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.

Dratted Debbie

After doing a pretty good job of trashing Queensland and the North Island, Cyclone Debbie reached us last night. This far south, it’s not a proper cyclone, just a lot of rain and a bit of wind, but it’s still been pretty miserable weather. The Press this morning was saying we’d get an entire month’s worth of rain today, which is not far off – the Met Service is showing 40.6 mm at the moment, with more still to come tonight.  The average rainfall for all of April is only 44.2 mm.

Luckily, we’ve so far escaped any serious flooding in Christchurch (about time the natural disasters passed us by!) – even the surface flooding isn’t as bad as it often is with heavy rain, because we’ve had enough rain over the last few weeks to keep the drains from blocking.  Normally rain in autumn means loads of surface flooding, because it’s such a dry time of year that nobody bothers to clear leaves from drains, so when it does rain they all get blocked immediately.

On totally selfish grounds, all this rain is worrying, because it’s graduation next week (which is held indoors, but we’re supposed to process into the venue, which we won’t get to do if it rains), and I’m having a party to celebrate, which for ages I’ve been planning to have in my back yard, because April in Christchurch is always dry and mild, and sometimes even still pretty warm.  Except the long range forecast for next week looks like this:

(Screenshot from)

A friend of Dad’s is lending me a couple of marquees, but at this rate my lawn is going to be a sea of mud, and it’ll be too cold even in a marquee. And I’ve invited too many people to fit inside my little house.

Oh well, I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed that the Met Service have got it wrong. Long range forecasts can change dramatically before they arrive (one of the wonders of living on an island in the middle of a very large ocean, with pretty much nothing between us and Antarctica, is that forecasting our weather more than a day or two out isn’t exactly reliable :-) ), so I’m trying not to panic too much just yet. I suppose if the worst comes to worst, I can see if I can find somewhere to hire some duckboards and outdoor heaters…

As you may recall, I’ve been looking for ages for a footstool to go with my armchair. This has been a surprisingly difficult search, because I wanted it to be at just the right height so that my legs end up at the right angle when I’m sitting doing cross-stitch, so that I can have the pattern I’m following sitting on my lap and not slide off. I found and recovered an old footstool I found down in Alexandra last year, but it was a bit too tall. Lytteltonwitch found me another old stool which was closer to the right height, but a bit big and chunky. So the search continued.

Until Tuesday night, when I went to an upholstery class at Make, and made my own.

I used another piece of my Damascus silk to cover it, and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out (except that my attempts to get the pattern of the fabric perfectly centred didn’t quite work, so the button ended up looking like it’s off-centre. It’s not, it’s the fabric that’s just a bit off-centre :-( ).

The class was really good, and I learnt a lot (like all the things I did wrong when I recovered the other footstool – I’m tempted to remove its cover and try again, now that I know what I’m doing), and best of all, I’ve now got a little footstool that’s almost exactly the right height.


It’s been a busy but very productive weekend.  The first thing I achieved was yesterday morning, when I got a load of firewood delivered, and managed to get it stacked into the garage in record time.  That hadn’t been the plan, because I was supposed to be going to Mr Harvestbird’s birthday party, but when I rang the firewood company earlier in the week to place the order, they had a cancellation that meant they could deliver yesterday instead of me having to wait for weeks, so I said yes, thinking I could leave it to stack today.  But then the forecast was for rain all weekend, so I had to get it stacked inside straight away before it got too wet.  I was pretty impressed with myself that I managed to get the whole load stacked in just a couple of hours, even if it did mean I was a bit late for the party by the time I’d finished and had a shower.

The party was fun – as always is the case at the Harvestbirds’ parties, a real mixture of different types of people (accompanied by what seemed to be hordes of small children) , with pass the parcel and bubble machines (I want one!) for the children, playstation for the teens, and fancy cocktails for the adults.

This morning I scrubbed down the kitchen table so I could try table-basting my Jelly Roll Race quilt.  It worked really well, and was so much easier than trying to do it on the floor like I have with other quilts, because you’re not having to crawl all over the quilt, wrinkling it up as fast as you’re smoothing it out.  You don’t even need a massive table for it, because you work in sections, smoothing the layers out and securing them with clips before pinning them together, then you unclip it and move to the next section.  I even found a great tip (which of course I forgot to save the link to, so I can’t give credit for it) for making sure the various layers are centred on each other properly:  you tape a couple of skewers to the centre of the table before you start, then you can feel them through the fabric as you add each layer of fabric and batting, so that you can make sure all the centres end up in the same place.

