Strange happenings

Sorry about the radio silence again.  For some reason (I’m blaming the weird time zone in Spain and southern France), I actually got hit with a bit of jet-lag this time (normally I’m pretty good at avoiding it), and that combined with the usual post-holiday slump, and the grey weather, left me feeling pretty unmotivated since I got home.  I’m starting to come right now though, and even felt inspired to do some sewing this afternoon (as you probably gathered from the previous post).

Anyway, I suspect this isn’t going to be a coherent blog post, just a collection of random paragraphs.

My sprained thumb is still pretty sore (not helped by the fact that I keep forgetting that it’s sprained, and over-using it).  It’s fine for most things, but then every so often there’s something it just has no strength for – like turning on taps or doing up zips.  According to the bit of googling I did, sprains usually heal in around 6 weeks, so hopefully it will come right soon (or, at least, it would if I could remember to look after it!)

On Friday night I went to the Free Theatre’s production of Tom Waits’s Alice.  I’d expected it to be a strange play, especially because the Free Theatre has a reputation for doing pretty extreme things with their staging, but it turned out to be an even stranger experience than even the actors expected, when a member of the audience had a grand mal seizure in the middle of the play.  At first I assumed it was just part of the play (it did sort of fit the scene, in a strange way), but it went on a bit too long, and then I realised that the actor playing Alice (who was in the middle of a monologue) was starting to cast worried glances towards the back of the audience (it’s a very small theatre), and eventually one of the other actors came out and stopped her, and they put the lights up so that the man could be carried out into the foyer (and, they told us later, taken to the hospital, which is only just down the road from the theatre).  There was an unplanned intermission while that was all happening, so we were chatting to the people sitting on either side of us, and they both sheepishly said the same thing, that they’d at first thought it was just part of the play too.

It probably says something about how weird the production was that someone having a seizure in the audience seems a perfectly plausible bit of staging.  But it also says something about how deeply conditioned we are by “correct” behaviour in the theatre, that even once we all started to suspect it wasn’t part of the play and that something was actually wrong, we all still just sat there politely, not wanting to interrupt the performance.

The play eventually got back underway, and despite being weird, it was actually pretty good.  Because of the interruption it was very late by the time it ended, though, so I missed the last bus – or at least, the last bus that would have taken me all the way home – I managed to get a bus as far as the university and walked home from there.

It turned out to be quite a dramatic night over this way, too.  As I was walking along Memorial Ave, I was passed by several police cars going at very high speed with lights and sirens.  And then a bit further along at Burnside High, there were alarms going off in the school, and a police car sitting in the shadows outside the back entrance, with an officer in the car watching the entrance very intently – I assume waiting for whoever had caused the alarms to go off to try and escape out the back way.  (It turned out later that there’d been an arson at the school – as that article says the police are talking to “persons of interest”, I suspect the officer’s patience might have been rewarded.)

The rest of the weekend was pretty sedate in comparison.  The only other strange occurrence (well, strange for Christchurch, anyway, where we don’t have many Jewish people) was a knock on my door last night from a person holding an unlit candle and asking if I’d lit my fire yet.  He explained that he was Jewish, and that he couldn’t light the candle because of the Sabbath, but that he also couldn’t ask someone else to light it for him, he could only use a flame that was already lit (Yetzirah, I’m sure you can tell me if I misunderstood what he was telling me?).  Hence him wandering around the neighbourhood knocking on doors in the hope that someone had a fire going in their house.  I hadn’t lit the fire yet (it had been a sunny day and was only just starting to get cold), so I wasn’t able to help – hopefully he found a neighbour who’d felt the cold sooner than me, otherwise he was going to be in for a very dark night.

So this is what the twenty-first century looks like

Even though (or perhaps because) I work in a digital lab, I have a touch of the Luddite about me.  I like technology, but in its place – I’m not a fan of technology for the sake of it.  I like to use the tool that does the job best for me, which is not necessarily the newest and shiniest toy.  Which is not to say I’ll always avoid the new and shiny (far from it – I can think of several new and shiny things I’d love to have and that only the exorbitant cost is keeping me from), but that I’ve got to convince myself it’d make life better than what I’m currently using.  Which is why I write with a fountain pen, why I love my antique wooden ironing board, and why I’ve resisted buying a smart phone… up until now.

