Many years ago when I was bone carving I made this wee fella. The inspiration for it arose from my interest in one of New Zealand’s foremost carvers at the time, Theo Schoon who was very interested in traditional Maori art in Aotearoa and in particular (in part) the rock ‘paintings’ found in limestone shelters near Timaru (have a look here ) There are many wonderful rock ‘paintings’ but the two that took my fancy were the albatross and the taniwha.

The lizard had been used on a NZ stamp (1960) as had other cave paintings and I had been a stamp collector from childhood so there was that added interest.taniwha stampmatariki_2012_stamp_







And so I made the bone taniwha. Obviously it wasn’t an exact replica (and wasn’t intended to be) but the inspiration was pretty evident.

I later gave this carving to my son. I’m not too sure how often he wore it but as you can see from the photo it had a few quite fragile sections. You’ll have to understand that bone has a very definite grain in it (which runs from head to tail in this piece) and as with wood this can be a source of real strength but also a cause of real weakness. In this carving the curl at the tail and the thighs of the hind legs were the weakest points and it so happened that one of the legs broke. Of course such things can be glued and the piece worn again, but….

When I started the jade and hard stone carving in the back of my mind was to replace my boy’s bone taonga with one of stone. Some interesting stone from South Westland came into my possession (via Trademe- what a shop!) and it struck me that the look of it lent itself to being turned into a taniwha.

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So I did!!

It isn’t small so isn’t suitable for everyday neck-wear and can have the suspension cord removed to become a table-top fondle piece, or if so inclined he can put the cord back on and wear the wee taniwha as a dress pendant should he think that suits the occasion. (I hope he gets to go out sometimes!


“14 Mile”


The point at 13 Mile looking back towards Greymouth (coincidentally 13 Miles away!!)

I had an inquiry from an ‘associate’ this morning regarding “seaside holiday baches for rent” so I thought I’d put this page together- BECAUSE I KNOW OF 1!! (Before we go any further, don’t growl at me for my spelling of ‘bach’- that’s what we call them in Godzone- bach or crib, which is normally a holiday abode at the beach or at some favourite recreation area- river, lake etc..)

I live on ‘The Coast‘ and I have made reference to how lovely this part of Aotearoa New Zealand is in a number of ways- I’m sure if you dredge through previous posts on this blog you might find some of those!! Suffice it to say it is a very special part of the country and is a place that one could do MUCH WORSE than to visit. It is served by good quality roads from the Kohaihai River north of Karamea (and one anchor point of The Heaphy Track, the longest of NZ’ Great Walks) to Jackson’s Bay, a tiny fishing village south of Haast (the point at which SH6 leaves The Coast to head east to Central Otago.) You will have heard of a number of the ‘most important’ (best known) sites on The Coast- Punakaiki, The Glaciers or any of many other ‘iconic’ places.

13 mile bach

“GoogleEarth” view of the bach at 14 Mile. Yes, that’s it between the road and the rocks!

And thereby I pin the tale (tail?) of the wee bach at 14 Mile.

14 Mile? That’s how far it is from Greymouth in the old steps, and relates back to when places in New Zealand were often named by just that- how far they are from a more notable centre of population. (Not infrequently this ‘other notable place’ didn’t amount to much more than a settlement but at least had permanent buildings!) Not surprisingly the place nearer Greymouth that has homes and baches is ’10 Mile’!!

The bach at 14 Mile is remarkable for one pretty notable feature- it is just metres (vertical, not horizontal) from the Tasman Sea. The narrow deck on the front actually extends over the high tide mark!


The deck at ’14 Mile Bach’ extends over the high-tide mark….EXCITING!

Next to the bach is a fresh-water pool, achieved by the simple expedient of building a wall across the wee stream that runs out of the ranges over the road (which runs from Greymouth to Westport.)


The fresh water pool is always bracing!

It is pretty much a ‘traditional’ bach in that it’s very utilitarian and has been added to on occasions- ‘indoor plumbing’ and sleepout and extra storage and such. There is the usual large communal kitchen/dining/living area with a lovely big open fireplace for the chilly nights, (and of course re-stocking the wood supply can be a fun sideline of beach walking! You’ll be guaranteed to find some driftwood if you don’t find any pounamu cobbles or pebbles!)

Have a wee browse through the gallery and see whether you agree with me- this place is SPECIAL!

(PS- I am not their agent!)


I haven’t been very busy on my blog this year. Well I haven’t been ‘busy’ at all on it, really. I made several starts when certain things became topical but for one reason or another I didn’t get them finished before the topicality ran out!!

have been a bit more busy with other stuff and completed my ‘Diploma in Jade and Hard Stone Carving’ and in the process have made a few pieces I am a bit pleased with. So- being a bit pleased I thought I’d kill two birds with one carefully directed stone- complete a blog-post and share just some of the pleasing pieces with you!


This is ‘Wairua’, a piece I carved for the Aotearoa Jade Carvers National Exhibition in Hokitika a couple of weeks ago.



I used a combination of design elements based on waves on the sea and ferns in our bush. Interestingly mine was the only one of the 35 pieces in the exhibition that sold!



One of the stones I’ve developed a soft spot for is ‘tangiwai’ a bowenite and close cousin of nephrite.



Tangiwai is classified as one of the ‘pounamu’ stones, along with nephrite jade and serpentine.




The translucence and the colours in tangiwai are quite stunning!


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It’s fun to grind these discs very thin so that one is able to even get to the extent of seeing right through the stone. The irony is, of course that we then hang it against the body so the colours and patterns aren’t seen!



I have a good friend whose daughter talked her into her first tattoo, so to celebrate this momentous occasion I carved her this copy of the design in South-Westland jade.



This is ‘Takutai’, or Foreshore.



I started the carving course because I had ‘an itch I needed to scratch’, to move from bone to stone. My original bone carving on the left and the jade replica on the right could probably indicate “the itch has been scratched!”



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This a simple fold design with a jade bead cord attachment that brings out the internal colours and patterns of this nephrite stone well.


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I completed these simple serpentine drops yesterday. There seems to be nothing special about these pendants but I am pleased that I have done them. They are destined to be gifted to some of the protesters at Ferguson in the United States. If this is going to help in just a tiny way by letting the people know that others are thinking and supporting their protests, I am happy.

