Monday, April 30, 2012

Twitter excitement

So something exciting happened to me a couple of weeks ago... one of my favourite authors, Joanne Harris tweeted me!! Not to sure what the whole #TeamMarmite thing is all about, but oh well, I'll take what I can get.
It came after I posted my review of Blue Eyed Boy, which got a pretty good response - the most comments I've ever had on a blog post! Then I posted a link on Twitter and Joanne (author of Blue Eyed Boy) saw it and tweeted me back! I was so excited!
Although technology scares the bejesus out of me sometimes, I do love how close we can get to our idols and it's amazing how connected we are to the big wide world these days, although I do still love a good long letter in the mail and I don't quite get Twitter...

Have you experienced Twitter excitement? Have you ever been tweeted by someone you idolise?

Happy Monday :)

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Agfa experiment

I have a bit of a thing for cameras... My count is currently up to eight vintage, new, near-new, film, manual, digital, polaroid cameras. One of my favourites is my Agfa, simply because a) It looks awesome, and b) it takes beautiful grainy photos that make things look like they're 100 years old.
So this is my first experiment with the Agfa... not the best photos in the world, but I like them anyway because they're of Wellington and I love black and white/vintage photography. And there's nothing quite like taking care when you take a photo because you don't want to waste film and then waiting a week before you can make the trip across town to one of the only places in the city that develops film, then waiting another week for it to be developed, then going back in, choosing the good ones to get printed, then waiting another week before going back to collect your prints. Just like the old days :).

Happy Friday! Have a fabulous weekend :)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

We will remember them

One of the reasons autumn is my favourite season is because of those days that make you want to sit on the slightly damp grass under the impossibly blue sky and gulp in as much fresh air as possible. It’s those days that look like summer, minus the scorching heat that is replaced by air with an icy edge. The freshness of it feels like the moment the clock strikes 12am on January 1st each year – it’s the start of something new and exciting.
Yesterday was one of those days. April 25th; a day of both mourning and national pride for New Zealand and Australia as we commemorate Anzac Day. We bow our heads in prayer and thanks to those ordinary men who became extraordinary heroes who are remembered nearly one hundred years on.
The number of people attending Anzac services around the country and around the world steadily increases each year as the number of veterans dwindles, and for that, I personally feel extremely proud of my fellow New Zealanders, and glad that those men and women who fought for our right to live free are remembered.
Usually I get up before dawn to attend the dawn service at the cenotaph in Wellington and last year I reported on the Masterton dawn service. But this year, I decided to do something different.
While working for the Wairarapa Times-Age, I became aware of a tiny rural Wairarapa town called Tinui, which was the first place in the world to hold an Anzac Day service on April 25, 1916. Reverend Basil Ashcroft held a service for the people of Tinui at the Church of the Good Shepherd, before a group of men and boys carried a wooden cross up Mt Maunsell which would serve as a memorial to those who had died in the war. It was replaced by an aluminium cross in 1965, which was given a category one Historic Places Trust Classification last year.
I researched the place, and found I could not get its story out of my head. While numerous news stories had been written about it over the years, I felt the town and its people deserved its story to be told in more than just a few articles, so I approached the chairman of the Tinui Anzac Trust and proposed that I write a book about it.
To my surprise, he took me completely seriously despite my age and the fact I have never written a book before and gave me a tour of the town and told me of its history. At the end of the tour, he thanked me for taking on the project and said he was grateful that the younger generation was still interested in the Anzac story.
And so I took my first step towards making this dream become a reality yesterday, and, with my parents and sister in tow, we drove the one hour, 45 minutes from Stokes Valley to Tinui to stand in the brilliant sunshine outside the War Memorial Hall. As the tui sang behind us, the New Zealand flag flew proudly in front of us as people spoke and prayed and together we sang our national anthem before tears of sadness and gratitude came to our eyes at the sound of the Last Post as three war planes flew over our small gathering.
Following the service, we were treated to some country hospitality in the hall, with a massive morning tea spread, and then we made our way towards Mt Maunsell, where we half walked, half rode quad bikes on the trail walked 97 years ago by the people of Tinui to carry the cross to the top.
A few metres from the top, I wondered aloud why they had chosen that particular spot, and on reaching the cross and looking out over the town of Tinui surrounded by acres and acres of farmland, I had my answer. For there, at the top of the mountain, I felt the spirits of the fallen were very much alive and from that point, they could watch over their town, seeing it change and grow as the people in it live their lives free from war because of their sacrifice. And from the town below, its people can look up and be reminded of the realities of war and the freedom of peace.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Monday :)

