Advent 3

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I should post this up somewhere, my prayer for the Third Sunday in Advent.  I was thinking about three themes:

  1. Jesus wasn’t born in a stable.  He was born in the downstairs part of a Middle-Eastern house because upstairs was full of extended family who were there for the census.  I reckon as soon as mother Mary went into labour, every woman in the household worth her weight in wisdom was down there supporting her, and every man found somewhere else to be.
  2. The same word for ‘inn’, as in ‘where there was no room’, is the same word for ‘upper room’ where the Last Supper took place.  The life of Jesus was a movement from downstairs to upstairs, and then he died.
  3. Christmas is a shitty and stressful time of the year, and I don’t expect it to get better for churchwomen who put in Sunday service, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day on top of doing a family Christmas.

I will be taking this to our psalm-writing group at Church next year and we will see if it needs any more knocking into shape.

Ah Dear Lord, the days are full of light, the world is growing and greener, midsummer is a week away.

We celebrate a season of light, and yet we celebrate with symbols of winter festivals

– light in the dark time of the year.

On Halloween and on All Saints’ Day you shut the gates of the dead and hold back the monsters.

At Diwali the head of the Demon King is crushed.

On Guy Fawkes Night we light fireworks into the night.

On the eight days of the Dedication the temple is restored and the covenant is renewed.

And at Christmas we celebrate again the birth of the holy Christ Child,

born downstairs among the domestic animals

– because upstairs was too full of whanau for there to be room

– beginning a life whose ultimate goal would be to be the host of party in that upstairs room.

So let us celebrate with family as you were once surrounded by family at your birth.

Let us give gifts and remind ourselves of the gift of life that comes from you alone.

Let us feast around the table with three kinds of meat, and new potatoes, and strawberries and cream and ice cream to follow – winter food and summer foods together.

And do not let the preparation overwhelm us, and destroy our festivity.

Let us remember that you prepare the feast at the end of time, and this is a foretaste for when you gather us all in.

In your upside-down kingdom, the comfortable shall serve the poor, the marginal, and the landless.

Your coming kingdom is so near, let it break into our lives, and turn us around, so we are left facing you.

Lord, bring hope. Lord, bring peace. Lord, bring joy.

Christmas 1

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I’m back from holiday.  I spent two weeks in the merged household that makes up my family in Invercargill.  It was a household full of people.  The youngest two were leaving for studies in Auckland.  Their first big move out of the family.  A lot of energy was going into preparations into driving up the island.  Then a caravan of family friends and their children came and stayed.  Other family from Te Anau and Central Otago came and were welcome.

It was overwhelming.  I was promised a ride back to Dunedin.  It was getting further set back.  In the end I booked on the bus, a chance to claim a week by myself.

The eating was excellent, with big long feasts around the dinner table every night.  I was plied with beer without asking late into the evening.  A matins walk to the toilet in the early hours was necessary most nights.  There was little chance for walking, if I planned to walk anywhere a ride was quickly provided.  Since in Dunedin I walk daily to and from work in all weather I suspect that this was the cause of my leg cramping at the end of the holiday.  I am quickly back into my practice.

Simple gifts for me:

  • Forest & Bird ‘Natures voice’ New Zealand Conservation Diary 2016
  • Farmers Voucher, which I spent on a new pair of sleep pants.  I left a pair in Invercargill
  • Two jars of home-made gooseberry and orange jam from NannyJo
  • A jar of home-made mustard
  • A set of six carved elephants that belonged to Auntie Winnie.  When I got home I realised that they fit in perfectly with my little nativity under the Christmas tree, a choir of little elephants serenading the baby Jesus – why isn’t this in the gospels?

Let me put in a plug for the Argyle Cottage Garden.  It is worth a visit, a folly, a duckpond and St. Mary’s Anglican Church moved from Kaitangata to be a wedding chapel and a community church.  It felt like a little bit of Narnia translocated to Waianiwa.


 New Zealand Conservation Diary 2016 – available from Forest & Bird – Online Shop

Advent 4

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That’s it.  I have reached the end of the year.  I have bought gifts to take with me to Invercargill.  Tomorrow I leave on the bus to see my family and share Christmas Day with them.

