Monday, June 29, 2009

We have the house!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Camogli, Italy, originally uploaded by - di.

And so it begins, I fly out in 11 days heading for Genova ... my favourite city in the world.

This photograph was taken at Camogli, not so far from the city itself. I hope to swim there with Pippa, an old friend I used to visit the beaches of home with. I think this will surely become our northern hemisphere beach, although it will be so very strange not to have my old labrador - my constant New Zealand beach, lake and river companion, with us in this new place. I'm sure she would approve though.

The best thing about leaving is surely the tangible deadline ...

I have to have Istanbul finished.
I have to have tidied up my photography exhibition in the city and I need to have a book outline for the next in-between project.

The 'new, getting old fast' website has had its corrupted module rewritten and I am packing a whole lot of paper notes because I prefer to read paper over laptop screens. I have interviews and all kinds of other things and an 8 day period alone for loading that website and kick-starting it finally ...

All of this and I don't want to think about the fact that the real estate agent and the owners of the house decide whether we're 'it' today.

Okay, back into Istanbul.
We're expecting 30+ celsius all week, only broken by thunderstorms at the weekend ...

Tot straks.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's midnight and still over 20 celsius.
Our apartment is top floor with a flat black roof that attracts ALL the heat you can imagine. We open our doors in the night and the mosquitoes congregate to party at our place. My ankles are testament to this wild party still happening now ...

When I was child, my parents would load the 4 of us into the backseat of the old Holden stationwagon at midnight and let us swim within the high beam of the headlights at Outram Glen. Failing that, we might walk over to the school next to home and midnight swim in the swimming pool there - the safer option I'm sure, although I still have two brothers and one sister.

Life was so much simpler back then.

So ... it's one of those impossibly hot summer nights here in the flatlands - no a/c at our place.

Little Miss 4 had her 5th birthday party today, early so that her kindy friends could come before summer holidays begin. It was a wild day that left everyone except her completely and utterly exhausted at days end.

She's a 4th of July girl, more celebrations to follow.

A period of breath-holding ahead ...

Slowly our 3-bedroom apartment here has filled with people, there is this continuous ebb-and-flow of family and friends, one that sees Gert's two children coming and going between parents, my daughter and her daughter moving in, Gert and I here since we began, and many many delicious foreign guests and so it is that we combine to fill this place to overflowing oftentimes.

We have a delicious 15 metre balcony but the wrong climate to make much use of it, with the frustration of many mosquitoes who fly in and breed exceptionally well in the warm weather. We have a rooftop view too and an extremely reasonable rent however ... the peasants have been revolting, in every way, and there has been a call for change.

Jessie spotted this very cool old house, with more bedrooms, bathrooms and a garden!! for the same price as our apartment which translates as stunningly reasonable, mostly because there's no car-parking or garage. Perfect for this car-less family who use old-fashioned black bicycles and public transport.

Jessie and I went with Little Miss 4 and fell in love which then meant we had to haul Gert into the process. Haul because it could be said that Belgians are, in general, reluctant movers, especially when compared to the kiwis I know ... but this is mostly explained by the tenancy agreements and difficulties of making a house move.

I took him back to the house this morning.
He fell in love too.

It's 3-storeys high, has atiny steep staircase that is normal for these narrow high old Belgian houses and then there are all these quirky ... yes, quirky is the word that most fits this house ... all these quirky rooms that we can easily fill with people and stuff. New central heating using gas, 2 bathrooms, a cellar, and lots of windows for the light I'm so in love with.

Best of all, the ground-floor is an open-plan series of lounge through into living space, into dining room area and straight on out through double-glass doors into one of those pocket-size Belgian gardens, so full of possibility that I can't stop smiling. Or left to the kitchen, with a real laundry room and a big sink, so missed in this apartment of ours.

The only question mark over the move is when we have to move in by, as it could mean paying rents on two places and that's no-ones idea of a good time.

We hear on Monday or Tuesday ... but we're so in love with the place, so very in love.
I'll let you know.

Note: and as observed by Paola, there's room for a dog in this house that's so close to one of the big city parks ... ;)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Poetry is how the air goes green before thunder ...

Poetry has nothing to do with poetry. Poetry is how the air goes green before thunder. Is the sound you make when you come, and why you live and how you bleed, and the sound you make or don't make when you die.
Gwendolyn MacEwen

Luck, originally uploaded by - di.

