We the People

The people have spoken and there is no escape from it.

Not even on my little island bathed in the fragrant rain of late spring.

While primroses and billy-bells are preparing to burst into new season.

Full of hope.

Not unlike people who voted for a man who some other people pronounced laughable.

And then proceed to employ never-before-seen heavy and well-oiled media artillery to defeat.

And lost.

Enter the utter disbelief.

Of those whose well-insulated worlds shield them so well from reality of many that they dismissed them as ‘undesirables’.

Clearly they have forgotten history lessons of their expensive educations.

Qu’ils mangent de la brioche“!

Nothing unifies and ignites masses of ‘undesirables’ quicker and stronger than disdain of elite.

Any elite.

Anyone could have mobilized the sea of raw hurt in the same way.

Anyone who could convincingly promise to restore dignity.

When you offer a jobless man a job, even as a promise – you give him back his dignity, or at least a promise of one.

The man with funny hair and panache for provocative rhetoric happens to have both necessary qualities; a drive and a stomach for it. In addition to a completely clean slate when it comes to politics; a quality highly prized by those dismissed by the ruling elite. His long-standing friendship with his opponent and her family was of course conveniently overlooked as it always happens with inconvenient minor details.

It is questionable whether he himself was/is fully aware of what he has unleashed and/or how is he going to cope with it. Only time will tell.

While the woman with a severe face and highly-polished exterior continued to remain oblivious of the number and power of those she dismissed. After all they do not future in the world she knows and therefore they cannot possibly matter.

In doing so she, perhaps even unwittingly, sharpened the blade that divides her country to possibly dangerous degree. Still, the onslaught of hatred of those who brought her opponent into power continues everywhere.  Why? What is to be achieved by sawing seeds of hatred against large number of people who did nothing but voted for their preferred candidate?

Because this was not a vote for Trump against Hilary – this was the vote against elite and all it represents.

This was the vote that fervently wished to deliver one message and one message only – We the People will not be dismissed!

Whatever you choose to call us, and however ‘racist’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘islamophobiac’, ‘sexist’, etc. you think we are … we will be HEARD!

If that sounds familiar … because it is.

Not long ago voters of another western country shocked their elite by voting out of European Union. The basic motivation was/is the same – give us back our country, our jobs … our dignity!

While it is certainly not the first time in human history that the ruling elite first invents than proceed to believe in a ‘new and better human being’, existence of which would always benefits their interests, the reality of human nature continues to show itself for what it is – survival instinct first and foremost. And when those appear at risk … all is and will be possible.

To start with I have never cared much for either Trump or Hilary.

But all that changed on the day a woman in my office looked at me with such an open disdain that it was palpable. It was clear she thinks me not only a dimwit but beyond contempt. Because I tried to voice my concern over the clearly orchestrated media-onslaught of Trump during the election camping. I did not even say that I favour Tramp (because I don’t). Imagine if I did.

It was the day I learned first-hand how ‘undesirables’ feel.

And why Trump would win.

trump-hillary

 

 

Before the Rains

End of summer holidays.

Every year at the end of January and before the rains end summer,

I try hard to cheer myself out of my holiday and into another year of paid employment.

Carefully, I go over all the benefits of having place of work and honestly admit that there are many.

I dare not to think of Charles Bukowski or even Tin Ujevic or any of the bohemian fraternity.

In this endeavour I mostly succeed as all the years gone by confirm.

Then I sit on the balcony and look across the roof tops,

Heavy, low clouds hang over the hill tops.

Cruise ship glides across the water away from the harbour.

Alone seagull screeches into the still, hot air, heralding his

Freedom.

To come and go

Unaccounted.

And I stayed there for a long time,

Until dusk brings cold breeze of night.

Then I must go inside and start preparing for

Morning’s work.

If only I can remember

Why.

 

Joy for the New Year!

I know … after not blogging for few months – here I come with a second post in three days!

Between you and me – consistency has never been my strong suit. I blame me it on restless and relentless mind! That in addition to a holiday season, meaning – some free time at last!

Now to the real reason for this post – in a word – sheer joy!