Job done! I am now the holder of a Certificate in Jade and Hard Stone Carving and a Diploma in the same ‘discipline’, and I have completed a blog-post!!!


Oh what a wonderful language English is, or is it? ‘Manglish’ is not so much to do with man although man invented it as much as it’s to do with mangle: “destroy or severely damage by tearing or crushing; ruin or spoil (a text, piece of music, etc.)”

 I apologise that I have forgotten the ‘source’ of this ‘saucy’ article but I am grateful to those who wrote it and present it verbatim for your edification! Read and enjoy.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture..

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert..

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13) They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear..

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France . Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.


If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.

After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud.

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

English Pronunciation by G. Nolst Trenité


Earlier today I started receiving texts and shortly after, phone calls from various of my family, friends and acquaintances. All had a similar inquiry- how are you? – are you alright? and followed a similar thread or underlying sense and that was one of concern. I was a bit bemused by their queries but soon enough they explained the reason for their messages.
We pretty quickly established that my email account had been hacked and the hackers had sent out a fraudulent message informing all that my family and I had been involved in an accident in the Philippines, I was injured and we were stranded needing money urgently to get home.
Thank you to all those who contacted me- it makes me very proud and happy to have such caring people around me.



Kevin Myers (born 30 March 1947) is an Irish journalist and writer. He writes for the Irish edition of the “Sunday Times”, having previously been a columnist for the “Irish Independent” and a former contributor to The Irish Times, where he wrote the “An Irishman’s Diary” opinion column several times weekly. Until 2005, he wrote for the UK “Sunday Telegraph”.
His articles criticise left-wing opinion and the “liberal consensus”, sometimes incorporating hyperbole,sarcasm and parody.
This essay recently appeared in “The Irish Independent”:

Somalia is not a humanitarian disaster; it is an evolutionary disaster. The current drought is not the worst in 50 years, as the BBC and all the aid organisations claim. It is nothing compared to the droughts in 1960/61 or 73/74. And there are continuing droughts every 5 years or so. It’s just that there are now four times the population; having been kept alive by famine relief, supplied by aid organisations, over the past 50 years.
So, of course, the effects of any drought now, is a famine. They cannot even feed themselves in a normal rainfall year.

Worst yet, the effects of these droughts, and poor nutrition in the first 3 years of the a child’s life, have a lasting effect on the development of the infant brain, so that if they survive, they will never achieve a normal IQ . Consequently, they are selectively breeding a population, who cannot be educated , let alone one that is not being educated; a recipe for disaster

We are seeing this impact now, and it can only exacerbate, to the detriment of their neighbours, and their environment as well. This scenario can only end in an even worse disaster; with even worse suffering, for those
benighted people, and their descendants. Eventually, some mechanism will intervene, be it war, disease or starvation.

So what do we do? Let them starve? What a dilemma for our Judeo/ Christian/Islamic Ethos; as well as  Hindu/Buddhist morality. And this is beginning to happen in Kenya, Ethiopia, and other countries in Asia, like Pakistan. Is this the beginning of the end of civilisation?

AFRICA is giving nothing to anyone outside Africa — apart from AIDS and new diseases. Even as we see African states refusing to take action to restore something resembling civilisation in Zimbabwe, the Begging bowl for Ethiopia is being passed around to us out of Africa, yet again. It is nearly 25 years since the famous Feed The World campaign began in Ethiopia, and in that time Ethiopia’s population has grown from 33.5 million to 78+ million today.
So, why on earth should I do anything to encourage further catastrophic demographic growth in that country?
Where is the logic? There is none.

To be sure, there are two things saying that logic doesn’t count. One is my conscience, and the other is the picture, yet again, of another wide-eyed child, yet again, gazing, yet again, at the camera, which yet again, captures the tragedy of children starving.

Sorry. My conscience has toured this territory on foot and financially. Unlike most of you, I have been to Ethiopia; like most of you, I have stumped up the loot to charities to stop starvation there. The wide-eyed boy-child we saved, 20 years or so ago, is now a low IQ, AK 47-bearing moron, siring children whenever the whim takes him and blaming the world because he is uneducated, poor and left behind. There is no doubt a good argument why we should prolong this predatory and dysfunctional economic, social and sexual system but I do not know what it is.  There is, on the other hand, every reason not to write a column like this. It will win no friends and will provoke the self-righteous wrath of, well, the self-righteous hand wringing, letter writing wrathful individuals; a species which never fails to contaminate almost every debate in Irish life with its sneers and its moral superiority.  It will also probably enrage some of the finest men in Irish life, like John O’Shea, of Goal; and the Finucane brothers, men whom I admire enormously.

So be it. But, please, please, you self-righteously wrathful, spare me mention of our own Irish Famine, with this or that lazy analogy.  There is no comparison. Within 20 years of the Famine, the Irish population was down by 30%. Over the equivalent period, thanks to western food, the Mercedes 10-wheel truck and the Lockheed Hercules plane, Ethiopia’s population has more than doubled.

Alas, that wretched country is not alone in its madness.  Somewhere, over the rainbow, lies Somalia, another fine land of violent, AK 47-toting, khat-chewing, girl-circumcising, permanently tumescent layabouts and housing pirates of the ocean. Indeed, we now have almost an entire continent of sexually hyperactive, illiterate indigents, with tens of
millions of people who only survive because of help from the outside world or allowances by the semi-communist Governments they voted for, money supplied by borrowing it from the World Bank!

This dependency has not stimulated political prudence or commonsense. Indeed, voodoo idiocy seems to be in the ascendant, with the president of South Africa being a firm believer in the efficacy of a little tap water on the post-coital penis as a sure preventative against AIDS infection. Needless to say, poverty, hunger and societal meltdown have not prevented idiotic wars involving Tigre, Uganda, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea etcetera. Broad brush-strokes, to be sure.  But broad brush-strokes are often the way that history paints its gaudier, if more decisive, chapters.
Japan, China, Russia, Korea, Poland, Germany, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the 20th century have endured
worse broad brush-strokes than almost any part of Africa. They are now — one way or another — virtually all giving aid to or investing in Africa, whereas Africa, with its vast savannahs and its lush pastures, is giving almost nothing to anyone, apart from AIDS.