Authenticity is a daily practice. Living authentically means cultivating the courage to be emotionally honest, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable; exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of light and darkness, strength and struggle; and nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we let go of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we are. Authenticity demands wholehearted living and loving—even when it’s hard, even when it hurts, and especially when we are wrestling with the shame and fear of “not being enough.” Mindfully practicing authenticity during our most soul-searching struggles is how we invite grace, joy, and gratitude into our lives.
Brené Brown, Ph.D.

Borrowed from Kathy.

A new phenomena took over while I was out of New Zealand and wandering ...

Twenty/20 cricket.

Martin, the ICC's man in Belgium, first talked of it when we were driving to and from Flanders Fields, then yesterday Pakistan won the world cup.

Yesterday it so happened that I was travelling between Brussels and Antwerp with a Pakistani who has lived in Denmark these last 40 years. He told me of Pakistan's win in the Twenty/20 World Cup.

I stopped at the night shop on the way home after a long day at the office, picking up an ice cream.

I had to congratulate our Pakistani shop owner there too.

New Zealand didn't do so well in the competition and suddenly there I was, running into every person from Pakistan I knew ...

Talking of cricket makes me nostalgic for the childhood sounds of a good match drifting out from a transistor radio on a hot sunny day or the roar of my sports-mad dad, mum and brothers as they followed some cricket match on the television.

A cricket match over in 3 and a half hours ... I never imagined that possible.

Monday, June 22, 2009

One of those days ...

Garlic, originally uploaded by - di.

I was smiling, I swear I was and then in the process of searching out this image for this post, I realised I had just given the printers a tiny file by mistake and tried to stop them printing the 30x45cm print ...

It's been done, 2 hours after delivering it to the 24 hour service people. The Belgians were efficient and it couldn't have happened at a worse time.

Never the mind, I was here and smiling after a long dark night of the soul (or 3), snacking on a lunch of the wickedest things ...

Bagels from the British Store (where I hung up an advertising poster finally) with a splash of the most delicious Azienda Agricole Monte Gualberto Grati - extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany,with a sprinkling of natural sea salt from Portugal, listening to Viktoria Mullova from Russia and thinking life was okay.

The NGO paid my invoice, the Belgian VAT (btw here) people immediately whipped 250euro of it from my account. I have ordered the prints that I've had outstanding while waiting for my invoice to be paid. I have sent Belgian chocolates to the young guy who is slowly but surely recovering from his terribly injury suffered more than 8 weeks ago now.

The really excellent olive oil, salt and olives came from Oliviers & Co here in Antwerpen city. The woman was lovely and guided this creature who knows what she likes but lacks the details of olive oils and salts. I can't recommend the shop highly enough.

I mailed off 3 photo cds and and have two more here and I'm settling down to begin work on the thousands of Istanbul photographs that overwhelm me every time I open a folder.

My new website is undergoing its rewrite and I'm hopeful about moving to it within the fortnight and so I'm writing and preparing to load more over there, and then there's NGO stuff and a photo gallery to load in Brussels tomorrow, while I'm there photographing a meeting for the exhibition in August.

Hmmmm what else, there's always more .. the housework hasn't been done and it's already after 4pm and I was hoping to write an article for Cafebabel about work.

Oh, and there was most delicious photography session at a Jewish gathering yesterday. It was a privilege to be there and for those who are surprised, I've never not liked the Jewish people, I merely take issue with extreme right and centre right Israeli politicians and soldiers who are doing so much harm to the Palestinians.

I have good friends who are Jewish and l love taking part in Shabbat because both times I have found it quite heartbreakingly beautiful.
Just to be clear.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Genova and Bach and Me

These last few days, I've been trying to capture the Genova I fell in love with while staying in Italy last year ...

There was a paragraph where I tried to describe the quietly sublime beauty of a Sunday morning spent alone in that city I love.

I wrote: Sunday, my first day alone and the city is emptied for football. Slipping and tripping through the air comes the sound of the most exquisite violin ... drifting from some open window. Delicate notes that create this perfect sound for an afternoon spent lying on a bed reading. I am lazy on this first day spent as a solitary creature, alone in a strange city where I know no one.

I wanted that music but stopped short of shouting from my open window to whichever neighbour was playing the music.

I came home and forgot it about mostly, just pulling the memory out in moments peace.

Yesterday I was in FNAC, thinking I might like one book to celebrate this month's pay cheque when I had this idea about making a fool of myself and asking about a delicate solo violin ...

The shop assistant listened and then said 'Bach!'.

She took me over to a listening post and she was right. If this isn't the music I heard then it's close enough to delight and carry me back into that place in time.

