Thursday, 2 December 2010

In the bones of the earth

Following the Pike River mining disaster that has consumed New Zealand for the past two weeks, my Aunt Sylvia sent me some pictures of my great great grandfather, Yorkshireman Stephen Ruberry, and his family.  He bady injured his back in a mining accident, and never recovered.

Stephen Ruberry and Elizabeth Shepherd at the time of their marriage

Later in life

"The fatal explosion at the Altofts Colliery, near Wakefield"
Sylvia also sent me this poem by that great and tragic poet of World War One, Wilfred Owen


There was a whispering in my hearth,
A sigh of the coal,
Grown wistful of a former earth
It might recall.
I listened for a tale of leaves
And smothered ferns,
Frond-forests, and the low sly lives
Before the fawns.
My fire might show steam-phantoms simmer
From Time's old cauldron,
Before the birds made nests in summer,
Or men had children.
But the coals were murmuring of their mine,
And moans down there
Of boys that slept wry sleep, and men
Writhing for air.
I saw white bones in the cinder-shard,
Bones without number.
For many hearts with coal are charred,
And few remember.
I thought of all that worked dark pits
Of war, and died
Digging the rock where Death reputes
Peace lies indeed:
Comforted years will sit soft-chaired,
In rooms of amber,
The years will stretch their hands, well-cheered
By our life's ember;
The centuries will burn rich loads
With which we groaned,
Whose warmth shall lull their dreaming lids,
While songs are crooned;
But they will not dream of us poor lads
Lost in the ground.

It makes you wonder why anyone would want to work down there, in the darkness of the earth.  For an answer, see this brilliant interview clip from Welsh actor Richard Burton, whose father was a miner.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

London, a year on

It's been just over a year since we left London.  Just over a year since the West Walk, Trafalgar Square, the 8.32am from Paddington to Oxford, the Wheatsheaf, Big Tesco and Little Tesco, St Paul's cathedral.

Yesterday and over the weekend we took advantage of a special and got more than 500 of our best photos from our two-plus years overseas. Looking through them we realised that we haven't printed enough from our time in London.  We've not captured all the wonderful times we had there.

As you might have picked up, we're feeling nostalgic.

London is the best of all the big cities I've visited.  Here are some of the reasons why that's so, and why I miss it.

It's filled with fantastic old buildings, and some cool modern ones too
World-class football on tap (no offence to the Wellington Phoenix)
Ye Olde Pubs

International mates
And then there's wandering the narrow streets and taking in the vibe of Soho. The parks in the summer, teeming with footballers, dogs, squirrels and topless Poms. The zillion cool places within a few hours on the train. The cheap flights to Europe and North Africa, The British, Natural History, V&A and other fabulous free museums.  The Tube and how it will take you most everywhere you need to go. Being mocked for the accent.

London. Well good yeah innit bruv. Time and money permitting, we'll be back.

Friday, 12 November 2010


I'm spending a few days in Australia, and am blogging today from Sydney. Sydney's lovely - like what I imagine Auckland could be like if it had better infrastructure and weather - and I'm enjoying walking around and checking it out.

The highlight for me so far has been a wildlife centre on Darling Harbour, where I saw snakes and other creepy beasties that I would hate to see in the wild. There was a giant croc as well that gave me the heebie-geebies good and proper. The best part about the centre, though, was the koalas. I know it's terribly cliche to get a koala picture while in Australia but I don't care - aren't they cute?

