Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Off to Christchurch today (2 hour drive + an hour on the plane) for the funeral of my neice Vickys' husband Peter. Sadly he was kicked in the chest by one of his horses and died from complications.
I remember in my hippy days before we could afford a tractor I was using the kids old horse to pull firewood out of the bush. I had rigged up an old harness which he didn't like and when I yelled at him to get going he let fly with a kick that whistled past my face and would have taken my head off if it had connected. Luck of the draw. I carried the rest of the firewood out on my back with a big horse smile following.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Time to Be

A very busy few days with Anzac Day ( commemorating Australian and NZ war dead ) and school holidays but the season is finally over and we have shut the restaurant doors for five months. Th last night was filled with locals and friends and we partied till late with guitar and whisky.
It's been ten wonderful years but these last few months have been hard. To share yourself with 100 people a day is difficult. Even though they do it in the nicest possible way they all want a small part of you and I've found there is only so much to go around and close friends and family suffer because you have nothing left in the tank. I know for a while I'll be in a strange space, alone with my thoughts after being fully occupied but it's a good creative time. When my brain is jumbled I need my thoughts to come out through my fingertips to make sense of them.
I'll be back in October but because my son and his partner Paul are buying the business it will be in a limited capacity. Sculpting in the garden and cooking at night. Sounds like me!
It's raining again and 125mm is forecast by the morning but we're warm and dry and don't have to go outside apart from running the dog. Mmmm... back to my book about Arthur Boyd, Australian painter.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The post below is in response to a story started by Hopper and you can read the start on Omars Adventure

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Omars adventure

...... and with a huge effort you fire out the word deal as if your whole history of people eating is being compromised.
"But" you roar, " If you think my reading a book is going to change your fate and that I will happily give up my hard fought gold you must be as deluded as the rest of your puny race."
The boy just smiled a knowing smile, laid the half tomb on the grass and whistled as he made his way down the path towards the village.
This infuriated you even more. How dare he be so brazen to challenge such a creature as you, you are king of the world! But the words 'heart burnt dragon' come back to you and for the first time in your life memories of your past come flooding in. A large cave and an old, ailing dragon throwing carved stones on the floor and mumbling something about the future of the dragon empire and don't let your heart get burnt.
Rubbish you say but still gingerly pick up the book, careful that it doesn't burst into flames. It's old and has a musty smell and is very similar to books you saw in the village. The villagers had them housed in a large building and when you torched it to see how quickly it would burn they ran inside to try to save them. Strange creatures hanging onto the pieces of paper like that.
Now you had a dilemma. You couldn't read! Should you lure the boy back and snack on him without finding out about the story or should you find somebody who could read. Feather brained Phoenix, of course couldn't, but the one thing he had was contacts.
So even before your smoke signal had dissipated Phoenix was settling in beside you squawking on about the price of matches and how the fire balls these days were made so badly it was ruining the tennis.
"Shut it Phoenix," you say, "we have important business to discuss, do you know anyone that can read?"
Phoenix stops in mid sentence and thinks for a minute, "well Jimmy the Ratcatcher can read the weather and the Witch on Paragoyle Mountain can read the future and..."
" A book, a book" you shout in exasperation, "you scatter-brained bunch of tawdry feathers."
" Ahhhhh" says Phoenix looking as wise as he can, "you need the Taniwha."
"The what!"
Phoenix takes his time, leans back and picks at a talon, knowing he's got a captive audience, "legend has it that in the southern region lives a creature who has read every book in the universe and has so much knowledge he employs owls to store the facts, one for phil...philo....for unanswered questions, one for history etc. etc. he just googles them up and down and out comes the information."
"And how do I find this Taniwha."
"Well you could look for a lot of owls jumping up and down," Phoenix smiles, enjoying his moment, "but really, they say he lives under the bridge over the Tongariro River and is the best in the business of scaring and eating people."
"How do I recognise him." knowing Phoenix is wrong on one count, you are the best pillager in the world.
"Well that is a problem, because he takes many guises and can change at the blink of an eye."

