Small people and musicals

I’ve been using a couple of random bits of fabric and batting as a practice quilt sandwich, for checking tension and trying out new quilting patterns before I actually start quilting something. I’d completely filled up the piece with stitching, so I was about to throw it out and replace it with some new scraps, but then I realised that it was exactly the right size to make a quilt for a doll, so I quickly put some binding on it, and presented it to the smaller mini-Harvestbird today as a consolation prize for not being able to come to a show with me and her big sister:

It’s very random – different patterns and thread colours, and lots of squiggly bits where I was trying to figure out what was wrong with the machine speed before I got it repaired) with absolutely no plan to it (not surprising, considering it was never supposed to be anything), but hopefully mini-Harvestbird’s dolls won’t be fussy :-)

The reason I was taking the elder mini-Harvestbird to the theatre was that I got a text last night from Ade saying she’d double-booked herself, so had two tickets she couldn’t use for this afternoon’s performance of Beauty and the Beast at the local high school (not quite as horrific as it sounds, because Burnside High is known for its performing arts department, so their productions are usually pretty good), and would I like them. I said yes, and (reasoning that small children would be more interested in Beauty and the Beast than most adults I know) messaged Harvestbird to ask whether (assuming such a thing could be done without causing sibling disputes) she’d like me to take one of the girls. Luckily (?) the smaller mini-Harvestbird was sick, so the decision (and explanation to smaller mini-Harvestbird as to why she was missing out!) was pretty easy, so elder mini-Harvestbird and I spent the afternoon at the theatre.

It was actually a lot of fun – the show itself was pretty good for a high school production, even though Disney musicals aren’t exactly my thing (actually, I’ve never even seen the original movie of Beauty and the Beast (although of course I recognised about half of the songs just through how embedded in the culture they are)). What was the most fun though was seeing it through the eyes of a 6 year old. She was so excited by it all, hiding behind her hands when the Beast came out, and bouncing along in her seat to the songs, and turning to me at key plot points to whisper that I shouldn’t worry, because she knew it would have a happy ending. It was fun too seeing her learning the social conventions of theatre-going (which you forget have to be learnt), like when to clap, and she was very confused by the overture – when we were waiting before the lights went down she was exploding with impatience, and kept asking me when it would start, so I explained that everyone had to finish sitting down first, and then the doors would close, and then the lights go down and everyone would get quiet, and then it would start. When the music started and the curtains stayed closed, she turned to me and asked “why haven’t they started?” like she was being cheated – it hadn’t even occurred to me that to a child, an orchestra playing to a closed curtain wouldn’t seem much like anything had started!

Anyway, I think the show was a success. While we were waiting outside theatre afterwards for Harvestbird to come and pick us up, she chattered away to me about her favourite bits, and how she would have made the transformation of the Beast into the Prince so much better (flashing lights and smoke effects while the actor ducks down behind the scenery and removes his mask doesn’t quite measure up to the morphing that can be done in a cartoon, apparently :-) ), and how much she was looking forward to getting home and telling everyone all about it.

It’s been a pretty social week all round, actually. On Thursday night I hosted the craft meetup (it normally rotates round a few different people’s places, interspersed with meeting in bars, so I put up my hand last time the organiser was planning the venues for the next few weeks). I think 8 people turned up – if there’d been any more it might have been a struggle to squeeze them all into the lounge, so that was a nice number. The evening went really well, and I even managed to get a bit of sewing done (putting the binding on the doll’s quilt, actually) in between making people cups of tea and passing around cake. Plus it was nice not to have to venture out into the horrible weather myself, so I think I’ll offer to be put into the regular rotation of venues.

Talking of craft meetups, I forgot to post a picture of the insects embroidery I’d been working on at the meetups, which I finally finished last week:

As always seems to be the case with me and embroidery projects, I’ve got no idea what I’m going to do with it now that it’s finished. Maybe I should do another giveaway – if you want it, let me know!

This month is Diversity Fest at the university, with all sorts of talks and other events themed around various forms of diversity. Last night I went to a screening of Intersexion, a documentary about intersex people, followed by a panel discussion. The film was really interesting – though horrifying to hear the experiences of people who whose genitals were mutilated in childhood without their consent, all in the name of making them “normal”, and the effects that has had on them in adulthood. And even worse to learn that this is still happening to many intersex babies born today :-( The discussion afterwards was great too – the panel was made up of an intersex person, a non-binary person from Qtopia (the student/youth LGBTI+ group that was hosting the event), and a gender studies/cultural studies lecturer, plus there were some really insightful questions and comments from the audience.

