Archive for July, 2011

Building Nests

I spent the weekend in Auckland. My daughter and her fiancé have bought a house and I was more than just a little curious to see it ..

(Incidentally, you know that you’ve grown up when your own children are all either married or engaged. I know it’s a cliche, but where did the time go?)

But back to my daughter’s new home. I know the blood, sweat and tears that went into them finding and purchasing a house. At the time they started looking, a few months ago, the Auckland house market had hit its low and was starting to move, particularly for first home buyers. This movement hadn’t yet shown up in the statistics, and had implications for the couple. The bank required a valuation from a registered valuer and they couldn’t make an offer above this. Every time they found a suitable house, paid for a builder’s report and valuation, they were out-bid or out-tendered by around ten per cent. Imagine this: you spend months looking through hundreds of homes til you find the ideal place. You spend mega bucks on builder’s reports and valuations. Then you have to start all over again because someone else is able and willing to pay thirty or forty thousand dollars above what a registered valuer says a place is worth. The frustration, disappointment, disillusionment takes a physical and psychological toll, and hope begins to fade.

Then their luck takes a turn for the better. The valuer they had been using introduces them to a vendor whose house she has valued for a private sale. Everybody is happy!

The couple’s new home is lovely. Fabulous layout, good condition (after a few very last minute alterations required before the sale can proceed and that threaten the sale), great location, and a good investment, but mostly an ideal home. A little tired in places, but that gives them an opportunity to add some value. It’s sunny and warm and private with a fabulous outdoor area that will give them enormous pleasure in the summer. (And a great play area for any little additions!)

They’ve shown persistence, determination, flexibility, and an intelligent approach to what is undoubtedly one of the most stressful things we ever do – buying a first home.

I enjoyed my stay in this lovely home. Thanks! And congratulations.

I’m very proud of them.

Speaking of pride, my visit was a timely opportunity to take with me the recently published list of top scholars at Victoria University for 2010, among them my daughter! Good job on both counts!


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Well, well, well … I saw the surgeon on Friday so he could assess the damage and review repair options to my nether regions.

It’s difficult to believe that I am writing about an aspect of my health that would usually be firmly locked away in a figurative box but I remind myself that this is the beginning of a travel blog. So now you have the first clue that, yes, we are going to Europe, albeit with a very tiny risk.

Everything is healing, so no surgery for at least three months, if ever. The surgeon said, “Go to Europe. You’ll be fine, and if you do need any medical help, the procedure is so quick and easy it’ll cost you just a few dollars if your insurer excludes it from your policy. Go.”

Well, the bad news is the insurer has excluded this as a pre-existing condition because further procedures might be required. So if anything does happen to it while we’re in Europe, we have to pay for treatment ourselves. The good news is that the surgeon is confident that i’ll be fine. The really good news is that the insurer has maintained cover for my spinal cord injury as a pre-existing condition.

So in four weeks we expect to be gone … First stop, Berlin!

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Last week I had a quick and minor surgical procedure to drain an abscess. At the time it was simply a minor inconvenience, but now it’s a ticking time bomb with the potential to derail a much anticipated and longed for holiday.

We have spent the last six months or more planning (and longer saving) for a trip around Europe… Berlin, Vienna,Venice, Florence, Rome, Paris, Loire valley, la Rochelle, Bordeaux, Barcelona.

And now our travel insurer may not cover me because of this minor procedure.

I see a surgeon tomorrow to see what he can do to make me “fit for travel” and assessed ok to be insured. We are scheduled to leave august 21st so there isn’t a lot of time, and it’s possible that this silly little issue, may mean I can’t ever be insured for travel … Yet I my spinal cord injury has been approved as a pre-existing condition!

The only good news right now is that the insurer will reimburse costs incurred to date.

So, fingers crossed, positive thoughts, prayers … Please offer up whatever you believe might appeal to or appease a higher power …

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How could I have lived this long and not known about about calligrams? I love letters and art, so throw poetry into the mix and voila, there is a thing of such beauty it takes my breath away.

I’ve seen letters cleverly arranged into shapes to create an image that expresses the meaning of the letters or words. Simple, nice. For example,

Letters or words create a visual image of themselves

An image created using related words

But calligram poetry! It’s beautiful:

Apollinaire's Dessin

Apollinaire's Dessin Il Pleut

Apollinaire's Eiffel Tower

Guillaume Apollinaire was a French writer born in Italy in 1880 of Polish parents. He famously wrote a book about calligrams, published in 1918. (Makes me feel really ignorant, having not heard of or seen these wonderful visual poems.) Calligrammes: Poèmes de la paix et de la guerre 1913- 1916 (1918) from An Introduction to Guillaume Apollinaire. He also wrote the children’s books “Madeleine”, which I do know about.

