Thursday, 18 October 2012

Escape with a Camera

My book, Built for Justice - visits to old North Island Courthouses, is well in the production stage. However, the other day I got a call from the book designer regarding a problem with some of my photographs. Towards the end of my research and photographing travels I had changed cameras.  My trusty Canon had packed up and when I started using a new one of a different make I forgot to check the degree of resolution.  Some of the photos I took were not of a high enough resolution to publish well.
The quick answer was to hit the road and rephotograph.  Fortunately the photos causing the problem were all taken within four or five hours drive of home. (New Zealand is a pretty small country after all.) I set off in the little camper at 7am on a beautiful sunny morning and had reached the historic old gold mining town of Coromandel by 9am, and after taking some shots and picking up a coffee it was back heading through the Waikato region down to Whakatane in NZ's Bay of Plenty which has always been a favourite destination of mine.
 Old Coromandel Courthouse
On a fine day Whakatane is a great place to visit. The stop bank that goes through the town following the edge of the harbour and estuary is a popular walking track, and joggers and family groups were using it late into the evening. The local campground is close to town and behind the stopbank.  After parking the campervan I walked into town to the nearest supermarket for some provisions and a bottle of wine to enjoy as the sun set over the Bay of Plenty.  I had chosen the right day to escape with the camera, as the next day was terrible with rain and howling winds and it was a long much buffeted trip home in the van.
Watch this space for more about my book, or go to
 View of Whakatane


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Escape from a mental rut

Writing is a solitary occupation and it can be easy to get into a mental rut.  Sometimes it can happen without you really realising it.  The best way to escape and 'gee' yourself up again is to take a break and meet some people with similar interests to you, who are positive and achieving.  Last weekend I took the campervan and my favourite travelling companion and headed north.  No, not to Alaska (that song title shows my age) but to Whangarei in the north of New Zealand.  The Northland branch of the NZ Society of Authors (Pen Int) was running a weekend writing festival with many interesting workshops and guest authors.

A weekend spent in the company of a hundred or so keen writers over all genres was an invigorating experience that recharged the internal batteries. In my experience writers as a group are usually friendly and so the Northland writers proved to be. It was interesting to speak with writers, most of whom were not especially successful but who nevertheless had a passion for what they did and a positive outlook on their futures.  They all had work of some sort in progress and high hopes for publication and success.  Workshop presenters were informative and helpful and there were many 'light bulb' moments when something they said sparked an idea.

I returned home after the break feeling energised and ready to attack more writing. Even updating this blog after such a long time is evidence of something. Motto for the future is Escape frequently to find new inspiration!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Escape on Four Wheels

Well the gap from when the last post was made is unfortunately far too long.  My apologies to any readers out there. Recently I added a small camper-van (RV to those in North America) to my inventory of escape equipment. Now I can hit the highway when I like; to explore, research material for my writing, or just for the hell of taking a break. It is not a huge RV with all mod-cons but a small easy to drive and manoeuvre camper built on a Toyota Hiace. It can be easily parked in built up areas or at shopping malls which is a plus too.

Last week I took it away for a maiden cruise.  Would you know it but a couple of hours down the road I had a puncture? That was a good introduction to the joys of living on the road.  At least I now know where all the tools are and the jacking points on the chassis. My destination was the coastal city of Whakatane situated in New Zealand's beautiful Bay of Plenty.  The harbour front at Whakatane on a fine day is one of my most favourite places in the country.  The weather my first morning in Whakatane did not disappoint as I strolled along the harbour walk in the sunshine while the Toyota was in the tyre place having the puncture fixed and tyres swapped over.

One purpose of the escape on the road was to do further research on the book I am writing on old courthouse buildings. More on that later. It is a great feeling to be on a 'working' holiday in a beautiful place, footloose and fancy free while others are just working.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Escape to the Murray

Most people like to have some control over their lives and it can be scary to hand over control to others.  I'm one of those who like to know what is going on, and where I am going to be and what I am going to do, at any particular time. Accordingly, when I found out that my dear wife was secretly organising a surprise holiday for a recent birthday it took a lot of self control not to try and find out more. I think everyone who has ever run a business likes to feel in control. Usually I would have tried to weasel the information out of my wife (I didn't spend nearly forty years as a lawyer for nothing) but fortunately I sensed that the holiday and keeping the details secret were important to her and I played the game and just went along with the flow.

For the first time in my life I turned up at an airport having no idea where I was flying to. The good lady had at least told me I would need my passport and had given me a basic list of the sort of clothing I should pack. My children, who were in on the secret, gave me a birthday card with strict instructions not to open it until I was on the plane. When I did I found it contained spending money in Australian currency. Hey, what a change in life that was - my kids giving me money!

