Long Ago And Far-Away...

Long ago and far-away I fell in love with a reflected world.  I was a child traveling State Highway 1, heading south on the flood-free, passing Henley.  Destination Invercargill and Nana's house.

There were swamp-lands next to the highway and a creek that offered the most stunningly clear reflections I've ever seen.

I used to imagine another world, an upside-down world, there in the creek as we passed by in those days when I was a kid in the back seat, dreaming my kid-dreams.

Genova has made me fall in love with reflections all over again.  I love when there is just enough rain to make puddles here on the cobblestones.

Today there was just enough rain to give me a glimpse of that other world. 

Playing in Piazza De Ferrari, in Genova

I was racing off to the birthday party of a friend here in the city this afternoon, a little late because my beautiful boots bought only last year, were falling to pieces.  Another friend had loaned me her hiking boots made of leather, as they were all she had in my size, but they were a little too small and were destroying my feet.

Traveling on my usual shoestring budget I couldn't replace them however ... it occured to me that if I slipped my sock-covered feet into plastic bags (cut to fit no less) and then put my boots on, they could leak all they wanted but my feet should stay dry. 

Yes, I had taken them into a shoe repair shop but he could only attempt to glue the sole back to the leather however he couldn't promise that it would hold and anyway, the stitching was giving way in two other places and there was no fixing that.

They're only one year old. I had marked them as boots meant to last many years and yes, I only packed one pair of shoes.  I imagined them sturdy.

So I risked being slightly late to the party but I couldn't go past the fountain in Piazza De Ferrari because it was looking spectacular. 

I stood on the edge of it and played with the light a little.

Forget Special, by David duChemin - Photographer

Name an artist or inventor, anyone that affected social change on the most massive scale. Who were they before they became, say, Gandhi? Pasteur? Picasso? If they had waited to make a name for themselves, doing the very things by which they made a name for themselves, were deemed special, they’d have never done a thing. Gandhi didn’t know he was Gandhi until he became, you know, GANDHI. He just did his thing. And even then I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what all the fuss was about. Who others thought he was and who he knew himself to be were probably always different. And I guarantee you it was not easy. Have you read his biography?

David duChemin, photographer.

I have been selecting photographs for the exhibition at the end of this month and so, it goes without saying, David duChemin's article, Forget Special, was incredibly timely.

The risk is more than we can imagine ... And until they get the answer they think they need to hear, they remain paralyzed, their art undone, their business unstarted. Waiting to be special, first.


You have Been Invited to Italy!

I recently had the pleasure of spending a weekend in the company of Renovating Italy's creator, Lisa Chiodo and she wrote, I am sure Di Mackey and I were sisters in another life, we just clicked, it felt like I’d known her forever. She gave me the gift of deep belly laughs, understanding, and freedom to be myself, each one I will treasure forever.

I would have written these words about her had she not beaten me to it in her generous post about attending the A New Way Of Seeing workshop.  It's been rare that anyone could make me laugh so hard that I almost collapsed in the street.  She has a gift for laughter that works with her beautiful attitude to life, and there's a deep wisdom too.

Meeting her, after having only read of her life via her beautiful website, Renovating Italy, was more than I could have imagined in so many ways.  She is the loveliest person and I'm sure, based on her website, that her family are just as she paints them.

Lisa and her family have put an invitation out into the world and I can't recommend it highly enough.  They are opening their Italian home to all of us and they have bookings available for 2015

Who knows, maybe I'll see you there.

Whole Worlds Watching ... written by Moana Maniapoto & Paddy Free

"In the landscape of New Zealand music, one genre stands out: music by Maori artists, which is a solid cornerstone, and within itself powerfully diverse. One of the most distinctive, articulate and significant Maori voices is Moana Maniapoto who - first with Moana and the Moahunters and latterly as Moana & the Tribe - has taken her often politically conscious music to festivals across the world." (Graham Reid)

She has consistently pushed the boundaries of Maori music in both her recordings and live performances, fusing taonga puoro, haka, chants with soul, reggae and classical "to produce her own blend of traditional and contemporary styles without compromising either." (NZ Herald, 2003).

A tribute to people power written by Moana Maniapoto & Paddy Free. 

You can read more over on the website

Norway ... Just So Much.

I'm not even sure how to tell my stories from these days spent in Norway.

The days have been intense, the company superb, the food a delight, the weather ... all that I needed it to be.  I've met lovely people and smiled often. 

Today, after a session with some exquisite horses, Ren took me on a boatride out into the fiords here.   No words but here I am, doing the 'selfie' thing while out there on the boat.