Below you can hear something of the music on the cd titled Bach 6 Solo Sonatas & Partitas, Viktoria Mullova.

Pearl S. Buck - a truly creative mind

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To her…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, her very breath is cut off from her. She must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency she is not really alive unless she is creating.
Pearl S. Buck, novelist, Nobel laureate

Anne Michaels, Extraordinary Author and Poet

We forget the power of the small act of love. We forget how powerful that is. Often, we feel hopeless in the face of history, in the face of economics, in the face of these large forces, but really the small individual act can be incredibly powerful.
Anne Michaels, author of Fugitive Pieces.

Fugitive Pieces is one of my top 5 favourites books of all time.
It is simply that good and that beautiful.
Anne is astoundingly intelligent, well-researched and her poetic prose makes me melt.

Laura, the wise and beautiful Laura to be more precise, linked to this interview with Anne Michaels.

Simon brought news of another book by Ms Micheals, titled The Winter Vault , you can imagine what I'm looking for next. Her poetry book in The Weight of Oranges is just as exquisite ... just btw.

1.40am ...

You know, I get that I don't have a respectable reliable career, I'm a photographer, even worse - I love wandering. I veer off into conversations where I mutter about light, 'Did you see the light?!' is relatively commonly heard but by crikey, it's a highly stressful up-and-down world that I inhabit.

Gert comes home with stories from work, elections are stressful times for example, and friends look at my travelling life sideways, not seeing where the challenges might lie but seriously, if I were to blog the story of my life as a self-employed person, as a Di creature, I might just make the hair of some stand on end.

These are days where I am exploring free and grand adventures and networking versus paid and marketing (still waiting on my flyers.). It's about somehow not working all the time and stopping to breathe. It's about my heart jumping around in my chest most days and it's about all my doubts that I can make this work so that the Belgian government gets its many slices but leaves me with some, and don't even ask me about New Zealand.

Maybe I should rename this blog 'Di's Nice Blog' where her truths are selectively told, writes this smiling woman.

It's just that some days are so incredibly difficult and others are charmed.
But that's life, isn't it.

I had just had the biggest drama unfold here in the last hour. Those involved might laugh at me for finding it big but it's too complicated to write of and anyway, I rarely tell 'those' stories.

Sleep deeply.
It's late here and I'm in Brussels in the morning.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Evening Feast On Flanders Fields ...

Yesterday was one of those remarkable 15 hour days spent wandering out on Flanders Fields. Some of my favourite Belgians live there and it was lovely to see them again.

The official ceremonies were over by lunch-time and we adjourned to my favourite restaurants in the area - The Cheese Museum .

The New Zealand government Minister and various Zonnebeke councillors led by Freddy, one of the best guides on Flanders Fields, then left on a bus for a tour of the fields where 1000s of New Zealanders were killed fighting for the Commonwealth, in this instance for Belgium, during the first world war. Almost 50,000 dead were lost and buried in horrendous mud in a very small are of land next to the restaurant. Freddy described it as a silent city of 50,000.

The series of battles that make up the Battle of Passendaele went like this: More than any other battle, Passchendaele has come to symbolise the horrific nature of the great battles of the First World War. In terms of the dead, the Germans lost approximately 260,000 men, while the British Empire forces lost about 300,000, including approximately 36,500 Australians, 3,596 New Zealanders and some 16,000 Canadians from 1915 to 1917. 90,000 British and Dominion bodies were never identified, and 42,000 never recovered. Aerial photography showed 1,000,000 shell holes in 1 square mile (2.56 km2).

It's rare that tears don't rise as you follow Freddy's directions and look out over the small area where so many dead soldiers still lie in unknown unmarked graves.

We moved on over the battlefields and through cemeteries, pulled back to a past that governments today persist in returning our 21st soldiers to ... no lessons learned that I see, beyond targeted assassinations of those some countries deem to be risks and the pinpoint targeting of sites to be bombed boasted of by some armies although almost 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in Iraq, with the death toll of American soldiers there since 2003 now standing at 4311.

This site seems to tally with sites I found elsewhere.

Tour of the battlefields over, Martin and I ended up in the grounds of the Chateau, otherwise known as The Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 , dining out on the loveliest bbq food with the most interesting people.

It was a good day out.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The chicken pox have landed ...

Flanders Fields, 23-27 celsius expected, packing and running out the door ... 7.30am.

Government ministers, vip lunches - today seems like it might be an okay kind of day.

