Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A wee giggle ...

Dominican friar Peter Murnane joined organic gardener Adrian Leason and Hokianga farmer Sam Land in yesterday's early-morning raid on the Waihopai satellite communications interception station, near Blenheim.
Extracted from a story in The New Zealand Herald.

The Waihopi spy station used to annoy me and many other locals when I was a local back in Marlborough, New Zealand.

Kiwi's don't view spy stations as things to be taken seriously and I remember a national television crew breaking in just to dance in this place where no one but for a chosen few with special passes were allowed.

A dim view was taken that time too.
It was a serious place and only serious business was go one behind those security fences.

I couldn't help but laugh when I read of the spy station 'deflation' at the hands of 3 earnest blokes.

I remember the outrage when New Zealand refused to allow nuclear vessels in its water ... we were immediately barred from the war games played out on the oceans with America.

Australia was welcomed into the free-trade with America arena too while the kiwis were told that we weren't even in the building.

But anyway, I love my American friends to pieces and they know it, it's only some policy that's annoyed me over the years and yes, this deflation is a serious thing, and I shouldn't be laughing but I can imagine that there's more than a few kiwis laughing around my wee country today.

A small whimper ... or whine perhaps.

Today was the day I realised that I rarely stop working, as I tried to fit everything in around Day 2 with a sickly Miss 3. Then Jessie joined her with a variation on the latest kindy cold - a severely infected throat from a nasal drip thing she had going.

There are always photographs to be worked on and mailed, then there's a to-do list from work, housework, errands and etc ... but I hadn't realised that I'm always working on something, mornings, noon and nights which is fine, it's everyone's lot but I do have to create some places to rest and recover in amongst it all.

That's all ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Imagine if all the immigrants went home ....

This is the face of the modern British countryside, where workers from Latvia, Lithuania and Poland prop up our beleagured agricultural sector.

In the whole of the 10-hour shift I observe, there was just one fleeting tea break. Stakhanov would've been proud. Almost as proud as the Lincolnshire farmer whose veg the eastern Europeans are picking.

Tim Samuels, The Independent.

Already some American farmers have felt the bite of an increase in border security between them and Mexico.

What will become of the extreme right party members in England if immigrants go home?

The house in a swanky north London neighbourhood is a half-finished shell. Walls are exposed, wires hang loose, and taps are not yet connected to the mains. There's another six months' well-paid work left to finish this major refurbishment, but the builders have upped sticks overnight and taken a better offer. Remarkably, that better offer is back in their native Poland. Could this be a sign of a massive "drain drain"? An example of Britain's army of Polish plumbers and builders heading back to eastern Europe? Having conquered our kitchens, are the Poles about to return home en masse, leaving a trail of dripping taps?

Jane, the 33-year-old owner of the half-built house, is at loss for words – as well as builders. "They called to say they wouldn't be coming back on Monday," she says. "I've no idea what I'm going to do. They were great – very punctual, very hard-working."

...Yet just as we've started enjoying the benefits of this mass immigration – and taking for granted having an insatiable supply of reliable, tea break-shunning builders – it might be back to the Yellow Pages. And back to putting the kettle on.

The article ends ... The construction industry is already warning that we need another 182,000 workers just to pull off the London Olympics projects – including 15,000 more plumbers. Forget the athletics. Our greatest Olympic triumph might be training 15,000 homegrown plumbers. Lord knows how anyone will get a leak fixed when 2012 kicks in. We may soon be rather nostalgic for the days when we had Poles on tap.

family affection ..., originally uploaded by - di.

I know some special people ;)

Don’t concentrate on your defeats. Listen to your inner voice.
Have a clear view of how you want to live and consider whether you would be happy with this life in twenty years time.

Juliane Kokott, extract from her interview in cafebabel. com

Monday, April 28, 2008

A writer is never neutral, and he is always more than a writer. He is also a citizen with responsibility toward the society he lives in.
Dr. Alaa Al Aswany, extract from Where Alaa Al Aswany Is Writing From, in the NY Times by Pankaj Mishra.

Peaks and Lows

So today is about playing granma to a sick little Miss 3.

After racing through last week, photographing Belgium and meeting so many good and interesting people, today is the day where I slow down completely.

Jessie is full-time at both Nederlands class and social orientation, so that's me, self-designated slave to the nearly 4-year-old creature and delighted to be so really.

Everyone's here today too - 6 at the breakfast table, 4 different destinations to race out to. Miss 3 and me ... we have a pyjama-wearing television and medicine day ahead of us.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

down the garden path, originally uploaded by - di.

I slipped away to recline on the sun lounger and noticed this beautiful glimpse of the party at the end of the path there in front of me.

Summer is coming ...

Belgian BBQ, originally uploaded by - di.

Today Gert's parents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary along with 2 other birthdays and so ... as is traditional, we all gathered together to eat, drink and be merry.

His parents had provided 5kgs of seafood which we then had to select and cook on the little hotrock-type arrangement on the table in front of us.

There was champagne, white wine, fabulous food and SUN - 22 degrees celsius of it.

It was a truly superb day ...

The spirit of a person's life is ever shedding some power, just as a flower is steadily bestowing fragrance upon the air.
Michele Rousseau

Found over at sparkletopia.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Things I haven't had time to write about ...

Haven't had time, possibly because once the wandering was done for the week, I spent this afternoon asleep in the sun here ...

I was asked to supply photographs for articles in a New York magazine called Lilith and for Flanders Today here in Belgium. At this point I'm not sure what they used but there was something purely delicious about sending photographs off to a magazine on West 57th Street.

