Aoraki/Mount Cook

A Walk In The Snow

Buy & Order Print

Some people are blessed when it comes to clothes shopping. They have an innate ability to trust their inner voice and listen to intuitive hints when shopping. Somehow, without trying, they understand both fashion and style. Unfortunately, I possess neither of these. I have a long history of poor choices that prove my hunches and gut feelings should not be listened to. I am not allowed to shop by myself. It’s not that I can’t, it’s just that my fashion judgement can’t be trusted. 

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Creative Solitude At Second Beach.

Stop Screaming … I’m Scared Too

Buy & Order Print

Recently, I found myself traversing a Dunedin street when I came across a sight that both frightened and scared me. While I resisted the urge to scream, I had to admit that I was a little bit scared. As it is, I’m not the only one to feel a tiny bit scared by what can only be described as an invasion. 

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No Chicken Lines

Even silence has a voice

Twice a year, there are times when photography and writing have to take a back seat. One is late June, early July and the other is early December. It’s no coincidence that these times are when school reports have to be written and assessment data analyzed. Unfortunately, these tasks have been occupying my time and mental capacity of late. However, last week I managed to put these tasks to bed and turned my attention back to my newly created ‘Jacinda’s Law’ and exploring Dunedin.

Jacinda’s law states; where possible, we are to get out and see our own backyard. With this in mind, I recently found myself walking up a misty and muddy track on one of Dunedin’s surrounding hills. The beautiful thing about Dunedin is that it’s relatively easy to escape onto a bush track or path. From the city center, you can be on a bush track in 10 minutes if you wish.

Engulfed in mist, the track I was now on twisted and stretched up into the forest. Initially looking like a vehicle access track, it quickly narrowed. Continuing, gently falling rain collected in the autumn leaves which had created a blanket on the narrow bridge. Wet and muddy, with rain running into a stream, the track continued until deep grooves started crisscrossing the trail before me.

Suspecting the trail …..

Suspecting the trail I was on was a mountain bike track, I now feared that I might get struck down at any moment without having the faintest idea of what hit me. Proceeding, but with a greater awareness of my surroundings, I continued on through the mist. I passed exit signs that read ‘No Entry, Rockin Roller Exit’ and ‘No Entry, Three Little Pigs Exit’. As I walked, it became clear that on this day, I had the area to myself. Feeling confident, and no longer worried about being bowled over by an adrenaline filled speed rocket, I continued. My concerns of having to arrive home with tyre makes across my back abated further when a sign appeared that read ‘No Chicken Lines, Don’t Ride Wet.’ Relieved, I spent the next hour exploring the surrounding tracks, jumps and paths that wound their way through the forest. 

Feeling wet, I made my way back to the car as the mist lifted and the rain got heavier. Once again reaching the small bridge, I couldn’t help but get distracted by a casually ambling stream. It appeared from the thick bush, ran under the bridge and continued on down the hillside. I stood listening to the sound of the stream bubbling over rocks and branches. For a moment I forgot about the Dunedin traffic noise. That’s the beauty of nature, even silence has a voice.

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Because Of William McLean

The Long and Winding Road

When Wellingtonian William McLean imported the first two cars into New Zealand in 1898 he can’t of been aware of the chaotic madness he was about to unleash on the country. 

Just what the 53 year old Scotsman and former politician was doing in Wellington in the first place is an interesting tale. Born in Grantown (a district of North Edinburgh), Scotland and the son of a shoemaker, William was first adopted by a parish priest before he moved to Rochdale in England to work as a cotton spinner at the age of 13. When the American Civil War caused a cotton famine, at the age of 18, William decided to head for New Zealand and the Otago Gold Rush. 

Unlike many others who ventured into the Otago gold fields with the hopes of finding a fortune, William it seems, had some success. After making enough money to open a small shop, when the West Coast Gold Rush in Hokitika sprung up, William packed up and headed for the coast. The West Coast must have suited him because during his time there he not only prospected for gold, he was a schoolmaster, an auctioneer and a mining and commission agent. At this point, in April 1877, William married Mary Elizabeth Crumpton where they continued to live happily on the coast until they moved to Wellington in 1884. Once again, William held several positions of employment which included an auctioneer, secretary for the Wellington Loan Company before becoming secretary to the Empire Loan and Discount Company and standing for parliament. 

After coming last in the 1881 Inangahua election, he was also unsuccessful in the 1887 Thorndon election and the 1890 Wellington election before successfully winning the 1892 City of Wellington by-election. William’s time in office lasted until he lost his seat in the general election of 1893. What all this means is that William McLean’s contribution to life in New Zealand wasn’t as a great businessman, he wasn’t known for heroic deeds on the gold fields and he clearly wasn’t a politician with a long and lasting career. Yet, his contribution to New Zealand’s identity is long reaching and forever lasting. William McLean’s gift to New Zealand, was the 1898 McLean Motor-car act. 

The act of 1898 which was passed in government legalised the operation of motor vehicles and set out the rules under which McLean’s two Benz cars imported from Pairs could operate. Among the rules and regulations that William McLean (and other motorists in years to come) had to follow was that they must be lit after dark and did not go faster than 12 miles ( 20 kilometers) per hour.’ Just think, if we could have somehow brought William McLean forward in time with one of his Parisian Benz cars to the year 2020, even he would have had to slow down on George Street in Dunedin to make the recently enforced 10 kilometers an hour speed limit. Although he would have found the assortment of blue and red dots covering the street quite bewildering. 

And so it was that in 1898, thanks to William McLean, New Zealand’s love affair with cars was born.


A Tourist In New Zealand

This is part three of three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road – Prologue’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts.  Last week I published part two: This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. Today is part three: A Tourist in NZ.

III

A few days later I found myself discussing all things Covid 19. The conversation traversed the topics of hand sanitation, hygiene standards, social distancing, contact tracing and how wonderful life in Aotearoa was under Alert 2. The hysteria of being able to line up for hours in our vehicle to get McDonalds and KFC had died down and it was generally accepted that while we were all sick of our own cooking, Alert Level 2 was far better than Level’s 3 and 4. After all, we now had takeaway shops back, we could stock-up on alcohol, extend our bubbles, use QR codes and send kids back to school. With the number of new Covid 19 cases dropping by the day and local travel opening up, it seemed New Zealand was the place to be. I must admit, I was more than ready to spend a few hours wandering along a beach, swimming in the ocean or roaming through the wilderness. There were towns, forests, mountains, lakes and beaches to see and I was just a little bit excited. 

Later that same day, sometime after 6pm in the evening, I found myself listing potential ideas for upcoming blog posts while the evening news droned on in the background. I try if at all possible to avoid the 6pm news on TV. I find it repetitive, onerous and completely exhausting to sit through. Despite my misgivings about the nightly bulletin, I watched as they cut to New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. In an effort to stimulate the local economy she was telling everyone to take a local holiday. She had received a letter from a lady called Judith who was looking forward to getting a haircut and seeing Aotearoa once out of lockdown.

“my message to everyone is to go and get that haircut and see your own backyard” she said. 

I assumed she meant this figuratively and not literally. Following the Covid 19 lockdown I’d seen quite enough of my own backyard over the last few months and I didn’t have any desire to stay put if I could help it. The possibilities started to spark in my mind. I could improve my knowledge of my own country’s identity by taking a look at it through fresh eyes. My mind whirled, I could write and photoblog about my own backyard. After all, the Prime Minister was telling me to do so and it didn’t seem right to argue with her. I would call it, Jacinda’s Law.  

For the briefest of periods I carefully considered what this would mean. Clearly I couldn’t just take off on an endless grand adventure, that would be ludicrous and totally impracticable. For one thing my job prevented this. But, I could use Jacinda’s Law as a sort of guide when time allowed. Where possible I would headout into my own backyard and take stock of this great country called Aotearoa, reconnecting with its identity. Are we still a nation obsessed with Fresh Up, Fush & Chups, Buzzy Bees, The Pavlova, Paua Shells, The Edmonds Cookbook, L & P, The All Blacks, Gumboots, Jandels, Hokey Pokey Ice Cream with a No 8 Wire mentality? Are these items redolent of New Zealand life or just of an urban myth sold off to tourists who drive on the wrong side of the road and decorate bushes with loo paper.

There were of course some obvious obstacles that would make this more challenging than it first appeared. In the South Island for example, The Southern Alps would clearly limit my travel options. It isn’t possible to continuously zigzag across the country at will as it is in Britain. There are only four points where you can cross the Alps via road and often they are closed in winter. To drive from Dunedin on the East Coast to Hokitkia on the West Coast is a distance of 548 kilometers with a driving time of nearly 7 hours. An alternative option is to travel through Haast. This is somewhat closer at a distance of only 400 kilometres and 5 hours driving time. Another potential obstacle is the small matter of Aotearoa being split into three main islands. The North and South Islands and Stewart Island. These geographical challenges meant I would have to keep my travels local, stopping at all the small incidental places around Dunedin that I usually drive past without giving a second thought too. Then, I would venture further afield out into the vast beyond of Aeoteroa during school holidays, long weekends and when time permitted and regularly blog about my travels.

The Prime Minister had clearly given me a sign and who am I to argue with someone who has successfully led a country through a mass shooting, a volcanic eruption and a global pandemic all in 12 months. 

I particularly liked the idea of rediscovering all the nooks and crannies of Dunedin and Otago that I had forgotten about. I also liked the thought of being able to answer people when they asked me why I was doing this. I would look them in the eye and then adjust my gaze over their shoulder to the horizon, tilt my head back slightly and say with a look of thoughtful confusion and a touch of daring, ‘because Jacinda told me too’.

There was also a long weekend coming up, Queens Birthday, and a chance to rebook a scheduled autumn trip to Arrowtown. The timing seemed almost perfect.

But before that late autumn adventure, I had an ipod to re-find, a Spotify playlist to adjust, hundreds of kilometres ahead of me in my weekly commute and a chance visit to the small nook of Evansdale Glen.

