Saturday, 24 May 2008

My newest favourite thing: Kingfishers

When I went for a bike ride last week, I was whirring round the bays when I saw a flash of brilliant blue. At first I thought it was a metallic crisp packet, it was so shiny, but then it took off and flew into a tree. I put on my brakes, pulled my feet out of my clips and admired the radiance of the kingfisher.

This is such a gorgeous, dazzling bird. It looks as though it is adorned with jewellery, and not the cheap stuff either. I carried on my ride, more aware now of the variable oystercatchers (I have visions of them being good at times and fair to middling at others), terns, petrels, and shags (we call them cormorants – it saves the giggling). Apparently sea birds sneeze excess salt out of their bodies. I think that’s fascinating!

I never thought as myself as a bird-watcher although I do remember as a child that my mother used to call me to the window to point out the blue tits, woodpeckers, nuthatches, robins and chaffinches. Not starlings – she didn’t like starlings.

She used to hang out a little bag full of nuts and scraps and bread crusts suspended from the rose trellis. The squirrels used to shin up the wooden joists and grab the bag in their greedy little paws. As they nibbled the goodies, they would be dive-bombed by twittering sparrows who wanted their turn.

When I first came to New Zealand, I realised the birds were different. Your kingfishers don’t look like our kingfishers. The herons, robins and magpies are all different. I bought a book to identify them and, in lieu of any native mammals to study, I got quite adept at naming the feathered companions to our walks.

If I didn’t know what a tweeting species was, I would invariably just give it a name at random – my husband was never any the wiser. Rifleman was my favourite. I’m still not sure that I’ve ever seen one, but it’s a cool name.

The fantails used to freak me out – they don’t behave in the way that I expected birds to. Rather than streaking off, they flitter about your head and feet, swooping in to catch the tasty morsels you disturb. Now I know what they’re doing, I’m quite happy to share my world with them. And what a rich, beautiful world it can be at times.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Robbery alert!

A report in this week’s Southland Times reveals that a couple of British tourists made a false claim to police about being robbed of their possessions, intending to conduct an insurance scam.

An eagle-eyed off-duty policeman spotted them using a supposedly stolen wallet in a supermarket and their scheme was well and truly rumbled.

Regardless of the foolishness of doing this in such a small town where word gets around, I would have thought it was impossible that their story could have stood up to close scrutiny.

Apparently the men described their assailants as eight ‘well dressed’ men at 11.50pm on Saturday night. I lived in Queenstown for seven and a half years and I never saw eight well-dressed men in all that time, let alone all on one night!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Opening Night

I am in a play that opens tonight. The play is The Devils by John Whiting, and it is on at the Gryphon on Ghuznee, presented by Stagecraft.

For the next two weeks there will be late nights (I’m unlikely to be home before midnight), spotty skin (I don’t usually wear make-up, but you have to on stage or your face disappears under the lights), cramped dressing rooms (27 cast members in about a 4x3m room with low ceilings), smelly costumes (I play a nun with a hunchback and I do a lot of writhing on stage – those things are not made of sweat-free fabric), and poor nutrition as eating habits (no pun, or indeed po nun, intended) become erratic at best.

My housework will remain undone, my exercise regime will suffer and my husband and cat will feel sorely neglected. So why do I do it? Because I love it! I love that opening night feeling; the buzz of excitement and nervous energy backstage. I love the feeling that so many people have worked together to put on a production that will entertain and provoke.

And I love acting – playing different characters and throwing myself into roles. I get to wear costumes, pull expression, speak words and vent feelings I would never do in my own life. I am a voyeuristic magpie, borrowing from the experiences of others and presenting them back to them.

I want to make people laugh and cry, gasp with horror and smile with understanding. I want to make them think. Above all, I want them to leave the theatre with a greater understanding of something – anything. I know it works for me. I just want to share that feeling.

If you’re in Wellington between now and 31st May, come and share it with me.