A Glimpse ...

It seems long past time I stopped and wrote of my summertime stay in Genova ... back when I met Massimo and Roberta while staying in their beautiful Air BnB. 

I think they told me that it had once been the room of a servant.  It was located in a massive old building in the ancient heart of the city and had its own kitchen and everything else you might want too. 

The renovations had created an exquisite space.

A glimpse ...

Scenes from Norway ...

I had spent time processing the photographs I took in Norway ... needing to get them out and back to people there.

Today, in a terrifying moment where Ihavenoideawhatjusthappened, I managed to delete the entire Norway folder ... while deleting 3 smaller folders of photographs I couldn't access, sent by someone else.

I never ever delete folders in my Super JPG program but today I did. 

Never ever again.

I managed to recover almost all 1,853 images via one of those incredible rescue programs.  My punishment was that each file needed individually clicked to have to restored.  The day has been long.

But anway ... some Norwegian scenes.

Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, Antwerp

Here's another view of Antwerp's city cathedral - Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal.

I discovered it reflected in a puddle out on Groenplaats one day.  And loved it.  And quite possibly looked insane as I stalked the puddle edges, searching for the best angle to capture the reflection at ... but I was compelled to.

Stavanger Konserthus, Norway

Located in Southwest Norway, Stavanger counts its official founding year as 1125, the year Stavanger cathedral was completed. Stavanger's core is to a large degree 18th- and 19th-century wooden houses that are protected and considered part of the city's cultural heritage. This has caused the town centre and inner city to retain a small-town character with an unusually high ratio of detached houses,and has contributed significantly to spreading the city's population growth to outlying parts of Greater Stavanger.

Stavanger is today considered the center of the oil industry in Norway and is one of Europe's energy capitals and is often called the oil capital. Forus Business Park located on the municipal boundary between Stavanger, Sandnes and Sola and is one of the largest business parks with 2,500 companies and nearly 40,000 jobs.

Source: Wikipedia.

I was walking back to Ren's place when we passed the Stavanger Konserthus.  I couldn't resist attempting to capture a sense of the place ... from the outside.

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.

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 ...it 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.

Colin Monteath, and the Poppies

Over years I have filled my journals with notes, quotes, and photographs too.  Some of those journals traveled from New Zealand with me, and many many new ones have been filled since I flew.

I love quotes and extracts.  They seem like small pieces of intense wisdom or pure beauty but I keep them all locked up in my journals.  So ... I've decided to go through my extensive, sometimes unexplored, photographic archives and merged some of these collected wisdoms, from others, with my images.

I met with Colin Monteath, author of today's quote, a couple of times during those years before leaving New Zealand.  And even then, I still didn't know quite how to describe him here.  Photographer, mountaineer, adventurer, Antartic expert, writer ... and probably so much more that I don't know about.

Anyway I found one of his books here in Antwerp, wrote to him full of laughter because it cost a lot more than he was selling them new but still, I was working at the time.  How could I resist.

I've never regretted buying that book.  I found the quote, the one on the photograph below, and feel it gives a good sense of the man himself.

As for the poppies.  That was me, crawling around on the edge of the church garden in Mesen, out on Flanders Fields, here in Belgium.  I had some time and really wanted a good poppy shot.

On Portraiture ...

I love the work of portrait photography ...

My idea is that portrait photography is an attempt to put someone so at ease with who you are that they give you something of who they really are.

I think everybody is capable of being photographed in a way that is beautiful. 

It's about letting the real self bubble up to the surface.  It can take time but it's more than worth it in the end.


Writing, Football, and Photography

Raf came to dinner last night, asking if he might use my camera flash while he was over.  He was curious about the process of using the master/slave set-up on his camera. Neither of us had attempted it before and it was the best fun I had had in a while.  More to follow as I experiment with that in the months ahead as it turns out the Gert's Metz flash is able to make a wireless connection with my Canon flash. 

The photograph following was taken when Raf put down his beautiful Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, with its battery pack attached and picked up the smaller Canon EOS 550D, laughing over how to hold it in his big hands.  I liked how it looked and took a series of images with my beloved Canon EOS 5D MkII.

It was a lovely evening.  Thank you, Raf, for opening the door into this new way of working with light.

Guitar Girl

Tickets have been booked and I'm off to Genova in February.  I cannot begin to tell you how good it feels to have the promise of wandering back in my life.  It's time ... more than time.

Miss 9 and I have begun reading a new book series together.  It's delightfully creepy.  And I have 'Italian for Dummies' here on my desk.  Now to open it and begin serious work.

I have been struggling to fulfil my daily foto commitment.  And I'm intrigued because I see it's so much about my inability to give myself too much time off.   And the battle is there in the fact that I can't 'snapshot' this commitment.  I climb into photography, working my way towards the right angle perhaps, seeking out the right light. I have to be prepared to do ... just do the photography for an hour each day.  It's an interesting battle.

And emails ...   I've been caught up in a few email exchanges that make me stop to take notes.  And I'm printing out interesting blog posts and articles, sticking them into my journal. 

