Dessert & Antibiotics ...

So much for the 'recovering' part of my plan.  I had to wander off to the doctor's yesterday and, in good news, my iron has roared up the scale to dizzy heights I've probably not experienced in years.  That explains the feeling I had ... of being able to walk a million miles in Rome, in Genova.

The rotten news, as far as I'm concerned, is that I started a demanding course of antibiotics yesterday.  I have an infection and it's the only way to clear it.  And so it is, 12 days of porca miseria

But there's always good news.  Tanya, an old friend from school - my traveling companion during these last few weeks, has returned to Antwerp with me and her 10 year old daughter.  Tanya has been both a successful florist, back in New Zealand, and a cook (she won't let me describe her as a chef.  There are rules apparently but her food is divine.)

The good news ... well, Tanya's been cooking dinners since we returned.  Maybe I made a Shepherd's Pie first evening back but since then, sublime has slipped into our dinner-time.  Last night I made time to race away from the table, find my camera, and photograph her beautiful dessert. 

Made for the kids, loved by the adults too ...

Let's see how long we can keep them here for.

And so another delicious adventure begins ...

I had a meeting this morning, one where I was offered the opportunity to exhibit my photographs in Brussels.

I'm excited.  By emptying my life of 'Everything', I have left space for Some Thing.   And while my Home & Away exhibition was an impulse that took me on an unexpected journey, this exhibition is going to be all about staying conscious ... in a way I didn't quite manage back in October. 

I'm always learning.   Always willing to learn.

It will open early in the new year and it feels like a good way to begin 2015.  More news to follow as we decide on dates, times and all that important stuff.

The image below ... found on the streets of Genova.

A Note from a Winter Day in Belgium ...

And the burn-out has continued here in my world but I'm running up the stairs again, finally.  I'm not taking that forgranted ever again.  Now to commit to taking the vitamin D I guess.  Apparently 80% of Belgians end up  deficient in vitamin D ... this New Zealander too.

As for the burn-out, I'm not sure that it's still that.  Now it seems more like I'm looking around and thinking 'what next?'  But instead of attempting to follow multiple paths, I'm thinking of just one or two.  We'll see how that plays out.  I have remained slow ... very very.  And I'm letting it be like that.  I have had a few times of intensity, quickly followed by that descent back into slow.

I know it's a luxury.  More time without income but still, the Belgian bloke seems happy enough with the housewife who has stepped up as me.

Lucy, Ruth and Fiona, lovely friends from near-by, birthday-gifted me 50euro in book vouchers for my favourite secondhand bookshop here in the city.  I stretched it out over 3 visits and I'm rapt with my books.  I finished it on Tuesday, with two books about artist and wise woman - Georgia O'Keeffe, with a third by New Zealand writer, Barbara Anderson.  Oddly enough, I didn't see the similarities in the titles until later but Anderson's book was a slice of home that I couldn't resist.

I had my hair cut too.  'Cut' might be too big a description.  I have finally found a hairdresser who listens to me ... a hairdresser that doesn't immediately start cutting while attempting to make me stylish.  She also found a way of unifying the damage I had done with my boxes of hair colour bought at the supermarket.  I can only adore her for this.

The Belgian boke's frozen shoulders are almost completely recovered.  His flu is gone, and the relapse he had seems to have left the building too ... as of last night.  Fingers crossed.

We're slowly making our way towards Christmas.  We have a tree, some presents, and plans are being made with regard to the food.  Since returning from that Christmas we spent at home, back in 2012, I have flashbacks to how good it was there ... in summer.  And the food.  And the way that my sister made sure I was spoiled.  It was like a journey back to my childhood ... almost.

The haircut and colour ... it's below.  I think I take the worst photographs of myself.  I'd like to claim that the light in the bathroom is bad, that I use a telefoto lens and end up jammed against the wall but really, there are no excuses.  It's more about the fact I quite like the difficult light and employ a little ineptitude when it comes to self-portraits.  I like the blur and shake of it all, the strange lighting and I remain defiant in my use of the tele-foto.  Not something I would teach but I might say, know the rules and then break them.  Don't be afraid to play a little.