Because yes, I finally gave in, and upgraded my ancient Nokia dumb phone to something that can do more than just phone and text.  Finally the number of times I’ve been in situations where I’ve thought “It would be really useful to be able to [check map/bus arrival times/look up details of a business/check whether x has emailed me/other smart phoney type things]” has reached a tipping point where not having a smart phone went from “I don’t really have a use for one so why bother” to “Ok, now I’m just being stubborn about it”.  So I spent way too long comparing service providers and plans, and then even longer looking at the different phones, and then spent an hour or so in the mall this morning asking many many questions of the very patient shop assistant in the Vodafone shop, and finally walked out with a shiny new phone.  Which I have spent the rest of the day manually transferring numbers onto from my old phone (patient Vodafone guy looked very relieved when I said I didn’t expect him to be able to magically find a way to connect very old Nokia with shiny new phone to transfer the contacts across – some tech is just too old to be compatible with doing things automatically).

So here it is.  Very much a mid-range, just does the things I want it to sort of phone, and I’m sure those with i-whatevers or the latest $1000+ models will look down their noses at it, but I’m happy (or at least, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that Google will now know even more about me than they already did, but I think that was a lost cause anyway).

I feel like it needs a name…

The rest of Wellington

Seeing as the conference was on a Friday, I decided to stay up in Wellington for the weekend.  Discoverylover, as well as offering me a bed, arranged a bookcrossing meetup for the Friday evening, so after the conference finished I walked down to the railway station to meet up with her and the other bookcrossers at the station cafe. There were suprisingly few books on the table for a bookcrossing meetup (I think, just like our meetups in Christchurch, the Wellington meetups have become less about the books and more about just catching up with friends), but it was an enjoyable evening.  I revealed our secret plans for the 2019 and 2021 NZ/AUS conventions, and they were met with general approval (mysterious cat is mysterious – if you want to know more, you’ll just have to wait until Stewart Island… 😉 )

Discoverylover had a cold and an essay to write, so I absolved her of any duty to keep me entertained the next day, and caught the train into Wellington (she lives out in the Hutt Valley).  The weather was pretty dull and grey (and windy, of course), but after a long leisurely breakfast in a cafe, and stopping off at a few bookshops, I went for a wander along the waterfront (my favourite bit of Wellington), and managed to take a few decent photos:


(Yes, the “let’s destroy bridges by covering them in padlocks” trend has hit here too)

Jacq, a friend from the UC Linguistics department, was at the conference too, so I’d arranged to meet up with them and their partner for lunch.  Discoverylover had suggested that I check out the National Library’s He Tohu exhibtion, so I invited the two of them to join me.  It’s an amazing exhibition – it’s subtitled “Signatures that shape New Zealand”, and that’s a great description, because the centrepiece is three documents that formed NZ as it is today: the Treaty of Waitangi, the Declaration of Independence that lead to the Treaty, and the petition calling for Women’s Suffrage.  Seeing even one of those documents in person would be cool, but having all three in one place was amazing.

Because they’re such precious documents (and not particularly well preserved, especially the Treaty), they were displayed in a darkened room, with buttons on each display case that turned on lights for just long enough to be able to see the document without causing damage.  And flash photography was of course forbidden.  But I managed to hold my camera steady enough to get a couple of non-blurry photos even in the dim light:


Te Tiriti


The suffrage petition (when the petition was presented to parliament, the pages were stitched together into a long roll, in an intentional attempt to increase its impact when it was rolled out across the floor – a very effective ploy, as the roll looks so much more impressive than a pile of loose pages would be!)

The rest of the exhibition was displays and videos explaining the impact of the three documents, and how they still have an affect on the way New Zealanders see ourselves today.  It was really fascinating (and I learnt a lot of the history of my country I never knew – probably because when I was at school nobody really talked about Te Tiriti much), and we ended up spending well over an hour looking at it all.

