beautiful monsters: April 2004 Archives

April 27, 2004

If only there was such a thing as an Advanced Certificate in Procrastination

I’m sure I’d ace the course and then I could put Cert. Pro. on my CV.

Today I slept in. Then I got up and ate some almonds and played a few games of Spider Solitaire. After that I went back to sleep and when I woke up again it was dark. I then ate some chocolate, and managed to get my Minesweeper beginner score down to 16 seconds. Then I realised that a whole day had passed and I’d achieved less than nothing. This inspired a brief burst of productivity that lasted about 2 hours. Now, well, I’m blogging. And thinking about mopping the floors cos we have an inspection tomorrow.


This week we have our first practicum for Māori 801 (Te Tū Marae – Marae Practice). We have to organise a hui, and this time we’re Tangata Whenua Ki Muri – working behind the scenes, doing the catering etc. Next time we are up front, doing the karanga, whaikōrero, waiata etc. I think when we’re not busy in the kitchen we’ll have to do that stuff this time too.

I’ve been designated head chef(!) so I’ve been planning the menu and experimenting on my flatties. All shreds of vegetarian respect have been trampled lately in this household. Anyway, this is what we’ll be serving.

* Roast pork slices with a marinade of horopito and manuka and a pikopiko garnish
* Spicy coconut chicken with a mango and kawakawa salsa
* Salad with kawakawa aioli
* Chocolate, kumara and nutmeg cake

The native herbs I have been foraging for myself – while I was up in Rotorua we went clambering around on top of Rangihakahaka – up the back of our neighbours farm. More about that if I ever write Rotorua Adventures part II.

We have a pretty simple uniform while we’re cooking or serving, but I got it into my head that it would be cool to have team aprons – I came up with this design:


Then I went down to the basement to do the screen-printing, and I couldn’t find my squeegee. Our basement is SUCH a mess, with all of my junk, and the flatties stuff, and other people’s things stored there, all in a big jumble. So I decided (at about midnight, seemed like an appropriate time) to do some sorting. I now have my stuff sorted into boxes and drawers in the following categories:

* Art stuff
* Craft stuff (very arbitrary distinction whereby art stuff = painting and craft stuff equals most other things)
* Bike stuff
* Big tools (like saws and drills)
* Small tools I use a lot, and picture hooks and round pieces of glass that I don’t know where they came from but they seem like they should be thrown away.
* Small tools I don’t use much or I don’t know what they’re for
* Clothes for rags
* Clothes I don’t wear but can’t bear to part with
* Clothes for op shops
* Recyclables
* Non recyclable rubbish

That’s as far as I got before I found my squeegee.


My flatmate always keeps chocolate in the freezer, and tonight she bought “Three Wishes” chocolate which has milk, white and dark layers. Since freezing it the dark layers have fallen off the top of the squares. I wonder if she’d notice if all the dark layers disappeared?

Posted by Fionnaigh at 01:55 AM

April 25, 2004


You've probably heard this one before, but it still makes me giggle.

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class one day. "In English," he said, "a double negative forms a positive. However, in some languages, such as Russian, a double negative remains a negative. However it is interesting to note that there is not a single language in which a double positive can imply a negative."

To which a sceptical student at the back of the lecture theatre responded, "Yeah, right."

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:30 AM

April 21, 2004

Time passing

Don’t you love computers? They save so much time. I’ve got new anti-virus software, which is great, except it’s having an argument with my mail program, and now it’s refusing to talk to my ISP... so I haven’t had internet access since I got back to Wellington on Sunday, and I spent most of yesterday fiddling around trying to get everything communicating. Gotta love the Paradise support desk – 45 minutes of hold music, and then they don’t listen and practically hang up on you they’re in such a hurry. Also, they still haven’t activated my webspace. I think I’m moving. Anyway all systems go at this moment (now receiving message 99 of 142...)


