Hobbit-spotting 13 June 2016

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I’m a month in to living at my new flat, for which I’ve taken out a mortgage.  So far, so good.  Nearly everything is set up as I would want it.

This weekend, visits from Southern Dave, and from my mother.  Dave was here two nights, he has secured my bookcases to the walls.  He was here for the Regent Theatre’s 24 Hour Book Sale.  This year I left the sale with only two books: The Maestro, by Hoffnung; and The Algebraist, by Banks.

Mum was here for Turandot, the Metropolitan Opera performance at the Rialto Cinema.  My new couch is now more colourful with a blanket throw and cushions from Mum and family in Invercargill.

I went to the volunteers meeting for the Midwinter Carnival, which is this weekend.  I visited the Public Library on the way back, just in case the books I had been looking to borrow from there were in.  They were.  I am set up to spend time reading for the next month, in the comfort of my own home.  All good.

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Midwinter Carnival

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This was my first year as a volunteer with the Carnival.  It has been going for several years and I made the point of attending it.  I decided to volunteer this year on the grounds I would get a better view, and wouldn’t be standing behind anybody else.  I attended a couple of meetings for volunteers in the weeks before solstice night and the Carnival team placed me with the gate keepers.  This involved standing at one of the ends of Bath Street below the Octagon with a variety of tasks: checking the lanterns that came in with children or families, making sure they had an air-hole at the top, a decent-sized candle to walk around the Octagon, and weren’t damaged; sending people to their positions in the parade; and keeping the public out as there were enough people on Bath Street to keep the organisers busy.  Inspecting the candles and sending people through was easy.  After about half an hour we lost the tape, it rolled down Bath Street and we had to keep going without it.  We were all new to this volunteer work and muddled through the other organisation.  Fortunately the organisers kept an eye on us and we rose quickly to meet the learning curve.

When the parade began we picked up our fire extinguishers and took our positions with the big lanterns.  If a lantern caught fire then our first response would be to bring to ground and stamp it out.  Any therapy for children can then follow!  If it was more drastic then I know the theory behind using a fire extinguisher even if I haven’t had the practice.  Fortunately this was not the night to test myself!  The parade went off without a hitch.  I was one of the gate keepers with the waka lantern, the first big lantern in the parade.  It was accompanied by a kapa haka group dressed down to their underwear covered by a thin cloak and skirts, barefoot even.  Not a way to dress on Solstice Night!  They kept moving.  One of the performers broke his oar.  It was quickly picked up and handed to a warden.  The bearers of the giant lantern were quite pleased to know I was there with a fire extinguisher.  They had no plans to go down with their boat!

Ahead of us were the Matariki stars.  They were borne on the backs of young children.  One of them was an errant star.  I had to guide her forward at one point.  All the children were warmly clad.  There had been rain earlier in the day.  It had lifted by this time of night leaving only wet streets and brief moments of light drizzle.  I did not see much of the parade.  My attention was kept by the giant lantern.  We walked through the dry smoke and followed the incline of the Octagon.  A magic experience that many families came out for.  At the end of the parade I watched as the performers came back out of the Octagon onto Bath Street.  The lanterns were extinguished.  It was over and everyone could get warm again who needed to.

I’m sure to get roped back into the Carnival next year.  Here’s a chance to become good!

Midwinter

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We are turning back to the light having reached the cold season of the world.  The Pleiades have heralded the turning of the world.

At Opoho Church the music group celebrated Matariki by wearing loud summer clothing.  The music was so fun that I wish we had a U-Tube page.

In the evening a couple of thousand people gathered in the Octagon to celebrate Midwinter Carnival.  Kapa Haka led the procession of paper lanterns borne by children with serious solemnity.  The high-light was a large lantern held by three people in the shape of a unicorn.  Jack Frost and the Winter Queen and her attendents were the centre of the parade followed by the membrous trees in winter.  The song-bong drummers remained as the procession left the Octagon accompanied by the dancing frozen dolls until fireworks ended the formal part of the festivities.

One of these years I should volunteer to be a steward for the procession.  That would be fun, and allow me to see it as a participant.

Weekend Report

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Three events:

I went to the march against youth rates.  A small group of people met in the Octagon, less than a hundred.  I felt I should attend as I see no advantage for young people attempting to establish themselves as independent people and having their income reduced for somebody else’s financial advantage.  The group that turned up was dominated by the socialists, a rather elect church with its own ceremonies from what I make out.  Like most people on the Left I have my own sect, and these people didn’t represent me.  I lean towards being a Labour independent.  They marched down the street to the National Party office, where no one was in, and chanted.  There was some good speeches, reflecting that our anger is not just against youth wages; there’s the attack on trade unions, on the Hillside Railway Workshop, and the oil prospecting off Otago and Gisbourne that is causing anger as well.  When I decided that I could leave they were wondering What can we do now.  Let’s march back to the Octagon!

Oh, dear.  That feels a little undirected to me.

Then in the evening the Midwinter Carnival was in the Octagon.  That was fun.  One thousand candle-lit lanterns proceeded around the Octagon twice which was full with spectators.  They were led by Maori stick-form.  I would love to learn that.  The first lanterns were stars, then chrysalids and bumblebees and ladybirds.  The cutest would have to have been the bumblebee with fangs.  I saw that one on the second circuit.  Above them were larger lanterns: owls and moths and weta, and stilt walkers including a land-strider.  Drums provided the main music, any other music provided by insectoid musicians could not be heard a couple of metres away.  Maybe they need amplification.

I met friends at the Dunedin Art Gallery today where there was a well-attended talk for the Regency Fashion exhibition today. They suggested that the Midwinter Carnival could do with a master of ceremonies figure to guide it around the Octogan, a Lord of Misrule to encourage interaction with the audience as Dunedin crowds tend to be stolid and unresponsive.  There was a showing of a documentary about the life of Jane Austen.  It included the interesting thought that in the fun and romance of her stories we need to know that her heroines are marrying well so we know that they will survive and flourish on their income.  They are like the rest of us in that respect.