Leonardo’s doodle pad!

As I have a dreadful memory for things, I have a plethora of notepads around me at all times to scribble and sketch ideas down on. Now, I’m not placing myself into the illustrious company of the grand master himself, Leonardo Da Vinci, but I do understand the need for notepads (good old moleskins!). Well, imagine this…seeing Leonardo Da Vinci’s own notepad!

Wow!

Now THIS is a book to truly cherish! Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook, the ‘Codex Forster I’ (1487-1505).

Who wouldn’t want a glimpse into the mind and internal machinations of one the greatest geniuses to have ever lived?

Leonardo Da Vinci, one my favourite artists of all time, whose sheer ingenuity and skill as a draftsman, in my opinion, has just never been matched, was also a prolific writer and doodler in his time. Any ideas for paintings, inventions etc, any mathematical mechanics he had to work out, any information he needed for research – he meticulously wrote down, often accompanied with a sketch.

What an object of beauty and wonder?!

Well, having had the extraordinary honour of seeing some of these precious items for myself, in the V&A Musuem in London some years ago, they are now ‘on tour’ travelling around the world and the lucky people of Atlanta, Georgia, will now have the opportunity to view them!

A HUGE thank you to Beattie’s Book Blog – unofficial homepage of the New Zealand Book Community, for this. 😀

http://beattiesbookblog.blogspot.com/

Advertisements

Passing 2,000!

Like many of us, I’m sure, it’s true to say that I’ve been doing some frenzied juggling of late.

Between heavy workloads, writing my second book, other creative commitments, family life and life in general, my ‘Daily Hello!’ has undoubtedly become a ‘Weekly Hello’!

So, I am utterly astonished, thrilled and very humbled, that my little blog, which only started life at the end of January this year, has passed the 2,000 hits mark!!!

 

WOO and HOO!!!!!!!!!

Thank you to all my supporters, whether you are frequent visitors, friends or inquisitive one-time frequenters. I welcome you all, and to you all, I give my heartfelt thanks.

I am genuinely touched…a MASSIVE thank you! 😀 xxx

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Funny Friday…Darwin may not be amused, but we are!

Well, my ‘Daily Hello’ has decidedly taken a more weekly turn.

So, it’s Friday. The chocolate excesses of Easter are over, though a scary amount of it lingers in my cupboard!

Spring has certainly sprung. Glorious drifts of daffodils, grape hyacinth and bluebells remind us of what a magical time of year this is.

But, for those of us still struggling under April showers, towering petrol prices, broken New Year resolutions (i.e. ruined diets) and a general gloomy economic climate…here is something that can’t fail to lighten your mood and put the funny in Friday!

…Behold, the glory of ‘The Darwin Awards’!

The  Darwin Awards are out!!!!

