Sometimes life leaves me nonplussed

So I was walking home from work the other day (very carefully, mind) and I came across a boutique window. I have been into this boutique before, which was a mistake: it’s rather small and it creates awkwardness when leaving, but still, she often has nice wee jackets. Nevertheless, I walked past at speed (but carefully), and so it took me a moment to register the shirt that was displayed in the window.

Slow Woman Crossing

What on earth, gentle readers? I’m genuinely perplexed. Should I be offended, or delighted?

Regarding a related matter, people do think you’re a bit suspish when you lurk around their boutiques taking photographs.


I spent a fascinating afternoon being psychometrically tested in the hopes of getting a rather perfect job. It was fascinating. I answered about forty trillion fascinating questions: some putting letters in order, intuiting the next number in a random sequence, locating the intersection of the square and the circle, pricing lengths of string, and pairing up related words, and some revealing my secret desires for a career in zoology over vivisection. I was asked repeatedly whether I would really, if money were no object, make pottery, or would perhaps prefer to party with friends.

The test was, naturally, designed to be impervious to devious nutters wishing to skew the results, and therefore I will have to wait until early next week to learn my fatal flaws. Agog.


Why does the word “arnica” appeal to me? I’ve been using it (the herb, not the word) to disperse my substantial bruise-acreage. It has no particular scent: in face, there’s no particular way of knowing it’s in there at all. Allow me to free-associate a little: arnica reminds me, irrationally, of homoeopathy, which reminds me of Susan Sarandon as Marmee March, bless her, which reminds me of New England, which reminds me, neatly, of Dr.Hauschka’s Birch-Arnica body oil. That one does have a scent; it’s a bit like a forest floor crossed with a Swedish bathhouse. Yummers.

I do know a couple of people called Anneke or Annika, but I am perplexed as to why I would find arnica so nice — homey, efficacious, vaguely eccentric, and good.


I first heard of Coraline when a friend sent me a link to the rather lovely official website. coraline

Then I missed it at the film festival. But then! One who shall remain delicately nameless took me to see it at the Village on Queen Street.

I have mixed feelings about Neil Gaiman. On the one hand, Stardust; but on the other, such pretentious travesties as the Sandman and “Snow, Glass, Apples”. Still, though, some university cronies of mine once had a superb bash at “We Can Get Them For You Wholesale”, so it’s only fair to give the guy a chance.


He steps up, in Coraline, generally. A couple of plot points are played with all the artistry of a kids’ video game, and there are some distracting breaks in tone, but not enough to completely ruin the mood. Some things that should by rights have made it into the negative column, like French and Saunders, actually do a decent job.

But visually, Coraline is absolutely stunning. The baddies are just awful with their buttony eyes and skeletal hands, and the garden and forest that Coraline discovers are so richly realised, it’s lovely.

I love themed eats: or, Buffy, where it all began

Several aeons ago, Smokey the Magnificent and I (devoted sisters) used to meet like old ladies twice a week, regular as gout, to make dinner and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer. These assignations, though rather fun, at a certain point began to feel as if they were missing something; something subtle but vital, which would breathe life into the tame ritual and infuse it with the joie de vivre.

The solution, when it hit, was obvious; no doubt you, readers, are chomping at the bit with the self-evident words. Themed Eats.

The rules, children, for creating themed eats are as follows. The eats are to be present in some form in the film or series being watched: either directly, like the noodle ring in Elvis’s Change of Habit, or more amorphously, as a ring of challah would evoke Princess Leia’s hairstyle. Simply piping “I aim to misbehave” on a cake is sloppy and reprehensible, and hardly qualifies as a themed eat.

The Buffy themed eats began with a series of cupcakes, which I present following: first, Spike, with these rather smooth Peroxide Cupcakes.

Peroxide Cupcakes


Then Drusilla, his paramour. Red velvet cupcakes, luscious and a little loony.

Drusilla Cupcake


And for Angel: the “Mr Billowy Coat, King of Pain” cupcake. A pale cupcake infused with the mortal tang of almond. A morello cherry stands in for his inert but adorable heart.

Angel cupcake

Angel, with heart


Stay tuned for more. Themed eats forever.


(More Buffy themed eats are featured here and here.)


Some things to which there really is no downside: Meryl Streep. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Black bonnets. The Dutch tilt. Silence. Philip Seymour Hoffman.

You’re welcome.

The boy person friend, with reluctant generosity, rented Doubt the other day – mainly to take my mind off the fact that he had also picked up a copy of Dan in Real Life. I never look a gift horse in the mouth, however, and Doubt more than lived up to its early promise. Meryl Streep, as a no-nonsense nun with a funny accent, whups the pants off Philip Seymour Hoffman (he’s in this movie, I meant to mention) – not literally, about the whupping off of his pants, but she does allow herself the grim pleasure of developing suspicions about his sordid goings-on with altar boys in the rectory. Unfettered by any actual evidence, she simply takes her ecclesiastical ranking in one hand, grasps her middle-aged New York chutzpah in the other, and lets rip with a campaign to get Father Frank (Philip Seymour Hoffman) out of her parish.

It’s a simple story told at an unhurried pace, and some of its devices are planted with wide-eyed naivete (such as the housekeeper hunting down an unwelcome mouse: “Takes a cat,” she declares with satisfaction when her mog has finally succeeded at the task, and Streep’s character archly replies, “Yes it does”). But Doubt, make no mistake, is on: tautly threaded, blinkered at all the right moments like the black bonnets that festoon the heads of dozens of unassumingly distinctive nuns, crafted with spare three-act precision – a Witness for those too titchy to remember it, assuming, that is, that they weren’t in the multiplex watching Dan in Real Life and consequently missing it.

In its final act, Doubt emerges as a devastating tryptich as Streep’s Sister Aloysius, her protege and sometime antagonist Sister James (beautifully played by Amy Adams, who’s a darn good thing), and the beleagured Father Frank (Philip Seymour Hoffman) turn cat and mouse, mother and child, saint and sinner, serpent and dove, Eve and madonna, protector and quarry, confessor and comforter. Its stage origins are evident, but Doubt uses the cinematic frame with deft expertise. It’s sometimes simplistic, not a little obvious, but never heavy-handed; subtle and well-finished to a fault.

Also, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Long walk home

I spent the other morning in Mairangi Bay, filling in for a holidaying teacher. This helicopter scooped up several wee buckets of water while I was having my break: perhaps it was looking for the mysterious algal terror that has been killing the penguins and dogs? We’re not supposed to let the children eat the sand. But maybe it was just thirsty.

After that, I walked home.