Baldwin Street, North Dunedin, Dunedin.

Continue reading A Tourist In New Zealand

This Calls For A Spotify Playlist

This is part two of three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts.  Last week I published part one: Daisies, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones. Today is  part two; This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. Next week part three: A Tourist in NZ.

II

The Long and Winding Road: This Calls For A Spotify Playlist. There really are only two ways I listen to music these days. On my ipod and via Spotify on my phone or computer. I don’t count listening to music on the radio as this is something I’m forced into now that Radiosport is no longer on the air.

On the morning drive to work, Radiosport was my go to channel. Now I’m forced to choose between bird calls on the National Programme, Mike Hosking complaining about the Prime Minister and the Labour Party on Newstalk ZB or music that I don’t enjoy or understand. While I’m sure I could easily find a radio station that I like, what it boils down to is that on my travels, I miss my radio station, Radiosport.

Radiosport was the most glorious of stations. Sports coverage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It was my default station no matter where I was. Be it at home or in the car, radiosport would play until I decided which podcast or playlist I’d entertain myself with. Unfortunately, it seems that men aged between 30 to 60 talking about rugby all day didn’t pay the bills and after 25 years of broadcasting it was taken off the air. I must admit, I am still working through the seven stages of grief with this loss of my longtime companion and the drives to and from work and the travels around Aotearoa just aren’t the same. I didn’t think I’d miss the continual analysis of ‘the problem with the Blues’, how ‘the Warriors are still a mathematical chance to make the playoffs’ or how the All Blacks are the best team in the world despite losses to Australia, South Africa, Ireland and god forbid – England, as much as I do.

A great source of comfort in working through the stages of grief (currently I’m sitting between stages five and six, anger and depression) has been my iPod and Spotify. As simple as my iPod is, Spotify seems wonderfully technical. I can load it on my computer and phone through a simple app and then stream it via bluetooth to all sorts of places. In one touch I can leap between music genres that have no business following each other and happily create playlists that make sense to me and me alone. My current rotation ranges from Blind Willie McTell, Buddy Holly, Lead Belly and BB King to The Doors, Bob Dylan, Nirvana and The Offspring.

A short time back I once invested time exploring all the playlist selections that were available to me. Curiosity got the better of me and I just had to find out what was included in a ‘Mood’ playlist. This is a decision that I instantly regretted. Not learning from my mistake, I then ventured into playlists called Even Flow, We Be Vibin, Confidence Boost and Front Left. After a few minutes of scrolling and scanning through titles and artists I didn’t know, including a playlist called ‘You Do You’ I decided that this wouldn’t enhance my mood when navigating icy New Zealand roads at 7am on a chilly winter morning. In fact, they’d probably have the opposite effect. Returning to the search bar and having plenty of time due to being in a Covid 19 alert level 4 lockdown, I decided to alter my search to a more local flavour. I wanted to know what was popular in New Zealand on Spotify in 2019 and what local, Kiwi artists I could find for a New Zealand music month playlist.

With the goal of creating a playlist for future roadtrips, I went in search of New Zealand music and trends. Looking at the statistics from 2019, I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that these were local artists that I had actually heard of. Out of the top four, I recognised two of them. That’s 50%, a pass mark in the old fifth form New Zealand school certificate test. A whole 19% more than I achieved in Science back in 1992.

My hopes of being a New Zealand music guru were raised even further when I discovered that at first glance, out of New Zealand’s most streamed local tracks in 2019, I recognised five out of the six bands. That’s an incredible 83%. As quickly as my hopes were raised, they were just as soon dashed when I concluded that having heard the name of the band, doesn’t mean you know anything about them. Or, being able to name the address of a student flat in Castle Street, Dunedin doesn’t automatically mean you know the band’ songs. I read the list which contained titles called Vibes, The Greatest, Don’t Forget Your Roots and Don’t Give It Up. I quickly realised that I knew none of these.

My fall from grace of being a New Zealand music guru was only added too when I discovered that New Zealand’s most streamed international artists consisted of Khalid, Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande. I desperately searched my mind for some type of knowledge of these rock megastars but all I could recall was that Ed Sheeran played three concerts in Dunedin last year, and there’s a painting of him on a wall in the central city.

My initial excitement of having a great, in depth knowledge of the New Zealand music scene had quickly plummeted and showed no sign of abating with the more I found out. I now had to face the sobering reality I knew more about Science in the fifth form, than I did about New Zealand music in my 40’s. A fact I’m ashamed to admit it is probably true. My brief flirtation with modern Kiwi music had resulted in abject failure. I began to wonder what else I didn’t understand or know about this great country called Aotearoa.

I made a mental note that I needed to improve my knowledge of my own country’s identity. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but it would soon come to be a very prophetic thought.

Next week, Part 3: A Tourist In NZ.

Otago Harbour from Mount Cargill

Continue reading This Calls For A Spotify Playlist

Daises, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones

This is part one of a three. The full text which I’m calling ‘The Long and Winding Road’ is too long to publish in a single post, so it has been broken into three parts. Today, part one: Daisies, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones. Next week part two: This calls for a Spotify playlist.

I

The Long and Winding Road: Daisies, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones. One thing that I’ve noticed recently, is that I don’t have as firm an understanding of life around me as I thought. I had this realisation one day as I flicked through the numerous TV channels on offer while I lay in bed. Having recently had my appendix removed after a late night divorce between myself and the offending organ, I had plenty of time to make my way through the television programming choices on offer. Most mornings, I would flick through the channels before giving up and loading a Netflix series to binge. However, one particular morning, instead of quickly glancing over the infomercials as I always did, I found myself pausing with intrigue. Someone had finally invented an item that would allow me to slice, dice, chop, peel and even grate with total protection and precision. It was made of flexible polyethylene and copper fibre yarn and had standard level 5 resistance. This was a glove! But, no ordinary glove, this was a Sharp Shield Glove. 

‘I do cut myself an awful lot while cooking’ I remarked, as another equally inventive item was suddenly displayed in front of me. The next short while was spent deciding whether or not to purchase all sorts of gadgets and devices that would improve my life most wonderfully. They had carefully been designed to make me feel happier and healthier, improve my looks, get me into shape and give me ‘rock hard abs’ while at the same time being a great money saving deal! The one thing that bothered me, was if I’d have time to be one of the first 18,000 callers to qualify for the ‘buy 1 get 1 free promotion’. Further to this problem, was where to store all these life changing items and what my wife would say if she arrived home to find the house filled with iwalks, Bambillo Mattresses, Pain Erazors, Renovator 4 Piece Better Grips, pieces of Total Gym Equipment, A Finishing Touch Flawless Leg thing and a pair of Sharp Shield Gloves that would allow me to grab the sharpest knife around the blade without restricting my movement or comfort. After some cognitive reasoning, I decided that it was best to pass on these once in a lifetime offers and continued my flick through the channels.   

I skimmed past some other mindless shows when suddenly I found something completely unrecognisable blaring out at me. After several seconds of desperately trying to get the volume under control, I concluded that this was in actuality, the music channel. On screen was a naked and pregnant Katy Perry standing in a rock pool by a small waterfall claiming people ‘tell her that she’s crazy, but she’ll never let them change her, till they cover her in daisies!’ Next up was Harry-someone singing about Watermelon on a beach. I must confess that in all honesty I genuinely didn’t know who 90% of the people were. As the video’s flipped through, I did begin to see a pattern emerging. Generally the video’s started with a skimpily clad young lady with a tattoo of a brightly colored and petite heart, a crescent moon or something spelt wrong in fancy italic writing appearing on screen who would sing about how ‘it’s a girl thing’ and how she doesn’t ‘need no man’, that her life had now improved ‘without him’ and she was going to prove it to ‘her girlfriends’. She would do this by dressing in next to nothing, showing off her big boobs, botox lips and erotically dancing with a dozen equally naked men. All the directors had clearly been given the outline of ‘semi-pornographic’ which accompanied a set of unintelligible lyrics. Wondering if I had missed the musical genius of these tunes, I decided all in all this was far too confusing for me and that I much preferred music I could listen to without watching. With that, I vowed to find my ipod and headed out for a short walk in the fresh air as quickly possible.

The next short while was spent hunting for the elusive item which was located in a miscellaneous collection of odds and ends in a basket that sits on our kitchen bench. This led me to another realisation. I have an innate ability to misplace objects, no matter how carefully I place them down. 

Some years back I once lost a large and expensive tripod at a local beach. I had spent a lovely Sunday afternoon having a lengthy walk along the stretch of coast that runs from Blackhead mining quarry to the settlement of Waldronville and back again. The beach itself is 13 kilometres Southeast of Dunedin city centre and is a popular spot for walking, running and surfing, depending on the weather conditions. If you happen to be there when an Antarctic polar blast hits, it can be a miserable place but in the warm afternoon sun, with the tide out, such as it was on this day, it’s a beautiful spot to be. Having finished my stroll and placing my tripod down (which I was carrying) while unloading my gear, I went around to the back of my car, placed my camera gear and gumboots in the boot, changed back into shoes, got into the car and headed home listening to the latest rugby analysis on radiosport. How it’s possible to forget owning a tripod within five to seven steps I am not sure. This is a feat I managed to successfully accomplish as it wasn’t until I was halfway home that it dawned on me that I was returning with less equipment than when I departed. Arriving back in the car park, I discovered that not only was my tripod gone, so too were the three other cars that had gathered there. In their place they had kindly left a semi empty tub of KFC scattered on the ground which the local seagull colony were gladly enjoying, accompanied with a few bottles that once contained Woodstock Bourbon and Cola. Tripodless and with a hankering for KFC, I departed once again for home. To this day, my tripod is always the first thing I put in my car! 

Having already spent enough of the morning listening to things I didn’t understand, I clutched my ipod and I began the task of untangling my headphones while attempting to locate my shoes.  Once unraveled and with my shoes located and tied, I happily headed out the front door for the first time that morning listening to something I both understood and enjoyed (The Rolling Stones). I walked with a renewed spirit of hope and optimism that I would never misplace anything ever again.


