Thursday, 27 December 2012

Post Christmas, New Year looming.

Well now, how many of you have pukus (see previous blog, Maori word for tummy) which are as large as footballs? We eat? And we eat. I myself had Christmas lunch of 6 different roast meat, prawn cocktail and six salads. Could not stay for the dessert. Then though, had another roast dinner, this time at home with the traditional Kiwi one of roast lamb, spring potatoes and peas with roast kumaras and flaming pudding with brandy and cream. The meal went on till past 11.30 pm. Okay it's now time to rest for a whole year and nurse one's guilt.

But now, I must try to philosophise as the new year looms. There is this old Chinese saying, (Note, all Chinese sayings are old, more than 2000 years old). Today's is BINDING YOUR FEET TO PREVENT YOUR OWN PROGRESS. Now  we all know about the Chinese foot binding of tradition when little girls (at the age of three) had to succumb to having their little feet crushed and tightly wrapped to prevent growth. The cock-eyed idea was that it showed class- that she came from a family wealthy enough to have her not work either in the house or in the fields - to enhance her marriage prospects. Those guys must be thick as planks, because what was the use of a woman who couldn't work? So this meant she would marry a man wealthy enough to support her. Thereby the entire practise was just to promote satus. In my mind a dirty word.

So this is obvious to you readers of this blogspot, (be enlightened week by week). But in today's terms around the world, can you see the many, many practises of that? Governments - bi-partisanship that prevents real good to be done for all. At present for e.g. that of Republicans and Democrats in the US. One camp delibrately stands to obstruct the other, but in so doing, is binding itself and the country to a standstill. And many other examples, but I try not to be political.
I weep.

Apart from the one day of feasting, I am now onboard to putting the final touches to my second novel. This is called The Ming Admiral about the euncuch ZhengHe of the Ming Dynasty, who sailed his treasure ships to many parts of the world. According to his own words, to 3,000 countries, large and small. I am editing it to tighten the syntax. Most people in the west would not have heard of him if not for Gavin Menzies' 1421, published over ten years ago of his voyages. But to many Asians, he is regarded as a saint, and there are temples to him all over South East Asia. where he visited and promoted good. Well, watch out for The Ming Admiral next year. I am seriously thinking of putting it out on e-books while I scour the world for a brave agent/publisher.

Also happening in January is the launching of Memories in the Bone, my first novel set in 19th. Century China in the time of the Taiping Rebellion - the greatest peasant rebellion in the history of China led by a peasant who thought himself God's Chinese Son and Jesus' Younger Brother. It lasted 20 years and killed over 20 million people -at least. This historical novel follows Zhou Yu, the only surviving son of landed scholar family out into the new world of Australia and New Zealand.
For you US folks, watch for it in the book stores, ask for it in your libraries. You will not be disappointed. It has 4 stars reviews . Obtainable from and other e-sites.

Till next time,
Adios amigos, may 2013 bring you joy and fulfillment and love.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas Giving

In New Zealand, Christmas comes in summer. Therefore no snow, no toasted chestnuts on the fire and Xmas puddings are not served widely, I mean who would want a flaming dessert on a hot day after a meal that stretches your PUKU (Maori word for stomach) so tight that it can almost circumnavigate the village? So quite a few people opt for a picnic on the beach if it doesn't rain.

But Christmas is a time for giving. Unfortunately to most, it means material giving. Too many unnecessary presents which are the end result of too much panic. I remember my husband darting into a shop on the Eve to buy me a classical cd and handing it to me in its plastic bag. Now that was taking it too far. Or the guy who put a shiny new metal rubbish bin tied with a red bow under the tree for his wife who had mentioned they needed a new bin. He was too thick to understand the shriek that greeted himChristmas morning. Then there is my son who has given me the sobriquet of "Sock and Jock Mum".
SO since last year, I have decided to give to good causes instead. Like an eye operation for someone under the Fred Hollows Foundation, or a goat for some family in South America or Africa. I calulated that if by the end of my remaining years, I have given 25 or 30 pairs of eyesight and similar in goats, I might, just might get past the Pearly Gates without having to confess the rest of my sins.

