Showing posts from June, 2010

A life of Bill Pearson

No Fretful Sleepers (subtitled A life of Bill Pearson, by Paul Millar, AUP, 2010) was a surprise and much appreciated gift by a reader of 'Letters from Wetville' called Christopher who was the fortunate owner of two copies. This feature, combined with being on bed rest for a nasty chest infection, meant that I read the book entirely to the end, when I am prone to skipping bits of literary biographies. I am glad I did. There is something satisfying about this book which I would have missed had I foundered on the sections filled with who Pearson had tea with in London and who else wrote him a letter about the price of milk (oops, the price of publishing Coal Flat).

I knew nothing of Paul Millar before I began this book. In the photograph on the back dust jacket, he has his arms folded and his face, neither smiling nor frowning, seems deliberately closed to the reader. I didn't warm to his image, suspecting a writer given towards postmodern theory. If you are still reading thi…

booze and getting ahead

chest infection.

too much pushing out the boat to get that one more essential thing done.

but still.

a few things my brain has still been thinking about.

This post by Reading the Maps is one I keep going back to. Not because of the main content (though that is good) but because I am so intrigued by the comments section where someone called Giovanni talks about a 1970s survey of NZ freezing workers which found that half of them would like to be self employed. Class solidarity is not a first instinct for much of New Zealand and I find it intriguing.

So how about this march in support of Dick Hubbard? I get the strong sense of lots of ordinary working people out marching for their local millionaire, their scout leader who lived the dream of many and helped others along the way.

No one I know marched for Dick Hubbard - I don't have strong links to Timaru - but this dream of independence, a sense that working for someone else is what you do when you have to but not what it really is all abou…

yule coal squeal

There is a fancy word for that - words with the same final sound used together. Please tell me if you know it. I like a bit of fancy technical vocabulary, though best with sentences, financially ominous if it comes from the mechanic.

Anyway, the winter solstice. Yule, according to my Southern Hemisphere Pagan Calendar.

Here at the messiest house in Wetville, we are for the most part thoroughly, dredgedly institutionalised and much more likely to celebrate when work takes a break in two weeks' time.

But I have been thinking a little about pre-industrial winter solstice. I figure the two key things people must have worried about are food supplies and heating. Which is rather similar to right now when I check the bank balance and plan for food provision and try and work out firewood provision to last us until fireless warmth (very late down here, we have had the fire on in December before).

We haven't bought enough wood (a fortnight of sick people requiring all day fires burns a big …

arraign, arrange, rain.

Today was the Joan Rosier-Jones writing workshop here in Wetville. Indeed it was very wet but as we still live in a prosperous country not yet devoid of any services for non-rich people, we got to have the workshop in the warm, dry and carpeted local primary school library.

Two years ago under the same scheme (Society of Authors writer in residence for the top of the South Island), we had a workshop with Kate de Goldi. Both of them were very good, though I must confess that I fell in love with Kate de Goldi (total vivacious enthusiasm with unpretentious charm and vivid imagery games) and Joan's workshop was more aimed at getting your manuscript or short story to win competitions. A colder approach but I think the variety is a good thing. Out of the first workshop arose our local writers' group, which has been a pretty good thing. It's even made me write more than shopping lists and blog posts (though not a lot more of late). Out of this one, definitely some new member…

big bellied band player

Like a zombie. Most of the zillion meetings and deadlines for this week have been met and although I may die younger because of eating mostly carbohydrates today (the pinwheel scone for lunch was most pleasing on the tongue) and fish and chips likely cooked in canola oil for dinner and red wine for right now, sleep and happiness shall be mine tonight and there is only one more alarm clock day this week.