In Norway Today ...

I love the amusing things I'm finding here in Stavanger, Norway.  The big red supply ship, with the huge mouth and sharp teeth painted on the bow, parked in the harbour below.  The hairdresser's sign in the photograph at the end of this post.  And the graffiti ...the graffiti here needs a whole  its own post.  It's divine.

And Norwegians speak the most beautiful English.  Ylvis prepared me for the English but oh... it is everywhere in this country I've not known until now.  The interview I'm linking to, switches to English at about 1 minute but these guys were my very first introduction to Norway.

Today though, we were in the most exqusite teahouse I've ever had the privilege of visiting.  Thank you to Selman, for his hospitality and kindess, and his truly good tea.

Rebecca and Karoline were such a pleasure to spend time wandering with, and I'm loving the light and the photography too.

It's like that.

About How It Is To Live About 16,000kms From Home ...

I grew up in a small town called Mosgiel, population something small, a place where people raised their families.  Near a city (Dunedin) but not a city.

I grew up with aunts and uncles living 'away' but close enough to visit sometimes.  I adored my Nana and Grandad (mum's parents) and often begged to go stay with them in their Invercargill house.  3 hours away in those days ... cars got faster, roads improved.  It's not so far in these days. 

My Grandma and Grandad were delightful too but that appreciation of them came later.  When I was small, it was all about Nana.

My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer back in 1998, my Nana (her mother) slipped away before her, with undiagnosed cancer.  Surprising us all. 

These days, so many years later, I still imagine them alive and so I have these conversations with them going on in my head.  Not 'voices'.  I guess I simply talk to the memory of them.  The memories of who they were, the memories of how they would react to things in my life now.

But I 'find' them via my senses too.  There might be a sight Mum would love, or an experience I wish I could share with her, or questions I so want to ask her.  And then I've wondered, in the years since losing her, if Nana ever wanted to travel ... but I never knew to ask.  Who knew I was going to do what I did. 

And, of course, I thought they were forever folk. We never considered that thing called Death while they were alive, there was no, 'this is last time I will see them'.  And then it was complicated by the fact that Mum wasn't even 60 when she died and that she so very much wanted to live.

Fast-forward to Now and I was invited to visit Lake Como.  I went, full of misgivings, knowing the Genova was the place that had captured my soul ... but curious to see what was there at this much-talked-about lake. 

It turns out there was a whole lot of 'home' just waiting for me to discover it.  The lake and the mountains there created a bizarre, and yet beautiful, split in my reality.  It was so very like Queenstown, New Zealand ... and yet, not.  The scent of lake rocks warmed by the sun, cleaned by a massive lake ... so very familiar.  The early morning peace ... 6am lake-lapping, birds calling, and air so clean that it took me back home in the peace of it all.

But another 'experience' was the food.  That first night Helen and I ate on the lakeside balcony of Ristorante Helvetia, in Lezzeno, and oh how we dined.  We ate every course, unusual for us but we were celebrating the end of a first fantastic workshop back in Genova.

For me, the course of the evening was this incredible piece of pork, with cheese and ... other stuff. It took me back to those times, when I was safe in the kitchen of Nana, eating meals that comforted me at some deep soul level, even while she denied she could cook.

I wish I could share my journey with these women who formed me.  I feel that they watch over me since dying, and I hope that they do because I miss them.  My sister will come here one day and we'll travel for sure, toasting those women we loved as we wander.  Those women who made us the creatures we are today.

But anyway, all of that just so I could post this photograph of a dinner that I hope to repeat sometime soon.

Our Clients Wrote of Our Workshop

What can I write ...

I feel so extraordinarily grateful to the three women Helen and I invited on our A New Way of Seeing workshop, in Genoa, Italy.

Since then Lisa, Leah, and Laura have written of working with us in ways that have filled my wee kiwi soul to overflowing.

Leah, from Help. I Live With My Italian Mother In Law, wrote of her experience with us in an English magazine

Laura, from Ciao Amalfi, wrote up her experience with us over on her blog. 

Today, I'm just in from reading Lisa's account of her time with us over on her blog.  That would be Lisa, from Renovating Italy ... the Lisa who had me laughing so hard that I could barely stay standing out there on Via Porta Soprana.  She has a talent for laughter but the weekend was full of laughter, of stories and photography too.

I borrowed one of Lisa's photographs from her post about it all.  I love this particular image, taken by Silvana, wife of Pino.  Pino is the man nestled in-between Lisa, myself, and Helen ... late on that laughter-filled evening in Genova.