Merry Christmas everyone, and may next year be a great one for you.


Monday, 3 December 2012


Well now, it's Tuesday 4th December in Auckland. The weather has been cool and rather wet, but hey, the garden loves it even if the beach bunnies don't. It just goes to show, not everything is negative. For example, our NZ dollar is at an almighty high which is bad for our exporters. But great for us ordinary folks as we can buy imported stuff much cheaper. When I was a young bride which is too long ago to be comfortable, our stainless steel pots and one pan cost us my husband's salary for a month. Granted, he was a only junior lecturer at university, but still - just imagine having to fork our an entire month's salary to buy some pots. Nowadays? Bless China/India/Vietnam, a six piece set costs $200 - less than half a week's salary after tax for the average worker. See what I mean?

I was in seventh heaven last weekend. The Manukau Symphony Orchestra in which I play, were practising the Rachmaninov 3 piano. Concert this Saturday 8th. at the Telstra Event Centre, Manukau. Now, I am sure many have seen that David Hefgott (hope I got that right) movie Shine. That wonderful concerto was the theme for it.It is the hardest to play and the most passionate of Rachmaninov's four. I am sure, after this weekend's practice that DH could not have played it masterfully after twenty odd years in an institution. Must see that movie again. Take it out on DVD cheap hire on Tuesdays. Being an orchestral violinist can be hell for one's shoulders, neck and arms. I live in a permanent ache. Hence the acupuncturist -- and the gym.

As to my main occupation of writer. Well, have done four chapters of the sequel to my first book MEMORIES IN THE BONE. Here I tackle the problems of mixed race in the 19th Century-- how these people belonged to neither and many were shunned by both. The folks who slipped through the gap. Watch this space. I shall from now on start putting some excerpts in - starting from MEMORIES.

Till next week, be well, be good, be fabulous.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Miracle of Life

The Miracle of Life
Well, the four baby blackbirds under my eaves have grown BIG in just ten days! Their eyes are open and the down on them are thickening. Both Dad and Mum are diligent care-providers but from their reaction to my approach, they probably look on me as Granny with more goodies as grannies tend to bring. Tough. No worms in my beak.
Had my monthly writers' group meet yesterday afternoon. We call ourselves the Sunday Scribes.
What do we Scribes do, you might ask. Well, we critique each other's current submission, share news and ideas and it works mightily as we do improve a lot. My first book MEMORIES IN THE BONE a historical novel, is out on all e-book sites and in Barnes &Noble and other bookstore sites, notably in My 4-year sojourn in China gave me a return to my roots during which time I got engrossed in her history. MEMORIES IN THE BONE tells about the Taiping Rebellion, which killed over 20 million people over as many years, besides producing famine across most of south China. Imagine 20 million died? For some countries that would be the entire population. For New Zealand, that would be 5 times the population! The Chinese sure can do things in a big way.
But wait, there is hope. Our hero Zhou Yu snucks out of Shanghai into the goldfields of Australia, looking for a new life, but who is that ugly scarred fellow on his trail, so near yet so elusive? Want to know more?
Oh heck, my tummy is rumbling, time for morning tea. Talk soon.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

back to the nitty gritty

Well now, it's back to the nitty gritty, to the things that can go wrong with one's old jalopy, to a mother blackbird who doesn't seem to be taking her nest sitting as a full time job, and to correcting my recent manuscript of the second historical novel, The Ming Admiral.
Number one is the old Toyota Camry estate needs something done to the back brakes and as it has been at the mechanic's since 9.30 this morning, it harbingers bad news. It needs not just a grind but a new part. And that means $$$$!

