Monday, February 26, 2007

Where did my love of reading come from?

A fantastic town - must go back! October 2006

I was reading a post on another blog today about reading in schools and where does your love of reading and writing come from and, more importantly, how easily it can be killed off as you go through the schooling system. This discussion resonated with me as I had a very relaxed weekend reading new books and dipping into old favourites.

My family are avid readers and always have been. My grandmothers both read a lot and I can remember going into my great grandmother's room with her breakfast tray (it was a treat to be allowed to carry it) and she had to clear a space for it amongst her knitting and books. Reading books under the bedclothes with a torch after the light had been turned off because you simply HAD to know what was going to happen next.

The agonies of trying to limit the number of books to borrow from the library down to a mere 3 or 4. And then running out of new reading material before you get back to the library. My parents have always read extensively. My father usually has more than 1 book on the go. (I've inherited that tendency as well - I think I have 3 on the go at the moment.) We always got a book in our stocking on Christmas morning and that kept us quiet for most of the day.

Now that I have nephews and a niece its great to see that our family tradition of being avid readers is continuing. They all love books. There is always book reading before bed. The fastest way to quieten them down is to offer to read a book and even if one of them is uninterested at the time of the offer, they usually sneak over before the book is finished. When my father was visiting my brother when he had a leg injury one day, he ended up with a hoarse voice. He was stuck on the sofa with his leg up and the youngest boy kept backing in with different books to be read, virtually all day I believe.

I'm a fast reader which I considered to be an asset at school. When we had to read a book, I could read it really quickly to find out what happened and then reread it more slowly to pick up all the nuances. I know that this frustrated some of my friends that weren't great readers as they often didn't make it all the way through. But when I read a book, I get absolutely lost in it and don't even hear people when they talk to me.

When I was about 20, I went and stayed with family friends in Australia and was in a state of shock when I discovered that they didn't even have a set of bookshelves. They were very out-doorsy people and were always doing things, rather than curling up with a book. Their daughter (a few years younger than myself) had to buy a dictionary for school and I had to show her how to use it! She had stayed with us the previous year and found our family frustrating. In the evenings we would all be sitting around reading and she would have nothing to do and would start bouncing off the walls.

So books and reading have always played an important part in my life. I can't imagine never reading. I even take books with me when I go camping. Those books collect quite a bit of wildlife as sandflies tend to squished into the pages.

As for English teachers at school, I can't say that any of them particularly inspired me but I always enjoyed the subject. I think the best year was the last year when we studied war poetry and romantic poetry. I found it interesting to look at the poetry by type, rather than by author. The downside of English was having to read 'The Hobbit' in my first year at secondary school. I've since reread it and enjoy it now but having to read it chapter by chapter and discuss it as we went was like drawing teeth.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Autumn already?

Autumn colours in Edinburgh, October 2006

Its hard to believe but I'm already seeing some autumn colours around the place. Driving to work this morning a row of poplars were starting to change. Now I know that these trees are one of the first to go but it seems a little early as we haven't had our summer yet and I'd like to register a complaint. Yes, we've had a week of hot weather but its raining today and 1 week does not a summer make. I've even had to use my drier this summer which is unheard of for me so take note, whoever is organising the weather - I'm not impressed. Could be better. Try harder please.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Being brave & drawing in public

Gardener's shed, London, October 2006

I'm not brave and I don't draw in public but I've just been reading an old article on Danny Gregory's website and it reminded me of an artist I met in London when I was there in October.

My little blister and I had just done a 2 hour walking tour (where I took the above photo) and were absolutely shattered. We staggered into the nearest coffee house (can't remember the name but it was lovely) and got sustenance. The only available seats were at the long bench in the front window, next to a young woman who was sketching in her journal.

We were both absolutely fascinated and impressed with what she was creating. She was drawing the building opposite in a long, narrow Moleskin so that the building took up the full length of both pages. After a while she hauled out another journal and started a different perspective of the same building.

Eventually I interrupted her to talk to her and I felt very self conscious about doing so. I didn't want her to feel as though I was snooping but I just wanted to let her know that I thought what she was doing was brilliant and that even better, she was just drawing while she was having coffee. It turned out she was a law clerk (I think, can't quite remember) and was on a break before heading back to work.

One of the commenters on Danny's post mentioned that when he's out drawing, so many people assume that you're either a full time artist or arts student. I had completely forgotten about this women until reading that post but I remember being surprised that she was wearing a suit. First impressions and assumptions - so often wrong.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

New toys

OK, so its not really a toy but I have just purchased a new laminator and its GREAT! Its small, relatively light weight (compared to the monster that threw a hissy fit and died) and fast. Fabulous. So new is better. I'll leave aside the whole discussion of whether the idea of turning biodegradable paper into plastic enclosed, live for ever laminates a good idea or not for someone else to sweat over.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Happy cat

This is what we arrived home to the other night - a very happy cat basking in the lawn clippings. She was all nice and toasty and, surprisingly, smelt lovely when she came in.