This place is like Autumn Central. Huge piles of home-grown chestnuts, apples, feijoas, Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts. Our freezer and cupboards are overflowing.

That’s one of the things I miss in Wellington – the changes in season are barely noticeable. It could be cold wet and windy, or it could be brilliantly sunny any day of the year. Took the photos of the autumn colours in my mum’s garden, have been delaying posting them since I’m going to move my pics somewhere else, but since these were already uploaded they may as well be on display...





Evening by lake Taupo

Posted by Fionnaigh at 09:53 AM

April 17, 2004

Rotorua adventures Part I

Signs of a thaw? Actually it’s been sunny all week and not too cold, but I’ve been up in Rotorua, which always seems to make me sleepy. Something to do with the change in altitude – I could quite happily sleep all day. Unfortunately that’s not a possibility, what with all the essays, preparing a menu for a hui that’s taking place first week back, and going on a quest for a waiata...

For one of the courses I’m doing we have to research a traditional waiata from our region. At first I just panicked and didn’t know where to start. I looked up some books in which old waiata were recorded, but I had no idea if any of them were still used, or how widely they were known. I needed to find one that was recorded on CD, or that someone could sing for me, so I could teach it to the class later. I know a fair few Celtic tunes, but some of them are very long, quite hard to teach I think... and I don’t know if I could get away with presenting them anyway!

At the marae I’m involved with, Tapu Te Ranga, I’ve only learned contemporary waiata like Hirini Melbourne’s. But Bruce, who founded the marae, is Te Arawa links, and that’s the region where I spent my childhood years, so it seemed that that was where I should be looking. Still, who to ask and where to go? I still had my nose in the books, but wasn’t getting anywhere, so I spoke to a friend of mine who has done the course before. She gave me the sound advise that the journey I took to find a waiata was as important as which one I ended up with, and that the point of the assignment was to get us going “back to our roots,” and making connections with people. “Say some karakia and see where you get taken,” she told me.

With these new insights I discarded the books in favour of the telephone and a few prayers to my ancestors. Luckily my mum has been working on a conservation project, protecting the bush on Mount Ngongotaha and also the Ngongotaha stream, and some members of the local hapu, Ngati Whakaue, have been involved. She had a connection with one of the kaumatua, Pihopa Kingi, because they had worked together in the Kaingaroa forest back in the 70’s. She gave him a call, and he invited us to meet him down at Ohinemutu the next day.

When we got down to Te Ao Marama, the hall beside St Faith’s, there was no sign of Pihopa Kingi, but there was a woman standing in the hall with a perplexed look on her face. “I’m supposed to be setting up the hall for a meeting,” she told us “but I don’t know how they want it. Someone was supposed to be meeting me here, but I’ve been waiting for half an hour.” So we put our stuff down and helped her to arrange the tables, and I told her about my project. “Oh, I can’t help you with that,” she said laughing. “I can’t sing. I’m better in the kitchen.” It turned out that the meeting she was setting up for was a public meeting with Gerry Brownlee of the National Party talking about the seabed/foreshore issue.

Once the hall was set up we moved outside into the sunshine, and right on cue a figure appeared walking down the road towards us. “There he is,” said our companion. “That’s Bishop Kingi.” I’m not sure how old he is, he was getting on a bit even when my mum first knew him, but he’s still looking pretty spry. He was smartly dressed, with a boater hat placed at a slight angle on his head.

He chuckled as my mum demonstrated that she could still remember the pruning techniques he taught her, and then chuckled again when he saw my Tino Rangatiratanga t-shirt. “You make sure you stand where Gerry Brownlee can see you,” he said. Then he handed me the words to “Kaore te aroha,” a well known waiata from Te Arawa, and he told me a bit about the history of the song. “And how does it go? Can you sing it?” my mum asked him. “Well yes, I’m going to sing it just now, at this meeting,” he told us. So my mum and I hovered at the back of the National meeting. As well as us, Pihopa Kingi, Gerry Brownlee and his entourage, there were a few well known local National supporters, at least four reporters and two photographers. There were four or five other people, presumably at least one or two of them were members of the public. We didn’t stay for the whole meeting, but apparently several people walked out.

