Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Today started with a commute into town on Lola, in which I succesffully negotiated the traffic-light hell that is Willis Street post-Bypass.  I didn't kill myself and I got to my desk before 7.30 a.m.  I'd left home stupidly early to ensure there was minimal traffic on the road.

By 3.00 I'd handed over the first draft of my project schedule to our administrator for collation with the rest of the programme schedules.  Not bad, considering that two weeks ago I had only just taken up the project manager role and had to start creating the thing from scratch, having never used Microsoft Project before.  Over the last couple of days I've also managed to identify a major risk to the project, which can be mitigated if we prioritise work on one of our products.  

To add to that, I've also put together a rough draft of a project work plan, which the programme manager will be able to use to feed into the programme work plan, which is due to go to our steering committee in a few weeks.  
By 5.00 I was exhausted and our team headed off to Liquidate for a quick glass of wine to celebrate our achievements.  By 6.00 I was getting changed back into my cycling gear, and then
itwas a slow 25km ride home around the Bays to the wind wand, through Kilbirnie to Lyall Bay, and back up to Brooklyn through Happy Valley.

The bike kicked my butt tonight, but I guess it's not that surprising.  My candle-burned-at-both ends day followed on from yesterday's morning of hard-core upper body and core weights and evening manic RPM.  My quads were already pretty dead.  On the positive side I only got overtaken by a couple of fit male road cyclists, and I even overtook one (though to be fair he was just coasting).  It was pretty
demoralising though to be overtaken on Happy Valley Rd as though I were standing still.  

It was a beautiful evening (even with the headwind on the South Coast) and I should have enjoyed myself, but I was just kind of over it.  I have to remember how much of a psychological challenge running used to be when i first started.  Now running is a release for me.  At the moment cycling is still just physically and mentally hard.  At least with running I'm on a footpath or trail.  When I'm cycling there are cars, potholes, gravel and glass.  There are traffic lights and intersections and decisions to be made about where to place myself on the road and whether to unclip or gamble on a red changing to green.  

I'm looking forward to the day that I find cycling as relaxing as I find running.  Until then I'll aim to commute to work at least once a week.  I'll just force myself to have fun, damn it!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Number three and counting?

So I had a phonecall from my endocrinologist today with the first series of results from that HUGE blood draw yesterday. Most of the results so far have come back unproblematic, although my thyroid replacement still needs careful monitoring. However there's one sneaky little test which is causing us some concern right now.

According to the endo my B12 levels are too low. She thinks I may have pernicious anaemia. For the record, that would make a total of three (count them) autoimmune disorders. The lab is doing another set of tests to check for antibodies. I should hopefully have the results in a few days.

The second the endo told me this something went off in my head, and the first thing I asked
was whether PA could cause pins and needles. Sure enough, pins and needles are one of the symptoms, and for about the last year I've been waking at night with exactly that. A quick look at the list of typical
symptoms revealed muscle cramps and spasms (alarm bells started going off in my
mind at this point) and a rapid heart rate (just last night I was lying in bed wondering
why my heart was racing, and the last few runs I've done have seen my heartrate skyrocketing).

Not wanting to count my chickens before they hatch and all that, but if I do have PA it would explain a few things. In particular it would explain the way my hamstrings and hip flexors
cramp at the slightest provocation, and why my feet cramp up all the time. Of course, the cramps could
be the simple side effect of the intensity with which I train, so let's wait and see what the
tests say.

On the postive side, treatment is a simple case of getting a B12 shot every three months, which is a small price to pay for being cramp-free. There are worse autoimmune disorders I could have developed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

So, how was your day?

Because this was mine:

It started with my annual checkup at the Endocrinology Clinic at Wellington Hospital and my first meeting with my new specialist.  She turned out to be very thorough, though I'm not sure she believed me when I said I was completely well.  I also got a bit of a speech about the possibility of going into premature menopause, which I tried to deflect by advising her that Hamish and I aren't planning on having children.  Other than that our consultation was uneventful, and my blood pressure is looking reassuringly normal right now (it's been pretty high the last few times it's been measured).  

Afterwards I had to wait for the nurse to take a blood draw.  The endo had requested every possible test under the sun, including a few I've never had before.  The nurse had to draw around seven individual little vials, and unfortunately she hit a nerve, so the whole experience was extremely painful.  My poor arm is now all bruised and sore, particularly when I straighten it.