How was your weekend? Get up to anything interesting? Mine was spent loitering around the house doing all those little things that get forgotten in the frantic rush that is life right now, like sorting out all those photos that were taken out of albums for frames or parties and end up sitting around in random places, and organising my mess of files on my computer - which means you'll actually see some decent blog posts this week since I'm all organised with a plan!

Oh, and my weekend also consisted of:

Realising it's nearly 2015 and we don't have flying cars and fax machines are a thing of the past - maybe they'll make a comeback in the next three years? - Lessons learnt from Back to the Future part 2 at the Embassy Theatre.

Arming myself with Flaxseed Oil and a wonderful book called The Healthy Skin Diet because I decided I'm too old for acne, so I'm going to give my skin a kick up the bum so it looks amazing for next summer.

Learning why Marilyn Monroe was such a sex symbol by watching Some Like it Hot - wowee she sure was something, wasn't she?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dreaming of... Machu Picchu

Today I walked past a travel agency that was advertising Machu Piccu in its window... so today I'm dreaming of Machu Picchu, Peru. And just after I wrote that very sentence, I saw a story on about the place... cue eerie music...

Have a lovely weekend :) xo

P.S Apologies for the lack of posts this week, it's been a very busy week. Hoping for a slow one next week so hopefully you'll hear more from me :)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Monday :)

Happy Monday everyone, a welcome to my 10 new followers! Great to have you onboard! Today's inspirational quote comes from one Marty McFly - aka a young Michael J Fox - who I saw on the big screen on the weekend in Back to the Future Part I - the trilogy is my family's favourite and I've lost count of how many times we've watched it, but it was amazing to see it on the big screen as my parents did when it came out in the eighties!

"If you put your mind to it, you can acomplish anything"
Marty McFly

And I just have to add this one, one of the best scenes in the whole movie:

Doc: "One point twenty-one gigawatts! One point twenty-one gigawatts! Great scott!"
Marty: "What the hell is a gigawatt?!"

Have a fabulous week :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blue Eyed Boy - review

“Once there was a widow with three sons, and their names were Black, Brown and Blue. Black was the eldest; moody and aggressive. Brown was the middle child, timid and dull. But Blue was his mother's favourite. And he was a murderer.”

The fantasies Blueyedboy plays out online and his obsession with Albertine consumes his entire life, just as this book will consume yours, reader.
I expected a twisted, odd and surprising read from Joanne Harris, having read a couple of her books including Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes, but this one really threw me. A couple of times when I picked up the book, I even wondered to myself: “Should I even be reading this?” “Should I really be reading about some twisted, lonely, disturbed middle-aged man’s murder fantasies?” “Should anyone?”
It’s like when we pick up a newspaper or open a news website – we know we shouldn’t get excited when someone gets murdered, but as soon as we see the words “murder” or “homicide” in a headline, it’s the first story we read. If there’s anything I learnt as a journalist, it’s that bad news sells.
So although it was a major change from what I usually read, and despite the “wow that sounds really sadistic” response from Josh when I read him the synopsis, I continued reading and somehow ended up liking the sadistic man in question, aka blueeyedboy - murder fantasies, cowardice and all. That was, until the end - an ending that, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't guess, and one that I won't ruin for you except to say this - it's good.
If you want to challenge your morals and question your faith in introverts, I suggest you pick up this book, but pick it up with an open mind as you should any Joanne Harris book, because you never know what damning twist she’s got waiting for you around the corner.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Dreaming of... waterfalls

There's just something about them isn't there? Mother nature at it's best. Today I'm dreaming of swimming in an isolated river in the middle of nowhere, listening to the thunder of the falls raining down into the river below... whether it's here in New Zealand or somewhere far, far away...

Some waterfall love from godzone...

Matai Falls, Catlins, Southland

Owharoa Falls, Coromandel

Nelson Falls, Nelson

Purakanui Falls, Whangarei

And some waterfall love from far, far away...