Yep – that’s right! As the popular song goes – ‘don’t believe me just watch!’ Or in our case – read, since, luckily, you can’t see me (luckily because I am typing this in my nighty and no it is not the one suitable for audiences!).

So why joy you may ask!

Shall I tell you? Oh, ok then here goes:

New Year has arrived to New Zealand’s shores already and with the spectacular fireworks over the Wellington harbour which I watched from my balcony with a glass of chilled Riesling in hand while trying to establish any kind of conversation with my daughter who was (judging by the noises over the phone) having hell of a good time with her mates in Queenstown (the suspicion has since been confirmed as true – good on her I say and can’t wait to see her tomorrow and hear all about it!).

Today (1 January 2016) was an absolutely amazing summer day! Living in Wellington you learn to appreciate and treasure such days like your family’s most precious heirlooms! So, just like everyone else, I trotted down to the beach and here is what I found there:

WP_20160101_003.jpg

Well half of Wellington at least!

We all (that is to say who ever was perched on the sand next to you/passing by, etc) wished each other happy New Year and thank God (Yahweh, Allah, Buddha, etc.) for the weather. In our hearts of hearts, we all knew it would not last – so offering sincere gratefulness to our respective gods was in hope to prolong it even if just for a few more days!

Everyone ventured or was coaxed to swim (yours truly included -:)! As soon as sea reaches your ankles – shivering starts! Never mind that minor annoyance; with assorted degrees of speed and variations of; ‘oh isn’t it lovely once you get in’ – we all made it! Yours truly even swam past floating pontoons and small boats which, I will have you know, almost qualifies as swimming in the open sea!

On the way back from this glorious escapade, I climbed on the tiny space still available on the pontoon and indulged in listening sounds. Yes, sounds – not words or snippets of conversations. No one person spoke in English! Amongst lively conversations and laughter, I could recognize German, Italian, Spanish, French and most likely Chinese.

I will take the risk of sounding rather cheese here – but I truly felt overwhelmed by joy and gratefulness in that moment … for so much;

For being alive and reasonably healthy,

For New Zealand … this tiny speck of dirt in the mighty Pacific ocean;

  • where total strangers will ask you to come ‘over for a drink’ for no other reason but because it is Christmas/New Year,
  • where you can leave your belongings safely on the beach for hours without a fear of losing them,
  • where people from all over the world come to stay and are made welcome regardless of their religion, race, sexual orientation,
  • where there are no drone strikes,
  • no crazed members of Islamic State threatening to cut my, or anyone’s else head off,
  • no famine (ocean is brimming with fish if all else fails),
  • no recession (not like seen elsewhere in any case),
  • no Donald Trump trying to take the country over and, rumour has it – Vladimir Putin may not even know we are on the planet (thank God),
  • where my daughter can go to University without fear of being taken hostage or killed.

I do love you New Zealand!

Have a Happy, Safe and Peaceful 2016 Everyone!

In a words of an old Greek: ‘Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.’ (Epicurus)

Thank you everyone for reading the Lantern!

Tides of change

It has been a long time since I last wrote.

It was a winter of my fiftieth birthday.

It is summer now.

Outside my windows night cradles round-faced moon into a bed of stars.

No breath of wind to upset the delicate operation.

As in attendance – air stands still and warm.

And if I am now to think about all that has come to pass in those last few months – it seems every new season brought some changes to my life.

Perhaps it all started with that shy, early autumn when I wrote ‘Visitor

After,

Winter arrived and lingered for quite some time – bleak and colourless. There were days when wind was merciless. There were days when breathing was too.

In the midst of it all, and quite unexpectedly – I was offered a new job. One I never really thought about. Initially I was unsure what to do. Not that I was sure of much at the time.

And then, as often is the case – we are nudged towards the road we need to take, even if, or especially when we cannot see it ourselves.

From the distance of almost six months – I understand that it was the right, almost necessary step to take.

The new job brought new challenges and new responsibilities – all of which ensured that, by the end of each day, neither desire nor energy were left for another thought let alone reflection.