Silvana and Pino own the very best pizzeria in the world and I adore them.  Their pizzas too. And so it seemed entirely appropriate to be photographed together.  Silvana, after a hot and exhausting evening, decided she would be the photographer ... and no begging her to join us would change her mind. 

I have to admit, I'm looking a little rumpled at this point in the day.  We were almost home after that first workshopping day.

I would work with any of these women in a heartbeat.  They were magnificent.  All of them. 

Huge grazie mille's to Laura and Lisa, Leah and Helen. 

It was a most magnificent weekend!

Tales to Tell ...

Tiredness continues to be an issue.   I'm doing all that needs done however approximately once every hour, I walk across to my bed and simply fall on it.  I'm exhausted it seems.  The 2 weeks in Italy was intense and my recovery seems to be complicated by 26 celsius nights ... and it's not that I'm complaining about the heat  but it does make the whole sleeping thing quite fraught.

I'm so tired that when I do wake at 5am, it's a simple thing to reason that the sound that woke me was someone walking on a huge dumpster full of wire coat hangers. 

I suspect this may indicate that I'm seriously 'tired'.

There's another huge story I want to tell.  I just need a little more time to sit down with the photographs and stories that unfolded at Palazzo Del Vice Re, located in Lezzeno, on the edge of Lake Como. 

I took the photograph that follows down at the lake edge, below the palazzo, when I slipped out early one morning wanting to capture a slice of the beauty and peace I found there.

Luciano Susto, Genova

I first heard Luciano play at Stefano's Antica Hostaria Pacetti.  He was performing with his wife, Donatella.  Together they are Susto e Soranzio.

They have become friends.  Friends who were kind enough to invite Helen and I into their beautiful home on the hill one evening, friends who generously share their world with us.

I took the following photograph during an aperitivo performance at Stefano's restaurant one evening ...

Zucchini Blossoms and So Much More ...

I have been waiting for my writing voice to return ... waiting for my desire to process photographs endlessly ... waiting for my creativity to reappear.

Tonight, perhaps it has begun to arrive.

It was the oddest kind of day.  A 15 minute photo-shoot turned into 8 hours of, sometimes, epic journey that began as I leapt from my train, fearing the doors might close on me but knowing I must leap because Mr Crazy Dog was barking up a storm out on mainstreet, and Miss 10 appeared to be the innocent cause.  Or so I was told over the phone.

Crisis averted, I finally caught up with Simon and Paola, over in Brussels, photographed their renovations and talked ..a lot  :-)  Well, perhaps all that talking was me.  Paola is the friend who so generously allows me to use her apartment in Genova.  I wanted to catch her up on stories from Genova ... this is my excuse for all the talking.

8 hours after leaving home, I returned.  Falling asleep on the train between Brussels and Antwerp but waking in time to get off at the right station.

Tonight, 10.30pm,  I began to download a treasure trove of photographs.  A portrait session I did at Lake Como, with my delightful business partner, Helen

And during the downloading I discovered the image below, taken during a lunch with Andrea, from IC Bellagio.  Thank you to Andrea for the lunch and for the conversation.  It was a lovely way to say goodbye to this country I've come to love.

So many more stories to follow in the days and weeks ahead although ... I'm packing for Norway.  I have a photography workshop there soon.  Not only that, it's summer too.  My little cup runneth over.

Home Again ...

I arrived home late Wednesday night ... exhausted. 

Like so many of the other days, on this particular journey, Wednesday was a huge day.   It was a day where my lost ID card was handed back to me at Milan Airport.  I had been holding my breath a little as I reached check-in.  I had the police report tucked away in my camera bag and my driver's licence, with the photograph to prove I was me, at the ready.

The lovely woman behind the counter saw my name and told me I had 'lost' that ID on the plane coming in and while it was strange that Brussels Airline didn't phone or email me using any of the personal details I have fed into their system so many times, I was grateful.  So grateful to see my ID card again.

I had had this feeling that it might turn up, somehow and as a result I hadn't followed the protocol of blocking my ID.  120euro was saved.  Helen and I did a small happy dance after leaving that counter.

So many beautiful things had been happening along the way however this seemed like a fairly serious slice of 'excellent'. 

Then ... my bankcard wouldn't allow me to withdraw the money I knew was in it, in Italy, but I could buy lunch using it directly.  So that was grand. 

We flew ... still working, making new plans for other New Way of Seeing workshops and arrived, after an hour and 15 minutes, in Brussels.  We made our way to the luggage claim area and began waiting.  Helen's suitcase arrived.  The clock ticked.  Soon it became clear I was going to miss my 'once on the hour, every hour' bus back to Antwerp. 

