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Not only has Di changed my perception of the city I have called home for the past six years, she has also taken me beyond my own limits as a photographer. She has inspired me to stop living my entire life on the default settings I have grown so comfortable with. By pushing a camera to its limits and learning how to manipulate the manual settings, I, for the first time in my life, realized how much potential I was wasting by always deferring to my default auto setting.

Leah Armstrong, from Help! I live with my Italian mother-in-law, and her article about the workshop over at Holiday Mag.

Come join me on a journey of discovery in an exquisitely ancient Italian city.


'Visit' Genova via Stefano's RIGHICAM.

Next workshop

the quick brown fox

Come travel with me to...

Rome from xx to xx December 2099


I Am A Reader ...

There's not much that gives me more pleasure than finding a really good book.

I have two 'suppliers' here in the Flemish city of Antwerp.  The first is De Slegte aan de Wapper, just a couple of doors away from Rubens House.  The second is more of a secret.  It's the place where I find quietly superb books for .25 cents to 1euro.

We hired a city car for a few hours today.  Jess had an appointment with the dental surgeon and we delivered her to the hospital.  Then the Belgian bloke who is on holiday, and I, slipped away to the secret book supply shop and voila, treasure was found.

We found 4 beautiful hardcover Roald Dahl books for Miss 10, printed in Nederlands.  Then I discovered Dinner with Persephone by Patricia Storage (.50 cents), Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali (.75 cents), and The Colour of the Moon by Alkyoni Papadaki (1euro).

I love the randomness of secondhand bookshops.  I find so much treasure in them.  I just finished Tim Parks novel, Dreams of Rivers and Seas tonight.  I had loved his 'ethnographical' book titled A Season with Verona.  This fiction was something else.  Someone else's treasure, now my secondhand treasure.

But really, the reading is done on the trams mostly.  I was back on that early morning school run this morning.  Jess had her dental surgeon appointment today but turns out she can't have her wisdom teeth out until Thursday as there is an abscess which, combined with the pain of her teeth, is knocking her around something fierce. 

We were quite traumatised by our 5am ER visit and by the time she had been treated we didn't even dare ask which painkiller they'd IVed in to her, much less insist they might be wrong and that there was an abscess involved. 

We actually laughed as we walked out into Saturday morning afterwards ... that stunned ohmygoddidthatreallyhappen kind of laughter.  But today was an experience so opposite as to be surreal.  It was very healing and I confess, we were very very relieved.

So there is work to do and family to work around ... Gert has his appointment with a shoulder specialist on Thursday.  We're hoping he doesn't need surgery but it's not looking good.  He's been in much pain for 2 months now. 

My football team played a brilliant game in Italy last night.  I was glad not to be here.  The tension ... missed chances and the fact that they lost in the final minutes.  All this against one of the top teams. It might be an exciting season this season based on the exciting squad they've put together.

I was wandering out on Flanders Fields one frosty morning, with a small group that included then New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark.  I noticed these trees and stopped for a few moments, wanting to capture something of the light. 

The quote.  Justine Musk ... I enjoy her writing.



Homelands ...

Listening to Avicii.  That Wake Me Up When It's All Over song, the one that somehow got under my skin and into my head earlier this year.  Miss 10 just asked me to 'play it again' and so there I was, trying to work out font colour for the photograph below, listening to that music.

Miss 10 heads back to school tomorrow, after the last week of school holidays where it seemed Autumn had arrived.  As traditionally happens ... 26 celsius is predicted for next week. 

Ms 28 and I rushed off to ER early on Saturday morning, 5am actually.  We were mostly the only ones there but that didn't help.   Turns out you're not meant to race off to ER, you're meant to go to the after hour-doctors however ... we were both concerned about abscessed wisdom teeth and the possibility of blood poisoning. She had never had pain like it and I found her pressing a plastic ice pack directly onto her face.

They loaded her up with an IV painkiller and anti-nausea meds.  We walked out there sometime around 8am I think.  The IV dose worked for quite some time but there's no real way of avoiding pain when you have wisdom teeth actually pushing your real teeth out of their socket. 