Next week part two:

II

The Long and Winding Road: This Calls for a Spotify Playlist.

A Place With No NameA Place With No Name
From the series: A Place With No Name (2018)

Continue reading Daises, Watermelon and The Rolling Stones

By The Arrow River

The Echoing Path

I’m not sure Central Otago and the Lakes District have a bad season, if you like extremes that is. The summers are deliciously hot and the winters intensely cold making them completely unique. Unfortunately, they are heavily reliant on international tourists and with those dollars not coming in at the moment it means areas like Queenstown, Arrowtown and Lake Teakpo are hoping that Kiwi’s take a local holiday.

There are so many great reasons to visit Arrowtown and at the moment it’s full of colour, giving it yet another distinctive season. If you get a chance to explore the Chinese Village by the Arrow River then the autumn leaves, trees and colours will astound you with deep oranges, fiery reds and warm yellows. I had a trip all planned before the whole Covid 19 thing hit. The idea was to spend a few days exploring the colours of autumn in and around Arrowtown. Instead we all ended up in lockdown at home. Maybe it’s one local holiday that could be rescheduled.


Autumn Colour, Arrowtown

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Silent Observations

Exhibition 2015

Following on from my 2011 exhibition A Rugged Paradise, I was invited to hang a two months exhibition at Dunedin Airport as part of their ‘Artist in the Terminal’ programme in early 2015. The initial planning for this exhibition began in late 2012 with shooting taking place in locations around Otago during 2013 and 2014. After the two month run at the airport ended in March, 2015, the art works went on to be displayed in numerous locations around Dunedin before finding permanent homes across Otago. What follows is a rerelease of my 2015 exhibition, Silent Observations.

Exhibition Introduction:
I was 12 when I first started using my parent’s camera on family outings. I’ll never forget going to a four wheel drive rally and finding just the right spot to photograph the vehicles as they made their way through all sorts of mud puddles and then waiting excitedly for the local pharmacy to have the prints ready. Since then it’s been a constant search, looking for moments of beauty or action to capture for people to view and enjoy.  I’ll also never forget going on summer holidays to all corners of the Otago region, and some of the sights still last in the back of my mind – recalled as I revisit some locations all these years later.

The only time I’ve really put the camera down is when I embarked on my teaching career that has seen me teach primary school both here and in the United Kingdom. These days I try and balance the life of a primary school teacher with the life of a photographer

Once I was well into my teaching career a shift happened between photography growing into a passion and the desire and aspiration to be more creative. Hidden within the cracks and spaces that separate passion, desire and creativity, a transition started to happen – a transition from Photographer to Artist.

At the moment, I’m increasingly viewing the world through an arrangement of shape, colour, angle, perspective and light. For some reason, I’m drawn to the notion of annotating and transcribing the world around me, not as a passive bystander but as an active participant who alternates between participant and observer, exploring and experiencing new places, sights and sounds. I also find that the notion of telling a story in a single frame, making the viewer feel something and documenting through images and words is highly intriguing to me. Rather than chasing the perfect shot, I’m interested in journeys, voyages and stories.

Silent Observations

This collection of images is based on the notion of Silent Observations. These Silent Observations happen in slow brain time, where looking is more important than doing. It’s a story, a moment, a time, a place, a feeling, a state of mind and a sense that time can stand still. This is my own wee corner of the world, where I share the stories behind my images while trying to seeking out and capture the still, silent and timeless places in New Zealand’s South Island. In a way all these images are my observations and annotations, the things I’ve noticed or will try to explain by way of viewing, watching and looking. My notes aren’t taken with a pen, they’re taken with a camera as I quietly watch the world go by for a while.

My images are about the human experience; the curiosity and inquisitiveness to explore; to feel and to hear.  These are my stories, my Silent Observations of this life as I journey from place to place.

I hope you enjoy

John Caswell

There Grows The Human SpiritThere Grows The Human Spirit (2014).
White Island and Saint Clair Beach, St Clair – Dunedin.

Continue reading Silent Observations

The Day My Appendix Went Psycho

The Can’t Sleep Blues

My intention today was to bring you a lovely tale recounting a recent adventure along one of Dunedin’s wonderous walking trails, accompanied with some lovely photography that would leave you and your friends completely spellbound. However, on Saturday my appendix went psycho and completely stuffed everything up! The result of this early morning, psychotic rampage by one of my internal organs is that my appendix and I have officially divorced.

It all began early on Saturday morning when my appendix woke me up just after 1am and announced it wanted a separation. Initially, I thought the uncomfortableness was the result of a pulled stomach muscle or an extremely intense digestion issue that would pass with sleep. In the preceding hours, my appendix, determined to have its own way, transferred the pain from my stomach to the lower right region of my abdomen where it parked itself and announced its intention to deny me sleep until it’s wish for a divorce was granted. 

After some harsh words were exchanged in an all night argument between my appendix and I, it became clear in the ED department mid-morning that a divorce was the only option. With the full realisation that a 43 year union was coming to an end and this tube-shaped sac attached to and opening into the lower end of the large intestine was no longer going to be part of me, I wondered what it even did, if anything? Did it have a particular function or has it just been along for the ride all this time? 

Having been admitted onto a ward with three other patients, I lay back on my bed, in pain, nil by month, questions going unanswered, hoping it would be a quick separation without a lengthy custody battle. As the waiting hours passed, afternoon turned to evening, evening turned to night and it became clear that the final separation would happen first thing in the morning. I ate a little, I drank what water I could get my hands on, listened to the jingling of the handcuffs coming from the two policemen walking patients around the ward and started to drift off to sleep. 

What followed was the strangest night’s sleep I’m likely to ever have! My lower abdomen swollen and in pain, prevented me from getting any real sleep while the rhythmic ticking of the drip next to me didn’t help. Nor did the hospital noises of trolley’s, patients and lights, all which can be understood in the circumstances and ignored with a little pain relief! 

What couldn’t be ignored was the bloke in the bed next to me, attempting to break the Guiness World Record for the loudest snore! How it’s possible for the human body to make such a noise is quite beyond me. The next 6 to 8 hours were spent drifting in and out of a drug fueled sleep, trying to stay comfortable, while the ear plugs I had obtained from the nurse in a game of charades played at 11:00pm did little to block out the noise beside me. Imagine if you will, the sound of a rhinoceros in its death throes being attacked by a pride of lions while Darth Varder is having an asthma attack and you’re getting close to the sounds that my roommate was producing at a volume that was shaking the windows and rattling the walls. This chorus of noise only drew to a halt at around 3am when from somewhere up the hall, someone decided that they didn’t like the food they had eaten and scattered it all over the floor causing all sorts of machines to deep and the ward to temporarily spring to life.

Eventually morning came with the twinkling of lights and the nurse producing a pair of sexy whilte compression stockings for me, to go with the lovely white hospital gown.  Having completed the ‘Dunedin hospital look’ and feeling very confident that I was indeed ‘owning it’ as they say in the fashion world, the nurse greeted me with a pleasant and cheerful good morning, which I returned in the most polite, coherent response I could manage. She then continued on her duties and proceeded to the man next to me, again greeting him with a cheerful good morning and asking him how he slept, to which he responded with a very upbeat and enthusiastically  “great!” 

I won’t repeat what I muttered to myself but when he mentioned how annoying it was being woken at around 3am by the commotion up the hall I could have swung for him. I’m not a violent person and I’m not drawn to acts of violence. In fact there’s only been one occasion when I’ve wanted to leap out of bed and physically hurt someone with a breakfast tray and a plastic cup and this was it. But, as I didn’t want to spoil the sexy white compression stockings I was now wearing, I decided to remain calm, went to a place of zen and waited to be wheeled off to surgery. 

The rest of the events over the next 24 hours were a mix of clarity and vagueness. Separating fact from fiction. I quickly discovered injection points, operational scars, shaved body parts and movements that hurt. I discovered there was no pain where there was pain before and that my shoulder hurt. It took me a while longer to remember greeting the whole surgical team in the theater and being amazed by the amount of people that had gathered just for me. It took me even longer to recall being told to take five depth breathes and thinking that they should have photos on the ceiling for people to look at. I relatively quickly recalled talking to the hospital orderly about hamburgers as he wheeled me back to the ward however it took me another three days to remember his recommendation for a great burger, Ombrellos. 

Now, finding myself at home resting and recovering, I am extremely thankful for all the well wishes, lovely thoughts and messages. I’m also extremely thankful to all the nurses who cared for me and the job they do. At one point last year I recall that nurses were renegotiating their pay claim. I sincerely hope they got what they asked for. In my experience these wonderful people can’t get paid enough.

A Rugged Paradise

Exhibition 2011

Back in mid 2010, I set myself the challenge of putting together a solo photographic exhibition to show case my work. Having no experience in setting up shows whatsoever, I naively thought it would simply be a case of choosing a few images, buying some frames, finding a display space and inviting a few friends. The reality was very different. I quickly found myself conversing with professional art dealers in topics I had never thought of, thinking about art in a whole new way and the very being of who I am, challenged. What follows is a rerelease of my 2011 exhibition, A Rugged Paradise.

Welcome, I am pleased to present to you the inaugural solo photographic exhibition by John Caswell, released in October 2011. The exhibition features beautiful crafted landscape images from around the Dunedin are. The exhibition draws providence from ‘The Rugged Paradise’ that the early Scottish settlers found when they landed in Dunedin (New Edinburgh) in 1841. 

Traveling slightly off the beaten track, over 26 contemporary photographs are on display, ranging from the Otago Peninsula and travelling down the east coast to St Clair and beyond, as well as venturing inland over the Taieri Plans and through the Dunedin Bush. 

This exposition celebrates the rocky, harsh, yet beautiful place that is Dunedin.

Wooden Poles On St Clair BeachWooden Poles On St Clair Beach (St Clair Beach, 2010).