After the epic blood draw I caught a bus back into town and got to work at around 10a.m.  for the last few weeks I've been preparing to take over a big project in my Department.  It's my first Project Manager position, and it's something that will be a huge challenge.  The woman I am taking over from was scheduled to go on maternity leave at the end of this month.  I'd mentioned to her that we needed to start a formal handover process in case anything happened and she had to leave work early, but she seemed keen to wait a bit longer before letting go.  

You can guess where this is going.  She left work on Friday night and went into labour, culminating in a caesarian section delivery.  I am now project manager.  Um, yup.  In between meetings today I provided urgent feedback on a draft Cabinet paper, provided guidance for one of the staff I now have responsibility for, and met the programme manager about what my priorities are over the next couple of weeks.  I need to complete a project schedule by the end of the month (I've never used Microsoft Project before), and I need to complete a draft work plan by the same date.  Oh, and I'm supposed to be going on leave for two and a half weeks in February.  

Strangely I feel completely calm.  I don't know if I'm in denial, or if it's just that I work best when I'm thrown in the deep end.  I suspect it's the latter.  I hope it's the latter!  

After all that I needed to let off some steam, so I signed up for two RPM in a row and went for it.  I was feeling physically sick during the last hill track at the end of the first class I was going so hard.  I backed it off a bit for Duck's class, but only a bit. I don't know whether it was the blood draw, the fact I hand't eaten that much that day, or 
me having gone so hard in the heat of the first class, but I was feeling a touch off the pace for 
a while there.

So now I'm at home, having consumed a bowl of pasta, a huge helping of salad and a small 
glass of celebratory wine.   It must nearly be time for bed.  Mmmmm, bed ...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Summer Evening

It was Auckland hot in Wellington today - sunny and still.  By late afternoon the weight of the mercury began to push a few drops of rain from the sky, falling straight down onto our roof.  Sitting in the lounge with every available window open I heard the swollen drops on the tin, but I could also smell the moisture as it filtered into the soil.  

By 8.00 the rain had stopped and the light was calling.  I didn't take my camera with me, reasoning that I didn't want to put anything between me and the evening.  Indeed, as I walked along I noticed a yriad of small things.  A flour outside a neighbour's house I hadn't seen before, a cicada crawling its last inches in the grass.  A glass sculpture in a window.  

Thankfully I took my cellphone, so was at least able to snap a few PXT.  For as I rounded the rise to the top of Tawatawa Ridge the sheer beauty of the evening overwhelmed me.  The harbour was perfectly calm, black against the grey cloud above it.  Yet the dry grass was pure gold, caught by the sun hanging just over the top of the mountains.  The wind turbine was also caught by the sun, a pristine white against the wet darkness.  And yes, we do have horizons in this city.  There was one in front of me, with two
ferries beneath it. 

At the top of the ridge I was greated by a man who looked a little like Billy Connolly but spoke more like an elf.  He and I exchanged a few pleasantries and then he called his dog to him and disappeared off down the Southern Walkway.  I sat under the stone man for a while watching the light disappear, then made my own way

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Working on my cycling tan

45km clocked this morning sans sunblock.  Oops.  I should have known better.  I've got a nice watch mark as well!

What a great ride though.  The wind disappeared overnight and this morning saw me cruising easily around the bays with a big grin on my face looking out at the glassy harbour and, once again, thanking whatever karmic history got me to this point in my life on this beautiful day.  

Friday, January 18, 2008



On Thursday morning I did 40 minutes on an exercycle on a hill setting.  Duck then took me through a heap of walking lunges, one legged-squats, squats down onto a bosu ball (leaning
back on the ball into a boat pose), and a few other functional exercises I don't know the name
of.  This morning I did RPM with Dee.  Despite keeping the dial lighter than I've done in a
year or so my glutes are KILLING me.  The buns of steel better be worth it ...

Like Curly Su I'm going to have to declare this the year of the bike.  In fact, if I could borrow 
(steal) her masthead and get away with it I would!  All that talk of Cortisone injections 
was what it took to finally get me out of my running shoes.  After my ride on Saturday I did 
another RPM on Sunday afternoon, then somehow managed to follow that up with RPM on 
and Tuesday as well. That made for seven days in a row on my bike or in a spin class, with
Balance and weights thrown in.  It seemed prudent to take Wednesday off, especially with
Duck on Thursday morning.  