I sometimes wondered whether I would ever write for pleasure again.

Instead of quiet contemplation and writing – I was challenged to learn on the go and come up with solutions on demand. And through it all I realized that solving problems and caring for others is still what I love doing and, so they tell me – am good at it. Which is to say – I work hard and care genuinely, all of which comes naturally once we are engaged with purpose and meaning.

As winter neared its end and spring reluctantly knocked on the door – I moved the house too.

The ‘Writer’s Den’ which was nestled amongst trees and shrubs gave way to a ‘Room with a Balcony’ – no more than ten minutes’ walk to downtown and my office, or twenty minutes to the closest beach.

Once I moved in – I remembered the little piece I titled ‘A Wish List’ and wrote some three years ago, for one of the wishes was ‘to own the room with a balcony’ …  and this is what I now

WP_20151223_001.jpg see from my balcony.

Someday I watch boats sailing in and out of the harbour and hear

Cries of seagulls before the day-break.

As sun fills the ‘Room with a Balcony’ every morning and lingers over it in in evenings, I read Daniel Klain for he ponders such wisdom as: ‘Every Time I found the Meaning of Life They Change It’, Clive James as he wrote; ‘Cultural Amnesia’ and Anna Akhmatove for she wrote

I Taught Myself To Live Simply:

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,

to look at the sky and pray to God,

and to wander long before evening

to tire my superfluous worries.

When the burdocks rustle in the ravine

and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops

I compose happy verses about life’s decay, decay and beauty.

I come back. The fluffy cat licks my palm, purrs so sweetly

and the fire flares bright

on the saw-mill turret by the lake.

Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof

occasionally breaks the silence.

If you knock on my door

I may not even hear.

 

 

 

Fifth decade

CakeFew days ago I turned 50.

Travelled down South to celebrate with my lovely daughter and some of my best friends. Party for my North Island friends is scheduled for the coming weekend. Twenty-one years in the ‘God’s Zone’ forged some great friendships that span length of both islands. For all of them I am deeply grateful.

In between partying I managed to look in the mirror. Carefully. Nothing. I came closer to the mirror – nope, still nothing. Looking pretty much the same. Either that or suffering from some serious self-delusion. I am told it is not uncommon.

Apparently the said affliction selects  its victims exclusively from the middle-age population. Which in itself presents conundrum since, courtesy of cosmetic surgery and endless beautification procedures, is fast becoming an obscure term. Fifty is new thirty I hear. Nice. So thirty is what … new ten?

Well if that is not bad enough; the peculiar form of self-delusion provides no warning signs and, yes you have guessed it – there is no cure or even remedy to ease the symptoms. So how to recognize the poor sufferers?

Apparently there are few clear clues, one of which I am afraid to have suffered morning after my significant birthday party!

Still for the benefit of fellow suffers here they are;

Your mirror turns into a time machine; the reflection is no longer of reality but of memory – the image of yourself as you remember it.

That is until;

  • You accidentally caught sight of yourself in the shop-window from where a middle-age stranger is staring back at you wearing your clothes; sneakers with rainbow coloured laces and all. Or
  • Unsuspected youth wearing regulation uniform of respectable school offers you a seat on the public bus. You look around for the older person the seat was intended for. There aren’t any. Or
  • Twenty something shop-assistant at the cosmetic counter tells you that you have a great skin for your age. And what age is that you would have asked if you can be bothered. But you can’t. Or
  • When the regular twenty/thirty-something ‘might get lucky tonight’ enthusiasts attempt to chat you up you experience powerful urge to launch for their ears by which to drag them home and put them into the naughty corner. Only firm clasp of hands behind your back stops you. Or
  • Your wardrobe starts to resemble cold-war firmly divided between ‘comfortable’ and ‘uncomfortable’ zones. Comfortable zone expends each day (cotton nighty and fluffy slippers are in it -:)). Or
  • Your doctor explains to you in some details about such things as knee cartilage wear and tear and comfortable shoes. You make mental note to hold onto the last pair of stilettos you bought no matter what. Or
  • You notice onset of an interesting and never before experienced phenomenon – you need longer hands to read small print! The mental note to visit an optometrist follows. Or
  • Your internal heating works overtime. Never before have you thrown blankets off the bed in the middle of a cold night. Your wonder whether you can save on heating bill! Or
  • You are surprised to find that Tinder is actually not what you thought it is – an app helping owners find their lost pets. Or
  • You are unable to decide whether ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a comedy or a horror movie. Most of it seems either laughable or painfully uncomfortable. Or
  • Your hairdresser nudges you ever-so-gently towards mature styles and colours. You consider changing a hairdresser but remember cost. Or
  • You resolve to try one more and this time guaranteed to work diet that promises to make you ‘slim and trim’ in no time but cannot remember the rules while shopping for groceries. You buy your favourite chocolate cake anyway to devour with your favourite TV show.  Or
  • You listen to your well-meaning friends and brows on-line dating sites only to find that men of your age are looking for ‘women under 50 only’. For a brief moment you wonder whether they have ‘too young’ rule as well but get bored soon and abandon the whole exercise.

