Friday, June 26, 2015

Maruia Falls

The Maruia Falls have always seemed quite impressive to me; well worth a stop on the way from Christchurch to Murchison. Fortunately, the falls cannot be seen from the highway otherwise the road would have a rather high accident rate. But a pull off into the carpark and a few lazy steps brings you to this magnificent sight.

What is even more remarkable is that these falls did not exist prior to 1929. In the Murchison earthquake of that year, a landslip diverted the course of the Maruia River so that it rejoined its self further down stream, falling over its own bank. At that time, the falls were about one metre high. However, in the succeeding years the falls eroded the base of the river until, today, they plunge a good ten metres to the river below.

We tend to think that such things happen over thousands of years but, in the case of the Maruia Falls it has all taken place in a rather short 86 year period. Great productivity, New Zealand!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Cafe 51

Cafes tend to come and go - sometimes very quickly; more like fashion statements than places to hang out, drink coffee and eat. Cafe 51 is an exception; we have been frequenting this establishment for the last 21 years. Somehow, Cafe 51 has remained Oxford’s ‘place to go’ over all this time, despite the town having at least three other good eateries (one with a rather well known name).

The Cafe 51 experience starts at the door knob - it’s a loosely fitting brass thing that seems only vaguely connected to any opening mechanism. Don’t wrestle with it; just give it a gentle enquiring turn and the heavy wooden door will open into the early 20th century - very much in keeping with the exterior.

The whole Cafe 51 experience is like that door knob - it all seems too casual, the staff too friendly, the atmosphere almost homely. Can this really be a modern cafe delivering the victuals we expect in 2015? Yes, it can; like that questionable door knob, it just works - great coffee, great food and great service. It’s why Cafe 51 has remained our favourite Oxford haunt for 21 years and why, on occasions, it can be so busy that we reluctantly have to try somewhere else.

Give it a try when you’re next in Oxford. You’ll find it at: 51 Main Street, Oxford. Or on the web at:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Soul of a Pilgrim

It is customary to have finished reading a book before writing a review. But having traversed this book line by line, cover to cover, I am sure that I have not finished reading yet - this is one of those books that needs to be ‘absorbed’ rather than simply read. Christine Valters Painter describes the pilgrimage of life as more like a spiral than a linear journey. And so it is with this book; there is something to be found within whether one might be on the first, or the twenty-first, loop in the the spiral.

The book describes eight practices to help the pilgrim on the road. Don’t worry, these are not eight ‘disciplines’ designed to break the back of those with a less than iron will - think of ‘attitudes’ that need to be nurtured and grown. We don’t need to come to this book already ‘perfected’. Rather we come as learners, ready to traverse the spiral as many times as it takes.
The sixth practice is one that I especially liked - “the practice of beginning again”. Stumbling and failure are a part of the journey, but always we begin again. However, regardless of whether we consider a part of our journey to have been a success or a failure, the nature of the spiral is that we will pass this way again. Each time we need to come again as beginners, without preconceived ideas of our competence or incompetence.
Christine’s voice is not the only one you will find in this book. There are contributions from her husband, John and from an eclectic mix of other pilgrims with a story to tell. This is not a ‘preachy’ book nor, despite the eight practices, is it a formula. Rather it is a thoughtful, and thought provoking, look at the spiritual side of a journey that we each have to make and the attitudes that might serve us well on the way.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

On being old(er)

It’s taken weeks; a few bruises and a sprain or two but eventually I ventured out into the wide, wild, world. Don’t make a fool of yourself I thought as, grasping the electric unicycle between my shins, I glided down the footpath - not quite like a ninja.

And they said I should get a mobility scooter; this’ll show ‘em. I flicked right, around the bollard, a nifty move with nary a wobble. I’m da man. Across the park dodging the soccer nets, flying like superman my inner child cries, THIS. IS. SO. COOL.

I don’t usually like being the centre of attention, but past the supermarket I’m turning heads. “What’s that?” I hear. Just the coolest dude in town, I think. “Whoa, Sick” says one lad to another as I cruise past (I think that’s good, it’s hard to tell these days).

The dip down the curb with a bad camber ends my day-dreaming glory-ride, but fortunately I land on my feet. Maybe that looked deliberate? I hope. Getting up on the wheel again takes three goes - with something approaching panic rising up inside. But then I’m off again, wobbling my way towards home.

Well, the bald-old-coot turned a few heads today, and no doubt left some wishing that they could have such a cool ride. But, best of all, it was the most FUN you can have while wearing a helmet and padded in body armour; however old you happen to be.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A first fib

The fibonacci sequence is a numerical sequence that starts 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21 where each successive number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. It is closely related to the golden ratio and to Pascal’s triangle and is found over and over in nature and in fractal forms. It is often used in art and photography as a compositional guide.

However I hadn’t realised, until this last weekend, that it is also used in a poetry form where the syllables in each successive line follow the fibonacci sequence. In poetry, this is called a ‘fib’. As I listened to a fib being read, I warmed to its simplicity (similar to Haiku) and to its open ended structure. So, of course, I had to give it a go:

written things
burdened with meaning
to cross the cold of empty space
risking storms of misunderstanding to come at last
to a sheltered port, an open waiting heart, and lips that smile, saying “so true, so true”.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A paragraph of writers

Writers are not usually known for their party habits. Though it must be said that there have been writers who’s prodigious use of mind altering substances should have qualified them. No, writers are more often known for being lonely creatures that traverse the landscape of life swathed in some private angst that mere mortals wouldn’t understand. At least that’s the common mythology.
Wanding lonely as a lost jandle, along Tahunanui beach
But this weekend, several writers descended on Tahunanui near Nelson to boldly go boldly where few writers have been before. It was the “No More Excuses, Writers’ Weekend.” My lips are sealed as to what went on (what happens in Tahunanui, stays in Tahunanui) but suffice to say that a fairly substantial paragraph of writers had a fantastic time together. We laughed, and sometimes cried, made fun of ourselves and occasionally embarrassed one another. There was heaps of writing and plenty of sharing as we listened to the new born offspring of wild imaginations.

I can’t wait for the sequel.