Hobbit in Advent

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It’s December, what’s happened?

I went house sitting again.  This time up in Opoho, for friends going overseas.  Unfortunately for them they were going to Paris, just before the attack on that city.  Chaos and confusion on their arrival.  They were able to leave and stay with family in Germany.

A change from Manono House was restful.  I looked after the chickens.  Evans Street is about 20 minutes walking from work, half the time from Manono House.  There are a couple of houses on the street that I would call crooked houses.

At the end of November I visited Invercargill for the Burt Munro Challenge, our annual family gathering.  I will be back there for Christmas.

I caught most of this season’s Doctor Who, not every episode.  I had hoped that when the Doctor got to Gallifrey there would be changes.  I confess to being disappointed.  The Time Lords fought what appears to have been a standing war against the Daleks and nearly lost.  They have the powers of gods and no imagination to exercise it.

I guess Lord President Rassilon regenerated after the Doctor sealed the Master in the imprisoned Gallifrey.  This new Lord President gave the Doctor his new regenerations. The Master regenerated into Missy and  spearheaded Gallifrey’s escape from the time-loop.  The Time Lords have retreated to the end of the universe, maybe not the wisest choice as the fruit-jube Daleks also fled into deep time.

I had speculated on the idea of Time Lord renegades escaping Gallifrey, a revolution overthrowing the High Council’s power.  The chances of this look unlikely from what we have seen of Gallifrey.  It is under the control of a powerful aristocratic elite.  The ideas of change lie outside the agenda of the programme.

The idea of Missy / the Master as an agent of chaos makes sense.  Her motive is to undo the Doctor’s plans, a mean intellectual agenda, the Doctor’s antithesis.

I have returned to Manono House from house-sitting to find changes.  One person who was proving to be difficult has moved on, which has improved the house.  Another person who was away from the house for part of the year has returned, which I find good to see.  It promises better things next year.

My workplace at the Presbyterian Archives also changes.  The newest appointments have up-sticks and left.  After two to three years of their leadership this is a disappointment.  It means changes in the new year.  It may work out for the better.

Burt 2013: Offerings to the God of Speed

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Burt Munro Challenge 2013I’m back from the Burt Munro Challenge.  Since Invercargill is my ancestral town, travelling down on the back of my brother’s bike makes this a good opportunity for a family gathering.  We are more likely to have my brother visiting from Wellington than for Christmas.  I still make the effort to be there for Christmas.

Of course in a global sense my family town is more likely to be in Aberdeenshire or on the Merseyside.  That’s another story.  I’m not likely to see these places.  I’m not global traveller.

Since the movie The World’s Fastest Indian the Burt Munro Challenge has been a success.  It’s more than just a rally, it’s motorbike racing and competition on show.  This year it was over four days with a hill climb up Bluff hill, races on the sand at Oreti Beach, speedway at Teretonga, and street races in Wyndham.  The locals get in behind it and support it.  This makes it successful.

The beach race was memorable, a circuit half a mile long and back done fifty times to memorialise Burt’s achievement.  When the checkered flag went down to signal the first bike across the finish line, then the wind picked up.  Within half a minute it was blowing so strongly it was raising the sand on the beach.  Everyone fled.  We were sitting in the marrow grass on the sand dunes.  It was no protection.  We made our way down onto the beach and joined the procession.  With the sand in my face I could not see.  The best protection was to put my bike helmet on.  With the helmet on I had to swallow the sand in my mouth because the helmet obscured my mouth.  The road from Oreti Beach back to Invercargill is between the sand dunes.  At the bikes on the sealed road I looked back.  About 10 metres back toward the beach the vehicles leaving the beach were no longer visible.  They emerged out of the cloud of the sand storm.

The capricious weather only makes such an occasion stick in the mind.  It is something for people say ‘do you remember’.

The other memory of the Burt Munro Challenge of 2013 will be Alan Kempster, The Biker of the Year for the Challenge.  Also known as Bone-aparte and Arfer Racing and the Left-Side Story.  An accident 20 years ago left his right leg a stump and his right arm ripped off at the shoulder.  He lived because the rider behind him had one of the original brick-like cellphones and physically held him together until the called ambulance arrived.  He returned in later years to bike-riding and competes under the number ½.  While his handicap meant he struggled against the elements in the beach race, he was in his element at the street races and was doing better than some two-legged riders.  He is Australian and his bike was provided by Honda Southland.  It had to be specially re-wired so the controls could be operated from the left handlebar.  Between the races at Oreti Beach and Wyndham over two days he drove up to Balclutha where he been invited to address a school assembly.  This is someone who I would like to see coming back to compete at Burt in future years.

Burt Munro Challenge 2012

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Down to Invercargill one more time with the Ghost who walks and his partner J.  She won’t forgive me if I call her his travelling companion now.  They are out now.