Number two is Mother Blackbird is too often not on the job. I check on her each morning to give encouragement but the nest sits forlorn with a blue egg covered by some straw. Father BB checks it more often than she does, though he doesn't sit. I am blessed that for the second consecutive summer, a bird decides to build a nest under the eaves of my covered patio three feet from where I am sitting. Last year it was a fantail, a most gorgeous little bird with tail feathers that fan out, hence the name. It's nest was beautiful, made with a lot of love and lined with spider webs. So perfect that it is now under a glass dome at Tristan's house as part of nature's exhibits.

Number three. The Ming Admiral has returned from assessment by one of NZ's literary leading lights and he has found few problems with it. He thinks the battle scenes terrific amongst other positive comments. So it means some work re-adjusting parts, etc before it is ready for the next stage. The question is to hunt down and be rejected by dozens of mainline publishers and agents or to self publish as I did with the first historic novel, MEMORIES IN THE BONE, bearing all the costs but having instant printing and total control. I have spent the price of two years' holidays on the marketing which will see the book launched in the USA in January 2013 nationwide though it is now available on all book websites. So look into that , please, fans! It's on Nook, Kindle, Kobo, Sony, Powells -- every website in every bookstore across the US. I believe it is also on Kindle UK.

So it is down as I said up top, to the nitty gritty of writing. Tonight I shall do a reading in INSIDE OUT in a cafe in the yuppie part of Auckland. I shall read from MEMORIES IN THE BONE. Think I shall do the chapter on the fall of Nanjing and the death of Hong XiuQuan who thought himself God's Chinese Son and Jesus' Younger Brother, who started the Taiping Rebellion which killed over 20 million people. Pretty meaty. Hope I don't get too many butterflies. There will also be music from NZ bands.

Will post next week on this event. Do give comments on how you like my blog and pass on to your mates.
Adios, amigos.

Friday, 19 October 2012

TE Wai  Pounamu

This was the old Maori name for the south Island before it became part of Aotearoa, which includes the North Island of New Zealand. Te Wai Pounamu means waters of the greenstone (nephrite), a sacred stone for Maoris and to be found in difficult-to access places on the West Coast. And there is water aplenty in the South Island - I know,  'cos I have just been down to Dunedin, South Otago.
For those not in the know, the Scots were the first Europeans to settle here and proceeded to build a city that was once called the Edinburgh of the South and everywhere in this small city, one sees the evidence in the old banks, old churches and warehouses, etc. I love it. It's hilly, reminiscent of Wellington, windy, ditto. And the two days I was there, the wind was straight out of Antartica and was not a respecter of persons.
Now my first book Memories in the Bone featured Dunedin in the New Zealand part of the tale - that plus the gold fields of Central Otago, east of the city. Oamaru, a gracious small town further north is also featured in the story, in that Pita Hohepa's marae was situated north of it, by the banks of the beautiful Waitaki river. The main part of Memories' New Zealand story is played out here. And well satisfied I am too, that I set Memories in the Bone in these gracious, gorgeous part of New Zealand.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Bird Kill!
There I was in the United Airlines plane, sitting contentedly with all the other passengers, having a great conversation with my seat mate, chin-wagging about her wonderful experiences and her parents' in New Zealand when we were told by cabin staff that maintenance crew is working on cleaning out the engine. A pesky member of the avian class had flown in and committed kamikaze suicide when the plane was landing  for our pick-up.!
Blast and all that, and the wait went on and on and on. We were dehydrating, water was served. Waiting,waiting and then after an hour and a half, we were de-planed. And that was when hell broke loose. We had all missed our connecting flights. And all flights were full for the day.
Anyone ever been in that sort of frustrating situation? End result was I missed my flight out of San Francisco for New Zealand and now am re-booked for the earliest available one -- next Wednesday at an extra cost of $500! Thank goodness for insurance. So I am now going to fly to SF on Tuesday, giving myself a day's leeway before flying out the next evening. And will go on to Christchurch, unfortunate earthquake city, to spend time with Tim (ex-hubby) and gorgeous ZhuZhu, (present little dog on loan to the ex) and we shall take it from there. Thank goodness for friends in the right places -- in the town and near the airport.
Friend Ray who picked me up also took me to the monthly do at the Art Gallery. What a turnout! Fabulous smorgasboard of desert and fruit  (and wine) and the place was full of people. A painting competition has just been judged, with all the exhibits hung. More than the Art Gallery in Big Auckland could ever hope to muster on a similar occasion. We get blasé in big cities. We get spoilt with too many of everything. Like young people who don't appreciate their youth and natural beauty. In small towns like Grand Junction, people are so much more enthusiastic and so grateful for what they have. I like it here.
Adios till next time. It will be from New Zealand then.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