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Butlers & Fitzgeralds

To Chance Your Arm

I missed the point in history when gift shops started popping up in Churches, but then I also missed the point when all politicians, heads of state and Kings and Queens were honest loyal citizens who were respected and looked up to for their integrity and principles. The pages of history are littered with nobles and powerful families who act in ways that seem to range from just a little peculiar to acts of complete lunasee. 

In the 15th Century, two powerful Irish families that competed for positions of power were the Butlers and the Fitzgeralds. The Butlers of Ormonde and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare didn’t like each other very much. Saying that these two Irish clan’s found each other repugnant might even be a little kind. The fact is that these two families despised each other. 

At the time of 1492, parts of Ireland were ruled by the King of England (The King of England was also the Lordship of Ireland) who was Henry VII. As Henry was a very busy person and couldn’t be in two places at once, he was represented locally in Ireland. At this time in Ireland, the King’s representative was called the Viceroy of Ireland. As the Viceroy was also a very busy person, he too had a deputy. This position was called the Lord Deputy. It was this high position of office that the powerful James Butler and Gerald Fitzgerald were bitterly arguing over. Unfortunately the appointment of Lord Deputy of Ireland in 1492 was not the honest, calm and well-mannered debate of modern day elections. The years of hostility, bickering and disagreement between the two families broke out into a violent conflict of outright warfare.

Outside the city walls of Dublin, the fighting escalated into a brutal battle which obviously started to go badly for the Butler’s as he and his followers took refuge at St Patrick’s Cathedral. Once at the Cathedral, the Butlers then bolted themselves inside the Chapter House. Angered by this, Fitzgerald followed them into the Cathedral, thumping on the door that separated the Cathedral from the Chapter House, demanding they come out. Afraid they would be slaughtered, the Butlers refused. 

Fortunately sanity took hold of the situation when Fitzgerald realised that here were two families, living in the same country, worshiping in the same church, trying to kill each other.  Needing to show his honest intent, Fitzgerald ordered a hole be cut in the middle of the door. When it was finished, an undefeated and defenceless Fitzgerald, at risk of having his arm chopped off, thrust it through the hole and extended his hand in peace. 

At once, Sir James Butler realised that the offer of peace was a serious one, took his hand, shook it and unlocked the door to the Chapter House of St Patrick’s. Restoring peace to the Butlers and Fitzgeralds families, giving us the phrase “to chance your arm” and the Cathedral a nice little gift shop 520 years later.

Now I’m not suggesting this is the way we should solve all our political disagreements or that politicians should risk having their arm chopped off however the idea has some merit. An action like this requires a test subject who would be willing to blindly stick their arm through a hole to a waiting angry mob for no other reason than to prove a point. I would like to suggest we try first with Donald J Trump.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin

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A Walk On The Beach

A Big Adventure In Familiar Surroundings

We’ve been told constantly that exercise is good for us and to walk in your local area. With this in mind and a clear sky above me, I set out for the beach. 

Whenever I go to the beach I can always be assured of one underlying fact. A fact and event so simple it hardly seems worth mentioning. Yet, each time this event happens, my annoyance with myself for letting it occur is only ever matched by my surprise that it has happened at all. No matter how careful I am, no matter how much pre-thought and planning I put in, it always eventuates. And, to make matters worse, the severity of the event will proceed anything else that has happened. I once became so fixated at a local beach trying to avoid this event that I almost stepped onto a fur seal. I can tell you that having a close encounter with an angry fur seal is not a pleasant experience and one that makes you check your underwear afterwards! This cruel and seemingly unavoidable event is of course, getting my shoe and sock wet. Not both, that I could handle. One. It’s only ever a single shoe and sock that gets completely submerged before requiring two days drying time. It’s my beach affliction. 

Knowing that I wanted to keep my feet dry for as long as possible, my planned route would be to take the local streets to the St Clair Esplanade, then venture back via St Clair, Middle and St Kilda Beaches. The grand total of this walk I calculated afterwards was just over 9 kilometres. With the prospect of spending most of the walk with a wet shoe and sock not too enticing, I elected for a return path along the beach, thus ensuring I would have at least half the distance with dry foot wear.  

I set off from the top of Tahuna Road and walked at a brisk pace down a hill that leads past many typical New Zealand quarter-acre sections that were filled with all the sights and sounds of Kiwi’s doing a bit of DIY on a long weekend. Things like water blasting, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, painting the fence, trimming trees. Possibly everything I should have been doing rather than being out walking. 

At this point, at the bottom of the hill, Tahuna Road changes to Victoria Road. I can’t be too sure this applies to all areas of New Zealand or even Dunedin for that matter, but the one aspect of my local area that I often lament over are the street names. Titles such as Tanui, Tahuna, Aotea and Tomahawk have an interesting appeal but the area is also surrounded by streets with names such as Royal Crescent, Queens Drive, King Edward Street and Prince Albert Road. All good names that reflect our colonial heritage but all fairly unimaginative. I often wish that town planners had put a bit more creativity into their street names, like in Sioux City, Iowa which has a street called ‘One Fun Place’ that leads directly to the Jolly Time Popcorn factory or ‘Chicken Dinner Road’ in Idaho. 

As the street started to flatten out, more pondering over local government decisions greeted me with the curious town planning of locating a bowls club, a golf course and an A & P Showgrounds encircling a waste water sewage treatment plant. Many of these decisions had of course been made at the turn of the 1900 century (or thereabouts) and weren’t made with modern day hindsight. Further to this curiosity is the fact that Tahuna Park (formally the A & P show grounds) has the distinction of being an international test rugby venue.

You wouldn’t give it a second glance heading past, but on the 27th August 1905, New Zealand hosted Australia there. The fact the match was played at all was a miracle. The test was originally scheduled to be played across town at Carisbrook but so heavy was the rain and atrocious the weather leading up to match day the test was about to be scrapped when a city wide hunt for a playable surface was found at Tahuna Park. Reportedly around 3000 people flocked to the ground to see New Zealand win their 3rd ever test match 14 to 7. It must surely be one of the unlikeliest international test rugby venues in history. There can’t be too many right beside a poo-plant either I would imagine.

Now continuing on and leaving the area of Tainui and St Kilda behind I headed for St Clair and the Esplanade. The one thing I can say is that Dunedinites are an amazingly friendly lot. As I walked through neighbourhoods decorated in bears, chocolate easter eggs and colouring competitions in the window, every person I met gave me a friendly wave and hello. It really is a pleasant feeling to be out walking on a sunny day being passed by people who are as friendly to you, as you are to them. Just as I received another friendly ‘good morning’ I crossed a roundabout that signals that end of Victoria Road, and turned left, through a traffic-less round about and headed for a few steps towards the social hub of the Esplanade of St Clair.

There are few sadder sights than beachfront bars and restaurants closed when they are drenched in warm sunlight on a long weekend. Having arrived at St Clair, it was hard not to notice the emptiness of the place.  Usually on a day like this establishments placed on the Esplanade such as Salt, Starfish, The Esplanade and The Spirit House would be full of customers from dusk to dawn. Today however, I slowly ambled past the shut signs, the Covid 19 enforced closure clearly having an effect on the local economy. Continuing on past signs the advertisements for Steinlager Pure Beer, Roaring Meg Pinot Noir, Shared Platters, Asahi Dry Beer, Kapiti Ice Cream and A Winter Wetsuit Sale. I shook off the sudden urge for a swim, a beer and a bite to eat and continued along the Esplanade.  

As biased as I am, I must confess that I think St Clair beach is a delightful place. At low tide you can walk from the Salt Water Pool and the rocks on the point all the way to Lawyers Head. A distance of some 3.5 kilometers of white, sandy beach. On this day, there was only a very gentle and light onshore breeze, the clear water reflecting the sun and footprints in the sand seemingly going on forever. It was what locals call a dunnerstuner. As I took in the smell of the salt air and the sound of a child asking for an ice cream while determinedly announcing they weren’t walking any further by sitting down, I viewed where my journey home would take me, along the beach. With the rolling rhythmic tone of the waves being drowned out by a child who was no longer sitting but being carried and now more sure than ever that they did indeed want an ice cream, I headed down to the beach. 

To get to the beach I needed to navigate down a short flight of stairs and step on the beach via a small set of rocks. Stopping at the bottom of the stairs, I carefully took stock of the situation, picked the easiest and safest path from the stairs, to the rock, to the beach and sprang forward. My first step went as planned, I landed on my right foot and quickly continued my momentum forward, pushing off again from the rock as soon as I had landed and stretched out my left foot, preparing for a safe beach landing. No! Instead my left foot went straight into an unseen puddle of water that the tide had left behind, engulfing my shoe, sock, ankle – the lot. I stood looking at the dripping mess that was now my left foot. Then up at the long stretch of beach ahead of me. I sighed and set off. The child’s screams for ice cream having been replaced with the squelching of my left foot. 

One of the fascinating aspects of Dunedin beaches is the increasing wildlife population that can be seen. A walk on the beach at any time can result in fur seals, penguins and all sorts of other bird life being spotted. Only a few weeks ago dolphins were spotted from this very beach and in 2016 a grouping of rare Shepherd’s Beaked Whales was also spotted just off the coast, causally drifting past. On this occasion I wasn’t so fortunate to spot any of the aforementioned species, I did spot something that is nevertheless as intriguing. A former rubbish dump being exposed from erosion. When the decision was made to create this landfill over a hundred twenty years ago it seems that everything washing into the sea can’t have been high on the agenda. 

Now, some 100 years later after the dump was capped and turned into playing fields known as Kettle Park, parts of it appear to be one good storm away from collapsing and crumbling onto the beach. In 2007, when parts of the landfill became exposed, tests found traces of arsenic, asbestos and other industrial chemicals in nearby sand dunes. An ongoing tribute to the genius idea of putting a landfill beside a beach, what could possibly go wrong! 