Then;

One day you wake up and look into the same mirror … and whola – it is you. At that very moment.

With all your cry/smile lines, and not-so-firm skin or bright eyes or bouncing step … and you smile at your image with grace and acceptance that only living for five decades brings!

 

The Banality of Evil

It was a brilliant summer day. I set up my ‘workstation’ on the deck that extends ‘Writer’s Den’ into lush, secluded greenery. To write. Or at least to contemplate writing. While precious days of my holidays seep through like sand in an hourglass.

My 'work station' -:)!
My ‘work station’ -:)!

But I could not peel my thoughts away from the movie I watched last night; ‘Hannah Arendt’ and the concept she named – ‘The Banality of Evil.’ At the time it was new, unheard of ever before. And so were the terms in which she wrote about the Holocaust. All of which brought her scandal and suffering.

Hannah_Arendt_Film_Poster

Johanna, ‘Hannah’ Arendt was one of those typically European intellectuals; sharp and forthright, yet vulnerable and fragile in the same time. Directed by Margarethe von Trotta and starring Barbara Sukowa, the movie captured Hannah’s life vividly. German-Jewish philosopher who much preferred to be known as political theorist because, as she explained; philosophy is concerned with ‘man in the singular’, while political theory centres on the fact that ‘men, not Man, live on the earth and inhabit the world.’

Hannah was born into a secular family of German Jews in what is now Hanover. She studied philosophy with Martin Heidegger with whom she had a long and a stormy romantic relationship for which she was later severely criticized because of Heidegger’s support for the Nazi Party when he was rector at the University of Freiburg. Following one of many breakups with Heidegger, Hannah moved away to write her dissertation under Karl Jaspers on the concept of love in the thought of Saint Augustine and married Gunther Stern in 1929, (they divorced in 1937). While her dissertation was published in 1929, she was prevented from teaching because she was Jewish. She was arrested and briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1922.

In 1933 Hannah fled Germany for Paris where she worked and aid Jewish refugees. In 1937 she was stripped of her German citizenship and in 1940 she married Heinrich Blucher, a poet, Marxist philosopher and a former member of the Communist Party of Germany. During the Vichy regime she was interned in Camp Gurs as an ‘enemy alien’.

However, she was able to escape and left France for the United States in 1941 together with her husband and mother. They relied on visas illegally issued by the American diplomat Hiram Bingham and Varian Fry who aided over 2,000 Jewish refugees in the same way.

Once in New York, Hannah become active in the German-Jewish community and returned to Germany after the war to work for an organization which saved many thousands of children from the Holocaust and settled them in the British Mandate of Palestine. She became a close friend of Karl Jaspers and his wife. Around the same time she developed friendship with American author Mary McCarthy. In 1950 Hannah became a naturalized citizen of the United States and served as a visiting scholar for such Universities as Berkeley and Princeton. She was named the first female lecturer in Princeton.