Meanwhile, Africa’s peoples are outstripping their resources, and causing catastrophic ecological degradation.
By 2050, the population of Ethiopia will be 177 million; the equivalent of France, Germany and Benelux today,
but located on the parched and increasingly Protein-free wastelands of the Great Rift Valley. So, how much sense does it make for us actively to increase the adult population of what is already a vastly over-populated, environmentally devastated and economically dependent country?

How much morality is there in saving an Ethiopian child from starvation today, for it to survive to a life of brutal circumcision, poverty, hunger, violence and sexual abuse, resulting in another half-dozen such wide-eyed children, with comparably jolly little lives ahead of them?

Of course, it might make you feel better, which is a prime reason for so much charity!

But that is not good enough. For self-serving generosity has been one of the curses of Africa. It has sustained political systems which would otherwise have collapsed. It prolonged the Eritrean-Ethiopian war by nearly a decade. It is inspiring Bill Gates’ programme to rid the continent of malaria, when, in the almost complete absence of personal self-discipline, that disease is one of the most efficacious forms of population-control now operating. If his programme is successful, tens of millions of children who would otherwise have died in infancy will survive to adulthood, he boasts.


NB. While there are one or two points I may not subscribe to it is difficult not to align oneself with the general tenet of this article, I think. M.

Ko Tatou Tahi

I wrote a piece at about this time last year that spoke on a great trip that our jade carving group had just taken to Bruce Bay, or ‘Mahitahi’. The occasion was a ‘noho marae’ or marae stay intended to broaden the students’ knowledge of ‘tikanga Maori’ – ‘tikanga’ is a combination of ‘tika’ meaning correct and ‘nga’ meaning many, thus tikanga means the correct way of doing things in the Maori realm. One of the aspects that can be a little fraught in this regard is that tikanga can (and often does) change from one ‘iwi’ (tribe) to another or  even one ‘hapu’ (sub-tribe) to another. I say fraught because there is always the possibility of showing certain disrespect by doing something on a marae that might have been ok on another but isn’t ‘tika’ on this one. These subtle changes are often just simply variations on a theme and it isn’t likely to be seen as being hugely insulting and a cause for pistols at 10 paces, but as in any society it is always better to do things ‘correctly’ and so we have this annual ‘noho marae’ at this beautiful place, Te Tauraka Waka A Maui.

One of the first elements our kaumatua (Maori elder or person of authority, our ‘teacher’) talks to us about is the difference between homonyms ‘law’ and ‘lore’. Much of what we learn with regard to tikanga has to do with lore and what is acceptable practice on and around the marae. Therefore to learn we do, and so to do we visit and stay on the marae.

It is not my purpose in this piece to go into the various elements of marae visits such as the powhiri (that’s the welcome ‘ceremony’ as one arrives at the marae) or the mihimihi (that’s the introductions when everyone shares their ‘whakapapa’ or family links and lineage) the poroporoaki (the farewell ceremony) although I will mention that one of the main outcomes of some of these elements is the shifting of the status of the ‘manuhiri’ or the visitors (that’s us) from tapu or sacred, forbidden, apart or separate from to noa or no longer tapu.

What I am going to concentrate on rather more is how little effect the best intentions of lessons, lectures or advice given sometimes have.

We are a pretty diverse little group in the carving course with a range of ages from 20-odd to 68, with singles, in relationships, out of relationships, marrieds, solo parents, women and men (and maybe even ‘can’t make up my minds’?) and a nice little variety of nationalities but for the purpose of the noho marae  each of us is simply but one member of an homogeneous whole, hence the title, ‘Ko Tatau Tahi’, we are one together.

For the ‘uninitiated’ a noho marae is a fairly communal experience from the first meal together (prepared by the hosts), through normal kitchen duties of meal preparation and clean-up, sleeping together in the ‘whare nui’ (the ‘large’ house or more correctly meeting house) to the final tidy up of everything prior to taking one’s leave. It isn’t unusual for large parties to organise groups and a timetabled roster but as weren’t a large group we figured that everyone would simply lend a hand where they saw a need- food preparation, cooking, serving, washing dishes, setting out refreshments, and setting and clearing tables (and any other tasks that might need to be done.)

I was hugely disappointed therefore that there were some of our ‘team’ who barely did anything to help out until the last day when groups were organised for the three main clean-up tasks and they had to help out, that of kitchen/dining room, ablutions facilities and whare nui. Those I am thinking of always seemed to find important conversations to be involved in, riveting books to read or walks to be taken when there were preparation or clean-up duties to be completed. We all know- (no, obviously not all!) that a burden shared is a burden halved and a burden undertaken by a larger number lessened significantly as a burden. It is equally obvious that a burden not shared remains a burden.

There is a standard practice on a marae that at ‘kai’ time (meals) the order for diners to be served is children first, women second and then men. (Of course if there are any other classes then it’s their turn!) I found it interesting that in the absence of such order of serving the same people who prefer not to help with communal duties do prefer to be at the head of the queue for meals! Funny that, eh!

So there we have it, my little grizzle. Be that as it may I am sure that most who read this will be of a similar view to mine because that is what ‘tikanga’ is all about, what ‘lore’ is all about, what acceptable behaviour is all about and that if some people believe they are above such mundane considerations, for whatever reasons then they have ‘missed the bus’. It is so easy to practice ‘tikanga’, whether it is tikanga Maori or tikanga pakeha, and to not do so I believe undervalues all concerned.


One of the wonders of the modern world is, in my view, the Hubble space telescope. The ‘stuff’ that it’s seeing and taking pictures of is fascinating and mind-broadening and this technology keeps a mind of advancing years a little more active than it might otherwise be. When I read this article tweeted by physicist Phil Plait I felt I had to share it.

Plait is a neat guy- he’s both knowledgeable and entertaining- entertaining initially through the way that he shares his knowledge with us, in plain English (well, ‘American’) and lightly with a bit of humour. Thanks, Phil, and I hope you don’t mind that I’ve grabbed your article in its entirety to post here- I couldn’t hope to do it even fractionally as well as you do!

So! Here we are,


Hubble in orbit around the Earth.

Photo by NASA

Tomorrow marks the 20th anniversary of the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope. I spent ten years of my life working on that magnificent machine, from using observations of a supernova for my PhD, all the way to helping test, calibrate, and eventually use STIS, a camera put on Hubble in 1997.