As we were leaving, Jacq said they’d quite like to take a tour of the Parliament buildings (the National Library is pretty much across the street from the Beehive) – they’re Canadian, so after learning so much about NZ history from the exhibition, wanted to see something of how modern NZ runs.  I’d done the Parliament tour before, but it was years ago, so I was happy to do it again (and it was actually quite cool doing it for a second time, because instead of looking at the things the guide was showing us, I spent most of the time looking at the other artworks and things we were passing).  So it turned out to be an educational afternoon all round (though I had my doubts at the start of the tour, when the guide was showing us the earthquake strengthening in the basement, and explaining how the base isolation system would withstand the horizontal movement from a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, so no matter what happened to the rest of Wellington, Parliament would still be standing.  My immediate thoughts were (a) you know that earthquakes get a lot bigger than that, right? and (b) if it’s anything like Christchurch, it’s the vertical movement that does most of the damage.  But I didn’t say anything – the guide was obviously a historian, not an earthquake engineer, so I didn’t think she’d appreciate me asking technical questions like that :-) )

After I said goodbye to Jacq and their partner, I met up with Discoverylover again for dinner (at a place that does proper Italian hot chocolate! This may necessitate many more trips back to Wellington…) She hadn’t made much progress with her essay, so I think was glad of the excuse to abandon it and come into town to meet me :-)

My flight back was at lunchtime on Sunday, but I managed to squeeze in another quick adventure – instead of going directly to the airport, I left early enough so I could catch a bus out to a nearby suburb where there was a quilt shop.  So many cool fabrics!  Luckily I was constrained by how much I could fit in my bag, so I didn’t spend *too* much money there, but it was really tempting (they have an on-line shop, but it’s not the same as being able to see all the fabrics in person).  Even better, the shop was within walking distance of the airport (via an underpass which goes under the runways!), so I didn’t have to rush to get to my flight.

As I was waiting at the departure gate, I heard a familiar voice – it turned out Dan had been in Wellington for a different conference, and was on the same flight back as me.  It was great to catch up for a few minutes while we waited for boarding.

Back in Christchurch, Harvestbird met me at the airport, as we had tickets to the Clementine Ford talk that afternoon.  It was a wonderful talk – she pretty much just went through some of the horrific comments she gets on-line, and responded to them with thoughts about feminism, and anecdotes from her life.  There was a signing afterwards, and for once I was actually organised and had her book with me, so I was able to get it signed.

So, a busy, and very social, weekend all round!

And we’re back!

DD was down for a couple of weeks, and it’s amazing how much the urge to blog strikes when you don’t have a platform!  Of course, now that it’s back, I can’t remember any of the stuff I wanted to write about, so I’ll have to content myself with pretty pictures of crafty things I got up to over the past couple of weekends.

First of all, I finished the banner of birds for the back of my Birds in Flight quilt!

Now I just need to add the rest of the backing, and then figure out how I’m going to quilt it…

In the meantime, I ignored all the other half-finished projects piled in the corner, and started something new. This one was a pretty quick project – I managed to sew the (lap-sized) top over the space of a couple of days.

The technique is called “disappearing nine-patch”. It starts with a “layer cake” of 10-inch squares (this is not strictly true, it could actually be made out of any fabrics, but the layer cake was one of the ones I’d bought on sale and wanted an excuse to use, and it happened to have exactly the right proportion of light to dark fabrics).

The fabrics sorted (approximately) by colour (to try and keep the distribution reasonably even) and cut into 5-inch squares:

And then arranged into sets of 9, alternating dark and light:

And sewn into nine-patches:

So far, so boring. But then, you cut the nine-patch into quarters, and get much more interesting blocks as a result:

Which can be put together in all sorts of interesting ways, but the one that most inspired me was matching the small corner squares to give the illusion of a third large square hiding behind each pair of bigger squares:

This was as far as I got the first weekend. It sat on my design wall for the rest of the week, and every time I went into the study I’d tweak the blocks a bit more, trying to move them around so the colours were well distributed, and there weren’t too many identical fabrics in close proximity. Finally last weekend I got it to a point I was reasonably happy with, and finished sewing the top together:

I’m quite pleased with how it’s looking. The fabric line is called “Holly Wishes”, so presumably it’s intended to be Christmassy, but it feels more like autumn to me (in person, it’s a little bit less yellow than in the photo – I took that late in the afternoon on a grey and rainy day, so it’s half artificial light). It was a really quick fun technique too – I might have to experiment with doing it again with other fabrics (I’ll add it to my very long list of quilt ideas I’m going to try one day…)

