Ngāti Rānana, on Flanders Fields, Belgium


Ngāti Rānana London Māori Club aims to provide New Zealanders residing in the United Kingdom and others interested in Māori culture an environment to teach, learn and participate in Māori culture.

The three guiding principles of Ngāti Rānana are whanaungatanga (togetherness), manaakitanga (looking after one another/hospitality) and kōtahitanga (unity).

Source: the Ngāti Rānana website.

These guys were in Mesen/Messines this weekend and they touched the hearts of everyone who saw them perform.


Eleanor Catton, The Luminaries, Brussels

Last night was one of those extraordinary nights spent with good people while doing marvelous things.

I had wandered over to Brussels in time to meet Lynette after work.  We met up with New Zealand artist, Wendy Leach and together we walked to Irma's house, where New Zealand photographer, Jacque Gilbert, was arriving fresh from her Amsterdam world.

I cannot begin to describe how lovely it was to find myself sitting there with these women, glasses of wine in hand, food on the table ... just talking.  It was one of those magical moments you experience sometimes, one of those ones where you think about pinching yourself to see if it's real.

But that was only the beginning.  We had come together because we were attending a literary event at the bookshop called Passa Porta.  I had never heard of it before last night but their event was impossible to resist.  Lynette had written, telling us all that she had booked tickets to an event with Eleanor Catton.  The writer who convincingly won the Man Booker Prize in 2013 with her book The Luminaries.  Annelies Verbeke, a Flemish writer, was to interview Eleanor.

We arrived at the shop and the room was already quite full.  I'm sure there were more than 100 people there. And then it began and honestly, sometimes I was close to the point of tears.  Before photography, writing was my great big passion.  I still write but somehow it slipped into the background as photography strode to the forefront in my life.

Last night, there I was, listening to Eleanor and Annelies talk while delighting in the way she was willing to kind of crack open her novel ... revealing her motivations, ideas, goals, and more.

I loved her 832 page novel, The Luminaries, for so many reasons.  It was set in New Zealand but more than that, on the west coast of the South Island in a town I've loved since I was a teenager.  My cousins came from Hokitika. It was a small town with a wild savage beauty back then.  The Tasman Sea still comes roaring across from Australia crashing in on the shore there.  And a few miles inland you can see the powerful outline of the Southern Alps rising up, appearing to trap you between the wild coast and the mountains.

I returned to Hokitika in 2012 and it had changed, so much.  So little, and so much.  The road through the alps to the east coast is a highway these days ... a rugged New Zealand highway but still, simpler to cross than it was back in 1866.  The year Eleanor Catton's novel opens ... goldrush days in that wild place.

She read the opening scene to us before Annelies began with her questions.  The audience became completely silent.  The room was still as she read.  Annelies asked some superb questions and Eleanor answered them, fully, completely.  To the point where I will reread the book because I understand how she intended we use the astrological information.  And while she was clear on the fact that it's not important to understanding the story, it does add another layer or ten to the complexity of the story.

There was a question time and an invitation to stay for the book signing.  New Zealand wine was handed out, courtesy of the New Zealand Embassy.

I'm not really a creature who wants my books signed by authors.  BUT I did want to talk with Eleanor, to tell her how much I had enjoyed both the book and the evening.

I started my university degree in 1998 because I needed to earn two papers before I could apply for Bill Manhire's creative writing course ... way back then.  I lost my way, stayed on at university and never did apply for the course.

Listening to Eleanor brought everything back.  Those days on Stewart Island, a writing workshop with Patricia Grace.  The Otago University's summer writing schools.  Those days of writing.  And so I bought a second copy of the book and waited my turn in the queue.  Somehow, despite the intensity of the interview she had just come through, Eleanor made time to really talk with every person who approached her. 

It turned out that we were wearing the same greenstone necklace.  The same hook.  I explained I had needed some of 'home' to bring back to Europe, to wear close to me, and that it came from a place just along the road from Hokitika. 

Today I wrote, over on Facebook,  that I found Eleanor Catton to be intelligent, gracious, patient, humble ... and you know, everything good.  I didn't exaggerate. If you get the chance to hear her speak, I recommend you do it.

Lynette (on the left in the photograph below), the woman who made it all possible because I would have missed this without her, gave me her camera and I took a series of photographs. 

But you see ...?

Photography Workshops for Women.

I am running a photography workshop in April however do let me know if you have a small group of friends or want to work with me one-on-one, and we can work out another date that suits you.

Sunday 6 April, 2014.

We will begin at 10am and work through until 5pm.

(Lunch, with non-alcoholic drinks, included in workshop fee.)

