The Universe Screws Up Again

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In this newsletter:
*** Elections
*** News & Current Projects
*** Dear Mr. Universe

Elections

New Zealand has voted. Things remain much the same. National's hold on the national imagination got a knock down by about half a percent – tough work, this trying to make people perceive their own reality. But at least we now have a working opposition. And Bill English is not John Key. One hopes he does not pull ponytails, at least.

Jacinda Ardern did an amazing job taking her party back well past the 30% mark, given that she only had seven weeks to helm this campaign. Yes – "Let's Do This", while rousing, was a bit vague as a campaign slogan. They should have given her a little more time to come up with an actual programme. Next time better.

Still – it beats the Greens, who ousted the one politician who was grounding their party in the social realities of this country, and proposed to plant a billion trees instead, which will apparently solve all the world's problems. Their failure to stand decisively behind Metiria Turei seems to have bitten them in the bum. They lost several seats and now are hovering just above the 5 % mark.

The infamous TOP party has mercifully been cast into insignificance where it belongs. Shame on those two percent of people who threw away their vote on them. Labour or the Greens could have used those. It's a relief to know that populism combined with access to money and advanced marketing technologies does not buy an election in New Zealand yet.

The winner of this election is Winston Peters, who returns to his traditional role of deciding which party will furnish the government, by going into coalition with them. At least, after a 40 odd year career of being New Zealand's best hated politician who nearly always ends up getting elected, one assumes that he knows what he is doing. Some of his policy suggestions actually aren't half bad.

Rimutaka range under clouds, Wairarapa Rimutaka range under clouds, Wairarapa Rimutaka range under clouds, Wairarapa

Cloud mountain: Rimutaka range under clouds

As to Germany, where the results are just rolling in as I write this, well, holy sh*t. AfD – who basically run on "we don't want those refugees" – goes from below 5% to becoming the third largest party? That is a deal worse than anticipated. Now I wish I had been able to vote CDU, but unfortunately, being registered to vote through my former community in Bavaria, that was not an option (for those of you not familiar with the German party system – it's complicated). My family and friends will probably disown me for admitting that much, but hey Angela Merkel, you did the right thing. The only comfort is that as far as I can see, none of the other parties is even remotely considering going into coalition with the AfD. I dearly hope it stays that way.

But, to put this into perspective: here in New Zealand, the entire political spectrum is to the right of the AfD when it comes to "foreigners". The only party who even mentions refugees – somewhere buried well on the back pages of their agenda – are the Greens. Every single party proposes curbing immigration, while the persistent discrimination in the job market, and otherwise unacceptable treatment many migrants face once their come here, does not even register on the political consciousness.

Or maybe it has just begun to. There have been several articles in the papers lately about workplace bullying, which seems to be predominantly experienced by people who are skilled, migrants, and women. There is a conversation out in the open now about the unacceptable standards and practises at WINZ. Metiria Turei continues to campaign against poverty. There are some good young faces in parliament. Most of the politicians who have made waves in this election are female, and young. A turn of the tide? There is hope.

Tararua range near Masterton, Tararua range near Masterton, Tararua range near Masterton,

Tararua range near Masterton,



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Astrid Nielsch at the Big Wai Art Sale, Carterton, Wairarapa Astrid Nielsch at the Big Wai Art Sale, Carterton, Wairarapa Astrid Nielsch at the Big Wai Art Sale, Carterton, Wairarapa Astrid Nielsch at the Big Wai Art Sale, Carterton, Wairarapa

My very own panel at the Big Wai Art Sale 2017. Count the red dots!

News and Current Projects

The Big Wai Art Sale went well. I did not in the end manage to finish any new pieces, but realized that I had more than enough work sitting on my shelves, to comfortably fill my wall space.

I sold six pieces. Two prints from my upcoming children's picture book Why the Hare has a Split Upper Lip – and four of my other posters, including one I had not sold a copy of before.