Other beautiful calligrams that I’ve found:
(Click on the title to find out more about the author)


*on my hand*
*reflecting love*
*stars , dance*
*an endless*


t        a            d
e                       o
a         r             w
r               i           n
s                v
e            a
  s               r
t                              s
r            o             a
e            f                d
m            s                 f
i                 o                a
n                  r            c
g                r                e

(Sometimes it is called concrete poetry – I suppose because the visual element gives a solid dimension – but I don’t like this description at all) This author calls her poem a concrete poem …

‘A gentle breeze … “

Apparently calligram means beautiful writing, and so it is!

I’ve started creating my own calligrams. These can be viewed in My Artwork and Calligrams Where you will find calligrams for love, inspiration, hearts, music, valentines and more …

If you’re interested, the context for these calligrams can be seen in these posts:
The Power of Visual Poetry – Destiny
Calligrams – Visual Poetry here you will find calligrams of hearts, stars, music and more.
A Christmas Calligram
Blood Diamonds

Calligrams for Inspiration

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My son asked me on Monday evening if I was going to write about the day’s happenings.

“Are you going going to write about today?” He asked.

“I don’t think anybody wants to know,” I replied, surprised he’d even thought I might want to, and even more surprised that he thinks someone might want to read about it.

He shrugged.

So here’s what happened on Monday and Tuesday.

On Monday morning when I saw the doctor, or rather she saw me, (if you get my drift) she said, “It’s leaking now. Oh, it’s leaking quite a lot. It’s still leaking. Hmmm … It’s leaking a lot. (etc) “I’ll take your temperature.” “I’ll ring the surgical registrar at the hospital.”

Actually, I feel much better now I’ve leaked a lot. (I don’t feel better about leaking on the doctor’s bed, but I do ask her why she wanted to be a doctor, after all, it’s really quite an unpleasant job, but then why do people become plumbers? At least doctors are paid better for dealing with other peoples’ s**t)

I do everything I’m told to do, I think. I sleep most of the afternoon, first in the ED waiting room, then in a corridor in ED on one of eleven beds that don’t have little walls around them. I don’t care, I am asleep.

The anesthetist seems annoyed that there are pages and pages and pages of repetitive forms he needs to fill in, so that my tiny procedure can be fitted in to the time it takes to slip one bed out of the OR before sliding in another, REAL surgical procedure. Apparently they’re just as accountable if the anesthesia is required for one minute or ten hours.

Both anesthetists are confounded by the drugs I take, which the GP has listed mostly by brand. They ask if I know their generic names. I do. They ask about one in particular, for which I give the chemical and generic name, it’s mode of action and the company name. They tell me it will interact with what they were planning to give me but they will google it to see what it won’t interact with … Somehow, I don’t find that comforting … That google replaces text books and senior staff and is now considered a reliable source of medical information. Still, I suppose it’s how you process information that matters, rather than the information itself.

The anesthetist comes back with a pen and tells me to sign unless I plan on putting myself to sleep. I want to tell him that I’d put myself to sleep but he keeps waking me up. Maybe I say this out loud, or he reads my mind, because he laughs and tells me that the one health professional you NEVER want to p… off is the anesthetist because he holds your life in his hands. I’ve just met Dr Evil.

But back to my son, who suggested I write about this … Or perhaps he meant writing about the plate of food that’s in front of me when he arrives. One scoop of amorphous white goop, another scoop of amorphous white goop, a scoop of bright green mush, and some brown gluey stuff. I am reminded of the time when I was in the spinal injury unit and instead of just complaining about the food, I organized a petition requesting that we be fed according to the food pyramid, given that we were all imprisoned for at least three months with no alternative food source. This petition was delivered to the hospital general manager who told the head dietitian to deliver what we asked for.

No such strategy existed on Monday night.

Discharged on Tuesday. Sleep all afternoon. I seem to recall hearing that general anesthesia can make you sad … Or maybe it’s the congealed chicken soup in a can that is my dinner on Tuesday night that makes me feel sad …

Still, I’ve done what my son wanted, that is, to write about something that turned out to be quick and dirty.

I hope he’s happy.

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