Which leaves me here on a Friday night pondering spending a couple of hours on my bike in
the morning, when I can barely sit on the sofa right now.  Duck mentioned that she might possibly ride with me, but her plans now involve an early morning run and a few hours of work, so it looks like I'll be on my own.  This is a good thing in that it means not killing myself by trying to keep up, but a bad thing in that it means I'm likely to decide that I'm too sore to do any real hillage.

The plan at the moment is to ride around the Bays, nip up to the prison, then ride home again 
via Happy Valley.  There, I've said it now so I'll have to do it.  On the other hand, it's a long 
weekend here, so I've got Sunday and Monday to pursue incline.  

In the meantime ... ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Totally Optional Prompts: The Magician

The Magician
The darkness was still
and silent, it was absence
that held her, not warm
nor cold, just waiting.

Then there was a sound,
a flick of a switch,
then nothing again,
and she was still waiting.

Then there were footsteps,
a hard surface underfoot,
an echo, someone walking,
someone coming nearer.

She was blind, she could
not see, but there was a hand,
skin brushing cloth, a
reaching in the dark.

There was the rustling of
a body settling then for
a few seconds more there
was silence and expectation.

Then there was someone’s
solitary whistle and the
movement of air currents
and a sense of momentum.

At once there was something,
not any named thing, solid,
just an object in the darkness
and her sense of it there.

Then there were more things,
some close, some distant,
and the whistle nearing,
growing faint, turning, occupied.

Then there was the hint of
something, a light but yet
not brightness, a kind of dawn
without promise of daybreak.

There was a warmth and a
rising of damp and a
dry papery crackling beneath
fingertips and a softness.

There was a humming then
a singing and a swelling
to a crescendo and then a
heralding bell ringing.

Then there was an orb,
a light and a hand and the
light expanding and a
seeing of things created.

And there he was, at first
holding light then throwing
light, first owning then
giving light up in offering.

The light was a world, greater
than the bringer of things out
of darkness, the master
of all realms, the magician.

In memory of Hone Tuwhare, the first poet to truly inspire me.  May your spirit rest in all New Zealand's harbours.  

More poems on the theme of magicians here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Read Write Poem: Travelling Companions

Tinky's Famous Pies, Collingwood, January 2007

On the Way Home

Murray was a guy with a thumb
standing on the side of the road.
Murray was a hemp shirt and sweat.
Murray sat in the back seat
all the way to Picton
smoking defensively out the
window, wind blowing ash from
his roll-your-owns into our hair.

Murray knew a story or two but
he’d left them all under a Rata
in Kahurangi. He thought he’d found
his own personal Bodhi Tree
but instead he discovered sandflies
and an attachment to homebrew
that finally grew too strong to
be ignored so he tramped
a couple of days to get out and
that was where we found him,
Murray, the guy and his thumb.

They say people come into your
life for a reason but we never
quite worked out the purpose
of Murray. We gave him passage
and he gave us a little of his
last crop rolled up in a scrap
of yellowing newspaper.
We left him outside a greasy
fish and chip shop and he waved
goodbye and there may have
even been a smile underneath
that dreadlocked beard.

Five hours later we were back in
our Wellington villa but the car
still smelled of bush and sweat
and hops and the particular
aroma of Murray.

More travel tales here.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Ouch, my neck and shoulders are killing me.  Well I drop my head when I do sprint starts, so I guess it stands to reason that I drop my head on my bike when I'm getting tired.  Oh well, at least my legs feel fine!

Yesterday's ride was great for my psychologically.  Today I found a great women's cycling forum, and now 
I feel ready to develop a new obsession.  If only the weather agreed.  I'm not going to apologise
for not riding today in the gales that are blowing past our lounge window.  I had a lazy start
to today, lying in bed till late.  Hamish cooked up some chicken bacon served on a fruit muffin (yum) for breakfast, and I made some curried kumara soup for lunch.  By 3.30 I was ready for some exercise, so I took off down to Extreme for an unscheduled RPM.  As has become the
norm of late, I sweated buckets and left a pool underneath my bike.  

Ironically my ankle's feeling good again.  So I'll stay off it for the rest of the week and see how it goes.  I want to start riding into work as the weather allows, so that will help add to my weekly exercise tally.