And news of me and my school visit was published in Het Laatse Nieuws donderdag 24 April issue. Filip gave me a photocopy of the article at last night's reception.

I was disappointed to see that, once again, the photographer had failed to capture my uncanny resemblance to Sandra Bullock ...

There's talk of a photo exhibition out on Flanders Field once the town hall has moved into the new building in one of my favourite villages out there. It's possibly more exciting than the one I have in the city in September, simply because I love being out in West Flanders ... even if their dialect is outside of my nederlands ability.

Okay, I think that's all.
There's dry washing calling my name out on the balcony ...

Wendy Quinlan, flautist"

Wendy Quinlan, flautist, originally uploaded by - di.

Wendy Quinlan, flautist"

Out on Flanders Fields Again ...

Wendy Quinlan, originally uploaded by - di.

Yesterday was an extraordinarily excellent day.

It was my first time back on Flanders Fields since November last year and it felt like coming out of hibernation, catching up with Steven over in Mesen and Freddy and Franky - who were both jubiliant over their museum's first place prize in the public vote for best museum in Belgium.

Another highlight was new people met.

Heather Charlton is a friend who always comes to our parties here in the city. At last night's exhibition opening she was in a role I hadn't yet seen her in - I had a glimpse of her in her life as a musician.

She has an impressive resume and if we can just convince her about building a website, you will know all very soon.

And then I met Wendy, an Australian flautist who was pure delight to work with. You can hear her music here. I was free to experiment in the photographic capture of a flautist and that's always going to make me happy.

After rehearsals, we had a World War One soldier's dinner at the Volksbond restaurant across the road - soup, bully beef pie and a slice of Tommy cake.

It was interesting and didn't quite satisfy my need for a Jimmy's Pie.

Exhibition opening over, wine and food circulated, as did the people. Our New Zealand Ambassador to Belgium and his wife were there and it was good to spend some time talking. They are lovely people - New Zealanders are of course (she writes modestly and completely without anything resembling bias.)

It was a good night and I was ready to tell Gert all about it when I wandered in the door around 2am ...

Oh, and I met these guys again, met and interviewed a couple of years ago. They were sitting at an outdoor table at our dinner restaurant in this tiny little village in Belgium.

A small world ...

Friday, April 25, 2008

A New Zealand war veteran visits a Commonwealth War Cemetery

Silence, memories from 90 years ago, originally uploaded by - di.

Off wandering again ... Flanders Fields

Martin and Mieke are picking me up soon and we're off to Flanders Fields. It's ANZAC Day for New Zealanders and Australians, so there will be special commemorations all over the world as we remember those who died in World War One.

But we're doing a little more than the commemoration. Tonight is the opening of an exhibition titled Brave Little Belgium.

Martin has written about it over on the Flanders 1917 website.

It's warm here, they're predicting 18-20 degrees celsius without the rain of the last two days. It's a big VIP night tonight with the exhibition opening but even better is the fact that I get to catch up with Flanders Fields friends, not seen since November last year.

But I should sprint ... I have under an hour to get the camera and myself ready for more than 12 hours out there, after the insanity that is the kindy run and 'what's for dinner' thing.

Tot straks from the kiwi.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Remember that beautiful friend I photographed Monday...

that beautiful friend, originally uploaded by - di.

This isn't one of the standard portrait series but it's my favourite image from the photo-shoot. At its true size it's truly stunning.

On that fear of flying ...

All my flights are booked for the weeks ahead and I reached that point where I remembered I don't really like flying ... not at all however, I may have found a cure.

Coming home from work on the train tonight, I was reading Danziger's Adventures by the interesting Nick (I love his tales of travel) and he described landing in Jalalabad, Afghanistan back in 1989:

Above the jagged peaks of the Hindu Kush the war seemed a distant nightmare, but not for long. We seemed to have only just reached our cruising altitude when the captain turned to receive a signal from the navigator. Still at 22,000 feet the captain lowered the landing gear, put the plane into a 45-degree controlled dive descent and extended the air brake foils downwards. This was the moment for which I had steeled myself. I felt the perspiration on my forehead and a bead of sweat trickled down my neck; my stomach was doing somersaults.

At 12,000 feet we were in range of the Stinger surface-to-air missiles. As we hurtled towards Jalalabad the Antonov felt like a spaceship re-entering the earth's atmosphere, or a flying coffin. The pilots and navigator peered through the cockpit windows nervously, alert for the tell-tale glow of a Stinger's solid-fuel exhaust. Each time the engine pressure changed, my heart skipped a beat. Captain Hamid glanced at the altimeter that was in near free fall. We were descending at a jet fight's pace with no hint of an airport below us. At 10,000 feet the blacked-out airport came to life - its lights were switched on for three seconds. At 5,000 feet the pattern was repeated for the pilots to navigate by. We were four hundred feet from the runway when a searchlight on the back of a truck positioned at the end of the runway was illuminated. The runway bore the number 13.

Few words could describe the emotion I felt on landing safely at Jalalabad. Pilots flying to besieged garrisons such as Khost and Jalalabad received one extra dollar a flight to supplement their $30 a month salary, enough to purchase a dozen eggs. The crew of the Antonov that had brought us were hoping to make a further round-trip flight to the city before daybreak.

It put things in perspective some.
I have 6 flights over a 6 week period but none are on an Antonov landing in a war zone ...

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Beautiful People ...

