Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Potter, France

the potter pots., originally uploaded by - di.

Sometimes, it is the impromptu moments that gift a little bit of magic.

People write letters with the assumption that absence can be atoned for. The closer the correspondents or the more important their communication, the greater skills they must find if the fiction of direct contact is to be maintained. The strong personal letter, with its intimacies and frank exchanges and shared concerns, its sense of thought being generated as though in conversation, is perhaps the kind we now value most.
Vincent O'Sullivan, from the Introduction of 'Katherine Mansfield, Selected Letters'

Randy Pausch

Thanks for this Laura.

Did I mention the wolves in France?

The Wolves, de Chabrieres, France, originally uploaded by - di.

We drove 110kms to visit Les Loups de Cabrieres and were glad that we had ...

This is one of the images taken while wandering there.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Secondhand Books Discovered Today

It was a good day in the limited world of English books in a country that has Dutch, French and German as official languages.

I live in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region but secondhand book treasures are often found here.

Delights from a day where I gave up searching for a dress and bought 3 books and an excellent movie: Jamilia and another book on singer k.d lang.

I have been devouring books of late and 'ran out' in France. There was a beautiful bookshop in the village of Ussel but they carried nothing in English. In the bigger city of Aubusson, there was a small selection but nothing particularly serious or interesting. I was left envious, as I noted the titles and authors they were carrying in French.

I consumed a book about Micheal Palin while there and then set to work on Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game but some evenings I didn't have the energy to consume Mr Hesse, who demands more than the person I was in those heady days of much wandering and country air.

Music ...I'm mostly listening to Fabrizio de Andre at the moment. A little sharing of resources means that I have almost the entire collection of his music on my mp3 player. If curious, you can read more of him here.

Life is good.

Once, the Movie

I knew I'd love Once .

I have always loved music, with a special weakness for the kind of music on this movie.

Finding the movie and the time in a country not my own rarely works out when it comes to movies. I haven't recovered from the horror of realising all my beloved French and Italian movies have Dutch subtitles here.

Today, when testing the limits of the newly-awoken achilles tendon, we wandered the city, dealing with real work like mutuality insurance-type details and picking up yet another Katherine Mansfield book - this time a collection of Selected Letters, edited by Vincent O'Sullivan but in-between things planned came things-unplanned.

I foundOnce in Media Markt for 9euro, a movie I hadn't managed to see while it was on in the cinema.

I watched it just now and was lost ... in the way you get lost when you fall in love with someone new, that delicious floating kind of lost.

The Potter, Meyssac, France

the potter, originally uploaded by - di.

Home again ... to sunshine?

8.57am and I was running out the door, almost late for my first physio appointment.

Over time, quite some considerable time, I have adjusted to the chronic tendonitis in my achilles tendon and so it was that my lovely physio's work on it made me a little bit faint today, interfering with the whole 'ignore it and it will disappear' kiwi-curative program I had embarked on sometime last year.

My knee had popped backwards on my last night in France - a little trick it is learning to do and so I was walking around it but the knee seems fairly disturbed by the work on my tendon too.

Dramatic sigh.

He did ask me if I would be walking after the treatment and I did reply that I could rest it ... then I didn't, so the faint feeling is probably completely my own fault but one does have to test the limit of things sometimes.

It seems like I need to get a little more serious about this in the days ahead.

It's HOT here today.
There's Peter-talk (he left a comment on one of my posts), that we're in for 2 more 30 degree celsius days!

Shocking stuff from the often rain-swept flatlands.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Just in from France ...

and clearing my email inbox.
Exhausted after 800kms but too tired to sleep yet, I found an email from Martin, catching me up on the guys who created the whole 'Australia Invades New Zealand' advertising campaign.

Just so you know the deep and multi-layered meanings behind each of the ads posted previously here ...

Thanks Martin :)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Wandering in France

We've traveled more than 2,500kms since leaving Antwerpen, wandering the Correze and Puy de Dome departments of France.

We have explored Thiers, the top of Puy de Dome; the mountain villages Le Mont-Dore, La Bourboule, the absolutely stunning Collonges la Rouge and Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne ending that trip at Brive la Gaillarde in 35 degree celsius heat.

It was in that last town I discovered a shop called 'Otago Rugby, supposedly marketing rugby products from my home region back in New Zealand but instead selling a mix of the real and surreal. I bought a few postcards that combined the idea of Otago rugby with Maori rugby, Pacific Rugby and then very oddly – Akaroa rugby. It was both a delight and a confusion.

Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne was stunning. A small village that has followed the original medieval town plan, grouping its buildings around the church – a beautiful church that carried a whisper of Istanbul's Haghia Sophia in its ancient interior.

There were banana plants and beautiful palms there, fig trees and hibiscus too, in this place that didn't seem over-burdened by tourists. In fact, I'm surprised about how few visitors there are.

Collongnes-la-Rouge is breath-taking, although perhaps my opinion is coloured by the pottery and art found there. You find this small and exquisite village made entirely of red stone out in the middle of rolling hill country on the route to Compostella. You can wander downhill, in and out of small shops and even in the heat of yesterday, I couldn't resist the lure of the paved streets and the mix of medieval, gothic and renaissance architecture. I wanted to return with my camera and so we did the following day, calling in at Meyssac afterwards for a really enjoyable impromptu photography shoot with a potter there.

The other villages ...
La Bourboule whispered to me of New Zealand. It's a village surrounded by mountains but then you notice the Belle Epoque architecture and there's the French all around you. And Mont-Dore was once used by the Romans for the treatment of pulmonary consumption, brochitis, asthma, as well as nervous and rheumatic paralysis. The climate there is quite severe, or so they say but on the day we were there, we were searching for shade from the sun.

But the biggest smile of each day comes from the sign we pass on our return to this village ...
The sign reads: Plateau de Millevaches and translates as Plateau of the Thousand Cows and that's how it is, here in Correze Department, France.

Puy de Dome, France

It doesn't look so much from the approach road but once up on top, the views were pure magic.

Parapenting, Puy de Dome, France

I have an interview to write up when I get home ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I met this guy on the top of a volcano ...

And we got talking, as you do and before I knew it, I had an interview for the new website.

He is a parapente guy - a tandem-professional and I took a few photographs of him flying up there, on top of Puy de Dome, an extinct volcano in the province of Puy de Dome.

At 1,500 metres (approximately), you have this magical 360 degree view of the landscape that surrounds you ... including other extinct volcanoes from those days, a few thousand years ago, when volcanic activity appears to have been at its height in the area.

The sky was a deep blue and you could see for miles but mostly I took my pleasure from watching the chutes fly around the peak of Puy de Dome.

Eventually, a little chilled by the breeze at that altitude, we caught the bus back down the mountain and headed for Thiers. This was the thing I was perhaps most looking forward to - the purchase of a knife in this village with a reputation for being a fine knife-making village for at least the last 700 years.

There's something about an ancient village like that that makes this kiwi's heart beat a little faster.

I was surprised to find the big beams of wood in the external walls of the old architecture there ... just like those I had admired in the pueblo up in the Spanish hills and again in the Alsace, France.

It was a village I wanted to spend hours in, taking photographs and talking to locals however it turned out that I only had time for one unplanned interview.

This one was with the owner of the knife shop where I did the only thing I could in my search for my knife - I asked him how to do it.

He heard my specifications ... something for cutting cheese, with a corkscrew for wine and immediately pulled out a delicious little bois-de-rose and stainless number.

Anyway ... long story short at this expensive internet connection where I had to do a little research today ... his interview will appear on the new website too, complete with photograph of his shop and a link to his website.

It's grand out here, if one doesn't mention the hayfever ... hope alles goed back in your world.

Au revoir, Di.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blogging from France ...

I spent hours crafting a first and second blogpost from France. I down-sized some photographs taken out on the road, loaded everything onto my usb stick to bring to the library in this village in the middle of France, only to learn that not only is the connection 1.25euro per 30 minutes but that they don't allow usb stick use due to the risk of viruses ... so here I am, Di Unplugged.

Despite starting on that note, I am loving it out here in the wilds of the Correze Region, France. It's stunning country and so much reminds me of places and smells last experienced in New Zealand.

We drove 850kms on that first day, past fields full of sunflowers and later, the famous Limousin cattle and on towards the foothills of Massif Central and volcano country.

The house loaned to us by friends, Joyce and Alain, has been a pure delight. We have the bedroom at the top of the stairs and every morning, about 6am, I open the shutters and windows to let in the sunrise as the first light slips down the tree-covered hillside to the dew-covered hay field behind us.

(It really is that idyllic out there.)

We're in one of many small villages surrounded by forests and farms. There is only the butcher and the baker, with the nearest major town 20kms away - useful for groceries and expensive internet hook-ups.

The weather has been truly stunning, and we're appreciating it since hearing that autumn weather is the happening-thing back in Belgie.

