Thursday, September 29, 2011

The house that has no love

"Ooh, I have to show you this house," I said to my sister as I veered off course and turned right instead of straight ahead around the roundabout.
We have the same round face, the same sense of humour, and the same creative brain. We also share a curiosity for the strange, and the thought of an old abandoned house perched high on a hill in the middle of nowhere caught her attention as it had mine the day I drove past it on my way to an unrelated errand, and we sped down the long country road that was longer and curvier than I remembered.
I pulled up at the silver padlocked farm gate and we both got out of the car, the slamming of each car door piercing the quiet country air.
"Wow," we both sighed, and I retrieved my camera from the back seat. I snapped away at the expanse of grass leading upward to the ravaged beauty patiently waiting for us. It took no more than a look exchanged between sisters, the one sisters read each other's minds with as children when they have a diabolical plan mum won't be happy about. This one said, "We have to go up there", and a split second later we had jumped the fence and were making our way up the hill.
The ground grew harder and the house grew bigger as we got closer, and in between nervous glances behind us waiting for the sound of a car or angry neighbour, we both looked up in awe at this life-sized, battered dollhouse.
It stood tall and strong like a woman who has been battered and bruised by life but refuses to be broken. She has faith someone will someday rescue her so she has her shoulders back, holds her head high, and waits.
She no longer sees the cars drive by and curious faces peek up at her, since the last of her windows perished and cracked, scattering themselves inside. She no longer feels her skin being ripped away as the weatherboard succumbs to the wind. Her only friends are the birds who have made their home in her ceiling. We hope she can hear, so she can hear us tell her how beautiful she is and how we could bring her to life again if we had the money.
Putting our better judgement aside and throwing caution to the hefty breeze blowing through the house, my sister risked falling through the floor and stepped in the back door and I followed, camera snapping wildly.
Her bones were strong, stronger than one would think for a house stood on a hill for at least ten years.
The house was bereft of electricity, so candles lit up in our heads and we saw a grand entranceway leading to a country-style kitchen on the left and a sun-filled dining room with a long dining table filled with laughter and children and good, home-grown food.
We saw the dirt and broken glass and walls scattered on the walls replaced with luxurious couches, calming paintings on the walls above, and a wall lined with books. The collapsed staircase was rebuilt in our minds out of chocolate timber, leading to light, sunny bedrooms with an iron headboard on each bed.
Someday, if we ever have the money, we decided, we want to buy this house, give it eyes again and let it feel and hear the happiness and laughter we could bring to it.

Here are the photos of our adventure:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I am a New Zealander

New Zealand is a strange and wonderful place, where there is technically no such thing as a New Zealander.
My Dad always says to me, “Do you realize that New Zealand is the only country in the world where we can’t call ourselves New Zealanders?”
When we fill out forms, we have to tick the box that says “New Zealand European/Pakeha”.
Firstly, I have never been to Europe, and nor has my family. My ancestors were born in Scotland and England, and only ever went to Europe to fight in the wars.
Secondly, “Pakeha” is a Maori word, which means “white ghost”, a name given to our ancestors when they arrived on the shores of New Zealand in ships flying white sails 200 years ago. Some say it means, “white pig”, or at least that’s what the Maori kids at school used to tell us.
Of all things, the Rugby World Cup has bought this anomaly to the forefront of my mind once again, which is entirely appropriate, given that the eyes of the world are on our tiny country at the moment, with 20 countries competing for the Webb Ellis Cup.
On my dad’s side of the family, I am a third-generation “New Zealander” and on my mum’s side, I am fourth generation.
On Sunday, my dad, sister and I donned blue and white face paint and headed to the stadium to support Scotland, the country of our ancestors.
There is nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage and supporting other teams for a bit of fun, but where do we draw the line at being defined by our heritage?
I love the sound of the bagpipes, and jumping around yelling at Scotland to “run the damn ball!” and cheering when they score, but when I stood up and sang Flower of Scotland (the national anthem), the hairs on the back of my neck stayed flat and my heart beat was normal.
Yet when I stood up with my sister in my living room on September 9 when the All Blacks kicked off the RWC with a match against Tonga, put hand on heart, and sang God Defend New Zealand, tears of pride came to our eyes.
When the All Blacks performed the Haka, the hairs on the back of my neck stood up.
Every Anzac Day, when I attend the dawn service in Wellington, I think of the New Zealanders who fought and died for our freedom regardless of the colour of their skin nearly 100 years ago.
How many generations of people born and raised in New Zealand will it take to shake off the words “Pakeha” and “European” and when will we get to tick the box that says “New Zealander”?