My beach walk eventually came to an end at Lawyers Head, my squelching foot now having collected what seemed like half the sand on the beach. It’s called Lawyers Head because the profile of this large land promontory is meant to look like a lawyer in traditional legal wig. I’m not sure where the person was standing when they came up with this idea, but it certainly isn’t anywhere close to a vantage point I’ve had. The last leg of my walk took me over the fairways of Chisholm Park and into the local cemetery. 

As home came into sight at the top of the hill, I passed timeworn headstones with names such as Reginald, Ferdinand, Gertrude, Linford, Ike, Desmond and Fanny on them. It was then that I noted that the noise of DIY jobs like water blasting, trimming hedges, mowing lawns, painting the fence and trimming trees had ended. I thought about my own list of jobs, most of which had been started but not finished. I then remembered the unwritten Kiwi male law that states I’m allowed to finish these jobs, when I get around to it. 

St Kilda, Middle and St Clair Beach from Lawyers Head.

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Keep 2 Metre’s Away From This Blog – It Need’s Safety Too!

The Socially Distant Shopper

It’s not often I’m allowed to go grocery shopping for our household these days, you see, I have history with Supermarkets. It’s not that I’ve been completely banned by my family from stepping foot on the premises, it’s just that it’s better for all concerned if I don’t go. To be clear, I am entrusted to pick-up small amounts of items that are essential to the evening’s meal, and beer. But nothing more beyond that. 

Kiwi chef Simon Gault often speaks about adding 5% magic to dishes to really elevate it and give it WOW factor. My banishment from the weekly shop started with this very premise, adding 5% magic. Originally, some years back during the regular weekly shop I added a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trolley to add that 5% magic to one of the weekly meals. I then repeated this the next time I went grocery shopping, once again adding a few extra, carefully chosen items to the trundler to elevate one of the nightly dishes. This process then continued for some time, with me adjusting the list accordingly as I went and occasionally coming home with more items that weren’t on the list than were. 

The second to last straw came one day when I arrived home and started unpacking the grocery bags out of the car.
“Where are the rest?” my wife said.
To which I responded “what do you mean? This is it”. 

The next short while was spent with myself having to explain how in fact it is humanly possible to spend such a large amount on so few items and still manage to forget essentials like toilet paper, bread, milk or 95% of the other items I went out to get.

The final straw in my banishment from the weekly shop came after my invention of the sport ‘grocery item tower-building’. After a lengthy absence from the shop floor, I was once again entrusted with the food gathering task. Off I went, list in hand, my wife accompanying me and acting as chaperone to ensure I brought something that was edible for all and stuck somewhat closely to a budget. Having successfully negotiated all the aisles, I added a few last minute items (that would definitely add 5% magic) before proceeding to the checkout. Upon arrival at the checkout, I then proceeded to build a tower with our grocery items on the conveyor belt. The object here being to build the highest possible tower without it falling over when the conveyor belt is moved.  My tower, having reached ten items high, unfortunately proceeded to crash to the ground and all over the counter when forward movement was applied. The imploding tower resulted in two things. Firstly, my grocery item tower-building personal best of nine items still stood, and my banishment from the weekly grocery shop. 

Here, many years later on a windy Saturday morning, my first trip anywhere in a week, I found myself standing in line outside Countdown. List in hand, once again being entrusted with the weekly shop. I can thank PM Jacinda Ardern for this turn of events. “Shop normally,” she said.” I was also told that it would do my mental health the world of good to venture out. So off I was sent with the mission of doing the weekly shop. 

The line to gain access to Countdown stretched all the way through the carpark and almost out to the footpath. Maybe it was it an early morning for us all, maybe it was the cold wind, maybe there was a sign saying ‘no talking or smiling while in line’ that I had missed or maybe everyone else wasn’t as excited as me. Upon joining the end of the queue, I copied what was clearly the expected protocol and stood in silence. The hushed stillness was deafening. Once and a while we’d all take two steps forward, inching closer to the main door yet keeping a good 2 metre gap. The somber and bleak line continued to inch forward at regular 2 metre intervals with the occasional break in silence coming from the sound of a car heading past or someone questioning if we were allowed to bring our own bags, if we had to wear face masks or if they were handling cash? For the greatest time, I couldn’t put my finger on what the mournful feeling reminded me of when the answer suddenly appeared in the wind. It was like being back at school. Everyone lined up waiting to be told off by the principal. I found myself imagining an irate Cabinet Minister stomping up and down the line, telling everyone off for not shopping properly and stating that this is what it’s going to be like until we prove we could shop properly. Again we stepped forward, one person entering as one person exited, eagerly waiting our turn, list tightly gripped. 

The next 40 minutes was one of the most unique shopping experiences I will encounter. Everyone walked around in silence, some with gloves and mask, some taking their time soaking up every ounce of time allowed out, others racing around the aisles like Lewis Hamilton through the chicanes at Monte Carlo. My second stop, after the beer, was the fruit and vegetable section. It seems that the 2 metre rule doesn’t apply when you’re choosing your capsicums, lettuce, cauliflower or beans! My first listed item was cauliflower. Having scanned the surrounding area and establishing a healthy 2 metre gap between myself and one other person, I went for it. With only four left I was quite delighted to be able to add one to my trolley when suddenly a hand appeared. Out of nowhere my trolley collected a heavy bump, shifting me sideways a bit and a wrinkled old hand, covered in rings and bracelets suddenly grabbed two of the four and disappeared. Before I could gather my senses, another one disappeared, from my left hand side this time. I quickly grabbed the single remaining cauliflower and retreated. What I proceeded to watch was people applying the ‘dive in out out quickly’ method to grab their chilled vegetables. No patience, no 2 metre gap, similar to a six kid lolly scramble that had got slightly out of control.

Fortunately, the rest of the shop was calmer. Casually being able to amble through the isles adjusting the list accordingly as I went. The empty shelves meaning my family didn’t have to worry about extra items being added for that 5% magic. The biscuit aisle seemed to be another hotspot where large groups of people had obviously decided to risk it and break the 2 metre rule. Fortunately my list didn’t have them on it and on I went to the baking aisle where a barren shelf greeted me, only an empty space left where the High Grade Flour used to be. With that being the only item on my list not to be crossed off, I paid and headed out the door. 
Feeling very impressed with my ability to stick to a list and stick to a budget without adding extra items, my mind turned towards packing. I was suddenly drawn to a halt by the lady in front. In one motion she had instantly frozen and clicked her fingers.
“Oh shoot” she said, the jingling sound of her bracelets catching my ear and eye as her wrinkled old hand covered in rings clicked her fingers.
“I forgot high grade flour” she added to no-one in particular. I smiled to myself, recognising her from the Cauliflower invasion. I paused, thought for a second, looked at my Cauliflower then watched her join the end of the queue via a detour to her car. It seems being kind and patient has its rewards I thought, my shopping trip having been made a little better.

Song of the Autumn LightQueens Drive, The Town Belt, Dunedin (2013).

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Is It Irresponsible Chasing Rainbows?

Visions, Illusions & Me.

Recently I came across something interesting in Queenstown which has occupied my thoughts off and on since. It was a faint rainbow stretching out across Lake Wakatipu. 

It isn’t the location of the rainbow itself that is of interest to me, nor the question of how rainbows are created, what drew my attention was pondering the curve of a rainbow. Or to be more precise, do they always have the same angle? I keep imagining Kermit sitting on a schist stone dipping his toes in the water of Lake Wakatipu, bango in hand, singing rainbow connection. As a rule of thumb, I would like to suggest that if like me, Kermit the frog springs to mind when you think about the science behind rainbows, you’re probably not an expert on them. 

In this moment the contemplating thoughts in my mind went in two directions. The first was what other naturally occurring scientific concepts do I not understand. The second direction was understanding the mathematics behind rainbows. I decided that trying to understand the concepts of nuclear fusion, string theory, starling murmurations and Auckland traffic was far beyond my mental capacity at this point, so I went with exploring the latter. Plus, since I now had Kermit loaded into my Spotify playlist I felt I was committed. 

My curiosity aroused, I felt there was only one place that would provide me with the facts I needed, the one place that keeps me reliably informed and up to date with the latest world developments. Google.

I feel I should point out at this juncture that I’ve become suspicious about Google and our relationship. It has soured somewhat. The long held trust and mutual respect we once held I fear has been lost. What brought our relationship to this point? Well, I suspect that Google has been lying to me. I must confess that this realisation hurts. My suspicions were aroused when a recent trip to Ireland resulted in zero Leprechaun sightings. 

As it turns out I’m not the first person to become fascinated by a rainbow outside the window, in fact I’m in very good company. Greek philosopher Aristotle devoted serious attention to the study of rainbows as did Roman theorist Lucius Annaeus Seneca (who probably peeked at Aristotle’s study notes). This cycle of building off others’ study notes before adding their own thoughts then continued for some time, right through to Rene Descartes who started playing with light passing through a sphere of water. Throughout this lineage of rainbows, one person who does seem to stand out in a very understated way is Roger Bacon. 

Not only does Roger Bacon have a fabulous last name that makes me hungry, he can also tell you how to make gunpowder! It transpires that Roger Bacon was the first European to describe in detail the process of making gunpowder. He also proposed flying machines, motorized ships and carriages some time in the 1200’s. Now anyone who is suggesting motorized machines and can tell you how to make gunpowder in the 1200’s must have been fascinating after a few beers! Along with describing how to blow things up, he also first measured the angle through which light is bent to our eye by a rainbow as being 42 degrees.  

Having discovered that the arc of a rainbow is 42 degrees, that the length of rainbow is dependent on where it is viewed from, that everyone sees a rainbow differently, that they form perfect circles (which is why you never reach the end or the bottom) and that there are 12 types of rainbow, I naively thought my pursuit of had come to an end. Until, Google threw me a curve ball. It brought me back to Leprechauns. Now, I must confess that my curious nature got the better of me and no matter how distrusting of Google I was, I went in search of pots of gold. 