Last year, I published Ten Things You Don’t Know About Hubble, and I don’t think I can really add much to it here. I also have a lot of new readers since then, so I’ll simply repost it now as my tip o’ the dew shield to the world’s most famous observatory.


On April 24, 1990, the Space Shuttle Discovery roared into space, carrying on board a revolution: The Hubble Space Telescope. It was the largest and most sensitive optical-light telescope ever launched into space, and while it suffered initially from a focusing problem, it would soon return some of the most amazing and beautiful astronomical images anyone had ever seen.

Hubble was designed to be periodically upgraded, and even as I write this, astronauts are in the Space Shuttle Atlantis installing two new cameras, fixing two others, and replacing a whole slew of Hubble’s parts. This is the last planned mission, ever, to service the venerable ‘scope, so what better time to talk about it?

Plus, it’s arguably the world’s most famous telescope (it’s probably the only one people know by name), and yet I suspect that there are lots of things about it that might surprise you. So I present to you Ten Things You Don’t Know About the Hubble Space Telescope, part of my Ten Things series. I know, my readers are smart, savvy, exceptionally good-looking, and well-versed in things astronomical. Whenever I do a Ten Things post some goofball always claims they knew all ten. But I am extremely close to being 100% positive that no one who reads this blog will know all ten things here (unless they’ve used Hubble themselves). I have one or two big surprises in this one, including some of my own personal interactions with the great observatory!

Hubble took the deepest visible light image yet made.

Various objects seen near the Andromeda Galaxy in an incredibly deep image.

Photo by NASA, ESA, and T. M. Brown (STScI)

In 2003, an astronomer (and friend with whom I worked on a Hubble project) named Tom Brown pointed Hubble at the outer fringes of the Andromeda Galaxy, a nearby large spiral like our own Milky Way. Using the Advanced Camera for Surveys, he commanded the space telescope to basically sit and stare at one spot for a total ofthree and a half days. His goal to was to be able to get good data on very faint stars in Andromeda, to characterize the way stars form in the galaxy.

The field of view of Hubble is shown as the tiny square next to the Andromeda Galaxy.

He certainly was able to do that (and found many stars younger than expected; in Andromeda’s halo the stars were several billion years younger than in our own halo), but what he also got was the deepest optical image of the Universe ever taken. Stars down to 31st magnitude can be seen in the data — those are stars one ten-billionth as bright as what you can see with your unaided eye!

The image here shows different regions in that deep image. You can see faint background galaxies, stars in both Andromeda and the Milky Way, a densely-packed globular cluster, and much more. If you dare, download a monster-sized version of the whole schmeer to see how powerful a space telescope can be.

The Moon is not too bright to see with Hubble.

The crater Copernicus seen by Hubble.

Photo by John Caldwell (York University, Ontario), Alex Storrs (STScI), and NASA

A lot of people claim that some objects are simply too bright to observe with Hubble. For some limited cases this is true — there’s a camera on board Hubble sensitive to ultraviolet light, and at a 2500 Volt potential too many UV photons can fry the instrument.

But that’s not true for most of Hubble’s cameras. Actually, some of the brightest objects in the sky have been observed… including the Moon! The image shown here is of Copernicus, a 90 kilometer wide impact crater on the Moon. It wasn’t actually Hubble’s primary target; another camera (the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, or STIS, a camera I worked on for many years) was observing reflected sunlight off the Moon’s limb, and Hubble was rotated so that Wide Field/Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) would be able to take snapshots of the crater.

So while the Moon is not too bright to observe with Hubble, it is moving too rapidly across the sky for the ‘scope to track it. So the observations were made in what’s called “ambush mode”: Hubble is pointed at a spot in the sky where the Moon is going to be, and when the right moment arrives the images are taken. It’s a very difficult operation, which is one the reasons why there are so few observations of our nearest neighbor.

Back in 1999 I took part in a set of lunar observations using Hubble; we were hoping to get spectra of water ice splashed up from the Moon’s south pole when the Lunar Prospector probe impacted there at high speed. Unfortunately, the spectra were screwed up; the pointing was off by a bit and we didn’t see anything (it turns out no one saw anything using any telescope, so we didn’t really miss much). Although it failed, that observation run was incredibly exciting, some of the most fun I’ve had using Hubble.

It observes the Earth… quite often!

The Earth looks a bit blurred at 8 km/sec.

Photo by Mark Clampin / NASA

If the Moon is not too bright to see, what about the Earth? On average, it’s much more reflective and therefore much brighter. Well, it turns out Hubble not only has observed the Earth… it’s done it thousands of times!

One problem with using digital detectors is knowing exactly what you’re seeing. If a star looks brighter than another, is the star really brighter, or is the electronic chip just a little too sensitive right there? You have to calibrate the chip to know exactly what it’s doing. There are several steps in that process, but one involves using a “flat field”, observing a region of the sky that is perfectly evenly illuminated. That way, if one pixel or another is too sensitive, you can see it in the observation.

With Hubble, though, every patch of sky has some object in it, which would screw up the flat field. Some telescopes have internal illumination; little LEDs or some other method, but using them is notoriously difficult to get an evenly illuminated field. So what can you do when using Hubble?

One method is to observe the Earth! As Hubble orbits at 8 km/sec, the out-of-focus Earth screams by. If you observe for a while, objects will actually leave streaks in the image, and these can be treated mathematically to produce a flat field. The image shown here is just such a “streak flat”. That’s a Hubble observation of our home planet, with objects flying past. It’s hard to say what they are, exactly. It depends on where Hubble was when the image was taken, and where it was pointed. They might be trees, hills, valleys, mountains, or even houses!

But don’t worry, it can’t see people. If the Moon is too fast to track, the Earth is certainly out of the question. But y’know, the company that made Hubble’s mirror had an awful lot of those same sized mirrors lying around, and there are no otherastronomical telescopes (you know, telescopes that point away from the Earth) with that same mirror. So what could those mirrors have been for?


Hubble once observed… wait for it… wait for it… THE SUN.

The Sun. Using Hubble. I know.

Photo by Glenn Schneider

Oh, I got you with that one, didn’t I? Admit it: you had no idea that Hubble actually and for real once observed the Sun, on purpose. I didn’t know about it for a long time, until my friend and fellow astronomer Glenn Schneider clued me in. Glenn is a surprising guy in many ways — he chases solar eclipses all over the planet, for example — but this one was a doozy.