How many people know about the Delicate Arch in Utah? Or been to this marvelous place called CanyonLands? It is one of the most amazing places on the planet.The  red mountains and mesas leave the Rose Valley of Capadoccia for dead. I am one for the architecture of Europe but nature's architecture in this region is a sight to behold. The Colorado river flows through it, every bend brings up astounding rock structures -- cathedrals of red, castles on top of rocky mountains, all sculpted by nature. I highly recommend a trip. Hire a car or take a tourist coach, though there are not that many of those. You can really feel the wilderness here.
We hiked up to see the Delicate Arch, resting to rest in the shades of stunted ceders, going easy with or water, and when we finally round the band, there she is! Huge, graceful arching red formation standing high besides the rocky fall. It is a three mile hike there and back to the car park and worth every step.
Also! The lovely chipmunks who inhabit this place, fulfilled my childhood curiosity.
Truly  CanyonLands is  one of the wonders of nature. Hope you can get there.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Visited the Chinese garden in the Pearl yesterday and enjoyed an exquisite lunch of delicacies. Then went for a Happy Hour dinner at an Indian place later. Portland groans with the satisfaction of fine foods promoted through the Happy Hour idea. Food at half price. How can a girl ever get skinny living here? Yet Melanie stays willowy. Not fair.
Also visited the Contemporary Art Gallery. I am astounded to learn that 90% of the world live in slums!!!At the gallery, an small building expo shows the ways housing can be cheaply built for these unfortunates and adapted to their geographical situation. There just is no justification for their governments not to get off their arses to house their people. And this includes the New Zealand government and bureaucracy esp. now with the problem of earthquake-smashed Christchurch.
Then Powells' the biggest private book store in the States. What an eye opener it is. I was happy to find they have my book Memories in the Bone on their website. So introduced myself to a lovely lady called Tina and handed her my ever-educational name card. Promising. Memories can be found on all ebook sites, people. You will love that book for its imagery and characterisation enveloped in a great historical plot. Enjoy!
And finally, went to a neighbourhood cinema to see Queen of Versailles, a doco that was in the Auck. film fest. this winter. Tells of the Seigals and their lifestyle that went crashing in the 2008 financial fiasco. What sinful, tacky opulence. What useless people! I recommend you all to take it out on Blue Ray and learn a lesson or two on what not to do if you ever strike the National Lottery.Retain your dignity, for the sake of the planet. When so many live in slums, one can do without a 90,000 square foot house with 19 bathrooms.
Live well and happy. I still think the best things in life can be free. Like the sunsets.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Well now, it's been a little while since I last posted and that's because I don't want to sound like a desperate chirping baby bird that says, 'feed me, feed me' or in blogspeak,  'read me, read me'. However, I may have got that all wrong and the intention of a blog is  'read me, read me.'
Anyway, in the meantime, I have been to Seattle, built in a lovely space with mountains, woodlands and Puget Sounds that makes our Auckland's gorgeous Hauraki Gulf look a tad dimunitive. And below the waters, I have been told, are the great Gooey Ducks. Heard of them? Those of you who are from there?Gooey Ducks are the biggest misnomer for a kind of a giant shell fish with the rudest appearance ever. Highly priced and prized on the Asian markets as a Viagra substitute because of its great resemblance to the human male genitalia, it tastes not  much different from an abalone - so I am told by a young woman who has eaten it in Seattle. Okay, some male followers would dispute my opinion that its resemblance to the male genitalia is rude, but this is an old bird speaking!