Georgia O'Keeffe, on making the unknown known.

I feel that a real living form is the result of the individual’s effort to create the living thing out of the adventure of his spirit into the unknown—where it has experienced something—felt something—it has not understood—and from that experience comes the desire to make the unknown—known.

By unknown—I mean the thing that means so much to the person that wants to put it down—clarify something he feels but does not clearly understand—sometimes he partially knows why—sometimes he doesn’t—sometimes it is all working in the dark—but a working that must be done—

Making the unknown—known—in terms of one’s medium is all-absorbing—if you stop to think of the form—as form you are lost—The artist’s form must be inevitable—You mustn’t even think you won’t succeed—Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant—there is no such thing.

Making your unknown known is the important thing—and keeping the unknown always beyond you—catching crystallizing your simpler clearer version of life—only to see it turn stale compared to what you vaguely feel ahead—that you must always keep working to grasp—the form must take care of its self if you can keep your vision clear.

Georgia O’Keeffe (painter) writing to Sherwood Anderson (writer).  

Source: Brain Pickings.

There was something about this small article, by Maria Popova, that made me want to note these words and keep them to read again and again.  I loved the first paragraph most particularly.

I enjoy reading what artists write to each other, seeming to want to think on an important thing that so many wouldn't find important or interesting.  Sometimes these things seem like the real stuff of life, as opposed to the forms we fill out and the lives that we Must live in that 'real' world people talk of.

Soon I will be heading off on another adventure, in a small village somewhere between Naples and Rome.  There is a house and some dogs that I've been invited to visit, while breathing some good country air, with a view that I suspect I might want to photograph every day.

There is a book that wants to be written, or two.  There are the photography workshops to announce, the ones I've planned for 2015.  There is a bar where I'm hoping the espresso is perfect and where my beloved crema brioches are possible.  Where there's a delightful red wine waiting for me.

Another adventure in Italy, in that land where everything is possible and sometimes, just sometimes, you find giantic lightbulbs out in the carrugi.

TROPOI, by the FroeFroe Theater.

Ruth had wondered, a while ago, if Miss 10 might enjoy attending some of the Christmas theatre happening here in the city.  I said I was sure that she would and voila, Ruth booked us all in for a performance by the FroFroe Theater ... titled TROPOI.

The performance was based on the book and movie, The Parfum, with the main character being an exquisitely made, and stunningly operated, puppet called Castiglio.  I have no idea where to lavish the most praise as the performance was mind-blowing.  There were the puppets, the actors, the singers and the musicians, all coming together to create a stunning show that I feel so fortunate to have seen

Did I mention the superb medieval and baroque music played on original instruments...! 

I could rave on for paragraphs but here's a taste of what the Belgian press wrote:

TROPOI shows what grand performances the puppet theatre is capable of giving.  De Morgen.  TROPOI is one of the best productions this season. De Bond.  FroeFroe can add another success to its prize list. Zone 03.  TROPOI shows you not only the magic of music, but also the magic of the puppet theatre. Impressive. De Standaard.

You can get a small taste of tonight's performance in the video below.  I hope I get to see many more of their performances.  Brilliant.  Miss 10 thought so too.

tropoi trailer from Jan Bosteels on Vimeo.

Missing Genova

I miss Via Ravecca, the open window I work next to there, and the noise of the street below. 

I love the way life sounds lived there in the old part of the city of Genova.

I miss the smell of the farinata nearby.  And the overflow of people, their talk and their laughter, at Pizzeria Ravecca. 

I miss walking through Porta Soprana on my way to someplace nice everyday.

I miss the beautiful fountain in Piazza De Ferrari.  And I miss Palazzo Ducale.

I miss 15 celsius because I have returned to -1 celsius. 

I miss interviewing the people of Genova about their quietly remarkable lives.

I'm missing Genova.

The photograph here was taken by Dear Miss Fletcher ... who wrote, E poi siamo passate all’Antica Barberia Giacalone.