Her first major work was book titled ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ (1951), which traced the roots of Stalinism and Nazism in both anti-Semitism and Imperialism. She further contends that Jewry was not the operative factor in the Holocaust, but merely a convenient proxy. Totalitarianism in Germany was, in the end, about megalomania and consistency, not eradicating Jews.

In 1961, Hannah was reporting for The New Yorker on Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Jerusalem. The report evolved into book ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem; A Report on the Banality of Evil’ (1963) in which she coined the phrase ‘the banality of evil’ to describe the phenomenon of Eichmann.

hannah-arendt-arendt-eichmann_-in-jerusalem-040213-marg

It is that work the movie focuses on when it opens with scenes from Eichmann’s capture in South America where he escaped with forged papers. When Hannah volunteered to write a report for The New Yorker she was eager to see for herself a person capable of unthinkable atrocities. However, while observing the trial, Hannah was astonished to find Eichmann not only lacking any qualities of imposing monster, but of any significance at all.

He was simply an ordinary man, rather dull and of average if not below average intelligence. He never completed either high school or any vocational training and was only able to obtain employment through family connections.

Utterly incapable of thinking for himself, Eichmann relied heavily on stock phrases and self-invented clichés. Extensive use of ‘officialese’ demonstrated Eichmann’s unrealistic worldview and crippling lack of communication skills. Throughout the trial he displayed neither guilt nor hatred, claiming no responsibility because he was simply ‘doing his job, his duty’ not only by obeying the orders, but by obeying the law. On Eichmann’s personality, Hannah wrote: ‘Despite all the efforts of the prosecution, everybody could see that this man not a ‘monster’, but it was difficult indeed not to suspect that he was a clown.’

It was on the basis of those observations that Hannah raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inactions.

All his life Eichmann belonged to some sort of organization as this was necessary for him to define himself since he was unable to think for himself without ‘orders’ to follow. When, in 1933 his attempt to join a branch of Freemasonry failed, a family friend encouraged him to join the SS. At the end of the war, Eichmann found himself depressed because; ‘it dawned on him that thenceforward he would have to live without being a member of something or other.’

Hannah argued that Eichmann was not a fanatic or sociopath, but an extremely average person who relied on cliché rather than thinking for himself and was motivated by professional promotion rather than ideology.

Banality, in this sense, is not that Eichmann’s actions were ordinary, or that there is a potential Eichmann in all of us, but that his actions were motivated by a sort of stupidity which was wholly unexceptional.  She never denied that Eichmann was an anti-semite, not that he was fully responsible for his actions, but argued that these characteristics were secondary to his stupidity. She also did not claim that Eichmann was ‘simply’ following orders, but rather had internalized the clichés of the Nazi regime, so they become his own.

Hannah was also sharply and openly critical of the way the trial was conducted in Israel (Eichmann was kidnapped by Israeli agents in Argentina and transported to Israel, an illegal act, and that he was tried in Israel even though he was not accused of committing any crimes there), as well as of the way that some Jewish leaders, notably M.C.Rumkowski acted during the Holocaust.

All of that caused a considerable controversy and even animosity toward Hannah in the Jewish community. Her friend Grshom Scholem, a major scholar of Jewish mysticism, broke off relations with her. She was criticized by many Jewish public figures, who charged her with coldness and lack of sympathy for the victims of the Holocaust. Because of this lingering criticism, her book has only recently been translated into Hebrew.

The movie closes with a final speech Hannah gives before a group of students, in which she says this trial was about a new type of crime which did not previously exist. A court had to define Eichmann as a man on trial for his deeds. It was not a system or an ideology that was on trial, only a man. But Eichmann was a man who renounced all qualities of personhood, thus showing that great evil is committed by ‘nobodies’ without motives or intentions. This is what she calls ‘the banality of evil’.

Hannah Arendt died in New York City on 4 December 1975, at age 69, of a heart attack.

I admire Hannah in the same way I always admired free-thinking intellectuals with heart brave enough to defend their convictions especially when price is high and conditions lonely.

Living in the world where constant stream of horrific news trickles down from now highly alerted Europe and elsewhere, I wonder what would Hannah make of crimes committed today by reportedly very ordinary, unremarkable and often marginalized people commanded to execute them by their religion’s law and order.