Anyway, I visited the newly opened Chihully gallery and glass garden that is stunning and then shot up the Space Needle which I've always called the Seattle Tower, to have an overview of the surrounding environment. Such a pity that Mount Rainier is blanketed by the smoke from nearby burning forests on the other side.  But the few minutes' view I had of it while being driven by dear friends, Kati and Al on the way back from viewing the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, was of a spectacular, rugged version of Mt. Fuji, Mt Tarawera, etc. It's a gutsy mount of volcanic rock, and a great pity its beauty is shrouded for now.
Overall, my long weekend there visiting old chum Kati and her lovely Al has been most enjoyable and it is, as all of you would appreciate, great to catch up with old friends and find you have both grown older and wiser but still retain the values that bonded you together in the first place. And though it was my second visit to that lovely city, I feel I know it better this time round. Thank you, Kati and Al and for introducing me to all the lovely vegetarian eateries around the place.
Also spent time at the famous Pike's Market, laid on movie set, which actually puts Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco in the shade - it is so big, so interesting and so full of the local die-hards who certainly know how to entertain as they sell. My only regret is that I didn't have time to investigate the underground streets of the old city. maybe next time. Meanwhile daughter Melanie of the BlueLotusHenna fame is taking me to the tunnels of the Shanghai'd. Mort of that later.
Catch you next time.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Well now, this is Portland Calling!! An update on my travels so far. Spent a good week in San Francisco, city of my dreams, Golden Gate Bridge seen through thick fog, cold wind blasting up my skirt, great food to expand the ever-growing waistline and miles of uphill and down dale to lengthen the shins and calf muscles.To befriend Mark Twain, I must borrow his line -I've never felt so cold as that summer in San Francisco. But what a nice week it was. Met a lovely Dutch girl Inge with the very nice double-barrel surname and hung out with her and a couple of others she picked up later in the week. That is the bonus of travelling alone. Highly recommend it.
Then  twelve damn hours at the airport to wait for the replacement flight to Las Vegas. My 9am flight on United was cancelled and could not get on till the 5.55 pm one which was then 2 hours late!!! Needless to say, I was sooo browned off by the time I walked into my hotel at midnight to find loud 'funky'music blasting out all over. I must admit I dislike the town intensely, can't do desert and heat and keep my dinner down and a cool head up at the same time.
 As I sat at the quick food joint adjacent to the Flamingo and gazed out at the scores of fat, people pushing buttons on the poker machines; faces and brains on neutral, I came up with the thought, LV is an adult Disneyland with evil intent, founded by evil men way back to use as a most effective tool to plummel the money out of the gullible. The only saving grace is Ka - Cirque de Soleil the most incredible show ever!! In Auckland I used to drool over the Met Opera's Ring Cycle with their great staging, but Cirque leaves that far behind. I truly recommend it to you all for quality entertainment. That was what saved Vegas for me.

 Got out after two days and am now in Portland, Oregon, at last a real city! Been here before and loved it. Daughter Melanie works on her henna art here and last night took me to the first of her yogic chant class. Quite, quite amazing. the clarity of the voice from this beautiful child of my womb. Okay, please forgive me for clucking.

Oh, and needless to say, all along the way I meet lovely people to whom I give my calling card with Memories in the Bone cover and precis of story. Now my line there is 'Read it and tell me what you think and maybe one day when I get famous, you can say "I knew her when...." Adios till the next time. Wish you all very well  and keep happy and healthy.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Indeed it is a wonderful life. The sun is shining and yesterday I picked a huge red, juicy capsicum that I have been growing as a patio plant--- and ate it instantly!!!

Does anyone know that red capsicums are great for coughs? So I've been told.But I can tell you, it's great for the taste buds. Yummy, yummy, yummy, there's a capsicum in my tummy!
Enough to turn all apartment dwellers into gardeners. You can harvest tomatoes, and every herb on the planet from pots on your patio. This capsicum was on my balcony, I brought it into the house to be out of the winter cold.