And ta-dahhhh, little Miss 4, almost Miss 5 is a white and pink spotty itchy mess this morning.

Never a dull moment at our place ...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cafe Stanny, Antwerp

I had passed by Cafe Stanny on the train as I travelled to and from Brussels city, and I have slid by it via the Number 8 tram so many times but I had never quite managed to step off and visit its red and welcoming friendliness.

Today, I had no destination in mind, I was simply escaping a really bad day and so there was nothing to lose as I climbed off Tram 8 with my small travelling laptop.

Cafe Stanny's lunch menu is diverse enough to offer something for everyone, with soups, breads with a range of fillings and things I can't quite remember. I chose a most divine bacon and onion omlette for lunch and it came with a soft brown heavily-grained bread that was delicious.

The music indicates good taste (an important criteria when wandering, laptop in hand), the atmosphere, now that it is summer, is open door with benches both inside and out. The staff were friendly and the decor lovely - appealing and a tug on the strings of memory for this kiwi so far from home. A deep blue bar/counter with stools, and stools along the high tables at the two large windows in the front.

Back in winter, I remember being attracted to the warmth of Cafe Stanny's red exterior and the promise of its fogged up windows, clients bicycles piled up outside calling to me in but I was rushing, always rushing through that stretch of the city between here and there, I never made time to detour a little.

Cafe Stanny's is lovely, a new favourite of mine but come see for yourself.

It's at Stanleystraat 1, 2018 Antwerpen, located on the Tram 8 line and close to Berchem Railway Station ... seen from the train on the left side as you pull into the station (I think).
You can't miss the red.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sometimes ...

Sometimes I wonder what I'm doing, attempting to make a career out of photography ... it doesn't pay well, the hours are long and actual paid work is irregular with people preferring the free stuff.

Sometimes I think about getting a haircut and a real job, and then something nice happens.

Jessie just told me that another of my photographs was featured on Etsy.

We've decided to put the owls up tomorrow with some other new/old photographs, and the ngo has all but paid me for last month. Cash in account and I will print everything for everyone tomorrow ... sorry for the delay.

The Fringe Benefits of Failure, and the Importance of Imagination, J.K. Rowling

The text from J.K. Rowlings Harvard commencement speech.

And here you can find part one of that speech we should probably make time to listen to sometimes, and part two.

4 cds full of processed photographs are over on the table and ready to mail, with a 5th almost done.

The speech is kind of inspiring ... specially on a bad day.

Stealing a day ...

the owl, originally uploaded by - di.

It's been good to just drop out of the world today ...

I have 2 cds of photographs burned and ready to deliver, 3 almost ready to burn and post.

Now I just have to come up with a name for an August exhibition, find the 'for sale' art shots for it too, keep collecting the documentary shots, write up the Genova interviews before heading back in July, process 3 more exhibition prints ready to frame for the evolving exhibition while continuing to take more cliental shots for it, process the artist's exhibition shots from the Zonnebeke exhibition and Istanbul ...

And I've done 3 loads of washing, gifting them to the rain that's just begun falling, vacuumed and cooked and cleared breakfast.

I am feeling torn between 'achievement' and 'how-did-life-get-this-insane?!

Photographing New Zealand's Minister of Labour and for Food Safety on Wednesday ... really. Meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, back at the exhibition on Thursday and Friday.

How about you?

A wee overload

One of the most difficult things for me as a photographer, is ignoring the other beauty while working.

So I photographed ANZAC Day on Flanders Fields, and I photographed a stunning singer and they were my tasks for the day but I also took almost 300 photographs of some owls and another 20 of two fishermen who caught my eye as they caught a fish each ...

And I always feel I should offer those photographs back to those kind enough to allow me to photograph them, free of charge, as it my impulse not their request. As I truly hate having my photograph taken, I always appreciate their generosity.

And then I was back to work on other jobs, as well as having the 3000-4000 Istanbul images to process. I wandered off to Naples and came back to an explosion of work.

The exhibition had to take priority and it did and here I am, still working on it because people loved what I did and asked me to continue.

Today I discovered that despite working all weekend, I was in a truly serious overload situation so ... I cancelled today.

I write this as I begin the task of processing as fast as possible, burning to cd and adding this work to the ever-increasing load of work to be mailed.

All of this is complicated by the fact that my day job hasn't paid me for last month and so I'm sitting on my hands as I wait for cash.

I love my life but I have to learn how to work it so that it works for me...