He has the whole story on his website. The short version is that some kinds of electronic detectors get extra electrons trapped in them, kinda like plaque in your arteries. One way to flush out these extra electrons is to flood the detector with ultraviolet light. The chips used in the original Wide Field/Planetary Camera launched with Hubble suffered from this, so they needed that UV flood. And it turns out there’s a fairly bright source of UV light in space…

Maybe you see where this is going.

So the engineers rigged WFPC with a little mirror that stuck outside the camera. This part of the camera was actually mounted flush against Hubble’s side, so the mirror stuck out from the ‘scope like a wee periscope (there’s a picture on Glenn’s site that’ll help). It faced backwards, towards Hubble’s aft end. The great observatory was then pointed in the opposite direction of the Sun so the rear-view mirror was facing the Sun, and the sunlight was channeled right into WFPC.

The result is the image above: a bona-fide 100% actual image (well, mosaic) of the Sun taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

How freaking cool is that?

Hubble cannot see the Apollo artifacts on the Moon.

Nope. Sorry, conspiracy theorists. Wait. No I’m not.

Photo by NASA / Phil Plait

This question is sent to me roughly once a month, and sometimes even more often: why don’t we shut up the people who think the Apollo Moon landings were faked by pointing Hubble at the Moon and taking pictures of the Apollo sites?

Well, one reason is that, duh, NASA and astronomers have better things to do than try to prove something blaringly obvious to people who would just claim the resulting images are faked anyway.

But also, Hubble cannot see the artifacts on the Moon! They’re way too small.

This surprises a lot of folks, since they’re used to seeing razor-sharp images of nebulae and galaxies. However, remember that while those objects may be far away, they are also very, very big. Light years across, maybe thousands of light years across. The remains of the lunar landers are only 4 meters across. That’s a tad smaller.

Sure, you say, but the Moon’s a lot closer, right? Yeah, it is, but it turns out it’s not close enough.

You can calculate how small an object a telescope can resolve (that is, see as more than just a one pixel wide dot) using really basic algebra. It depends mostly on the telescope’s mirror size. When you do this for Hubble, you get an angular measure of about 0.1 arcseconds, a tiny amount to be sure. The Moon is 1800 arcseconds across, so 0.1 arcseconds corresponds to about 200 meters on the Moon! In other words, something has to be bigger than a football stadium on the Moon before Hubble can see it.

It’s surprising, I know, but that’s how the math works out. The lunar lander is about 0.002 arcseconds in size, well beyond the capabilities of any normal telescope (go to that link above for more info on ways this still might work).

So really, the only — and best — way to see the Apollo artifacts is to go back to the Moon. Of course, the Moon hoax believers will still deny it’s real. Their refusal to see reality is cosmic in its proportions.

Hubble has observed every planet in the solar system but one: Mercury.

Venus is not actually purple.

Photo by L. Esposito (University of Colorado, Boulder), and NASA

So Hubble has observed the Sun, but it did so literally bass-ackwards. That was to protect its mirror; raw UV from the Sun can photochemically damage sensitive parts inside the ‘scope, and of course can heat them up to dangerous levels. Also, as I pointed out before, some of the cameras would in fact be damaged by direct sunlight.

Because of that, Hubble is not allowed to point anywhere near the Sun, just to make sure no stray light seeps in. This “solar avoidance zone” is a circle 50 degrees in radius around our star. Anything closer than that is forbidden.

This directive has been broken by Hubble precisely once: to observe Venus, which gets about 45 degrees from the Sun at maximum. These observations were made using WFPC2 (shown in the image above; it was taken in the near-UV to see structure in the Venusian clouds) and the Goddard High Resolution Spectrograph. Astronomers were looking for sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere of Venus, a chemical which had been detected by an earlier probe and might be emitted by volcanism on the planet. All kinds of overrides had to be sent to the telescope to allow these observations, and it was so difficult that it hasn’t been and probably won’t ever be repeated.

Mercury, seen by MESSENGER

Photo by NASA/APL/Carnegie Institution of Washington

But Mercury never gets even that far from the Sun; at most it is a mere 28 degrees from the Sun, far too close to ever be seen by Hubble. But that’s OK: we have the MESSENGER spacecraft. It’s zipped past Mercury twice already, and will fly by Mercury one more time in the coming months before falling into orbit around the innermost planet in 2011, where it will map the planet with far higher detail than Hubble ever could.

Hubble doesn’t use lenses. Sorta.

Reflecting upon Hubble

Photo by NASA

Even today, 19 years after Hubble’s launch, it’s not all that uncommon to hear a newscaster refer to “Hubble’s lens”. I once heard it used by an announcer on a science show produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute, the agency that runs Hubble!

The thing is, Hubble doesn’t use a lens. It has a mirror.

Galileo used a telescope with a lens, as did everyone up until Isaac Newton. He was the genius who figured out that a properly shaped mirror could focus light as well, and has advantages over a lens: mirrors need only be ground on one side (lenses have two), and mirrors can be made larger than lenses because they can be supported all across their back side, while lenses must be supported around their circumference, where the glass is thinnest and most vulnerable.

Over a certain size, lenses are simply impractical, so mirrors are used. Hubble’s primary mirror is 2.4 meters across, about 8 feet. Although it’s the biggest mirror for astronomy ever lofted into space, it’s considered small by ground-based standards; many telescopes today have mirrors 4 or more meters across. The mammoth twin Keck ‘scopes in Hawaii have mirrors made of segments that total 10 meters acrosseach!

It turns out the cameras on board Hubble use mirrors too. Why? Glass absorbs light. Not much, maybe 2% of the incident light, but that adds up. A lens has two surfaces, each of which reflect a little bit of light, so you lose more through a lens than with a mirror. Also, mirrors can be made to reflect light of different colors about the same, but lenses bend light at different colors differently. So all in all, doing it with mirrors makes a lot more sense.

However, there are lenses on board: they are used in the Fine Guidance Sensors, small telescopes that track stars with incredible accuracy and help keep Hubble locked onto to its targets.

I could not find any other lenses used on the entire observatory. I read the instrument guides and asked several people who work with Hubble, and no one knew of any either. It’s possible they exist and I missed them, but the point is lenses are a very rare commodity on the ‘scope.

Not everything it sees is on purpose.

A dying star in another galaxy… seen by accident.