Cost: includes lunch, drinks, an A3 notebook, and a copy of my 38-page e-book, titled Photography Made Beautifully SimpleUsually 65 euro.

I'll send you instructions on how to reach the venue beforehand.

Note: there are just 4 places, allowing for different cameras and giving me the time to work with each person.

The details: I'm launching a series of one-day photography workshops for women who want to take better photographs for their business blogs and/or personal blogs.

Women who don't have the flash camera or time to learn all there is to learn about photography.  Women who do have the flash camera and want to know how to use it.

Together, small groups of us, will spend a few hours out in the city and park here in Antwerp, then head back to work on editing our images.

These will be an ongoing series of workshops.  If you don't get everything you wanted to know in that first workshop, then come back ... and we'll hang out together and have a good time while we work on the rest.

I will help you with basic things like light, camera shake, and how to photograph people.  We can work on how to tell the story of you, your family, or your business.

And how to create photographs you're happy to put out there in public.

I will also introduce you to a very basic but effective editing programme.

Contact me if you are interested, want to book a place, have questions, or requests about topics you're struggling with.

You will receive a free copy of my photography e-book, Photography Made Beautifully Simple, when you sign-up to work with me.  It's a book that introduces you to your camera and its functions in small, easy-to-manage pieces and it would be superb if you are familiar with it before our workshop.

I'll be holding the workshops in Antwerp, in Belgium.  If you need info about trains, parking and etc, don't hesitate to ask for more information.

Sunday Night, and a poem.

No matter how early I get up, the world
is already whirling; no matter
how silent the kitchen, the stove is warm,
like a great heart, the coffee beans
are sending out their dark signal,
the cat is half-awake, his second eyelids
partly glued to the two suns
of his eyes.  The oranges contain themselves
like glorious planets on the cheese tray,
the milk waits, luminous in its carton,
the round table abides, the day
grows wide.  Slowly I step into
its bright stream.

Matter, by Carolyn Miller.

I found this poem while I was lazily reading my way through the Squam blog, over here.  I've been busy of late.  Madly, truly, beautifully, crazily busy.  It has reminded me of crazy times spent running down scree-slopes back when I was young and foolish.  And while I didn't lose control of the beautiful madness and it stayed fun, I did need to keep that forward-momentum going just to stay on my feet.

My next blog post, outlined on a piece of pink note-paper just now, will be all about things I enjoyed during those days.  And really, there was so much.  But today I rested.  I lolled about.  I read.  I noted down quotes as I read.  I listened to music.  Baked bread.  Had 4 loads of laundry dry outside on the line.  I nibbled, searching for something to magically re-energise me - trying all but those scary vials of vitamins I bought a month or two ago.  Gert has taken to sighing when he asks if I've had any yet.  I have an osmosis theory about medicines and vitamins.  If they sit close by and I look at them sometimes, they work ... magically.  By osmosis.  Julie might snort laughter through her nose if she reads this ...

Today I didn't drink any red wine.  I sighed over all that still needed done but thought 'Tomorrow'.  Tomorrow is Monday and I will begin again then!' as if I really meant it.   And I do.

The house is clean and it smells of fresh laundry ... as the towels had to come in and finish drying on the clothes-horse I use instead of an electric dryer.  And the house smells of freshly-baked bread because the loaf finished cooking not so long ago.  And in just over 7 hours the smell of coffee will be filling the house, as my coffee beans are ground and become a rather lovely espresso.  Thank you to Wesley for selling me her exquisite coffee machine back in October.

And that is how it is here tonight.  The time is becoming midnight in another 32 minutes, I should be sleeping but somehow writing this became that more interesting thing that woke me a little.

The photograph ... taken while out wandering with Lynette, at an ungodly early morning winter hour, last Friday.  The posh fries shop made me smile.  It did.


Blue Sky Directly Overhead but ...

It would be fair to write that Antwerp city struggles with terrible air pollution.  Most of Europe drives through Belgium ... trucks in their gazillions.  People on their way some place else.

I read: Antwerp is particularly affected by air pollution generated by the eight-lane motorway passing near the city centre, its important seaport (second largest in Europe), as well as by the presence of the second largest petrochemical industry worldwide. Moreover, the high buildings located in the city centre create street canyons where noise and pollutants are especially concentrated.

Researching this was fairly depressing ...

Tram 11, a poem by Herman de Coninck


Tram comes. Tram goes. Going: a young Zairean
humming huskily with baby, plenty of time,
intimate with each other, in public
yet still alone. The tram looks on.

