Katherine Mansfield - a symposium on Flanders Fields.

Risk! Risk anything! Care no more for the opinions of others, for those voices. Do the hardest thing on earth for you. Act for yourself. Face the truth.

Katherine Mansfield ... one of my favourite New Zealand writers, the only writer Virginia Woolf ever envied, a woman who truly went out there and lived life. 

Stylistically, the influence of Katherine’s writing was profound. Virginia wrote: “You seem to me to go so straightly and directly – all clear as glass – refined, spiritual…” After Katherine’s death she confided to her diary it was: “the only writing I have ever been jealous of.”

She was a remarkable woman left out of all of my school curriculums - a fact that stuns me now that I realise just how remarkable she was, both as a writer and as a woman.

Anyway, September 26-27, 2015 ...

On Flanders Fields ...

The dignity of the artist lies in his duty of keeping awake the sense of wonder in the world.

Marc Chagall.

Yesterday was one of those slightly epic days ...

Sander and I headed off to Flanders Fields on an assignment that involved using a panoramic tripod head to capture a series of precise images.  I had prepared a folder of lists, directions, and maps however ... we couldn't control the weather.

And so it was that we lost an entire morning of work to raindrops on the lens when taking a particular series of shots.  The umbrella didn't help as the rain varied between wind-blown sideways and simply drifting.  It was never of the straight-down variety ... a fact I wouldn't have noticed unless trying, so desperately, to keep the lens dry.

Bone-achingly cold, we stopped for lunch.  I found myself obsessed and watching the puddle out in front of the fries shop ... to see whether rain was disturbing its surface.

The rain stopped and we headed off again.  We covered the kilometres required to find those specific shots, again.  And the rain held off.  Finally, at the last location and voila, Flanders Fields did what it has so often done to me after a day of trudging about in the rain with my camera.  The clouds shaped themselves into something extraordinary, the sun broke through in places, and the landscape looked like some kind of beautiful painting ... just for a little bit.

I didn't manage to capture it in all its beauty but you get a small sense of it here, perhaps.  Just as the change started to happen.

On Flanders Fields ...

Murray arrived Tuesday and we've been incredibly busy in the days since then.  Then yesterday, the Belgian bloke joined us and we headed for Flanders Fields.

First stop was in Mesen (Messines, in French) where we caught up with the remarkable Steven Reynaert, a treasured friend and highly respected historian, he was able to give Murray a sense of the history of WW1 in and around the area.

We were photographed with the NZ Soldier before leaving Mesen, as per the first image.  Steven and Murray are there in the third image. 

The middle photograph captures another favourite friend of mine out there in the Westhoek.  Freddy Declerck is a truly special man and we were so fortunate in catching up with him in The Memorial Museum Passchendaele.

We had an early dinner in our favourite restaurant in Ieper - het Klein Stadhuis, as photographed below before rolling out the door and into the light drizzle, heading for the Menin Gate and the Last Post Ceremony.  More to follow on that ...

It was a huge day.   It was a good day.

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.


A Hangi in Belgium

I thought I could be tough on what was 'good enough' with this documentary-style series capturing the Hangi. But I'm finding that I want to include almost everything because all the photographs seem important to the story.

I realised that it's not just about cooking food in the ground, it's about the community that forms as people work together. And it was about the people who came and went during the process - it was kind of tidal, with different folk appearing at different stages.

But most of all, it was about the people who worked on it - those on a tour who saw help was needed and climbed into it with their experience from 'back home in NZ', with their strength, despite wearing boat shoes or white sneakers.

In the end it was all about the feeling surrounding the process ... it was quite staggeringly beautiful.

At the moment, I'm not sure one photograph captures it all. It's a story to be told with many photographs.