Monday, September 29, 2008
Over the last couple of weeks I've been falling into Pablo Neruda's life, as presented by Adam Feinstein ... a great tome of a book, hardcover with 496 pages but I never considered not carrying it whenever I was tram or train traveling.
Today, it was all I could do not to cry great big messy tears as I read through the final weeks and days of Pablo's life on the train as we arrived in Brussels South ...
On Tuesday the 25th, at nine in the morning, once again the sad task began of taking the body out across the water that was flooding the entrance and the ground floor ... When we managed to get the coffin out, a considerable group of workers and students had gathered outside in the street, and I heard the first shouts: 'Comrade Pablo Neruda!' someone screamed and all the others answered: 'Present!'
The cortege left in a defiant column (any massive demonstration was, of course, forbidden [by the military authorities] ... and the column grew along the way. Arriving at the General Assembly along the Avenida de la Paz, the funeral became an impressive popular protest, the first since 11 September ... I confess that I was frozen with fear, because the people began singing the Internationale in a crescendo.
... Soldiers, armed to the teeth, surrounded the square opposite the cemetery and I sincerely believed that, in a matter of seconds, they would let off a round of machine-gun fire.
...And singing at the top of our voices, all of us crying, we entered General Cemetery. Perhaps the presence of so many foreign journalists saved our lives ...
And still the soldiers watched, their machine guns loaded. As Matilde noted later, 'What a police presence for the most peaceful man in the world, for a poet!'
Sunday, September 28, 2008
It's this ...
You arrive and you're not really welcome, a foreigner under a dark cloud of suspicion, that one of wanting into Europe like so many others probably and cluttering up this country already over-flowing with people. So it is that you run the gaunlet of District House and if you weren't grumpy before you're furious afterwards.
And it might be that you initially went angrily into the new world you found yourself in but slowly, over time you began falling a little in love with this country not your own and one day, quite suddenly, you turn a corner and voila, there's an alleyway and it's beautiful and this stad feels like home.
I'm only halfway through reading this particular post, having snuck out from a long day of processing photo-shoots and realised that it was imperative that I blogged the Irish Miss forward so that others could squeeze a quite necessary smile out of their day.
She said, 'No, I'm the bad sister', sounding certain that that explained everything.
It took us a moment then we realised. 'So you're not Cinderella?'
'No!' she replied.
Clearly we need to find story books that talk of small children who cleaned house because they enjoyed pleasing their parents and grandparents ...
Saturday, September 27, 2008
You know those long dreamy golden blue-sky sunny days that sometimes happen in autumn?
We've had one of those here in the city and I feel like that cat who spent time in the sun somewhere, my back is warm from sitting out on the balcony talking of plans for spring and flowers with Gert, laughing over things said by Miss 4 and her mum ... enjoying a day that started out with Lut in the city.
We met in Grote Markt and it was so good to see her. We wandered a while, I had a Kafka-esque moment with a money machine, making Lut giggle ... making me glad that she doesn't have a blog of her own.
We coffee-ed at a sidewalk cafe down one of the old cobble-stoned side streets in the ancient heart of the city then wandered on, with Lut showing me shops I hadn't found yet.
Lunch was at my favourite Italian restaurant, the one I don't really want to write about here because I'm terrible and selfish and always want to be able to find a table there.
Sitting in the sun, drinking red wine, eating my favourite Napolitana pizza, with anchovies and capers, talking with Lut.
It's been a good day.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
My granddaughter creature was giving me a rather powerful face massage and I asked her what it was about ... as I was reading her her bedtime story at time.
'I'm pushing Dutch into you Granma!'
But of course, why didn't I know.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
1pm found me in one of the city offices, being redirected to set up another interview with one of their press people for next week.
2pm and I was interviewing the owner of my favourite hotel here in the city.
The 3pm found me being interviewed by Samenlevings opbouw (loosely translates as Society Building) They've been interviewing foreign artists in the city of Antwerpen, had found my photography website and deemed me worthy of the title of artist which made me smile.
Would I have called myself an artist ... ?
It was something to ponder.
We met at my favourite cafe where I was given an invitation to their feast on the square and the after-party.
Halfway through the interview with the Wilfried, I realised I had photographed him at a poetry reading last year ... which was amusing as we were talking of the development of networks at at the time.
My Belgian networks are starting bump into each other, even via my work at the NGO.
A strange and interesting day ... I hope yours was a good one too.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I read that Rubens contributed to the decorations on the facade of my favourite baroque church here in Antwerpen. Located in Conscienceplein, another favourite place of mine, this is a building I detour to walk by whenever possible.
