Hipy papy picnic

Last weekend Betty’s niece, a formidable child, celebrated her third birthday. As Betty and the husband person were both on the invitation list, they tootled down to Hamilton and went slightly out of town to the Taitua Arboretum, a pleasant arrangement of ponds, fields, forest walks and gazebos. There they met the niece (who is variously known as the Snortlepig, Pig, the Dude, and sometimes by her actual name), the niece’s parents (Smokey the Magnificent and Information Highwayman), two sets of grandparents, a small array of aunts and uncles, and the Pig’s dearest friends, who – apart from the occasional baby – happen to be quite grown up. They gathered next to the pond to share a delightful picnic.

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There was cake, made by Smokey the Magnificent and prodigiously up to snuff.

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It was nommy. The Pig chased chickens and had a grand old time.

Hipy papy, Pig.

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Parachute 2010: Ruby, NewWorldSon and Switchfoot, o my

As readers will know, Betty made the annual pilgrimage to the Parachute Festival on the weekend. Betty’s sister, who loves Parachute inordinately, had a most excellent time.

First, she figured out a plan for the day. It began with the morning meeting, a giant worship service in the sun. A visiting Greek guy from England spoke about Zephaniah 3:17, which explains how God rejoices over his people, quiets them with his love, and exults over them with loud singing (according to the speaker, the last part in Hebrew indicates that God spins round and round like a top in delight over us).

After the morning meeting, Betty and her sister went to another seminar (terrible, sadly), and then perused the foodstalls. Betty’s sister, for readers who are not familiar, is well-known to approximately every fourth person she comes across; she met countless acquaintances and friends of friends, and pointed out the identities of a considerable number of people who were walking past. Finally, she went and bought a shaved ice cone: the proprietor served her and remarked, “You’ve been here before”. Betty’s sister nodded and chatted for a moment, while Betty stood back in some amazement: neither of them was at Parachute 2009, which means that this woman remembered Betty’s sister from a shaved ice purchase two years ago.

After that, they went to the Deluxe stage, which is lovely and cool and dark, and listened to Ruby Frost. Ruby (whose real name is Jane) is a mightily talented wee slip of a thing with a voice like Goldenhorse only tuneful; she sang some original songs and did a lovely medley of “Sweet Dreams are Made of This” and “Beautiful Nightmare”.

She also upped the cute factor in a big way.

Every Parachute, in Betty’s experience, has a surprise. This year’s was absolutely NewWorldSon. Betty had never heard of this band, which was listed in the programme as Soul/Pop; it hails from Canada.

Continue reading

On sun and parachuting

There are a few fixed rituals in Betty’s year. NaNoWriMo is one; others have come and gone, like hot air ballooning every Easter (for something like five or six years, Betty forgets), or strawberry picking in the summer, or abseiling at youth camps. The most enduring, Betty reflects, is quite possibly the annual pilgrimage to the Parachute Music Festival every Auckland Anniversary weekend.

This is a little odd, since Parachute is not really Betty’s thing; she was introduced by her hip friends back in the late 1990s, and reintroduced by her well-connected and keen sister a few years later. Betty’s sister, for reasons related to autism and other awesomeness, enjoys few things more than planning and timetabling, listens devotedly to the radio, and loves fast food. Readers will therefore appreciate the significance of an event that packs dozens of bands into dozens of short timeslots, in a massive tent city peppered with literally dozens of hot dog stands, coffee bars and gourmet pizza marquees. It is like heaven.

It will, Betty readily admits, be fun this year: Switchfoot are headlining on the Mainstage, as they did in 2008, and Betty is quite quivering to hear them; there are also other regular highlights, like the World Vision installation (you line up for hours, wear an earpiece, and undergo some kind of simulated third-world horror; last year it involved sitting in a makeshift clinic waiting to be told if you had contracted AIDS; it was harrowing and very moving), the gourmet pizza, and the midday roller disco or barndance in the Palladium.

By far the most significant part of Parachute, however, is the sun. Betty has an unholy horror of sunburn. Though she spent her childhood tanned to a deep shade of acorn or teak, she is now Baltic pine at the very most, and not at all fond of getting lupus-like flushes of red across her cheeks, or that permanent dark nose-stripe that develops after a day or so of unprotected sun exposure. One year, despite her best efforts, Betty left Parachute with a burned parting in her hair, and a strip of her scalp peeled off in one deliciously satisfying and yet totally unacceptable piece a few days later. There always seems to be a spot — the top of a foot, a corner of neck, a strip of hip, an entire ear — that ends up blackened and blistering.