Turns out she needs 6 teeth, in total, removed.  She's looking into that tomorrow can't be too soon I suspect.

Yesterday was full of 'things that had to be done'.  Two trips to the emergency pharmacy on the bike, the supermarket too.  Cleaning the house in preparation for another lovely guest ... Inge, the Belgian living in New Zealand.  She's back home for a visit and had a 24 hour window of time just for us. 

And there was the pavlova to cook for the BBQ at 1.30pm and then ... once there, Fiona committed to filling my glass while we caught up with Ruth and Lucy.  Marc, Charlie and Benoit too.  And Tom, the lovely Belgian doctor, just home after some years spent living in NZ.

It was a day full of the most marvelous folk really.

I was running on 3 hours sleep and crashed out of this world sometime after 10pm.  Feeling so tired that I felt ill. 

Today has been a new day.  Gert, Miss 10, and I spent the morning spent talking with Inge and Elise. Then I had a few more hours of sleep after our guests had returned to the Westhoek - home for Inge when she's in Belgium.  Elise starts school in the morning too.

As so often happens here in my world, it's been a magical, difficult, exhausting, quietly superb couple of days.  Inge and I spent quite some time comparing our experiences in each other's countries.  Same same but different would best sum them up.

I would love to write of the good, the bad and the ugly of the immigrant thing but perhaps that's for another day, when I'm less tired than tonight finds me.

I noted the following quote in one of my journals.  It's a favourite, by Susana Fortes, and I found it in her interesting book Waiting for Robert Capa.

And the photograph ... it was taken at Herculaneum, in Naples.  I spent some hours wandering there one hot summer's day.


Mojave 3, Most Days

Liking the music embedded here tonight.  New music for me.

The Belgian bloke and I have spent the entire day moving our desks and creating a new office space.  Yes he has a swollen tendon in his shoulder, one that no longer moves through the bone without pain but he was careful, and I was helpful ... or tried to be.

I love our new space.  I haven't moved much but he did and the result is quite drastic ... to us.

Photographs to follow in the days ahead, if I work out how to capture it all.


Walker Creek, Fiordland

Welcome to Walker Creek, Fiordland.  My favourite place when I lived in Te Anau.

Technically, the last image isn't the creek, it was actually taken further into the national park, at Mirror Lakes but I added it because it gives you a sense of the same kind of mountains just beyond 'my' creek.

On arriving there, I would make a small seat for myself in the long grass while my dog, Sandie, made herself at home in the creek.  We could spend hours there, dreaming the day away.

When I returned, back in 2012, I was so intent on breathing in both the air and the scene that I didn't take any photographs of this creek.  These images all belong to the Belgian bloke who made a beautiful job of capturing those places I loved to well while I wandered off into dream-mode again.

I yearn for that particular air, the peace of the place and the overwhelming sense of Nature pressing down on me but ... I have also become accustomed to Italy, France and to being here in the centre of the world. 

I am divided in these days, unsure of which place is more for me.  Loving Genova, and loving the memories of home.  Perhaps it's best that I wander a bit longer.


A Beautiful Confusion ...

These days have been about a mix of good friends who have wandered through, coming from the UK and Italy, with New Zealand due at the weekend.  And into this mixture there is also what feels like the end of summer, a yearning for New Zealand, planning for Italy, laundry and dishes and vacuuming, and sometimes ... exploring my photography archives, wishing I had more time to just write too.

A beautiful confusion perhaps.

I feel like a cat, turning and turning and turning again, attempting to settle into my life, clear on a way forward. 

I found myself writing this blog post after searching to see if I had a photograph that captured Walkers Creek, a favourite creek in Fiordland National Park.  That creek my dog used to swim in while I sat on the grassy bank, with a beautiful mountain range directly in front of me. 

