Thursday, May 17, 2012


 I am not complaining about the fact that more people in Russia and the United Kingdom have bought my enovels than in of New Zealand. Nor am I complaining about the total disinterest of Oamaru in the workshop on e publishing organised by Waitaki Writers recently. In fact I am not complaining at all about living here, it is what I chose to do. The convolutions of small town infrastructure are grist to a writer's mill, whether is be  murder,petty politics, or just eavesdropping on the uninformed gossip about celebrities as I wait in line at the supermarket.

But I am concerned about the e mail that popped into my in box this morning.

 For two years Oamaru Cinema has tried to interest Oamaru in the wonderful screenings of New York Metropolitan Grand Operas. The seasons are well publicised in a free booklet with great colour photographs. Operas are lengthy, Gotterdammerung takes six hours - so 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon seemed a perfect time. But over the last two years the attendance has not changed, the same 6 to 10 old faithfuls have attended. And we are old. Now Phil, manager at Oamaru World Cinema tells us that there will probably not be a 2012-13 season because the small audiences mean the operas are showing at a loss.

When I discuss it with Oamaru residents I get these excuses:-
'I'm not into Opera'
'Which ones have you seen?'
So how can  she know what opera is like?

"Oh it's too expensive."
The man who said that was wheeling a trolley full of Lion Brown cartons out of New World.
$28 is for the extended screening time - an Opera takes twice as long as an ordinary movie. And on screen we see and hear what people in New York pay huindreds of dollars per seat for.

'I was watching the Rugby on T.V.' Well maybe that is an excuse.

So it looks as thoiugh Oamaru will lose it's slot in the Metropolitan season. Smaller towns, like Geraldine and Petone will still have theirs.



Monday, May 14, 2012


This morning I helped room 2 with reading. The seven year olds had a reader about Dinosaus which they read competently because they have developed a lot of the peripheral skills that cannot be taught, they have to develop as children become more and more competent readers. Like Jed, from the Phillipines, who can detect when a word does not sound right, and try another word from context, like 'floor' did not sound right in the context of his story so he stopped, thought and tried 'flood.'He had to master some complex reasoning to get that, but he did it all himself.

Then some eight year olds brought out a School Journal to read with me. We almost did not get it read, we were giggling so much. It was a story from those marvellous days in the seventies when being politically and socially incorrect was almost required behaviour! The story, 'I Hate Wellington', is about Sam (gender neutral name) whose father has been transferred from Auckland to Wellington. Father designs toilet paper, waterproof toilet paper, invisible toilet paper, solar powered toilet paper, re-usable toilet paper (!!!) . Eventually Father gets a new job, in the Beehive, and Sam decides Wellington is O.K. It was hilarious.

So. if anybody who has not entered a classroom since they were in school themselves talks about Education being dumbed down, or children not learning the basics, I shall take great delight in telling them they are talking crap. That should get the eight year olds laughting - they love scatalogical terminology.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


My novel 'Art Week' about the struggles a gifted painter had to incorporate Art into the primary school curriculum twenty years ago  appeared on Amazon Kindle last week.
On Monday I had a wonderful session at our local primary school with my young friends from Room one. and saw how Art had developed over twenty years since I retired.

Gone were the scungy powdered tempera paints, To-day's children paint with acrylics on cartridge paper. The chuldren I worked with had been taught not to use the same brush for different colours, to wipe surplus paint off the brush, not to drip paint.

Their teacher, Mrs Prescott, inspired them with a topic that spoke directly to their imagination. Their topic this term is The History of the District, and of course Waitaki Valley was once the home of dinosaurs.
Mrs Prescott told them,
"Imagine that you have discovered a new kind of dinosaur, that nobody has ever seen before. You are going to paint it."
My part was easy. My questions had to call out of their imaginations what they already knew about disnosaues.  Two legs or four? Long neck" Coud it fly? did it have tusks? I asked as the brown splodges on their papers took shape, legs, arms, horns, scales, tusks were added.

The fisnished paintings did not look much like conventional dinosaurs, but these were their own dinosaurs, created in their own imaginations. They were wonderful. And their was a lot of thinking about science going on as they painted.

The children showed me how to work the rack in the corner of the Art Area. It is a steel contraption which holds paintings while they dry.

I have always maintained that children's obsession with dinosaurs has a deep psychological significance, just as my generation was obsessed with ghosts and bogeys. I doubr if Mrs Prescott's class will have deep psychological hang ups , because they have put their monsters on to paper and faced them And had real fun doing it.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I did not know a lot about Russia before I went there. They had some great writers, like Tolstoy, Pusgkin Gogol. Also great musicians,like Tchaikovski and Rimsky Korsakove. One of the lovely surprises was a visit to the Diorama at Borodino. After the Revolution this huge painting was dismantled and discarded, but eventuially it was rescued and now tourists can visit, standing inside a circular building and look at what the Battle of Borodino was like; Magic! My neighbour Glenys lent me her copy of 'Carmen' which she bought when visiting the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Carmen is the first grand opera I ever saw, and I knew the music because way back in the thirties I sang with a children's choir and we sang the Children's chorus. Shortly after the war Wellington Amateur Opera produced Carmen. Then I saw it translated to an American production plant with a black cast, Harry Belafonte sang Don Jose and Dorothy Dandridge sang Carmen. Carmen Jones started as a movie and has developed into a stage production. A couple of years ago Daughter in Law, Susan and I went to see Otago University's production of Carmen. That was as good as any opera I have seen overseas. Carmenis without doubt my favourite opera. Why? Because it is dramatically real, the music is melodic and singable, the scenes are opulent. In the Met production the singers are young and look their part, especially Elina Garanga as Carmen. Teddy Tahu Rhodes not only sings brilliantly (well he would wouldn't he} but he does a wonderful, finger clicking flamenco. Enough of opera, back to the grindstone. Next Saturday I am taking a workshop on publishing to the web for Waitaki Writers. One piece of advice from John Locke, not the philosopher, is to identify a niche of people who would buy your books. My niche? Well they seem to be middle aged to elderly married women. Trouble is they don't like computers and don't buy e readers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I retired from teaching in 1990 and I wrote a novel set in a New Zealand Primasry School Of course it didn't even get off any publishers' slush pile. But a lot of people kept helping me edit it, prune it, change it. Daughter in law Anna typed it and burned it on to a disk. Then I wrote 'Thorny Glen' just to see if I could self publish it on Kindle and actually sell a few copiues. It worked, so I have resurrected 'Art Week'. Son Joe formatted it for me and son Terry helped me design a cover and post it. Cassino V'llande is a talented painter who ia a teacher in a small New Zealand town. She is married to Kevin, an unemployed philanderer. Over 65,000 words she reviews her life, her marriage and her optrions. Art Week is available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents U.S. And John Locke says I don't have to apologise for self publishing. According to him self publishers who offer their books at 99 cents are not showing vanity. Mainstream writers who sell at US$10 or more have to prove they are ten times as good! BTW Art Week is definitely not autobiographical. but you might recornise some of the characters.