She has been quite a pain in the mornings lately. This morning she woke us up at about 4.30am by bouncing on us and saying that it was a new day and where was her breakfast. By 5.30am I. had got fed up and locked her out of the room so I managed to get another hours sleep. Still, not as bad as the other night when we heard her calling from downstairs with her "I've got a present for you" voice. It was a live mouse and when I appeared half way down the stairs, she got so excited that I might be going to fed her her biscuits that SHE LET IT GO! Fantastic. 3am in the morning and I was in bare feet and I didn't have my specs on. It was all too hard so I just went back upstairs to bed. Its not a comforting thought to think that there's a mouse running around some where.

I. and I have a deal - I deal with the feathered things and he deals with rodents. I have a lot more things to deal with but really, I still believe I'm getting the better end of the bargain as dead rats, or rather the left over, half chewed bits of rats, are not my most favourite things. Mind you, on the days we come home from work to find piles of feathers on the floor I feel a bit hard done by as I'm scrabbling around on hands and knees trying to get all the feathers. I've learnt by bitter experience that its really best not to fire up the vacuum cleaner until you've collected the feathers 'cos otherwise they tend to get blasted from one end of the room to the other and it makes the whole job that much more difficult.

Who'd have pets!


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reminder of hotter days

Russell lupin on Summit Road, Akaroa Harbour - Monday 5th

I've included the above photo to remind me that we have had some truly hot days but they've been few and far between. Driving to work this morning was dark, gloomy and cold. Lots of cars had their headlights on and it was depressing. This is meant to be one of our warmest months for heaven's sake! But after about half an hour at work, the clouds cleared and its turned into a fabulous day with minimal wind. One really can't predict the weather now days.

I had a surprise phone call about 4pm yesterday from my nephew L inviting me to go up the gondola 'RIGHT NOW!'. He loves the gondola with a deep abiding passion so as a treat for surviving his first 5 days at school, he got to go up the gondola with his mother and his favourite auntie (sorry E - but be reassured, he didn't mention T at all). The 'right now' part was that they were parked in the gondola car park already so I had enough time to grab my pass and exit. We had a lot of fun but I had to leave them up there and come back to work to put some payments through. Boring. Got an excellent view of the cruise boat that's in at the moment though. We'd guessed that there was a boat in because there were a lot of shall we say 'older people' wandering around over at the gondola. I still find it staggering that people would choose to come on a cruise from Australia to Lyttelton!

I've been driving my sports car a bit more lately. Its more challenging to drive than modern cars so sometimes I just can't be bothered with it but yesterday was more challenging than normal. As I was coming through town I noticed that changing gear was getting more and more difficult and that the gear lever felt quite loose. I decided to apply my positive theory to it (as in, believe that you'll be able to change gear easily and you will) which helped to a certain extent. Before I drove home I. had a bit of an investigation into it and having done so, volunteered to drive it home himself, for which I was very grateful. Its now parked up and he's ordered parts from the UK to repair it so who knows how long that will take to come through. Sigh. I was enjoying tooling around in it.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

My Niece, the iGirl

Spent a fair amount of time with my brother and his 2 (will be 3 later this year) children at the Sport Planes Association fly-in in Ashburton on Saturday afternoon. This is my niece, the iGirl, sitting in Papa's plane and not looking at her incredibly scary aunt i.e. me! She got over her 'shyness' fairly quickly and she and I spent the rest of the afternoon together walking around the aircraft and talking to the owners.

A Harvard put on a short aerobatic display which was really good. iGirl was fascinated by the smoke that it put out during the display and wanted to go over and see the plane at the end. When we got there an air force guy was polishing the prop but was more than happy to explain where the smoke came out and what he was polishing the prop with (it was grease!).

We spent the whole time talking. When she didn't hear what I said, she would say "Say" instead of 'pardon'. Very cute. She's also really into cups of tea - not for herself. Just the whole practice of sitting down with a drink and having a biscuit. The cafe scene really suits her.

After we'd been in the Aviation Museum watching a video of a top dresser putting on an exhibition (she wanted to know way more than I could explain), she was given a large sticker of the new Air NZ airbus by one of the guys manning the Museum. Stickers always have to be used so she peeled it off and stuck it to her tummy where it stretched from one side to the other. I, of course, forgot to get a photo of that.

I have high hopes of the iGirl being a petrol head. We've already had a discussion about how my sports car is for girls to drive, that her Daddy can't drive it because he's a boy and when she's a big girl she'll be able to drive it. Her father just rolled his eyes when I told him.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Photo shoot

First thing this morning at work we raced out and took photos of cars. Lots of fun. Got to try funny angles and what we thought were arty shots. The only real problem was that a) I was wearing heels which aren't the best for scrabbling around in shrubbery trying to get a different vantage point, and b) the seal leaks tar so we couldn't lie down, kneel or lean on it without getting tar stuck to our hands and clothes. Lots of fun though but I came back in all hot and sweaty even though it was an overcast morning.