It is part of the silliness of this season that the War on Christmas has migrated to New Zealand.  When asked her opinion on saying “Merry Christmas” the Race Relations Conciliator, Came Susan Devoy, said she had no ruling to make and New Zealanders were quite capable of making up their own mind.  Some reporters and opinion makers have declared she was stopping us from saying “Merry Christmas” as it was culturally offensive.

As far as I can make out she said no such thing.  It has nothing to do with your offense if I wish you a Merry Christmas.  Nobody is going to stop me from saying it.  Nor will it stop me from saying “Season’s Greetings”, “Festive Greetings”, or even “Happy Holidays”, if I feel like saying it.  It comes from me, a Christian in a secular society which values everyone.

Nor am I offended by “Happy Diwali” graffitied outside an Indian restaurant, or “Happy Eid” written in flowers on the lawn of a house a Muslim family was renting.  The greeting comes from the heart of the person expressing it.

I am less likely to say “Happy Hanukkah” or “Chag Shameach”.  There is only one Synagogue in Dunedin and their impact on local society is individual.

So at the end of Advent, and nearly the end of the year I would like to wish any reader a . . .


Let’s work together to make 2016 more fun, and more fabulous, than 2015!

Remembering Christmas

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I’m in Invercargill for Christmas.  It’s my usual practice.  There are family reasons to be down here.  My mother is in her eighties and is the last of her generation.  It will be my practice to share Christmas with her for a while yet.

I travelled down with my friend Southern Dave.  On the way we passed a couple of signs admonishing us to Remember Christ At Christmas.  Thank you, I will.  I’m happy to honour the Nativity of Christ as part of my religious practice.  I will also exchange gifts, enjoy family, and indulge in the catering that is also part of Christmas celebrations.  These acts are not a religious obligation.  They are part of the fun.  Remembering Christ is one voice among many in the Christmas season.

It must be because Christ is part of the name that we are expected to Remember Christ At Christmas.  There is no admonition to Remember Christ At Easter.  If the Christian movement begins with the death and resurrection then this observance is more important than remembering the entrance of the Christ Child.  Likewise no one puts up signs to Remember Christ At Pentecost, or on Anzac Day, or Remembrance Sunday.  The observance of commemorating our ancestor spirits who died in war is observed with the trappings of Christian liturgy if not the substance.  Should we Remember Christ at Yule-tide?  It loses the assonance.

Never mind.  It is Christmas, a festival of light in mid-summer, celebrated with the symbols of winter in our upside down southern hemisphere observance, complete with the winter father figure who is our gift-giver.  Have you been good?  Merry Eczemas!  May the probabilities favour you.

Advent 3

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There comes a point in Advent when the daily lectionary readings stop being set out according to which week in Advent we are in, and specific dates in the calendar set in.  December 17th marks that date.  We are a week out from Christmas.  It stalks us with terrible inevitability.

This was the weekend of the Friends and Family Invasion.  Southern Dave turned up with Mum in tow, banging on the door of Manono House and banging her luggage-on-wheels up the stair-case.

Dave came up for his nephew’s band playing at the Musician’s club for the ‘Not So Silent Night’.  From my hearing of them it was heavy drums and guitar and inaudible lyrics.  There is a slogan ‘If it’s too loud, then you’re too old’.  In that case this music was too young for me.  It was like listening to a boy racer or that party across the road in the middle of the night that is going to make you get up and call sound control.

I was told that ‘This was not your music, it’s ours’.  As my day began with listening to Karl Jenkin’s Mass for the Armed Man, the Wellington Ukelele Orchestra doing It’s A Heartache, and listening again to Jessye Norman singing Zueignung which had been used beautifully and tearfully for carrying out the casket at the funeral of a gentleman; the day had not progressed.

Sunday left me with a ghost of a headache which disappeared as Mum and I enjoyed Thomas Adès’s The Tempest.  Prospero awaits on his island for revenged against those who exiled him there.  He is dressed in the wreckage of his courtly robes, his spells tattooed on his body like a pirate.  It’s the revenge of the undressed on the dressed: Ariel is an inhuman and elemental spirit who rides on the shoulders of kuroko; Caliban is half-Mohican, half-feathery beast (which annoyed me less than the painted orc from The Enchanted Island in last year’s season).  In hindsight the character who journeys the most is Ferdinand, washed ashore he is divested of his nobility and then restored as Prospero and Miranda are restored as rulers of Milan.  There is a story that has not been told.