New Boots ...

I had decided to head back to Belgium, cautiously wearing my broken boots however ... on the way to the supermarket this morning I accidentally looked in the window of the Bata shoe shop.  It's on Via XX Settembre, at 270-272R.  I wandered in, just to browse.

I'm so  glad I did.  The women working there were lovely and so are my new boots.  They had a special deal on ... buy 3 pair and get the second most expensive pair for just 1 euro.    And I loved the idea of that because I loved 3 pair of their shoes however I only bought one pair. 

They were on sale, at 39euro, and I thought them so very beautiful. 

Sadly, my feet are currently hating them.  I floated round the city in them all day, not realising till I reached the other end of town, that some breaking-in would have to take place.  I am home now, wearing my slippers, wondering how tomorrow will go because I may have already thrown out my old broken boots.

Porca miseria ...

But aren't they beautiful.

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. 

La Vita è Bella - or Meeting Mau.

Back in August, I discovered Maurizio's blog via some beautiful photographs he took of people I simply adore here in Genova.  He had titled that post Il Sogno di Francesca e Norma

I added his blog to my blogreader thingy and enjoyed reading his stories.  His work means he travels ... extensively.  There is no other way to describe the way so many different countries appear on his blog.  But the thing that truly fascinated me was the way that people, from all over the world, seemed to trust him to take their photographs.  This isn't an easy thing.  I was curious.

One of his bases is Genova.  Like me, he's pretty much head-over-heels in love with this city and I think it shows in the images he captures, accompanied by stories, whenever he's here.  He's Italian but speaks other languages too.

It turned out that we were going to be in Genova, at the same time, for just a couple of days.  So today was the day that we met for lunch.  But lunch Mau-style. 

This means that we went to that tiny local restaurant, so full of character that I'm surprised the building doesn't break apart from the strain of it all, and ate a most divine lunch ... served by people who truly enjoy seeing him.  Not hesitating to mock or advise him but also showing their deep affection for him.

We ate tagliolini al pesto, ravioli al tocco, cima with insalata russa and arrosto con purea.  There a glass or two of Nebbiolo as well.  A dessert was brought to the table despite us deciding we wouldn't order any.  Did I mention how much these people enjoyed seeing him?

We moved on, heading down to a gelateria he knows.  Again he was greeted so warmly and I was given more than a few small spoons of gelato to taste due to being there with Mau.  I will be returning to that place of divine gelato, again in the months ahead.  I'll post on it once I have all the details.  There was much talking, I didn't make notes ...

I was introduced to the couple who own a vege and fruit stall, and went back to them this evening to buy pumpkin and onions for my pumpkin soup.  But really, where ever this man goes in the city, people smile.  He has this idea, this belief, that life is beautiful ... and he seems gifted in making it true.

Finally he organised a photograph, one he'd taken of me over lunch, onto a usb stick and introduced me to the most superb printing shop I've never found here in Genova.  It's hidden.  So hidden.  I know this because I've been searching for one like it since first arriving here back in 2008.

So I have this large laser print of the photograph you'll find over on Mau's blog.  The one where I'm realising there's a camera pointing at me and there's no escape.  I'm the most difficult photographic subject I know

I popped back to see the printers tonight and had 3 prints made for Barbara.  A small series from the family photo session I did last Sunday.  The large laser prints are so veryvery affordable (less than 2 euros) that I suddenly have a way of gifting people the photographs I take of them while here.  I'm rapt.

So Mau has raced off back into the world.  I wandered out for an aperitivo with Barbara.  This city ... I do love being here.

Oh, and the photograph below. As photographers, we confessed to a mutually intense dislike of having our photographs taken however we allowed it today.

Some Sublime ...

Genova is one of those places where something sublime seems to happen most days.

Monday I finally slowed down and organised myself here at Paola's place.  I was expecting/planning a quiet night but suddenly it became one of those extraordinary evenings that involved me following instructions, boarding a bus and arriving at Stadio Luigi Ferraris, home of the Genoa football team.  

