Saturday, April 28, 2012

There and here

No-show last week because I went to Auckland to see family and friends and some pictures. The Degas to Dali exhibition at the redone Auckland Art Gallery was entirely satisfying, partly because of the outstandingly good text that went with it - it sounded like (and was probably by?) my favourite NZ art expert, Mary Kisler, who told Kim Hill it was the best exhibition she'd worked on. It's on till 10 June.
        And then I saw an ad in the paper for a Frances Hodgkins exhibition at the Jonathan Grant Galleries in Parnell, so we went to that too. It included the rescued 1930s black chalk drawing "The Sitting Room", which had been used as a kitchen cupboard door in a student flat in Canterbury, England, and was thrown into a skip during renovations - read the full story here. There were also a number of works which had belonged to Hodgkins' close friend Jane Saunders (the Hocken LIbrary has a lovely double portrait by Hodgkins of Jane and her partner Hannah Ritchie). For a moment I had a mad impulse to buy one, but of course calmed down and bought the catalogue instead.  You can see all the works, which span 1901 to 1947, at the excellent online site here.
          So what with all this absorbing art, and spending decent lengths of time with friends and family I hadn't seen for a while (including meeting my new great-nephew), and the glorious weather and good food, I had a pretty nice time. For no particular reason, I suddenly lost it on the bus coming back from the airport, but the messages on my answerphone pulled me out of that trough and set me back on my feet again. 
           Now I have two new editing jobs and three book reviews to do, so that will keep me occupied for a while. And tonight I went to see Geraldine Brophy and Jane Keller in the last night of Floral Notes, a wry, moving, stylish piece (they wrote it themselves) about the numerous species to which I belong, but which is still all too rarely seen on the stage - older women. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Farewell to Watts Hardware

Tonight I went to the farewell, in the local church hall, to John and Anne Watts. John ran Watts Hardware in Marsden Village for thirty-seven and a half years. (I got this photo off Google, so it's not very good.) It was a lovely old-fashioned hardware shop, stocking an astonishing range of things. About ten years ago I wandered in one day and found a beautiful, not-too-big traditional roasting dish, complete with rack. Harvey was very pleased with it and used it a lot for his famous roasts.
      Everyone who served me there was really helpful and kind, endlessly patient with my dim questions about the finer points of paint and sandpaper, handles and glue. The last big thing I bought was a kind of solid rubber wedge, to form the end of the new ramp at our front door. It was quite expensive, but they knew it was for Harvey, and gave us a really good price. But the ramp was finished only a month before he died, so he hardly used it.
       John Watts is getting on, and now he's not in good health, so he's had the big sale and closed down. It feels like the breaking of another link to my past life, both with Harvey and with the kinds of shops and shopkeepers I grew up with in Auckland's Mount Eden. So like everyone else around here, I'm really sad to lose him.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Wellington is enjoying an astonishingly fine autumn. On Monday Ali came round for the garden, and we got an amazing amount done, mainly because of her encouragement, energy, skill and knowledge, but also because the weather was so good that I didn't flag as I usually do. She brought me lemons, new plants, and her latest batch of quince jelly (see "The magic quince").
          But later in the week I did flag quite badly - the aftermath of Rarotonga, I expect, plus the approach of a holiday, always a difficult time, beset by a heightened consciousness of being on my own.. It's hard work, this living alone business, especially if you don't go out to work every day. You have to organise all your company and companionship, all the time - it's no longer just reliably there, ready whenever you need it, without having to actively do anything to get it. And of course, by the time you've been together as long as we had, there's such a generous store of shared experience  and knowledge that you implicitly understand so much, being together is easy. (The danger, of course, is that you take each other for granted and don't fully value what you've got, but something of that is probably inevitable.)
              The other problem (maybe it's just me?) is I can get quite nervous about contacting people to arrange things, especially over holidays, thinking that they're probably all busy already, and maybe a bit weary of hearing from me anyway. Silly, I know, but it's easy to get into a downward spiral about it all.
               Anyway, I managed to rally enough to go out last night and buy myself the new House and Garden (to inspire the major tidy-up I planned for the weekend), a block of peppermint chocolate (in lieu of an Easter egg), and one hot cross bun for this morning (though I am totally non-religious, I irrationally cling to the tradition that Good Friday is the proper day for eating hot cross buns). This afternoon I went for a walk down to Harvey's plaque, and tonight my neighbour is coming in for dinner.
                Not sure about tomorrow yet, but on Sunday my lovely long-distance driving friend is taking me over to the Wairarapa, and on Monday another one is coming to the garden centre - I need some new pot flowers, and maybe some tulip bulbs. Harvey always grew them, and  in the photo are the ones I grew (I was so proud of myself) for his last spring. But I didn't bother last year. So I think it will be good to revive that tradition, too.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A holiday

I really did have a proper holiday in Rarotonga. I'm very grateful to my niece (Harvey's brother is her father) for inviting me to her wedding, otherwise I might never have got round to going there.
        My idea of a really relaxing holiday is to go to a lovely beach, find a good place to sit in the shade, and read a lot, breaking off only to go for paddles and beach walks and small local expeditions to find something to cook for dinner, along with an icecream. That's exactly what I managed to do most of the time, except that once other family members arrived, we went out to dinner instead (see Something Else to Eat) - it was so nice to have a crowd to go with every night, because having dinner alone is the thing I find most difficult when I'm away.

I also loved the fact that there was no need for me to drive anything anywhere. Little buses go round the whole island in 50 minutes, clockwise and anti-clockwise, so you can never get lost.    
       There are proper stops (one was right outside our place), but they also stop if you hail them from the roadside, or tell the driver where you want to get off. Yet they're always pretty much on time. Brilliant.
And of course it was warm. All day, every day, even during the one huge two-hour downpour. After the non-summer we've had here, it was incredibly soothing and relaxing.

The wedding day itself was the most perfect of all - no wind, no clouds, just sun and blue sky. And right on cue, a tropical sunset over the lagoon, the only one we had. I wished so much that Harvey could have been there with me to see it, and toast his niece and her husband as they stood barefoot and beautiful on the beach.

But one marvellous thing happened on the way over. My plane reached Auckland quite late, so I ended up  cutting things a bit fine for my flight to Rarotonga. But I had to stop at the duty-free and buy a special bottle of red wine to take for the wedding dinner. I raced in, found a nice man and asked him to find me a good bottle of pinot noir for X dollars. He went to the shelf, reached one down and said "This is really good". I didn't even look at it - I just thanked him, bought it and ran off. Of course when I arrived panting at Gate 9, I found that the flight was delayed anyway. So I sat down and looked at the bottle. It was from Central Otago, the brand was Soho, and the name of this particular wine was - McQueen.