Monday and I was over in Brussels for a photo shoot.
Tonight I sat down to process them.

As seems to be usual now, I am stunned by the beauty I didn't quite see in this person until I looked at her through my viewfinder.

It keeps happening.
It's as if people hold themselves in a certain way in their everyday lives, or perhaps I don't take the time to really see them and then they unfold for the camera.

I need to ask permission to post any of her images.

I'll get back to you ...

Today the 3 photo competition winners also allowed me an impromptu photo session on the steps of a stranger's house someplace in Brugge.

Again, permission required but hopefully I'll be allowed.

School Visit, Brugge

I had a lovely day today ...

I had a wee speaking engagement with a group of 16 and 17 year school kids in Brugge. The photography competiton winners were there, as were some of the other entrants.

Lovely lovely people!

So I woke to the alarm at 6.30am, ran out the door at 7.30am, arrived in Brugge round 9.30am and it began.

Filip, their teacher and organiser of the photography competition met me at the railway station and took me back to the school. Coffee-ed up we headed over to the library to prepare for the talking bit.

That was me, the New Zealander talking a little about life here in Belgium as an immigrant, a little about my philosophy, with regard to photography and then a question and answer session.

It was good to be back in front of a class.

We met with a journalist who took down the details of the competition, talked to me some and took a photograph of us all. It seeems highly likely that this will appear in the regional pages of Het Laatste Nieuws sometime soon.

Then the 3 first place winners, Filip and I went wandering round Brugge and I got to see it with locals which was grand. We had lunch at an outdoor restaurant and then stopped in at Herberg Vlissinghe for coffee. A lovely wee pub. In business since 1515 - it has an authentic Flemish interior with Epoque furniture and the famous Van Dyck armchair (where the famous painter reportedly actually sat).

Home, an hour and a half on the train and here I am ... happy to be living in Belgie today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Blue balloons and other things ...

a blue balloon out my window, originally uploaded by - di.

Gert took a post-run day from work and we went out shopping.

He loves shopping and I don't, so when new clothes are needed for things like wedding shoots in Berlin and summer wandering, he takes me out and eases me through the process.

So we found a few things and many hours later, dragged ourselves home.

There was dinner and now it's onto preparing for tomorrow's big adventure. I'll get back to you on that once it's done.

Meanwhile, this blue balloon floated over tonight and I couldn't resist taking a few photographs.

Monday, April 21, 2008

"These are our tradesmen and our university graduates - the future of this country is fleeing in droves."
Lockwood Smith, the opposition's immigration spokesperson.

The net permanent and long-term outflow (of New Zealanders) of 29,900 to Australia in the March 2008 year was the highest since the July 2001 year. It compared with 23,300 in the March 2007 year.

Kiwis talk about life in New Zealand versus a life in Australia.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Spring in Antwerpen

a blossom path, originally uploaded by - di.

And then there was this ...

I had a couple of hours to fill while Gert was out running.

A bread, cheese and wine lunch at an outdoor cafe on Antwerpen's Left Bank - shared with Nick Danziger's superb 'Danziger's Adventures', I wandered back to the appointed meeting place after the race.

And on the way, I found this.

And yes,

Man with the medal, originally uploaded by - di.

Gert did receive a medal for finishing his 10 mile run.

He did it in 1 hour 45 minutes approximately. He'll know tomorrow for sure - there's this electronic chip all competitors wore on their shoelaces ...

He came over to meet me afterwards and the heavens opened in the worst way. More than 14,000 people - many many more I believe, all headed for the metros and buses returning us all to the city from the Left Bank of Antwerpen.

It was a bit of a nightmare.
It was raining, we were soaked and the pubs were all crowded.

I managed to lead him back to my lunchtime cafe and we warmed up over coffee and tea before jamming ourselves back onto a tram a good 45 minutes later.

It's good to be home ...

A top floor view of things

A top floor view of things, originally uploaded by - di.

The police helicopters spent the day in the air covering the series of marathons and we have a slightly superb view on the top floor of our building.

I love the way they skim over us here.
Somehow, 4 years spent as an air force officer's wife back in New Zealand left me with this fascination for some flying objects.

After the marathon

after the marathon, originally uploaded by - di.

And the puppy was resting, weighted down by the medal he'd won.

Marathon from another perspective

Marathon, originally uploaded by - di.

Privacy laws and etc create all kinds of problems for photographers unwilling to sprint after the subject and ask them to sign a release form ...

Sitting on the grass, pre-marathon, I liked this perspective and the idea that no releases were required.

Gone wandering ...

Supporting really.

Gert's running the the Antwerp 10 Miles today.

Will get back to you...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

St Leocollege Photography Competition, Bruges

I was recently asked to be part of a jury in a school photography competition here in Belgium. After the initial selection was made, I received a selection of photographs to place first, second and third in 3 categories.

The eventual winners were aged between 16 and 17 and it was a real pleasure to go through the work of these kids, seeing the talent they have already.

I was wondering, lovely readers, if you would mind popping over to my photography blog and just leaving a comment for the kids to read in the days ahead?

I heard that they really enjoyed the experience and are delighted with the thought that they are having their photography published on a photographer's website. Any input you can offer them would mean the world to them.

I'm off to visit them soon ... to answer some questions, show them some of my work, take some photographs of them, talk of being an immigrant here and a traveler elsewhere then they're going to show me their little city.

Anyway, that's for another day but any comment on their work would be appreciated.


And so the research begins ...

This morning I was inspired to begin searching for information on Rome, with Istanbul research to follow. I have some delicious interviews beginning to line up in Turkey.

