Leave a comment

I call it a bronchial infection.  I now understand what it is.  It is the wet snot, the yellow phlegm that never finally clears in the throat, the wheezing breath sleepless in the night, and the hacking cough that presses phosphenes onto the vision, the headache from the awful work of blowing out this muck, and the longing for momentary relief of one good sneeze to clean it all out albeit briefly, the despair of the shortness of breath.  Now that I know what it is I want to exorcise it to the Fires of Hell prepared for the Devil and His Angels with all the intolerant spirituality that I can muster!  Bell, Book and Candle! Bring it on!

I have been home for several days, pointedly not turning on my faithful desk-top computer.  I would only sit at it and browse, and cough.  My couchant time has been productive for reading, mostly fantasy fiction.  The First Act of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Assassini had a moment where a vampire and a werewolf battled over the roof-tops of Venice and I recognised that the author had allowed too much back-story to kill off either character in that battle.  The consequences of choosing an alternative resolution would have been interesting.  Presumably the series will have three ‘Acts’ or volumes, and be a conventional trilogy.

The two Dresden Files I had borrowed from Southern Dave proved to be solid reads, and I can arrange to return them.

Migrations by Rod Edmond told the story of a migrant New Zealander searching his family history in Scotland, Vanuatu, Tasmania and New Zealand, an excellent piece of post-Presbyterian writing.  I think I will be loaning that one to the archivist.

Another borrowed book was Ken MacLeod’s Newton’s Wake.  I will return it to my supplier and ask for another by the same author.

Hobbit Spotting

Leave a comment

This is the week that was.

Dave went back to Invercargill.  He dropped me off at church which saved me some time.  When he got home he joined the Facebook group for Brithenig words that I have started, bringing that community to 13 people, of which half I can identify.

I added some reference points to the invisible city of Lamborough.  I wondered how one character would get from South Shore across Lamborough Harbour to the Weather Downs in the hill country of Big Sharkey.  I realised that I knew enough details to travel the distance in his car: across the Harbour Bridge, then over the Tava River, turn back south until he reached Hundred Road which would take him out of the city.

On Thursday I went to the Gig Night at the Library.  I had mixed it together in my head and expected gothic ukelele. A four piece band played original pieces about the Transit of Venus, coffee and the carousel cowboy.  An alternative group did Talley Ho! and a synthesizer had me leaning forward to hear some interesting harpsichord.

I was at work for the last day for our reseach archivist.  We went to the ministry common room so she could say farewell to all who met for afternoon tea, one last time.

The cold nights have given me a cough that is slow in going away.  A harbinger of the winter to come.

I have collected my mother from the bus station.  You can hear her in the background.  My hat went off for adventures.  Fortunately the taxi driver brought it back.  She has found my collection of Arthur Mee titles on my bookshelf.  I have Golden Year, One Thousand Beautiful Things, The Children’s Bible and Talks for Boys.  She has One Thousand and One Everlasting Things and the volumes of the Encyclopedia at home which I hope to add to my collection.  She will look out for other titles at the book sale in Invercargill.



One of the moveable feasts of year was observed this weekend.  The Twenty Four Hour Regent Book Sale is a high holy day of the year.  As It Is Tradition, I expect to host Southern Dave for the weekend.  Dave is a collector of books, CDs and grave-sites.  We spent a morning traipsing around the non-Euclidean graves of Dunedin, sister-city to R’lyeh.

Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu Northern Cemetery wgah'nagl fhtagn!

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu Northern Cemetery wgah’nagl fhtagn!

Translated from the original Gaelic as “In his grave at the Northern Cemetery Great Cthulhu politely requests that nearby student flats keep the noise down!”

I found a copy of The Dunwich Horror and Others by H. P. Lovecraft at the book sale, produced by Arkham House.  Bill who works at Scribes observed that they would sell something like that for $60.  I got it for $5.