My super-talented niece called Katie sent me an email containing the static digital image she made at school and it's stunning.  I must ask permission to blog it.  Katie's the one in the foreground.

So, I did a 'girl and her guitar' series for the foto-a-day shoot today.  I was using my 17-40mm lens on the Canon EOS 5D MkII and I was all but climbing onto the couch as I took the image you find at the end here.  I think, in future, I might just stick with my 70-200mm lens.  I love that lens.  It's my way of seeing ... and being. Potentially my photography subjects may appreciate a bit of distance too.

Autumn Scenes in Antwerp, Belgium

It's a grey and miserable autumn day here in the city and that was me, out the door and on the tram, on school run by 7.30am.  To complicate things, Wednesdays and Thursdays Miss 9 's school closes at midday so I get an hour or two at home before I'm back out and across the city to pick her up. 

Who knows why I imagined I could handle my red umbrella and my camera but I did.  I created a couple of montages - photographs taken as I wandered across Antwerp city.  A tram from the suburbs to the city centre, then a walk that wends its way through cobble-stoned backstreets and ancient buildings ...

4.30pm, it's still raining and we're losing the light fast.  It's not even winter yet.  But anyway, my adopted city ...

There's the tree-lined street ... that I don't live in.  The tram tracks curving off into the distance.  And the beautiful park I live near.  The one that often has a 'beautiful mist' softening the scenes there.  'Beautiful mist' because, pretty as it is, it is actually the horrendous pollution created by one of Europe's busiest highways just next-door there.

The next montage was made up of images I found in the city.  Antwerp is a city of painters.  Rubens also lived here and there are statues all over the place. 

Reflections, taken on the street I call the street of the antique shops.  I loved the soldiers and the wine glasses... I tried to capture them while including the street scene too.  It made what might have been a miserable day almost fun.

Awake ...1.29 am in Italy

I did the crime ... an Italian espresso at 5pm in Venice.   And although it was in celebration of finding our way out of the maze that is Venice, it seems I must do the time.  It's 1.29am and I'm still awake.  Wide awake!

Today has been all about leaving Trieste, then impulsively stopping for an hour or two of wandering through Venice, and driving on afterwards, another million miles towards Milan then Lake Como.

An impulsive couple of hours in Venice that became 4 hours when we were lost for a while on our way out of that ancient city. 

And Venice ...!!!  I'm not even sure how to write up the experience.  Not yet.  But tonight, once we found our way to Bellano, Italy, there was this dinner consisting of this divine smokey cheese, provided by our lovely Air B&B hostess, and a bottle of Italian red wine we had been carrying since Budapest.

Julie made herself pasta but it felt too late for me to be eating something so serious and anyway, I was still recovering from The Most Delicious pasta dinner I had ever tasted ... the previous evening, back in Trieste.  Something to do with mushrooms, a cream sauce, and pasta at Al Barattolo.

If you find yourself in Trieste, I can only tell you that you must eat at Al Barattolo because the food is divine. The house red wine is also delicious but that's a whole other story.

That said, tonight's pasta did inspire Julie to write up a blogpost about our roadtrip so far.  But our journey is almost done and tomorrow we're off to the airport.  I'm heading back to Antwerp while she's continuing on her long journey home, with Athens as her next destination.  

I will miss that cousin of mine after almost 2 months of living and traveling together.  We do have the most excellent adventures though.  Always.  Last time we wandered all over England, wondering about speed limits and road rules as we went, occasionally phoning home to seek wise counsel on these serious matters.

We drank wine with mercenaries on that journey.  I actually went through a stage where I met 3 different groups of them socially ... by chance and yes, I found it bizarre.  We also managed to accidentally walked out of a cafe without paying, realised, then found a branch of the same chain in another town over there, confessed, felt the love ... well actually, their surprise that we were so honest.  I think they might have been stunned but anyway, they'd written it off, much to our relief.  And so much more.  It's never sedate when we get together.

Anyway ... tonight finds us in a lovely Air B&B in Bellano in Italy.  It seems to be located on one of the arms of Lake Como, not Como itself though.  Everything we've viewed online tells us it's lovely however ...spending time lost in Venice complicated our arrival here and made us some hours late, in fact, after darkness had fallen.

The light was fading fast when we began driving the 50 minutes alongside Lake Como to Bellano.  Darkness AND there were masses of tunnels, some as much as 5kms long.  And while The Homer Tunnel experience in New Zealand last year, seems to have cured me of my previously intense dislike of tunnels, I wasn't the happiest creature when I realised we had driven an extra 16kms beyond our destination exit road, due to our troublesome GPS losing its satellite connection while in those very same very long tunnels.

But arriving here, meeting Laura - our lovely B&B hostess, settling in, drinking the last bottle of red wine Julie and I will share in a while ... somehow everything took on a rosy restropective glow and voila, we were happy again.

We are fortunate, it doesn't take much to right our sometimes wonky worlds.  Well ... I could have done without the whole 'sleepless in Bellano' thing but you wouldn't have this post and nor would you have this small glimpse of a scene I spotted in Venice.