Since forever I've studied people, and this has evolved into an unconscious examination of how I might photograph them. In recent years the feeling has become stronger and these days it's all I can do not to ask strangers if I might photograph them because ... just because I see something extraordinary, something I would like to try and capture in them.

Yesterday there was a woman on the tram with an incredible jawline, later that day there was a young guy talking into his phone, trying to charm his way out of trouble. Sometimes I wonder if I'm not beginning to 'see' so much of a day-to-day as a cascade of possible images.

So to Rome ... I found the Really Rome website - hugely recommended if you want to web-wander in one woman's Rome.

Last night, Gert and I were trying to organise flights and accommodation from Brussels to Rome and then back to Brussels or ... on to Istanbul and ohmygod, is it really that expensive to go from Rome onto Istanbul!

The costs can be spread out over two months of income, as long as I can work from the road ... and if all goes to plan, I'll have some stories and images to sell. I have just under 5 weeks to prepare.

Gert's running tomorrow, did I mention that?
He's doing 10 miles of the marathon here in the city. Today is carb-loading day, pasta and rice and bread and ... you get the picture. He's been quietly training for weeks and is pleased with his progress.

We're hoping I can find a place to view the race but even reaching the city is going to be interesting based on the number of people competing and the fact that the race starts on the Left Bank ... accessed by car and foot tunnels under the river.

Let's see how it goes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I couldn't help myself ...

This youtube comes from the Land Downunder and captures a type of New Zealand/Australian man who wasn't myth ...

Today ...

Talking to friends back in Istanbul, organising a location and sight-seeing for the 5 day training event, so delighted to be planning things with Istanbul friends.

Searching for accommodation in Roma, may have found something perfect, just need an okay from my traveling companion/cousin in Qatar.

Realising that it's probably all going to happen now and while I'm doing it all quite inexpensively, I now need to sit down and find some markets for stories with photographs from Roma and Istanbul.

3 days in Berlin, 8 days in Rome, 2 weeks in Istanbul ... the woman is finally wandering again!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

So today ...

I learned that there is a really good chance that I'll fly in from Rome and back out to ISTANBUL!!!

The happy dance turned into a frenzied crazy joyous dance.

It's work you see.
They're running a training course in Istanbul and it's the only English one this year ...

I'm stunned - 2 of my best loved cities in a matter of days.
I'll let you know if it all pans out, and start warning my Istanbul friends that there's a very good chance that the yabanci from yeni zelanda will be flying in soon.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Tonight I learned that I have a week in Rome in May ...

A moment while I dance the dance of pure joy.

My question: Does anyone out there know of a lovely place to stay?

I want to photograph Rome endlessly, I would love to be in walking distance of as much as possible, and I would like to hear if there are any interesting folk to be interviewed there in that beautiful world.

As a photographer/writer, my budget is smallish but can be stretched for something lovely perhaps.

All suggestions would be so welcome and appreciated.

You know, there's something a little sad about the dentist saying that they stopped using the materials in that filling that fell out today ... stopped using them 15 to 20 years ago.

How old does that make me feel?

Who knew . . .

Leaving your teeth to heal on their own doesn't work out.

In fact, it's as Erin said 'The problems only get worse.'

Still, I was hoping I had some kind of deal with the universe, one that gave me a get out of jail free card when it came to dental work and everything could wait until I was rich enough to fly home AND have my dental work done with the only dentist I've ever trusted.

I had to stop reading Van's blog while he went through his dental ordeal because that was a reality I didn't want to know about ...

I carried on with life, clenching my teeth, occasionally explaining to Gert (when he asked) why I preferred to lie awake worrying about my teeth in the mornings as opposed to dealing with my teeth.

This morning was one of those fretting mornings.
I woke before the alarm and lay there, checking my gums with my tongue, checking the broken tooth, fretting and fretting and fretting some more. I think the psychological vibration of my fretting woke Gert.

Today was the day I knew I HAD TO make a dental appointment.
10am came and went and still the task went undone.

Instead I talked to Jessie as she traveled towards Paris to meet an old school friend, guiding her in the train stations I knew and wishing her luck.

10.30am, I brushed my teeth and OUT POPPED MY FILLING!

I panicked, as is my habit in anything regarding my teeth, then realised I didn't know my dentist's phone number, phoned Gert who didn't answer either call and then shaking, I ran out the door ready to sell a kidney if the dentist could just fit me in.

She was out at the desk between patients when I arrived.
One look at me and she looked both amused and sympathetic.

After offering a kidney, she said she could fit me in in 5minutes ... I think she thought I might just fall over crying if she didn't.

Ummm so yes, tooth temporarily repaired.
6 weeks and she'll fix it for me but the gum has to heal.

She's a photographer too ...

It's been a long morning here.

Sad times back in New Zealand

Martin phoned with news of a canyoning river tragedy back home in New Zealand.

Reading on, I was stunned to find another weather story about a lightning strike that killed both horse and rider.

New Zealand weather can be incredibly unpredictable but so much loss in a such a short space of time is so very sad.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Salamancan sunshine

Salamancan sunshine, originally uploaded by - di.

There are things wrong with this photograph but I love it anyway ... from time spent in Spain.

Ieper (Ypres) Belgium

Ieper (Ypres) Belgium, originally uploaded by - di.

Then again, there are beautiful streets here in Belgium ...

Gypsy Festival, Istanbul

Gypsy Festival, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

There was the night I took the teensy weensy not very good digital camera out to a gypsy festival in Istanbul city and took photographs like this ...