If the highest authority one recognizes commands killings as the only punishment fit for those who commit the acts deemed by that law and order as criminal; be it freedom of speech or freedom of dress, what is to be done to prevent it?

Claiming that such law and order is wholly ‘barbaric’ and thus has no place in the modern world is not only unlikely to have any significant effect on those who firmly embrace it but it is very likely to trigger response of the type – ‘Barbaric in comparison to what?’

Perhaps the law and order that keeps hundreds imprisoned for years without ever being charged with anything? Or the law and order that, for centuries, commanded endless killings on the crusade to convert so called ‘savages’ to one and only true God and acquire whatever precious resources they had in the process? Or the laws that, under the freedom of speech, ban statements that are offensive to people on the basis of their sexuality, race or religion. Backlashes against those whose mockery offends certain groups are not unusual in modern Western world. The methods employed however do not usually involve terrible violence.

And it is indeed that violence that sees Islam synonymous with terror even if clearly not all Muslims subscribe to it nor is the Islamic world united or homogeneous in its position.

Nevertheless, it is clear that Islam is, in today’s world, more congenial to the violent than any other major religion. On a crusade to either correct historical wrongs, avenge injustices inflicted upon it, spread one and only true and divine word, and/or acquire power and resources, etc., etc. … most likely all of the above. Not unlike some other major religions in not so distant past.

However, in the Western world we are often told that what we really face is a scary battle between freedom and tyranny. Such rhetoric is not only factually incorrect but potentially dangerous. Why? Because if and when one is threatened with tyranny, and a religious tyranny at that, it is only matter of time when a militant leader(s) against such tyranny will emerge mounting a holy war against it. Halls of history are littered with examples of it and are forever colored scarlet from bloodsheds.  The fear of such occurrences has seen all major religious leaders, including Muslims, appearing repeatedly on TV screens united in their pleas for calm and reason.

What West faces today, and not for the first time either, is the struggle between one set of rules and values against the other.

As I live in the Western type democracy I will not be killed but merely imprisoned and perhaps fined if, say, I decide to stroll downtown wearing nothing but a smile. However, if I live in an Islamic country, I would likely be severely punished should I decide to stroll downtown without being covered head to toe. At this point it is completely irrelevant to which set of rules one subscribes as being ‘right’, or which set of rules one condemns as being ‘wrong’. If I was born and raised to cover from head to toe, that would be as ordinary and as right to me as breathing. Indeed I would perceive any request to change my habitual dress as violation.

What however is relevant and very relevant at that is the freedom to choose between those, or any other, set of rules. And freedom to make that choice should only be balanced against the responsibility of known consequences as subscribed by laws, rules, and/or customers of the land where choices are made, rather than fear of unpredictable and possibly violent retribution by those who find or declare themselves offended by my choice. In other words – freedom balanced against known consequences results in responsibility; freedom limited by unknown retribution results in fear. And when fear enters, freedom shrinks and finally ceases.

It would be at this point that tyranny may indeed enter. Because it would be no longer sufficient to consider whether or not my choice to, say; draw a cartoon or run around naked is against any of the laws, rules and/or customs of the place I inhabit, but rather whether or not I might suffer unknown violence or even death by those who believe themselves rightly called to punish me for breaking their own laws, rules and/or customs.

To return to Hannah Arendt whose life and work inspired the above thoughts, she finished her book on Eichmann by the following paragraph:

Just as you [Eichmann] supported and carried out a policy of not wanting to share the earth with the Jewish people and the people of a number of other nations—as though you and your superiors had any right to determine who should and who should not inhabit the world—we find that no one, that is, no member of the human race, can be expected to want to share the earth with you. This is the reason, and the only reason, you must hang.’

Indeed.

Summer

Summer is my favourite season.

I like all of it; brightness of summer mornings, big open skies, lazy afternoons, scented summer nights … and of course long days of holidays when each and every hour belongs to me to do (or not) with it as I please. For a limited number of days at least.