I want to write so much more but all the information, references and photographs are on the usb stick in the camera bag at my feet and the library guy has just been over to see if I'm finishing now or want a 2.50euro hour ...

Je ne le pense pas, not without my photographs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Just so busy ... before heading to France

It's been a crazy busy few days ...

Saturday was the day of the party, so we cleaned.

Sunday was about nursing a wee hangover while revamping the photography website until midnight.

Monday I was up early and over in Brussels working at the NGO... a day that included time spent with Paola.

Tuesday was another day spent working in Brussels, to make up for the fact I'm off summer-vacationing in France as of tomorrow.

Today ... today was all kinds of things.
It was updating information at our mutuality in the city - it's the institution that organises repayment of doctors and dental fees from Social Security here.

It was also about buying pink sneakers for my broken-down tendon that protested the sandals I wore to the city (and about accidentally buying some pretty girly shoes for those moments when I need to go out as a well-dressed woman, as opposed to that photographer creature who occasionally wears deliciously inappropriate pink sneakers.

Sadly, the day ended in hospital.
A friend of ours has been put on a morphine pump for managing the pain of her 17 year battle with cancer. The morphine has made a huge difference and she surprised us with how good she is looking. They kept us there talking for an enjoyable couple of hours and it was okay, even though the last time I was in an oncology ward it was about spending time with my mum.

So tonight is about packing for 10 days in France and it might just be that I haven't had time to think about that yet.

More from the road where internet time will be incredibly limited.
Au revoir!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Di Mackey Photography ... Revamped!

Moose, LNZRFC, originally uploaded by - di.

I've been so busy taking photographs that my photography website was suffering from dire neglect ...

Today has been all about making a new selection of photographs for Di Mackey , about Gert changing the look of the photo galleries, about writing new introductions to each selection in the space that opened up, about resizing and loading and editing and now ... I think we are done.

Let me know if you see glaring errors any place. I know that there are 2 words running together but that's about all I can see.

I hope you enjoy what you find there, and thank you to v-grrrl who wrote the homepage words quite some time ago, revealing that she believed in me long before I did.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Party ...

I love parties at our place, mostly because of the very cool people I know and the fact that when you get them altogether in the same room, this conversational magic happens and the evening becomes an evening full of good conversations.

Last night was no different despite the missing 'originals'.
There were 20 adults, if you include us, and 3 children. Even better, for the first time, we were able to include the balcony as part of the available party-space. It's about 15 metres long and 3 and a half metres wide - it begs party but Antwerpen weather rarely allows it however I am thinking dinner party out there in August, with party to follow.

The Belgians were the most numerous in attendance for the first time, replacing the friendly American ascendancy of the past. We had 10 Belgians this time, 2 Italians, 4 Brits, 1 American, 4 Kiwis and then there were the children and I'm not sure where they were born.

As a kiwi, of the largely mono-lingual variety, we have friends with multi-lingual children under 5. Robin and Alberto's children speak English and Italian with equal fluency, as well as the French of their schooling.

Little Miss 4 moves between English and Dutch very naturally while Simon and Paola's children are fluent in English and Italian, also with French from school I think.

Language seems like a stunning gift to give children and it delights me to hear it.

Thank you to everyone who came last night.
See you in August.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rumeli Fortress, Istanbul

Rumeli Fortress, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

This photograph was less about the details of the 556 year old fortress and more about barely discernible couple at the top of the stairway in the background.

It occurred to me that ancient, almost deserted fortresses situated on the edge of the famous Bosphorous are surely the best place to spend time talking to someone you love.

Party tonight.
Much cleaning and cooking and some wine buying has created the shape of this day. It has been a good day.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I don't believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.
-Joseph Campbell

Australia floats the idea of attacking New Zealand ;)

You can view and vote for the best of the 2 advertisements here.

The New Zealand Herald is running the story here.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The confusion of many tasks ...

Ardennes Cow, Belgie, originally uploaded by - di.

I've been bouncing around like a squash ball involved in a match between evenly-matched partners ...

I've been loading things on the new website and attending 'phone classes' on the how-to work with this new beast.

I've been processing photographs from the most recent photo session madly ... on task until midnight last night.

And today was all about work over in Brussels where they have renewed my contract (a small moment of Di-Jubilation) and I'll keep on with my one day per week in Brussels.

I'm reading 'Thieves' by Keefer, devouring it really - its pages supplying me with another view of one of my favourite New Zealand writers.