I miss Istanbul, did I mention that?

Street scrapbooking, Antwerpen

street scrapbooking, antwerpen, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved Monet's Garden

I am so in love with this song!

Thanks V.

An interview with Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova and John Carney.

What do I do with a day sometimes ...

Mark and I finally caught up on skype - too long it had been.

As usual we discussed the deeply important ... student loans, whether I would ever return to New Zealand and what stops me from watching the television series he sent for discussion almost 2 years ago.

He explained that while I read busy, I rarely explain.
I guess it surprised me and so here are some details, the ones that come to me now anyway.

Not that he asked.

The alarm at 6.45am.
Breakfast for everyone ... from 4 to 6 people, more when we have guests.

Kindy run maybe, cleaning for sure, then work and it's that work seems to bleed, even hemorrhage a little, into this home-based life of mine.

I have the one day per week in the city of Brussels where I work for an NGO as a communications chick. Website updating, press release writing, brochure development, business card creation, database maintenance, newsletter creation, photographer and etc ...

I took it on at one day a week but we all agree it is more and I'm fine with it stealing 2 or 3 days depending on workload.

Then there's the development of Di Mackey Word & Image ... business cards, a website perhaps, advertising and etc, including the same kind of work with Di Mackey Photography which actually falls into the Word & Image basket.

A photography gig can go on for weeks, as with the conference in March. 3 nights of photography, a week of organising the results, a weekend of loading 250 onto the web and then receiving and filling out orders from newspapers, magazines and the conference folk themselves.

Out-of-the-blue requests for photographs from an interesting international group based in Egypt takes up time and then general maintenance of promises made, as in a dvd full of photographs taken out on Flanders Fields in 2007 for the man who organises so many of the events there.

Spare time researching a friend of my father's adoption story, trying to locate some of his lost family here in Belgie. A story possibly getting national coverage in Belgian media soon, courtesy of Gert.

There's dinner and dishes and vacuuming and laundry and windows and all those endless things meant to satisfy the female soul.

There's the photo-ordering, frame-choosing, pick-up errands where I learn who is honest, talented and affordable in this relatively new city of mine.

And there's the new website, so close to completion that my eyes are almost ready to bleed from the wait. And that's why I'm here ... at Via Via Cafe, with a glass of red wine, a laptop full of photographs, trying to select 4 perfect images for the new website banner. And I mean perfect. Images that convey all we need them to convey, that are stunning and say, 'Come read us, we're fabulous'.

Bookshop, photography shop, and post office last, so many parcels to post ... it's a day.

The photograph was my everyday metro stop back in Istanbul. Going through all of my photographs, I stumbled upon a million memories of Istanbul and decided to add one, even if it is completely out of context.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Still running in sand some but getting there ...

I worked most of the morning on a small writing workshop offered up by Pam, over at Nerd's Eye View.

A 200 word post (or less) following a prompt. I only discovered it late last night but managed to skid in before the deadline today.

One of the things I have always struggled with in my writing is the letting it go ... the saying it's done. It was no different this time and I'm trying not to look at again because part of me would like to put the end at the beginning and alter things some to make that work too ...

In other news from my day ... one of the delightful things about Belgium is that the workers have rights. The downside is you can never be sure of which days the shops will be open. I raced into the city today, intent on getting a photograph framed for Lut only to find the framing shop closed Mondays ...

Then some photographs I had printed didn't print as they should have so it's back in tomorrow, with a couple of extras.

I have this huge 'to-do' list ... feeble sigh.

But today! There was time spent catching up with the lovely Peter and that was pure relaxation.

I climbed his impressive spiral staircase, it's probably 3x the height of mine and clearly deadly if one is foolish enough to drink too much red wine, saw his cathedral view and peeked out at the river from his balcony, heard a ship's horn as it passed by and smiled over the tinkling of the very serious European cathedral bells.

Veronica, you were missed :)

Back to business, and a glass of red wine before dinner I think.
Tot straks.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Paris to Roubaix ... on cobblestones

I was pulled into watching the 106th Classic Paris to Roubaix cycle race again this year ... and so very relived when Tom Boonen pulled out, speeding past the Swiss and Italian competitor in the final 200 metres.

Hearts all around Belgie will be slowly recovering from the tension of waiting to see if Tom could do it again.

Proficiat, Meneer Boonen!

Recalling Nederlands class back in 2006

I was in something like despair when I wrote the following about Nederlands classes:

'I' is an 'e' for me, and a Dutch 'e' is my 'a'.
'G' is a 'hee', and 'h' is an exhalation of air that creates a 'haa' sound.
'K' sounds like 'car' and 'q' sounds like 'coo'.
'J' is said 'yay'.

'U' involves me pursing my lips, pretending to blow someone a kiss then saying 'uu' while my lips are still kiss-shaped.
'Z' has a t on the end of the sound = 'zet',
'V' becomes 'vay' and 'w' become 'way',
(so www = waywayway is the way it is said)

and then 'y' ... well 'y' is 'ipsilon'.

Isabel Allende, writer

I've been enjoying Isabel Allende's books for years and loved this interview from New Zealand's Sunday Star Times.

Her interview caused me to laugh out loud a few times, with statements like:
"Of course I had cosmetic surgery!" she says. "Why would I want grey hair, sagging wrinkles, and warts with whiskers growing out of them? I will always fight the ugliness of old age. But as my mother says, there comes a point where you have to give up, and just be happy that you don't smell!"