I had it in mind that there would be a fairly bright and easy yellow brick road that would lead me to the end of the rainbow, however unlike Dorthey I wasn’t lucky enough to have a glowing yellow road to follow.  My own search was filled with many no exit streets, detours and wrong turns that seemed to add neither confusion or clarity to my quest until I came across the Vikings! If you want to make a story interesting, just throw in an ill tempered Viking or two to jazz up the plot. Fortunately for me, the pot of gold myth that I liked the best, had loads of Vikings in it.  

It seems that back in the days of the Vikings – who weren’t really very nice people but had amazing beards – they spent much of their time raiding, plundering and looting Irish villages for money and gold before burying it all over the countryside. Upon leaving Ireland, the Vikings proved that despite having fabulous beards they were incredibly absentminded and forgot to take their treasure with them, which was promptly found by the underground dwelling and human mistrustings Leprechauns. Knowing the origins of this treasure and claiming it for themselves, they reburied the gold. Nowadays, whenever a rainbow appears it’ll end where the gold is buried.  But then again, can you trust a Leprechaun or a Viking for that matter? No matter how fabulous his beard is! 

Until a few days ago I thought that a rainbow was simply light reflecting and bending off water droplets in the atmosphere resulting in a colour appearing. But, it transpires that they are as complicated as they are beautiful.

From all this we can draw four important conclusions. Firstly, Aristotle was a science guy as well as being a philosopher dude. Secondly, Roger Bacon would have been a wonderful drinking companion. Thirdly, the Vikings had fabulous beards but were incredibly forgetful. Fourthly that a little green frog was the most insightful of all when he observed that ‘rainbows are visions and illusions and probably contain a little touch of magic.’It seems that pursuing rainbows isn’t a bad thing after all. 

Rainbow over Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.

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Thus Sang The Jolly Autumn

To Dunedin’s Autumn Song

If we could somehow bring William Thomson back to life, what would surprise him most- apart from being here at all – would be to find the wonderful and delightful area Dunedin’s town belt has grown into.

But, who is William Thomson? Well I didn’t know either until recently, but it transpires he was, above many other things, a lover of trees! He loved trees so much in planted many in the town belt around the area of Olveston. While he wasn’t solely responsible for all the trees in the town belt, he is responsible for many in the area. 

In actual fact the town belt in Dunedin is one of New Zealand’s oldest reserves and is only one of three Victorian town belts in the world. Such is the importance of the town belt to Dunedin, the planning of it started on a map in Scotland that was probably stretched out over an old wooden table before settlers arrived in the 1840’s. As Dunedin grew as a city and the gold rush took hold, there became a need to protect and develop it’s green spaces which is where the Dunedin Amenities Society comes into the picture. By the end of 1888 the Society had 245 members (one of whom was William Thomson) and sought to involve itself in conservation and development of the new city including the town belt. 

Skip forward to the year 2020 and at this time of year the temperature drops, the winds pick up and the town belt starts to take on a splendour of colour as the leaves change and eventually float to the ground forming a crunchy blanket on the ground. It’s one of Dunedin’s glorious (and often forgotten) places. William Thomson would be proud of his trees. 

The Town Belt, Dunedin 

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COVID-19

Coronavirus Information

I recently had what for me is a unique and rare situation. I experienced Wellington on a good day. I’m not for one moment suggesting that Wellington doesn’t have good days, more reflecting on the fact that most of my trips to the capital city have included wind, rain, strong wind or a blended mix of all three with scattered fine spells randomly thrown in. On this particular visit to Wellington, not only was the weather still and clear, but the temperature – according to the metservice – sat at a comfortable 21+ degrees late into the evening. A splendid autumn day all round. 

To make the most of this lovely day, I headed out around Wellington on foot. Feeling slightly overdressed and cursing my choice of clothing, I head out the door to find the waterfront via a breakfast stop. Once having partaken of a bacon buttie at a very trendy place called ‘The Hanger’ on Dixon Street and feeling freshly loaded with caffeine and bacon, I departed out into the sun for the waterfront. 

Walking through the sun drenched streets that zigzag their way between Courtney Place, Cuba and Wakefield Street I turned on to Victoria Street heading for Queens Wharf. At one point, Victoria Street as it is known today didn’t exist. It was once open land that contained a scattering of timber cottages before numerous redevelopment programmes over 150 years has developed it into a busy shopping street that now contains high-end clothes shops, jewellers, cafe and bars, hotels and the central police station. It was when passing the Wellington Central Police Station that a printed A3 sign sellotaped to the window caught my eye. The sign read;
“Should you be in self-isolation? If so, please do not come in.” It then directed readers to call a healthline for information on Coronavirus and provided very helpful advice to visit a website or call 105 for police matters. 

What a truly uniquely (yet typical) kiwi response I thought chuckling to myself while taking in the details of the guidance provided. Before entering do you call the healthline to see if you should indeed be in self-isolation before proceeding with your decision to refrain or enter? Do they assume people automatically know this information? What happens if after arriving at the doors and deciding that yes you should be in isolation, do you self-isolate before calling 105 or call 105 right there and then. Further to this dilemma, what happens if your battery is flat, the internet goes down or you run out of credit? When do you risk entering and do you have to bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer? 

As I continued on my way, the sign stayed in my thoughts. Is this the moment when New Zealand’s laid-back, pragmatic and she’ll be right outlook and attitude could be New Zealand’s downfall? Clearly this world wide pandemic is a major problem and it’s spreading. 

I’m not suggesting for one moment that the New Zealand Police or Government aren’t doing enough to stop the spread of this pandemic, far from it but well placed signage is obviously a key strategy we are using to keep people informed so they can make enlightened decisions. 

Based on what we know so far, we are clearly going to need more advisory signage displayed, particularly at our custom checkpoints. I would like to suggest they read: “It would be better for all concerned if you stayed at home. But the choice is yours.”

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College & Westmoreland Street

The Thomas Moore Statue

I know this is hard to believe but there are times when I get over excited when I’m taking photos and then there are occasions when I completely forget where I am and become obsessed with the image I’m taking. Usually this happens when I’m somewhere new, using a new piece of equipment or there’s some cool light happening. When all three of these elements come together I’m a bit useless for anything else. Recently in Dublin My wife and I had just walked back from O’Connell Street and over the River Liffey when I insisted to my wife that we stop by the Thomas Moore Statue as the evening sky was turning a lovely blueish-purple. I grabbed my camera and new mini tripod and excitedly setup position to get a shot where College & Westmoreland Street meet beside the Irish Houses of Parliament.

After a good 5 to 10 minutes, happy with my efforts, I returned to the statue where my return was greeted with an annoyed “where the hell have you been?” It seems that in my excitement and rush to grab my camera, tripod and set up I not only forgot to say where I was going, but also took off with my wife’s wallet and phone in peak rush hour traffic! It didn’t make things better when I pointed out the rather dangerous place I was standing. At this juncture there was only one course of action left open to me, insist we head to the near pub to make amends, she didn’t argue.

College & Westmoreland Street – Order Print

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A Cultural Guardian

The Dunedin Kuri

One of the genuinely pleasant aspects of living in Dunedin is that not only are you never too far from anything, but you’re more than likely to bump into people you know at the same time. Usually these random social meetings are an altogether delightful experience as you exchange details about the wonderful spell of weather, how much the kids have grown up and if you are still working at your previous place of employment. I myself had such an encounter down at the esplanade recently when a voice called out to me, which turned out to be a local car dealer who sold me my Hyundai. After a few moments of conversation, I brought up the fact that the am radio frequency seems to drop dramatically in quality when heading out of town, to which he said he’d ‘look into it and get in touch. At the time, I remember thinking how appropriate it was that I was now asking questions about my vehicle, when at the time of sale, all we seemed to discuss was the fortunes of the Highlanders. It’s random social interactions like these that can be a blessing, if like me, you’ve still got jobs sitting on your ‘todo’ list that have been there since before Christmas, 2018!

What does astound me however is my constant ability to forget that places in Dunedin even exist. If I was living in a city the size of London or New York then this would be explainable. I’m certain that everyday in London people open the bent and heavily leafed pages of their A to Z guide discovering places that they had never heard of like Bollocks Terrance, Ha Ha Road and Hanging Sword Alley before popping into an equally unknown pub that is 400 years old and has the word white, king, royal or crown in its title. In Dunedin however, with a population of just 130, 000 I’m not so sure that’s as forgivable. By comparison, Dunedin’s population is the same size as Tonbridge and Malling in Kent and slightly larger than the English county of Cambridgeshire. Having made these discoveries, my astonishment turned to the realisation that maybe I need to get out more.

Having made the firm decision to get out around Dunedin, I turned my attention to finding one of the many art sculptures that are strategically located around the city that I haven’t visited recently. One that had been sitting on my mind was the Kuri/Dog sculpture. I eventually ended up at a place that I remembered having forgotten about, the Otago Yacht Club. If you’ve never been there it’s tucked behind some industrial buildings near Forsyth Barr Stadium and is home to not only a marina but a number of rowing clubs and a squash court. It also has a lovely running and biking track that in one direction takes you back towards the Harbour basin and the other along the harbour to the suburbs of Ravensbourne and Maia and Port Chambers. Once I arrived and abandoned my car I decided on two facts. The first being that on a fine, still day it would be an extremely tranquil and calm place to walk, bike or read the day away. The second being that if the wind was blowing hard down the harbour, it could be an extremely exposed and cold place to be. I, of course, had chosen the latter of these two days to visit. 

My visit to such a location on such a windy day hadn’t been by choice, more bad judgement. Knowing full well that the sculpture wouldn’t be hard to find I spent some time wandering in and out of the various boat clubs, moorings and rowing sheds. After a good twenty to thirty minutes of curiously wandering I deduced that I know absolutely nothing about sailing and my personal vocabulary of nautical terms is extremely limited. I’m certain I would be of no use on a sailing ship and even less use in a pub quiz team specialising in nautical terminology. Having searched all the places in the immediate surroundings, I headed for my goal. A 3m-high sculpture by Stephen Mulqueen called Kuri/Dog which looks up towards the harbour entrance as a cultural guardian looking after Dunedin and the surroundings. 