Extraordinary  because I started following the Genoa back in those days when I lived in New Zealand.  I was a rugby kind of woman in some ways but sport is religion back home and so I was open to being curious about most sports.

In Istanbul, Genoa kept me safe when my students (always) asked which team I supported ... Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, or Trabzonspor?  I would calmly reply, Genoa.  Shocking them into acceptance.

In Belgium, I attempted to switch my support to Antwerp but found I couldn't.  Genoa had occupied that part of my heart and there was no point in trying to change.

And so I follow their news here and it works well enough.  The games appear as live text.  I was fine with this (because I had to be) but last night ... LAST NIGHT I WAS AT THE GAME. 

Ohmygoodness.  You know when something is so amazing that you can't believe it is real? 

It was like that.

When I first started following the team, I lived more than 16,000kms away.  Last night, there was the team, directly below me.   And they were good. 

I think this is the best team since I began following although, I should note that one has to reserve large amounts of pessimism and display almost no hope, for fear of jinxing a good run but the team this year ... it's good.  Really good.

So, yesterday's sublime was finally attending a game at the superb Stadio Luigi Ferraris.

A huge grazie mille to those who made it happen. 

Gate-Climbing ...

It began harmlessly enough ... gate-climbing as soon as I worked out the 'how' of it. 

Another memory from long ago, quiet excitement ... a gap in the hedge that surrounded my childhood home.  They closed that up pretty quickly once they realised how I was slipping away.

Me and my trike, then my bike, traveled far and wide ... or as far as my lazy legs would carry me.  Then came the car and that seemed like the best freedom so far, until I flew over to Istanbul.  And zipped off to Rome.  Then ended up in Belgium, discovered France, Holland and every place else in Europe was easily reachable.

'Gate-climbing' on steroids.

Then Genova, Italy.  That place I keep on returning to ... since 2008.  That exquisitely ancient city surrounded by beautiful hills and the sea. 

These days I can wander where ever I want but I keep returning.

I'm flying this week. 

14 days in that city I love ...

Listening to The Sweet Remains these days, specially Ghost in the Orange Blossom Air.

About the long silence ...

I've been writing blog posts here ... then deleting blog posts, since finding out I have this iron deficiency.

I am consumed, these days, by the anemia.  So frustrated.  To the point where something about it slips into every post I try to write and I get so far through, see I've been whining, and delete.

Perhaps I just need to write, getting over the block and accepting it all as a timely life lesson.  Perhaps I shouldn't try to do everything all of the time.  Perhaps I should have taken vitamins, rested more, eaten more sensibly. 

I wish I had. 

I was raised in a particular way.  We like to ignore these impediments.  I broke my navicular bone, they missed the break on the x-ray, told me to walk on it ... and I did, till they found it.

A hospital once sent me home with a burning hot, bright red swollen knee.  No accident to report in New Zealand, no treatment.  See your GP. 

He was enraged on my behalf.  I had cellulitis.  There was me, so embarassed by being sent home from the hospital, that I walked on it till he could see me.  Six courses of antibiotics later ...

But anemia.  You actually can't push through it.  Or I can't.  Every time I over-do it, I pay.  It's like I can't cheat here.  It's 4 months until the doctor retests my iron levels.   Gert suggested this was because my level of iron deficiency was such that it would take that long.  He thinks I should be patient.

I think I have to be.

To add to the misery of this, coffee and red wine interfere with iron uptake.  I laughed as I wrote that.  Can you believe it???

And I know it's minor but minor usually means I can find a way round it.  I can't.  I'm slowinggggggg right down, trying to accommodate this difficult guest.

However today a lovely client-to-be filled me with inspiration.  I've been working here at the computer, plotting and planning, all day.  Taking facebook breaks when breaks were required.  Cleaning a little ... knowing fish and chips are booked in as that unhealthy but simple dinner tonight.

A good day after a series of epic days lately.  The Belgian Bloke crashed into bed with 3 intense days of fever, he spent something like 53 out of 64 hours sleeping, and was only just on his feet when he returned to work after a week. 