So here you are, high in the sky, on the trade winds south, clutching half a book that could hold your future or make you a laughing stock of the dragon world. Below you the sea stretches away to the southern lands, flat and dark, with an occasional island ringed in white. A feeling of loneliness pushes you faster and you are glad when wispy, enveloping cloud cushions you from the bleak landscape.
A smell of smoke signals your arrival and flying lower the land is revealed. Fires are everywhere, with great cone shaped mountains spewing hot lava rivers, and spectacular stands of boiling water being thrown high in the air. There are signs of habitation with wooden houses huddled together ringed by tall palisades and the mighty Tongariro like a huge glistening eel lay from the mountains in the east to the western coast, spanned at the narrowest point by a crude bridge of big poles and woven flax ropes.
Perfect place to ambush dinner you thought swooping to a landing, but first the Taniwha. It was dark and wet under the bridge and you could just make out two worn ropes hanging from pivots with signs cut into the rock above them. The first read 'wake me and you're dead' and the next 'pull the other one'.

Do you pull the first one and take your chances with the Taniwha or

Pull the other one

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Chris Booth sculptor

Another big, fat john dory on the beach this morning.... yum, a ready made breakfast fresh and organic.
I was given a book by NZ sculptor Chris Booth for my birthday which follows his lifes' work from knocking on Barbara Hepworths door in St Ives Cornwall in 1966 when he was 19 to his biggest achievement, being asked to install a sculpture in the grounds of the Kruller Muller museum in the Netherlands. Perhaps my most favourite museum in the world (well in the restricted sense of my world!) it took a team of five, ten months to complete with a budget of a million dollars. He is very sympathetic to the history of the sites and the stones he uses and works a lot with the indigenous people to create works that sit well with them.
I have always enjoyed his archway towering amongst the pohutukawa trees in Albert Park, Auckland but when he revealed in the book that the top half is fabricated in aluminium because of engineering difficulties it made me wonder if the real appreciation came from his sheer ability to get heavy rocks up in the air, not in the artwork itself. Who am I to critisize one of NZs' leading sculptors but by publishing a book of his lifes work, as in a retrospective, one can better see his philosophy and take away the engineering feats and working with local people does the piece stand alone as an exceptional piece of art (does it have to?). A lot of the time I don't think it does as in the photo above.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hot Water Beach

Hot Water Beach

I've posted the photograph the previous post describes in the April 17th entry because I want the description read first.

Day off today and the lounge is full of young bodies after son Sams' party on the beach. Just what I need in my private time but they are a great bunch of kids, full of fun and mischief. The surf is up so they are off to Hot Water Beach with their boards when they can get themselves organised.

Yes we have a beach nearby where boiling water bubbles up through the sand and you can dig a hole and direct channels of hot and cold water into it and wallow in the natural spa. Great at midnight with a full moon and a bottle of champagne! The beauty of it is that it only works at low tide so nature sweeps in and cleans up the site twice a day and nobody can build a fence around it and charge you for the privelege

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The room is small, probably a bedroom, but with no sign of a bed. A large mirror is propped against a side wall and the door at the back is open showing an unfocused interior. On a tall dresser a large, bright red paper hibiscis explodes against a calendar and combines perfectly with the slash of lipstick on the womans' face.

She sits in the foreground on a old chair which adds to the temporariness of the room in a black dress, a strap fallen? off her left shoulder exposing a breast, staring at the camera with a direct imperious gaze, her right hand flat against her stomach in a contrast of vunerability as is a lock of black hair fallen across her face.

White/black, black/black, red/black, red/white and in the background in warm sepia tones another woman completely nude sits facing away from the camera in a 'Venus' position, the bulge of her backside the ultimate in femininity.

It's a marvellous photo which gives some facts but also plenty of mysteries and the womans' gaze is so direct you want to look but you don't want to look, as if she is looking into your very soul.
I'll post it tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This photo is the one described in the post above and apologies to the photographer, I can't remember where I found it apart from it being a Danish site