Tomorrow I need to find 15 frames for the art exhibition in September, choose 15 images, organise an apartment and excavate my desk ...

The photograph here?
It's under consideration.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

What if the US Threw out all the Illegal Immigrants?

It's an interesting question, one that Britain has already addressed with similar conclusions, although with Poland luring its people home, it is a reality some European countries might have to address soon.

The article is here.

And the top 5 illegal overstayers in Australia?
UK, US, PR China, Indonesia, Rep of Korea
SOURCE : Australian Immigration Dept

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

On the (accidental) Trail of Katherine Mansfield ...

Katherine Mansfield was a New Zealand writer and the only writer Virginia Woolf was ever jealous of ... or so wrote Virginia after Katherine's death.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand in 1888 and dead from tuberculosis by 1923, Katherine Mansfield was a conscious modernist, an experimenter in both her writing and her life.

Janice Kulyk Keeper wrote that Katherine 'was satisfied, in her writing, with nothing less than perfection ... however she never believed her work achieved anything like perfection, though critics have declared it to have changed the course of the short story in English.

Katherine Mansfield has been haunting me of late.

In Berlin, I discovered a copy of C.K.Steads novel titled Mansfield. A book I devoured, reading the 3 years Stead chose to fictionalise, using her letters and the letters of friends like D.H.Lawrence, T.S.Eliot and Virginia Woolf, while staying as close to the truth as was possible.

In Istanbul, revisiting my favourite bookshop, I found a collection of Katherine's short stories titled Something Childish But Very Natural in Robinson Crusoe

It too was devoured, perhaps with new eyes after so long out of New Zealand.

Today found me celebrating in-between errands in the city and I popped into my favourite secondhand bookshop in the northern hemisphere.

De Slegte is almost next to Ruben's House in the city and is more often than not full of paper treasures.

Today I stumbled upon another Katherine Mansfield fiction by Janice Kulyk Keefer, titled Thieves.

A lucky find, discovered along with an old favourite and much-missed The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, one of many favourite books waiting back home in my New Zealand collection. Also 'found' today was Amos Oz's book titled The Slopes of Lebanon. Something to full future 'discussions' ...

I believe a long flight somewhere is necessary to get these books read ...

Oh, and I started pricing flights home today.
Fingers crossed I'll be heading there within a year, taking the Belgian bloke home to meet my people.

Surgery not required ...

It's been a long time coming ... the dental appointment I postponed when my sinuses became infected.

6 or 7 years on the run, with only the completely necessary being repaired as it became unavoidable and never ever the full mouth x-ray.

As of this morning, I had survived the 3 long dark nights of my toothy soul thinking about today's possibilities, narrowing them down to 2-3 root canal fillings, an extraction, and worst-case scenario ... the decay that had eaten into my jawbone and required immediate surgery.

And so it was that I returned to the dentist for 'the' extensive x-ray that would reveal ALL this morning.

I had never experienced that kind of total x-ray. I had to stand, bite on a piece of plastic, feet in a particular place and keep still while the x-ray machine circled my head.

The dentist sent me off to the chair to look out over the view while I waited.
She said, smiling, that she hadn't noticed anything really bad last time.

5 minutes later, after what sounded like an 'Oh my god' from the other room, she returned.

She said, 'Well you're not going to believe this but really, there's nothing. All I need to do is clean them for you'.

And she did.
We laughed often.
I remember thinking that any patients in the waiting room are surely going to be cheered by all the laughter.

No dental work.
Hours of worrying.

So, I'm back there for a check-up that I don't plan to miss in January.
Alles goed in the flatlands.

Kiwi Advertising

Thanks Mark.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

24 hours ...

an old soldier remembers, originally uploaded by - di.

24 hours ago we were about to leave Lut and Maurice's, having eaten the loveliest dinner. Accompanying the food was a red wine from Montepulcino and we finished up with a special sweet red from Hungary.

And the food was heavenly!

It was an evening of laughter and good conversations, some in Flemish and sometimes I understood a lot.

Last night felt like a reward for a very long day ... 'the' birth day.

Jessie had prepared all party food in the morning before biking off to the park with the kids, leaving Gert and I to bring the My Little Pony cake, the cupcakes, the 3 punnets of strawberries and etc on the bus.

It was an afternoon of dodgy weather but the trees mostly protected us. It was an afternoon spent talking with the parents of kindergarten friends, and catching up with Amanda , Simon and Paola .

