Titirangi Storyteller

Telling tales from around the world

Archive for February 2010

Summer night

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Written by Titirangi Storyteller

28/02/2010 at 10:52 pm

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Come Back to Sorrento

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How impossibly beautiful

July 2006. We arrived in Naples after a staggering 30+ hours travel from Auckland. Thought beforehand we’d peruse Napoli – maybe grab some genuine Neapolitan pizza. Or ice cream. Truth was that we were so shattered from travelling that the, um, rustic qualities of Naples were lost on us. So instead of browsing the city – my husband handed our suitcases over to the first hustler who approached us. We then chased after him, running toward the train station – at such a pace I thought perhaps he was trying to steal them.

Naples – unappealing after 30 hours in the air

Fortunately, the train station was just five minutes from the bus depot. Panting, we caught up with him at the ticket booth. We paid for our tickets and he scurried off with our bags as we tagged along,  taxing our plane cramped legs. Once we reached the platform he dropped the bags and extended his hand. Considering it was ten minutes work, I thought a 5 Euro note was quite generous. Oh, no no! He demanded 20. Twenty Euros??? I’ve got to work over an hour to earn that much! No way. He had a Rumplestiltskin air as he stomped and demanded more. I sighed – this performance alone was worth 10. I pressed another fiver into his palm and he wandered off cursing me to the heavens. I wouldn’t learn about gypsies until later in the trip.

The Hotel Nice – the bags rolled right down the hill to its front door

It was a good couple of hours to Sorrento, past dingy, poor suburbs, of the sort that trains run through anywhere. It wasn’t until we were well past Pompeii that the scenery opened up and we passed quaint holiday homes and wineries. It was all a blur – more than jetlag, we were 12 hours upside down on the clock. Three in the afternoon and we should have been slumbering.

Our room – top-middle. Modest, but terribly charming

The Sorrento train station sits atop the town, overlooking its magnificent harbour. I had booked a room at the Hotel Nice on the strength of on-line reviews that it was clean, safe and a five minute walk from the train station. It was all of these things. We clambered up the steep narrow steps to our room on the second floor. The room was tiny – with one window. It overlooked the town square, where we could see workmen putting up a stage area along with a giant screen.

Though we were tired, we couldn’t resist the perfect day and wandered to a nearby outdoor cafe where we had a light supper of tomato and mozzarella salad and the local version of pizza. I had never tasted anything so divinely fresh and simple and exactly what we needed. We sat for an hour or so, sipping local beer, studying the swallows swooping overhead and relished the perfect peace of Sorrento.

All scooters must be picked up before 7.30 in the morning!

A brutal awakening to the sound of dozens of motor scooters revving at 6 am – directly below our window. Somehow we had failed to notice a scooter rental shop in the hotel lobby. It was too early for breakfast, so we opted for a walk.

A few short blocks away we came upon luxury resorts and apartments and designer shops – all still quiet in the first light of morning.  The air was slightly crisp, so we could walk at a good pace, greeting the folks out dog-walking with a fulsome ‘bongiorno.’ A perfect time to window shop, ogling things I wouldn’t have bought even if I could afford them.

Stage, screen and square

After breakfast we watched the workmen put the finishing touches on the stage area and wondered what would be going on.

We wandered off to Capri for the day. Another of those places I would never return to in high season – too hot, too crowded, too cranky and too expensive. I look forward to giving it a go in February some year. I’m sure its beauty will shine when it is less overrun.

Back in Sorrento we enjoyed a lovely dinner (I had seabass encased in rock salt – to die for!) and walked around the town, looking for a gelato shop. We were confused – no matter where we went, everyone was watching TV.

The place to be in Sorrento on a hot July night…

By the time we got back to the hotel, the town square was buzzing with partiers – Italy was in the semi-finals of the Soccer Cup. Oh crikey!

I can sleep through anything – but this jubilation proved a challenge – canned horns, motorcycles revving, people shrieking, singing, dancing, hooting. The town was a blaze of ecstasy as Italy finessed their way into the finals.

Next time, I want to stay here

I arose early, bought some coffee and pastry from a bakery and sat out in the square – amongst the cheerful detritus of the celebrations – confetti, papers, spent aerosol horns, food containers, beer bottles – just me and the swallows swooping. I walked down to the harbour, grinning away.

It was our last day. There was a train to catch – Rome was waiting.

But I wanted to stay. Just one more day. I don’t know why, what it was about Sorrento, but it made me feel safe. Calm. Enchanted.

I know that I will – come back to Sorrento.