Lots of photos of the process:

I didn’t start the actual quilting, because I wanted to continue working on the blocks for the Three Dudes quilt, but it’s all basted now and ready to go when I feel inspired to get back to some free-motion quilting.

Talking of the Three Dudes quilt, that’s what I spent the rest of the afternoon working on. I managed to get all the strip sets sewn together, and then cut the strips up into 10.5 inch lengths so that they’re square. That’s not the final block though – next step is to sew them back together (in a different way, of course!), and then cut them again, and then sew them again… and after all that they should come out looking really interesting. But that’s a job for another productive weekend.

(lumpy) White (almost) Christmas

December weather is notoriously changeable in Christchurch, but it’s been outdoing itself this year – the temperature has been going from high 20s to just above freezing and back again in the space of a few days, and yesterday we had two huge storms, with thunder and hail and all sorts of drama.

The first storm was incredibly loud – there was a clap of thunder right over the house that was one of the loudest I’ve ever heard (and which terrified poor Parsnips, who dashed into the tiny space behind my desk and refused to come out for an hour), followed by huge hailstones (well, marble-sized, anyway), which were falling at an angle, so made the most incredible racket hitting the corrugated iron fence that runs along my driveway. With the size of them, I didn’t want to go out and take photos while they were falling, and they melted pretty fast, so I didn’t get any decent photos, but I did capture a small drift developing against the fence (ignore the unmown grass…)

The second storm, an hour or two later, wasn’t as impressive, but it still dumped quite a lot of hail (and re-terrorised poor Parsnips, who was just starting to cautiously emerge from her hiding spot).

The storms must have been moving pretty fast, too, because I got an email from Mum at about half past 10 saying they’d just had thunder and hail in Alexandra, and it hit Christchurch less than three hours later. It’s roughly 320 km as the crow flies from Alexandra to Christchurch, so assuming it was the same storm, that means the front must have been travelling at around 100 km/h. Pretty impressive!

Somewhere over the last couple of weeks I did get around to putting up my Christmas tree, but I forgot to take photos at the time. So, to rectify that:

We’ve put our Christmas “tree” up at work, too – or at least decorated our door. There’s photos on our blog.

On Friday evening, Lytteltonwitch and I went out to Shands Road to see the lights. The Press had been making a big deal of the lights, saying they were completely redesigned from last year, but it turned out there were only a few small changes here and there. I was glad I hadn’t bothered to take my camera this time, because the photos would have all looked the same as last year’s. It was still interesting though, because we went out a little earlier this year, so got there while it was still light enough to see the structures holding up the lights, so it was cool to see how it was all done (and had the bonus that it was still early enough to get a park quite near the lights – last year we had to walk for miles!). Plus it was worth the entry fee just to see Lytteltonwitch, who claims to love spiders, be scared out of her skin by a mechanical spider that jumped out at her from one of the displays (for some unknown reason they always have a Halloween-themed display in amongst the Christmas lights, even though it doesn’t open until December, well after Halloween), while I was completely unfazed by it – though her scream did make me jump! I don’t think we’ll bother going back again next year though.

Christmas-present spoilers again – all that bad weather at the weekend meant I made good progress through my production line of mini-quilts.

Finished binding these two:

And quilted the other stars (though didn’t quite finish putting the binding on):

I’m pretty pleased with how the quilting went on this one – I found a new Christmassy design to try, and, after a bit of practice, managed to get it flowing reasonably well. Here’s a close-up of the back so you can see the quilting a bit better:

While I was googling Christmassy FMQ designs, I was distracted by another project I spotted on this blog – some very clever trees made from half-square triangles. So of course I had to give it a go. And then make a second one, just to perfect the technique (and also because I still needed a couple of presents for work team members). They’re less fiddly to make than they look, so I managed to get them both sewn and quilted on Sunday, so I just need to finish off the binding, and they’ll be done too.

But it’s November!