Kate, I'm meeting my trainer Duck on Tuesday to talk about my new programme leading up to the Grape Ride, so once I know what I'm going to be doing I'll drop you a line.  You're welcome
to join me if you don't mind my total newbieness!  

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Back on the Bike

It seems I've been deluding myself in thinking that my ankle is ok, when my physio yesterday started talking about cortisone injections and booking me back in to see the clinic's sports doctor.  I went back to my desk and spent the rest of the afternoon fighting off injury depression.  I wanted to run, and I wanted to run badly.  However I knew that it wasn't so much not running that was the problem, it was losing the ability to exercise at a hard core level.  It didn't help that Duck's training for Coast to Coast is going well, so she was full of excitement and tales of mammoth runs around Mt Taranaki when we met up for our first session of the year on Thursday.  Jealously is not an attractive emotion!  

By the time I got to Dee's RPM class on Friday morning I was fed up and not feeling terribly fit.  I had 
a difficult class and felt pretty cruddy during it, a feeling I know was more psychological than
anything.  To make matters worse, Dee was keen to find out how all my non-existent cycling
was going.  I was starting to doubt my decision to sign up for Gearshifters.  To say I'm a
nervous cyclist is a bit of an understatement.  It's not that I'm afraid of cars so much as I'm
afraid of the bike.  I have no clue 'how' to ride, as in the technical aspects of gear changes,
cadence, etc.  I also find my SPD clipless pedals incredibly fiddly and am always half convinced
I'm going to come to an unsightly end at any moment.  I love my Lola, but we have a comp-
licated relationship!  But then, if I put as much time into riding as I did into running I know it would be a different story.  I didn't know how to run a couple of years ago, so why do I think I
can just go out there without any training and ride well?  

Thankfully by Friday afternoon (and after a good Balance class) my feelings underwent a bit of a sea change.  A colleague had organised leaving drinks for one of our team members.  After a
couple of Margarita slushies I found myself down the Eastern end of the building doing my first
ever handstand (admittedly assisted), and then following that up with three somewhat messy
handstand push-ups.  I also talked about meeting up with my workmate, who has recently
started teaching Impact, to do a little one-on-one boxing training.  The view from the window
revealed a beautiful, warm still evening.  The harbour was mirror calm and the sun slowly
setting behind us.  Through my alcoholic fuzz I discerned two things:  yes, I was rather strong, and yes, this would have been the perfect evening for a bike ride. Note that my thoughts turned to my bike, not to putting on my trainers and going for a run.   

Luckily I'd organised to meet with Sarah this morning to finally go for the ride we've been
talking about for weeks.  Everyone else made plans to head off to a bar, but I decided to call it a night to ensure I was fresh enough to actually be able to join her.  Although at one a.m this morning I very nearly thought I was going to
be spending today in hospital. Clearly something I'd eaten wasn't agreeing with me, leading to 
a rather unpleasant hour in the bathroom.  Thankfully I didn't get as far as vomiting, although
it did occur to me that it was really time to update my emergency supplies of Solucortef and 
needles.  If things had continued to deteriorate I would have had to get Hamish to take me off
to Emergency.  The last thing I wanted was an Addisonian Crisis.  

As it was, things eventually calmed down.  When I felt well enough I shuffled to the kitchen, swallowed a couple of Hydrocortisone just in case, and then climbed shivering into bed.  Funnily enough, I now felt even more determined to
meet up with Sarah.  When the alarm went off at seven I felt well enough to down a small bowl
of Special K, grab my gear, and lug Lola up to the road.  

Hamish was working and needed the car, so I was going to have to ride into town from home.  It took a couple of deep breaths to get me riding down our street, and I was praying 
that I wouldn't have to stop for traffic when I got to the top of Farnham Street.  Thankfully the 
road was clear and I was soon riding down Mornington Rd towards Ohiro.  I made myself ride faster than usual.  At Ohiro I had to stop for traffic, but unclipped and clipped ok, and thankfully the lights at Brooklyn were green.  Again I made myself ride faster than usual down Brooklyn Hill, and then I was on Willis.  I swear I hit every single red light down that road, but I eventually made it to the Terrace gym, still intact and with no nasty car or SPD incidents.  