Monday, 8 November 2010


Last night I discovered the newly added "stats" function on blogspot, which is able to track how many hits our blog has, where people are finding the blog from, and what posts are the most viewed. It's all very interesting, especially as it's three old posts that seem to come up in Google searches so get the most traffic at a much steadier rate than ever expected: Five Things About Egypt from May 2008, The Other Boleyn Girl and Historical Accuracy from March 2008, and Lauren's Pole Dancing Tips from May 2007. Although, anything with "pole dancing tips" in the title really should not have been a surprise. The stats are an interesting reminder that while people may not comment, we get much more traffic than previously thought.
I also logged into my other blog, Lauren's Pint Sized Book Reviews, and found that also has many more hits than expected. Given that no-one has ever commented on it ever, writing it felt a little like talking to myself. I know that hits shouldn't matter, but finding out that people are actually reading my pint-sized reviews inspired me to write some more, so feel free to check them out!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Strangers in a Strange Land

When you're travelling, you spend a lot of time staring at strange things and strange people. Well, unless you're the kind of person who travels to eat, drink and spend time on the beach. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but we most love seeing things that are different - in their geography, culture or time.

So it's a bit weird to have the tables turned and become tourist attractions ourselves.

Another boost for Sino-Kiwi relations
But that's what we were sometimes in both China and India.  Both countries have massive middle classes that can afford to both travel to the big sights in their lands and take cameras with them. Many of those people are from places off the traveller radar, so they probably will not have seen a pasty, bare-legged Westerner before, and often love taking photos of and with you. It's quite charming - and turnabout is fair play - but can get a bit much at times. And sleazy too, with Lauren and some men. Not a problem that affects me, strangely.

The walls of Pingyao, which date from 1370AD
It got a bit overwhelming once on the walls of Pingyao, a beautiful historic town about halfway between Beijing and Xi'an.  As the best-preserved Imperial era town in a country that has concreted over much of its architectural history, Pingyao is a massive internal tourism drawcard.  Being there on a Saturday, the area around one of the entrances to the wall was packed with visitors. Several guys wanted to take a photo of me and I obliged for a few snaps, then I looked up and saw a score of other Chinese visitors rushing towards me with their cameras!  We fled. The paparazzi scence is not for us.
View down one of the main streets from a watchtower
Pingyao, by the way, is a wonderful place. It is the home of Chinese banking and as such became a wealthy place, with many beautiful wooden houses. Unfortunately for the bankers, the interference of the Western powers and rise of Western banking in the 1800s brought the good times to an end. But that was fortunate for the bankers' descendants, as the town became a backwater and thus its heritage was preserved. Now it's been repaired and repainted to make Pingyao a beautiful and chilled out spot to spend a few days. You get a feel for how China was a century or two ago.

Courtyard of our hostel. Mint.
It's definitely somewhere worth taking a camera. After all, there's lots of strange wide-eyed people with backpacks hanging around.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Monday, 25 October 2010

The Big Smoke

Auckland, I take it back. I've always said I'd never want to live in the Big Smoke, but after the lovely long weekend we just spent up there I might consider it.
The weather was beautiful, it was a delight to see our friends and family, and for a change driving wasn't a nightmare.

Fish and chips at Mission Bay with Daniel, Jenny, Jess and Paul.

Traffic is, as every New Zealander knows, Auckland's worst feature. Fueled by Kiwis' dreams of a quarter-acre section, Auckland sprawls enormously. Because for decades urban planning just consisted of building more roads, the city's public transport (though recently improved) is woefully inadequate. Therefore you usually have to do a heck of a lot of driving to get around. Fortunately, on Labour Weekend many Aucklanders were off to the coast to enjoy the sun so traffic was light. We still managed to go the wrong way several times, but that's par for the course for yokels from south of the Bombay Hills.

It wasn't just Auckland that was great, the whole North Island turned it on for our road trip - the volcanos in particular
Having not had a proper visit to Auckland since going overseas, several things struck me as we were driving from Laingholm to Mt Eden to Mangere Bridge to Mt Wellington to the North Shore. Firstly, the place is riddled with volcanos. Once you start looking for them, you see them everywhere. They give it a lot of character, as do the pohutukawa trees. Because I'm red-green colour blind I can't appreciate the beauty of pohutukawas when their red flowers blossom, but despite that I still think they're fantastic. Add them to Auckland's many gorgeous bays and you have one of the world's best urban coastlines.