This happens every year in Christchurch, but for some reason it always surprises us. We have a few nice warm days in October, we all decide it’s summer, and then are horribly shocked when the weather reverts back to cold and wet again.  This morning’s frost was a bit of a shock, though – according to Stuff (that well-known bastion of excellence in reporting… not) it’s the coldest November morning for 60 years.  But still, cold spells in November (or even December – the weather doesn’t really settle down for summer until after Christmas) are pretty normal for Christchurch. Spring isn’t so much a period of mild weather as a time of wildly alternating temperatures, where one day you’re sweltering in a nor’wester, and the next the southerly blows back in and you’re huddled up in coats and scarves again.  About the only thing you can be sure of is that Show Day will always be hot, with a strong nor’wester blowing the dust up.  Luckily, I’ll be in Auckland :-)

And breathe…

First term of the semester is over, and I handed my first big assignment in yesterday, so I can pause and relax – well, for a couple of days, at least.  I’ve got another assignment due in three weeks, so I’ll have to work on that over the break.  And of course, I’ll still be work working (which is still incredibly busy), so yeah, about the only thing that changes is that I don’t have any classes to attend for the next two weeks.  But I’m at least trying to have a break this weekend – I’ve purposely left all my books and notes at work, and am so far avoiding the temptation to just pop into the office for an hour to check that one thing (Harvestbird threatened to call security and have them cut off my door access for the weekend, to make absolutely sure I didn’t do any work :-) ), so maybe I’ll get a chance to actually relax a bit.  Of course, given how intensely I’ve been working for the past few weeks (I stay late at work (because it’s easier to access the linguistics software I need from there) to study for an hour or two most evenings, plus at least one full working day at the weekend (the rest of the weekend is usually devoted to essentials like cleaning the house, buying groceries, and sometimes even finding an hour or two to catch up with friends)), it’s going to take me most of the weekend to get myself out of total panic I-have-so-much-to-do-and-no-time mode, so I should start feeling semi-relaxed around Sunday night, I reckon, just in time to go back to work on Monday and be right back into it.

But in the meantime, a couple of days of freedom! :-)

And to make the weekend even nicer, it’s a lovely sunny day after a couple of weeks of rain.  It’s not really warm enough yet to have all the windows open, but I have anyway, just to make the most of that tiny hint of spring in the air.

Talking of tiny hints of spring, look what I spotted in my (rather messy – must give the lawnmower guy a call) lawn yesterday:

Yep, those are tulip leaves!  The lawn may not be the usual place to grow tulips, but that’s because that part used to be a flower bed, but some years ago I gave up on pretending I would ever manage proper gardening and let it all convert to lawn.  I obviously missed a few bulbs when I dug out the plants, because every couple of years something will pop up unexpectedly.  They don’t always survive as far as actually flowering (generally because I forget to warn the lawnmower guy so he mows over the top of them…), but just seeing the leaves is like a promise of spring.

All the colours

An exciting wee parcel waiting for me in the letterbox when I got home tonight (luckily well-wrapped, so it survived the day’s rain/hail/sleet/general horribleness of weather) – a pack of “charm squares” (little sample-sized pieces of fabric – no idea why they’re called charm squares, but it seems to be the standard term in quilting for fabric samples) from Oakshott Fabrics in the UK, the other half of my prize from Tartankiwi’s In Flight draw the other day.

The fabric is really lovely – all sorts of amazing colours, with a subtle shot effect through it.

SO tempted to start a new project so I can play with them!  Must remember I’m starting study again next week… must remember I’m starting study again next week… must remember…


A rainy sleety day yesterday, followed by a harsh frost last night (though not as harsh as some places – according to The Press, it got down to -20oC up at Lake Pukaki last night!!!) means that the entire city is coated with ice this morning.  Getting to work was a bit of a challenge as a result – I set out to walk, but realised half way down my driveway that wasn’t going to be an option.  Having grown up in Central, I’m pretty good at walking on black ice, but walking nearly 4km on it did not at all appeal (quite apart from the fact that I’d have to walk so slowly so as not to fall over that there’s no way I’d get there on time).

