the den

Tonight we’re hanging out in the den listening to records, doing stuff on our laptops. The rug went down this evening and now it feels even more den-like. (The rug really ties the room together, as The Dude would say.)

The den is far far away from anywhere. I even forget it’s part of the house. I have big plans for this room. The blind needs to be made this side of Christmas. Plus it’s being painted un-red, and the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves are going in around the doorframe, which obviously you can’t see in this photo. And then the wall behind Simon is being wallpapered. Fancy having a feature wall! I promise it’s not naff. At least, I don’t think it is.

And that’s about it. In this room, that is. Oh and there’s one more lamp to come. And different art. But I’ll sort that once we’ve replaced the glass in the frames that smashed in the move. Oh and I also need to get the hurricane lamp glass re-blown. That’ll go in the den, too, eventually.

I’m trying to learn not to want to do everything all at once. I can’t help it though. On Sunday afternoon I drove around town in gridlock, late for an afternoon tea date, trying to find small plastic rings to fit inside the plastic Italian lampshades I bought so I can suspend them from the ceiling properly. No dice, though, and today I bought some, but they’re the wrong ones. Something tells me my mind won’t properly rest until those lampshades are in place. And then, when they are, there will be the peas to re-pot and the tomatoes to re-stake. And fabric to choose. And GOD what a boring story. Sorry about that.

Now we are listening to TAPES. Far out. The vocals sound seriously adenoidal. It’s all warpy, like scuba-diving in sound. It’s making me feel a bit hayfeverish.

My grandparents always had dens. They still do, but now their dwellings are sort of one big den. We all used to gather in there, all the aunts and uncles and the grandchildren. Eating club sandwiches and specially-prepared croquettes, sometimes whitebait fritters. Listening to the family stories inside a hot, perfumy fug of smoke. The accumulated damp of all that excited breath lining the insides of the windows. And you’d lose all sense of time. I could never work out if the grandfather clock chimed on the hour or every ten minutes or so. Either the hours went super fast or the minutes went really slow. Everything was a bit monumental. There’s no way of explaining it, really. Or maybe there is, but still I can’t.

And when we were old enough to drink — by god were those pours stiff. In university days when I’d have den time with Didy and we’d smoke cigarettes and talk about writing I’d eventually return to the daylight outside blinking with heavy lids, drunk on gin diluted with the merest dash of poorly carbonated tonic. She always insisted on paying for the taxis, too. I don’t know if she thought she was sending me all the way to Ashburton in a cab or if the regular fistful of money was just her way of saying off you go and be young — go and buy a dress and don’t think too much about things. Actually I do know.

And now I have my own den, so-called in my grandparents’ honour. It makes me think of them. It feels grown-up and grotto-like. Something happens to conversation in here. It’s hard to remember the concerns of the day or the mess beyond the threshold. Hours go by. Cups of tea are had. And now I have no idea what I am supposed to be doing right now, after this. I suppose it doesn’t really matter; I suppose it can’t matter. Maybe I’ll just do this some more. Sit here in a semi-daydream with tape music filling my head like warm water all tight and soupy against my eardrums.

the capturation

There is something so cathartic about listening to old school PJ Harvey very very loud. And something so rebellious about staying up way past a sensible school night bedtime (usually my weekday be-in-bed-reading curfew is midnight, but it just comes around so darned quick). Although Thursday night is unofficially the weekend. So I’m really only just getting started.

Things I learned today:

Mosquitos can dodge raindrops. No shit. They can actually navigate their way between them mid-flight.

I am quite gullible, no matter how hard I try not to be. (E.g. not long ago I nearly got tricked into believing there were vampires in Khandallah.)

I am not very good at fronts or ruses, no matter how hard I try to be. (Actually, I don’t try particularly hard to be at all. No point.) I am also a useless dissembler.

And that’s about all I learned. Not a bad day in the universe, all up. My universe, I mean. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to make a call on anyone else’s.

Best thing that happened to me today: Emma is making me a badge that says Dropkick Brownie. Because I was. (But with enough water under the bridge, even closely-held failures can come to be cutely personality-forming.)

Most interesting observation of yesterday: James tells me my blog is like melancholy Seinfeld. (That’s kind of like saying it’s like Friends with no friends in it, but I like it; I think I know what he is getting at.) I don’t consider myself to be a maudlin soul in any way whatsoever, but I suppose it’s true I do find the underside of things most compelling. I’m not sure why. It’s just more interesting.

