Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My resolutions for 2009

Why should I resolve to be any different than I seem to be.
The way I am is where I’m at. As far as I’m concerned, that’s that!

I could resolve to change my ways to have less sleep and longer days,
To count the kilojoules I eat, to cut out sweets and eat less meat,

To take up running round the block - rejuvenate my body clock.
But why resolve to make the change, I feel we all fall in the range

- of life’s three score years and ten. And as I ponder with my pen
I know I’m on the downhill run, so what the heck, I’ll make it fun.

I’ve come this far with habits bad, but really, do I feel too sad
One resolution I will make - a promise that I will not brake:

I, Margaret Muir, resolve this year
To change absolutely nothing here!

Photo taken half an hour ago - the last of the proteas in the garden

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas haiku by Margaret Muir

Prayers congregate
in vaulted ceilings
as candles cry

Christmas reminds me
I am alone
The precious gift of life
returned to sender

Verses by M Muir
Photo: M Muir - domed ceiling in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

Greeting from Marg in Tassie

Well it's that time again!
Whatever happened to 2008? It seems to have slipped by so quickly.
After trying to remember what I had done, I got out my diary to remind me - just goes to prove I’m getting old.
After flicking through the pages, I realised, it had been quite a good year.
Here are some of the highlights.
Re Travel:
In April I travelled to the UK but cruised half way via Chile, Peru, Panama Canal, and North America to London.
I've just returned from a trip to New Zealand and as I had never been I enjoyed seeing the cities and Fiordland.
Re Writing:
I delivered one manuscript in May and wrote another novel in June.
In September, I heard that THE CONDOR'S FEATHER had been accepted by Hale Books for publication in 2009.
Family:This month, Mum celebrated her 98th birthday. I was not able to be there but I rang her first thing in the morning and sang Happy Birthday to her. She didn't seem to object to my lousy voice!
Re 2009:
I have no plans for the future but that is how I prefer it to be.
I love the beautiful Tamar Valley in Tasmania where I have now been living for almost 18 months.
Time certainly flies.
For Christmas 2008, I wish you joy and peace.
Good health and happiness and a prosperous year in 2009.

Hornblower and Aubrey reflections of Admiral Lord Cochrane

Having just re-read Memoirs of a Fighting Captain – the autobiography of Admiral Lord Thomas Cochrane, I am truly blown away by this British naval officer’s exploits, the number of his victories (in just one period of 13 months he took 50 ships) and above all his faultless courage.
Readers of Patrick O’Brian’s stories of Captain Jack Aubrey (depicted in the movie – Master and Commander), and the stories of Horatio Hornblower of CS Forester (TV drama series), see their daring naval exploits as rip-roaring tall tales of adventure.
But in fact many of the colourful events and setting depicted in those famous fiction novels were pirated/borrowed from the real life adventures of Cochrane.
For example: CS Forester used Cochrane as his inspiration in Hornblower and the Hotspur and A Ship of the Line,
Patrick O’Brian drew on Cochrane in Master and Commander, The Reverse of the Medal and Blue at the Mizzen.
It is thought by some that Cochrane was the bravest naval commander who ever lived and, in my opinion, he leaves Horatio Nelson’s life story as disappointing second in many regards.
Cochrane was an inspiration to the British seaman and to the South American countries which placed their trust in him to secure their independence from Spain.
Photo: M. Muir - Stained glass window of Lord Thomas Cochrane – Maritime Museum, Valparaiso, Chile – the old Naval AcademyIn the same museum is a pair of Cochrane’s pistols which to me appeared enormously bulky and heavy.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Ethel Leak (nee Ettershank) is 98 today!

Happy Birthday, Mum!
Today is my mother’s birthday.
She was born in Leeds, Yorkshire in 1910.
For the last few years she has resided at a Methodist local preacher’s home in Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire.
I visited her in May this year and hope to be back in England again in two years time to celebrate her 100th birthday.