* To Be Continued*

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:41 PM

April 07, 2004

Beautiful Monsters freezes over

No heater. Fingers numb. Blog closed until further notice.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 08:44 PM

April 05, 2004


We bought 1.5kg of liquorice allsorts tonight. My flatmate and I were walking past the Newtown New World and there was a guy sitting on the footpath with a box full of packets of liquorice allsorts. We were running to get out of the rain, so we didn’t take much notice, but once we got inside we were overcome by liquorice cravings. When we came out of the supermarket the man was leaving. “How much?” Kara called out to him, and he stopped. “Whatever you want.” “Two dollars,” Kara said. “Ok, two dollars. You can have two packets for two dollars.” So we gave him the money. “Here, have another one too. It’s a gift.” And then he hurried away down the street. In the car we examined the packets carefully. They didn’t seem to have been tampered with. They didn’t seem to be past the best by date. In fact, they didn’t seem to have a best by date. They looked ok. And they tasted remarkably like liquorice allsorts. But where he got them from? So odd.

We picked up our Chinese takeaways and raced home in time for the arrival of the baby – who was overdue in the end anyway. Yup, I have a baby tonight. A nine-month-old baby, who is unbearably cute. *Deep breath.* It’s only chemicals, I don’t have to listen to them. And having a real one of your own is not the same as borrowing someone else’s for a night... why won’t my hormones listen to reason, damn it? Even two hours of screaming baby didn’t cure me! Turns out the little one is a great pianist (though she doesn’t have a very big reach yet). And she likes Denis Glover, Beethoven, and Hirini Melbourne. And I think she has my eyes...

Posted by Fionnaigh at 12:29 AM

April 02, 2004


Gradually I make my way north, and when I get to Malmö Tomas is waiting at the station. He comes bounding towards me and almost knocks me over with a huge hug. Malmö is filled with bicycles, and a couple of times I accidentally walk on the cycle lane and almost get knocked over. We visit the library, which is a beautiful building, filled with light. There is a sculpture made of books and pages tumbling from the ceiling. In the evening we meet up with one of Tomas’s friends, Loela. She’s lovely, I feel as though I can speak to her about anything. Later her partner joins us, but he has trouble getting into the restaurant: apparently you have to look cool and affluent enough to get past the bouncers. They ask him what’s in his bag, and he says books.
“Well, just don’t study,” they grumble.

I meet Ann Britt, Tomas’s mother, who gave me a complete set of Astrid Lindgren books one birthday at a time.
“At last,” she says as she hugs me. We’ve heard so much about each other for the past decade. Then Daniel comes over, he was in Aotearoa the same year as Tomas, and the three of us go out for a crayfish party that is part of the Malmö festival. I feel a bit weird, a vegetarian surrounded by hundreds of people eating crayfish, but the folk music is fun, and a drunk woman dances down the line of people and swings me around as she passes.


Tomas drives me across Skåne to see a castle that is 500 years old. It’s a bit unfriendly, cold dark stone with gaps in the construction for firing arrows and pouring boiling oil on enemies. Afterwards we go to visit Ales Stenar, a Iron Age monument of 59 boulders set in the shape of a ship. I’ve seen photos of my parents wandering between these massive stones that emerge from the mist; somehow it seems less impressive today, smaller somehow in the bright sunlight. The landscape is completely flat, except for the cliffs that fall to the sea. We lie at the edge of the drop, listening to the cries of birds and children, wind rushing over us, and the water crashing over the rocks below.

We decide to check out the queer nightlife in Malmö, but Tomas doesn’t really know where to go. We find out about one bar, but when we turn up there are no other women. I am enjoying the atmosphere, but Tomas is looking around for an escape route.