Friday, September 23, 2011

A thought for your weekend...

"Always read something that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it." - P.J O'Rourke

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Another one to add to the list...

As much as I love it when new and exciting books are released, sometimes I wish they would stop so I can catch up - I have so many books to read and it seems like every time I visit a book shop there's a new one I want to add to my ever-growing list.

The latest one is A Man You Can Bank On by Derek Hansen. Here's the synopsis from Good Reads:

Is it a CRIME to steal from bookies?

Can you TRUST an ex-Bank Manager?

Lambert Hampton is the man the Munni-Munni locals allturn to, and for good reason. This former bank manager helped them transform three million dollars - stolen from bookies by a gang of robbers - into a rescue package for their dying town.

But now the day of reckoning has come.

The crims want the money.
The cops want the money.
A rogue insurance investigator wants the money.
And so do Australia's two most notorious hit men.

In trying to save his town, Lambert is forced to risk everything - his life, the lives of the town folk, his own daughter, ten thousand barramundi and a really lovable Jack Russell.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Monday

Good morning people and hello to another week :) I've had my coffee and am raring to go! Hope everyone had as fabulous a weekend as I did. On Saturday we celebrated my little brother growing up by throwing an epic 21st party. We danced lots, sang lots, drank lots, and caught up with people we hadn't seen in years, which was awesome. It was great being able to dress up - living in the country means there's no opportunity to dress up anymore. People wear jeans and t-shirts to bars and to work, so if you dress up, even if you wear heels that make noise when you walk, people look at you funny.

The All Blacks also made everyone's weekend on Friday by smashing Japan 83-7, a great defeat considering they were without captain Richie McCaw, and star players Dan Carter and Mills Muliaina due to injury.

Also started reading The Endless Forest by Sara Donati, the sixth and final book in the Into the Wilderness series. So far it's a good read, except the book has skipped a few years and it's been a long time since I read book five, Queen of Swords, so there's a whole heap of new characters and old characters I had forgotten about. But I'm thinking Sara meant to confuse her readers to start with and all the characters will be explained as the book goes on and the gaps will be filled in. So I have every confidence that this book will be just as great as the rest of the series and I'm sure I will be sad to say goodbye once it ends.

So I hope you all had a great weekend. What did you get up to? Read any good books?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Goodbye Sarajevo review (spoiler alert)

When I turned the last page of Goodbye Sarajevo last week, I breathed a sigh of relief, but not because I was glad the book was over – I didn’t want it to end. I was relieved that I live in such a beautiful, spacious, and war-free country.