This is my favourite Banksy mouse. I relate to it the most. One year I gave Simon a birthday card with this on it. I think he appreciated the humour/relevance (I gleaned as much from his smirk). Tonight we went to see Exit Through the Gift Shop at the programme launch of this year’s Wellington International Film Festival. I think I need to go and see it again. It’s doing my head in a bit. But in a good way. Banksy vs. Mr Brainwash/MBW. The whole artful artifice of the thing gets more complicated the more I try to unravel it. (But that’s a stupid thing to say. Anything gets more complicated the more you unravel it.)

Thierry Guetta is a beguiling mental carcrash of a character (and I use the word character advisedly and in its widest sense).

Obsessed with filming everything and doing absolutely nothing with the resulting boxes and boxes of video tapes, he says something about “the capturation” being the only thing that matters. The process of doing it. Not the thing the doing becomes. The tapes themselves are irrelevant. Like dust-gathering pages of an unfinished manuscript, perhaps. It was interesting, anyway. It made me think how I’m more at home just doing the making. Not the ghastly editing/post-production and splicing together part.

It also made me think of a conversation I had with someone last week who I hadn’t caught up with in ages. He said something about his tendency to look at everything in terms of outcomes, to want things finished, complete, wrapped up. He couldn’t just enjoy the doing for what it was, in the moment, irrespective of where and how it might end up. That whole thing about life being about the journey rather than the destination.

But would we undertake any journey without the promise of a destination? What if someone said: Off you go, then, but you’re actually not going anywhere. Take in the birdsong and the stars and morning dew, but just remember you’ll never end up anywhere other than right where you are. That would be quite an undesirable situation, to me at least.

What if you just wrote and wrote and wrote with no consideration whatsoever for the final form the writing might take. That’s just weird. But worth thinking about. To just focus on capturation for capturation’s sake, and leave the rest in the hands of a hopefully benevolent universe. There might be something in that.

kindness-crisis-kindness-crisis (dc al capo)

This is my new Indian printing block. It was supposed to be a reward I worked towards, for achieving something very specific, but it didn’t really work out like that. What I mean by that is I didn’t achieve this particular thing — in fact I achieved the exact opposite — but I got the printing block anyway. (I didn’t even have to stick my bottom lip out very far.)

Kind of like when I was in the E netball team (the very bottom of the sporting barrel) at intermediate and Tones said he’d take the whole team out for McDonalds if we won a game. Just one game. The season drew to a close and we’d suffered nothing but humiliating, bumbling, pleated-skirted/pasty-legged defeat. Tones took us all to McDonalds anyway, the whole butter-fingered, clutz-filled team of us. It’s a long time ago now, but we probably accepted our Happy Meals with a certain embarrassed grace, slumped wordlessly over our plastic trays, relieved we’d finally been put out to pasture until the next season.

I hated Saturday morning netball with more violent emotion than I could ever possibly convey here. But I turned up, all clutz and goosebumped bluster. Sort of a metaphor for life (although I’m far more fond of life than I am of netball). Because there was nothing else for it. It’s not like you have the option of boycotting at the age of 11. (Or if I did, I was far too sweet and unstaunch to even consider it.)

Anyway. That’s totally beyond the point. But while we’re beyond the point… Sometimes I get random emails from people at work saying things like do you want to join our social netball team? Or even who’s up for a run at lunchtime? At first I sent replies back saying things like get fucked; do you even know who I am? and I would rather cut my legs off at the knees than join your team/run up Mt Vic and then haul my sorry ass into an afternoon meeting and have to make like I don’t need urgent medical attention. Now I just hit delete. I figure my silence speaks volumes.

For a while I thought I might be good at pub quizzes, given my sporting deficiencies. It turns out I’m not good at those either (unless the topic is something like 21st Century Art in NZ, which it pretty much never is). But at least I am slightly canny where pub quizzes are concerned and know how to gather an infallible team of subject matter experts around me so I can still pretend to kick ass.

But back to Indian printing blocks. I returned home, tipped as much ink as I could find into Tupperware, got some stamping action happening, and came up with this:

It’s a bit of a fail. I think I might need to download an Indian stamp manual.

It has been a funny weekend. Funny good and funny unexpected. In a way. I thought a lot about kindness, and how you have to be in the right frame of mind to give and receive it. Or even just to notice it. Or to notice anything. Like the earnest young checkout boy at the supermarket who engages you in a lengthy conversation about Dorritos and then tells you to enjoy your day with more feeling than you have mustered for anything – big or small – lately.

