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).

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

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.

Continue reading Is It Irresponsible Chasing Rainbows?

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 

Continue reading Thus Sang The Jolly Autumn

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.

* * *

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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… from a Small City. My daily musings from Ōtepoti to get you inspired. Read the blog, view the photos, embrace the creativity.

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