Photo by Phil Plait

This one’s a bit personal, so allow me to expound a bit here.

Hubble has several cameras on board. They sit in the very bottom of Hubble, in the wider portion below the mirror (unlike a normal telescope, the mirror for Hubble is located a third of the way up from the aft end). Each sees a slightly different region of the sky, separated by a few arcminutes (the Moon is 30 arcminutes across for comparison). So if one camera is being used to look at, say, the heart of the Andromeda galaxy, then the others are looking near the galaxy’s center but not rightat it.

Enter the Parallels Program. When a new solid state recorder was placed on board in 1997, it greatly enhanced Hubble’s capability to record data (which was done using tape drives before then). The pipeline was fat enough to record data from three cameras at the same time, so when one was observing as the primary camera, the other two could take data as well.

Each camera on Hubble sees a slightly different part of the sky.

Photo by NASA / STScI

Sometimes while observing some primary target Hubble would be rotated to point the other cameras at something interesting (like was done with the lunar observations I mentioned earlier), but sometimes they were simply allowed to record whatever the heck they saw. This procedure was called the Parallels Program, because the other cameras were used in parallel with the primary one.

In October of 1997, Hubble was pointed at the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small galaxy that orbits the Milky Way. WFPC2 was the primary instrument, but the camera I worked on, the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph, or STIS, was being used as a parallel instrument. That happened a lot, and at my office the first thing I would do every morning was go through the previous day’s parallels using STIS and see if there was anything interesting in them.

Yes, part of my job was to look at Hubble images of regions of space no one had ever seen before and check them out. And yes, it was pretty damn cool.

The majority of the time there wasn’t much to see: faint fuzzy galaxies, or a wisp of nebulosity. Sometimes the primary camera would observe a nearby galaxy many times over the course of months, and after a while just by glancing at the STIS image I could tell you what galaxy it was from the brightness and density of stars. Not a terribly marketable skill, but still. Cool.

Anyway, one day we got that LMC observation — the one shown above — and I noticed the fuzzy circle at the top. I knew right away it was a small planetary nebula, a blast of gas emitted from a dying star. You can see it in the image, and it’s zoomed at the bottom left. To my disappointment it had been discovered before, so this wasn’t new and I couldn’t name it. But we did get good spectra, which allowed me to take some basic diagnostics of the nebula that hadn’t been done before.

I was able to publish my results in a paper, which also was nice. My work on STIS was awesomely fun sometimes, but I rarely got to publish anything; my name was always way down the list of people who contributed to the work. So this was a nice perq.

The Parallels Program still continues. I don’t know what it’s found since I left the project. Maybe someday I’ll poke around the archives and find out.

You can see one of Hubble’s cameras in the National Air and Space Museum.

The Faint Object Spectrograph on display after it was removed from Hubble.

Photo by Phil Plait

Like I said, Hubble was designed to be periodically updated. When new tech makes for better cameras, old ones can be taken out and replaced with new ones. When STIS and the infrared camera NICMOS were inserted into Hubble in 1997, the Goddard Spectrograph and the Faint Object Spectrograph (FOS) were removed.

While I was still at Goddard Space Flight Center, I used to take a walk around the compound after lunch. I’d sometimes slip through one building that had a massive warehouse, and usually there was something cool to see in there. I saw satellites being constructed, the upper stage of a rocket (without fuel!) on a crane, and all sorts of odd and wonderful sights.

One day, from across the warehouse, I spot what looks like a big black telephone booth sitting on a pallet. Could it be…? I walked over, and yes! It was the FOS! I couldn’t believe it. It was just sitting there, this camera which cost tens of millions of dollars to build. Two sides of it had been removed, and one had been replaced with clear thick plastic. I realized it must be going to a museum; the plastic would allow people to see inside it. But one panel was still removed, so the guts of the camera were exposed. Hmmm…

So of course I reached in and poked around. I had used the FOS for my PhD, analyzing spectra it had taken of an exploding star on two different dates. We wound up not using the data because we didn’t know precisely where the telescope was pointed each time, and so I couldn’t compare one spectrum with another. Still, I spent months learning how the camera worked, and seeing it in front of me was too tempting. It was amazing; I could see exactly how it worked, and all those diagrams I had pored over five years earlier suddenly came alive.

No spectrographs were harmed in the making of this photo.

Photo by Phil Plait

I convinced a friend to come with me the next day to see it, and he took the picture above of me pretending (Yes! Pretending! That’s it!) to snip the wires with a wire cutter. Haha!

Years later, I was visiting DC. I went to the National Air and Space Museum, having completely forgotten the incident at Goddard. I rounded a corner, and there was my old friend. I smiled; I knew it would end up here. The second exterior panel had been replaced with plastic, and you could see into the camera. If you compare the picture above with the one here (click to embiggen) you can see it’s the same beast.

It’s the only piece of Hubble I ever physically touched. Well, besides the insulating blanket that flew on Hubble for years and was taken back to Earth after a servicing mission. Someone had draped the shiny silver blanket over a chair in a room we used to test STIS. When I saw it, I… hmmmm. No. That’s a whole ‘nuther story.

You can look at all the images it has ever taken, as long as they’re over a year old.

A raw image of the Whirlpool galaxy (M51) in the Hubble archive.

Photo by NASA / STScI

Since its launch in 1990, Hubble has orbited the Earth over 100,000 times and taken something like a half million separate observations. Those figures alone are a bit staggering. But did you know that you (potentially) have access to those images? Well, most of them, anyway.

All the data taken by Hubble that is more than one year old is stored in an archive that the public can query. Want to know what Hubble was observing on your birthday two years ago, or at the moment your kid was born? Just ask the database! In many cases, when you search the database, you can also get a preview of the image; the above shot is of the spiral galaxy M51, also called the Whirlpool Galaxy. The preview shows the raw data right off the ‘scope; it’s not always particularly pretty. To beautify it you need to process it, which means subtracting a dark frame, a bias frame, dividing by the flat field, flagging bad pixels, combining multiple exposures to get rid of cosmic rays, performing a geometric correction… and if you want color, you have to do that for the other filters used in the observation, and then combining those using Photoshop or some other software.

Obviously, not everyone can do that (it’s a lot harder even than it sounds). So not everyone is allowed to actually retrieve the data; that would strain the archive servers. To do that you have to justify the need and get an account. I used to have one, but I lost my password a long time ago. Probably all for the best; I’d just download gigabytes of cool images and get everyone at the archive ticked off at me.