In New Zealand summer arrives in December and that means that most of us combine end of the year festivities with annual holidays, aka – BBB (Beach, Batch, Barbeque)!

While there is certainly no shortage of beautiful beaches in New Zealand either by the lakes, rivers, or sea, batches and barbeques have undergone some transformations over the years and are now somewhat fleshier with price-tags to match. Still, as most Kiwis know – no price tag should be allowed to stand in a way of proper Kiwiana summer and to that end camping grounds (either organized or freedom ones) remain popular and well-attended as I observed on my recent trip to South Island.

Even though I spent my early years and couple of more recent ones on the North Island, South Island remains very special to me. Not only because I lived there for more than ten years, but also because my daughter still lives there as  a student at Otago University in Dunedin.

Otago University
Otago University

And so it is no wonder I could hardly wait to finish work on Christmas Eve and board the plane to take me from Wellington to Dunedin. Seeing my daughter and my two dear friends waiting for me at the air port in Dunedin was truly wonderful! We had a lovely Christmas in Dunedin, city with strong Scottish heritage, breathtakingly beautiful peninsula and home to New Zealand’s oldest University. While once the centre of gold-rush economy, nowadays the city is dominated by its University and income its generate.

Dunedin
Dunedin’s Railway Station built in 1906
Christmas in Dunedin
Christmas in Dunedin
St. Paul's Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral

After Christmas we travelled further South to visit picturesque little township of Roxburgh nestled in truly amazing region of  Central Otago, famous for its landscapes, bike-treks, stone fruit orchards and mighty Clutha River on which one of the earliest hydroelectric dens was built. Our friends who own and operate local hotel – Goldfields, extended to us their warm hospitality including trip to nearby rodeo in Millers Flat and ever popular Pinders Pond so named after the original owners of the land.

Goldfields
Goldfields
Pinders Pond
Pinders Pond

It was a hot and dusty day almost custom made for the local cowboys and cowgirls to show off their skills some of which were rather impressive! Not to mention unmistakably masculine odour; smell of horses, human sweat, dust, tobacco and leather. I can almost hear my grandfather next to me. And in some of those tall, green-blue eye boys with broad shoulders and large, working hands – I can almost see him.

Rodeo!
Rodeo!

After few more days basking in the company of my daughter (yes by that time she had rather enough of her mother constantly trying to hug her, like hugs and kisses can be bottled up and taken with me -:)) I left for Christchurch, city I once lived for a long time, including horrible times of earthquakes and where I have some of my dearest friends.

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At Millers Flat

Before the earthquakes, city was known as a ‘Garden City’ for its beautiful gardens and overall very English atmosphere including punting on Avon River. Nowadays city is still very much under construction, but large and significant developments can be observed everywhere.

To say that I had a lovely time with my friends in Canterbury would not do the justice, perhaps ‘wild times’ would be better description!

The last leg of my journey took me from Christchurch to Picton via magnificent Coastal Pacific Scenic Route, courtesy of Kiwi Railway. The train journey took five hours and that means five hours of watching truly wonderful scenery of bushy hills and rugged Pacific coastline. The train’s open carriage provides opportunity to really enjoy the views as you travel very close to Pacific Ocean.

View from the train – quintessential NZ landscape!
View from the train – quintessential NZ landscape!
Another view from the train!
Another view from the train!
Train travel
Train travel

Once in Picton it is only a short walk to board the ferry across the Cook Strait. At the peril of sounding like a promotional tourist brochure, I must say that sailing across the Cook Strait is absolutely amazing. While I have crossed it before, every time is different; the beauty of Marlborough Sounds, wind that always blows across the Strait, (known as ‘Roaring Forties’) smell of sea and then approach to Wellington’s harbour after three hours journey.

Disembarking from the ferry, I thought how wonderful it all was and how fleeting.

Familiar streets of the city came into view and I knew that another year is now ahead of me … year, I decided is to be of solitude and writing. But of that – another time.

From the ferry
From the ferry
Crossing
Crossing
Sailing across the Cook Strait!
Sailing across the Cook Strait!