If you haven't heard of her, this gives you something of an idea about what she writes: Indeed this sharp, fiery, bossy, yet warm and generous benefactor is mobbed like a rock star when she returns to Latin America. She's thronged, wherever she tours anywhere in the world, by adoring fans who've bought more than 30 million copies of her books, printed in 28 languages. "The crowds are for what I represent, as much as for my books; and because my name is Allende," she says frankly. "People see me as a symbol for The Disappeared, the torture victims. I've written so much about politics, people know I'm never afraid to speak out about oppression and injustice."

Saturday, April 12, 2008

You know those days when you pick up the phone and there's a voice that you think you recognise ...

It was v-grrrl, sounding all familiar and family-like, to the point where I thought she was a fellow kiwi calling.

We just spent some time talking.

Alles goed.

A day at a Belgian Spa

Lut and I set off on another of our Belgian adventures yesterday ... this time it was a much-needed session at a spa.

I was a little concerned about embracing this European style of spa and massage, not overly-excited about pulling on a brand new swimsuit for the day. My concern reached Def-con 5 when we arrived in the changing room just as the man removed his trousers.

Sigh, I'm an adult but undressing with strangers just isn't my favourite thing.

He left and I do believe I might have managed the fastest change in the history of shared dressing-rooms.

We slipped into our toweling robes and set forth on the tour, clutching our towels while slopping along in our sandals. Be aware that although we paid for a package, the towels, robes and sandals were a cost that surprised us at the end of the day. Next time we'll be taking our own.

That said, it was a day that left us deliciously boneless and relaxed.
We lounged on heated tile chairs, we swam in the heated outdoor pool twice and warmed up in the hot dry sauna room. We spent just two minutes in the steam sauna thanks to me. I had suffered from croup as a small child and the cure was the steam-filled bathroom. The sauna brought back memories of struggling to breathe way back when.

There was even the choice of 3 jacuzzi-type baths for a while but best of the day was surely the massage.

We had opted for the face and foot massage and it was sublime. As the masseuse moved from my face to my feet, I quietly commented that my friend would imagine I was dead, due to the silence. Even my cough went away for a while.

A pale older naked couple wandered by every now and again, giving the experience of sharing the compact very modern space an edgy European film festival kind of feeling.

We finished the day with our men and a sumptuous Belgian meal at De heksenketel, celebrating the fact that Maurice and Lut had been together for 10 years.

Proficiaat to two of our favourite Belgians!

Khaled Khalifa, writer

A book for my 'to find and to read' list found in the Saturday Profile of the New York Times.

A bearish man with a boiling corona of steel-gray hair, Mr. Khalifa, 44, has a clownish humor that undercuts his large literary ambitions. He smoked, drank and plowed through a table full of appetizers during a late-night interview at Ninar, a Damascus restaurant popular with Syrian artists and intellectuals, his long answers interrupted by bursts of raucous laughter.

... “The main thing I wanted to get at was the struggle of two fundamentalisms,” he said. “I remember that heaviness, that feeling of death dominating the whole city. You were always surrounded by armed men who agreed on only one thing: If you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

... “In Praise of Hatred” is narrated by a young woman, and its title comes from an observation she makes about the way hatred filters from the violent streets outside into her own quiet life: “Hatred possessed me. I was excited by it, I felt it was saving me; it gave me a sense of superiority I had been seeking for a long time.”

A Sad War Story about Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The New York Times has the story: After the disappearance of Amelia Earhart, the demise of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry on a reconnaissance mission in World War II has long ranked as one of aviation’s great mysteries. Now, thanks to the tenacity and luck of a two amateur archaeologists, the final pieces of the puzzle seem to have been filled in.

... Without hesitating, Mr. Rippert replied, “You can stop searching. I shot down Saint-Exupéry.”

Mr. Rippert, who will be 86 in May, worked as a television sports reporter after the war. It was only days after he had shot down a P-38 with French colors near Marseille that he learned of Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance.

He was convinced he had shot him down, though he confided his conviction only to a diary. In 2003, when he learned that Saint-Exupéry’s plane had been located, his suspicion was confirmed. But still, he said nothing publicly.

Over the years, the thought that he might have killed Saint-Exupéry had troubled Mr. Rippert. As a youth in the 1930s, he had idolized the aviator-turned-author and had devoured his books, beginning with “Southern Mail,” in 1929, an adventure tale written while Saint-Exupéry was flying the Casablanca to Dakar route.

... In Paris, Saint-Exupéry’s grandnephew, Olivier d’Agay, who is a spokesman for the family, said that Mr. Rippert’s version of the events was credible. “All he said was that he hit and brought down a P-38 in that region on July 31 — he never said he shot down Saint-Exupéry,” Mr. d’Agay said. “Of course, he asked himself if it were true, though he kept it to himself.

“Rippert said he often felt desperate,” he said. “If he had known what he was doing, he never would have done it.”

Friday, April 11, 2008

Tibetan Temple detail

temple detail, originally uploaded by - di.

A blog to check, out if you haven't already ....

Sparkletopia is full of delights if you are art-orientated ... well, if you're travel, people and all kinds of others things orientated too.

Wandering there tonight compelled me to tell you ...check it out if you haven't already.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A quietly satisfying day

At times I was a little cross-eyed, trying to make my pdf link work on the website long after the sugar buzz had worn off but other parts of my day were just grand.