Yes, it’s that magical time of year again  when the Darwin Awards are bestowed,
honouring the least evolved among  us.
Here  is the glorious winner:
1. When his 38 calibre  revolver failed to fire at his intended victim during a hold-up in Long Beach ,  California would-be robber James Elliot did something that can only inspire  wonder.. He peered down the barrel and tried the trigger again. This time it  worked.
And now, the honourable  mentions:
2. The chef at a hotel in Switzerland  lost a finger in a meat cutting machine and after a little shopping around,  submitted a claim to his insurance company. The company expecting negligence  sent out one of its men to have a look for himself.. He tried the machine and he  also lost a finger.. The chef’s claim was approved.
3. A man who shovelled snow for an hour to  clear a space for his car during a blizzard in Chicago returned with his vehicle  to find a woman had taken the space. Understandably, he shot  her.
4. After stopping for drinks at an illegal  bar, a Zimbabwean bus driver found that the 20 mental patients he was supposed  to be transporting from Harare to Bulawayo had escaped. Not wanting to admit his  incompetence, the driver went to a nearby bus stop and offered everyone waiting  there a free ride. He then delivered the passengers to the mental hospital,  telling the staff that the patients were very excitable and prone to bizarre  fantasies. The deception wasn’t discovered for 3 days.
5. An American teenager was in the  hospital recovering from serious head wounds received from an oncoming train.  When asked how he received the injuries, the lad told police that he was simply  trying to see how close he could get his head to a moving train before he was  hit.
6. A man walked into a Louisiana Circle-K,  put a $20 bill on the counter, and asked for change. When the clerk opened the  cash drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register,  which the clerk promptly provided. The man took the cash from the clerk and  fled, leaving the $20 bill on the counter. The total amount of cash he got from  the drawer… $15. [If someone points a gun at you and gives you money, is a  crime committed?]
7. Seems an Arkansas guy wanted some  beer pretty badly.. He decided that he’d just throw a cinder block through a  liquor store window, grab some booze, and run. So he lifted the cinder block and  heaved it over his head at the window. The cinder block bounced back and hit the  would-be thief on the head, knocking him unconscious. The liquor store window  was made of Plexiglas. The whole event was caught on  videotape….
8. As a female shopper exited a New York  convenience store, a man grabbed her purse and ran. The clerk called 911  immediately, and the woman was able to give them a detailed description of the  snatcher. Within minutes, the police apprehended the snatcher. They put him in  the car and drove back to the store. The thief was then taken out of the car and  told to stand there for a positive ID. To which he replied, “Yes, officer,  that’s her. That’s the lady I stole the purse from.”
9.. The Ann Arbor News crime column  reported that a man walked into a Burger King in Ypsilanti , Michigan at 5 A.M.,  flashed a gun, and demanded cash. The clerk turned him down because he said he  couldn’t open the cash register without a food order. When the man ordered onion  rings, the clerk said they weren’t available for breakfast… The man,  frustrated, walked away. [*A 5-STAR STUPIDITY AWARD WINNER]
10. When a man attempted to siphon  gasoline from a motor home parked on a Seattle street by sucking on a hose, he  got much more than he bargained for.. Police arrived at the scene to find a very  sick man curled up next to a motor home near spilled sewage. A police spokesman  said that the man admitted to trying to steal gasoline, but he plugged his  siphon hose into the motor home’s sewage tank by mistake. The owner of the  vehicle declined to press charges saying that it was the best laugh he’d ever  had.
In the interest of bettering mankind,  please share these with friends and family….
Unless of course one of these individuals  by chance is a distant relative or long lost friend…
In that case, be glad they are distant and  hope they remain lost.

*** Remember…. They walk among us, they can reproduce***

Just SOOOOO funny! A HUGE thank you to Will for forwarding this to me.

Have a great weekend everyone! 😀

New Zealand Odyssey Part VII – Volcanoes, Fendellin and the Road Less Travelled.

I left the bubbling visceral wonders of Rotorua and headed south, deeper into the heart of New Zealand’s North Island. Driving on long mostly empty roads in blissful sunshine with ‘The Cult’ blaring out of my rental car, I found myself with a constant smile on my face.

I headed towards Lake Taupo, a huge sunken supervolcano or caldera and not only the country’s largest  freshwater lake, but the largest in all of Australasia. The 485-square-mile caldera itself, not visible due to the lake waters, was the world’s largest known eruption in the past 70,000 years and tends to blow every 1,000 years. It’s overdue.

Stopping off first, I came to the extraordinary Huka Falls (Huka meaning ‘foam’ in Maori) and the Waikato River. One of New Zealand’s longest rivers, it suddenly narrows from 100m across to only 15m , as its squeezed into a granite canyon before dropping in a series of falls and rapids. The last waterfall being the most impressive, as approximately 220,000 litres per second tumbles over the final drop. Standing on a viewing platform perched just beside it, with the roar of the falls in my ears and the water vapour drenching me, was thrilling, but it was the astonishing colour of it which surprised me. The purest brightest blue.

I eventually left the falls, utterly soaked but gloriously happy and followed the highway south to the town of Taupo, nestling on the shores of Lake Taupo. The lake, more of an inland sea, is enormous, the town though, was small and welcoming. Cruising in an unhurried fashion along the lakefront and stopping for views, I found a cheap motel to call my base for the next few weeks. I dumped my equally enormous backpack, now getting almost too heavy with mementos to carry and checked into the Lakefront Motor Lodge. To my delight, my little room overlooked the lake and had the most stunning views.

I walked along the lakeshore losing myself in the beauty of it all and splashed out on a restaurant for my first evening meal. To describe Taupo as picturesque, is to do it a disservice. Watching spectacular sunsets over its shifting waters night after night, with the volcanoes of Tongariro National Park clearly visible in the distance, it became like a dream world for me and…a dream I didn’t want to wake from.

I spent lazy days exploring the town itself with its marinas and harbours, little shops and lack back bistros. Venturing out I visited the aptly named, the ‘Craters of the Moon’, a geothermal and volcanic lunar landscape that brought to life once more, just how powerful mother nature is. Then I tried some of the hot springs in the area. The sensation of having a very hot bubbling public bath, is strange to say the least, but oddly liberating (…no, I kept my bathing costume on at all times!).