Sarah arrived at the gym just as I was pulling up.  We decided to ride around the Bays with the aim of making it back in time for 10am Balance.  It was a good morning for riding, although the Northerly was picking up rather earlier than I'd hoped.  There wasn't a lot of traffic on the road and we caught the lights all the way around to Te Papa.  We hit the wind as we moved further around the Bays, as expected.  The crosswind on Cobham Drive was quite nasty.  Once we passed the cutting at Miramar though the wind got a lot more extreme.  We put our heads down and pushed the whole way around to the old Naval Base.  I decided that was far enough for my first ride since May, particularly given that we needed to get back for Balance.  

I'm glad we turned around when we did because the return trip was a constant battle into the headwinds.  They didn't let up until we got back into Oriental Bay, although I got blown sideways riding around Te Papa as well.  I stuck to the waterfront all the way to the Shell Station.  When I went to cross Jervous Quay my bike shorts got hooked on my saddle as I mounted.  I was unable to unhook them and unable to clip in properly with my right foot because I couldn't get far enough back in the saddle.  I limped across the road using my left foot only for propulsion, knowing all the cars at the lights contained people who were laughing at me.  Thankfully I finally managed to get my shorts to unhook, got seated properly, got clipped in, and from there I caught green lights up Bowen and into the Terrace.  So, despite that one hiccup I made it back to the gym in one piece.  I even managed to get through Margaret's Balance class without any major disasters.  

So it was a short and pretty much flat ride today.  I was really happy with how it went though.  I'm pretty certain I was a lot faster today than I was at the start of the year.  I was also using
a much lower level of effort, so could have gone a bit faster if I'd actually focussed.  However I was trying to keep in touch with Sarah, who has a hybrid and no clipless pedals, so didn't want to go too fast.  However I really need to change my saddle from the standard unisex one it came with.  I'm not going to last more than a couple of hours on that puppy!  To add to that, my right knee was a bit sore, so I should really get a proper bike fit done.  Oh, and my hips and glutes were REALLY tight in Balance.  My body was letting me know that I haven't done any cycling in far too long.  On the postive side though, I was able to get some good practice in clipping and unclipping, and only pedalling with my left leg.  

Oh, and this is going to sound ridiculous, but I stood in my pedals for the first time EVER.  It didn't even feel that weird, and I didn't feel like I was going to unbalance.  I was even able to mess around taking my left and right arms off the handlebars at various points during the ride, and look behind me on both sides, without anything disastrous happening.  All this functional training has really helped my balance.  I know most people who know how to ride a bike already know how to do this stuff, but I never really had the chance to learn when I was a kid.  I guess I'm making up for it now.  

Did I mention that I felt fast?  Did I mention that it felt good overtaking people?  Or that I only got overtaken by two really fit-looking women?  Did I mention that I had HEAPS of fun? Did I mention that I want to ride 
again tomorrow?

Yeah, I'm totally going to ride again tomorrow.  Leonie - come home - I need a riding buddy!  

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Totally Optional Prompts: In the Ear

Ede asleep in front of the view on a fogless day.

I loved the Sylvia Plath poem that was one of the works highlighted in the Totally Optional Prompts entry this week.  The technical brilliance of the poem really appealed to me, (particularly the alliteration and repitition of sounds) as did Plath's dazzling vocabulary.  I don't have 
the same extensive knowledge of the English language, however the prompt did inspire me
to finally write another poem that's been floating around in my subconscious for some time.  Sorry - it's another Wellington poem. Still stuck on a theme!  Although we live high on a ridge we are enveloped in fog several times a year as warm air currents meet cold air flowing in from the Strait.  Last year the airport below us was closed for a week.  


The silence signals the fog
before we even open our eyes
to a grey dawn haze
circling the single bulb
hanging from the ceiling
over our bed.

Outside no planes are circling,
no roar of slamming brakes
or surge of wing on updraft.
Instead, the thick sound of
soup or sound waves through
muslin hanging still.

The cool wind of the South
does not howl. It sends
out a slick hiss under
its breath as it pushes
into warm mist air
from the North.

The North air sighs and
subsides, spreading itself
to blanket this city and
the fog horn begins.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Writer's Island: Over the Horizon

The Writer's Island prompt for this week is 'over the horizon'.  It was intended that we consider what our future might hold, however I took this prompt in a different direction.  This is a poem that has been sitting in my subconscious for a few years, ever since I moved to this city of steep hills and gullies.  At first I felt that the lack of expansive lines of sight also translated to a narrowness of thinking, however I later learned that was not the case at all.  Sorry, it's another Wellington poem!