So I decided to catch the bus instead, which turned out to be not much faster than walking, because the traffic was moving so slowly, with everyone being super cautious because of the ice (for those of you from Northern Hemisphere type places with proper winters who are wondering why the council hadn’t salted or gritted the roads, that’s because this kind of weather happens so rarely here that nobody’s prepared for it, so the council doesn’t actually have any of the equipment or materials they’d need for such a job.  It’s the same when it snows – the city just shuts down for the day…).  Listening to the chatter over the bus driver’s radio, it sounded like there were quite a few accidents happening despite the cautious driving. I finally made it into work half an hour late, to find a message from my boss saying he wasn’t coming in at all – he normally bikes in, but couldn’t keep his bike upright for more than a few metres at a time, so decided to work from home.  Wish I’d thought of that!

Oh well, at least I’m in my nice warm(ish) office now, and don’t have to go out again until this evening (well, unless I venture out to the student cafe later for a nice warming hot chocolate), by which time hopefully the ice will have thawed. Yay winter.

Stick some gears on it (warning, many many photos)

Lytteltonwitch and I spent the weekend in Oamaru, where they were holding their annual Steampunk Festival.  We didn’t dress up ourselves, but we did go to a few of the events. I think what was most fun though was just seeing all the costumed people wandering around the streets.

I wasn’t brave enough to actually ask people to pose for a photo very often – most of the photos I just took without asking (not that anyone seemed to mind when the did notice I was taking a photo – I think walking around in costume pretty much comes with the assumption that people will take your photo).  I should have asked more often, though, because those photos are definitely the ones that came out best.  Although some of the unposed ones did make for fun juxtapositions.

There was a Steampunk Market on the Saturday, with some amazing costumes on both customers and stall-holders:

Also on Saturday we went to a talk about the science of Scott’s Antarctic expedition (the speaker arguing that the expedition was far from the incompetent “boy’s own adventure” it has been portrayed as in the popular media, but rather was a serious scientific expedition, with many of the “bad” decisions Scott made being explained by the fact that he was more concerned with collecting good data than with his own or his team’s safety.

Then later in the afternoon was a dramatised reading of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, performed by a group from Wellington, accompanied by much audience participation in the form of flag-waving and shouts of “Huzzah!” at appropriate moments.  The performers led us on a walk around Oamaru, stopping at various points to perform another Fit of the poem.

The cast:

Most of the audience were just as decorative as the performers:


Lytteltonwitch was trusted with the holding of the Jubjub bird staff.  So of course she immediately started trying to peck people with it…

On Sunday we saw even more elaborate costumes at the fashion show.  The contestants were judged not only on their costumes, but also on the backstories they’d come up with for their characters.  Some of them were very clever (and a couple were just incomprehensible…).  There was an audience choice section, and it was very difficult to choose who to vote for, because there were so many amazing costumes and stories.

I didn’t get many photos at the show, because we were sitting a few rows back, so I had the choice of either getting lots of audience heads in my photos, or standing up and annoying the people behind me.  So I didn’t take any photos during the competition itself, but did manage to grab a few during the photo shoot session they had while waiting for the judges to return.

This woman’s costume was amazing (she was Absinthe, The Green Fairy), but obviously it was also amazingly heavy, because she had so much trouble walking in it that she needed the help of her kilted companion (who I gathered was her partner, who didn’t normally participate in steampunk events, but had dressed up so he could accompany her on stage) to stop from falling over as she walked the catwalk, and her smile had more than a hint of grimace of pain to it.

[Edit: I’ve been informed that I was mistaken in my assumption that the Green Fairy was suffering under the weight of her wings.  In fact, her wings are very lightweight, but due to an accident she has difficulty walking and climbing stairs, and having spent most of the day on her feet while rehearsing for the show, was in a lot of pain, hence the need for her companion to assist her.  Makes her achievement in participating in the show all the more impressive!]

Another view of those massive wings.

Although the MC tried to coordinate the photoshoot, asking the contestants to all face to one side of the runway or the other, he had limited success, because they all kept turning the wrong way to wave to friends in the audience. Because of where I was sitting, I couldn’t get everyone in frame anyway (and never did manage to get a photo of the people at the far end of the runway), so this is the closest I got to a group shot of all the costumes.