However, Betty chooses to live in hope. Armed with a small array of sunscreens, a pair of dark glasses, sleeves, and a hat, Betty will once again attempt to avoid burning. The festival is just over two weeks away, so helpful suggestions and recommendations are most welcome.

Christmas day: an overview

12:00 AM. Midnight Christmas carol service at the Baptist Tabernacle. They gave us candles. Carols and fire — a winning combination. And midnight: don’t forget midnight.

Betty drove home and dived into bed, only to bounce back up again moments later to get ready for Christmas day!

6:40 AM. Drove to the boy person friend’s apartment building. Waited patiently for 7:15 pickup time.

7:05 AM. Gave in. Buzzed boy person friend’s apartment (world’s most horrible noise). Bundled presents, hastily wrapped between work and carol service last night, into the car. Headed to suburbs.

7:30 AM. Picked up boy person friend’s father. Met him at end of driveway, decided not to return for gift bottle of sparkling grape juice so as not to alarm the dog.

9:00 AM. Arrived in Hamilton! Made obligatory drive-by of supermarkets in case one should be open: not the case. Boy person friend’s father gave up idea of replacing bottle of sparkling grape juice.

9: 30 AM. Arrived at church for Christmas morning service. Betty’s two youngest sisters played piano and cello to accompany carols, along with a friend who played violin; all were most talented, making Betty wish very briefly that she had not given up on the violin. Betty’s father, who is the minister, spoke briefly about the Christmas story from the perspective of Mary.

10:45 AM. Went to the home of Betty’s youth. Opened presents, ate olives and pickled onions, drank Christmas punch, Skyped Betty’s London sister, and so on. Finally ate dinner. The omnivores had roast ham and drumsticks, and Betty had curried pasta salad, roast pumpkin salad, more roast vegetables, cranberry sauce, and peas. Dessert was plum pudding, ambrosia and strawberries. It was too hot to go to the park and play Kubb, as originally suggested, so everyone swanned about the house and listened to Betty’s sisters playing music.

5:50 PM. Bundled the boy person friend and his father back into the car and drove back to Auckland. Much snoozing was done on the way, but not by Betty, fortunately.

7:30 PM. Returned the boy person friend’s father to his home. Got the dog a Christmas dinner. He’s very nice.

8:00 PM. Betty and the boy person friend drove to Mt Eden and watched the sunset.

It was a nice day. The end.

Space rides and foreign climes

For the first time in months, Betty and the boy person friend drove down to Hamilton. It was yesterday, the day before Betty’s birthday, which made it all the more exciting, and they were driving the great friend’s car (he calls it the Knight Rider, Betty recently discovered) — this, too, tended to be somewhat exciting. However, all interested parties survived the journey.

It was rather a busy day — Betty taught a couple of clients in the morning, then did the advanced mat class, and then went for a speedy coffee with a visiting instructor who had come to do the class. Massimo, usually exemplary, forgot the soy, and so it took about half an hour to actually receive the coffee; then Betty ran home, got ready in record time, and leaped into the car to collect the boy person. They arrived at the University of Betty’s youth only slightly late, and slipped in to watch the end-of-year piano concert, featuring two of Betty’s sisters on piano and cello. Continue reading

I miss Auteur House

The screen media, as all readers will know, are useful chiefly for two things: they pass time and rot the brain. Very well. If, let us say, one is in the position of contending with hazardous circumstances, such as, let us say —

  • one’s abject poverty
  • the late hours one keeps
  • one’s iBook being on the fritz, perhaps permanently
  • one’s mother’s gratifying yet somehow anticlimactic probable triumph over a rare cancer, on a technicality
  • one’s practically only sister living in London and not able to come back quite when planned
  • 120 roll film costing the earth and leaving one’s Holga to lie fallow
  • one’s substandard ankles, now structurally unsound due to two accidents
  • the bus system

— and so on, the screen media occasionally do provide one with a welcome diversion. There are different kinds of media into which one can sink oneself: sometimes, for example, plonking down in front of Firefly on DVD is just the thing, and other times few things are more appealing than an afternoon curled up with cups of tea and a dozen or so YouTube clips of Draco and the Malfoys.

The trouble is, DVDs must either be picked up on sale at JB Hi-Fi, or rented from a frankly useless chain video store in the central city. This is no good. Auckland may be a bustling, forward-thinking metropolis (though this is doubtful), but what it needs is to take a lesson or two from Hamilton, at least in the matter of the Hydro-Majestic, cafes that open after six PM, and Auteur House. Shortly before I moved away, I had nearly finished watching a series of Truman Capote films (I think I still had one version of In Cold Blood to go) and a bunch of Hitchcocks, and Dr Richard was handing over Danny Kaye films as soon as I walked up the stairs.

I miss Auteur House.