Tram comes: a Moroccan woman tries to quiet
her whining little tatty boy. The more she shakes him,
the more syllables fall from him.
Until an Antwerp woman's ta-ta-ta

brings him to himself. And to all of us.
Ting-a-ling, ting-a-ling through the town.
Public transport civilizes us, makes us festive,
maintains our confusion.

Herman de Coninck
Translated to English by Cedric Barfoot and Sonny Williams.

Way back in 2007, that was me reading Herman de Coninck's poem on stage in front of more than a few people. 

New Zealand in Antwerp

It seemed I only needed to roar a little and voila, the words came bubbling up afterwards.

I sent the advert text away before rushing out and across the city on the Thursday school pick-up.  It's a half-day, like Wednesday.  So now I just need to do the bio and locate some photographs of Genova.

But the happy news from today was that Miss 9 and I stopped for lunch at the new New Zealand shop located in the heart of Antwerp.  Pies ... Buzz bars, L&P, and etc.  We love it.

Miss 9 is a fairly radical vegetarian at the moment and so she chose the vegetarian pie which, to me, seemed like a very big waste of 'pie'.  I had the Stoofvlees pie ... a pie filled with the rather divine Flemish beef and beer stew.

L&P was our choice of drink.  Miss 9 because she finds it delicious and me because it takes me straight back to those childhood days where it was always summer.

Fortunately, before devouring too much pie, I remembered to stop for a photograph.  An imperfect image but I was far more interested in eating it.

Winter Blue ...

I posted, over on Facebook, that some friends in Genova will no longer believe me when I tell them I go there to escape the grey skies of Belgium.  Roberto and Doris flew in from Liguria on Monday, just as a high pressure weather system stalled over us.  They have enjoyed deep blue skies these last 3 days ...

We have had our first frosts here but a lot can be lived with if deep blue skies are involved.  I mentioned the fact that I had laundry drying on the clothes-line outside ... not completely drying but still, it was out and it was drying some, and she asked if I had photographed my lovely December clothes-line.

The thing is, once I pick up my camera, the difficulty is in putting it down again.  So rather than simply photograph sheets and duvet covers drying on my clothes-line outside, I wandered round our little pocket-sized garden.  I noticed the honeysuckle has been fooled into flowering again and that the raspberry leaves look rather divine in their autumn state. 

And so, a collage ...

Vapor Trails ...

I’m looking up and in the sky there is the shiny glint of a jet airplane caught in the sun’s grasp, pushing silently east; I’m thinking there are four hundred people going somewhere else. I’m hoping that most of them realise the freedom of being 38,000 feet up and headed somewhere new.

Anik See, from A Taste for Adventure

I've been noticing the vapor trails jets leave behind lately.  So many planes pass over Belgium on their way to someplace else. So many.

Last night, a sliver of a moon showed up early, the sky was blue but with a rose-tint, the one that appears in the sunset hours.  I pointed my camera up from my seat here by the window and took a series of photographs. 

I think I captured something of what was out there ...

The Island of Ireland Peace Park, Belgium


I think I'm almost cheating tonight.  It has been a day of a great many ideas but nothing that is ready to be written of and so, I'm going to post one of a series of my photographs appearing over on the Messines 1917 website run by two of my favourite folk here in Belgium.

Martin wrote: The Island of Ireland Peace Park with its distinctive 34-metre Celtic Tower and its evocative stones of remembrance, was opened on the outskirts of Messines 15 years ago in a ceremony that was hugely symbolic of not only the past but also the future.

The occasion on Armistice Day 1998 was the first public event at which a British monarch and an Irish president had officiated jointly. President Mary McAleese inaugurated the park in the presence of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HM King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians

There is so much more to read about the Peace Park over on the Messines 1917 blog and some more of my photographs too.  I'll leave that with you. 

Also, I didn't know it but Martin wrote, the Tower is designed so that the interior is lit by sun only at 11 am on the 11th day of the 11th month.

A Grey Sunday Post

I am allergic, or perhaps intolerant, when it comes to grey Sundays.

There were more than a few while I was growing up on the east coast of the lower South Island of New Zealand.  And back then everything closed on a Sunday.  Telephone wires hung from poles rather than being buried underground and sometimes, on a particularly miserable Mosgiel Sunday, the wind would whistle through the telephone wires.  It was deadly and there was nothing that might perform a 'distract and save' mission.  A grey Sunday could suck the life out of me faster than anything ... joy, pleasure, hope, energy, drive, all gone.

Now, when looking for someplace else to live, I always imagine how this place or that would be on a grey Sunday.  Small villages in Belgium seem especially deadly.  Red brick rows of houses, skies that do grey regularly, and the complete silence of empty streets.