I thought I would be staying with Boston T. and his partner J.  (The partner-clans in my family add new meaning to It’s Complicated.)  Southern Dave was huffy if I didn’t impose on his hospitality so I changed my mind at the last moment.

We got to the beach races this year, the first time in about four years of trying to get down to Invercargill on time, and the weather being compliant.  We drove onto Oreti Beach and I was met with the smell of my childhood wafting off the waves.  The racing on the sand was worth watching.  We were at one end watching the bikes turn on the half-mile long track.  Some would cut it close and try to accelerate, others would make a wide turn not to lose speed.  All had to face the challenge of remaining upright as the sand came looser and looser.  None did fall.

Saturday we visited Richardson’s Truck Museum.  We were there for two hours and ran out of time before we went to the races at Teretonga.  On the outside it looked like a warehouse, inside it opened up into hall after hall of vintage trucks and cars and machinery.  I use film for photos — call me old-fashioned! — and finished my film before we had got through the second hall, taking photos of the cars we were talking about.  There were about four more halls after that and we only had to glance through the last of them before we left.  It’s worth another visit next year when we are down.

It’s a private museum so contact them for their address and see if they are open.

We got back for the racing, and got some coffee before we went in.  Secretly I must be a member of Order of the Mochaccin Monks!  Behind us some Filthy Few Road Knights were looking for hot chocolate and considered skulling the marshmallows.  The bikers who come down for Burt are older, relaxed and comfortable.  Everyone is looking to have a friendly time in the Far South.  The speedway turned out to be an occasion to get sandblasted.  Don’t stand too close while eating chips!

I got home on Sunday and caught up with my washing.  The others are nearly returned to Wellington now.  I think I have myself double-booked for guests in December as the Metropolitan Opera and Formed on Wednesday are both playing in the same weekend.

There and Back Again

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Back from Invercargill: missed the beach-racing because the gale canceled it. Instead I got to stand in a field with a relative while we watched the partial eclipse as the clouds momentarily parted over Invercargill. That was cool!

The Phantom bought me my first motorbike jacket to go with the helmet he gave me last year. Then I went and left my rain-coat in the back of the Art-Works car. My mother will bring it up when she visits again. Before I go to Wellington next I will have to buy some new water-proof leggings for myself as mine have died specularly. A visit to the bike shop is in order before then.

It took me a day to walk the ride back to Dunedin out of my legs. That provided some good exercise.

Two open lectures this week. I could be positive about them, but both left me thinking that these people came halfway around the world not to say much of significance.

I am working my way through the list votes to revise the extra seats in the Parliament of Oligarchs. That will take a while longer.

Exit, leaving on a bus

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I think I’m packed for my visit to Invercargill, down by bus and return by motorbike. A celebration for the Smith family and a chance to see the races at the Burt Munro Rally.

I haven’t packed a book for the trip. I wonder what I should choose.

Interesting thought for yesterday. The emerging school of thought on the left appears to be political theology: post-theist, secular and materialist, while remaining in the theological discipline. Apparently the book I have to read is Radical Political Theology by Clayton Crockett. A search on the catalogues led me to find that there is one copy at the Canterbury Library. (There’s a good reason for that!) I shall have to get the Hewitson Library to interloan it or consider prodding the University Bookshop to buy my own copy.

If this is the new school of thought on the left then it provides a challenge to New Zealanders if we adopt it. New Zealanders are antipathetic of anything with the stink of religion and are anti-intellectual and pragmatic when it comes to politics. This leave us vulnerable to neo-liberal leadership. It looks like we are resigned to another three years of the John Key party in power.

Vote early, vote often

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It looks like I will be in Invercargill next weekend. The Phantom will be in there for the Burt Munro Rally, always something to look forward to! November has always seemed like a birthday month to me: two siblings and one parent in the same month. We shall be celebrating. That’s next weekend, the same time as the country is going to vote in a general election.

I made the point of visiting the election office to cast my vote early, a week out from polling day. Despite the number of Smiths, Andrew Smiths and even two Andrew William Smiths, I had my papers very quickly and voted within the space of five minutes. No guesses on my vote for the election or the referendum. I won’t disguise the fact that I am partisan for one party; two if you count my opinion on the referendum.

Dashboard is acting up for me. I really need to put more effort in getting a new computer.

The end-of-year chow-down began today as the Knox and Salmond Colleges had a barbecue lunch to celebrate: a big plate of meat and potato salad, a bowl of pavlova, a tub of ice-cream and glass of white wine later, and I was feeling full. One of our volunteers said it was like a three-course lunch in France. A French three-course lunch is apparently made up of cheese, meat and sweet courses. I’m sure that’s why I was a kilo heavier when I weighed myself at the gym this evening. Our combination of Summer, Christmas, End of Year and New Year makes November/December a fattening time.