Having been introduced to the opus of Thomas Adès I would like to give it more consideration.

In the evening I attended Knox Church for the evening service Celebrating Christmas Down-Under as the choirs of five churches participated.  I am told the music group from Opoho stole the evening when they walked to the front dressed in hats and bush-shirts for a version of Peter Cape’s poem Nativity:

They were set for the home, but the horse went lame
And the rain came pelting out of the sky
Joe saw the hut and he went to look
And he said, ‘She’s old, but she’ll keep you dry’

So her kid was born in that road-man’s shack
By the light of a lamp that’d hardly burn
She wrapped him up in her hubby’s coat
And put him down on a bed of fern

Then they came riding out of the night
(And this is the thing that she’ll always swear)
As they took off their hats and came into the light
They knew they were going to find her there

Three old jokers in oilskin coats
Stood by the bunk in that leaking shack
One had a beard like a billy-goat’s
And one was frail and one was black

She sat at the foot of the fern-stalk bed
And she watched, but she didn’t understand
While they put these bundles at the baby’s head
And this river nugget into his hand

Gold is the power of a man with a man
And incense the power of man with God
But myrrh is the bitter taste of death
And the sour-sweet smell of the upturned sod

Then they went, while she watched through the open door
Weary as men who had ridden too far
And the rain eased off and the low cloud broke
And through a gap shone a single star

Merry Eczemas to one and all.  The weather is too hot to sleep now.

Sitting in the Sun

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Two more Conlang Exchange cards today. One was a postcard with a stamp from Norway. The text wasn’t translated, nor the author identified. I sent a card to Koppa Dasao, so I think it could be from him. The other was a drawing of a wooden teepee-like hut from Tristan. I wonder what the context of the greeting to the picture is?

I took a lot of time to read today in the sun. It allowed me to finish Rule 34 by Charlie Stross. His antagonist in this story was an icky head to get into. Not the worst I’ve read by a long shot, but still… I think the ending was intended to be disturbing. Stross is unflinching when it comes to the New Pessimism although I like his wit and his spin on things.

I’m closing in on the end of Scrivener’s Moon by Philip Reeve. He surprised me by having one character leave the book permanently halfway through after being fleshed out more in the previous two books of this series of prequels. I await to see more after I’ve finished this title.

And I’m getting through Banquo’s Son by T. K. Roxborogh. Despite being a sequel to Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy it feels like a historical romance to me. Not quite a bodice-ripper; definitely intended for a more sensative reader than me. I will stick with it as I know members of the Roxborogh family.

A couple of days to go before I depart for the gathering of the clan at Christmas, overnight with my brother in Invercargill, then to join our new partner-family in Te Anau.



Ok, Christmas is over, and has been for several days. I got to the Church of Christ Christmas lunch. The church open plan was filled with tables. When everyone arrived they filled the hall. The newspaper estimated the numbers as 250 people. I helped by cleaning leftovers as plates were returned for washing. It was a good exercise and something I would want to do in future years.

I saw mum for a couple of days. She came up to Dunedin on Christmas evening. We did a bit of wandering while she was here. One day we went out to Purakanui, my ancestral settling place on Otago harbour and ended up in Aramoana. I wish I had my camera with me because there were some interesting cribs out there, the kind of thing of which I like getting pictures. We got to Purakanui in the end, but didn’t find our family who live there.

The other place where I should have had my camera was our visit to the Chinese garden. For those readers who are not familiar with this venture Dunedin’s Chinese garden was built by workmen from China in 2008 and opened earlier in the same year. I believe it is promoted as the biggest authentic Chinese garden outside of mainland China. Even if it is built next to a railway line and gets the wind from Dunedin’s industrial area by the harbour. Fortunately Dunedin has no offensively smelly industries. The plants in the garden are established now and some of the rawness of the new garden is passing. It’s a great place to take older children: paths and water and rocks to climb, just let them run! I like the city scape looking out from inside the garden.

Also took mum to the Rita Angus exhibition at the Art Gallery (which is free). Still recommended.

The weather has been consistently getting to 30C/87F during the daytime since Christmas. I have retaliated by two new pairs of long shorts. Normally I prefer to wear full-length trousers. We shall see how much the universe can withstand exposure to my legs.

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