Mission Bay on what felt like the first weekend of summer: pohutukawas, volcanic Rangitoto and many, many happy people.

So, while we have no plans to be JAFAs any time soon, I'd no longer prefer to live in Kabul.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Another brick in ...

A few years ago, a private Swiss company set up a massive global vote for the new seven wonders of the world, which ended up being Macchu Picchu, the Great Pyramid at Chichen Itza, the Taj Mahal, the Colloseum, the Great Wall, Christ the Redeemer in Rio and Petra. The Pyramids of Giza (the only one of the original seven wonders still standing) were inducted as 'honorary' seven wonders.
Now, I've already grizzled that the Redeemer statue, while undoubtedly very impressive and in a fabulous setting, made it in rather than much worthier candidates on the shortlist like Angkor and the Alhambra (which have the added glory of being visited by us). Sadly, there's a lot more Brazilians and general fans of Jesus than there are Cambodians. Such are the flaws of democracy. You can see them in the shortlist for the seven natural wonders of the world - a random Taiwanese mountain and Korean island, but no Mt Fuji or Mt Kinabalu? And please, Vesuvius is cool, but there are three more impressive volcanos in New Zealand alone. Guess Ngaruhoe or Taranaki should have wiped out some Roman towns.
But the thing with the seven wonders lists is that they are lists, and lists of awesome things, and therefore we love them. The Great Wall was the fifth (counting the Pyramids) we've been to.

The Great Wall is Lauren's favourite out of the Wonders we've seen. I find it hard to rate them, as they're all amazing in distinctive ways, but the Wall is definitely the Wonder we had the best time visiting. It's the most interactive of them, because you can climb up it and walk along it for hours (or days if you wanted to). You get a real feel for it, with the bricks under your feet.

We had a particularly good time because we went to Jinshanling, a section some three hours drive out of Beijing, in steep, forest-covered hills. It was wonderful to get into the wilderness and even more wonderful to be somewhere with clear skies. The views were, well...

Lauren enjoys some solitude

To add to the atmosphere, there was not a massive amount of tourists as there are at Badaling - the site closest to Beijing - so you could take a moment to enjoy things. The wall, which dates from the Ming Dynasty, had also not been as heavily reconstructed as at Badaling. That made climbing it a bit more fun.

The Great Wall is a truly staggering piece of building. It stretched as far as the eye could see in both directions, winding its way along ridgelines, up hills, down valleys, until it disappeared into the distance. It's possible to walk from Jinshanling to Simatai, which is about 10km away, but sadly the Simatai section was closed to we walked for about an hour then walked back. It was an unforgettable day.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Our commute

A break from posts about China - today was one of those rare, calm and clear days in Wellington and I finally remembered to bring my camera to work. So here's an entry about how we get to work.
We're blessed to live in Mt Victoria, a wonderful suburb filled with 19th century wooden villas and an eclectic mix of partying students, young professionals and wealthy older home owners. It's got the massive benefits of being a few minutes walk to the entertainment hub of Courtenay Place.  Plus, it's a mere half hour walk along the waterfront to get to work.

And on a day like today the waterfront is stunning.

A gull who knows a good view
It's a tonic on the way to work and, especially now that daylight savings has kicked in and it's light in the evening, a tonic on the way home.
We walk out the doors of our government skyscrapers, through the canyons of Lambton Quay and Featherston Street, then out onto the harbour.

It's past the posh restaurants, the heritage cranes and Fergs, the indoor rock climbing and kayaking centre.  Then it's the playground and the first of the poems that mark the Wellington Writers Walk.

The harbour is an ironing board
The rowing club and its pretty lagoon, the waka house that's nearly built, the mighty floating Hikitia crane, the bulk of Te Papa, and the Solace on the Waterfront statue, which always attracts people who like a nice butt.

Finally, it's Waitangi Park, with the ducks floating amid the reeds, the many games going on the grass, and the skaters and basketballers on the concrete.