We had a great holiday in South Australia that included cruising in a paddle steamer for four days along SAs iconic Murray River, taking in the scenery and visiting: vineyards, sheep stations, riverside towns and Aboriginal historic sites.  Add to that the good company, great food and service and one could say life was pretty damn good. There are times when we all should just switch off, go with the flow, and trust other people with our lives.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Escape the Fungi Growing Syndrome

What happens when your garden is neglected and the soil becomes infertile and sour? Weeds, fungi and other unattractive nasties start to flourish. The colourful flowers, the healthy fruits and vegetables get over-whelmed and eventually choked until they die. What happens if your life becomes perpetually unhappy and unsatisfactory? What happens when you are just survivng and not reaching your full potential and you are finding that what you do an a daily basis no longer makes you happy and self-fulfilled?  In a metaphorical sense much the same thing happens to your soul or your body as in the garden.  You cease to flourish, and your soul, your personality or your inner being - call it what you like, becomes sour and you are emotionally cultivating weeds and fungi.  It's not a good look. It may lead on to despair, depression and other problems.

I had a coffee recently with a former colleague who after forty years is still practising his profession, although he hates the work.  He has convinced himself that working on for a few more years is what he should do because he is still earning good income.  He takes a lot of medication and suffers from a variety of stress related complaints. To put it simply there is not much joy at all in his life notwithstanding that he seems to have a good marriage, loving grownup kids and grandchildren.

He has reached that stage oin his working life where he is really just cultivating fungi on the soul and his work no longer makes much sense.  He goes to work often at 7am and works late.  He is not a poor man but he has fallen into the trap of believing he needs much more before he can retire or make any change of direction in his life. Meanwhile, he is living in a semi-permanent state of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

Don't be afraid of change.  Don't work on mindlessly when all joy of work has gone. There are other options and other choices that can fertilise and replenish the inner man or woman and bring joy back into life. Clear out the weeds in your life and let the flowers back in.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Escape from everyday rugby and sex?

Two items in the daily news caught my attention this morning. One was that an international rating agency had downgraded New Zealand's credit rating, the other that most people in the country expect to enjoy more sex than usual in the next few weeks. I strongly suspect that most readers of the newspapers this morning were more interested in the second item than the first, although in the long term the first item may have more effect upon their lives.

What is going on down here deep in the South Pacific?  New Zealand is hosting the Rugby World Cup, our national team the All Blacks is doing well,  and we have all temporarily lost touch with everyday cares and woes - if not in some cases reason and reality. As a nation we are experiencing a feel good factor. Hence the expectation, that a survey has confirmed, that there is likely to be more sex around even if the country is going broke. We will go down the proverbial gurglar making love instead of worrying about our financial situation.  Could be worse ways to go, I suppose.

Just as an individual needs a spot of sport or other recreation as an antidote to everyday worries and stress, sometimes a whole country needs the same and it seems major sporting events, despite their costs and social inconveniences, tick the box for giving a country a positive fillip. Here in New Zealand we are too small to ever host an Olympic Games so the Rugby World Cup is as big as it is ever likely to get for us as a country. It is great to see the enthusiasm, the flags and bunting, the overseas tourists and the whole Pacific culture theme that has overtaken the country.

For a few short weeks we are a different people and we have thrown away some of our cares. After the end of the Cup we will come back to earth but hopefully a little of the positive joyous spirit will still remain within us.  Go the All Blacks!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Escape to the 'Naki

There are days when it is just great to be alive and Monday last week was one of those days. My wife (MW) and I had driven down to Taranaki.  For those not familiar with New Zealand geography, Taranaki (also known by locals as "the 'Naki") is the large bump sticking out on the western side of the North Island of New Zealand.  It has a reputation for being a bit of a wild and unique place, mainly because it seems to get the first dose of whatever weather comes across the Tasman Sea and hits NZ.  Slap bang in the middle of the province of Taranaki is the large old volcanic cone of Mt Taranaki that dominates the region.  There is old Taranaki saying that when you can see the mountain it is about to rain and when you can't see it, it is raining. Taranaki is one of the finest dairy farming areas in the world.

Last Monday there was the most bluest, cloudless sky I had seen in a long time and Mt Taranaki with a lot of snow on it stood out the green forests and pastures like a beacon of hope.  We spent the day driving around the mountain following the coast with the gleaming sea on our right, and non-stop views of the mountain on our left.  Absolutely glorious! We called into many of Taranaki's small towns and villages.

In theory I was working.  I was photographing and researching old courthouse buildings for my next book.  Some photos were taken and interesting conversations had with locals in libraries and small museums around the district, including an interesting time spent with a 95 year old lady whose spryness and intellectual powers were undiminished by her age.  MW and I spent a most enjoyable day in beautiful natural surrounding.

Monday last week was definitely one of those memorable days which made me realise, not for the first time, that pursuing one's interests and passions will always beat a day spent stressed and worrying in an office anytime. No income was made but, hey, there was enough loose change in the pocket for a cup of coffee and some lunch along the way.