Goodbye Sarajevo is the true story of two sisters, Atka and Hana, who were torn apart by the Bosnian war in 1992 during the longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare, and reunited in New Zealand by the extraordinary kindness of a kiwi family.
In May 1992, 12-year-old Hana was put on one of the last UN evacuation buses fleeing the city, while Atka, 21, was left behind in war-torn Sarajevo to look after their five younger siblings as their mother, working for a humanitarian aid organisation, was unable to reach them while their father retreated inside himself, shocked at what was happening to his city.
Amazingly, the entire family of 12 survived and later settled in New Zealand with the help of Atka’s husband Andrew Reid – whom she met during the war when he worked as a photojournalist – and his family.
The language and the pace of the book was absolutely perfect – not once did I get bored, which is rare for me, and the two different points of view really brought the story together in a way that lets the reader explore these two very different aspects of war – life in a war zone and life as a refugee.
I admired Atka for her courage in the way she did everything she could to keep her family alive and together, despite suffering from malnourishment, kidney stones, and an ill baby during the years of the war, and the raw emotion of Hana’s story balanced with her childlike positivity tore at my heartstrings through chapters that were almost like diary entries.
One thing I would have liked to have seen was a run-down of what everyone in that family of 12 is up to now, but who knows, there may be another book in the future.
I had the pleasure of meeting Atka and Hana earlier this year when I interviewed them about their book, and the thing that struck me most about them was their positivity towards life and the way they have created extremely successful lives for themselves, despite the pain they have been through which still shows in their eyes when they talk about it.
Atka worked as a journalist in Christchurch upon her arrival in New Zealand and later gained a Diploma in Graphic Design. Hana graduated from the university of Canterbury in 2002 with first class honours in law and a bachelor’s degree in Russian, and has since worked as a lawyer for a leading New Zealand law firm and, more recently, for a city law firm in London.
Just goes to show that there’s no excuse for not making the most out of your life – even if you’ve been to hell and back.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Happy weekend!

Happy weekend everybody! Hope your weekend is as fabulous as mine has been so far! The mighty All Blacks destroyed Tonga 41-10, booh yah! What a great start to the Rugby World Cup :) Opening ceremony was amazing too, read about it all here.

Had a great night with little sis eating homemade pizza, waving our flags, singing the national anthem at the top of our lungs (our poor neighbours...) and yelling at the TV. GO THE AB's!

Photo from Daily Mail

Friday, September 9, 2011

This time it's ours! Game on!

Today the biggest event to hit New Zealand starts. RUGBY WORLD CUP 2011!

Today my humble little country becomes the centre of the world's attention as we host our favourite game and our favourite way of showing national pride.

Tonight at 8.30pm, thousands of New Zealanders will stand at Eden Park Stadium, on the streets of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, in pubs, rugby clubs and living rooms, with their hand on their heart singing our national anthem God of Nations before we watch the All Blacks destroy Tonga.

It has been 24 years since the All Blacks won the Rugby World Cup, and that was on home turf a year before I was born, when All Blacks Captain David Kirk held aloft the Webb Ellis Cup after beating France 29-9.

So here's hoping our beautiful captain Richie McCaw (he is gorgeous - I want to marry him) will get the same honour this year.

I was born in June, the middle of the rugby season, and my birthdays ever since have slightly revolved around rugby. It started at the hospital when my mum, who was packed up and ready to go after spending nine days there, just wanted to get home, and dad was late picking her up because he was at the rugby club chilling with his team after a "hard game".
Mere weeks after I was brought home, every Saturday I was wrapped up warm, put in the pram and sat on the sideline to watch my dad play. Then, two years later, my brother was born and he started playing when he was four years old, so every Saturday for most of my life during winter has been spent on a rugby field.
Despite that, I still don't know all the rules, but rugby is a big part of my life and the thing I love about it is the national pride that shines through and the good old fashioned rivalry between countries. So I, for one, can not wait to get involved in this history-making event that I will tell my kids about one day, and it starts tonight with pizza, chips and dip at home with my sister with the sound up loud.

I think my friend and fellow journalist Lee Stace, who is a huge rugby fan and works for Rugby News in Auckland, hit the nail on the head this morning with his message to New Zealand on the world cup, so I leave you with his Facebook status:
"Rugby World Cup 2011 begins here. To the All Blacks, do us proud, Win or lose, you will always be our team. To the New Zealand public, please be good hosts. Be gracious in victory and, heaven forbid it occurs, defeat as well."


Monday, September 5, 2011

Snap snap

Just added a new page... just because.

As well as reading and writing, I also take photos, so just thought I might put a few on here. Enjoy :)

Do you remember the moment?