Then its past the Art Deco fire station, the Embassy Theatre, more good restaurants, until we go up the hill to home.

Beats being stuck in traffic.

Friday, 1 October 2010

My Beijing-a-ling

Beijing is the new San Francisco.  Well, substitute hills around a bay for the North China Plain, the sea breeze for haze, gay-friendly liberalism for conformity-friendly authoritarianism ... alright, so there's not much in common. Except that I don't know anyone who's been to either city and not liked it.

Beijing is enormous, old, brand-new and fascinating.  It's been the capital of China since the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan (of Marco Polo and 'In Xanadu did ...' fame), so it's packed with history.  The King Kong attraction is the Forbidden City, the exclusive palace/fortress complex that the emperor, his concubines and horde of eunuchs rarely strayed from.  It's the biggest star of the excellent film The Last Emperor, and is just bloody magnificent.  It's huge - like Pompeii, you can spend a day walking and not see everything..  There are endless treasures: rooms full of delicately carved jade, intricate gold pagodas, beautiful porcelain and a vast number of amazingly elaborate clocks.

 It's a wonderful place, with art everywhere - from the procession of beasts on the rooves to the marble walkways.  Naturally it's very popular, but fortunately because there's so much space everyone spreads out and it's possible to find some quiet spots to do what we do best - jumping photos.

Beijing has really had a facelift in the last decade or so too.  Opinion is divided on whether or not it was a good thing.  On the downside, many of the very atmospheric hutongs (the tangled alleyways of old Beijing) have been levelled.  On the upside, they've gained many a grand skyscraper and the mightly impressive Water Cube and National Stadium, the Bird's Nest.

On the whole, we found the city a great mix of old and new.  While the traffic is pretty horrible, the biggest downside is the haze.  Even on a fine day there's precious little blue in the sky.  The air pollution is so bad that, after spending most of a day walking around the Forbidden City and the concrete vastness that is Tianamen Square, I had a coughing fit that lasted half an hour.  So do go to Beijing, but just take it easy with the deep breathing.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

China - Interesting Times

Shortly before we left for our holiday in China, I was asked why I was going. I was a little flummoxed. Why would you not want to go to China? It's the world's oldest continuous civilisation. Third largest country. Second biggest economy. The next superpower, with one fifth of the humanity as citizens.

Roofing end in the Forbidden City
But I can understand the question. For a long time I wasn't terribly keen on China. I pictured a few sites surrounded by wasteland of concrete, watched over by polluted skies and Big Brother. And there's more than a little truth in that image.

The Chairman: even after the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, he's still a national icon

But the China that locks up dissidents, cuddles up to North Korea and Sudan, levelled much of its history to make way for motorways and apartment blocks, and sulks about the Dalai Lama is only part of the picture. The China we saw was a dynamic, often beautiful and always fascinating place.  We'll do a bunch of entries on where we went, but I'll start with a few thoughts on China in general.

You can see the tightrope the Chinese government walks when you visit the country. The Communist Party doesn't have two of the major advantages that a government in a democracy has - the legitimacy that comes with being elected and the pressure valve for public discontent that elections provide.

To get legitimacy it essentially has two tactics - emphasise how strong it has made China and keep the economic good times going. That's why Mao is still idolised (he's on all the notes).  He was a megalomaniac whose policies killed millions, but at least he made China a great power again - and the Party emphasies that they are his heirs. Of course, China has long since been Communist in name only - you can't move without running into Western consumer brands.  But the government has done an done an amazing job of keeping the economy growing and providing the jobs that allow people to buy their Audis and Lacoste shirts.

Huge LED screen at a new Beijing Mall. The image is (appropriately) a phoenix, one of China's favourite mythical creatures.
It deals with public grumpiness in differnet ways - allow it (to an extent) at a local level, stomp on it when it opposes national policies (e.g. Tibet). The media I saw was fascinating,  Coverage of other nations and local issues such as traffic jams is much like in the West, but all stories at a national level - such as a disputes over territory with Japan and with America the value of China's currency - are basically government press releases with an expert thrown in to back up the official view.