Now I don’t know about you, but this sculpture makes me smile for some unexplained reason. It also makes me wonder if Tonbridge and Malling in Kent has a large Dog sculpture looking out for its residents or maybe some other oversized animal artwork? It was at this point that I decided that I definitely need to get out more.


Kuri/Dog Sculpture – Order Print

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The Recap

Shoot, Edit, File and Repeat

Over the last week I’ve spent a lot of time working on images and writing from the Spartan’s charity rugby tournament I shot over the weekend. Here are a few excepts from my Tape, Boots and Beer blog.

* * *

I arrived at around 8:30am and now some 7 hours later I was starting to feel weary. It wasn’t the feeling of weariness that comes as a result of being tired or bored. Like having to listen to another ‘what happened last night’ on the Bachelorette conversation or having to listen to a Simon Bridges interview. This was the all over body weariness you get when you know that if you sit down, you just won’t get up.  

With camera in hand, I sat down (taking the risk and knowing full well that this could been a fatal mistake) behind the goal line and waited for the lineout. It wasn’t that the Women’s final unfolding in front of me wasn’t interesting, very far from it. It was a thoroughly enthralling final, it was just the fact that 7 hours of shooting was now catching up with me.

As players started to gather in front of me, the sunburn on my neck was starting to sting, likewise the tip of my nose. My legs were starting to feel heavy and I was now operating with a definite fatigue in my step. All this and I hadn’t even played a game of rugby! In this instant the thought suddenly crossed my mind that maybe I need to participate in some preseason training instead of shooting it. Realising that this was most definitely a thought to not dwell on, I let it pass and returned my attention to the lineout in front of me and the cold Speight’s that awaited me.

* * *

I quite enjoy shooting in the rain, it makes for interesting results. Plus you have to work harder for your shots so there’s a sense of satisfaction if you grab a quality image. I’ve certainly found a few surprises on the SD card after working in the rain that I’ve been very happy with. But, I’ve also had my share of wet weather days when it all seemed a waste of time! The other dynamic when shooting in the rain is that fact that it is just harder and more fiddly.

Fortunately none of this applied on Saturday. When it’s wet you have to keep everything dry along with yourself as well as try to find locations to shoot from. By happy chance the weather was stunning for the Spartan 10’s meaning no restrictive wet weather gear, no needing to dry off, and no needing to find shelter. Believe me, I really do like the challenge of wet weather however on Saturday all I had to do was shoot, edit, file, eat a Lions Burger and repeat. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday really.

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Lest We Forget – Order Print

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A Belfast Love Story

True Romance

Venturing through a new city while it is raining is a very frustrating exercise due to the fact that knowing where you are requires you to observe your surroundings. This is something that is very difficult to do if you’re trying to duck and weave around rain drops at the same time. This was just the case when I arrived at the former Harland & Wolf shipyard, otherwise known as the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. 

Upon arrival, shaking the rain off like a wet dog and noticing the rather large puddle of water I had created, I was suddenly startled with a cheerful ‘good morning.’ Having moved through the entrance way, I was now aware of the sizable water obstacle I had made right in the doorway of Belfast’s popular ‘Titanic Experience.’ Replying to the ‘good morning’ with a sheepish ‘sorry’ I moved towards the direction of the ticket booths. It was at this point that it struck me how appropriate it seemed to be drenched in rain, visiting a museum about a ship that sunk. It also struck me how empty the place was, this was partially by design and partially by hope.

With my ticket in hand and the clock sitting just before 10am, I made my way through the near deserted foyer. The plan had been to arrive early and thus avoid long lines and lots of slow moving crowds. Adding to this plan was the fact that the school holidays had finished and people had returned to work after the December/January festive season. Pleased with the success of this planning and having paid the entry fee while watching people avoid the water jump I had created, I headed for the escalator with a head full of Titanic excitement. 

I have to admit I fall into the group of people who find the Titanic fascinating. I also have to admit that I agree with James Cameron. I agree that the Titanic is a love story. I’m not sure it’s the epic, romantic disaster tale that James Cameron showed us in 1997, but it is a love story nonetheless. My visit to Belfast showed me that it’s not a romantic story between two people, it’s much more complicated than that. It’s a story of a love affair, about hopes and dreams, death and survival, of passion, of lust, of beauty, greed, wealth, vision and a promise of a golden age yet to come. It’s a tale of love between a ship, the city it was built in, the people that built her and the families that watched it grow into the sky at the Harland & Wolf shipyard. It’s a Belfast love story.

* * *

Speaking of the Titanic, let’s talk about acts of heroism. Let’s talk about John Jacob Astor IV. In the early hours of April 15th, 1912, just after 1:55am on a clear, star light night Astor stood smoking a cigarette. Having just kissed his darling wife and helped her into lifeboat Number 4,  he watched the lifeboat get lowered into the water, having given his own place to two scared and frightened children. You can only imagine what would have been going through his mind as he watched the boat lower without him. Seven days later Astor’s body was found and identified by the initials sewn on the label of his jacket. Found on him was a gold pocket watch which his son Vincent wore for the rest of his life. Some time later, while his wife and unborn child sat in a lifeboat, a survivor claimed to have seen Astor in the water clinging to a raft with supposedly frozen feet. At some point the coldness forced him to release his hold. 

Titanic Belfast – Order Print

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The Octagon Experience

Digesting New Information

It wasn’t until I got off the bus and started for Moray Place that it suddenly hit me. It could have been the Juicy rental car trying to do a u-turn in a very awkward way, it could have been the foot traffic seeming to be walking in the middle of the street or maybe the rather large, bright orange barriers blocking the street but something suddenly reminded me that the Octagon was closed for traffic. This information wasn’t altogether a surprise yet nor had it been at the forefront of my mind. To digest this not quite new information, I knew I would need alcohol, so I headed to the nearest bar. Once inside, I took up a seat where I could view the street from and began pondering what it all meant.

I couldn’t help but think that the Octagon closure might well be doomed before it began. After all, Dunedin doesn’t take to kindly to change. There’s a good list of ‘resistant to change’ examples hidden in Dunedin’s past. Going back to the 1850’s there were squabbles over matters between the Dunedin City Council and the Caversham Borough Council. In more modern times the new urban cycleways project has received much criticism over the last 5 years as did the newly created central bus hub. Not to forget the heated debate between Carisbrook and Forsyth Barr Stadium which seemed to deeply divide the city. 

Watching people happily walk up and down Stuart Street I decided that I needed to find out more about this ‘Octagon Experience’ so I pulled out my phone and headed straight to the Otago Chamber of Commerce website. I discovered ‘The Octagon Experience’ is the brainchild of the Dunedin City Council who want to create/transform the area into a public space within the streetscape of surrounding business by making it pedestrian-friendly and so drawing people together (so they’re closing roads I thought to myself!). Upon further investigation I discovered that the full closure is happening from January 27th till February 16th with partial closures from February 17 until March 23. Maybe it was the beer but it took awhile for the realisation of what this actually meant to sink in. 

Suddenly the impact of these closures hit me and I didn’t know what worried me more. Putting up with all the angry drivers that will inhabit Moray Place, forgetting the Octagon is closed and desperately try to find another route at the last minute, thus blocking traffic at one of the barn-dance intersections. Or, having to scroll past all the angry Facebook and Twitter posts about the chaos that will inevitably fill my streams. Either way, filled with dread and bracing myself, I finished my pint, opened Facebook and headed out the door.

Robbie – Order Print

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15 Spots To Get A Great Coffee in Dunedin

An Appalling State of Affairs

It’s come to my attention that I have no idea where to get a good coffee here in Dunedin. This appalling state of affairs came to my attention when I realised that if I was asked ‘where’s good?’ I wouldn’t have the faintest idea where to suggest. Indeed my only advice to someone seeking a decent ‘cup of joe and a meal’ would probably have to be more based on a guess rather than imparting some deep local wisdom built from years of insider experience. In fact, the only establishments I possess knowledge of serve beer, pizza, a plate of chips and screen rugby. Having come to this embarrassing realisation, I decided that this situation needed fixing immediately 

To help fill the void in my coffee culture knowledge, I knew I would need serious help. I decided to turn to the one person I know who spends a decent chunk of their time in the local coffee spots, my daughter Henessey (you might know her from her articles in ‘Critic’ or from Radio One or as ‘That Logan Paul Girl’). So after conducting some personal research and taste testing, with laptop at the ready and no established criteria apart from the question where’s good? We listed 15 places to get great coffee and food in Dunedin.

The Precinct – Buy

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Dunedin’s Favorite Second Beach

Second Beach Escape

Having spent the last five days in Hong Kong with 7.4 million people crammed into a shoe box, it’s easy to see why Hong Kong is listed as the fourth most densely populated place in the world. During my time there, and on one of my trips through the Hotel lobby, I got talking to the concierge. Now there is no doubt that between the two of us, one of us was dressed as if he had just come from the latest fashion show and made careful consideration to ensure that every element of his appearance was just so, and the other had decided he could get another days wear out of his jeans, found the closest t-shirt and walked out the door. After exchanging pleasantries and upon his discovery of finding out I was from New Zealand, his first response was “you have castles and sheep!” Castles and sheep I thought to myself, yes, I guess that’s true. If you’ve ever been to Hong Kong you’ll realise just how crowded the place is and what a lack of open, green space there is in the city. It was in this second of realisation that I decided after arriving home I’d make a make a beeline to the Dunedin coast and visit my favourite beach, Second Beach in St Clair. 