Utzon's dream of sails on Sydney Harbour lives on

A couple of weeks ago I gazed at the Sydney Opera house from the porthole window of a cruise ship.
Sadly, a few days ago, the Danish architect, Jorn Utzon, who designed the magnificent iconic structure, died at his home in Copenhagen.
He was 90.
Utzon created the winning design entry for an opera house to be built on Bennelong point at Sydney Cove.
Construction began in 1959 and the building was finished and opened by Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1972.
But Utzon never returned to Australia to see his building completed.
Today the Opera House is regarded as one of the most remarkable and recognisable buildings in the world.
One of the latter day wonders of the world.
Photos: M Muir - view from a window

Sailing to NZ with Celebrity Millennium

Once again, by booking at the last minute through, I was able to get a great deal on a 9 day cruise around the islands of New Zealand.
Boarding the ship berthed between the Opera House, The Rocks and the Sydney Harbour Bridge was indeed a thrill.

The 'Sounds' which Cook refused to enter

Sailing in Endeavour, James Cook surveyed the coastline of New Zealand on his first circumnavigation of the globe.
But during that voyage he purposely chose to sail past the fjords of the south island of NZ without entering them.
He was concerned that the unfathomable depths would provide no anchorage, that he might enter the fjords but be unable to turn around, and that the lack of wind within the old glacier valleys could leave his ship becalmed.
Today Milford Sound is visited regularly by cruising ships and Dusky and Doubtful Sounds (well named by Cook) are easily navigated from end to end.
In the cold damp air, I tried to imagine how Cook would have felt seeing the stark coastline for the first time.
Photo: NZ fiordland (Robert Dunn, 2005) in summer
Photo: Milford Sound (M Muir, 2008) – in a less enticing mood

Dunedin - most southerly city

A few years ago I visited the Antarctic Peninsula but the day we spent in Dunedin on the South island of New Zealand felt colder.
I would have liked to have visited the Albatross breeding ground but access was limited as it was nesting time.
Instead I visited the railway station – the most photographed building in the town but was happy to get back to the warmth of the ship.

Christchurch NZ - Antarctic stepping off point

Christchurch is an attractive city set on the leafy Avon River.
With the candles flowering on the chestnut trees, weeping willows touching the crystal clear water and even punts sliding up and down the river, it has a feel of old England.
But being a major port on the South Island of New Zealand, Christchurch is the departure point for Antarctic expeditionary vessels and has been for a long time.
Christchurch museum has a remarkable exhibit which documents Antarctic exploration.
The museum also has an interesting display of rocks including fossilised tree trunks, leaves and branches from vegetation which once grew on the land mass eons ago.
Just goes to show that climate change is not new!

Wellington - the private cable car city

I liked Wellington – it's an interesting place.
I particularly liked the old public cable car – it reminded me of the funicular railways in Valparaiso, Chile, which I rode on earlier this year.
But what surprised me was that many folk who live in houses perched on tops of the steep hills, have their own private funicular railway or cable car. Apart from climbing hundreds of steps this is often the only way of accessing their property.
Wellington also has an excellent maritime museum and actual film footage of the wreck of the passenger ferry ‘Wahine’ which was a reminder of how rough the waters of Cook Strait can be and why Wellington has been dubbed the ‘Windy city’.
Photo: from the Observatory looking down over Wellington

White Island - submarine volcano

Near the top of the North Island, White Island out of the ocean like a sore thumb. It is quite some distance from the mainland.
But as it puffs smoke from its sulphurous caldera it’s hard to believe that the tip of this volcanic island is like the tip of an iceberg which grows from the sea bed.
Having blown its top, what remains of the island resembles the cracked rim of an empty cup.
As the ship sailed around it, I watched the smoke breathing from below the earths crust and smelled the yellow sulphurous smoke which colours the rock and ash.
New Zealand is definitely in the Ring of Fire.
Photos: M Muir

Tauranga, NZ - resort

Last stop for the cruise ship before Auckland.
It’s a nice town. Very clean and tidy with excellent beaches.
With its warm climate and plenty of sunshine, I gather it’s a haven for retirees and holidaymakers.
Photo: from the beach at Tauranga and the land of the long white cloud

Auckland - ringed by volcanoes

Fortunately the volcanos in and around the city appear dormant. The ancient craters are now green and lush and great places for kids to play.
Today the most impressive structure is the Auckland tower (the highest structure in the Southern Hemisphere).
Despite my fear of heights – and the glass floor in the lift – I survived a trip to the top.
The brave folk who do a controlled bungy jump from the top must be mad!
Photo: Marg and great-nephews. In background the grassy crater of an old volcano. In the far distance the Auckland tower