Niagara Falls, North America

Triberg Falls, Gremany

Skoga River Falls, Iceland

Coshi Ohtaki Falls, Japan

Plitvice Falls, Croatia

Happy Monday :)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Losing control and taking it back

It's two months today since I made my last trip from Masterton to Stokes Valley, this time with a trailer fully laden with all that is material in my life. It was a change that I had hoped for for a long time and finally my chance to live my "real life" instead of what I felt had become my "temporary life".
I should have expected it, having gone away for a long period of time and come back twice in my life, but it still took me by surprise. "It" is hard to explain with simply a word or a sentence, hence why I'm writing a blog post about it. Yes, it's a bit personal, but I hope by writing about it, I can help myself as well as others who have been in a similar situation.
"It" is that horrible, crushing feeling you get when you leave everything you know and love - get out of your "comfort zone" if you will - come back, and after a month or two of euphoria, rediscovery and general happiness about being back, you realise you're back where you started and life is now routine again.
I first experienced this when I came back from Australia, where I was an exchange student for three months. Although, I had an Australian exchange student come to stay with me for three months after that, so it was after she left when it began to kick in. At the tender age of 15, my life was all about friends, being cool, and fitting in, and going on that trip disrupted all of those things. Three months is a long time in a teenager's life - enough time for your group of friends to either replace you or close the gap in the circle, leaving you on the outside - and even though I had made many friends in Australia, I had to accept that I would lose contact with a lot of them. But I missed them a lot.
I wasn't very "cool" and I never quite "fitted in" at my school here, so going to Australia and being the foreigner was great because, all of a sudden my host sister's friends were my friends, and there were a lot of them. But then I came back and my small group of friends had carried on without me, closing the gap, and I never really got back in, choosing instead to form close friendships with a select few people who I valued far above "being cool".
Then there was my three month trip to the USA. This time I was leaving behind a whole different life, as I had made it to that age (19) when you finally start to appreciate how important family is and "fitting in" becomes the ridiculous concept it is. Job wise, I hadn't quite found my way, so I was temping - mainly because I didn't want to commit to anything before going overseas. I was in a new relationship, one that I knew was for keeps, and one that I've now been in for five years. He knew from the very beginning - I think I even mentioned it on the night we met - that I was planning on doing Camp America, as I had been for years, so he knew what he had signed up for.
After two months of teaching art in the sunshine every day in the middle of nowhere, then a month of travelling - sleeping in tents and hostels and seeing things I never thought I would get to see and experiencing things beyond my wildest dreams (you haven't lived until you've laid down inside a massive, red cave-like rock in Monument Valley and heard a Navajo Native American play the wooden flute, its sound bouncing off the cave walls with acoustics as good, if not better than any theatre) - I came back to where I started: temping with no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
Although my New Zealand world had not changed much - my family were trucking along well and my relationship was strong - I had changed. And there's nothing more frustrating than when you've changed but the world around you has not. But you can't leave that life because the people you love are in it. It took a long time for me to put my extensive travel ideas on the back burner and focus on carving myself out a career before travelling again.
And carve out a career I did, which brings me to my next journey. I ended up studying journalism after meeting someone who had been one through my temp work, thinking "I could do that", and starting the course the next Monday. After the course I was offered a job in Hastings on a community paper and after talking it over with family and Josh and, after agreeing it wouldn't be forever and I could always come back if it became too hard, suddenly I was leaving home for the first time, moving into a flat with people I didn't know which was four hours away from home. Six months later I was on the move again, this time to Masterton, which was to be my home for a year.
In February I finally got the break I had been looking for and I was able to come back home to Wellington, and moved back in with my parents until Josh and I can move in together.
I love my wonderful supportive parents and my lovely Stokes Valley home where I grew up, but yet again, I'm back where I started: living with my parents. And I have changed a lot over the past 18 months, and lately, since the excitement and euphoria about being back has worn off I'm afraid of losing the new qualities I have gained by being out in the big wide world all by myself. It's easy to say that you leave home a kid, being bossed around and told to do chores and argued with, then you come back an adult and you should be treated like a flatmate, but that's simply not true. You're always your parents' child no matter how old you are, and both them and you end up getting back into the routine that is parent and child, even if you have been cooking your own dinner, buying your own groceries, getting yourself out of bed and off to work in the morning, for the last 18 months.
I guess I became a little selfish over that time, because I only had myself to look after and when I went home to visit, I was centre of attention. Now that I'm back, the attention has shifted and "that time when Sarah lived miles away" has all but been forgotten, and my life revolves around a lot more people than just me. I'm not saying I don't like the shift in attention and the demands of more people in my life, it's just that it's a lot to get used to. It's also hard to stay strong so that I can keep those qualities I've gained and my general outlook on life - my new, positive outlook on life where anything is possible.
So this week I've slipped. I've given in to the old, negative me and become this stressed out, irritated, frustrated person that I once was. But this time, instead of being content in my self-pity, I'm fighting back, refusing to be pulled down into that familiar, strangely cozy black hole.
There's a lot to be learnt from experiences such as this. Patience is the most important thing to have, a quality that comes from knowing that there will be more adventures to come, some of which will be scary and risky, and will sometimes have you wishing you were back in your snug routine.
Yes, it's a cliche (I know, not exactly shying away from them today - "beyond my wildest dreams"? yeah... couldn't help myself), but the most important thing to remember is what's most important in your life: People. Wherever you are in the world, be it New York City or lowly old Masterton, it's always the people you miss. So instead of obsessing about what the next step is going to be, I'm trying my best to sit back, employ copious amounts of patience, and enjoy having the people that I love close by.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A beautiful day to be in Wellington