There’s magic in those cliffs – irresistable magic

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

23/02/2010 at 9:57 pm

Posted in travel, Writing

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Bardot in the beginning and the end

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Two from Brigitte Bardot

While she never attained the status of Marilyn Monroe, French sex kitten, Brigitte Bardot, was adored by the Beatles, Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol and provided the inspiration for Amy Winehouse’s beehive. She retired as her star was falling and is now better known for her work in animal rights her reactionary politics which have gotten her in hot water several times in recent years.

Naughty Girl, from 1955 is a delight, the 21-year-old Bardot plays Brigitte Latour, a gangster’s daughter under the temporary care of nightclub singer, Jean Clery (Jean Bretonnière). The hapless Clery is ordered to rescue her from her private school before her father’s enemies kidnap her. He expects a chubby girl with braces on her teeth but instead, finds his hands full of an out of control Bardot, part woman, part child and all temptation who takes over his life. She ruins his engagement and burns down his flat. Astonishingly, in one of those ‘my how things have changed’ moments, Clery slaps her across the face when she misbehaves, which straightens her out and all is well.

Naughty Girl (1955)

Sexy and gifted, Bardot is simply incredible. The following year she made And God Created Woman, directed by her first husband, Roger Vadim, which launched her as an international star. Like so many of Hollywood’s blonde bombshells, she became more famous for her celebrity, love affairs, marriages and scandals than she was for her acting. In 1962 she made Vie Privée, directed by Louis Malle  and in 1963, she starred in Jean-Luc Godard’s critically acclaimed Contempt. But as her life spun out of control, the quality of her work became erratic.

Fast forward to Shalako, a badly scripted spaghetti western based on a Louis L’Amour novel. It’s 1968 and though she is only 34, Bardot is puffy and her teeth need work. Too much hard living, booze, drugs and lack of sleep have taken their toll. She can still play the vixen, but her powers have waned.

The surprise is finding Sean Connery slumming in this dog. At the time he was at the height of his fame as 007. Bardot plays one of a group of European aristocrats on a hunting tour of the American wild west. They refuse to abide by treaty agreements and find themselves in a battle to the death with the natives.  He’s the guide who comes to their rescue, despatch a few hundred Injuns to save them from their arrogance and stupidity. Painful viewing all around.

Shalako (1968)

Bardot today.

Bardot survived Hollywood, unlike her peers Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. She appeared in a few more movies into the early 70’s and retired. Since then she has been a vociferous animal rights activist, but more often in the news for her right-wing politics. She’s easy to dislike – and yet, I can’t help admiring the survivor in her, surviving the public adoration and self destruction that too often accompanies that kind of celebrity. Having transcended ‘Bardot,’ she leaves us free to rediscover her early, unspoiled talent.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

21/02/2010 at 11:18 pm

If Kali were a tree

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I’ve recently developed a fascination for Kali – the Hindu goddess of…  hmmm… Just what is she the goddess of? Depends who you talk to as there seems a bit of confusion, even among Hindus. She runs the gamut from annihilator to earth-mother.

One man I work with turned a bit pale when he spied a small brass statuette a couple of centimetres tall blue-tacked to the top of my monitor. According to him, a goddess of destruction had no place in a government building and especially not in a Transport Department. We work with serious machinery doing dangerous work.

I suppose he has a point, but I was thinking more of the transition our local governments are going through, turning seven mini empires into one SuperCity. (With Auckland’s massive 1.4 million residents the victims of this inevitable evolution.) While I am optimistic that after five or ten years the outcome will be positive, at present it is rife with to-ing and fro-ing, rumours, whispers, half communications and unclear statements. For example, it’s hard to imagine we really needed to change the access cards to all the buildings NOW because they are no longer supported by the manufacturer. Looks to me like someone has decided the organisation has to be prepared for massive redundancies, and there may not be time or opportunity for niceties such as turning in passes. I could be wrong. It’s happened before. But that’s how it seems to me. I’m not a conspiracy theorist – but that doesn’t mean they’re not conspiring… It would be great to point a finger at one or two culprits – but even the culprits are in the same leaky, rocking boat.

Enter Kali – we need a goddess to take hold of this chaos and supervise it, keep the whole thing manageable – even as it remains as dangerous as ever. It then begs the question as to who will be her Shiva? The new SuperMayor? Or SuperCEO? Or if she is a force of Eternity, then perhaps we will have to wait for Father Time to settle her.

In the meantime, I think this tree may be Kali’s arboreal incarnation – dancing wildly, vicious – and if those green streaks were red – the whole thing would be damned bloody.