It was built back in 1621 by the Jesuits, and although the exquisite ceiling paintings Rubens helped create were destroyed by a fire in the 18th century, as was the orginal marble, it's still a place to go and marvel about the minds of those who created such solid yet exquisite beauty.
Visit the twice mice blog to read the full article.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I would like the world as I know it to continue to exist so that I can wander on ...
For 2 hours I battled to find the small piece of html I knew I had missed ... the section that would make the banner photograph on the website appear.
I tried everything.
I deleted the image, added it again.
The harder I looked, the faster I ran out of options.
I started repeating them, desperately.
I took a lunch break about 2pm.
I was caught up by a daytime movie.
I ate some M&Ms.
Finally Jessie came over. She tried most of what I had tried then suggested I put the image address thingie in as a url to see where it took me.
It was a road to nowhere.
Yes, that would be me ... the creature who forgot to load the image into the images folder on the live website.
I mailed the newsletter out to our subscribers about 5pm, having started my day around 9am.
A normal working day perhaps but a very long day.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
If it's possible to have a favourite world war one commonwealth war cemetery, then the Buttes Ridge New British cemetery would have to be mine.
Maybe I captured some of the peace that lingers here, in this place full of so many sad stories. I read the names of the dead soldiers, see how young they were ... you can imagine them, those beautiful strong young men who thought they were fighting the war to end all wars.
The autumn light was powerfully beautiful that day. Perhaps it makes losing summer a little less painful.
And the beauty of the cemetery ... nothing can make up for the loss those grave stones represent.
It was an excellent day but oh such a long one.
I arrived home from the fields, with just enough time to have a quick nap after downloading the day's work but before going to pick up my photograph from the Borgerhart Exhibition. Gert and I met up with Friday night's crowd there but this time, just one glass of red was consumed and rather sedately.
The evening was filled with post-processing the Flanders Fields photographs and then sending them off to their various destinations where they arrived Monday morning New Zealand time.
I fell in to bed after 1am ... quite destroyed.
Monday morning, Belgian time, was all about being at the other art exhibition to pack up and move out. It was exhausting of course but I had good friends helping me.
1.30pm and I was at the cafe Peter and I have begun to call 'ours'. It's a good place to meet and catch up while people-watching.
I raced off to interview the owner of my favourite travel cafe at 3pm. It was a really enjoyable interview and inspired me to begin organising the rest of my list for the week. I have 2 interviews on Friday and I'm quite excited about both.
Today is all about the final check of the new work blog and the newsletter, followed by the big mail-out. The doors and windows are all open as I'm trying to squeeze the most out of the autumn sun, knowing that summer is pretty much over ...
I added a photograph that Peter took of Hans and I at the exhibition opening back on 5 September. I pick up the rest after he gets back from his Turkish honeymoon.
Dank u wel for persevering with the most unwilling photographee ever Peter.
Monday, September 15, 2008
I spent yesterday in the midst of a small gathering of New Zealanders out on Flanders Fields. It was a good day, one filled with a little bit of longing and much laughter.
The minister officiating over the ceremony spoke the most beautiful prayer that talked of the thousands of New Zealanders who died on Flanders Fields during world war one ... of how they would never again see the pohutakawa bloom at Christmas time, nor the yellow kowhai in spring, or hear the daytime call of the tui and the night call of the morepork (a small NZ owl).
She listed rivers and mountains, slipping my Taieri River in and surprising me and probably bought tears to the eyes of all those who have been a long time away from home ...
It was a stunningly powerful speech; quietly spoken and perfectly pitched to touch our kiwis hearts.
The day seemed a little bit more special than any other day I've spent out on the fields, despite spending most of my photographic time battling with the intense and sparkling sunlight.
Sergeant Henry Nicholas VC had his memorial plaque unveiled and the ties that bind New Zealand and Belgie were honoured yet again.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
I love photography but before some jobs, I have a little stress.
Gert teased me in Berlin, distracting me as we wandered towards the first of our 2-day full-coverage wedding, talking me through my unconscious signs of stress.
Some I knew, some I had never known.
It comes from knowing that events are often 'one-off' occasions and you're 'it' when it comes to capturing it all in the best possible way.
Once I start working, I'm fine, unless it's the Queen of England. My hands shook that time and I ruined more than a few of my shots with camera shake. So until the camera is there in my hands, it's 4am coffee and a little bit of that shallow breathing thing.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Paul came to stay and delighted us with both his company and his music. Tonight I was working through a portrait series I had taken of him playing the whistle for little Miss Four and found this one that revealed his disconcerting resemblance to the lovely George Clooney.