In fact so much goes on behind-the-scenes here that sometimes I'm tempted to share it all but it's always too whiny.  And so ... let's see if I've turned a corner.  The stairs to my office are noticeably easier ... small steps, Diane.  Small steps.

I've been searching out photographs from years past, for a 5-day challenge on Facebook, and found this one.  A  favourite of mine.


Scenes from My Photography Exhibition

It's taken me a week to even make an attempt to write about the weekend that was because it was overwhelming ... sublime, full of friends and laughter.  It was full.

The photography exhibition went right to the wire, in terms of preparedness.  I may have overcommitted myself a little but that's my style.  I should know this thing about me by now.  We had 6 house-guests over the 3 days but that was pure magic as well.  I know so many good people.

Teresa arrived first, over from London and we had much to talk about.  There I was cooking bacon and egg savouries for the exhibition opening, writing up descriptions for the photographs that Gert and Sander had helped me hang in the morning, drinking a little red wine from New Zealand, while Teresa and Miss 10 tied ribbons around little packets of postcards by Di.

Ren and Egil flew in from Norway.  Shannon and Erik drove over from Holland.  Kim also came in from England and before I knew it, it was all on.  Cars, directions, trams, even bicycles.  People arrived at the reception.

Hilde, from the Choice New Zealand shop here in Antwerp, was hosting the exhibition, and she made sure that the New Zealand wine flowed, as did tasty little NZ inspired snacks.   Friends and family just kept on arriving and my heart sang.

But perhaps you get a sense of the atmosphere, the good people, the beautiful evening via this selection of photographs taken by Kim and Teresa.  I'm so grateful.  I'd love to have documented it but I was too far into it all, as warned when I mentioned I might take my camera. 

So very into it.  Thank you to everyone who came out and supported me.

A Communicative Moment ...

In the modern world, parched of ritual and starved of mystery, we don't register these communicative moments as often as we might. The idea of a conversation with a landscape is foreign to minds schooled in the separation of humans and nature. Well-seen photographs, wrought in the attuned moment, can help us renew the connection. They invite us to the necessary work of addressing the land.

An edited extract reproduced with permission from Spirit of the South by Andris Apse.

The article is so very worth reading.  I miss the wilderness here in Belgium.  It is one of those lands that have been peopled forever - New Zealand's precise opposite perhaps.

I'm off to Genova soon.  It can't come too soon.  I miss the Ligurian sea, the hills that almost surround the city, the caruggi and the people too. 

And the espresso.  How could I forget the espresso.

But a photograph I found when I was back home in New Zealand.  I was photographing the hot pools in Rotorua and captured a Taniwha.

What else could it be ... Taniwha are supernatural creatures whose forms and characteristics vary according to different tribal traditions. Though supernatural, in the Māori world view they were seen as part of the natural environment. Taniwha have been described as fabulous monsters that live in deep water. Others refer to them as dragons – many taniwha looked like reptiles, had wings and ate people. They could also take the shape of animals such as sharks, whales, octopuses, or even logs. Some taniwha could change their shape, moving between different forms.

'A Review of the Opening of the Di Mackey Photo Exhibition'

My photography exhibition was reviewed by a lovely Belgian.  Dank u wel, Marie France Asselbergh.

The exhibition opened @Choice New Zealand, Vlaamsekaai 10, Antwerp on Fri, 31st of October, 2014 and will hang there for the month of November.  All are welcome.


While I love art and paintings especially, I am hardly knowledgeable about them. Photography? I’d be hard pushed to name one renown artist… Black Man Ray? I hope I’m not mixing that up with Ray Ban, which I’m fairly confident is sunglasses.

I cannot claim to know Di Mackey either. We met once, had a lovely talk and keep acquainted on Facebook since. But then I only follow people who keep my interest piqued; what would be the point otherwise?

So when I received an invitation for the exhibition I was raring to go (nothing to do with why I showed up three hours early though), very intrigued and hoping to catch a glimpse of the woman through her work. And did I? Read on. Online I’d put a smiley here!