My suitcase never arrived.  I recognised 'the look' on the faces of others waiting there.  Their luggage hadn't arrived either.  But on asking, I learned they'd just come from Florence.  I was the only one missing my luggage from Milan.

I was tired and a little bit grouchy perhaps.  We walked the length of the luggage claim hall until we found the queue at the Brussels Airlines missing luggage office.  We were walking towards it when I noticed my bag, standing all alone in the middle of nowhere ...

I checked it for bombs and for drugs.  It seemed fine.  I imagine someone had taken my bag by accident and abandoned it there in the hall when they realised.  Thank goodness the police hadn't wondered about it. So we left.  Wondering whether it wasn't time to purchase some kind of lottery ticket.

I strolled over to the bankcard machine, wanting to access my money for a train ticket.  Helen had decided she wasn't leaving until she was sure I wouldn't be walking to Antwerp. 

My bankcard didn't work.  I was tired.  Disbelieving.  I knew I had money there.

Helen reminded me that my money had been accessible directly in Milan so, we wandered on down to the trains level of the airport.  Voila, I was able to use the card to purchase a ticket from the machine.  A big thank you to you, BNP Paribas Fortis, what was that all about?

Finally, an hour and a half after landing, I was on a train heading directly for Antwerp.  Windows down as we screamed our way through that hot summer's night.   Gert met me at the bottom of the stairs in the station. 

Note: why don't European train stations have escalators on every platform?  What wrong-headed thinking leaves travelers almost destroying themselves carrying luggage up and down them?  I pack as lightly as possible knowing this thing but it seems not very 'first world'. Belgium and Italy both fail in this respect and the men have long ago learned to look the other way when there's a women struggling up those stairs with her suitcase.  No one but no one wants to help anyone else with their luggage.  It has made me appreciate Kiwi blokes because I know they'd be there in a flash.  But never mind ... I can do it.  I pack lightly.

And so I am home.  Yesterday looked and felt remarkably like a road smash.  I had this idea that I've spent these past two weeks traveling at 100km p/h and that yesterday I hit the wall.  I did laundry, I cleaned the house, I shopped for supplies, I cooked ... falling on the bed in-between times or working here at my computer.

Never mind.  Whiny moment over, I'll leave you with a photograph I took back in Lezzeno in Italy.  I have so many stories to tell about the exquisite palazzo located on the edge of Lake Como.  That exquisite palazzo where Helen and I spent those last two nights in Italy.

Last Night Down By The Lake...

One of the more difficult things about traveling is the quality of the screen that I work with out here on the road.  It's difficult to view images ... difficult simply because I am used to a better quality of screen back at my desk.

I don't know that I've done justice to this image but I wanted to post it anyway.  Last night, after dinner at a restaurant that cooks the fish of Lake Como, in a whole range of styles, we wandered down by the lake below the stunning hotel where we are staying.

To write that this trip has been extraordinary would be stating the obvious.  Or telling you that we have met and spent time with so many good people ... also clear.  But more than that, the scenes that have unfolded in front of us, as we've searched out ways to make our joint photography workshops absolutely first class,  have been exceptional.

I was back at the lake edge this morning and a whole news series of scenes unfolded in front of me.  I'm going to miss this beautiful place tucked away in Italy's mountains.

The Power of Women...

A photograph taken on our last evening in Genova

'Last evening' this time.  And we wanted to say goodbye to some of the women we so enjoy knowing there in the city.

There was Donatella and Barbara, Alessandra, and Georgia too.  We met at Douce and we talked.  So much.  Enjoying the company of each other on a warm summer's evening in Liguria.

I could write much about what each woman means to us.  Of their generosity and their kindness, of their various talents but that would be too long a post and it might sound like someone exaggerating. Perhaps it's enough to write that they are special.

Anyway ...I suspect that this photograph, taken on Alessandra's phone, captures something of the spirit between us all.  Needless to say, I suspect it's clear in the photograph, I'm exhausted ... but oh so very happy with the days spent over in Genova.

You Know When That Bubble of Joy Rises Up In You?

That happened.

We moved from Genova to a most exquisite location on the edge of Lake Como.  It's only 8am but already my camera and I have been wandering.

I love New Zealand, I love Italy.  Lately, I haven't been sure which country I loved best.

Here, in Lezzeno, Italy becomes New Zealand and vice versa.  A lake, the mountains, the mist and the smell of the air ...

As for the food, I will try and write of it soon.  Dinner last night, on that balcony overlooking Lake Como ... exquisite.

