You should have seen the bookcase..."

Because it was closed. Maybe this time!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dorothy calling

So much for Schadenfreude. Mouthing a few platitudes about the dreadful tornados recently in the southern states of the US has come back to bite me: an F2 tornado ripped through my local shopping mall yesterday afternoon while I sat at home looking out of the window thinking, "Tch. Three o'clock rain again", and killed a man working on the roof of a building there.

Astonishing. It was the real deal: swirling (clockwise) vortex sucking up sheets of roofing iron and a couple of trampolines, throwing cars about, toppling trees and street lamps, and terrifying people who'd popped into the supermarket for a bottle of milk and some catfood. It formed at Albany, hopped across a couple of suburbs, touched down outside Glenfield College moments before the final bell rang, jumped the harbour, landed briefly on the other side, and fizzled out. All over in just a few minutes, leaving chaos in its wake.

We don't do tornados here, really. They happen, but so rarely that no-one remembers, till the next time. Cyclones are more our thing - but we haven't had a big one of them for a while, either. The closest I've come was visiting the Cook Islands last year a few weeks after Cyclone Pat tore across Aitutaki, and that was pretty impressive: foliage stripped, corrugated iron wrapped round trees, collapsed houses, missing roofs. But people were busy with rakes and wheelbarrows restoring the island back to normal - which looks pretty close to paradise to us tourists - with a resignation that I imagine is the prevailing attitude in Albany right now. And Christchurch. And Japan, and Alabama, and Queensland...

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Connecting

[By the way, next time you're slumped glumly in your armchair while your favourite TV programme keeps breaking up into its constituent pixels and disappearing off the screen, don't sit there passively, and unscientifically, thinking "Well, I knew rain wrecked the satellite signal, but what's with this gale? Is is blowing the rays around the sky, or what?" Get up and go outside and remove the wayward branch of rose bush that's waving in front of the sensor, and save yourself a $90 technician call-out fee.]

Because of breaks in the programme (see above) I missed David Attenborough's introduction to the footage of a bird eating flowers on some sort of bush, but then he said "currawong" and I thought, "Currawong! Australian crow-type bird! I remember seeing one in Tasmania, when I was walking around Dove Lake in the unexpected snow, in my smooth-soled sneakers, and there was a man eating his lunchtime sandwich by the water, and suddenly a currawong swooped down and snatched it from his fingers right as he was going to bite it, and he didn't know whether he was more shocked or hungry!" And then the close-up was swapped for a wide shot, and there was Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake. I love it when that happens.

Then we watched 'Buildings that Shaped the World' which is much more interesting than it sounds, about city planning this time, and shouted "Bath! Edinburgh! York! London!" all the way through as the pictures came up on the screen. It's just as well we were on our own. When other people do that sort of thing, it's simply indefensible, don't you think?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Storm warning

There's a storm passing over and I was going to refer to the terrible tornados that have ripped through some of the southern states of the US, killing hundreds and reducing whole towns to rubble - when they didn't just suck entire houses up into the air, that is, and spit them out somewhere else completely.

But I've just heard that Osama Bin Laden has been killed by American forces, and that's much bigger news than a mile-wide tornado: it's world-wide news, an event that will affect millions. If only it were a line drawn under 9/11, the end of that terrible story, and the start of moving on; but it won't be. There will be repercussions in all sorts of expected, and unexpected, places.

I'm not sorry he's been killed, of course: it had to be done. But now, for everybody, it's like living on permanent tornado alert (or even like living in Christchurch, still juddering with aftershocks - 5.3 on Saturday - and not knowing if the next one will be the biggie). Where will the storm strike next, and whose life is going to be sucked up and obliterated?

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