December 2009

Well, she’s been a long, long year. Wellington proved her reputation as a fickle mistress, and we wrapped up and nested for the better part of it all.

But that Winter made sure we had to work harder to keep ourselves head above proverbial water, and it’s all been worth it. Chef du Plunge is walking, is as friendly as you could ask, and is a great kid.

Getting that has been a sacrifice though. We gave up a lot to make sure we were putting our energy into giving this little guy the best start in life we possibly could. And for to mark that year in song, I give you Gillian Welsh.

Like she says, we cannot have all the things that please us.

And to complement that, it has been a long, long year of the occasional night up with Falling, Folding Leaves of Paper. With luck I should have that project finished once and for all this year. But to mark the progress, there is this:


So let’s start by saying that I’m a fan of Lake. Mainspring and Escapement were genuine and original, and an enjoyable read to boot.

Green however is an out and out stinker of a novel. Such a stinker that I’m eschewing my usual unwillingness to blow the story wide open and just tell you all about it.

Green is the story of a young girl purchased by a trader to be raised as a concubine. But… as well as her training in the female arts she is also secretly taught self-defence and to be a kind of ninja of some sort. Apparently there is a plot afoot to have her slay the Duke for whom is is being trained in concubindery.

Now, this is a good solid core for a novel. A young girl, taken by a guru/wise-man out of poverty, and raised in the old and arcane ways. Hero-story the whole way. And it’s there that the story departs.

Basically, I think Lake should spent less time faffing about on Twitter, and more time concentrating on the story, because Green and the decent novel part ways very early in the piece, and are never really united.

And so it is that the young girl accidentally kills her nasty-but-lovable mistress in the art of cooking, kills the Duke almost by accident, and escapes to her home country, where she faffs around joining a temple and indulging in a world of $ and M (a theme Lake seems to really, really enjoy…). Then, mysteriously, she joins one of her former gurus, and is returned to the Duke’s city. The city has fallen into disrepair after the girl killed the Duke, and it needs her help.


The diversion to her home country is completely pointless and a waste of pages. The entire novel could have been set around the intrigue of having her get close enough to the Duke to kill him, but she manages it by just walking up to him and saying a magic spell… Then, blah fricking blah, girl-on-girl, whippings, killings, some random meetings between boring characters and FIN.


A slightly predictable but nonetheless highly enjoyable steampunk-cum-adventure novel.

A young but widely discredited archeologist is searching for the lost city of “Camlantis”, and finds herself drawn into intrigue and a likely band of misfits in a globe-spanning adventure.

And… that’s all she wrote.

Pretty much yet another story aimed most probably at late teens, but… wtf. Enjoyable.

Basically a murder-mystery-cum-space-opera.

And… that’s about it. To Hold Infinity was a good read, and 1998 was relatively early for the idea, but humans-enhanced-virtual-minds is well-covered ground and Meaney hasn’t really taken this one anywhere particularly new or interesting.

Read it on a holiday  nice and lite.

Well, we made it to one year.

It’s been a good one too, involving such highlights as:

  • Travel to Karitane, Auckland, Papamoa, Furneaux Lodge, Sunny Raumati Beach.
  • A bullet-proof baby getting his innoculations, and hardly noticing them
  • Starting daycare with Barnadoes (highly recommended), and Second Chef returning to a workplace more happy than she left
  • Me starting new work just prior to the arrival of Chef Du Plunge
  • A restructure at work which threatened to leave a new Dad out of work…
  • The decision to up sticks and move to the suburbs*, with the consequent purchase of a property (we signed the deal last Monday, and we’re moving Wellington Anniversary weekend)
  • Both adults finally feeling that the city was just too noisy. But, three years here, it will be quite a change
  • The movement into the parenting circles, and whole new social sphere
  • Learning great songs like “The Grand Old Duke of York”, and “Purea Nei”
  • A great little guy coming along in huge, baby-sized strides.

In short he’s doing really well. He didn’t get his first cold until he started daycare, and since then Dad has had a cold almost non-stop. But, so be it.

He really is a great kid. He’s perceptive, clever, inquisitive, and vocal (yes, all parents think these things). Vocal especially. An example is his being woken up by the fireworks on Guy Fawkes, and being brought out into the kitchen at his aunt’s place to watch, and providing a running commentary with finger pointing. Cute as heck.

And in balance parenting isn’t such a drag. It’s lead to a lot of changes in our lifestyles, but nothing you can’t adjust too. Sure, we go out less, and not to extravaganza when we do, but… so what? The party goes on in the city without us, and things like boozing are only money sinks. We still have great hard-case times, with and without the wee man there. It’s been a change from outward-focussed attention, to an inward focus on our nuclear family, but we get to share it with others whenever we can.

All in all, not so bad.

How my father fell completely out of society remains much of a mystery to this day. After his departure from Tokomaru Bay in what must have been very early ’72 he appears to have returned to Auckland and continued to seek help with his illness, but in a society completely unprepared for the type of rehabilitation he required.

New Zealand in the early ’70s was, like many of its contemporaries, still uncertain whether drug addiction was a health or criminal issue, and from what records I’ve been able to secure it was to the attention of both these types of authority that my father was brought. You can imagine then the shame of his parents, your stereotypical hard-working suburban family, who found itself in possession of a son unable to pull himself together.

My earliest inquiry into the period between the East Coast and his death resulted in an interesting titbit of information that has taken a number of years to slot into meaning. Some time in mid-to-late ’72 the mother of a friend of Howard’s came home to find him sitting on the couch in her lounge. Surprised to find him there, she did not give him a particularly warm welcome (as you would expect), and he left, in what I myself see as another incident of running away.

I always interpreted this encounter as a plea for help, and more recent discoveries in official documents have confirmed this for me. Howard apparently got on well with his friend’s mum, and it was probably to her that he was attempting to turn, in an effort to find some sort of comfort the rebellion against my grandparents precluded.

It is a pattern I have seen several times among personal contacts with heavy drug dependence, a spiral downwards into increasingly anti-social behaviour while also clinging desperately to the normality and safety of society itself. For many this hypocrisy strikes very deeply, and is key to their inability to ‘pull themself together’; a counter-veiling force acting to distance them from the ones they love, while simultaneously increasing the yearning for succour. And so their psyche sheers, often irreparably.

For this reason I now know what he must have been experiencing when taken off a train in Putaruru in May 1972. He is wandering the North Island, seeking who knows what, perhaps Jerusalem and Baxter who has helped others, perhaps nothing more than comfort in the distance from home. He is drunk and in a ritalin stupour, so the guards remove him and hand him to the police. The police in turn hand him to Tokanui Mental Hospital, and it is there than another chapter of his rehabilitation begins, in a place many now speak of with hushed tones. He is sick, covered in tracks, emaciated, alone, lost. A specimen under a benevolent gaze.