I'm suspicious of French villages too. Germany, where all is closed on a Sunday, feels flat and listless to me when the sun is hidden.  And it's not about the distraction of shopping.  I dislike shopping.  It's about the absence of life somehow.

A spark that seems extinguished in some places.

The remedy.  A beach, a forest, a lake, a river ... or maybe a drive.  Movement. 

I love Nature and yet I loved my life in Istanbul too.  City of 14 million+, there was always a feeling of life, an energy of some kind, pulsating in the air there.

I suspect it simply means that I need to live amongst people who like to be outside.  In Genova, down by the sea on Corso Italia, there is life.  People walk and jog there, talk there, move.  I loved Salmanca in Spain for it's Plaza Mayor and the life that appeared there in the evenings.

Even Te Anau, that small village in Southland ... a tiny population enriched by tourists who always move outside of time.  It's never a Sun-day in a tourist area, it's a Holi-day and I feel the difference most powerfully.  That energy, when managed in a good way, energises me.

I can choose then ... work, curl up in my warm bed with a book, or wander into the life outside.

Today is a grey day here in Belgium.  The streets are empty of both people and cars.  I am feeling the bite of not traveling already, only one month after that quick trip to Paris.

It's a grey Sunday today but it seems I never photograph them.  I can't show what I am writing about but here's an image from that other grey day, that one that wasn't a Sunday, when I had to go into the city.  I took my camera ...

Nina Coolsaet, Bodega Mas L'Altet

I was out photographing an event for friends on Wednesday night and while there I met a lovely woman called Nina Coolsaet.  She is a Belgian Bio-Engineer living in Spain and she has the most delightful story about her Spanish family  and their vineyard located to the north of Alicante.

Avi, Catalan for 'grandfather', is the name on the label of wine being tasted today and it is produced on their bodega called Mas L'Altet.  This morning I had the pleasure of beginning this misty cold Antwerpen Saturday over at Puerta Del Sol, interviewing Nina.

Interview to follow.  The photograph that follows, Frank, Nina, and Guy at the Botart de Amberes Event, 2013

Sarah Neirinckx and Bloom - Third Culture Coaching

Sarah Neirinckx returned to Belgium after 15 years of living and working abroad.  Back home she has begun a coaching practice called Third Culture Coaching.  She is focused on providing guidance and support to modern nomads, expatriates, and repatriates.

Sarah explained that her aim is to support the transition processes while encouraging personal growth and development .  Most people tend to underestimate the need for support and guidance as they transition from one continent to another after returning home from a life lived abroad.  While there are the obvious and practical steps one must take, there is also the little-discussed personal and a psychological impact of returning home.  Many professional organisations seem to ignore the probability of culture shock when moving their employees around the world, or bringing them home.

The phenomenon of Third Culture is all about the fact that while people living and working abroad didn't really fit into the country they were based in, they often find they no longer fit their own culture either. People often live within an expat community where they are protected from the full force of culture shock abroad however on returning home they feel the way that foreign experience has altered their personality.

HR, management, coaches, therapists, and psychologists pay scant attention to this issue of third culture issues and it was for this reason that Sarah began Bloom Co-creation.

She works with global nomads, third culture children, expatriates, repatriates, and people who are in a transition phase.  She would love to hear from you.

Sarah wrote, We are excited to announce that Bloom is celebrating their launch with a Brenda Davies workshop - Creating the Life You Would Love To Live here in Antwerp, Belgium.

This exciting two-day workshop can either be followed as the two-day, or there is the possibility of attening for just one of the two days.  Choose what suits you.

You can read more about Brenda on her website over here.

Reservations, phone Sarah at +32 477758291 or email her at:


Merel - Life is an Art, Art is my Life

Merel is a Belgian artist who lives and works in the centre of Antwerp since 1980 and devotes herself entirely to the practice and distribution of her art

Extract from Merel's book, Life is an Art, Art is my Life.

I recently had the pleasure of attending one of Merel's art exhibitions. An opening reception for  Life is an art, art is my life, at Leonhard's Gallery, here in Antwerp.

My lovely Belgian friend, Ruth, had introduced me to Merel's art and invited me along to the opening.

There we were, it was almost time to leave, and I was looking through Merel's exquisite hardcover coffee-table book while Ruth and Merel chatted.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the page photographed below.

There was some surprise, much laughter, and conversations about how it happened.  Anyway, I really admire her work it, wouldn't mind some on my wall.  One day, when I'm working again, I'll go buy a copy of her book.

As always, Ruth, thank you for another lovely adventure.