Oh, about that “… as long as they’re over a year old” thing: data is proprietary to the person who took it for the period of one year, so the scientists involved have time to look it over. It does take some time to process the data, and a lot more time to analyze it; if everyone had instant access to all the data, someone more experienced than you could scoop you on your own observations! However, it’s also not fair to let people have the data forever. The compromise is the one year proprietary period; that gives scientists time to look things over, but still motivates them to get things done. I think this is a fine idea, and it even works in practice in the real world, amazingly. If a scientist wants, they can release the data early, too, so everyone wins.

In fact, I used old data quite a bit back in the day. If we found something interesting in our own data, we could go look for older observations to see if it had been seen before, or if there were related observations. And many times, even if the older data were still proprietary, the scientists involved were interested in collaborating. Funny thing about scientists: in lots of cases they are open, friendly, and interested in seeing what everyone else is doing. There were exceptions, of course, but that’s what I found for the most part.

Maybe that’s the thing that’ll surprise you most in this article. But it’s true.

Hubble, the Moon, and the Earth

Photo by NASA


Choosing just ten things for this article was, as usual, tough. I can think of lots more things to add: JWST won’t replace Hubble, it succeeds it; Hubble isn’t really a telescope, it’s a whole observatory; it has flown the finest UV camera ever built, which was so sensitive that a massive and hot O-type star in the Andromeda Galaxy could have damaged it (and once I nearly blew it up); when there is a strong meteor shower, they point HST in the opposite direction.

There are tons of things about Hubble that I’m sure I don’t know either; I worked on it for a decade, but in fact I haven’t worked on it for nearly a decade since. It’s a complicated and beautiful machine, and it changed the way we look at the Universe, maybe forever. It certainly changed the way scientists do astronomy… and I know that the best thing it did, the best thing it could do, was to let people see just how phenomenally gorgeous our Universe is.

And for that, I’m very grateful. And that’s one thing I do know.

Thanks, Phil. If you visit I’d LOVE you to honour the post with a comment!!

The Beauty Of Stone

I am a stone carver. I came to the game late and have quickly been captivated by the medium we use. It is self-evident that people ‘like what they like’ and I have no intention to question individual likes or ‘tastes’ BUT what follows is simply to illustrate what an amazing variety of colours, textures, patterns there are available to us.

It is also pretty evident that most visitors to Aotearoa-New Zealand equate jade souvenirs with nephrite jade, that gorgeous, translucent, deep green stone that Maori call ‘pounamu’ (greenstone) . Many prefer the ‘plain’ stone without any patterns or variation in colour (although of course there are many varieties of nephrite, not all being clean and green) and are prepared to pay very good money for souvenirs made from it. Their choice, of course and who am I to argue? I imagine this will remain the case but I (and many others) enjoy working in other stone as well.

It is also the case nowadays that all pounamu is not nephrite and many of the stones that I have shown here fall into the generic category of ‘pounamu’ so don’t believe artists or tradespeople are trying to pull the wool over your eyes by labeling something ‘pounamu’! (They are probably not likely to do so as widely as they might.)

Anyway have a browse and see what lovely variety there is in stone. What you see here includes the ‘traditional’ pounamu but also other varieties than the ‘clean green’ such as kokopu (named for the similarity to the native trout skin colouring), inanga (named for the colouring of the whitebait fish), flower nephrite (with rich pale veins flowing through it), cloudy Marsden jade (named for the area it comes from),  Australian black jade (not New Zealand and not true jade), some tangiwais (a nice bowenite stone that has translucence when thin enough), serpentines (a non-jade stone that is similar in mineral makeup and would have become jade had it been further heated and compressed), and a variety of non-jade stones that I like for the colours and patterns that they present such as quartz, obsidian, greywacke and argilite.

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It may well be that I will have some of these creations for some time to come but the hope is that if enough of us make enough of these and enough of you see them and enough of you buy them we may see a bit of a shift in the perception of those who buy stone adornments- the other stones ARE lovely and the pieces that we make from them ARE made with the same care and attention as the ‘traditional’ jade creations.

None of this is to say or suggest that traditional ‘pounamu’ is not the ultimate beauty in Aotearoa-New Zealand stones- it is and will always be and it fully deserves the mana and mystique it has, and we will continue making beautiful things from it.

Fuzzy The Kiwi

Once upon a time a furry wee kiwi named Fuzzyfluffyleft the comfort of her dark forest floor for the BIG WIDE WORLD. It was a pretty daunting prospect for this seemingly timid wee bird with no wings and a big nose but kiwis are, if nothing else, gutsy! As if to prove this point Fuzzy chose to go The Long Way, that is instead of ‘jump on a plane at Auckland, skip through Australia, SE Asia, Middle East to London’, she elected to ‘jump on a plane at Auckland (there aren’t too many alternatives to THIS) and get off the plane in Beijing’!summer palace beijing

While there Fuzzy did what all self-respecting visitors to Beijing do- she had a McDonaldsmacdonalds beijingand went and checked out a wall!great wallHaving practiced her ‘sher sher’ and ‘ni hao’ for a few days, she got on a train (not just any old train but ‘The Vodka Train’), left Beijing, and set off for places West! The first proper stop was Ulan Bator in Mongolia where Fuzzy visited what she thought was a yurt camp but was told was something else!ger camp Ulam Bator-it was a ger camp! She reckoned it was a lot warmer than the burrow back in the bush even though the snow was thick outside! (Snow, what is that!!) The Vodka Train stopped off near Irkutsk to visit Lake Baikal to see ‘the nearly midnight sun’ and Fuzzy took this neat photo of his travelling companion holding the sun in her hand!983642_10152370513757905_2694208329901715258_nClever little Fuzzy! It was just about another 4000 kilometres to her next stop, Moscow where one of the ‘must see’ places was Saint Basil’s Cathedral.st basils moscowShe reckoned this one was aaawsome, but the travelling companion said she liked the onion-topped church in their next stop better- having a bit of a ‘classical romantic’ bent Fuzzy had decided to take a train ride to St Petersburg.soul kitchen st petersThis snazzy wee eatery, the ‘Soul Kitchen’ was a place that was a ‘must do’ to remove from the bucket list but Fuzzy wasn’t completely taken by the salty pickle- it spoiled the taste of the vodka, she said!