He left us for Ieper Wednesday morning, then word slipped into my inbox via other sources that Paul had been youtubed playing bagpipe for the classroom of his host's daughter.
It's only a snippet but Thursday night he's rumoured to have played Amazing Grace so very beautifully at the Menen Gate.
I'll hear him tomorrow, commemorations down on Flanders Fields, Martin is picking me about 6.30am.
I'll let you know how it goes.
Friday, September 12, 2008
I just had one of those nights.
Not only that but I met up with the lovely Eva and her classical Spanish guitarist-playing man at the exhibition and it seems like I might be attending a concert of his in the park tomorrow afternoon.
Marc, fellow photographer but of the extraordinary type, and his vrouw, Louisa, the sculptor and his wife and I spent the evening hanging out together ... new friends from our shared space at the other exhibition nearby, talking of traveling New Zealand in the not too distant future.
Marc's going for sure .. .the rest of us ... less sure.
I had been too exhausted by the time I arrived home after a challenging day at the office but Marc phoned and said people were asking where I was ... so I went and had the best time ever actually!
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I'll commute tomorrow.
I read through the newspapers, drawn in by a kiwi op-ed piece on the dreadful Sarah Palin and that led me ever inwards through the NY Times and over to Mudflats.com
It wasn't improving the way I was feeling, in fact it left me wanting to crawl back into bed with the blankets pulled over my head.
And so it was, to get back into a creative working mood, I meandered through my links list on the blog. They usually lift me a little and I'm ready to work ... more or less, although my bed is calling quite loudly.
I don't know if this is little Miss Four's flu or a burnout. I'm exhausted though.
As for the photograph on this post: My recent guest made contact with this guy pretending to be part of a working mans sculpture in the city. I took a couple of photographs of their exchange and then suddenly, the actor darted off over the other sculpted workmen he was pretending to be and struck various poses for my camera and I.
Much giggling followed and I had to walk away after a series of 20 or 30 photographs were made.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
I have 6 hours of exhibition-minding in front of me, a ton of work and the desire to surface and escape into the internet occasionally.
I'm sitting in the rather magnificent reception area of this district house built back in the 1870s. The artworks are all around me. I took this photograph yesterday, just before my flash died on me. I was hoping to capture a sense of the atmosphere here.
There's a beautiful glass roof directly above me and columns support the arched brick ceiling around the edges of this rather grand space. Old masters hang on the walls behind the work of the young pups that we are surely considered to be if any old ghosts still linger here.
Yesterday was one of those magical days that come along every now and again, the grand finale was succeeding in luring Martin out of the Belgian countryside and into the city for a small kiwi gathering last night.
Small being our guest Paul, Martin and myself, and including my 2 kiwis and honorary New Zealanders, Gert and his children. We served a traditional Belgian dinner with stoofvlees, whitloof and fries, relaxing with a selection of Belgian beers, a white wine and that was me, with the red and yes, those were kiwis sitting out on the balcony under the sun umbrella as the heavens opened.
There's too much to tell from my yesterday but a small taste is probably more than enough ...
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
I have a million stories, including an a pending photo shoot with parts of the band we were listening to last night and an interview with Paul about his upcoming projects which sound really exciting.
Meanwhile we're city-wandering today, tomorrow I'm exhibition-sitting all day, Thursday is over in Brussels working at the NGO and Friday I'm back at the exhibition, art-minding. That evening I have a photograph in another exhibition which opens (must note that one on the calendar). This one is more about everyone, all 50 or 60 artists and I only received one invitation for that. Curious to see how it goes.
Saturday and/or Sunday I'm down on Flanders Fields, hitching a ride there with Martin, photographing kiwi commemorations and catching up with the lovely people who look after New Zealand/Belgian world war one memories before heading back home to mail out photographs to the NZ Defence Forces for New Zealand newspapers and including a selection to the NZ Embassy for associated websites.
Monday or Tuesday a Danish-based Pakistani friend hopes to catch up while he's here in the city, Friday is a photography gig over in Brussels.
Okay, I need to write-up some interview questions for today.
Tot straks from this happy kiwi.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Sunday, September 07, 2008
The week ahead is going to be busy as I juggle multiple tasks ... which clearly is something I enjoy because I keep setting myself up to live this way.
I started to write of it all but couldn't breathe which made me laugh because who knows why I keep doing it.
And just as I was sitting here bemused, Gert informed me that he's reformatting my laptop to make sure that everything is backed up and organised ... at the moment I would lose a lot if I lost either my laptop or the external hard-drive I already have.
He said it would take hours, if not days to do this work on my laptop.
I'm needed as a babysitter and a cleaner too.