Of course, now I have to quilt it… or just add it to that growing pile of half-finished projects…

So many updates

Sorry about the delay in posting.  A combination of being too busy, and having many many photos I wanted to add to a post, but my computer’s been playing up again (I’m about to give up and pay someone to fix it properly, because my “wiggle a few wires and hope” fix keeps failing) and I keep losing access to my E: drive, which happens to be where my decent photo editing software lives, and the built-in “tools” (yeah, right) that come with Windows 10 are terrible, and make me give up in frustration half way through the first photo.  However, I have armed myself with a supply of chocolate, and I am determined not to leave this computer again until I have finished editing and uploading the photos, and writing this post!

Graduation was wonderful, of course.  I was a banner bearer again, and, as I was also graduating, asked to carry the university crest banner (also known as “the dead sheep”) which leads the academic procession onto the stage.  It was raining, thanks to Cyclone Cook, so we didn’t do the full procession into the venue, just a short procession from the foyer into the hall, but it was still a very proud moment :-) So much so that I’m even going to post photos of myself here – I know, right?!  I’ll restrain from posting all of the millions of photos of the ceremony that Dad took, or all of the many many combinations of family photos from after the ceremony, but here’s just a few of my favourites:


My thesis supervisor, Heidi.


Best bit of my graduation outfit :-)

A fantastic day (ignoring the little glitch where I forgot to put my trencher back on after receiving my degree – my excuse was that I missed the briefing for graduands because I was at the rehearsal for the banner bearers, so while waiting to go on stage I was frantically trying to remember the correct sequence of hold trencher in left hand, walk across stage, shake hands with Chancellor, receive degree with right hand, put trencher back on, leave stage without tripping down stairs, and I kind of forgot one step.  Either that I was just so happy to be graduating my brain had shut down :-) )

After the ceremony I took the Niblings back to the campus (graduation is always held off-campus, because there’s no on-campus venue big enough – before the earthquakes it was held in the Town Hall, but now it’s out at Horncastle Arena).  Our first stop was the staff club, where they were putting on a barbecue lunch for graduates and families.  We sat with the other Linguistics postgrads (almost all of whom were there, despite only a couple of us graduating that day, because one of the PhD students was the musical act for the barbecue, so everyone else had come along to watch him play), and I think the kids were suitably impressed by the number of accents around the table (the Linguistics department gets a lot of postgrads coming from overseas to study here – for a while, I was the only postgrad in the department who spoke NZ English!).

Niece also got to chat with the Chancellor.  She’d come with me up to the bar to get a soft drink, and the Chancellor, who was sitting nearby, came over and asked her if she was going to come to UC when she grows up.  She told him she’d think about it :-)  When we went back to our seats, asked me if he was the guy who’d been wearing the fancy clothes up on stage, so I explained she’d just been chatting with my boss’s boss’s boss’s boss’s boss.

After lunch I took the kids for a tour around the campus – Nephew #1 is getting to an age where he’s starting to think about his university options, so he was interested to just have a look around the campus (I think he was surprised at just how big it is, compared to the little country high school he attends!).  Apparently what impressed Niece the most was visiting my office – when she got home, she excitedly told everyone we each have two computers on our desks (actually, we just have just dual monitors, but close enough :-))

The next day was my graduation party.  And the rain continued.  We’d put up a couple of marquees in the back yard the night before to try and keep the ground a bit drier, and by morning the rain had eased off to just drizzle, but it was still pretty damp.  I decided we were going to make the most of it, though, so I decided to use the garage as another dry space if required, declared the sunroom as the kids’ room and stocked it with colouring materials so that parents would have a warm and dry place to safely deposit their small people (under the “supervision” of Niece) if needed, declared the house to be a shoes-off zone to avoid too much tracking of mud in and out, and we set to work (with the help of Fuzzle, who’d arrived the night before, and Lytteltonwitch, who’d come early to help out) sweeping away all the leaves that had fallen in the winds overnight, and decorating the marquees and garage with balloons and streamers to try and cheer up the gloomy day.  Havestbird arrived to do clever things with my hair, so her girls helped out with the decorations, and by the time Jan (the caterer, a former colleague of mine who took redundancy from the university to set up a “pop-up tearooms” business) arrived to set up the food, everything was looking very colourful.