And finally, a video. Ages ago (the day I submitted my thesis, actually), I, along with several other students, was asked by the Head of the Linguistics Department if I’d be a talking head for a promotional campaign they’re doing for the department. So of course I said yes, and was interviewed, and then completely forgot about it, until this week when the videos went onto YouTube, and I get to see how badly I stumbled through describing my research (actually, they’ve done a good job of editing it together in a way that almost sounds like I know what I’m talking about!)

Ok, let’s see if I can get this embed code to work…

Quilting and singing and games

I started the quilting!

I did get quite a bit further than that today, but by the time I thought to take another photo the light was no good.  So you’ll just have to wait :-)  I managed to get just over a quarter of it done, though, so I’m making good progress.  And the quilting is working out exactly as I envisioned it, so it should look pretty good when it’s finished.

I went to see the NZ Opera production of Carmen last night with Lytteltonwitch.  It’s actually the first “proper” opera I’ve ever seen, and it was really good.  I was very glad of the surtitles though, as otherwise I’d have had no idea what was going on (Lytteltonwitch summed up the plot for me as roughly “Boy meets girl, someone dies at the end, and in between there’s a lot of singing”).  It took me about half an hour to figure out what language they were singing in, let alone be able to make out any of the words… yeah, I probably should have bought a programme or something :-)

Anyway, I really enjoyed it, and was surprised at how many of the tunes I recognised – a lot of them are ones that are just in the popular consciousness, without you necessarily knowing where they come from.  The staging was really good too – they did some really clever stuff with lighting, like casting shadows of the actors onto the walls during the bar scene, which gave quite a threatening feel to it.  The bar scene also cleverly put the women in a position of power, so that it switched gradually from a group of drunken men demanding that the women (not sure if they were supposed to represent prostitutes?) dance for them, to the women totally controlling the men and making them perform – the confusion at the end of the scene when the men suddenly realising the roles had been reversed was quite lovely.

And of course, as you’d expect, some really powerful singing, especially from the performer playing Carmen.

On Friday night I went round to Dana’s after work (this is becoming a regular thing).  There was quite a large group there, so rather than play video games (as is usual on Friday nights – they have a Nintendo Switch connected to a projector, so the screen is pretty much the entire wall), we played a few board games.  One was totally new to me (and I can’t remember the name of it now), but the others I’d played before with the Gwilks – Dixit and Codenames.  A lot of fun, even if I did feel a bit old at times (most of the people there were in their mid twenties).  And I was on the winning team for two of the games, which is always good :-)

On stage at the Theatre Royal

Just had one of those “I love my job” moments.  The polytech is running an architecture summer school, and as part of it they’d organised a tour for their students to look around the rebuilt Theatre Royal, an amazing heritage project that reconstructed (almost from the ground up) an Edwardian theatre badly damaged in the earthquakes. And we got invited to join them for the tour.

It was very short notice (we only heard about it an hour before it started, just enough time for us to race into town), so I didn’t have my camera with me, but it was an amazing experience.  The tour was led by the CEO of the theatre and the project architect, who were able to tell us so much about the process, and all the amazing things they’d had to do to preserve as much of the original material as possible, and to recreate what hadn’t been preserved (while cleverly hiding lots of nice modern safety features in behind the walls :-)).  As well as the auditorium area, they also showed us around backstage, down into the orchestra pit, and of course onto the stage itself.

So cool – incredibly interesting to see behind the scenes (almost literally – except the stage was empty, so there were no scenes to see behind ;-)), and the restoration work is just amazing.  Definitely got to go and see a production there sometime soon!

Promise and Promiscuity

Busker’s Festival is on at the moment, so Lytteltonwitch and I went to see Promise and Promiscuity tonight, a one-woman show based (loosely) around Jane Austen’s works, with a lot of modern references thrown in.  It was very cleverly done, with the actor (who also wrote the script) putting on different voices and mannerisms as she jumped from character to character (some of the scenes had four or five characters in them, so it was quite a feat!)  There was the obligatory audience participation, with someone from the audience being dragged up to dance with her at the ball (he was with a group who were all dressed up in steampunk outfits, so he almost looked the part, too – only about a hundred years out :-) ), and lots of local references thrown in (as when one of the characters got lost in the dreaded “Lin Woods” – Linwood is a (rather rough) suburb of Christchurch).