At the very end of my Friday I received the most touching message I have received in a long time, from one of the most beautiful and loved people in my whole world. To me, it came out of nowhere and cut through everything. It knocked me for six. I went home in the rain in a dreamy spin, on the brink of happy weepiness. (And then proceeded to drink cocktails and eat Japanese salmon delicacies well into the early hours of Saturday morning.)

It’s good to be surprised. And loved. And kind.

this is water

I have been meaning to write this particular thing for a while.

See how the words are crooked? That’s because I accidentally scanned them that way, and now that I am sitting down there’s no way that even the dormant perfectionist in me is going to get me back up again to rescan it.

I first read This is Water when it was still online. I think I read it online, when David Foster Wallace was still alive. Now he is not alive and This is Water (well, the original transcript of his address to the graduating class of Kenyon College) is no longer online. It got pulled down and the words got turned into the thing I just scanned crookedly: This is Water.

Part of the reason it took me so long to get around to writing this was because I couldn’t find it online any more. And I also couldn’t find the pocket book it had been turned into on our shelves. It is a small book and our shelves are positively cavernous (or not so much cavernous as they are like a Sunday afternoon excavation project, if you can be bothered really digging for the book you think you might be after, which is mostly not the case at all).

I have been thinking about DFW a bit lately. Maybe partly because Mark Linkous just recently took a text message, walked out on a group of friends, slightly distressed, and shot himself in the chest. Not that DFW and ML are in any particular way similar. It’s just a bit – I don’t know – shit when you realise that sometimes (often) sheer cleverness, even outlandish talent, provides no shield against the demons. That, in fact, the presence of cleverness and talent seems to actually heighten or make more probable the exposure to the influence of the demons. (Actually, don’t let me get started on that. It isn’t what I wanted to write about, and now I am hijacking my own post with my own side-trackedness.)

So, the basic premise of This is Water (paraphrased): two little fish are swimming around and an older fish swims past and says to them: how’s the water? One little fish turns to the other little fish and says: what the hell is water?

DFW isn’t – or should I say wasn’t – one for neat, tidily wrapped up little parables.

He says: “The immediate point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious, ubiquitous, important realities are often the ones that are hardest to see and talk about.”

The water is all around us. But do we see it?

I don’t really want to summarise (but I will, of course I will,  in my own long-winded way). DFW is addressing a bunch of arts grads. He’s talking to them about going out into the world, about the value of a liberal arts education, more or less. He’s talking about the power of observing the world from all different kinds of angles, about mundanity and empathy. About getting through. About the fluidity of meaning. About critical thinking and our own unstoppable self-centredness.

He says: “Everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe, the realest, most vivid and important person in existence.”

And that this is true for all of us.

And that some of us over-intellectualise and get stuck in our own skulls.

And how somehow we need to exercise control over the world inside our heads, decide what to think and to care about, and to see outside ourselves.

How we need to get through the day in, day out meaningfully. Because most of adult life is just that. Getting through the boring shit.

And that we get to choose. What to believe in. What to make real.

And then he says: “I wish you all way more than luck.”


Okay, so…. what I was going to write about was my walk to work every morning, and sometimes my walk home. How sometimes I look around me and think: this is water. I try to remember to be present. To notice it. Before the day starts with all kinds of people in it and all my attention gets sucked up and blown away.

I walk down the hill and through the cemetery every day. I had been doing this for about four years before I learned about the motorway project blitzing through the middle of it, and the mass grave that now sits beside it.

In Art History at secondary school when we studied Rita Angus I remember her Wellington paintings, and her Bolton Street Cemetery paintings. Often when I walk through the cemetery every morning I think of Rita Angus being right where I’m walking.

It’s kind of cool to think about.

Sometimes I panic because I feel like I am losing sight of the thing that is water. So I just try and concentrate really hard on the small and beautiful things around me. The things I see every day and might forget.

Autopilot is easier than anything that requires effort. Especially the older you get. That’s what I think, anyway.

A while ago I wrote about a piece of rock I saw every day. It looked like a heart.

Noticing is a thing I try and practice most mornings, even if I have ceased to notice most things by the time I have hit the dregs of my morning coffee.