I'm counting down to those days in Italy.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
She is an Irish writer chick, living with her kiwi bloke down in New Zealand and she writes show-stoppingly hilarious blog posts that I halt family life for and read aloud.
She is that good, in my humble opinion!
I actually 'met her' via Mark, a favourite old friend from New Zealand, and sometimes we all meet up in her comment box, often to mock Mark at the moment because he posted a photograph of me when I was a teenager ...
Niamh has 16 comments on this post and Mark was feeling a little envious of the tally. It occurred to me, in honour of my friendship with Mark, that I might ask my blog readers to pop over and add to the comment tally on that post (and you'll probably want to comment on her other stuff because she's grand) ... but especially now that I know Niamh's husband sniggered in a derisive way over her excited announcement that she had 15 comments (albeit from 3 people).
Only if you have time and inclination but it seems like a good cause to this kiwi chick.
The setting was even better than I had realised, with Districthuis Borgerhout really shining for the artists. The grande dame wore her reception clothes well and enhanced the artworks hanging in the reception hall.
The evening was made for me, seeing friends and family arrive, finding someone new each time I looked up. Gert arrived before me, straight from the office, and stood in as me until I escaped from de Lijn and their horrible re-routing-for-the-street-festival-nachtmerrie and associated traffic jams.
Peter and Hans arrived first, bearing the most stunning bouquet of flowers I've received in a long time. We talked and I watched as Peter went to work with his camera ... that was me, camera-less for the first time in a long time.
Next to arrive were Gert's parents and their lovely friends, Jan and Rosa. It was so nice to have them there and that's not written because of the kilo of beautiful chocolates or the Spanish cava they gifted me with.
My cup was overflowing by now, grateful that people had simply come.
Then I found Helen and Heather, lovely kiwi friends from Brussels who had survived the horrors of the Brussels and Antwerpen ring roads to come. Ruth, a friend and a work colleague arrived next and then Paola and Simon arrived having fought their way through too.
(Amanda wasn't so lucky but it was all about timing and route, complicated by a traffic accident over our way in the end but thank you for trying and you know I look forward to attending or hearing about your photography exhibition one day.)
Peter arrived from places far away, as did the delicious Steven and Isabel from Ieper.
At some point, I realised the speeches and presentations were getting in the way of our partying but all party issues shall be resolved in the near future, or that's my plan.
People said good things about my photography ... which was a huge relief to me, as I had been horrible to live with in the 2 days leading up to the exhibition. I had slowly disappeared into the land of stress and misery after hanging the photographs and realising that they were now on display.
I did manage to exchange a hongi with Hugo, the organiser, when he presented me with the flowers of peace presented to all artists and key people in the event. I don't think anyone heard me laughingly call him a rat as our noses were pressed together.
Returning to fellow New Zealander and friend Helen afterwards I said, 'Well that was my first hongi (as per the photograph) and it happened with a Belgian bloke.' We both laughed ...
My dentist arrived and it was so good to see her. You see I discovered both her and my physio are photographers and invited them along too.
Jessica, my daughter was there too, although reaching the exhibition space on public transport on public transport was a whole other story ...
It was a truly excellent night, made so by friends and family who turned out to support this kiwi chick during her first art exhibition.
Thank you to everyone!
Friday, September 05, 2008
Mudflats has also published the Anne Kilkenny letter about Sarah Palin.
In the about , the author writes: Mudflats has been a long time coming. Until now it’s been written in my head, where posts repeated themselves incessantly until they were set free and inflicted verbally upon friends, coworkers and my spouse. I think they all must be secretly relieved I have a new outlet. The thing that drove me over the edge, and into the blogosphere? Alaska Representative Don Young and the Republican Party voting against Mother’s Day (See my very first post). So, a nod to my muse, Don Young. Go figure.
I have worked as a promotional writer and editor in the magazine industry, marketing, advertising, and blogging for my business. This is the first time I’m writing from my own perspective without trying to sell something. I like it.
My political background? I am a citizen who is paying attention. I’ve had the good fortune to have had people in my life who were engaged, and aware, and dragged me along until I became engaged and aware too. I am also fortunate to count as my friends some of those who hold elected office in this state, and remind me by example that there are good people out there in our state and city government who are intelligent, diligent, ethical, and working hard for the best interest of Alaska. It continues ...
Anyway, thanks to Peter for putting me on the trail.
I think all the time. I'm not claiming that it is top quality thought but it's just me and I'm slowly becoming used to my mind and the fact that it rarely let's me just 'be'. But this need to eat due to thinking always seemed a ridiculous excuse, even to my ears.