I have been thinking about things like national identity a bit (an excellent alternative to considering the merits of rest homes and the size of the washing pile) lately, prompted by my Bill Pearson phase. A man who came out of nowhere to me, who was invisible until I saw a brief news feature on his biography a few weeks ago. Now, I have options on the book as I have reserved a copy at the library and even more exciting, someone blessed by winning superfluous prizes would like to send me my very own copy, which is very nice indeed I got the 1970s book of Pearson's essays out of …

ginger beer & schnapps

Out of beer. No wine. Meetings and squeatings and deadlines and people with cancer and the boy who both threw a tantrum this afternoon about tomorrow's dental nurse appointment and is yelping and moaning and begging for paracetamol (I've got him on garlic and cloves) because his tooth hurts tonight. Oh and no car as FH is out at one of 85 totally important and most inconvenient meetings which seem to be scheduled for this week.

Really. A girl, a 38 year old going grey girl who knows how to make her own bread and grow her own garlic and how to at least get one child properly to sleep, has to do something a little resourceful.

There is ginger beer in the fridge. Supposedly for the children but they didn't eat their pumpkin for tea so baaaaaad luck. I wondered if I had brandy left in the spirits cupboard.

I have a line in the sand. Spirits are for drinking at pubs, with company, in strict moderation. [wine and beer are for anytime after 4pm or at lunchtime in company and…

Telling lies

We lie to our young people. Big bad lies.

We tell them that education is everything and they have to work hard and get lots of credits. We tell them that employers now want Level Two to underline how serious this need to do school work diligently and successfully is.

What we don't tell them is that employers are not, on the whole, now asking for Level Two (Year 12, sixth form) where once Level One (Year 11, old school cert age group) was enough because the jobs have become more intellectually demanding.

They raise the bar as some kind of filter as there are nowhere near enough jobs.

We skirt this issue and suggest to young people that if they study hard enough, then good jobs will be theirs. We reprimand and punish and despair of those who refuse to play this diligence game.

We are telling lies. The harder everyone works for pieces of paper bearing qualifications, the higher the qualifications bar will go.

Education offers a lot of wonderful things. But to suggest that if everyone …

The Sally Fallon experience

I first learnt of Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions online. In a forum I was part of at the time and also on some blogs, this book kept coming up. Instinctively, from the snippets I was hearing, I thought it might be worth me having a look. But I'm not big on buying books these days. Mostly I lust unrequitedly after them or chase them at the library. But every year I allow myself a new non-fiction book. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's Meat was a worthwhile purchase and much consulted book. Andrew Whitley's book Bread Matters is so utterly useful that one day I will buy it again because I will have worn our copy out. Eventually, I was so intrigued with the Fallon references I was encountering, that I bought the book. It was worth the money, but I have reservations as well as praise.

Miriam (thank you for your recent comment which prompted this post), I would highly and hugely recommend Bread Matters over Nourishing Traditions. Then, when you are ready to make sourd…

eco devil

An eight kilometre round, single purpose trip just to buy fish. I'd run out of onions so couldn't make risotto as planned and then no time to buy onions and cook. So a dash to buy turbot - food of the goddesses surely - and they asked me if I wanted the fish with or without roe.


Fish roe. As in super-nutritious and subject of admiration and recipes by Sally Fallon and her devotees.

Yes please. Too late now to save those babies. Do devout Catholics refuse to buy fish roe? Not that I've heard but where I grew up no one I knew of any religious or other persuasion ate fish roe anyway.

So I cooked up the fish for dinner and we had it with some butternut squash which I threw in the oven before we got in the car to kill the planet in pursuit of the delectable flesh of nearly extinct piscine species. We also had it with kale and garlic which I chopped up and cooked in the pan which had cooked the fish. Yummo.

Tomorrow, in which I do not have to race off early to earn mone…

whose life in print?

I'm currently reading Bill Pearson's novel Coal Flat, set in Blackball soon after World War Two. I start to get articulate about my feelings on this book and then I lose the threads in front of the screen, recognise them as wavering threads, easily pushed aside like a cobweb across the doorframe.