Beyond Horizons

You can not rely
on horizons here.

Sure, the sun rises
over the mountains
to the East, light
appearing first
in prelude, but
Westwards she disappears
behind the ridge late
afternoon in summer,
earlier in June.

We can not take cues
from a line where
water meets sky, where
distant grass blends blue
into hazy light.

Instead we have to consider
the exact shade of pink on
the side of a scree slope
at dusk, the form of
clouds scudding by

We, who lack the
privilege of broad
vision become crafty,
investigators of clues
left on the landscape and
observers of narrowed
lines of sight.

Singing in the Rain

Yesterday I decided that I was going to try running on the footpath today.  All day of my very slow first day back at work I looked out the window at the wind and the rain.  Was I daunted?  No, I spent the day thinking that it was a great day to go outside.  So I skipped out of the office early at 4.30 and walked the few metres to the Terrace gym next door.  

This was just a tester to see how my ankle would cope with a run outdoors and I was a
bit unsure of my fitness levels (having not run much since injuring my ankle in November).  I told myself I would run to Freyberg and back, which wouldn't take me much more than 20 minutes.  The second I set out I was drenched.  Only one or two other runners were braving the elements, all wearing the same mad grin and exchanging the same smile of acknowledgement.  Around Te Papa I found myself at times having to run with my eyes closed as the rain blew horizontal needles into my face and threatened to rip out a contact lens.  However all too soon I was at Freyberg and turning around.  

If the outwards leg had been slightly wind assisted the return was war.  I'd been waiting for this 
all day and I was more than ready for the weather to bring it on. It was a bit of a battle to get 
back around to Frank Kitts, but from then on it was 
fairly sheltered and when I got back to Jervois Quay I had to be quite stern with myself 
not to keep going. I did, however, allow myself to run all the way back to the gym, even up 
the small incline of Woodward Street and the steps on the other side of the underpass. 
Unfortunately as I jaywalked (or jayran) the pedestrian lights adjacent to Midland Park I stepped in a 
huge puddle, which sent a tidalwave of water slashing over the legs of the people waiting 
on the footpath.  Oops.  

I know this was only a tiny run today, but it was mad fun.  I was also extremely happy with
how good it felt.  I had told myself to run slow, but I couldn't keep the speed down.  I set
myself a fairly fast pace and, because I was trying to keep my feet light to spare my ankle,
I was running with excellent form. Cardiovascularly this was also a very positive run.  If
missing consecutive days of cardio, combined with a bit of spin and the occasional Attack
class does this to my fitness levels then I'm going to have to seriously reconsider my training

I will be honest and say that my ankle was a bit sore afterwards, but I iced it when I got home and it's feeling a lot better now.  I will have to see how it feels in the morning.  I'm not planning to run again until after my physio appointment on Thursday.  

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Happiness today is remembering the Kawakawa tea I found when I was cleaning out the pantry (thanks Leonie), and the teddy-bear shaped tea strainer my host mother gave me back in 1990 (forgotten in a kitchen drawer and now refound).

Happiness is putting a Fly My Pretties CD into the CD player and hearing Module's piano playing coming through the speakers Hamish borrowed from Soundline some years back.  Happiness is curling up on the sofa with my music and my tea and reading some more of "A Million Little Pieces", which I bought at Ferrit secondhand books yesterday, and which kept me on the sofa all afternoon while Hamish was painting the roof (and while I should have been gardening).

Happiness was a good, relatively painfree half hour run on the treadmill this afternoon, during which time my body purred with pleasure.  Tomorrow - the Bays!  Happiness was following the run up with Balance, even despite the realisation that I have a lot of work ahead to get back to where I was before Christmas!

Back to work tomorrow and the house is clean, the kitchen cupboards tidy, the roof painted and the garden mostly weeded.  I feel like I'm only just starting to slow down, to the extent that I didn't wake this morning until 9.30, after weeks of being awake with the dawn.  There were things I didn't do, but there were unexpected things that more than made up for them.  

Hamish and I spent an amazing night in Ohariu Valley at (Groovin) Pete and Kathy's new house on a lifestyle block.  The night before Sarah and I were supposed to have cycled to Makara Hamish and I lay in bed in the Ohariu guest room and listened to gale force winds threatening to blow the house away.  Not such a good day to go cycling to Makara then.  Instead I rode Kathy's beautiful horse Willow around and around their arena until the poor creature nearly fell asleep with boredom (Willow, not Kathy).