Note to self: must find someone to clean my apartment for me too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Ice Cream Man, Jonathan Richman

This is one of my favourite songs and quite possibly it reveals a little of the terrible twisted humour that runs deep in me ...

To be played on long road trips, scouts and school bus trips surely, or when everyone at the party has had enough alcohol.

Play it to the end for maximum enjoyment. I still can't listen to it without belly laughing as it runs for the full 8 minutes and 7 seconds. You can read more about Jonathan Richman here.

Dank u wel, Diede, for that long ago gift that still makes me laugh.

He has a true story song here.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Books, books and more delicious books.

Last night, after brain-storming a photography exhibition for August in Brussels, I wandered over and caught up with Paola, Simon and the girls. Paola cooked a favourite dinner that involved pesto and I managed to drink enough red wine to relax me to the point where falling asleep on the Amsterdam train home to Antwerpen was a terrifying possibility. Dank u wel, Simon, for pouring those glasses that I never said no to because the wine was far too nice to say no to. I had been rushing all week, stopping to chat and relax was almost unwise :)

And books!!
I've almost finished Ryszard Kapuscinksi's - The Other devouring it as the trams here in the city failed me completely this morning. Thank you for passing that on to me!

This morning, when I had to be at the exhibition by 10am ... afterwards Gert and I wandered into the city for lunch at Rubens Inn, next to Ruben's House , where a person can enjoy a lovely affordable lunch while looking out over the old Ruben's garden.

It's hot here, so we had to take shelter often... really.
Next shady place was de Slegte, my favourite secondhand bookshop and it was there that I accidentally bought Mirrors of the Unseen - Journeys in Iran for just 9euros.

This is terrible and I should be ashamed because I am presently surrounded by excellent books, reading more than a couple, depending on my mood. Tonya gifted me Pompeii by Robert Harris while I was in Naples, just to give me a taste of how it was when Mount Vesuvius exploded, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum ... assuring me that we weren't in the red zone in their house on the hill.

In the parcel she sent the other day I found my black jersey, as promised but there at the bottom I found a box of the deliciously terrible Twinkies covered by a stack of books.

My favourite books were The Towers of Trebizond which has had its first paragraphs checked and is here on my desk, and The Book Thief , the book I've been curling up with before bed and read yesterday as I travelled too and from Brussels because it is excellent an a fiction read.

I'm in and out of On Foot to the Golden Horn - A Walk to Istanbul, dependent on mood and mode of travel. And then I have Iyer Pico's Sun After Dark - Flights into Foreign which another series of essay-type writings like 'The Other', perfect for dipping in and out of at will. I found Pico for sale at the 'Intellectuals Market' in Istanbul, an old book buried in the stacks of secondhand books there.

My cup runneth over but for the 'to-do' list ... come back Shanti, I need you :)

Friday, June 12, 2009

An small apology ...

The Owl Man II, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

Apologies for not replying to comments for a while - some have slipped through my fingers.

I love comments and I prefer to reply ... I've just been a little overwhelmed lately but wandered through replying to some now.

Thank you for taking the time to leave them and I'll get back to them as soon as I can, have to run to Brussels now.

Have a lovely Friday.


There is this point in my morning where the apartment is empty of people and I relax into it for as long as it lasts in these days of madness.

I was a woman who used to take long walks on lake edges and beaches back home in New Zealand, always with my much-loved labrador. Alone time was something I needed and rarely took forgranted. It has always been a deep-seated need in me, much as I love people.

Last night I wandered into the exhibition to talk further with the owner who wants me to continue taking photographs of the cliental - public self/private self and he will print them much bigger than the 30x45cm framed images I have been hanging.

We'll talk on Saturday and begin on the new path.

The Berlin assignment at the end of the year is delicious and will see my work hanging in one of the big Berlin Museums. Although not one of the 60 artists exhibiting, my work will be there during the 2 month exhibition but more on that when the time comes.

I am quietly spine-shiveringly excited about the prospect of long days and intense photography sessions...

I also put up my hand to photograph a wedding next year. I don't usually pursue weddings as my style doesn't lend itself to the needs of many couples however if they want something different and trust me, then I adore weddings.

The Berlin wedding, shot last year, was one of the high points of my life. A 3-day affair, a Jewish/Muslim wedding with both traditions being honoured in an intensely personalised way. There were rooms that overflowed with people from all over the world, with hugely talented musicians from the Berlin music academy ... a jazz band, a folk band, classical musicians and well ... who knew what was around the corner in that next room.

It was exquisite.