I found copies of Teach Yourself Turkish and Teach Yourself  Basic Spanish among the Foreign Languages.  My big purchase of the sale was in the Nearly New Books where I decided to fill out The Black Company Series by Glen Cook.  I picked out about eight books so that made a significant contribution to the upkeep of the Regent Theatre.

Came a wet Sunday and Dave has returned to Invercargill.  He has left me with the next two books in the Dresden Files as I never see White Night on the shelves.  Also a block of cheese and a tub of margarine.

My flat is restored to its original state.  Now to sleep dreamlessly.

Finally a wave and a shout-out to my friend Dr Ali Clarke.  Welcome to the bloggersphere!  Everyone else, follow that blog!

Places History can’t reach

Leave a comment

The second of two open lectures by Professor Rod Edmond, a migrant New Zealander at the University of Kent.

On one side of his family his grandmother was born in 1849 at Ardmair, north of Ullapool.  I found Ardmair on GoogleMaps with some searching.  It’s an open grassy bay over the hills from Ullapool, a place to stop and camp.  Fourteen families lived there as crofters.  They emigrated at the end of December in 1853 to Tasmania.  Their last sermon was taken from the Book of Isaiah Chapter 11:

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb…

And it shall come to pass on that day,

That the Lord shall set his hand again

the second time to recover the remnant of his people that shall be left…

from the islands of the sea.

And he shall set up an ensign for the nations,

and gather together the dispersed of Judah

from the four corners of the earth.

Ullapool was a new town set up for the herring industry.  It had not been successful as the harvest stocks shifted to new waters.

On the other side of his family Charles Murray came from family of tenant farmers in Aberdeenshire to be a missionary on Ambrim Island in Vanuatu.  His history there was covered in the first lecture.  The Murray family lived on a tenant farm which has been owned by the Cumine family for 200 years.  The anniversary is coming up.  They farmed the land in the Hunger Years after the end of the Golden Summer of Scottish agriculture.  The tenancy agreement lasted for 19 years, meaning that what investment they put in the land could be lost at the end of that tenancy and returned to the land-owners.  Two generations, two tenancy cycles.  The third generation scattered around the world to Ambrim in the New Hebrides, and India, and Kalamazoo in America.  After 1884 other people took over the tenancy.

The McLeods were dispossessed by the Clearances.  The stories passed into oral history and biblical language.  They took on an emotional memory, stronger than the evictions of Ireland, that are still debated, still re-told.  The people tell their own stories, recording as much detail as they need.  In the literature Patrick Sellar, the factor of the Duke of Sutherland, is the agent for change.  How much were the people already dispossessed from their land in a religion and society where the inner Patrick Sellar evicts emotion and burns out love?  (A friend told me I should write that quote down, so it is not verbatim.)  They were driven out by people who thought morally, ecologically and economically they were doing the right thing.

For both the tenant farmers, and the crofters dispossessed by the Clearances,  the story they told was in their literature.  The historians in the audience got energetic about that.

Wrongs and Rights: The Curious Afterlife of a Nineteenth Century Missionary in Vanuatu New Hebrides

Leave a comment

This was a lecture given by Professor Rod Edmond on a visit to New Zealand telling how his ancestors came from Scotland to New Zealand, in one case via a circuitous route through the New Hebrides.  Several members of the Presbyterian Archives attended this lecture.  The source of the record for Charles Murray’s time in Ambrim in the New Hebrides was a journal he kept for six months between New Year and his departure from the island after the Presbyterian Synod.  The original diary is part of the collection at the Presbyterian Archives, which was acknowledged with thanks.

Charles Murray was the son of a tenant farmer from Aberdeenshire (Did he ever cross paths with my own ancestors from the same region?)  He followed his brother, William Murray, to Ambrim where William died of tuberculosis, a Scottish disease, not a tropical disease.  Charles suffered from bouts of malaria while at Ambrim.  During the time he lost his wife Flora in childbirth which affected him badly.  It was an unhappy time for him.