Now it was get on another plane and head to Spainspainwhere she had a relaxing time playing with some cats on a wee farm in Orgiva before popping across the Mediterranean to exotic Marrakesh! Wow!marrakesh moroccoBazaars, souks, markets and lots of coffee bars and fragrant smells! Having got REALLY laid back for a while Fuzzy wondered where to go next, and thinking that ANZAC Day wasn’t far away Turkey was an enticing destination. blue mosque hagia sophia istambulFrom the Hagia Sophia Fuzzy was able to see the minarets of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, and, of course if she looked the other way she could see where she’d been!!! Sort of- Asia, anyway!)

Still determined to take the long way Fuzzy then made her way through some of the Balkan countries before arriving among the tulips of Amsterdam!amsterdam flower stallShe then crossed into Belgium to to see what the European Capital had to offer,Brusselsbecause it HAS to be an important place to be! (…and it was best viewed from the hat of one’s travelling companion!) Moving on, and because it wasn’t too far to go Fuzzy trained to Gay Paris! It was funny but she had thought that the leaning tower was elsewhere! You learn something every day, huh!!leaning tower of eiffel

While in this supposedly gay but definitely somewhat grubby town Fuzzy paid a visit to a very famous lady, who some call Mona and others La Giaconda.

smiling back at la giaconda

She didn’t say much so after a quick baguette and a carafe of wine it was on another train and north- to Norway! Fuzzy had heard of a place that was supposedly just like Fiordland back in Aotearoa-New Zealand so after she got off the train and just escaped a horrible fate in Oslooslo norwayshe made her way up the ocean coast to Lysefjord where she climbed up to what is known as Pulpit Rock or Preikestolen.preikestolenShe knew that the family back home would be scared out of their wits by it so she got her travelling companion to take a view from the pulpit. Thinking a base-jump might be a step too far Fuzzy then went a-wandering around Norway a bit and while there made a quick side-trip around a lake to Sweden!swedenThat’s Swedish lichen that Fuzzy’s sitting on with Norway across the lake in the background. Next time up this way this lichen would be under several feet of snow and she and the travelling companion would walk across the lake!

There was a bit of a lull in the clouds of volcanic ash that was drifting across Europe from Eyjafjallajokull Volcano that had been popping off a bit so Fuzzy decided to go to this mythical land of ice and volcanos. She found that EVERYTHING was unpronouncable

reykjavikand quite expensive but she put this down to the fact that everything has to be imported. Their only export was volcanic ash.

Luckily the aeroplanes were still flying and one of them took Fuzzy back to London for her to start the British part of her OE. London was great, and being an artistic bird with a bit of dramatic flair she took her travelling companion along to The Globe and she tried treading The Bard’s boards. It was a wonderful experience but the audience were a bit hard to please-The Globe Londonthey kept walking around!!!

After London Fuzzy visited a couple of acquaintances at Beatrix’s placemy mate peter at beatrix potter worldbefore going down the road to a school that New Zealand has a special connection with-rugby school rugbyRUGBY! Without the influence of this school and the crazy antics of one of its pupils, William Webb Ellis Aotearoa-New Zealand would probably have a national pass-time that involved little more than horse-racing and beer!on a rugby ball in rugbyHer travelling companion helped Fuzzy to visit the playing fields and the museum where she recognised a few other kiwis, sorry- Kiwis.more kiwis

After trying a few tries, and kicking a few goals Fuzzy moved on to visit the Eden Projecteden projectto see how we should be doing things. Fuzzy was DELIGHTED to see that what we were doing in Aotearoa-New Zealandeden project refreshmentwas bang on!! Having had it confirmed that the world was in good hands in Godzone (God’s Own- get it?) Fuzzy moved down a road, and down a road and down a road until she came to Land’s Endlands end cornwallwhere the Cornish people made her a few pasties and poured a pint or two.

Having been away from home for quite a while now Fuzzy was delighted that she was easily able to remind herself of what she was so far away from by simply going to a store and picking up one treatwhat else would a kiwi drinkor another. These sustained Fuzzy and her travelling companion as they headed northwards to their roots. Along the way Fuzzy picked up another friend, who paid for the drinks do ya thinkHairy Coo. While Hairy Coo was a quietly spoken wee bovine it quickly became obvious that he had one or two vices!!only single malt thanksOf course Fuzzy is always ‘up for it’ so she joined in!gizza straw my nose isn't THAT bigShe couldn’t understand why they made bottles so deep! Of course it was little better for Hairy Coogive hairy a couple and hes a show offbut they had some REALLY good timesfuzzy and hairy coowending their way through Bonnie Scotland.May ye ne'er want a frien', or a dram to gi'e him! Tir nam beann, nan gleann, nan gaisgeach“May ye n’er want a frien’, or a dram to gi’e him! Tir nam beann, nan gleann, nan gaisgeach!” Some VERY good times! Some of the mornings weren’t too flash but Hairy Coo showed Fuzzy a GREAT remedy for a cotton-wool head-a round at the royal and ancient at St Andrewsgowf! Fuzzy and Hairy Coo golfed a golf or two at the Old Courseparred itat St Andrews, the home of another one of the ‘traditional’ games of the Home Land. Fuzzy shot a couple over par and blamed the caddy, sorry, the travelling companion for providing bad advice for the couple of slips that happened ‘tween tee and cup.

The next step on the journey of our brave wee kiwi was across the Irish Sea to The Emerald Isle, for it is almost certain that the roots of the roots grew deep in Irish soil.in ireland doing irishdespite the fact that Fuzzy was no great fan of Jamiesons. Obviously Hairy Coo was prepared to work at blending the single malt and the juice of the bogs though.

Fuzzy bid a fond farewell to the Celtic Lands and prepared for the journey home by going into the frozen wastes of Norway to ‘chill out’ for a while before getting on a big silver bird. She decided to take the short westerly route home and was doing very well until she got hijacked on the way by some tropical fruits and juicesaloha from hawaiiand exotic vegetation on the islands of Hawaii. Having thawed out (after the snow of Norway) Fuzzy made a final boarding at Honolulu and jumped a day arriving back in the bosom of her flightless family for a slightly delayed Merry Christmas.

What a bird!! Welcome home.