But always, it was the volcanoes on the horizon that kept drawing me in. Packing some small provisions, I headed south, skirting around the eastern edge of the lake, towards the National Park.

Stopping halfway, I ventured off to the Kaingaroa Forest, the largest manmade forest in the world! Made entirely of plantation pines, with a few native ferns and species struggling to survive beneath the canopy, it was the strangest, spookiest forest I have ever visited. I loved the feeling of isolation but the silence was overwhelming, no birds, no animals. So alien to the rich diversity of the Waipoua Kauri Forest in the far north, or any of the woods I had wandered in.

Following the State Highway south as it hugged the lakeshore, I passed through Turangi at the southern most tip of Lake Taupo,  and entered the Tongariro National Park, one of only 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Trying to keep my excitement in check, I left the main highway or Desert Road as it’s known and came to the much smaller Lake Rotoaira. Sitting on the lake side I had a picnic lunch, watching black swans glide effortlessly as the mountainside behind vented sulphurous steam into the air. Everywhere I went, I found myself saying the same thing over and over, “I’ve found my Fendellin, I’ve found my Fendellin, ‘Lost Kingdom of Dragons!”

“Pass now beyond the mountains white

Where frosted rivers leap and spring,

Amongst the golden grasses light

Where fÿrrens dwell and soar and sing.

 

A land as old and fair as stars

Of snowy peaks and moonlit seas,

Of darkling woods we travel far

To gaze upon its silvery leaves.

 

Far East beyond heart’s lost desire

The birthplace of the eldest kin,

Through rising sun on wings of fire

Lies forgotten Fendellin.”

As I travelled further south, nothing could have prepared me for the awe-inspiring spectacle of Tongariro National Park’s crowning glory, its three active volcanoes, Mount Tongariro, the perfect cone of Mount Ngauruhoe and the monstrous size of the explosive giant, Mount Ruapehu!

Leaving the State Highway, I took the road less travelled into a world of epic fantasy and landscapes on a grandeur I could never have imagined before. Raw, untamed, magnificent and the true stuff of imagination!

Climbing the lower slopes of Mount Ruapehu, still steaming from eruptions only a few months before, camping beneath the stars in a sea of yellow gorse as I watched the sunsets bathe the volcanoes in gold…I found myself profoundly moved and in tears so many times, yet I have never felt freer.

Little did I realise while I was immersed in the whole majesty of it, that only a few years later, a certain Peter Jackson would use the same landscapes which had become such an inspiration to me and my first novel, ‘White Mountain’. As I travelled around, I kept seeing real-life locations for my ‘Darkling Trilogy’, suddenly brought to life in front of me. Watching the ‘Lord of the Rings’, some four years later, was made even more surreal and magical as a result, not only by recognising places I had visited but by seeing parts of my Fendellin used as their Mordor, my Kallorm used for their Fangorn! Very strange but thrilling!

But my awe-inspiring and magical odyssey was not over yet…

For the love of maps!

mapsoftheimagination

Ever since I was a young child, I’ve had an absolute fascination for maps.

The ‘tone and timbre’ as I call it, of an old map, holds within it such beauty and mystery. The texture of the parchment, the ink used and how it has aged over time like the best of wines. To follow the winding paths and coastlines, the mountain ranges and sprawling settlements. Every mark, every crease, every nuance holds a story. As objects, they are works of art and are simply gorgeous to look at.

file000816536459[1]But of course, maps can and have been highly divisive. History shows us that in the wrong hands they were the latest and most effective tools of warfare, propaganda, divisions of state, ideology, ethnicity. They were the bringers of colonialism and with it, the most terrible atrocities and suffering through the destruction of indigenous tribes, the conquering of nations and the carriers of disease. In a world without the internet, without weapons of mass destruction, the nation with the most skilled mapmakers found themselves at the top of the ruling tree. Empires were made or broken by those who could claim the seas and conquer the new chartered lands. Maps were the driving force of every expansionists dream.

But, in literary terms, maps can be the most wondrous of additions to any story!