Arriving at the cozy and congenial café cum gallery, I worked my way through the busy throng and briefly greeted an elated Di before turning my attention to her work. Elated, by the way, with the general show-up and not just me, hehe.

At this point, I must confess I was dreading as well as looking forward to seeing pictures of New Zealand, Di’s home turf and the place on earth that so got under my skin. I was spared in the sense that there were only two, at first sight rather generic landscapes. But judging by the next two paragraphs, they had rather more to tell.

One of a Coromandel beach, a place I visited but only inland. It is a more generic but truthful view of the rural seaside there: sheer desolation that I doubt can be fathomed by the average Belgian often only familiar with overcrowded European beaches marred by skyscrapers. Here, the inevitable fishing boat is a realistic reference to the innumerable ones bobbing along the endless NZ coast line, symbol of fine weather, leisure and companionship. This carries through in the pair on the sands, a dad sharing some quality time with his son, carrying on the tradition too.

The second one, a view of a gate and barn on South Island. I am immediately drawn to the lush, moist greenery I so associate with NZ. The focus is on the wooden, lichen covered gate up front, rather than the barn further away, thus swallowed up in the surrounding landscape. It reminds me of the sheep farms, the corrugated iron roofs so endemic to the landscape. The kind of picture I would gladly gaze upon during a whole month, if it was on my calendar.

I must perhaps add the Taniwha picture to this list. The rich Maori mythology is not as ungraspable as the Aboriginal one, I find. This oily, elusive reflection I can relate to the Norse beliefs. Likewise, animals or wood can be inhabited by spirits there. Yet I would never mistake this for a Scandinavian image, due to the torsion, the curliness found in Maori imagery. I wonder, what it takes to actually detect such a photo opportunity and in which circumstances this occurred. An extremely imaginative and hyperaware eye, I suppose.

I see a second group, photos taken in Antwerp. The Carina at the old port’s quayside. The sequence of secondary ships gives depth to this view, the red paint a hint of warmth rather than cold in this industrial landscape.

Judging by the boy’s cap the photo of the huge mural with the two bikes fits the bill, but I do not recognize the location. It must be difficult to keep a sense of perspective and proportion when tackling such a view, but the photographer seemingly remained unfazed and achieved it effortlessly.

An instant favourite: the upside down reflection of the Antwerp Cathedral, symbol of what makes a Sinjoor’s* heart beat. For the first but not the last time, I find myself doubting that this is a photo; the image looks like a painting, Gaudi-esque in composition with hints of the palette and watery reflections of Canaletto. It is iconic, transcendent in its appeal.

I have similar associations with the Bernini Angel. Including the original framing and its colours, it instantly calls the works of Magritte to mind. To continue the theme, I’ll say this is the first of the Italian group.

Which brings me to the anchovies. I require further proof, if I am to believe this is a picture and not a painting. Perhaps I should further elaborate, that this a favourable comment in the extreme.

The portraits are very deserving too. The thought comes to mind, Di might be ill at ease herself to take pictures of unwilling subjects or people who simply do not feel comfortable enough in front of a lens.

Atypically, the girls in one of the portraits seem devoid of teenage angst and the image of wholesomeness. Who would not want his or her loved ones portrayed like this to be displayed and enjoyed at home?

Beautifully done, the owl and the loom. I like and much prefer colour photography. Black and white is often considered superior, arty and thus somehow more deserving. I like it in some high quality portraits but not per sé. A landscape is seldom served well by a monochrome approach, in my opinion. This series of images subscribe to my point of view, I find.

As a whole, Di Mackey’s work exudes warmth. In the colours, the people portrayed and more unusual even in the presence of water. More often it will add coolness or even a chill, but not here.

I also sense acuity. A photographer must have technique but an artist adds his or her own intrinsic qualities. An eye for composition, a uniqueness, drive. Boxes ticked, for this laywoman.

*Sinjoor: a ‘true Antverpian’, if you are not already familiar with the term.

The cathedral shot mentioned above.