A night or two later we celebrated Siobhan's birthday with her on a lovely warm evening in 
Titahi Bay.  Summer has arrived at the exact time it was supposed to, and the rain is coming 
only now as we prepare to return to work.     

I guess it would be foolish to wish for winter to arrive so that I can wear my fabulous vintage coat then right?  

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year: The Big Drop Off (Wellington 2007/08)

It's 3.00p.m on 1 January 2008.  I'm sitting here on the sofa, barely awake, with a very dead cat asleep on my lap.  I've had six hours' sleep, but it feels like two.  Yes, last night was epic.  

We arrived at The Big Drop Off at around 10.00p.m, just as the hoards started to pour in.  We stood in a queue for around 10 to 15 minutes, shivering in the cold Southerly and laughing with the people huddling together around us.  Every now and then loud catcalls would echo down the line, signalling yet another clutch of cute young, skimpily dressed girls on their way to try their luck with the bouncers at the head of the queue.  Most were turned away, at which point they would begin chatting up similarly aged boys as close the entrance as possible, with the aim of jumping in.  A few were successful, others had to suffer the humiliation of the long walk to the back.  Oh well, at least it wasn't raining.  

Inside, Shed 1 was decked out.  Geishas served tequila, vodka and Red Bull from a bar flanked by large inflatable angel wings at the back of the room.  A large parasol overhead and a few Japanese lanterns played on the theme.  There were two other bars, one near the entrance, and one in a small outdoor area, next to a pizza bar, enroute to the portaloos.  Thick black drapes provided some acoustic improvement, and a couple of large sculptural lamps hung in the large space.  Two video screens were hung on the left and right-hand walls, halfway down the hall.  However the only real centre of attention was the stage, with black curtains that later pulled back to reveal the full-length video screen behind.  Obviously the video screens caught our attention, but neither Hamish nor I were overly concerned with adornment.  Word was that our $100 entry fees had been spent on sound. Big, stupidly expensive sound.  

A quick scout confirmed the absence of any party pill vendors, and a sign advertised that there were to be no pass outs.  The scantilly clad kiddy brigade were already staggering around the shed.  Things had the potential to get very messy.  I quickly bumped into a random acquaintance from work, and into another gym bunny.  The latter was working 'undercover', providing security for some diplomat's teenagers, the aim being to 'prevent them from appearing on the front page of the Dom in the morning'.  Nice work if you can get it.  We started off the evening with a rather dry and odd tequila cocktail, which sounded good on paper, but didn't really work in reality.  Still, the tequila put me in my happy place, and I stayed there all evening.  

Ladi6 started some time after
10.30.  They're not really my thing, but they put on a good performance.  We 
moved to the sweet spot, just in front of the sound desk and almost between the two screens, and stayed there all evening.  Coincidentally we ended up next to the two 
guys I'd met up with earlier, and the rest of the people around us were all lovely as well.
Hamish bought us the first of our two Vodka Red Bulls of the evening, and I was away.

Fat Freddy's came on at 11.30.  I'm sorry, but this won't be a detailed examination of 
their set list.  I can remember snatches of songs, and everything I can remember was good, but don't ask me to tell you what they actually played (although I can tell you that they didn't play Midnight Marauders, which is no bad thing as it's kinda their 'Don't Dream it's Over' equivalent now).  This is a review about general impressions.  As the band started the place started to fill up, really fill up.  Standing where we were people tended to try to get past on their way to the front, the bar or the toilets.  Oh, and this was a sold-out gig.  Let's just say things got a little crazy for a while there.  Struggling to stay upright as yet another large guy tried to squeeze his way between me and the guy in front of me, I started to tip sideways, put my arm out, and ended up groping the rather cute young, muscly guy next to me.  Not that he minded, in fact he told me a couple of hours later that he loved me.  By that point I wasn't going to argue!  

Oh, but the sound.  Full credit to the sound crew, the sound was excellent.  Waves and waves of beautiful music surged around us, clear at both ends of the spectrum.  And then the bass kicked in.  Now that's where our money went!  Friendly people, good sound, Fat Freddy's, a stage high enough that I could see them, and two video screens either side of me projecting close-ups.  I was riding high on vodka and Red Bull and I was happy!  Enthusiastic swaying within the close confines of my little square foot of dance floor ensued.  The first track segwayed into an almost Little Bushmen-like psychadelic riff, going places I haven't heard this band go before.  I liked it.  I liked it a lot.  