I keep a little Ganesha on my desk. Just in case.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

18/02/2010 at 10:58 pm

Crossing the bridge

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Auckland in the fading light

Life runs in cycles, at least mine does. Times when everything goes according to plan – or better than plan. One good thing leads to another, even better thing. People are happy and productive. Ideas flow and the energy to implement them gushes like a fountain.

It’s those times the song, “Walking on Sunshine” was written about. (Not that I would ever be caught dead humming along to something like that. Not me – no matter how happy I was. One must have standards. But I do stop and look around, appreciate the order of the universe – and marvel at the forces keeping chaos at bay.)

Another five minutes please, I’m not ready to go.

The cycle continues. Just because you are delirious with the status quo, doesn’t mean you can hit the pause button, or slow it all down.  You can try to deny it, cling on. Have you convinced yourself you’re not Sisyphus – you know what you’re doing?

The fading light is beautiful, and there’s no way of knowing what might still turn up. What you might catch if you remain diligently vigilant. So there you are, sitting there – one fisherman all alone on the shore. This isn’t what you planned. But what do you do now?

I’m sure it was never quite this blue. Not back then.

The solitude is rather nice. But as the world fades away, you’re too alone. The world has taken on a strange, amber hue – the colour of danger, of warning. Rather than be afraid you adjust your vision, reassure yourself, keeping everything close to you just like it always has been, at least until recently. But you find you’re feeling blue. How long can you fool yourself?

It’s time to get up, pack up. Get moving. It’s time to cross the bridge. Find out what’s on the other side. It’s only a little bit scary.

Hah! It’s not even a bridge over troubled waters… Those are calm seas.

Put one foot in front of the other. Don’t forget to breathe.

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

12/02/2010 at 11:52 pm

Strange things in Tallinn

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I was but a lass of 18 when I read “The Fountainhead” and was swept away by Howard Roark’s incorruptable rightness and the unusurpable power of architecture to define who we are. I’ve mellowed, wisened, thankfully matured with age – but my fascination with architecture in all its forms continues. Especially new architecture in old places.

This precinct in Tallinn, Estonia was particularly fascinating. It’s a small country, just over a million people, so there are no Trump Towers like you find in New York or Atlantis Hotels of the Dubai variety. Everything is small – human scale – nothing god-like. I was quite fond of this angular projection sprouting from the entranceway to these buildings. The man in the photo is about 5’6″ – so we have a bit of scale.

Even more interesting is this block of flats (which I shamefully chopped the top off.) No, it’s NOT a wide-angle lens – the building is leaning like that. Not sure what the plan is, other than a whimsically leaning tower of Tallinn. But you will note the turn of the century sandstone building beside it… There were dozens of them in the area and this one received a rather generous and subtle renovation.

But what the heck is going on here??? Three mini-tower extensions! Who thought this up? And who said OK? I’m not sure I hate it, but I’m pretty sure it’s architectural miscegenation. But as curious and inexplicable as these things were –

This is really the most baffling of all. A two story extension on top of a three story sandstone building.

To be fair, the whole area was full of experimental pieces – and whilst the Old City is virtually unchanged from the middle ages, there do need to be spaces for contemporary living and working.

Here in New Zealand, a very new place, anything over fifty years old is considered heritage. It’s a silly policy that results in a lot of law breaking. In Tallinn, these 100 year old buildings are virtually new.

Twenty-first century consruction – I’m pretty sure it will be gone in fifty years – no worry about making it to heritage status. But chances are, it will be easily recycled for the next generation.

In the meantime – I think it does the job. And I love those streetlamps.


(for now…)

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

10/02/2010 at 9:52 pm

Poking my nose where it doesn’t belong

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It used to be a bad thing – at least – I was taught poking my nose where it didn’t belong was a bad thing. Over the years I’ve come to realise that most of the stuff I was taught about appropriate social behaviour was half-truths or outright lies. I was supposed to behave in a way that was above reproach – while my elders gossiped behind each others’ backs, listened in on party lines and read every issue of the National Enquirer from cover to cover. Never mind the spouse swapping and other scandalous things I didn’t learn happened until much much later.

I heave a loud sigh… At least the pretense had some recognition of a better way to be. I haven’t seen a copy of the National Enquirer for 15 years now, and I wonder what sort of titillation they could possibly have on offer to compete with the evening news. We’re all poking our noses where it doesn’t belong all the time. Even if we don’t want to – we’ve been Pinnocchio-ised – noses stretched without our consent.

My camera’s caught it now. Some kind of virus, I guess… it’s been poking in where it doesn’t belong. I don’t quite understand what it’s trying to tell me though.

Message from the aether...

Written by Titirangi Storyteller

09/02/2010 at 11:09 pm

Posted in Photography

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