At the same time he fell into conflict with a local chief, Malnain (spelling?).  The Ambrim people have a ceremony of status, mage, pronounced like ‘maaz’ apparently, where a pig is sacrificed over carved images.  The chief was organising a ceremony where the sacrifice of pigs would raise him to the supreme degree.  Charles Murray opposed the ceremony as explicitly pagan.

At the same time one of the chief’s wives had been involved in adultery with a man from another village and peaceful relations had to be negotiated.  The chief was under enough pressure that to restore normal relations between genders he forbade women from going to the mission school.  Murray came under taboo and was virtually isolated from the goodwill of the community that supported him.  The Presbyterian Missionary Synod removed him from the island.  He was shipwrecked on Malo, another island in the New Hebrides group.  The experience left him broken in mind.  He would recover and go on to parish ministry in New Zealand until his death.

Over the century the island changed and became Christianised.  The missionaries take on a status of being culture-heroes, bringers of the new custom of the islands, a status not diminished as the missionaries become figures leading to decolonisation.  When Professor Edmond visited Ambrim and the village of Ranon where the Murray brothers served members of the families of descendents were affected to learn what their ancestors had done.  They took the initiative and held a ‘Sorry’ ceremony to reconcile what they had done to the professor’s ancestors.  They absorbed the missionary story and made it part of their own whakapapa, or genealogy, of their world-view.

Ascension Sunday

Leave a comment

The Ascension of Christ by Salvador Dali

Today’s contribution to my usual irreverence was to refer to the above image as ‘The CAT-Scan of Christ’.

I bought some new shoes this weekend.  They are a bit stiff and my punishment will be to break them in to mold comfortably to my feet.

I found a diversion on Saturday afternoon by reading the archives of Lady Sabre and The Pirates of the Ineffable Ether.  That was fun.  It looks like their Kickstarter campaign to fund a trade paperback has been successful.  I’m tempted to put in an order with Graphic Comics for a copy when I hear it has been printed.

Finally, I went and saw Rigoletto at the Rialto this afternoon.  The Met Opera set it in 1960s Las Vegas.  I wasn’t convinced that the story of the curse works in such a modern setting.  The sets were wonderful and the popularity of the opera attacted a bigger audience than was usual for a screening.

The next opera is Parsifal and I looking forward to it.  I have it on CD and despite its length it has a lot of beautiful music.  I suspect it might prove to be more accessible to me than the Ring Cycle.  I’m looking forward to discovering why Jonas Kaufmann is wandering about looking like a factory floor worker.

Bow to the Fiddle

Leave a comment

Any one who knows me will know that New Zealand Music Month is not significant in my liturgical calendar.  It was mentioned that one of the staff at the Castle was performing tonight.  As well as a couple of other artists that I wanted to see.  It was early in the evening with rain arriving later.  I chose to go.

The title above was given to the Gig Night: A quartet of local bands celebrate the feisty, fickle and soulful power of the strings.

First up a tall skinny rat emerged from the book shelves and Alan Star Rat serenaded us for half an hour of violin music without a break except where the audience broke into applause.  I’m sure there was some use of distortion that caught my ear at one point.

Second Catgut and Steel, a duo, long-term supporters of Music Month at the Library, playing on guitar and violin.  I guess Jason would approve of this use of ‘cat’ for playing folk and retro.

Julian Temple and Alex Vaatstra up next, again guitar and violin.  Julian Temple has a voice like gravel at the bottom of a coal-mine, Alex Vaatstra proved that he could use a violin to match and compliment that singing.  I didn’t think I had enough money on me at the time for a CD, although I want one!  They ended with the nightmare  song Who is Bazil if the Devil’s Daughter is his wife?

Unfairly Humboldt County had to follow them.  Their music was sleepy and laid-back at the end of the evening and the audience was drifting away.  Perhaps they would have been better appreciated if they had been earlier in the line-up.

Older Entries