The economic boom is one of the reasons why China is such a terrific country to visit. The amount of construction is staggering - coming in to Xi'an, I counted about 30 cranes putting up skyscrapers. Contrasts are everywhere - there's Developed World roads with Developing World give way (ie non-existent) rules, and ancient temples nestle beside towering apartment and office blocks.

Temple of the Eight Immortals in Xi'an

Much of the old China has been demolished, but you can still see it in places like the surviving hutongs of Beijing, the Old Town of Shanghai or the wonderfully preserved town of Pingyao.

Street in Shangahi Old Town
Chinese tourists love seeing their heritage - 95% of the tourists in almost everywhere we went were Chinese - but there's also a real sense of pride in their recent accomplishments, like the Beijing Olympics or the enormous Shanghai expo.  Shanghai and Beijing are like showyards for incredible modern architecture, from the Bird's Nest stadium to skyscrapers like these.

It's like China is saying "seen all these cool old things, from when we were one of the greatest and most advanced states on the planet? Well, we're back."

They sure are.  There's a famous Chinese curse: "may you live in interesting times".  Well, the times are certainly interesting in the Middle Kingdom.

Thursday, 2 September 2010


Tane's blog entry on Melbourne (and the very exciting use of the new tag "Travel in Australia and the Pacific") reminded me of another great trip I did back in 2005 to Tonga. I'd always been curious about Tonga, largely because of having Tongan family connections. My Grandpa was born in Tonga in 1914 as his parents were missionaries there, and my aunt married a Tongan man as well so some of my cousins are Tongan. As I hadn't been to Tonga before, though, these connections meant nothing to me apart from the fact that having an ancestor born there before the 1930s means that I could buy land there should I choose. That, and they fact that I know the Tongan word for 'spicy'.
In 2005, Ngaire and I decided to visit my Uncle and Aunt there, and it was a great week. It was especially neat having them to show us around, give us information about the country, and in the case of my uncle, cut open many a coconut for us to drink. Awesome.

It's true what Tane always says - visiting places where you know someone are always the best. In those trips you gain a greater level of knowledge and appreciation about a place - for example, that the frequent power cuts in Tonga were caused by the then Crown Prince stringing up his Christmas lights. Ngaire and I were talking recently about how glad we are that we went to Tonga when we did, as our Uncle and Aunt live in New Zealand now so we wouldn't have been able to visit them there if we'd gone later. And really, with regard to places when you know someone, that would have been a real shame. I certainly wouldn't have been able to cut open coconuts on my own.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

At last, across the ditch

Hello all,
Crickey, it's been a while since I blogged. To be honest, I've been thinking of blogging as time better spent working on my Great Unwritten Novel, which I've actually made a bit of progress on. Not much as I should of course. For instance, I'd earmarked last Sunday afternoon for writing but instead spent many hours disemboweling a dodgy vacuum cleaner. Such is our exciting domestic life.
Anyhow, we're about to get our backpacks on again and tackle China, which is very exciting. It's gotten me back in the mood for a long-overdue mention of my visit to Melbourne.

Melbourne is one of those cities, like Vancouver or San Francisco, that no one has a bad word for. And guess what? Neither do I. It's very multicultural, with an impressive cityscape, a pretty river, the best market I've ever seen and a stack of cultural attractions - including an excellent musuem (featuring wonderhorse Phar Lap and superb sections on Aboriginies and prehistoric beasts).
The best thing about the visit though - aside from the fact that the flights were free, as it was a work trip - was the mighty MCG, the second most famous cricket ground in the world. It's enormous, holding 100,000 people, but it's the history that really makes it a treat for sports nerds. It's the home of the Australian Sports museum, which I spent hours in (Shane Warne in 3D! Try your foot at kicking Aussie Rules goals!). There's a very cool tapestry of major sporting events that have happened there - Aussie Rules finals, Bledisloe Cup rugby, baseball and of course cricket, wonderful cricket. Almost all of the greats have walked out onto that pitch, including perhaps the greatest sportsperson of all time. This is hallowed ground.