The woman with the multi-coloured parasol and her green-suited partner (who featured earlier in the Hunting of the Snark cast) were who I ended up voting for, mainly because their story was very clever (it involved a safari to hunt tea-krakkens).

Oamaru is definitely embracing its new steampunk identity, with a lot of businesses cashing in on the trend (with varying degrees of successs – probably because it’s pretty obvious which ones are only doing it to try and attract tourist dollars).  This sculpture outside a car dealership was pretty cool, though:

And of course, in the midst of the Victorian quarter is Steampunk HQ itself, a very strange place that’s a cross between a junkyard and an art installation, and definitely an entertaining place to explore.

There’s a steampunk-themed playground, too, with elaborately-carved old trees decorating its boundary:

It wasn’t all steampunk though.  We did take an early-morning walk around the waterfront (and later, rode the old train back round the same route – I think the train’s supposed to be for kids, but we still had fun :-) )

We also visited an art gallery, which (among other things) had a WW1 commemoration that was very well done.  If you’ve been to Oamaru, you might have noticed the avenue of trees going up the hill, each of which was planted in memory of a local man killed in the war, and each of which bears a brass plaque with his name.  Over the years, many of the trees have had to be cut down for various reasons (mostly because they were dying), so the plaques were preserved.  The exhibition displayed all of the removed plaques, turning them into temporary artworks.  (Only one sneaky photo, because I wasn’t sure if photography was allowed inside the gallery).

And on Sunday morning we took an early-morning walk through the botanic gardens, which were shivering under a very heavy frost (there was even a decent layer of ice on one of the ponds):


DD’s been down again, so of course I’ve spent the last day and a half composing all sorts of interesting and amusing blog posts in my head, and now that it’s back up I can’t remember any of them.  So instead, a few highlights of the past few days:

On Friday I discovered that there are actually some really nice people in the world.  I was waiting at the bus stop in the rain, and as usual the bus was running late, and every time I checked the real-time arrivals thing it would tell me that it was going to be even later.  So I’d resigned myself to being very cold and wet by the time I got home.  Except that a complete stranger stopped her car and asked if I wanted a lift somewhere, which I most gratefully accepted.  (Sorry Mum, I know you spent my entire childhood telling me not to get in a car with a stranger, but not having to wait in the rain for another 20 minutes totally beats stranger danger any day 😉 )

On Saturday night I went to a games night with the Gwilks.  There were enough people that we split into two rooms, so I joined the group playing Shadows Over Camelot, a game I’d actually played before (it’s becoming a joke that every time I go to one of the games nights I end up playing a game I haven’t seen before, and just when I’m getting the hang of it the game is over and I’ll never get another chance to play it, because the next games night there’ll be a new game).  However, this time we were playing a variation on it (so it was kind of a new game, but at least I already understood most of the game mechanics).  It’s a cooperative game, so basically you either all win or all lose, but the variant we were playing had a traitor, so it was them against the rest of us.  Except we didn’t know until the end who the traitor was.  It’s quite a difficult game, and we ended up losing, but it was still a lot of fun.

On Sunday we had a bookcrossing meetup.  Our brunch meetups didn’t suit everyone, so we shifted to lunch instead, and met at the new cafe in the Botanic Gardens.  It was incredibly busy (the line stretched right around the cafe at one point), but we managed to snag a table, and by borrowing chairs from other tables somehow managed to fit all of us around it.  Lots of books being exchanged, of course – the tower of books in the centre of the table was getting quite dangerously high for a while there.

I’d hoped to get some more work done on my experimental quilt, but between all that socialness and having spent a good chunk of Saturday curled up in front of the fire with a good book, I only quilted one square:

The pattern is called Windswept, and I really struggled to get the hang of it.  I just couldn’t get my speed right or the fabric flowing smoothly, and then just when it was starting to go right I discovered that somehow my backing fabric had got folded over, so I had to unpick a big section and resew it (which is why there’s some really messy bits down the right hand side).  I think it’s one of those patterns which could look really good with a bit more practice, though.

The back looks a wee bit better (mainly because the cotton doesn’t contrast so much, so the wobbles in my sewing aren’t as obvious), but it still doesn’t look much like the tutorial:

Oh well, the whole point of the experimental quilt is to allow myself to make a mess of it and learn via my mistakes, not worry about it being perfect…