I think I wanted an image that confirmed my memories of that place.  It was about 60 kms into the park, back when I lived in Te Anau.  60kms ... like so many of my 'runaway' places.  Anakiwa when I lived on the airforce base back in Marlborough, the Arrow River when I was in Cromwell, and Pilots Beach when I lived out on the Otago Peninsula.

But there was another favourite place and I did photograph it last time I was home.  I was up  recording a New Zealand dawn chorus to bring back to Europe, staying at Hunter and Claire's place.  I was wrapped up in warm clothes, out on the veranda, voice recorder mounted on my camera's tripod when I suddenly saw all that was directly in front of me.

I love this view ... Manapouri, New Zealand.


Living ...

Tonight I'm listening to Rupa and the April Fishes as  I work.  Sharing their song titled Neruda here.


Early Morning, New Zealand

... with an Erica Jong twist.

I found this beautiful image out walking, early one morning, at Cooks Beach, in the Coromandel, New Zealand.

Listening to favourite song, favourite singer, as I load this. 

It opens with a torrential downpour in the recorded version.  I think I love the sound of that rain, more than anything.


Or have made your home in a country not your own ... Anne Michaels

I think, one of the things that become most obvious when you leave the country where you are known and understood, is that those invisible unspoken things protecting you ... the habits, the customs, the family and known behaviours will disappear.  Out here, it's just you.

One of my favourite poets, Anne Michaels, writes in her poem Blue Vigour:

I think, if you have lived through a war,

or have made your home in a country

not your own, or if you've learned

to love one man,

then your life is a story.

Yes.  A story because all that you have known and understood is somehow broken. Smashed even.  Each country is different.  The way I lived in Turkey is different to the way I live in Belgium.

Those 3 months in Berlin ... so different to all my 2 and 3 week stays in Genova, Italy.

And I feel like a blind woman sometimes, reading braille. The braille of being human ...

So this behaviour, I wonder, where did it come from? 

What formed these people, their culture? 

Why is this acceptable here and not there?

I'm always curious.  And not learning the language of each place I arrive in helps somehow.  I do try learning but I am beyond terrible.  I think I have some kind of learning disability however these weren't invented until after I was educated and so ... I am simply judged lazy.

But not learning the language ... sometimes I'm not sure it's some kind of gift.  It means I have had to become a close observer of body language.  I was a photographer alreadyand so perhaps I always was a close observer of body language.  Even in that country called Home.

There's a massive birthday approaching this year and I have this feeling of being filled in ways that I didn't expect.  Filled with so many stories, of so many people and places, that perhaps it's time for me to re-evaluate who I am and where I am heading. 

Anyway, enough ...let's leave this post with the ultimate in wise men, quoted there on the photograph below.


Wandering With Barbara ...

Barbara took the photo that follows.  This Genovese woman who told me she was quite unable to take good photographs ...

It's rare that I approve photographs of me for publication and, while I don't look like Sandra Bullock (at all) in this image, I don't mind it too much.

Barbara, meanwhile, considers this publication of her image a 'great gift' due to knowing how terrible I am about photographs of myself ... writes the photographer.


In These Days ...

The season is turning here.  We've been choosing to use the heating at night, wearing boots outside because of the rain, warmer clothes because it's no longer Hot.  Sad that summer is probably over ...

Barbara flew in from Genova last week and we have been wandering.  Or to write that more accurately, we have been wandering and talking a lot.  Laughing too.  We had all kinds of possible plans but the days have simply unfolded instead.

Miss 10 has been spending time with us too.  They waved to me from the massive Ferris Wheel, outside of Central Station, yesterday ... as we made our way home from the city's Bollekesfeest.  The feest was disappointing in that to purchase anything you had to commit to a standing rugby scrum to reach counters.  I'm not really a rugby scrum kind of woman however I did manage to get us two sausages, and to find a small glass of Elixir d'Anvers for Barbara to taste.

I chose to wait until we reached Het Elfde Gebod (The Eleventh Commandment) for my glass of red wine. 

Today is another busy day here in the city and I shouldn't really be sitting here at all.  Just a hello from a very cool Antwerp.