 At first I thought it was when I was an office temp and I was talking to another office temp and she said she had been a journalist in Napier before. With no idea what to do with my life after coming back from the most amazing experience of my life in the USA teaching Jewish kids art at summer camp and travelling through about 25 states in three weeks, that moment had a big impact on my career, as it spurred me to Google journalism courses, and, before I knew it, I was enrolled.

But, the thing that really sparked my passion for journalism was a movie: 13 Going on 30. Yes, it's corny and yes, it's the biggest chick-flick, but back in the days when, on any given day, I wanted to be an astronaut, a travelling artist, and interior designer, or a children's book illustrator, this movie added another career possibility to my list.

I loved everything about the glamour of being a fashion magazine editor: the glamorous clothes, the big modern office, and the ability to control the design of the magazine - especially at the end when they do a total overhaul. I also loved 13-year-old Jenna in 30-year-old Jenna's body's perspective. Wouldn't it be a happy world if we all brought that type of innocence into the office?

After watching it yesterday, it has reignited my passion for the job, and I think sometimes, no matter what type of job you have, we all need to be reminded why we do it.

I feel like the universe is trying to tell me something at the moment, and hopefully that thing is a new step in my life. My journalism mojo is back, I'm writing like I'm on speed (but it's actually just coffee...), I'm reading like a nutter, everyone around me is happy, I'm loving my job, and, after interviewing amazing photographer Esther Bunning, my passion for photography is back. Surely life isn't supposed to be this good right? But maybe it is, considering I'm a magnet for bad luck - maybe the universe is finally smiling on me and giving me some good luck.

So, what was the moment that set you off on your career path?


Oh. My. God. I. Am. So. Freaking. EXCITED!

For those Diana Gabaldon fans out there, if you're not already following her blog, you NEED to read this. She has just put a new excerpt of Book Eight up on her blog and it is AWESOME! This lady continues to surprise me. Just when you thought she might run out of ideas after seven books BAM the story takes on a whole new dimension.

Please hurry up and finish Book Eight Diana!

Photo from

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pride and Prejudice = DONE

Well, it's taken me a long time to get through it, but I finally did it. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is done and dusted, thank goodness.
Those of you who have read it will know that it's not a very long book. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for two years, and in May I decided to pick it up and read it. It's one of those books you just have to read if you're a lover of books, and although I feel like I've run a marathon and travelled back in time to high school english class, I'm glad I read it.
I have never read classic books like Jane Austen's before - the closest I've been to classic is To Kill a Mocking Bird - so Pride and Prejudice was a real experience for me, and a real learning curve, considering the complicated-ness (if that's a word...) of the writing.
The one thing that really struck me about the book was how far ahead of her time Jane Austen was. You would almost think it was a novel written in our time if not for the overpowering, detailed dialogue.
I can see why her books are still so popular today - although the morals and values are far from what they are today, the core human emotions have never changed, especially when it comes to love.
As I said in my May blog post First impressions of Jane Austen:

We still fall for at least one bad boy in our lifetime.

We still play hard to get.

We still get jealous.

We still fall in love. In exactly the same way as we always have.
I also watched the movie last night, the recent one starring Keira Knightley, and I have to say I was skeptical about it. I'm not the biggest fan of Keira - she's too skinny and pouty in my opinion - and she was not who I imagined Elizabeth to look like while I was reading the book. I also feared the story would be tainted by passionate Hollywood kisses. But Keira exceeded my expectations and after the first ten minutes, she was Elizabeth. And there was not one kiss, although I was a tad nervous when Elizabeth and Mr Darcy finally declared their love for each other at the end, but it didn't happen and, although I'm a fan of Hollywood kisses, it just wasn't necessary for this story - ironic really, considering it's a love story on so many different levels. All the other actors were just brilliant too, pretty much what I imagined while reading the book - wasn't Mrs Bennet the funniest old lady?!
So that's two down, 98 to go on my 100 books in 5 years mission. Don't think I'll be reading any more Jane Austen for awhile - it's hard work - but I will eventually read all six of her books. So have you read Jane Austen? Thoughts?