The Don

This was my first visit to Australia, which is rather embarrassing given I've been to 30-odd other countries. It's like English people who've never been to Scotland, or the many Kiwis who've not been to either the South or North Island, but have travelled to the other side of the planet. You take for granted what's in your back yard, thinking you'll get to it sometime, that it won't be new and exciting. And it's true that Melbourne didn't feel exotic - it was rather like a New Zealand city I've not visited - but it was cool. I look forward to my next trip across the ditch.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Great walks indeed

According to the Department of Conservation website, New Zealand has nine great walks. During a spate of communing with nature between 2005 - 2006, Tane and I joined Bonnie, Sarah C and a bunch of others to do two of them; the stunning Tongariro crossing day trip, and the three day Waikaremoana walk. As these walks pre-date both this blog and either of us owning a digital camera, I haven't blogged about them yet. I have recently acquired a (somewhat grainy) scanner as well as retrieved my photos from storage though so here I go. Yay!

Getting out some warmer clothes during the Tongariro crossing

The Tongariro crossing was excellent and I totally recommend it for a good day out. It took us about 8 hours, seemed to go through multiple climates, and had us constantly stopping to either put on or take off a layer. I loved it though, and after the aptly-named "The Devil's Staircase" part of the walk, the hot pools in nearby Tokaanu were very much appreciated afterwards.

Lake Waikaremoana

The Lake Waikaremoana walk the following Easter was also fabulous. Three days of walking, not showering, using long-drops and getting blisters the size of a bottle top are not every one's cup of tea. We both really enjoyed it though - the scenery was glorious and being in the bush very calming. If I did it again I think I'd take four days rather than three for more lazing around time, but it was still a great few days.

Given it's been four years since our last great walk I am looking forward to doing at least one more this summer. The only challenge though is deciding which, so if you have any recommendations about the other 7 I am very interested!


After two and a half years away, I had forgotten about how absolutely positively nasty Wellington could get at times. The rain! The cold! The wind! The combination of all three resulting in umbrellas being discarded in rubbish bins all over the city and rain coming at your face horizontally! Every now and then though, the sun does come out. On days like today when most Wellingtonians are probably frantically catching up on doing washing, we got our bikes out and went for a ride around the bays. It's true, you can't beat Wellington on a good day.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Lost: a review

If you're a fan of the show, you might be interested in my review of the final episode. It's packed with spoilers, so if you've not seen the final and care about surprises, don't go there!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Why I stopped blogging and why I am back