My mind is in a strange state of flux. Because the customers have dried up I have this extra time I've been longing for and now I'm mooching around going from project to project wanting to get my teeth into something but not able to do it. In the half light - half waking time of dawn I come up with these marvelous ideas for my big sculpture at Lochmara and then in the hard light of day they look like impractical fantasies. Someone said begin with certainties and you'll have doubts, begin with doubts and you'll have certainties so I must have a lot of the latter coming up.
I tried the studio but it's a mess, the brushes are hard, the paint used up and the blank canvas a black hole of my ambitions. The quarry out the back is no better, the stone unyeilding and the thought of putting on all the gear and filling all my orifices with dust is decidedly unappealing. So into the wood workshop (sounds like I've got a complex doesn't it - in both senses of the word!) I go and add a few more pieces to my latest sculpture and realise the problem. It just doesn't work (yet?). I've spent weeks on it and after all that work don't want to tell myself it's shite. Keep going I say, something will come of it. I've got a crew coming today to film my work for a TV series called Coromandel Chronicles and they are going to ask to film me working - on something I don't like!
Oh well, I doubt it's a long term problem and I'm certain there will be a full page about the American primary election race in the paper today - again!- Priorities.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Restaurant business

Slowly our staff are trickling away. Dwayne the prep chef is leaving for Hawaii today to take part in a free diving spear fishing competition and won't be back until we close. Waitress Angela from Nimbin in Australia is leaving on a road trip tomorrow to find work in Queenstown for the winter and Ashley our long serving Maitre'de, after a trip to the South Island, is going back to Canada for a while. Thank goodness for the wwoofers! Marieka is leaving soon but Jana who was prep chef before Xmas is back to join Ciera from Ireland.
As staff are such a visual part of our business it's very important that they are happy in their jobs. We want them to provide the best service but in a relaxed, fun way. Each night is different but it's like an organism, sow a bit of laughter, a bit of live music, even a bit of abuse and the atmosphere starts growing all by itself and then strangers start talking between tables and customers feel like they have come into our house as friends.
As we are in an isolated place our business is very dependent on people coming back or recommending us and around 80% of a customers fall into this catagorie so it is hard to maintain but we must be excellent all the time.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Farting and belching

Just had three days of lovely warm rain so the farmers will be happy especially in the Waikato region where they have had a long drought though not long in Australian terms. It worries me that dairy farmers (producing our main export) are getting their highest payout for years and so are rapidly converting sheep and cattle farms and forestry into milk production. It's great for the small town economies as the money is filtered down to the service industries but it's hard on the environment. NZ has a clean, green image but as an ex dairy farmer I know how much chemical spray, fertiliser, nitrogen etc is poured onto the land and run off into the streams and rivers let alone all the belching and farting the cows do which adds to global warming. Don't laugh it's our biggest addition to the worlds problem!
It's not going to change because money talks, we will just have to find a silver lining. Like American farmers producing crops for bio fuel which has pushed up the price of food world wide. Surely this will stop them dumping subsidy produced cheap food in poor countries and allow those farmers to get higher prices.
Merlot is whining at the door, it's time for his walk (chase the seagulls) on the beach.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Through having an art gallery in our restaurant the weird and constant struggle to sell art becomes apparent. As an artist my struggle is singular and personal so I enjoy having other artists work on the walls to see what sells and what doesn't and I watch customers when they walk around looking at the paintings to see what holds their interest. I remember Paula McNeil, an artist and friend, telling me once that you need a focal point/s to draw the viewer into the picture then you need to lead them around much as if you are telling them a story. Some paintings have a strong first visual impact but become bland after a few weeks whereas others with a 'story' or mystery continue to 'talk' for years.
One of the biggest influences is price. I had a studio clear out a month ago and reduced my $800 paintings down to $250 and sold seven. This tells me that at least people are happy to have my art on their walls. There is plenty of arguments against lowering the price such as maintaining a price that you think you are worth as a serious artist or working out a wage per hour plus materials but as most of the paintings sold to first time art buyers you are creating a whole new market of people who suddenly see the possibility of having original art on their walls and there is no better advertising.
Another big influence is that most buyers need to be vindicated that they are buying 'good' art. I know there are no rules about what is good or bad but if you are associated with a name gallery then in peoples' eyes you are a good artist because they (the gallery) should know the difference. Sculptor Johnny Turner who came to our first symposium 5 years ago and was selling for around $2000 is now selling similar works up to $20,000 through name galleries.
OK, so if a name gallery won't take me I'll have to find other ways to reassure the public I am a good artist.
Watch this space!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Karen Hunter

Karen Hunter played the last gig of the season on Friday night and as she has been coming to the Egg for a number of years it's been interesting watching her develop into an excellent performer.
Coming to us first as a strident singer/song writer who demanded that you listen to her she now seems completely at ease with her music and who she is and is much better for it. Great guitar playing, wonderful voice and even when she's using her bag of tricks the loop and the harmoniser she knows her skills backwards and forwards which can only come from experience and performing again and again.
I would rate her gig as one of the best of the year.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Not art again!