The Dunedin coastline is an amazingly rugged place. I often find myself exploring its many unique features. Unfortunately I’m often busy and short of time, so to get my outdoor fix I have to choose an easily accessible spot most of the time. Since the landscape along some of Dunedin’s coastline is not particularly accessible, or requires some pre-planning, I often stop at St Clair and explore the beauty of Second Beach. Along this stretch of beach, years of consistent wave movement have created great drifts of raggedly oval stones worn to a polished smoothness. They are nearly impossible to walk on since your feet sink with each step while at the same time having to navigate piles of driftwood that have washed up. The coast path above the beach is much easier and doesn’t require clambering up and down a bank to reach. At any one time you’ll meet anyone and everyone from the young to old, those getting their daily fitness quota, surfers and people just enjoying a tranquil escape for 5 minutes. No matter which option you take, if it’s the beach or the path you’ll hear the sea, crashing into the shore creating a seemingly endless musical score of stones clattering on the water’s edge. It’s one of the most glorious places in Dunedin.

Sunset sky – Buy

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Woosung Street in Hong Kong.

Destination: Hong Kong

It’s not till I’m going somewhere that I realise how little I actually know about a place. It’s here, sitting in a departure lounge at Heathrow airport at 9:00am on a Monday morning with a boarding pass in hand, that I suddenly realise that I don’t know much about Hong Kong at all. My thoughts quickly scan back and forth between the notion of this being both a positive a negative, when I’m shaken from my day dream by a very disgruntled traveler who is very clearly not having a good morning. While he quickly makes his way to the boarding line, he pulls behind him one of those oversize suitcases that hasn’t the faintest of chances of fitting in the overhead compartment. As he pushes past me, it’s hard to tell if he is more annoyed by the fact he actually had to wait in line like the rest of us or by the two overly excited children standing directly in front of him. Either way, his complete annoyance is only matched by the children’s delight and the cynic in me now secretly hopes they are all seated together for the next 13 hours. 

Once joining the line myself, my thoughts again turn to my lack of Hong Kong general knowledge. As I scan my thoughts, I find myself brightened somewhat when I realise I know more than I thought I did. As the line inches forward and I’m greeted with a friendly good morning and welcome, I settle on knowing four definite facts about Hong Kong (even if they are somewhat fictitious). 

Firstly, I’m certain that I know parts of it are dangerous for tourists like myself. This comes from recent news coverage (which I no longer watch) and the endless supply of emails I’ve been getting from Safe Travel on my phone. These email warnings have had headings such as ‘Ongoing Protests’ or ‘Ongoing Demonstrations’ from flash mobs dressed in black. To me, it initially looked like a combined game of Tetris and Pac-Man but with a serious undercurrent. This game is played with molotov cocktails, rubber bullets and is driven by youths fighting for their right to freedom. Sounds like serious stuff. While the photographer in me can’t help but be interested, my good sense, what little I have, says it’s best to steer clear. 

The second thing I’m certain about is that Hong Kong was known as a place to get cheap electronic goods.  I can’t help but get a little excited at the prospect of picking up the latest canon lens for a dirt cheap price and getting years of shooting pleasure out of it. This will of course have the effect of catapulting my images into the next stratosphere. Unfortunately, the reality is bound to be nothing like this at all. I fear that prices will not be as cheap as I hope, the bargains will elude me and my best bet will be to keep my pennies in my pocket! 

Thirdly, I’m certain Hong Kong wasn’t, then was, but now isn’t a British territory. I seem to remember it being returned to China in 1997 as part of a one hundred year loan agreement. To me, this sounds very much like wanting the lawn mower back you lent to the neighbors. Which I can understand, particularly if it’s one of those fancy ride-on ones. 

Upon entering the plane and having to hide my disappointment in not being able to sit with the pilots and help push buttons, I discover I’m sitting at the back of the plane. I also suddenly remember that the Hong Kong 7’s we’re an important fixture in the rugby calendar. This iconic event still maintains its place as an event on the global stage but unfortunately due to the now endless supply of rugby coverage it’s lost a little if it’s uniqueness. 

As I relax into my seat and settle in for the next 13 hours, I glance down at my phone to check it’s switched into aeroplane mode. I notice a new email has just popped up from Safe Travel. Pausing for a second, I dismiss it like all the rest when my gaze is drawn to the annoyed gentlemen from the boarding line with the over sized suitcase. He’s trying to get comfortable. Yet, he has two overly excited children bouncing on the seat in front of him. 

Woosung Street, Hong Kong. Buy

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Dear Mammy

Postcards From Ireland

Postcards from a travelling photographer discovering Ireland and connecting with some truly wonderful people along the way.

The RMS Titanic was the pride of Belfast in the years leading up to (and including) 1911.

Malahide Seawall and Beach, DublinDear Mammy [or insert own name here]
Had a very quiet New Years as we spent the day relocating from Shankill to Sandymount and collecting belongings from Malahide.  It’s nice to have all our gear back in one place. 
It was a beautiful New Years day here with almost a cloudless day. The temperature was around 10 to 12 degrees, very crisp but fine and clear. We’ve hardly had any rain since we’ve arrived. The weather is so mild no-one can believe it!
It was such a grand day today we went for a walk from Sandymount to Sean Moore Park in Dublin Bay and around to Poolbeg Lighthouse and back. Such a lovely place to visit, and a great stroll by the sea. There is even a little coffee van that serves hot drinks to keep you warm and hydrated. 
After such a splendid walk we definitely deserved a whiskey and beer. 
Hope you get some fine summer weather soon.
Love John


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Peace & Beauty In Dublin

Daniel of Dublin

Discovering a little peace and beauty in Dublin.

Amongst the jigsaw puzzle streets of Dublin that twist and turn across the city, you’ll find St Stephen’s Green. Undoubtedly one of the hearts of the Irish capital. While in Dublin, if you’re looking for a bit of  peace and beauty with a touch of tranquility then St Stephens Green is the place to head too. And within St Stephen’s Green, you’ll find a man called Daniel. 

If you take the entrance to the green via the top of Grafton Street, you’ll pass under the impressive Fusilier’s Arch that was built in 1907. The pleasant sights of lush green spaces, water stretching and bending out of sight and trees of all ages shading and arching over the many walkways. It was while slowly wandering around one of the many paths that loop back to Fusiller’s Arch that I spotted him, a man called Daniel. 

The few items that he was carrying with him were carefully placed on a park bench while he chatted to anyone who would stop by to talk. He was polite and friendly and spoke in a gravelly tone that told of a less than comfortable life on the streets of Dublin. He spoke of having many favourite spots in the city centre but this spot was by far his favourite. Manly because of how peaceful it is and the calmness of the place. Then just as he spoke they arrived, pigeons. Lots and lots of pigeons. 

It turns out that Daniel works for one of the homeless shelters in Dublin. Collecting money and donations, along with doing other ‘odds and ends’ that need to be done. But, what he really likes to do is feed the pigeons. As he threw seed out for them and gently poured it into the hands of strangers who stopped, the pigeons were quick to find the food source. In an instant, three to five pigeons were on heads, shoulders and arms, gently pecking. Suddenly, as quickly as they had arrived they were off into the sky. They swooped in a massive loop before landing in exactly the same spot and continuing their hunt for food.

Only then in the peace and beauty in Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green did he ask for a small donation.

St Stephens Mall Buy

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Fairytale of Dublin

The Christmas Lights of Dublin

It’s Christmas evening in the Irish capital of Dublin. The temperature is now sitting on a chilly 5 degrees and the clock has just struck 9:30pm. A fire roars, spreading out heat and warmth to a room filled with good company, good food and plenty of laughter while talk turns to Christmas Day, St Stephen’s Day and the upcoming festivities. 

Across Dublin, the glow of the Christmas lights have long taken hold of the city of merriment and festive cheer. The streets surrounding Grafton Street and O’Connell bridge are decked out with twinkling lights of all shapes and sizes that make you stop and wonder while the air is filled of music coming from buskers up and down Dublin’s cobbled streets.

If you haven’t experienced a Northern Hemisphere winter Christmas then it really should be on your bucket list. Having grown up with Christmas in the summer, New Zealand traditions revolve around BBQ’s, trips to the beach. Relaxing in the long twilight hours with an ale or two until the Christmas lights take hold after 9pm or 10pm (ish). Christmas lights certainly give kiwi homes a very festive feel, but it’s not till you experience a city where nightfall takes hold around 4pm, that Christmas lights really make sense. People hurry from shop to shop filling their bags with last minute gifts or food items. People are warmed and brightened by the wonder of the Christmas lights on show. It’s in this moment that Christmas lights make sense.

Corner of Grafton and Annie Street Buy

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Dunedin’s Signs of Summer

Dunedin’s Mixed Bag

Sixteen days into Dunedin’s summer and it’s been a mixed bag of weather so far for those that call Dunedin home.

When the calendar switched from November to December and the seasons changed from spring to summer, the daylight hours got suddenly longer. The sun got a wee bit warmer and a renewed energy sprung into people’s step. While the change in season brought with it an optimistic energy, a hangover from spring’s traditional changeable weather remained.

In recent weeks, Dunedin has been bathed in deliciously hot sunshine, it has been wrapped in settled warm and calm weather, hit with high winds, heavy rain, hail and intense thunder and lightning storms. While the temperature has dropped as low as 10 degrees and risen to over 30 degrees, depending on where you are.

Dunedin’s Signs of Summer

The sign of Dunedin’s summer is ever present at the Botanical Gardens where the paths and gardens twist and turn through it’s 30 hectares of wonder and beauty. Every where you look there’s seasonal flowers in bloom showing off the bright freshness of summer.

The cafe’s and bars around the city have also taken on new life. In the early morning sunshine locals get into their morning exercise and enjoy a freshly brewed coffee. As the lunch time crowds extend into the afternoon, tables are full and bustling with life well into the evening hours.

St Clair esplanade takes on a fresh look in the change of seasons. The sea temperature rises, meaning the thicker winter wet suits are put aside for thinner summer suits. The local surf school also takes on a busier trade as visitors and locals try their hand in surf. Finally, the local surf living saving clubs have begun their daily patrols between the hours of 11am and 7pm.

Dunedin's Botanic GardensDunedin’s Botanical Gardens Buy

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