A daughter arrived just as the bride arrived at the wedding hall and I captured the immense love between the bride and that daughter, then the tumbling delighted love of brothers and sisters who worried she might not make it in time.

There was the Polish feast created by the housekeeper, the Jewish ceremony in the Moroccan restaurant, the formal German ceremony in the marriage hall, the dancing ... the wild crazy beautiful celebratory dancing to the passionate Eastern European band.

And so you see, I have a particular idea about the type of wedding I can do.

The bride had tears in her eyes when she viewed the first of 100s of images but there was so much love between people that that was the dominant emotion we captured.

This year seems full of possibilities which is good because as I write this, my 2008 tax return is being done and I had warned the accountant not to pity me ...

I did a lot for free in 2008 - rarely able to resist the impulse to offer photographs to those who allow me to capture them impulsively - those people you see fishing or with their owls or that beautiful young woman starting out as a singer.

And then there's the networking, the need to get my work known and out there. The exhibition was touch and go in the end, costing much more than I had expected ... actually long time readers will probably know that I didn't think through 'the cost' when I said yes to exhibiting.

And so it goes, a year full of possibilities seems to be there right in front of me, inshallah. Let's see how it plays out although I had to laugh as I read Laura's latest post ...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hearts and Minds ...

One minute into his speech he won nearly every heart and mind in the great hall, announcing his pride to be carrying "the goodwill of the American people, and a greeting of peace Muslim communities use in my country: asalaamu alaikum.

The audience rose to its feet and I was not the only one in that vast hall with tears in my eyes.

Al Jazeera has the most beautiful article on the effect Barack Obama had on the people in Cairo ...

It was written by S Abdallah Schleifer is Distinguished Professor of Journalism at the American University in Cairo and Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.

Madness and Mayhem.

The Owl Man, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

The day began with lots of housework, torrential rain and wet washing minus a clothes-dryer.

Then the NGO phoned and needed some of my photographs presented in a particular way which galvanised me into action on all kinds of fronts, then came a second phone call from Berlin - one that sees me moving to the German city for a couple of months at the end of the year to document an extraordinary exhibition in one of the big museums there, and then the postman called by with a parcel from Naples ... Grazie Tonya and Sami!!

The apartment is clean and I'm not and there is still much to do before this day is over.

This photograph was taken at the Zonnebeke Chateau, home to the Passchendaele Museum.

Tomatoes and Toast

I saw the tomatoes on the windowsill as I washed the dishes, and noticed the salt standing close by and it took me home to a past where my mother and her mother used to love tomatoes on toast, with just the right amount of butter, salt and pepper ... with their tea or their coffee, depending on what phase they were in.

We are women who move between beverages, changing our tastes with a flu or a cold, craving the one that we don't drink once we're recovered.

They were gin and tonic women, and here am I, their red wine girl, although neither of them lived long enough to know this thing about me.

Presently, my craving is coffee, good Kaldi supplied coffee, vegemite (not Marmite just now) and red wine ... moving into the Italian wines with summer approaching.

Poplar trees are another 'trip' home, most specifically the scent of poplar trees in the rain and as it's be been raining and we have a (just) still-standing small forest behind us, walking home through the rain last night transported me far away from Belgian streets and into the natural New Zealand world I grew up in.

Mum was a wanderer I think, one who never really wandered but embraced adventure and challenges. I think she might have loved this European life of mine, where I visit Italy perhaps as often as she visited Invercargill some years.

Neither of us could have imagined this mad life of mine while she lived but I have this strong sense of her travelling with me since she died so maybe she knows.

The coffee has gurgled in the pot and the toast has popped too. The apartment is clean again so now for some food from an old life before I begin round 2 of this day here in Belgie.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

After a long and toilsome march, weary of the way, [the wanderer] drops into the nearest place of rest to become the most domestic of men ... But soon the passive fit has passed away; again a paroxysm of ennui coming on by slow degrees, Viator loses appetite, he walks about his room all night, he yawns at conversations, and a book acts upon him as a narcotic. The man wants to wander, and he must do so, or he shall die.
Sir Richard Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and Meccah, 1855

Empty bottles, Brick Mill, Mesen, originally uploaded by - di.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tea and cobwebs, Mesen

Tea and cobwebs, Mesen, originally uploaded by - di.

Another day here in the flatlands of Belgie ...

I had Shannon's 'to-do' list to get through but the lazy demon had me slowing it down a little, working on processing the stunning soprano's photo order and the family bbq photographs at the same time on two different processing programmes.