Money wise, I just broke even – being prints, they were inexpensive pieces, and I have to deduce the cost of hiring the panel, of printing, and of buying frames. I did pay for a new print run of Winter Fox, which has been far and out my best selling piece, and I have a stack of frames left for future sales – but not much in the way of money in the bank.

Still – it's a sign that things are moving in the right direction. And it's encouraging that the prints from my future picture book were the first ones to go. And at least I get to keep the payment from my sale at Pukaha Mt. Bruce, rather than re-investing it instantly.

You can buy your own print online! Check out my Trademe Store – you can order here even if you don't live in New Zealand, I accept Paypal payments.

Just a reminder that my Martin Haycock Gothic harp is still up for grabs. It's a 25 string late medieval/renaissance style harp built by one of the pioneers of the early harp revival, back in 1985 or thereabouts. The harp has bray pins except on the two top strings, and has a fine sound, though it is a bit more solid in build than some of the more recent copies of this style of harp.

You can hear the harp on a few tracks on my CDs: "Lament for Gandalf", on the Travels in Middle-earth CD  – Suite from "musicalische Rüstkammer" and "Amoroso", on the 700 Years of Pop CD – and the Faenza codex piece "Rosetta che non cançi mai colore", on the Rent a Nightingale CD.

Asking price is NZ$ 2000 or equivalent, or best offer, plus shipping. Please email me for more details – and please pass this on.

Even while my garden has been temporarily turned into a zoo, and most of the undergrowth eaten by rabbits and scratched by chickens, my fruit trees have been quietly growing. The warm weather set in rather abruptly early this month, and they all started to blossom all at the same time. I even got my two German plums to blossom simultaneously, which is great because they are supposed to pollinate each other, which doesn't really work when they flower two weeks apart. Last year it rained straight for the entire time any of my plum trees were in bloom, but I hope this summer will make up for it. Yay for plum cake and Pflaumenmus!

I am busy growing seedlings again for my flower beds and vegetable patch, and I have taken some cuttings from some of the more sellable plants, to finally get under way with that plant nursery I've wanted to start two years ago, when I then instead started a zoo. The two things are not mutually compatible.

Tiny Tim recently got a new hair cut. He's never been shorn before – being a shedding sheep, he doesn't have to – and I thought it would have freaked him out. But no, the next day he was waiting for me by the paddock fence – which he does not usually do – and seemed pleased as Punch to show off his new style.

Zelda the cat has caught her first mouse, and been suitably psyched about it. Selma and Sophie the two geese have retired to the shed to sit on some eggs. I'm leaving them to it for the time being, but I'll have to soon kick them off that vain endeavour. The shed really needs a good clean!

There is a lot of tidying up to do in the garden, too, as well as inside the house. I am slowly working my way through it. Perhaps I will have my living room and studio set up and orderly come Christmas. It's always an aim.

Tiny Tim enjoys a treat Tiny Tim enjoys a treat Tiny Tim enjoys a treat Tiny Tim enjoys a treat

Tiny Tim enjoys a treat – with new haircut

Zelda's first mouse Zelda's first mouse Zelda's first mouse

Zelda's first mouse – suitably psyched



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Dear Mr. Universe

According to a lot of people I know, whenever life gets difficult, the universe will sort it out. If I just believe in my passion. Do my thing. Stop the worry, be happy. Smile more. Just go with the flow. Things will manifest themselves. And if they don't, I wasn't ready for it. It's all in the head. Peace. You want a joint?

Sounds good in theory (except skip the joint!), and it certainly excuses people from actually making an effort to understand a situation and offer concrete, actionable advice. You have too many rabbits, sell them on Trademe. If people keep parking in front of your driveway, why not put up a sign to please keep it clear. That sort of thing. You know, simple. Obvious, perhaps, except sometimes people for various reasons are unable to see the obvious, and then it really helps to have an outside perspective. Perhaps the single main disadvantage of living on one's own.

