Today ...

Gert is home after having a shot of cortisone to the shoulder.  The specialist told him not to expect much for 2 to 3 days.  Fingers crossed this is the beginning of a cure, as he's been in pain a long time.

Jess is out of surgery and they're waiting for the doctor to let her come home.  I can't even imagine how it must feel to have 4 wisdom teeth removed but we have a freezer full of good quality ice cubes, and there are the popsicles too.  She has her very own Flemish bloke with her there.

Inge raced in to spend some time with me this afternoon, only to race out about 10 minutes after meeting, as a small family emergency called her home.  It wasn't serious in one way but it couldn't be ignored in another.  We'll try that Antwerp city tour again, if possible.  Meanwhile she's invited me to visit her in her Westhoek world.  That would be her Flemish childhood home ... as, these days, she's a fulltime resident of New Zealand.

It's been an intense few months but today signaled a change in direction.  I'm working on something a bit special and hope to mount a photography exhibition here in October.  More news to follow with regard to that.

Meanwhile while Jess recovers from tooth abscesses and surgery I'm back on the trams 4 hours a day, not enjoying the heavy pollution we have here but having fun with Little Miss 10.

So yes ... it's like that.

The image below was taken at Cooks Beach in the Coromandel.  Early one New Zealand morning when I was out wandering alone.

Well yes ... I am having fun with the new set of photography borders and tool kit they come with.  Thank you.

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.

The Jandal of Joy ...

When I changed my jandals for something more sturdy the plump and middle- aged dog was seized with a puppyish urge. He pounced on a jandal, ran to the lawn with it, tossed it high, pounced again as it landed and shook it to death like a rat. Then he looked at me with both ears cocked and the jandal pinned and I had to smile at his joy. Don't let anyone tell you that beasts don't feel.

Indeed, as I tied my shoe I asked myself when I was last as happy as the dog was now. And the answer was Wednesday.

Joe Bennett, extract from, Happy as a Dog.

This captures something of what my New Zealand life was like sometimes.  Although I only fished off the wharf and out of a lake.  No fly-fishing.  But it was possible to live so much closer to Nature than it is here in Antwerp.  And lately I've found myself attempting to weigh up what means more to me ... the proximity of Genova, Paris, and the rest of Europe, or quiet moments spent wandering on an empty beach with my dog.

I loved the morning hours back then ... dog-walking, or dreaming over breakfast coffee taken on the steps of some house I was living in.  I lived in so many houses between 1985 and 2004.  And all over the South Island of Home.  Each place I lived would be added to my list of places colonised by my soul.  Mosgiel, Dunedin, Cromwell, Blenheim and Te Anau, before circling back to Dunedin.

I had one dog for most of the years of my first marriage.  She and I had so many places we loved.  She knew the joy of jandals although we were happiest with stones or sticks, a tennis ball, a lake, river or beach.  We needed so little to be joy-filled.

Joe Bennett's article set my soul singing a song of longing this morning.  I'm just in from zero celsius and horrific pollution.  Miss 9 and I headed out into it at 7.30am, mostly laughing our way across the city.  We're both very amusing ... we tell ourselves.  We shared Gert's big old woollen gloves.  She wore his left glove, I wore the right glove, we held hands with the hands left bare and were warm enough out there in the mist and the frost. 

She's wearing the cutest little bear hat these days, with long sides that hang down as pockets for her hands but more effectively, those long  bits can be worn as a scarf.  I hand it to her some mornings saying, what did the fox say?'  It's our signal to begin ... she says, 'It's a bear!!!'  but we can't help singing that bloody song.  'Bloody' as explained in this interview with the guys who created it (the language switches to English quite quickly, if you haven't viewed it already).

And here I am, still smiling over the long answerphone message I left for my baby brother over in Perth.  It's Kim's birthday today.  He's surprisingly old, not the 17 year old I still imagine him to be.  There was that surprise of time moving on when I picked up our Nana's ancient birthday book, looking for the year he was born.

I'm nursing a pollution-inspired ache in my head, putting off beginning the work I know I must do.  My Genovese friends are in Brussels today and I'm cooking them dinner tonight.  The skies have been clear since they landed, this morning's mist is already gone ... 10am.  They'll never believe me next time I'm in Genova, when I tell them I'm fleeing the grey grey skies of Antwerp.  They just haven't experienced those skies, and I'm torn between glad and compromised.  They leave on Monday.

But anyway, today's quest ... I would like a small jandal of joy moment like Joe's, like his dog too.  I looked through my this time last year photographs from New Zealand and found this one.  It was taken on a beautiful sun-rising morning while out wandering Cook's Beach in the Coromandel.

I miss my morning walks in New Zealand

Outside, there was that predawn kind of clarity, where the momentum of living has not quite captured the day. The air was not filled with conversation or thought bubbles or laughter or sidelong glances. Everyone was sleeping, all of their ideas and hopes and hidden agendas entangled in the dream world, leaving this world clear and crisp and cold as a bottle of milk in the fridge.

Reif Larsen, from The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.

Meanwhile, I'm playing this song on repeat and up loud as I work here this morning

And before I forget, I found the opening quote over on the marvellous Terri Windling's blog.

A glimpse from one of those early morning walks I took, back home in New Zealand ... Cooks Beach, on the Coromandel Peninsula ... sunrise.