The main character in Coal Flat is unsure of where he stands on socialism. Sometimes he feels quite clear on his conviction for a socialist society and other times he finds himself arguing and on wobbly terrain in the company of other socialists, men more sure of themselves and their purpose than himself.

I'm pretty interested in this character. I want to know if he finds clear conviction by the end of the book (I am half way through).

It exerts a pull, Blackball does. A place with character which isn't what they call character when places have lots of old cooking utensils strung up on the ceiling and apparently that is character, period charmer, atmospheric.

We came up to Bla…

In which I break the inside stuff and get some outdoors poo

Broken sewing machine. Really broken. From today's discussion with Jackie at the Bernina shop, the belt may have come off. Surely you understand that this is beyond my fix-it abilities. Stuart the sewing machine fixer is recovering from heart surgery and can only fix 1-2 machines per week at the moment and has a backlog of 15.

So that all sounds like a substantial break from sewing. All good. Not like a substantial break from wine, or sleep (Remember pregnancy and newborn babyland anyone? Major break from both.)

This afternoon Brighid and I visited Raelene. Raelene has an oversized back garden with lots of chooks (truly a LOT of chooks), sheep, a couple of dogs, a cat and now a donkey. Totally marvellous and always something new for the children (and poo of some kind or another for my garden). We spent the afternoon collecting donkey poo and I now have about eight plastic bags of prime garden fertiliser waiting to go on the garden. It is beside the grass clippings (droppe…

home time

Kings Seeds has burdock. Which is a mighty fine discovery as burdock crops up in my herbal reading again and again and again. According top the Kings catalogue, it is also a vegetable; so much the better.

Seventeen hours until Alice's birthday party. I intend to sleep for a lot of those hours, so the timeline for completing the bag is going to be tight. But these things always work out somehow. I have changed to a lighter fabric for the bag handles and the lining is lighter again. So dark denim for the main bag, blue floral denim for the handle and sky blue with white spots for the lining. No picture likely as I still don't know where the battery charger is.

I have a new kitchen challenge. A home made snak log. Snak logs are relatively expensive, beloved of my son, useful for tramps and otherwise heavily spliced with undesirable ingredients (the link has the ingredients list) and packaging-intensive. They are coated entirely in chocolate and it isn't hard to see the…

not just dissonance, a gaping wide gulf

I grabbed the book Living on $21 a week (or very similar title) at the library late this afternoon. Something in there for me to learn no doubt.

The extent of my commitment was rather obvious not long afterwards as I almost bowled another shopper over at the supermarket while rushing to the booze aisle for a bottle of wine. Yes I did leave my young daughter alone in the queue. We do live in Small Wet Town, not New York.

To those who have commented on my last post (thank you), I too wondered about the May Day comment about capitalist appropriation of transition towns. Jared also mentioned farmers markets and it was easier to see how they could be assimilated into a capitalist framework. The problem is that Jared was summing up from the group I was not in and this was a throw-away comment and then I was busy sorting out the afternoon tea in the kitchen for the opening and then I didn't get to the evening function as we didn't have childcare so I didn't get to follow the …

Loving Jackie

No attempt at political thought tonight. I've got a blocked ear. Although I could ruminate on the benefits or otherwise of hydrogen peroxide, levisiticum, olive oil and ear candling (tried 'em all at some stage), I won't. Because I love Jackie and Jackie told me what to do with the tension on my sewing machine. If the bottom is bunching up and misbehaving, that means the top tension is wrong. Tighten the tension means move it to a higher number. If it is on four, move it to seven (for my heavy fabrics, using my new heavy needles). I don't need a spotlight in my town (just as well) but I do need Jackie who runs our local Bernina shop. I did it. Still took a couple of goes because of special additional glitches. But five months from when I hand stitched the hem, Brighid's braided red corduroy trousers are finished. Not that she is interested, they aren't from her heroine Alice like the bag of tops which arrived this afternoon. Which brings us to Alice who turns sev…