Our local police got so concerned about the state of my lawn that they are now organizing a community work bee, to help me tidy up the devastation left by my doctor's inept efforts to cure me from an anxiety disorder I did not have.

The prospect of actually getting some hands-on help – rather than just an array of motivational advice, business seminars, career counselling, offers of cleaning jobs, help with basic literacy, astrology, tarot card readings, and mind altering drugs – is so unusual and faintly threatening, that I've been busying myself to get as many of the things on my task list done as I can, before they arrive. If they arrive. I have been given a date, but then it has been postponed, and the Doubting Tom in me says I'll believe it when I see it.

Still, I now have a six foot tall body built police officer with constabulary powers to lock people up in prison or the loony bin at my disposal to put gentle pressure on people, and apparently this is how things get done here in the Wild Wairarapa. He'll be the one person who actually turns up.

***

The other day while tidying out the trash in my hedge, I found a belt sander, sitting among the debris just inside my fence. This is an unusual object to find in one's hedge even by my standards. It looked fairly new and was in good working order, too.

After playing through some possible scenarios in my head, which might have positioned a perfectly fine belt sander in my hedge, I contacted police. I now have a magic access code along with all the other benefits, and was promptly informed that I should drop the item off as "found property" at the local station if I could, that there would be an enquiry as to whether such an item had been reported stolen, and that if an owner was not identified within a few weeks, I was entitled to keep it.

Thank you universe, I appreciate the thought. A shortage of basic tools is indeed one of the iniquities I suffer – but a belt sander happens to be one of the few tools I already possess. If you wanted to throw things over my fence, couldn't it have been a power drill? Motor saw? Lawn mower? Really, would a lawn mower in my hedge be too much to expect?

***

A week or so later, I found some bags with old bread and veggie scraps for the chickens by my garden gate, and someone – I suppose Mr. Universe – had mown my streetside lawn for me. It had been a week unusually full of excitement and adventure, and opportunities to show off what a competent and useful citizen I can be when given the chance, instead of being yelled at and dismissed all the time. Nice shot, universe. Getting close.

A few days ago, after a busy day doing garden work just in case someone was going to show up and help me with the garden work, I went for an evening drive out to Lake Ferry. I'd been planning to take the whole day off, but I got into the swing of things, and by the time I had finished tidying up all the prunings from my hedge, and checked up on the sheep, there was just time for an evening stroll in the gathering dusk.

I made it a brief walk, just to sniff some salt air and say hello to the ocean, then got back in the car to head home. And got stuck in a sand drift, which I had failed to notice in the dark.

Really stuck. No way forward nor back.

Lake Ferry isn't by any stretch the remotest place where one can get stuck in a sand drift, but even so, it is some 40 km out on the coast, and there was absolutely nobody there at that time of year and at that time of evening.

Luckily, I am a member of the AA. Even more luckily, our aforementioned police officer recently told me to get a smartphone. I experienced a moment of profound gratitude for this man.

I had to put on my best Damsel in Distress manners to convince the person on the other end of the phone line to send someone out to help – I pay my AA fees exactly for this service, but that young man's first impulse was still to try and wriggle out of it, on the grounds that it was "off road". It then took quite a while for the contractor to get out there (a great opportunity to scare all my friends on Facebook via the aforementioned smartphone). But when they arrived, they not only competently pulled me out of that sand hole, they were also really nice about it.

Damsels in Distress are underrated. It appears there is no better way to make the day for some kindhearted male who is stuck on a late evening shift. It's an unfamiliar role, but I got to admit, on the whole I quite enjoyed myself.

Arohanui, from Asni



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Fruit tree blossoms in the garden, spring 2017 Fruit tree blossoms in the garden, spring 2017 Fruit tree blossoms in the garden, spring 2017 Fruit tree blossoms in the garden, spring 2017 Fruit tree blossoms in the garden, spring 2017

Fruit tree blossoms in the garden, spring 2017