Amazingly, the rain stopped just in time for the party, and the sun even made a weak attempt to peek out from among the clouds.  A few people I’d hoped would be able to come didn’t make it (most notably, Jenny and Christian, who’d come over from Australia for the party, but ended up spending the day in the emergency room instead after Christian had a bad allergic reaction to some medication he’d taken the day before), but a whole load of my favourite people were there (including my other supervisor, Lynn, who hadn’t been able to come to graduation because she has a very new baby, so I was so happy she was at the party), and everyone got on really well (always a worry when you bring together people from different parts of your life), and the food was wonderful (of course! I knew Jan would produce something wonderful :-) ), and I couldn’t stop smiling all day.

I’d asked my nephews to be waiters, half expecting them to get bored and wander off to play on the computer after half an hour, but they did a fantastic job, and spent the afternoon enthusiastically helping Jan out in the kitchen, and handing round drinks, tea, and plates of goodies.  They took their instructions a little bit too literally though – I asked them to make sure all the guests had a drink, and they did exactly that, offering everyone a drink as they arrived, and keeping glasses and tea-cups topped up.  But they never brought me a drink, of course, because I wasn’t a guest! :-)  But I was a very proud aunty anyway, because everyone kept telling me how polite the boys were.


The fanciest my hair has ever been! (Harvestbird made good use of her mother-to-two-small-girls braiding skills)


Lyttelton’s “plus one”, Albert. Wearing an Easter Bunny costume in honour of Good Friday, of course.


Albert ended up a little bit the worse for wear…


I discovered later that Niece had decorated my front doorstep with a chalk portrait of me as FutureCat :-) (The writing says “Don’t rub off”)


The aftermath. Despite the best efforts of Jan and the boys, it’s impossible to carry plates of food in and out to a muddy garden while keeping the floor clean (at least the kitchen is accessible via the back door, so they could constrain the mud to the linoleum, and not have to track it through the carpet in the front hall). It was still a big job washing all that mud off the floor the next morning, although the doormat took the brunt of it…

Although we were all very full with cake (There was a HUGE amount of cake.  And little sandwiches.  And scones with jam and clotted cream.  As I may have mentioned, Jan did a fantastic job with the catering), after most of the guests had departed, the rest of us headed into town to the food trucks in the Square, as I’d promised Dad we would last time he visited.   There weren’t as many people as usual (probably because of the weather and the holiday), so there weren’t the usual queues for the popular trucks, so we had a pleasant evening sampling the fare from various trucks and watching a group of break-dancers.

The next morning I had a surprise planned for the Niblings, as a late and/or early birthday present – I’d bought us all (plus Dad and Lytteltonwitch) tickets to the Crate Escape, an escape room that’s just opened in Christchurch.  Escape rooms are pretty new in NZ, so none of us had done one before.  It was great fun – we were locked into a room (inside a shipping container, of course – this is Christchurch, after all) and had 90 minutes to find the clues that would let us out.  The puzzles you had to solve were really nicely varied, so everyone had a chance to be good at something, and most of them needed some sort of teamwork (usually because half of a clue would be at one end of the room, and the other at the other end, so you’d have to communicate with each other to get the complete answer), so it was perfect to do as a group.  We got a pretty good time considering it was our first time – the guy on the front desk told us the average is 50 minutes, and we managed it in 45.

Niece went back to Alexandra with Dad and Stepmother that afternoon, but the boys stayed on with me for a few days (as did Fuzzle).  After all the excitement of graduation and the party, we had a pretty low-key remainder of the Easter break – mostly doing jigsaws and playing on the computer, with a few excursions into town for meals and to visit the Art Gallery.  It was still a fun visit though, and I think all enjoyed themselves.