It’s not even a writing thing, noticing. It’s just a working out what matters to me thing. And I only really work it out about 5% of the time (to put an arbitrary number on it).

And here is one of my other daily views. I took the photos on my phone, and then tried to put them together as a composite/panoramic photo. Note the crooked building in the middle, the change in lighting and the half a bus…

things I like and endorse wholeheartedly in the weekend

It seems like part of the plight of the weekday worker is a constant pining for the weekend ahead. A perpetual state of yearning for a shimmery trackpanted hiatus, twinkling ahead in the notsodistant future like an oasis in an airconditioned and watercoolered desert.

Quite often during the week I like to make lists of things I like to do in the weeked. Plans and stuff. Here’s what I consider to be my Best Of.

Sleeping in

Buying non-essential items at Moore Wilson’s

Catching up with friends, big and little (some to drink and talk nonsense with and some to play with and eat all their cheerios)

Going through the carwash (specifically the brushless one at the Caltex on Adelaide Road)


Making things and taking photos of lights

Spending unpressured hours at Unity or Quilters Bookshop and then going to sit down somewhere with coffee and lazily/casually thumb through books that will somehow find a disordered home in our somewhat claustrophobic shelving system

Having an occasion to dress up

Having an occasion to cook for people

Having time to not do anything at all

Eating I Love Pies pies

Talking shit in cars on aimless drives

Staying put

Between 90 to 120 minutes (but no more than that or it turns into a thing I do not like) of work admin (makes the coming week seem so much cleaner)

A harmonious balance of productivity and inactivity

Discovering forgotten gems recorded on MySky – especially obtuse documentaries about stuff like rare fetishes and renegade geriatrics

Serial Killer Sunday on C&I

Breakfast and the paper in bed (i.e. when I am in bed and do nothing whatsoever except sit up, eat and read)

Sitting in a patch of sun in the garden with the cats

Suprising myself by going to bed early or surprising myself by spending less than I expected to (both uncommon)

Making pancakes

Talking to Jillyfran on the phone

things I like (and endorse wholeheartedly)

I post this photo to illustrate that we were all cute – once. How cute am I? Pretty, pretty cute. (If I do say so myself. And I do.)

Sometimes I find it helps to make a list in my head of things I like (and endorse wholeheartedly). Just whatever comes to hand.

Here is today’s list.


blue hydrangeas



muted colours

people doing stuff for me

me doing stuff for people I like


making lists on Monday mornings

jugs (ceramic – not mammaries)

coming home (wherever home may be)

making stuff

exotic lotions

putting pretty stuff on the walls

Dog Point sav

loyalty programmes

talking shit late at night

not getting up before 9.27am

forgiveness and trust

thinking about cigarettes sometimes, when I am drunk (but not smoking them – I hate that)

getting off planes & feeling like you’ve stepped into a sauna

babies’ skin

basil that doesn’t die on me

finding lost stuff that means something


And that’s just for starters.

tragedy, mirth

scorpions and worm-infested eye sockets, etcGood things happen and bad things happen and sometimes the two are indivisible, or remarkably similar looking once you get right down to turning them inside out. Or you can’t just draw a line between them and say that is that.

All quiet on the katyink front for a bit. A lot of feather flapping on the life front. Or maybe I only say that to tie in with the feather-shedding bird motif in the picture, and to get myself off the hook (albeit a hook of my own making).

Some snakes crawled through my eyes, and then a rabid eagle swooped down… I could say anything, and it may or may not be true. I wouldn’t do that, though, being as sweet and honest as I am, honestly. No such roadkillish fate befell me, since last time I wrote.

Tonight (Matthew) I am talking about tragedy and mirth. Specifically (and only) in the same breath. Not tragedy in its own right, or mirth in her own glory. Together, in [unlikely] harmony.

I may be building this up to a height I don’t have the stomach for, so I will keep it conversational. Partly because I don’t always remember why I started writing this, partly because I don’t do heights, and partly because I have other things to be moving on with. But that is a boring thing to say. And the fact that I pointed out it was boring is also boring. We have all got things to be moving on with. That is, of course, unless we are roadkill.

We saw Parky (aka Michael Parkinson) last Friday. He is a man with a craggy, genteel, measured turn of phrase and a tendency to gentle understatement, which I could probably learn a lot from.

Parky said something about tragedy and mirth often being one and the same, or the distance between them microscopic or marginal, or whatever the word is. I didn’t get it down verbatim, what Parky said, since I wasn’t the one with the  notebook on hand.

