Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Time zones/Arundel Festival

Jet-lag wasn't good. Worse coming back here, maybe as lose time and literally go backwards. Not sure what Einstein would have made of it, but I did think about his twins theory. However, I think the astronaut one would get so 'space-lagged', dehydrated and fed up with in-flight date movies, that his 70 yr old twin on the ground would look younger - 'relatively' of course.

Manic at work etc. Not much time to write, but did manage to get to the launch of Arundel Festival last Friday (baking hot English weather - where did that come from?). Bill Brennan is the dynamo behind the drama initiatives there (which seem to range from plays on the river to inside the castle). This year there doing a 'Theatre Trail' third week in Aug (24th onwards? which is the week after our Edinburgh show). My short play 'Fit Piece' will feature, with 8 performances, along with several other dramas, including one by Simon Brett, a very entertaining excerpt of which we treated to at the launch (albeit apparently not written yet!)

I'd met Simon briefly at my inaugural 'sherry reception' on joining the Society of Authors a while back and it was nice to meet him again (especially as he liked my script, having been part of the selection process).

Off to Script Yorkshire meeting in Leeds tonight.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Int- eruptions

They say every cloud has a silver lining, but what about volcanic ash clouds? I wanted to get back on time, so could attend lunch being given for writers selected by Drip Action Theatre for their performances in forthcoming Arundel, Festival in W Sussex. In the immortal words of Hugh Grant, yea even when he was in '4 Weddings a Funeral' no less and not with the Partridge Family - 'bugger!'

Saturday, 15 May 2010

All good things must...

Last night here now. Met some cool alpacas today (so I take back what I said about sheep). Back to battling through the volacanic ash tomorrow. Yee-a, as the Kiwis say.


On the wildlife cruise, the guide took me a bit aback by saying we'd see a lot of shags (pronounced shaegs, of course - can't get away from the dipthongs here). Briefly I wondered if we were to take a detour into sheep farming territory, but was relieved when he added, 'You may know them as cormorants'.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Never work with animals

After the wildlife cruise, I now know why the Ancient Mariner shot the albatross. Forget lit crit of Coleridge's metaphor for original sin, random acts etc. It was simply so he could get a photo. For such a large bird (we saw Royals which have 3m wing-span) that glides above boats from one side to the other, it's remarkably elusive when you try film it. (Where's david Attenbrough when you need him?)Wonderful to see though!

Also saw a great brute of a seal basking, as only seals can do.

Love the black swans here, a whole flotilla of them just off shore, eating weed but fussy that it has a covering of seawater first (like us having salt on our food, I suppose). They're first in when the tide's in and last out when it leaves. (Just like the Germans, hey?) Apparently, as they age they get whiter like us - only they don't panic and reach for the Grecian 2000. I suppose no one can grow old more gracefully than a swan.

Monday, 10 May 2010

The north-south divide

It's the opposite in New Zealand. North Islanders like to look down on the south for its cold climate and as being less developed/sophisticated (though I have to say that the latter word is not one that springs to mind a lot anywhere in New Zealand, but that's part of its charm and strength).

From my time on South Island, my view is that 'less developed' really means a whole lot of beautiful and varied landscape. (maybe a bit like Yorkshire - though have to say there's an argument for 'Move over, Yorkshire. This is really God's own country.)

Am off to see the albatrosses now.


Bus drivers in Dunedin are a jolly lot. They say 'G'day' to every boarding passengfer. All that 'G'day-ing' makes you 'gid-dy' after a while.

No-one here understands a Yorkshire accent, with its flat vowels. I've discovered that the trick is to say everything as if you were simultaneously saying the favourite Australasian word, 'daeg' (officially meaning the disgusting black bit that dangles from a sheep's bottom). So with a hint of daeg, they get you. Today, I stopped asking directions for the bus stop, and asked for the 'baes staep'. (Gosh it's almost like being back in a Latin class.) However the twang of 'daeg' works every time, and I got the directions I needed.