As you've probably noticed, I haven't written a decent blog entry in aaaaaages. There are three reasons for this:
1. I came home.
Arriving back in New Zealand at the end of last year was fabulous, but apart from the odd "I can't believe I'm back" moment in the first week or so things started feeling very normal very quickly. This wasn't by any means a bad thing, and the three weeks between arriving in Auckland and starting work was the most relaxing time I have had since university. For the first time in years I started filling my time with many small pleasures, rather than big exciting pleasures of the type that make for better blog entries. For the first time in years, I honestly felt like I had nothing to blog about.
2. The website counter of lying doom
Coincidentally, near the end of last year I signed up to a free website thing that was supposed to tell me how many hits this blog received. The first month's report came through and told me that the hits on this blog was a grand total of ... zero. A second month passed, and I was once again informed that not a single person had looked at this blog. I shrugged, and decided that if no-one was reading it, I might as well just write in my diary. It wasn't until someone mentioned to me that they had been on my blog during that time that I realised that the website was in fact the website counter of lying doom.
3. Facebook
Is it just me or is Facebook killing the blog? I know that it is all in the nature of things - after all, e-mail killed the letter, blogs killed the e-mail (and least the bulk e-mail) and now Facebook is killing the blog. Now we shall have to wait and see if Twitter is going to be the death of Facebook, but I have my doubts as I don't know anyone that actually uses it. With Facebook being as popular as it is I started to use more of that instead. How else, after all, could I keep up with that person I hadn't seen since 5th form science class? I have recently decided that blogging is much better than Facebook though, a realisation that I came to when the person I hadn't seen since 5th form science class persisted with inane updates that made me realise how little I actually cared about them. And, how little they probably cared about me in return.
Like many other Facebook "friends" from my past I only added them as a friend in the first place because I was curious about where they were now - a curiousity which was satisfied after having a quick look at their page when we first became friends. I feel weird about de-friending people as well after I did a "cull" a few months ago and two girls I de-friended asked me to be their friend again. That left me feeling pretty silly as I didn't have anything against them, I just wanted my Facebook friends to actually be people I am friends with. At least with blogs I'll only read the ones I am actually interested in, and assume that people who read mine are interested in what Tane and I are up to. And, I get to express myself in more than a line.
So, with that momentous warble out of the way, I will leave you with the promise that I am going to keep blogging and hope that you can find time to check in every now and then :)

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Three years

Tane and I have now been hitched for three years. Being hitched for three years is a strange length of time - long enough to be well settled and not to giggle anymore about saying "husband" or "wife". On the other hand, though, it's not really long enough that we look any different from our wedding photos. Unlike our last two anniversaries, we were unable to jet off to Paris or Washington D.C. Being in Wellington was lovely, though, as we have settled very nicely to life back in New Zealand and a nice meal out to celebrate three years of married life was just as good as going on trips for the past two.

Three years

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Daytime

A long time ago, Lady Lauren and Sir Tane paid a visit to the fairytale kingdom of Christchurch. Twas a fine tour, memorable for the most charming wedding of Princess Lucy and Sheikh Ammar. But it was also memorable for a tale nearly most drear - the curious incident of the cat in the daytime.

Sir Tane, his brother Kung Fu Master Tama and Lady Fatima of Asuncion were on their way to make a pilgrimage the mighty peaks of the Port Hills.

But first, Lady Fatima sought to assure herself of the safety of her beloved familiar, Michu the Naughty. Alas, when she returned to her castle, Michu was not to be found.

Much wandering hither and yon commenced. "Michu! Thou naughty, naughty Michu!" cried Lady Fatima.

Finally, there came a faint "mrrrow" of distress.

Alas, Michu the Naughty had sneaked inside in the highest tower of the castle.

Alas, the tower was locked. And alarmed.

Alas, there was neither food nor water.

Alas, the lady who lived in the tower was on holiday. In the Golden Coast of the Land of Oz. For sevenday. With her portable speaking-box turned off.

"Woe unto me!" cried Lady Fatima. "How shall we save foolish Michu, without storming the tower and laying waste to a window?"

But grace favoured our heroes, for the bathing room window had been left open and (Land) Lord Mike had a mighty step ladder. But who dared to brave the heights of the ladder and slip into the narrow portal?

"Fear not, Lady Fatima, 'tis I, bold Kung Fu Master Tama!" spake Kung Fu Master Tama.

And up the ladder he sprung. He tried putting his right leg in first. "Alas, I fear I cannot enter without breaking the Lady of the Tower's precious bathing room ointments!" he lamented.

He tried putting his left leg in first. "Nah." he proclaimed.

Finally he came up with a solution.

"Nice legs, brave Kung Fu Master Tama!" cried Lady Fatima. "But don't step into the Grand Hall, for it shall be alarumed!"

Would the alarum sound its terrible wail? Would the precious ointments and incenses break? Would Michu come to Tama's call? Had she shat in the bath? Great was the tension. And then, out through the window came a small, furry and frightened bundle.

And, in the fair suburban sprawl of Christchurch, there was much rejoicing.