I did, however, make a fuggy mental note, and this is me making stabs at transcribing it. I often think about tragedy and mirth in the same sentence.

When I was little I used to think that tragedy = death. Death, and only death. Sometimes I still do.

Just like when I was little I thought that to elope = having sex.

Jo Thomas (my best friend in primary school), aged seven or so:

“Do you think you would ever elope?”

(She was/is pretty smart.)

Me, aged seven but two months and nine days older than her (and not so smart):

“I think so, but not before I get married.”

Total diversion there. Tragedy and mirth.

People often tell me my writing is dark. And I agree with them. Most often they say it like it’s an offputting thing, and it probably is, to some. But the thing I think, and want to ask them (although I don’t always, judging by the giant furrow in their brow), is: But didn’t you find it funny, at the same time?

I find it funny as all hell, not that I often have the stomach to read it back to myself (having moved on by then). Sometimes the saddest things are the funniest. Sometimes the funniest things are the saddest.

crashbomb mirth











So, whilst Google Imaging mirth, this image came up. Lord knows what it means but I traced its origins back to here. I love it. What the hell is happening with the bike/cyclist/pylon combo? It may be mirth and it may be something else but I’m pleased I stumbled upon it (quite unlike the cyclist stumbing upon the pylon, no doubt).

Also, while we were at Parky I wrenched the notebook from Si’s grasp and found my own shaky writing inscribed there, which came as a fond surprise to me, given I didn’t really remember writing it.

It being:

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

Fortunately I live with a human encyclopaedia on hand, who informed me I had written this at the Leonard Cohen concert earlier in the year, from his song, Anthem.

It doesn’t really need much explanation.

It’s kinda like the Virginia Woolf quote from Orlando:

Nothing thicker than a knife’s blade separates happiness from melancholy.

I always used to think that was a pretty depressing observation, and now I think it is hugely uplifting. Riddle me that.

the feeling wheel

the feeling wheel rerendered

This is the feeling wheel. I don’t know its origins, sorry, but I found it here. Actually it was referenced in the latest Mindfood magazine and I looked it up.

Then I wanted to make reference to it here, but I didn’t like the colour scheme (it would seriously disrupt the tone of katyink and even my bigtime Photoshop prowess couldn’t make it pretty enough to pass muster… or should I just say that it was quicker for me to start from scratch, rather than try and wrangle Photoshop into submission), so I decided to re-draw it.

By the time I publish this you probably won’t be able to read the words on the wheel. In which case, click on the link above for the ugly/ier version.

I like the feeling wheel. It makes a lot of sense. I want to stick an arrow in the middle of it (sort of like a Twister arrow, or some kind of Spin the Bottle device, without the pashing, that is) and play Guess the Mood.

Not sure if my artistic subtleties will be lost on you, but see how I have turned it into a dartboard? That was totally accidental, but I’m kind of proud of it. I could call it the Dartboard of Emotions. Or should it be the Emotional Dartboard?

Or, if you look at it another way, with eyes slighty squinted, it looks like the age rings or whatever you call them on a cut-up tree. Plus, I drew Shrewsbury biscuit edges (if you look very closely at the disguised ridges) and then coloured them in. That is probably a bit obtuse, though, granted.

I copied the feeling wheel because I was supposed to be doing something else. Often when the best stuff happens. Or at least that’s what I tell myself when I don’t get around to achieving quite what I set out to. Or as John Lennon said, life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans. Or, feeling wheels are what get copied when you’re supposed to be doing something useful. But this is useful, sort of?

Copying the feeling wheel reminded me of doing pencil rubbings of coins and leaves, and copying illustrations out of books. I used to rip off my grandmother’s children’s books. That makes it sound slightly sinister, but it wasn’t. It was the sincerest form of flattery. She had written a book about a horse called Zinnia. Not long after, in the garage-y room under the house I produced my first slim staple-bound volume, about a horse called Zero. Well, how else do you learn how to draw horses?

I copied the feeling wheel at the kitchen table tonight whilst talking to my sister in Sydney, with a glass of wine and the hot off the press Morrissey B-sides (turned up in the mail today), Swords, playing on repeat. I have achieved little else, but all in all a good night. I would say I am sitting right about CONTENT/RELAXED on the feelings wheel. (Morrissey, on the other hand, is closer to REJECTED/DISCOURAGED, but you gotta love him for it).