We’d had a quick dinner before the show in one of the new places in the rebuilt Strange’s building (well, actually it’s kind of an old place reinvented – Vespa, which used to be in Poplar Lane before the earthquakes), but as it was a horribly hot day and we were eating really early, we just had a few tapas dishes.  So after the show we decided we needed dessert, and decided to try out Strawberry Fare, another place I haven’t been to since well before the earthquakes.  They’re also in a fancy new building, but their menu doesn’t seem to have changed much – probably a sensible move, seeing as they’ve got a very successful formula.  Their portion sizes have shrunk a little from what I remember, but we still decided to just split a dessert – a whole one each would still have been way too big (and expensive!) – half was just enough.

It was fun to go out to some new/old places, and reminded me I haven’t been out for dinner for ages.  I was making a point of going out regularly for a while, while I was adjusting to my new improved life, but I’ve let myself get out of the habit.  I really must start doing it again.

Culture, wind, and a blast from the past

Got a surprise on the way home last night – I was walking across the campus when l heard someone call my name. The person talking to me looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place him.  But then, I met a lot of people while I was doing union work, so I’m used to people recognising me even when I’m not sure who they are. But as we chatted, it suddenly clicked into place and I realised where I knew him from: the science fiction club I was in coughty-cough years ago as a young undergrad!  Amazing that he recognised me after all these years!

Christchurch is known for its strong nor’west winds, but I’ve never seen any as strong as on Tuesday night. The met service was reporting wind gusts of 133 km/h at the airport, and I reckon they hadn’t slowed down much by the time they reached my house. The bedroom window (which the wind was pretty much hitting face on) was shaking and creaking so much that I went through to the lounge and slept on the couch just in case it blew in and showered me in glass. Then the power went out, which of course made the wind sound so much worse – funny how the dark can do that :-)  It was well after midnight before the wind quietened down enough that I could get to sleep, so it was a very long and tiring day at work on Wednesday (made even more exhausting by the fact I spent most of it training our new staff).

Thankfully there was no damage to my place, but there’s a lot of people around Christchurch who can’t say the same.  Trees down all over the place (I counted at least 5 big trees on my way to work, including one that had fallen across the road around the corner from me, resulting in the road being closed for two days while they cleared it), and roofs and fences blown away.  At this rate there’ll soon be nothing left of the city at all.

The Arts Festival is on at the moment, and I’ve managed to get to a few things.  The highlight so far was Gifted, Patrick Evans’s new play about Janet Frame.  Those of you who heard him talk at the Christchurch convention will understand when I say he managed to capture her voice incredibly well.  I was actually a bit aprehensive going to see the play, because the last play of his I saw wasn’t that great (Lytteltonwitch, I think you went to that one too?  This one was so much better!).  It was such a relief to actually enjoy it, so when I ran into him at work the next day I could genuinely tell him how much I liked it :-)

Another highlight was Rosemary McLeod’s talk about her book With Bold Needle and Thread.  Sister-in-law gave me the book for my birthday, and it’s absolutely gorgeous – full of beautiful photographs of vintage crafts and McLeod’s recreations of them with modern materials.  So it was great to hear her talk about the project and the book – she even had a little show and tell of some of the original objects.

I’ve been to a few non-Festival talks lately too.  One was the Royal Society’s Rutherford lecture, given by Margaret Brimble.  She talked about the process of discovering new molecules that could potentially have medical use, taking natural products as their starting point – it’s a lot more complex than I ever imagined!

Another fascinating lecture was by Craig Stanford, who works with the Jane Goodall Research Centre.  He was talking about primate behaviour, and the many environmental (and political) threats to the great apes’ survival.  As well as being interesting, he was a really entertaining speaker, which always helps.

So yeah, life is busy.  And good.

Visions of Decoupage*

Well, my experiment in a new craft is going pretty well so far.  It started with a couple of cheap tables off TradeMe and an old dictionary (Warning to bookcrossers and other booklovers, the following images contain graphic scenes of book abuse. You may want to look away now.):








It still needs another coat or two of varnish, and I have to decide if I want to do anything to the base, but I’m pretty pleased with how it’s looking so far!

As for the second table (modelled below by Parsnips), now that I’ve got the basic technique worked out, I’ve got even more ambitious plans…


In other news, I went to Avenue Q on Thursday night – just a local amateur production, but it was really well done and great fun.  The actors did a great job with the puppets – I very quickly found myself watching the puppets’ faces instead of the actors’, which is probably a good sign they’re doing it right.  It’s still on for a few more days, so Christchurch people I highly recommend you go!


*Harvestbird reckons that’s my new band name :-)