The next day we travel by boat to the island of Ven. The leaflet I read on the way over had me expecting a wild nature reserve, but in fact the flat land on the top of the island is completely cultivated, and the endangered species of plants clinging to the cliffs around the edge look a bit like weeds to me. The wind threatens to tear us apart as we eat lunch sitting on an army bunker, our arms covered in goosebumps. Then we scramble down the slope to the stony beach, and nibble on wild rose hips. The sea is filled with small jellyfish, but we run in anyway for an invigorating swim.

Tomas’s father lives in the countryside, amongst fields of golden wheat, rape seed and red poppies. Everything is so flat, and so tamed. “There’s not a tree in Skåne that hasn’t been put there by someone,” Tomas tells me. Sven seems slightly shy around me, but perhaps it is just the language. Tomas climbs up to a loft in the garage, and produces the drawings I did for him before he arrived in Rotorua.

We catch the train across the bridge to Kobenhagen, buy Danish pastries and Danish waffle cones, and then return to Malmö by boat. There’s a row of massive white wind turbines in the sea.

In the evening Tomas has organised a dinner party with a dozen of his friends, and the two of us cook frantically for a couple of hours. There are a couple of people I met in Rotorua ten years before. Tomas plays his cheesy music, he hasn’t moved on far from Lady in Red, and he stops the CD to play his favourite passages over and over. We light candles and open some wine. Everyone seems to know a lot about me, and Tomas seemed to be really proud of me. “Hey kid sis,” he grins at me when we have a moment alone in the kitchen, and ruffles my hair.

Ann-Britt walks into town with us and buys me some fruit – the vendor is very excited to hear that I’m from New Zealand, and tells everyone nearby. He has some apples from New Zealand, see? Tomas deposits me on a train, and I have a seat to myself. We pass through pretty forests of birch and pine trees, moss covered rocks and a haze of blue and purple flowers. There is a lake, and wooden houses dotted among the trees.


Christian meets me at the train station in Oslo. He seems shorter than he was in 1992, but just as lovely. We go out for coffee, but it’s strange. We have only Tomas in common, and a few months living in the same town. Oslo is very picturesque. The guards parading in front of the castle have ridiculous black outfits: they must be melting in the sun.

On the train north I wish I could get out and explore the lakes and mountains. The forests here are thinner, translucent. The leaves seem to glow with a light of their own. The waterways are broken around the edges by massive rocks. There are patches of snow in the valleys, and as we travel higher the vegetation becomes stunted and tougher.

When I get to the train station in Trondheim, Anita isn’t there. I phone her parents, who don’t speak English, but finally I realise that she’s gone to the airport by mistake. Eventually we meet up. She doesn’t seem to have changed a bit, it’s like I saw her yesterday. She gives me a rose, peach coloured. Then we go to her apartment, which is tiny, and meet her flatmate. We talk mostly about boyfriends and Costa Rica, eat pizza and chips and drink cider. Anita can still out drink me by a long shot.

In the morning I make strawberries and pikelets for Anita’s birthday. She’s thrilled with the John Lennon CD I have picked out, but doesn’t seem interested in the flax kete I have made for her. Then we drive further north to the small town where her family live. Some of her aunts, uncles and cousins come around and there are so many cream cakes. When Anita’s cousin, Nina, who was twelve, found out that I was from New Zealand she wrote a few things down on a piece of paper and then shyly passed it to me. It said had a list of words: “kuia, pipi, hōha…” She’d learned them from a story book. Some neighbours were visiting with their two year old son, and we took him outside. I learned to say “tractor” in Norwegian.

In the forest by her house we picked wild raspberries, and I got stung by nettles. We drank from a waterfall, and I slipped over in the mud.


Stockholm is beautiful in the mornings, the golden light glinting off the buildings. We go swimming, clambering over the rocks to find a good spot. The water is freezing, but afterwards we lie on the warm rocks.