It began in the ultimate mobile office ... the train from Antwerpen to Brussels.
If I board at Central Station, I'm guaranteed one of the single seats with a tray table. So I wrote up an outline for the photo gallery on the new website almost through its development stage.

I love where I work.
I'm lucky and have this rather deliciously special group of people I get to call colleagues.

I spent the day working and during the course of that day, I checked in at my gmail account. The result of those checks are a school visit as competition judge of that photography competition at a high school here in Belgium.

Then there was an enquiry from a web designer in need of a photographer and as I write this, I'm sending photographs that capture the essence of Belgium (I hope) to a magazine website in Egypt.

It's been one of 'those' days.

Tomorrow Lut and I are disappearing off into a place of pampering and beauty.
I have to take a swimsuit.
There's talk of a massage.
I'll get back to you ...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

inside the Tibetan Meditation room, originally uploaded by - di.

I loved this ... is it a gong?

I was torn between concentrating to follow the lecture in Nederlands and watching the way the light played on the red frame around this 'gong'.

I came home wanting to find the reds and the yellows, the greens and oranges and paint things that are mine.

I didn't come close to capturing the beauty I saw in this piece but here is an attempt.

Meditation Room

Meditation Room, originally uploaded by - di.

It's been a rough week and I'm only in the middle of it however for about 45 minutes today, I had the privilege of spending some time in this room.

It was a place of incredible peace.

There was a hint of the woodsmoke I recall from those days spent in the safety of a happy childhood but sweetly scented.

The silence was so thick, so dense, so peaceful it seeed to caress my skin but without suffocating me. I sat there for ages trying to think of how to describe it.

It was stunning.
It made me think about Buddhism and whether there was a way for me to escape to this room of meditation on a regular basis.

Then it was back to the real world and I was late every where on an impossible schedule. Heading out again soon, just touching base with my 5-minute-meditation room here at the blog.

A little bit of Tibet here in Antwerpen

Tibetan prayer flagsm, originally uploaded by - di.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sitting still for a moment ...

3 hours sleep last night in no way prepared me for my today ...

I worked all morning and sent out my very first 1000 subscriber newsletter. It was a bit buzzy to be honest.

Lunchtime and I raced into the city with a huge list of errands and that would have been fine but for the huge thud as the tram ground to a halt slowly, crashing over something metal, then something soft.

A collective gasp went up as we all thought a bike had been hit and flattened, along with the rider but then ... a heap of a car completed its u-turn, huge mess with its side all stoved in and drove off.

The tram had clearly run over pieces of car, unable to stop in time.

The driver was furious and started making the round of phone calls required to notify the powers that be an accident had occurred.

Some people started trying to leave, I was already a little bit late for my first meeting unfortunately this made the driver very impatient with us and we were all sent back to our seats.

Okay ... so the chances of further accidents were high, as you step out of the tram and straight into traffic.

Like scolded children we sat waiting while the tram limped along and pulled off the mainline near Centraal Station and then we were given permission to leave.

A brisk walk and I was only 30 minutes late.
The schedule went downhill from there and I'll have to work out how to gracefully exit before lunch on the temple visit tomorrow, just to get everything done.

Welcome to the real world of multiple tasks, Di ;)

Monday, April 07, 2008

You know when ...

You know when the police ring on the doorbell downstairs and want in and they say a lot in Dutch, very fast, so that you have to say 'Ik spreek Engels' and they sound a little testy and say 'It's the police. Let us in!' and you do because that's what you're taught to do?

But ... there's no screen to identify them on.

And you wonder why they're coming to visit, assume they're checking that the daughter and granddaughter really live here, tidy your hair a little and wait but they stop downstairs and you think 'Okay?' but then the banging begins and the drill and you think 'Dammit, are they police?' And 'What are they doing?'

But having watched a few too many television shows you don't really feel inclined to open your noisy front door and peer over the spiral staircase railing because ... if they aren't police you will be the person able to identify them, so won't they have to poke out your eyes or something?

So I phoned the Belgian but he was of no use and hadn't even thought through the issues of me having a look to make sure they were who they said they were ...sigh.

And anyway, the other elderly neighbour across the hall downstairs will surely pop his head out to check out the noise because that's what he always does when there's too much noise.

But wouldn't I want someone else to do this for me?

Okay, going to look ...

On my return.
I'm mortified.
I acted like a city person.
Whoever they were, they left while I had my iPod-like music player playing.

After going out to pick up Miss Three, I learned that the locks were changed on the apartment below and one has to see the politie if they want to enter.
Seems authentic ...

Today ...

Today began with the insanity that is everyone going in different directions at the same time and then a sudden peace.

My first day alone in a very long time.

Breakfast, painkillers and a clearing of my horrendously buried desk.

A list began, needing more in-trays and a bulletin board.

Some work done on photo orders and a growing list of dvds full of photographs needing mailed.

Every now and again, raising my head to the peace of an empty apartment.

A new letterhead to complete and a business card to alter just a little more before sending to work.

A newsletter to email to the mailing list of over 1000.

A little planning and preparation for the Tibetan Temple visit on Wednesday, a note to remember to find my swimsuit for a day out with Lut on Friday ... work Thursday.

Re-arranging and making space for a photo-shoot that had to be cancelled because of this cough that continues ... 2 weeks seems to be about usual with bronchial things since my mum died.

I have 2 novel ideas begun on my desktop, nagging me from their points of beginning and an idea for a book of interviews that could be both timely and cathartic.

Today is an attempt to pull all of these aspects of my life into some kind of manageable framework ... without the PA that I need to organise me.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

My Little Sister ...