However I was reading the news before breakfast this morning and found this article that claims exactly that...
Blood samples taken before, during, and after revealed that intellectual work causes much bigger fluctuations in glucose levels than rest periods, perhaps owing to the stress of thinking.
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Eve Arnold, Magnum Photographer
Paul in LA
I'm trying so hard to sit on my hands and not type anything on the horror that is Sarah Palin teamed up with John McCain.
I'm trying so hard to stay out of politics.
Meanwhile, my homepage is the NY Times and well ... I read around the world in newspapers most days.
The day before the exhibition opening and the stress is only growing. I didn't expect this.
I've tried jollying myself out of it.
I went back to bed this morning but that got weird very fast. I dreamed this old man was giving me a pedicure and kissed my foot before polishing my toenails to look natural and beautiful.
He wandered off for a smoke break and thinking the whole thing a little bit odd, I went inside, finding myself in an elevator that was taking me all over what was seemed like my first Istanbul apartment building. I was meeting and talking with everyone.
Then I was on a metro in the Brussels underground in bare feet ...
I was horrified, as I don't do my New Zealand life barefoot thing since arriving on this northern side of the hemisphere. I woke incredibly relieved not to be out there trying to get back through the city without shoes.
I just photographed my face, checking to see if it looked as concrete and puffy as it feels but it doesn't ... it just feels stiff and puffy.
I tried sleeping again this afternoon, ignoring all the photographs I promised myself I would work on but lay awake, staring at the ceiling. I couldn't even pick up my Cees Nooteboom book.
It seems that there could be a bit of stress involved in putting a selection of your work out there for viewing and judgement by the general public.
Who knew ...
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Language is always a puzzle because there is usually no convincing explanation of why things have the names they have, let alone why the very same things a thousand kilometres further away are called something quite different, but there is always something rather poignant about people looking at you and addressing you while you do not understand a word.
Suddenly the entire system has been sabotaged, what was designed for communication has become the opposite.
Cees Nooteboom, from Nomad's Hotel
We were exhausted by the time we dragged ourselves home at 4pm, having left at 9 in the morning.
So long out of the apartment because the other photographer, the fabulous Marc, called up and invited us over to view his work before he hung it. His photography defies description - it's panoramic and magical. I hope to have something to post on his one day soon.
Late afternoon, early evening was about a whole lot of other things: Post Office, painkillers and the supermarket. It was about emails to work, mailing maps to friends attending the exhibition and about talking to my lovely sister.
Even better, these last few nights, there's been a new and fabulous in-house cook. My daughter has recognised the space in the kitchen and it has been calling her name. She has been stunning us with beautiful food - tonight's Chicken and Red Wine casserole, with herb dumplings was outstanding.
Miss 4 is giddy with delight over the school holidays ending and we're almost back to normal ... if normal ever had a space in this place.
I folded some pages in Cees Nooteboom's book while riding the trains yesterday. I'll go find one to share ...
Monday, September 01, 2008
Cees Nooteboom, from Nomad's Hotel
I had been looking for Cees work for a while and was delighted to find Nomad's Hotel at De Slegte's secondhand bookshop today.
A.S.Byatt wrote of him: Nooteboom shares his view of the world, showing us the strangeness in places we thought we knew and the familiarity of places most of us will probably never see for ourselves.
I do believe this will be a delicious read.
I've just realised how much I've got on and how in denial I am.
I had to select one other photograph for the exhibition and then decided to choose 2 more, just in case.
Working with them in photoshop, cropping them to fit the frame, signing them ... hands shaking a little, I realised that maybe I'm just a little bit nervous about the upcoming exhibition opening.
The corporate photo shoot images are about to be burned to cd and mailed. The French war memorial photographs need the last of their work done before being burnt to cd and sent to New Zealand.
I have 2 photo sessions I want to finish work on before Friday and I'm at the NGO tomorrow, then hanging the exhibition prints Wednesday.
I need to return my returned tax return. It was 1 cent wrong and they want me to change it ... so I will.
I have to fill out my business details for a big client's database and mail that away asap too.
There may be a huge website revamp on the cards at work, as well as the blog launch and a newsletter by 8 September.
Just a little bit shaky today.
How's things in your world?
So that was me, smiling a little as my tongue struggled to vibrate with a Buongiorno and actually laughing over my Arrivederci because it sounds so badly said when I attempt it but mostly it's fun lying there on the bed, repeating after the speaker and memorising sentences.
I'm more of a parrot than a grammar queen. I feel more than I make use of logic. Instinct wins over science for me every time.
Presently io capisco un po italiano.
And yes, I will pass your commiserations on to Gert.