It seems like a long time ago now that Hamish and I first danced to a large band on a small 
stage at the Grey Lynn festival.  We had no idea who they were, but their music sounded like 
a revolution. This is a different band now.  Back then they were laidback and slightly shambolic - a bunch of guys 
up there having a good time and cruising along on a wing and a prayer.  By the time we saw 
them at the next Splore they'd expanded somewhat in sound, but they were still obviously just
jamming it, albeit with a familiar, well-rehearsed riff and considerable joy.  

The Fat Freddy's I heard last night are a different affair all together.  While some of their concerts post the release of their album felt a little tired, they seem to have responded by
lifting their game.  This is a professional gig, a group of talented musicians who somehow manage to combine a polished performance with the original spontaneity that we loved.  The new material reflected this new-found (and very positive) slickness. And Dallas is still completely the man.  

I guess a little bit of me will still miss the former almost random meandering from one track to another, the unexpected reprise of a song played an hour ago in the middle of a completely unrelated number (heck, the tracks that lasted an hour).  However this feels like a band remaining true to its artistic values whilst finding itself a bigger, more commercial audience. That's not a criticism, it's a tribute to their greatness.  

New Years came and went, Fat Freddy's wrapped it up.  No encores, just thank yous and departures.  Hamish disappeared off to the bar, and didn't return for over half an hour.  I started talking to a friendly visitor from Taupo.  The music started.  Shed 1 turned into one giant mosh pit.  I got elbowed, I got stood on.  I elbowed, I stood on people.  I jumped up and down, I got lifted up and down.  I danced with a big huge grin on my face.  I waved my arms in the air.  I wooped loudly.  And the bass, that thick band of sound that I could almost reach out and touch as it surged overhead?  It seems the sound engineers had been holding out on us.  

Let's say that I'm not a fan of Drum and Bass in general.  However I love that particularly melodic New Zealand form typified by Shapeshifter (and Concord Dawn).  At that same Splore that we listened to Fat Freddy's in a geodesic dome, I waited in a queue in darkness to get our car into the event.  Hamish had taken our bags and walked on ahead to pitch our tent.  Unfortunately he had also taken my torch, and, having never been to the site before, I had no idea where to find him.  Walking blindly along bush-lined paths, past coffee and food stands and dance floors, I discovered a path leading gently upwards, lined with chains of multi-coloured lights.  Half-way up the opening bars of Shapeshifters' Tapestry wafted out into the night air.  I felt like I was going somewhere, and obviously in the right direction.  At the top of the path there was a huge stage in the middle of a big field, and there was Hamish right in the middle.  The first Shapeshifter track of any gig has always meant arrival for me ever since, both literally and figuratively.  Last night was no different.  No other music gets me so up and ready to dance.  

As I write this now, all I can remember is stomping and waving my arms ever more frantically as Shapeshifter told us all that we shone so bright.  I've already said last night was epic right? I don't really need to write about how tight Shapeshifter were, because 
they always have been.  However the little vocal rootsy number towards the end of the set was 
a nice surprise, and the way in which they picked the pace up again afterwards revelationary.  

Which took us to about 3.30a.m, by which point my feet were finally starting to hurt in my high-heeled boots (a girl's got to have her small vanities) .  Five hours at approximately $20 per hour, excellent value. Three drinks each at $10 a pop, not so much (but not unexpected).  The entertainment continued in DJ form, but Hamish and I were done and out of 
there. Hugs and kisses all around, to both old and new friends, and we were back out onto the 
Welly waterfront.  

While we were dancing the wind had died away.  It was still cold, but it was a stunning evening.  
We walked to the  new sculptures outside Te Papa - three separate installations of trees and 
grasses made from fencing wire.  In the white white light of the spotlights they still gave off a 
sense of being blown by some absent Wellington gale.  The night was eerily still and quiet, and 
stayed  that way until we turned the corner into the zoo that is Courtney Place.  We dropped in on Paul and Siobhan at Vespa for half an hour or so, then it was home for a chilli and cheese pie and dawn over our mountains.  We went to sleep to the sound of the dawn chorus at 5.30 a.m.  

Not bad for two oldies in their mid 30's!  Thanks Wellington for a fantastic New Year.  Welcome 2008!