My little sister turned 40 today ...

I find it quite stunning mostly because I imagine her about 25, maybe younger.

My very best New Zealand source on things family sent me this photograph, taken on his cellphone at 'the' birthday party. No family were present, we're rotten at birthdays ... 2 brothers who don't call for birthdays from Australia, a dad who was more efficient when mum was in charge of his memory. And then there's me, the hopelessly irresponsible one living 23 hours in flight time away, with the boxed, not-quite-completed gift still here on Gert's desk.

So, what can I write about my sister ...?
The first thing would be that she's the kind of person you most want in your corner when things go wrong. She's a person who makes people feel safe, whether they're actually dying or simply imagining they are. She's a registered nurse who works in a hospice now.

She's almost the practical one, except when she's not ... it used to be handbags and shoes were her shopper-sins, these days I don't know what saves her for sure.

She's a giggler when she gets going. There was that time in the Las Vegas elevator, the one where the man with the scarred face joined us with two of his henchmen. He gave them instructions about Room ... and they exited a few floors up, leaving us alone with him and his shoulder-holstered gun.

My little sister and I caught each others eye and tried not to laugh but it was one of those situations where the harder you try not to laugh the worse it is until that point where you're convulsed and exploding.

He didn't shoot us.
He tried to ignore us.
Did I mention we were in the Landmark Hotel's tower elevator ... many floors to the top, many many floors.

She was my giggling buddy during those long catholic sermons back in our childhood days too.

I prefer not to annoy her although it does happen accidentally sometimes. Her raised eyebrow is easily equivalent to 1000 cutting words, specially if you know you've messed up or that it could be perceived you have messed up.

However ... when my little sister has had a couple of glasses of wine she becomes the most amusing, verbally-adept creature you could know but knowing it's wrong to encourage this type of verbal-adeptness, I tend to tell the same couple of drinking legends over and over and she tries not to drink (a moment for laughter).

Apparently her 40th party was lovely, and Mark claims that those present sang the most in-tune rendition of Happy Birthday he had ever heard ... although I have no evidence regarding his alcohol intake prior to phoning me ;)

Theres only one sms I keep on my phone permanently, it's from Sand's. She was at a winery concert in the summer and it works as a snapshot. She wrote:Sitting at Millbrook, Queenstown, drinking beautiful wine, listening to Dave Dobbyn and Hayley Westenra with Jim and Bridge

Hell yes!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY Sand's, I do wish I could have been there.
All the very best things in the year ahead.

Di xxx

Need to go out and take new photographs

Bompi and Miss Three, originally uploaded by - di.

It's raining today but it's the best kind of spring rain - the balcony plants are happy.

And missing friends who have flown away.

V, originally uploaded by - di.

Still sick ...

a guiding hand- paris, originally uploaded by - di.

So desperately looking for nice things like this memory of wandering in Paris.

Friday, April 04, 2008

a difficult couple of days ...

I've spent the last 2 hours, willing the time to fly by while I waited the almost recommended time for my next dose of painkillers.

This flu has been a dog and I spent most of yesterday in bed, napping and coughing, then most of last night coughing and sleeping.

Today I didn't know if there was any improvement simply because I was so tired and I had this headache. My neck, rearranged long ago during a 100km per hour flight from my pillion position to the road, seemed to be protesting the very forceful cough.

It was too sore to lie down but I kept falling asleep sitting up ... so I waited for time to pass and perhaps I'm feeling a lot better - like typing at least.

My sister's 40th birthday ...
In New Zealand, Saturday April has already begun and I'm still adding to the box of goodies even today. I went out for cough syrup and came home with a few more treats for the box.

I can imagine Sands raising an eyebrow on reading this, knowing the true test will be in the posting of said present.

Mark's flying home for the big party but Auckland to Dunedin isn't quite Europe to New Zealand. I didn't offer that kidney on Ebay and so didn't quite find the 1500euro airfare.

And this isn't your birthday post, Sandra ;)

Japanese Pen Spinning

It could be that my judgement is way off at 5.30am but Japanese pen spinning seems fairly impressive, specially if you've spent most of the night almost but not quite coughing yourself awake ...

Thanks Neil, for Neilochka's Successful Technique 3.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Ismael Lô, Singer and the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Catching up on news over on The View from Fez and I read of Ismael Lô.

They had written Ismael Lô is from Senegal. He almost became a painter, but singing took precedence. He joined the successful group Super Diamono in Dakar, but eventually went solo. His music draws on mbalax - the rhythms of the Wolof people of Senegal - along with cool French ballads; he plays guitar and harmonica. A member of the Tijani Sufi brotherhood, whose saint is buried at the Sidi Ahmed Tijani Zawiya in Fez, he's enormously popular in France where he now lives, and was awarded the Legion d'Honneur in 2002.

Lô will be performing at the end of his set with the Hamadcha Sufi Brotherhood of Fez, led by Moqaddem Abderrahim Amrani Marrakchi. This brotherhood was founded by Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch in the 17th century and is known for its spellbinding music, dance and trance.

If you would like to see him perform or the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music appeals to you, then you can check out the update here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The most beautiful piece of writing ...

I found this post, this piece of writing over at Shutter Sisters and for some reason, I found it stunningly beautiful ... perhaps it was that it seems like a series of snapshots, I don't know but I'd like to be able to find my way back to it sometimes.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Ik heb de griep

Huge dramatic sigh that fades into tired ... I have the flu.

It's disgusting.

Aching, coughing, miserable.