I managed to catch up with Jenny and Christian for lunch (at Foo San, of course!) before they headed back to Brisbane.  It was great to see Jenny again after so long (I was surprised to realise it’s been four years since they moved to Australia!), and to realise that she’s one of those wonderful sort of friends where you can not see each other for years, and then just pick up the conversation where you left off.  They had a graduation present for me too – a voucher to Scorpios bookshop (they know me so well :-) )  So of course I grabbed the first opportunity I could to pop into town and do a little shopping:

The other seriously cool graduation present I got was from Mum – a sewing table.  Actually, I’d been looking at them for a while, and had pretty much made up my mind to just buy myself one, but Mum suggested it would make a good graduation present.  It was supposed to arrive before graduation, but there was a saga with the courier company (I never did figure out exactly what happened, but the track and trace kept telling me it was in Christchurch and would be delivered that day… the next day… the next day… until I finally rang them and the person who answered the phone discovered that for some reason it had just been sitting in the depot for a week, and was never even loaded onto the van for delivery… She was most apologetic, and it got delivered to me a couple of hours later.  The company was Post Haste, in case you want to know who to avoid in future).

Anyway, I finally got my table, and (after quite a bit of rearranging of the furniture in the study) got it set up:

It’s seriously cool – the machine sits down within the table, so that the tabletop is flush with the bed of the machine, which effectively gives you a sewing surface the size of the table – so much easier than trying to manoeuvre a quilt around on a tiny surface, and also ergonomically much better, because you’re sewing at a more natural height than when the machine is up on top of a table.

While I was rearranging furniture, I moved the bookcases out of the study so that I could have a design wall. It’s another thing I’ve wanted for ages – somewhere other than the floor to lay out quilt pieces so you can rearrange the pieces and plan how the finished quilt will look before you sew it together.

I was really pleased how it turned out. It’s just a flannelette sheet stapled to the wall (cotton fabric sticks wonderfully to flannelette, so it works great for a design wall – you don’t need to pin the pieces up or anything), but it looks quite professional. I think I need to stop calling this room my study though. Previously it was a study that happened to have a sewing machine in it, but now it’s more like a sewing room that happens to have a computer in it.

The pieces on the wall are the beginnings of a mini-quilt I promised the union organiser I’d make for the TEU’s Rainbow Te Kahukura subcommittee – she’s going to hang it in the window of the union offices as a sign that the union is an LGBTQI+ friendly space. Of course, once I’d started playing with my new setup, I had to keep going, so I ended up finishing the entire quilt by the next day – quilted with a rainbow design, of course :-) (I also discovered another use for my design wall – it make a great place to photograph work in progress!)

I tore myself away from my sewing on Saturday morning to go to the March for Science with Harvestbird and family. I had some cardboard from the box the table came in, so I plagiarised a few of the best slogans I’d seen on line for signs.

The march was quite small (just a few hundred people, from what I could tell), but very good-natured, and the speeches at the end were thankfully short, so it was a most enjoyable event. The elder mini-Harvestbird was very excited that she got to carry a sign in the march – Harvestbird is obviously doing a great job of raising future activists :-)

Some random photos from the march: (and then I’m never posting another photo until I get this computer fixed, because not having a decent photo editor is driving me mad!!!)

At least I don’t have any photos to post for last night’s excursion (even though the whole point of it was to take photos).  As those of you who live in appropriate latitudes will know, there’s been a very impressive display of aurora for the last couple of nights, so last night Lytteltonwitch suggested we take a road trip out to Lake Ellesmere, which is away from the lights of the city, and has a good clear view to the south, and see if we could spot them.  It had been a beautifully clear day, so the chances seemed good, so we headed out after the sun had set.  Unfortunately, when we got to the lake, it was covered in mist, which quickly thickened into fog, so it was impossible to see anything of the sky.  We decided to try Rakaia Huts instead, so got back in the car to head over there.

As we drove back round the base of the hills, there was a continuous stream of traffic heading out to the lake – I reckon everyone in Christchurch must have had the same idea, despite the ever-thickening fog.  Most people were driving to the conditions (the fog was so thick that the visibility was down to tens of metres, and it’s a typical NZ country road – unlit, winding, and narrow), so the traffic was travelling pretty slowly.  Unfortunately, some people weren’t so sensible, and were getting impatient at the slow traffic, so we were very nearly in a head-on collision when one driver decided to try and pass the long line of traffic.  In thick fog.   On a narrow country road.