Magnificent Days ...

We are on Day 2 of this first A New Way of Seeing photography workshop and all I can say is that feels like both an extraordinary privilege to meet and work with these women but it is a huge amount fun too.

I almost fell over due to laughing so hard last night.  Lisa, the Australian, was responsible.  Trans-Tasman relations are at all time high.  Meanwhile I have a few million photographs to download and so many stories to tell but really lacking the time to do.  We're off to Lake Como tomorrow ... stories should follow.

Day One of the weekend workshop ended on a restaurant balcony located at the edge of the Ligurian Sea, out at Boccadasse, eating exquisite food and well, yes ... laughing often.

We are a small united nations, with the UK, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and America involved. 

Now ... for Day Two.

That Post Where I Chitchat ...

Lately, I've had a low level buzzing going on in my head, probably caused by a whole lot of must-do's, and it's just not conducive to any kind of work flow.  But you know that already.

I've come here to blog a few times but deleted after just a paragraph or two.  There was no fire, no words came.

Tonight, it's 25 celsius as I write this ... almost 10pm, still quite light outside, with swallows whistling up and down the street like crazy out-of-control children.  I know summer's coming when the swallows return.  I do love them.

Here in Belgium, our team of three have been hard at work on our A New Way of Seeing - Photography Retreats project, fine-tuning and preparing.  It just keeps developing in ways that excite and delight us.  It's hard work but we're having fun.  It's a big old dream coming true.

Next week I'll be back in Genova, and will spend two nights at Lake Como before returning home but more on that once I'm there.  Then there's Norway in August and a photography workshop that I'm so looking forward to there.

Which reminds me ... I met the loveliest woman on the train between Genova and Milan last time I was there.  Her name was Patrizia, I think, she lives in Denmark.  I didn't have any business cards left but she wrote her email address on a scrap of paper and I did the same.  We talked for most of those 2 hours on that train and I did so enjoy her company.  Unfortunately I lost the scrap of paper somewhere between Milan and home.

Patrizia, if you did manage to hang on to my details and do read my blog, I would love to hear from you.

As for today ... I biked over to the Russian tailor.  Dank u wel to Lucy for letting me know about him.  My beautiful shawl, purchased in Genova, needed some of its fringe cut.  It's a little bit long and perhaps a little bit too red on the ends too. 

Dimitrii was lovely.  I explained that I had a history of cutting things that shouldn't be cut and needed him to be doing this thing for me.  Actually mostly it's been my hair that I've cut (and regretted cutting) but it was enough to make me terrified of ruining the shawl if I shortened the tassels myself. 

Actually, I  had my hair in the 'about to be cut' position the other night but couldn't find scissors. It's  really long at the moment, and rather warm here in Antwerp.  To explain, I've had a lifetime of going to hairdressers who talk me into letting them cut my hair short and really, I hate it short.  But once I'm in their chair, I'm weakened by promises of end-result glamour.  Mostly they lie...

So I pick that beautiful shawl up on Saturday and then, I shall wear it whenever possible. I think it will be just right for evenings out.

My head must be clearing though.  I excavated my desk today, its drawers, the cupboard and all storage boxes within reach.  It's all rather beautiful again.  My typewriter has a permanent place but it's an interesting creature.  It has a European keyboard, with the A, M, and other important keys not in the place I prefer them to be.  I make mistakes.  I have a bottle Pritt Fluid.  One needs to really hit the keys.  After a typewriter session, the computer keyboard feels plush and luxurious.  The delete key is heaven.

I have begun packing the cords, cables, and equipment required for out there on the road.  A small pilot's bag is slowly filling with 'other' plugs for the slightly different Italian sockets.  The USB modem is  there.  The card reader, the tripod, the sunhoods for the lenses, and etc.  On Wednesday I will become my other self, the one known as Sherpa Di. 

The biggest news though ... Miss 9 will wake as Miss 10 in the morning.  We are so full of thanksgiving when it comes to that little person.  Today she presented me with a great big hand-made book of her paintings and text.  'Voor Di' is there on the cover.  It's something I'll treasure.  Her art works are stunning. She insisted on reading it to me tonight, translating it as she went.  We finished our most recent book series last night and so it was timely.

I think I may have prattled on a little but I wanted to catch up some.  I've missed blogging.  Actually, I have missed being able to access my mind and write coherently.  Here's to the headache being gone on the morrow and to lucid thought returning. 

Failing that, then I shall just have to wait for Italia to work its usual magic on me.

The photograph ... found in a beautiful village in France.