On April 1st, the Royal New Zealand Airforce celebrated it's 75th anniversary and yesterday, it treated Wellington to a brilliant show of Red Checkers which flew around the harbour and over the city at lunchtime. And it just happened to be one of those rare "you can't beat Wellington on a good day" days - no wind, brilliant blue sky, and hot sunshine. Simply gorgeous.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Time to write

So, as most of my lovely loyal followers will know, I'm working on my first novel. But at the moment, I'm finding it quite stressful, as my head is near explosion, so full of ideas as it is; my emails that I write to myself from work when I'm seized by inspiration and have to write something down are piling up; and bits of paper are littering my desk at home, full of bits of chapters, sentences, character ideas, plot ideas, and about five different prologues.
And I have NO TIME to organise it all! All I want to do is write - I want a little Organisation Fairy to come into my study, log into my computer and organise all my mess, and then I want to pack up my laptop and a bag, jump in my car and take off to a cabin in the wilderness so I can just write.
Isn't it crazy how you try and try to live life in the slow lane but somehow your life just is not meant to be that way. I thought making the move away from journalism - which swallowed up my time, my conscience, and my soul - to move back closer to my family and friends would allow me to slow it down a bit, but it seems to have become even more frantic. Sure, I'm not driving over the hill every weekend and living out of an overnight bag, which was very exhausting, but now that I'm back, and in the big city, there is just so much to do, so many opportunities, so much to experience. And there are so many people to see.
Not that I'm complaining. I'm not. I like that my life is busy, but sometimes we all just need time out from everything and everyone and in a perfect world, we would like to do it without upsetting anyone.
For me, all I want is to make a dent in my novel - I want to feel like I've made some progress, and I want to be able to show someone the first few chapters and have them tell me what they think of it.
So I'm thinking, in the spring maybe, of taking a week off to write. Even though that's a few months away, I'm content to wait.
So I Googled "Writers' Retreats NZ" (in an ideal world, I would be Googling "Writers' Retreats Italy", but money doesn't grow on trees people) and was surprised to find that there are a few good retreats around these parts, so I thought I would share some with you in case you are having the same troubles and are dreaming of escape. I also stumbled across a great blog called Shameless Words by fellow New Zealander Seamus Kearney, who is also working on his first novel, so I'm extending some blog love thataways, make sure you have a peek!

New Pacific Studio - Wairarapa

Tauhara - Lake Taupo

If all else fails, I might just hire my uncle's beach house up the coast, or hole myself up in the local library for a week... do you think they would let me sleep there? haha. Where would be your ideal place to retreat to? Have you had or are you having the same problem as me? Any advice on how to organise your life and get motivated?

Sarah xo