The first we saw of him was a faint orange glimmer of lights through the fog, which I at first thought were the tail-lights of a car in front of us.  By the time my brain had registered that they didn’t look quite right for tail-lights, and seemed to be getting closer rather fast, Lytteltonwitch had slammed on the brakes (luckily we were going slowly enough that the car behind us had time to react too).  Thankfully the idiot coming towards us also just had time to react, and managed to pull back into the traffic on his side of the road (there was a lot of horn tooting going on at that moment!), or he would have hit us head on.  We were only doing about 60 km/h, and he wouldn’t have been going a lot faster, but still the combined impact would have been enough for a very serious crash, especially considering the amount of other traffic around us.  Quite a scary moment!

After we got our heartbeats back down to something approaching normal, we decided we’d carry on to Rakaia Huts (driving very slowly and carefully!), but there was fog out there too.  We did contemplate going up the Port Hills to try and get above the fog, but decided that the half of Christchurch that hadn’t gone to Lake Ellesmere would be up in the hills, and we’d had enough near misses for one night without tempting fate on roads with sheer drops alongside them, so we headed back into town (via the well-lit main highway!).  So no photos of the aurora, but at least we’re still alive!

And that’s (phew!) everything that I’ve been up to for the last week or two.

Dishcloth and pokebox

I finished my crocheted dishcloth!  It actually went pretty quickly once I got the hang of it.  Now that I know what I’m doing, I might have to go and buy some more wool (or cotton, or cotton wool… you know what I mean) so I can make another one to have as a spare. But this time in a plain colour that’s a bit easier to see!

My super busy and social weekend continued yesterday with the Harvestbirds coming over for lunch.  I’d promised this to the mini-Harvestbirds a few weeks ago when Harvestbird dropped by to pick up the wee sewing machine (which she’s borrowing while deciding whether she wants to buy herself a machine), and they were most disappointed when they weren’t allowed to stay.  So I’d promised them that on my first free day they could come over.

It was a very nice lunch (with way too much food, as usual, but that’s what having friends over is all about!), followed by several complicated games involving various dolls that I kept getting the names wrong of, and which had particularly disturbing body types (especially the ones that were (apparently) human versions of My Little Ponies, and wore unfeasably large boots) – I never thought I’d look fondly on Barbie dolls as having presented a comparatively realistic body image!  Then the elder mini-HB declared it was time to play “that drawing game we played last time”, which I eventually worked out was the simplified version of Pictionary we’d came up with on a previous visit (probably about a year ago!).  So we arranged ourselves into teams (after much discussion of the fact that having kids vs adults probably wouldn’t work very well when one of the kids isn’t old enough to be able to read the cards yet…) and took turns drawing a word from the cards (generally selected by the adult on the teams to be the easiest for the children to ether draw or guess).

I love seeing how kids’ brains work as they play Pictionary or charades, or any of those games that rely so heavily on theory of mind.  It’s often not until the word is guessed before you can actually figure out what the picture was supposed to be, and how that relates in any way to the actual word – like when younger mini-HB was tasked with drawing a boat, so spent a very long time drawing water, but never actually got round to drawing the boat.  Or, best of all, when elder mini-HB had to draw a box, so drew a pokeball, and then something resembling a cat. We spent a long time guessing various pokemon creatures (assuming she’d got bored with the word on the card and decided to draw something else, because I knew my edition of the game long pre-dated pokemon!) before realising that the cat-thing was actually supposed to be a box with its top flaps open, and the pokeball wasn’t capturing it, but being put in the box.  The logic of the drawing was impeccable.  To a six-year-old.

Shaky Isles

Back working on my models again.  I thought I’d be almost finished by now, but last week I discovered I’d missed a couple of crucial steps from the process, so I pretty much had to start from scratch again (not quite, because a lot of the work I’d done before will be useful, but still feels like I’ve wasted a couple of weeks’ work :-( ).


Well, it’s been an … interesting… couple of weeks since I last posted.  First there was the American elections.  We were watching the results come in in our office (it was early afternoon here), and, like the rest of the world, couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing as the map turned redder and redder.*  The mood was pretty sombre by the end of the day (especially for Rosalee, who does a lot of environmental work outside her paid work, especially around climate change, and I think was feeling like it was all for naught).