Cartography, and particularly fantasy cartography is the stuff of dreams. map-of-middle-earth-lord-of-the-rings-2329809-1600-1200

As a child I would get utterly lost in the detailed maps of Milne’s 100 acre wood from ‘Winnie the Pooh’, Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’, C.S. Lewis’s ‘Narnia’, and of course Tolkien’s ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Lord Of The Rings’. Now, maps are just as prevalent and cherished as they ever were, from Warhammer to Jordan’s ‘Wheel of Time’, Paolini’s ‘Eragon’ and George Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’.

map_full

Maps serve as keys to the imagination, holders of knowledge, portals to lose yourself and unlock the greatest flights of fantasy…

Below, my own flight of fantasy, ‘The Lay of Fendellin’ taken from my debut novel, ‘White Mountain’ – Book 1 of ‘The Darkling Chronicles’.

The only limits, are our own imaginations!

New Zealand Odyssey Part VI – Geysers and the Beating Heart of the Earth.

After weeks in the wondrous far north amongst the giant sand hills, magical kauri trees and golden beaches of the beautiful Bay of Islands, I left the car and took the bus, heading south to the pulsating heart of New Zealand’s North Island.

The landscape slowly changed from tropical to temperate, as I passed lush rolling pastureland, populated of course by lots of sheep! After a small stop near Hamilton to view the amazing glowworm caves, eerie and unsettling in equal measure, I continued on toward Rotorua.

Sitting on an intense geothermal ‘hotspot’, Rotorua is a sleepy kind of a town with a relaxed atmosphere, that lies on top of a restless giant. For someone who is normally so in tune with nature, I was utterly amazed and unprepared for what I saw – a living, breathing, bubbling planet, full of life only a few inches beneath my feet!

I disembarked from the bus and explored the town on foot before hiring another car for exploring. The smell of sulphur hung thickly in the air, mixing with the exotic flowers that fill Rotorua’s many parks and its enormous pineapple shaped palm trees! I checked into the aptly named Tiki Lodge motel, and started my adventures.

First, a visit to the Whakarewarewa thermal village, a wonderful maori centre surrounded by hot pools, boiling mud lakes, lunar landscapes and shooting geysers.

Watching the maori craftsmen carving was inspirational but again it was the spectacle of nature that left me speechless. Travelling south to the Waiotapu and Waimangu valleys, I was faced by yet more steaming lakes, strange silicate formations, smoking vents and fumaroles and the magnificent sight of Waiotapu’s world famous, ‘Champagne Pool’, and Waimangu’s amazing ‘Inferno Crater Lake’, apparently the largest geyser-like feature in the world! I stood at the edge of the most brilliant ice blue lake I’ve ever seen…but a lake made entirely of bubbling acid!

Waking early on yet another gloriously sunny day, I strapped on my small day backpack and decided to go for some adrenaline thrills! Oh dear! Dangling from a chair lift some 100ft or more off the ground, I was hoisted up the side of Mount Ngongotaha, giving the most amazing views over Rotorua City, Lake Rotorua and the surrounding area, including the distant volcanoes to the south. Then, once I’d explored the summit, I found myself sitting on a piece of plastic which barely covered my bum, halfway between a sledge and a tray, and proceeded to throw myself down the  mountainside on ‘The Luge’! Whizzing down a twisting turning concrete luge track at startling speed is just about the most fun you can have…EVER! Suffice to say, I had to repeat the experience quite a few times! 😀

My next stop though was far more effort intensive, more contemplative and ultimately more rewarding.

Travelling south of Rotorua along the volcanic plateau I came to the dormant volcano, Mount Tarawera, which erupted in 1886 killing over 150 people and swallowing whole villages in its wake. Today, it was an uncharacteristically grey day. The mountain was shrouded in low hanging clouds which seemed to roll down to meet me as I nervously joined a climbing party heading for the summit. Lagging behind and gasping for breath, I used my camera as a good excuse to keep stopping for photos, but nevertheless, I pressed on.

Some 5 or 6 hours later, I eventually broke through the mists and reached the summit. Utterly exhausted but elated I took in the brooding atmosphere of the volcano and the breathtaking views over the Tongariro National Park to the south with its active volcanoes, Mount Ruapehu and the perfect cone of Mount Ngauruhoe in the distance.

With a mixture of excitement and a little trepidation, I followed the guide, from the summit down into the crater itself. Sliding down the crater sides, a mixture of scree and gravel, you could actually feel the heat of the volcano through your boots! I have never experienced anything so fundamentally powerful and primeval…a truly humbling experience.

After a few weeks around the wonderfully visceral Rotorua area, I continued my journey south into a whole new world and one which truly brought me to my knees…