Then I had to clean the apartment because my mother-in-law and father-in-law were coming to dinner. I pre-cooked the persian chicken sauce and then raced out to photograph the waitress and her family for the exhibition ... between massive thunderstorms and rain that soaked all who sailed in her on city streets.

Home to finish with dinner preparation and into the land of wannabe good daughter's in law and voila, here I am, close to midnight and trying to walk away from processing the waitress's photographs, with which I'm delighted.

Brussels office tomorrow.

Would you not like to try all sorts of lives - one is so very small - but that is the satisfaction of writing - one can impersonate so many people.
Katherine Mansfield (one of my favourite New Zealand writers)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Flanders Fields, as written by Shannon.

Shannon has a blog she writes as Mlle and she made the time to write up our trip to Flanders Fields.

Me ... I was too busy tearing my hair out in an action that surely resembles an incredibly stressed person.

I'll get back to the blog as life settles down.

Brick Factory, Mesen

Brick Factory, Mesen, originally uploaded by - di.

I fell in love with the light here in the brick factory in Mesen. It kept changing, in seconds really and suddenly the ordinary brick pillars reminded me of sights seen in Rome and Istanbul somehow.

Mesen, Flanders Fields, originally uploaded by - di.

A church in the Belgian village of Mesen ... viewed from an angle I had never seen it from before. We were sitting on a picnic table on a walking path on our way to the Irish Peace Village ... but of course.

Flanders Fields, Belgium

Flanders Fields, Belgium, originally uploaded by - di.

This is how it was, the light shone down on these luscious baby plants and voila ... !

Old Brickworks, Mesen

Old Brickworks, Mesen, originally uploaded by - di.

We spent the morning clambering about in the ruins of a 100 year old brick and tile factory. The light was delicious.

It should be known that I climbed up a narrow metal set of steps to reach this spot, photographed the mummified rat corpse, saw none of the huge spiders Marc saw and generally had an excellent time.

15 hours out wandering ... not bad for a Sunday.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Exhibition work,III

Exhibition work,III, originally uploaded by - di.

The exhibition is set to evolve - as I was asked if I would continue photographing the brasserie clients because everyone loves it.

Monday I'm photographing one of the waitresses with her family, Tuesday there's the butcher at work.

This brasserie is a delight to hang out in, with people from all walks of life wandering in.

There's the guy from the West Indies, the Croatian archer, the railway employee and the lace-maker.

I'm on a downhill run towards Genova in July ... so much writing to do, so many photographs to be organised.

Flanders Fields in the morning, an out-of-the-blue invitation to go wandering with two Belgian photographers. Shannon is coming along for the ride and we'll hook up with Steven, my much-loved Belgian historian friend.

Tot ziens from those of us avoiding demon drink tonight because ... it's not nice to wake up thinking 'Ik heb haar pijn'.

Exhibition work,II

Exhibition work,II, originally uploaded by - di.

In this photograph, the small insert is 'public self' because the larger photograph delighted me ... a lace-maker at work, and so I made the 'private self' image the main image.

Kunst Op De Baan - een symbiose tussen kunst en commerce, Antwerpen

Exhibition work, I, originally uploaded by - di.

And so the exhibition began with the hanging of my photographs last night.

Jessie had worked with me on the final product, slipping the 'private life' photograph into the top left corner to the 'public life' photograph taken at Brasserie Reuzenhof.

Jan, my Reuzenhof host, seemed delighted with results and immediately took down the art works he had hanging, replacing them with mine. He has invited me to continue photographing his clients over the 3 weeks the exhibition runs for and we'll hang them for sale.

Today is about replacing the 2 frames broken last night by people other than myself (I'm usually grateful not to be 'the one'), then we have to hunt down a month's worth of groceries with the rental car and later, attend little Miss Four's dance performance.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson

If you only read one book this year, then I would pretty much plead with you about reading this book, by Greg Mortenson, titled Three Cups of Tea.

It's a stunning story that confirms the idea that one person really can make a difference. I devoured it while riding on trams, waiting at tram stops, eating lunch between taking photographs and could only admire the way Greg ran headlong into the most stunning brick walls again and again and again, only to stand up and keep trying and in doing so ... well, he has changed the lives of 1000s of children.

I love that it's not just the theory thing but that he's out there walking the walk as he talks the talk. There are articles about the work Greg does here.

So ummm yes, the book is informative, well-written and leaves me full of hope.

You can purchase it here or over at here.

Thank you Ms V ... you didn't need to bring gifts, your visit was gift enough but I loved the book but I guess you got that by now.