And of course, if we’re feeling unhappy about the election here, I can’t imagine how my American friends are feeling (or rather, I can – I’ve seen such an outpouring of grief, and fear, and anger from various corners of the internet that I occasionally inhabit).

*The whole red=right wing, blue=left always throws me when I watch American elections.  Here (and in the UK, and most other places I know anything about the politics of), red = left, blue = right.  So I always get excited when I see a state go red, then have to remind myself that it’s all back to front, and red is actually bad news.


The next horrible and unexpected event was last Monday’s earthquake.  It didn’t feel that strong in Christchurch, but it was enough to wake me up, and it went on for ages (I think they said it was about 2 minutes, which is a VERY long time – the September 2010 earthquake was only about 50 seconds, and that one felt like forever).  Even though the shaking didn’t feel that violent, it was a big rolling motion that was enough to get all the doors in my house swinging open and closed, and it definitely got the adrenaline going – it took me a few hours to get back to sleep (the quake struck just after midnight).

Getting back to sleep wasn’t helped by spending the first hour or so obsessively checking Geonet and various news websites to find out what had happened.  My initial worry was that it had been centred in Wellington (I could tell from the length and strength of the shaking that it had been big but not close to Christchurch, so Wellington was the obvious conclusion).  Thankfully it wasn’t, or the death toll would have been many hundreds instead of 2, but the news still isn’t good – Kaikoura and several other small towns in North Canterbury and Marlborough have pretty much been destroyed, and the main transport route between North and South Islands is gone, which we’ll be feeling the effects of for many months.  And although it wasn’t centred on Wellington, the direction the earthquake travelled means they took quite a hit from it, and there’s been quite a bit of damage to their CBD.


In happier news, Christian (of Jenny and Christian) is in town for a conference, so is staying with me.  It’s been great catching up with him, although I wish Jenny had been able to come over too (actually, she is in New Zealand at the moment too, but at a different conference up in Hamilton).  It reminds me of how much I miss their friendship – I really must find the time (and the money) to go over to Brisbane and visit them sometime! Maybe once I’ve got this thesis out of the way…


Hate it when that happens

Nope, that definitely doesn’t line up. Even though I spent ages checking and double-checking and was sure it lined up properly before I sewed the final seam, I must have moved it slightly while I was sewing it and now it is just off enough to be totally noticeable (to me, anyway), so I’m going to have to unpick that really really long seam (of really really small stitches) and try again.

It’s probably a sign that I should get over my aversion to hand-sewing and actually baste the important seams before I sew them…

Oh well, I don’t have time to worry about it right now anyway – I’ve got to catch a bus into Riccarton shortly to go to an earthquake memorial event (it’s the anniversary today), because I promised to take some photos for work (and just because I like the annual opportunity to reflect and remember).  Though there might not be a lot to take photos of – I suspect the turn-out will be pretty small given the drizzly weather.

The Mystery of the Green Bin

Someone has pinched my green bin!*  I came home tonight (after yet another end-of-year function at work) and went to empty the wee compost bin I keep in the kitchen, and the green bin wasn’t in my driveway where it normally lives.  The other two bins are there, so obviously whoever took it only needed one.  But as you get them free from the city council, I don’t know why anyone would need to steal one in the first place.  Or why they’d walk to the end of the driveway to steal mine (the bins are visible from the street, but it’s not like they’re right by the gate or anything) when it’s bin night tonight, so there’s plenty of them sitting out on the street much easier to take.

I did think at first that maybe a kind neighbour had put it out for me, but it wasn’t out on the street.  Then I checked the alleyway, thinking maybe it was kids being silly, but no sign of it there either.  So I suppose I’ll have to phone the council in the morning and ask them for a new one, and in the meantime I’ll have to be naughty and put my kitchen waste in the red bin instead.

Very mysterious, and very annoying.

*For non-Christchurch people: we have a system of three wheelie-bins for our rubbish, a green one for organic waste, a yellow one for recycling, and a red one for everything else.  The green one gets collected every week, and the other two on alternating weeks.