In contrast, today has been a quiet day and I've spent most of it here at the laptop, selecting photographs for the art exhibition in September. They want our final selection very soon for press kits and etc, so that's my project of the moment.

Wish me luck - the sculptor, the 2 painters and the other photographer are seriously talented so I'm searching my folders for the best of the best.

Tot straks from this kiwi living in the flatlands.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A Day ...

And so it is that this day has been a day of many things ...

It began with sorting and sending 3 sets of photographs for the new website. It moved through into a shopping trip with Little Miss 4, where the denim jacket that looked so good became hers, along with a beautiful dress, Disneyland lipgloss and a 1 euro crown - thank goodness for fabulous sales.

A long chat with a physiotherapist about my chronic tendonitis, and his confession that he might not be able to work the magic I was requesting, as he has his own mild case of the same.

On into the city to the meeting about the art exhibition in September - 15 photographs to be chosen and prepared. The location is this fabulous old building in Borgerhout - more to follow once the advertising posters and flyers are done.

Drinks at the pub with the organisers, party invitations casually issued ... and accepted. A crowded tram ride through Antwerpen city to meet up with Gert, then the mission to find blue food colouring and licorice for outlines and edges on a birthday cake.

Home, pizza-ed, wined and downloading photographs from a day.
It was a good day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A dark and stormy night and birthday plans

It's after midnight and I've spent the evening working on the new website that has been in development for quite some time.

It's very close to being finished now.

But tonight has been fraught because it has been a day of storms and while Peter was a superb companion on the balcony this afternoon, this evening has been spent fighting off the mosquitoes while trying to find ways to deal with the extreme mugginess while working.

And as I write this, the night sky periodically explodes with lightning flashes that cause the low cloud cover to glow over Antwerpen city ... then there's the almost continuous rumbling growl of thunder.

It's been a day full of people - school holidays and a full house means dishes, dishes and more dishes.

In other, far more important news ... Little Miss 3 is about to become Little Miss 4 and she is full of all kinds of plans about what she would like for her birthday.

Birthday cakes are being designed in secret, presents are being hidden and she's whipping up a storm of excitement over the event.

The little pink two-wheeler bicycle of her dreams is downstairs in the garage - the one that her mummy and Marco went out and bought today.

The pink bicycle that she has wanted forever, since one of her kindy friends rode up and parked hers proudly at kindergarten and to be honest, this is the kind of place where she will use it everyday. We live in the flat country, where bike paths and beautiful parks mean that any and everyone is out there on their bicycles.

Friday is the big day.
Saturday is the big party.
Celebrations are planned for both days.

Okay, a great huge enormous fork of lightning just blew the darkness to pieces ... I guess what I was seeing earlier was the storm muted and distant. It's almost on top of me now, with accompanying sound effects.

Time to sign off.

Slaap lekker from this kiwi in Belgie.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Summer on the balconies of Belgie

As Peter drives over to my place, I thought I might go for a wander through some of the blogs and voila, his blog gives you some insight into Antwerpen's weather today.

We were luckier with our massive balcony and it weathered the downpour without problems. I'm thinking that maybe he and I can take Paola's limoncello outside when he arrives. He said something cold when I talked of putting the coffee pot on although I guess he might be quite so keen on the alcohol content if he's driving.

You don't know limoncello ... ?

Gert, Jessie and I had our first rather excellent Limoncello experiment last night. I found this recipe amongst many:
8 organic lemons (or make sure they don’t have chemicals on)
800 gr sugar
1 lt + 1glass of water
1 lt pure alcohol (95% vol. or 95°…I don’t know how do you say…)

Peel the lemons (only the yellow part, no white at all, it gives bitter taste) and put it in alcohol for 20 days, storing the closed bottle (or the pan or where do you want to put the mixture) in a cool and dark place.
Then strain the liquid and add it to a cold syrup made by water and sugar.
Bottle the limoncello and drink it after 30 days or more.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Bxl Sprout, a blog for Belgian-based Vegetarians

Me: "You said the salad was vegetarian."
Waiter: "It is vegetarian."
Me: "It has bacon on it."
Waiter: [blank stare]

And so it begins ... Sharon's search for good vegetarian food in Brussels on her new blog bxlsprout .

An enjoyable read and highly recommended if you're looking for good places to eat in Europe's capital city.
The law of self-fulfilling prophecy says that you get what you expect. So why not create great expectations and the highest vision possible of yourself and your world?
Mark Victor Hansen

Thanks to Sparkletopia.