Note: there will be mistakes in this post, I'm tired. As I write this, Jessie is putting the last of my exhibition photographs together in their unique format. Printing, framing and hanging them tomorrow ... posting them over the weekend hopefully.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

A blessing and a teaching

Wish I was there, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

These days seem to be the days of the Di meltdowns, as the exhibition leaves no space for everything else that needs space ... and now wasn't the time to find out about ant invasions, something I had no previous experience of until recently.

I'm a little famous for having the great idea and not quite imagining the total story. So I can fly to Naples but run out of money before reaching home. I can say yes to a job that ends up costing me 400euro to carry out. I can be excited about a city art exhibition but fail to put together the cost sheet that would remind me that there are printing and framing costs ...

This is my life.
Gert is patient and mostly people find this little quirk of mine amusing.

But how could you forget ... ???
Oh I just do.

This morning the ants were waving hi from the honey and marching home via the bookcase to their secret hideout - the one we can't quite locate - when I realised that printing and framing looked all but impossible however ... what did the Dali Lama have to say about situations like mine?

He said, 'exile, suffering, loss - everything- is, if seen in the right light, a blessing and a teaching.' I borrowed that particular quote from Pico Iyer's excellent book, 'Sun After Dark'.

And then I had a little chuckle when I noticed I had marked in that same book, 'The music of the world, as Camus lost in Prague, observes, finds its way more easily into this heart grown less secure.'

My heart, my life, my pursuit of a career as a self-employed photographer ... it's all insecure. I live from one adventure (with its associated and usually unimagined costs) to the next adventure and this exhibition, much as it pained me this morning and saw me crawl back into my bed for 30 minutes of wallowing in sadness, is a grand adventure.

The people I have met and the photographs taken have been pure magic. I'm not raving about my technical skills or photography but I'm talking of the connections between these people who are simply allowing me to enter their worlds and capture them.

I made myself get up again, after all, I have quite a number of photographs to take today, then process, then deliver for printing tomorrow and ... I remembered that we had more 30x45cm frames somewhere, the ones I intended using when I first said yes to this exhibition actually ... in some 'safe place', that place where I lose most things.

The gods smiled down on me and I found them, on top of the wardrobe in those black rubbish bags that kept the dust off them ... of course. I also have a little collection of the same frames in various sizes and I do believe it's going to be okay ... as long as the printers can get my enlargements done in time.

But then there's this other exhibition/opening planned for our NGO office move in August. I have to be in Brussels on Friday taking photographs of a meeting that is part of the documentary element of this second exhibiton.

Friday ... oh yes, that would be the day I pick up the city exhibition prints and frame them and then ummmm hang them in time for the Saturday opening.

So ... we laugh or we cry.
We stand back and admire the mess that creates a life tapestry or we go back to bed.

I think though, that tonight, I might just have a nice bottle of cheap Italian red wine to carry me on through the insanity of this week.

Tot ziens from Belgie.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Thomas Merton noted in his diary, “Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.”

Thanks to Gretchen Rubin for this quote, taken from her Happiness Project blog.

Monday, June 01, 2009

So much to do ...

Sulo, Istanbul, originally uploaded by - di.

One of this family's favourite people flew out today and tonight we find ourselves quietly adjusting to life without her here in the lounge, reading or working away on my little blue Samsung laptop ... breaking for laughter or a nice cup of English Breakfast tea.

Travel safe, Ms V.

Life hasn't slowed down ... if anything, we've kicked things up a gear or two and the Etsy shop is undergoing constant change with all kinds of new products being researched as I write this. My daughter is an inspiring creature and I'm excited about her ideas for our Etsy future.

I took a peek at my Istanbul series and was delighted by things found lurking there, waiting for me to get back to editing them. I mailed photographs to friends ... photographs I should have sent long ago but just haven't revisited.

Tomorrow I'm photographing so many interesting people that I expect to end the day empty. The exhibition images are coming together ... I love the way my work finds its own voice or path.

The title will be Public Self/Private Self but already I have been taken on a journey I didn't expect. The press conference for the exhibition happens on Thursday, with the prints being hung Friday night. The exhibition booklet has been distributed and I'm delighted with it. The larger exhibition I'm a small part of is titled Kunst Op De Baan - een symbiose tussen kunst en commerce.

Hmmm, I think that's all for tonight. I crashed and burned most of yesterday but perhaps it was necessary. Today has surely been a better day. Here's hoping tomorrow is excellent for all of us.

Tot straks.