My art gets mostly put on hold when the cafe is open which is frustrating but strangely that seems to help the creative process. I want to be doing it so my little old mind ticks over all the time and comes up with new ideas.

The small 'vortex' above I made last year and the big one I started in November during our sculpture symposium and then ran out of the wood (macrocarpa, not a native but durable so doesn't have to be treated) and time so only completed it recently, hence the two coloured effect. I love building the big works that make people stop and stare and wonder whether I've gone mad but then they realise I've always been mad so accept what I do. The trouble is I'm seriously running out of room and so have to do the dreaded bit - selling myself!!

Anybody want a job?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

60 party

My party on the 3rd Jan? The big 60? It was a blast. Friends, family, music, whisky and food mixed together to make a memorable reunion to Chookstock 98. Daughter Shelley and I kicked the music off, then it was Ronnie and Julie (Avocado Oil), Ian Thorne, PPRS, Rick and Laura, my mostly unmusical mates with a terrible rendition of ' When I'm 64' and a grand finale of Kokomo Blues with Shona Laing.
What better way to celebrate the passing of years.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

In bed with China

So we have signed a pact with the devil, NZ being the first country to sign a free trade agreement with China. Because of her terrible human rights abuses (Tibet, capital punishment etc.), increasing pollution (two new coal fired power stations a week etc), flooding the world with cheap and sometimes dangerous products I had my reservations at first and certainly still have some but what is worse, isolating her or opening your borders to show the people another way to live. Change will only come from within with a raised standard of living and an increased awareness of the power of the people not from outside by forcing your will with military might as in Iraq.
We in NZ are certainly not perfect but we have an open society with influences from all around the world and we can choose the best of those ideas (not that we always do!) to weave our social fabric.
Another glorious day here except I have to go to the dentist. How worldly affairs can be brought to the ground with the sound of that damn drill!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Autumn has arrived with her cool hand brushing the trees with rusty gold and a deep stillness as if preparing us for her angry partner winter. The beach is almost always deserted now apart from the birds. More gulls, of course, the occasional blue heron fishing in the shallows, Mr and Mrs Smith the resident oyster catchers with their babies gone, no longer having to attack Merlot the dog, a big caspian tern standing like a weather vane, the noisy spur winged plovers and rarely the little dotterel looking lost and alone.
The sea too seems different. Darker almost thicker with a lazy swell reaching up on the sand trying to take back the wrack of seaweed and driftwood and shells left at high tide. John Dory also are being driven up on the beach from some crazy flaw in their makeup. The gulls get the eyes of the poor creatures but we get the fat, delicate fillets.
I enjoy the different seasons because I like change. When I was younger it used to worry me that I couldn't stick at anything but now I look back and see the experiences that I've had and it's all good.
The earth has just gone down and Sun has been exposed, let's hope she never changes!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Back at last

Hi I'm back and ready to resume my blogging career!! Not that it ever amounted to much but it's a good way to keep my hand in to writing thoughts down.
We are fine though exhausted after our biggest season in ten years. Only three weeks to go until we have our five months off so there will be plenty of time to recuperate and play and at long last we have someone to take over the hard work. We have been trying to sell the business for four years and now my son Jason and his partner Paul are coming back from Sydney and buying the Egg so a dynasty has begun! I will still be chef at night but will have much more time to do the things I love....art music and food. Denise will be able to walk away and live a life of leisure and that makes her very happy.
My plans for the winter are demolish our little house on the hill, sculpture symposium at Lochmara Lodge end of May and hopefully a jaunt through Europe making sculpture and catching up with old friends. I have a yearning to get away by myself with a small backpack and living day to day. I'm peopled out!