Tomas takes me to a National Park, about an hour away from the city. It’s as close as you can get to virgin forest in Sweden. The landscape is so strange, scraped over by glaciers that were 5km thick. As the ice retreated the landscape started to rise, forming until there were a few scattered islands, and then more islands closer together, and then solid land with lakes scattered around. The higher points in the national park were very rocky, covered in lichen and stunted pine trees. Lower there were more plants, oaks, birch, wildflowers and mosses. Part of the forest had been destroyed in a fire, but it was just starting to regenerate. On the each of the burnt area I saw a movement.
“Is that a… um… what does a moose look like?” There were two of them, a mother and her youngster. Tomas’s excited shouting startled them and they loped away.

We came across a Viking fortress, probably 1500 years old, and we picked wild blueberries among the ruins. After lunch we swam to a tiny island in the middle of a lake, and hundreds of slender silver fish teemed around us.

Back in Stockholm we rent a canoe and paddle among the islands. The weather is gorgeous, and we are constantly bobbing around in the wakes of larger boats.


On my last night there’s a street party on in the Old Town. The mediaeval buildings are lit up in blue and crimson, with fairy lights sparkling over pathways. We watch people breathing fire and dancing with poi, clowns and jugglers, stalls selling jewellery and hats and hot candied almonds.

Afterwards we head back to the city centre and check out a gay bar I’ve found in my guidebook. It’s tiny, and we stand around awkwardly with our beers. Then suddenly at midnight they open some frosted glass doors at the back of the bar and reveal a smoke filled dance floor. We walk through, and stepping out of the smoke at the other side is like passing through a curtain. We find ourselves in yet another room, and another bar, and mirrors everywhere so it seems to go on forever. We talk to a woman, Peggy, whose parents are French and Armenian. She has short hair and piercings and when I ask her what she does she says, “I drive trucks.” At one point she turns to Tomas and says, “you’re not gay.” I can’t help giggling. He’s been feeling paranoid that he’ll be found out, and now he has been.

That night we stay up late talking.
“I remember…” Tomas says, and starts another round of reminiscing. I’m mortified at what an inquisitive little brat I was at ten years old. I’m hoping he won’t remember a friend and I trying to spy on him and his girlfriend… I’m remembering him posing by a sign in a shop selling Svensk made machinery; "Swedish Staying Power." The arguments he used to have with Merlin (our father a connoisseur of chamber music, Tomas sticking resolutely to pop). Converting him into a gourmet chef. Decorating a kanuka bush for Christmas, and Tomas waking up to find that a kea had pierced his airbed in the night. Him picking me up easily and tipping me, kicking and screaming, upside down. His tall figure disappearing at the end of the year, wearing a swandri and gumboots, a taiaha in one hand.

Sometimes I still hate myself for “failing” my own AFS exchange. I think my biggest regret is that I never really became part of a family in Costa Rica. But talking to Tomas, I realise how incredibly lucky I am. He’s the best brother I could ever hope for.


It is night. Kilometres below a city sparkles like an intricate necklace at the throat of a continent. I love the sense of being somewhere else that is nowhere and could be anywhere as we speed through the night. I feel as though I’m paused on the edge of something. A landscape of possibility waits to take shape from the darkness.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 08:51 AM

April 01, 2004

Economics explained

My flatmate is trying to explain economics to me. She’s been using words like “consciously maximising the satisfaction of exogenously determined preferences” which apparently has something to do with chocolate bars. And “diminishing marginal utility” which is when you have too much of a good thing. Like if you have so many chocolate bars you can’t lie down on your bed because it’s covered in chocolate bars. In fact, you probably can’t even get into your house... or something. There were lots of chocolate bars in it anyway. I think I’d be good at this sort of thing, as long as I got put in charge of keeping the chocolate under control.

Posted by Fionnaigh at 04:24 PM