Also discovered chai latte today. With cinnamon on top, it's heaven.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Faux pas

The house I'm staying at in Dunedin (that of my friend, NZ playwright, Denise Walsh) is full of fascinating items, trinkets, ornaments, souvenirs... Everywhere. I've been reading up on Maori art recently. At supper tonight, I commented on a straw, basket-weave type, vaguely spoon-shaped object hung on the wall.
'That's a Maori symbol, isn't it? The figure of eight that denotes the path of life.'
Denise and her Maori husband looked at each other. If this was in a play, there would be a (PAUSE), before Denise answered, 'Helen, that's a carpet-beater'.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Coast to coast

Was taken on a drive round Dundedin's coast today - what a joy! Fairly big harbour, loads of surf/surfers, plus stretches of solitude.

Just to add to my reference to the 'War Brides' art exhibition yesterday, the artist commissioned for this was Bev Tosh, herself the offspring of her Canadien mother's wartime marriage to a New Zealand serviceman. The marriage lasted 10 years, then her mother took her back to Canada. Her mother is one of the brides portrayed and you get the sense that the artist was looking for answers herself through completing the work. I do hope she brings it to Britain.

In New Zealand, they talk of 'back home' and it means us - the UK (a very divided united kingdom just now), but we're their 'home country', even into 3rd/4th generations, who've never been there. Oddly, makes you feel sort of proud.

Heading south

In Dunedin, South Island. Probably furthest south have ever been in my life. Hope to get a bit further down to see the albatross colony here.

Went to an interesting rehearsal of the American play,'Wit', on my last night at Waikato on Thurs.

Hoping to see some theatre here too. Back home, one of my short plays won a trophy at York Theatre Royal last week. The York press described my piece as 'Minghella-esque', which I was very pleased about.

Went to a museum and art gallery today - both fascinating and, like most things here, not as stuffy as in UK. The museum had a fascinating art exhibition in it (they do seem to mix art and history a lot here). This was on 'War Brides' i.e. women who had married NZ soldiers and moved over here (several from Canada as well as UK). Hope this gets to tour in UK, as think it would resonate there.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Met some fascinating people today. Started with a cab driver from Fiji (understandably homesick) director/theatre producer, Gaye Pool, who does some interesting work, Albert Belz, a Maori playwright (with some Polish ancestry, not Dutch as I had been told) who says his chief influence is probably graphic novels (and was jealous I'd briefly met Niel Gaimon) and an astute SU President (I think from Ghana) whom I'll kidnap for our next Prime Minister, as likely to do a better job than the current candidates.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

More NZ

I keep thinking New Zealand is sort of England without the bad bits. Only sometimes you could do with some of the bad bits. Like trains and such like. You tend to assume that you can get from one big black dot on a map to another. I suppose in theory you can – but it might involve a bus that only runs on Wed afternoon in high season (oh, and you weren’t thinking of coming back again, were you? What, in the same year?!).
Am planning my visit to south island, not as easy as it seemed – but will be worth it.
Meeting ex-pats here, there seem to be two camps 1. never had a day's regret and pity us back in UK 2. Those to whom words like 'water' and 'back' keep creeping to mind. I met a commercial contracts lawyer here who had worked in London, but moved to be with his partner. I wasn't sure whether he was being ironic when he said he missed Britain. I told him that when Dr Johnson had said 'He who is tired of London, is tired of life', he hadn't had to commute. The answer came, 'Dr Johnson may not have had to commute, but no one ever said that about New Zealand'.

Actually, I intend to be the first.

Monday, 3 May 2010


It's great here. Love the University. Hamilton has its charms. Went on a river cruise, plus wondered round Hamilton Gardens and the museum. Latter was very informative on the history, but felt pretty ashamed at what the Brits did in taking land from the Maoris. They seem such an artistic race. Have been hearing some music and seeing the art. Hoping may meet a Maori playwright (Alber Bensz - he has some Dutch ancestry apparently) later.