Saturday was to be the first day of my last antipodean workshop for this trip. Gill and I had a fairly leisurely breakfast, and then realized we were running late. In the dash to get everything loaded into the car, Gill was unable to find her car keys. We scrambled around and eventually had to take a second set to get to the workshop on time. We just made it. The workshop was being held at the Lake House Art Center on the North Shore of Auckland, and comprises a number of older buildings brought to the site and place there to make up the art center.
I was a little dismayed to find, when I arrived, that there were no walls on which I could tape the paper I needed for demonstration purposes. However, we were able to acquire a white board and used that, so things worked out well in the end. The workshop which the Auckland group had opted for was "Letters from Hell". The members of the workshop comprised ten members from Auckland plus three who had come up from Wellington, and who had been in my workshop there. They were: Daniel Reeve, Maggie Salter, and Kate Thurston.
I can't remember if I mentioned this previously, but it bears restating. This has been a trip of incredible coincidences, and another one was between Maggie Salter and me. On her resume for the Hutt Calligraphers, it noted that she had worked at a folk club in London in the sixties. Having sung at a number and even run four folk clubs I was eager to ask her which one she had worked at. It turned out that she had worked at Bunjie's in Litchfield Street, two or three years after I had run the club there with Bert Jansch. This was the first place that Bert had sung and played at after he came up to London from Edinburgh. Maggie and I had a fine old time reminiscing about the characters that had worked and played there.
The first day of the workshop we went through all of the minuscule letters, leaving the capitals for the following day. After the day was done, I had Gill run me into downtown to make a quick trip to buy a few presents for people, at a store that I'd visited the previous day with Bruce. It seems that that evening we sampled a few too many wines and some excellent Talisker single malt whisky!
Sunday dawned sunny but very windy and Bruce was hoping that I would get to hear a tui, an amazingly tuneful New Zealand songbird, but all to no avail. We arrived at the Lake House Center, and I proceeded to go through capital letters with everyone. I was intending to show some slides at the end of the workshop, thinking that we would have time between 4.00 and 5.30pm. Unfortunately, the room we were in had to be locked up at 4.30 and so I felt as though I had short changed the people in the workshop somewhat. We had a rather tearful parting, this being my last full day in New Zealand, but we finished with the hope that I would be able to return for another tour in the summer of 2011, and include the south island next time.
Monday, and my day of departure. My hosts, Bruce and Gill took me out for a Turkish breakfast at a garden center near them. The weather was quite threatening and very windy, and by the time we got out to Glover Park and the headland overlooking the whole harbor, the weather had closed right in and there was very little to be seen.
We went back to their house and packed my bags in the car and left for the airport. I said my farewells, and hoped that sometime, they would come to Arkansas (Bruce is American-born, so it would be a sort of homecoming for him).
Auckland is a strange airport. One has to sit in this rather large open area, where there is but one restaurant - Burger King! - and a coffee bar which does sandwiches. This in the international terminal. One sits in the hall until, ten minutes before boarding, there is an indication of which gate one's flight departs from.
Once on the plane, it was quite obvious that it was a little less than half full, and as soon as we had taken off, the stewardess showed me to a row of seats which I had all to myself for the twelve hour flight to Los Angeles. While I was able to spread out across the seats, i wasn't able to sleep.
Los Angeles has the reputation of being one of the worst airports on the planet, with good cause, the Bradley Building being tops! I think it has been under reconstruction ever since it was built and they still haven't got it right. I was quickly through customs and immigration but then, in trying to find the transfer desk so that I could check my bag through to Dallas/Ft. Worth, I eventually was accosted by a little man who showed me to a trolley, which turned out to be the "transfer desk".
I next went to stand on line for ten minutes, while a posse of people checked bags to see if they were too big for carry on. Once past there, I was directed to an escalator up to security which turned out to be blocked off with a sign telling me to go back to where I'd previously been. I went up the stairs to stand in a line of abut 400 people waiting to have their IDs checked. Once through there we found ourselves at the security checkpoint, where there was a shortage of bins in which to place computers, so we had another wait. So. What do we learn from this? AVOID LOS ANGELES LIKE THE PLAGUE!!!
I eventually got onto my flight which was packed to the gunwhales and arrived in Dallas, having slept most of the way. The layout of DFW is really very clever. The baggage claim is right outside the gate and so the bags arrive quickly. That, however, was where the satisfaction ended. My brand new, indestructible, Samsonite, $360 suitcase was totally destroyed!! Smashed, bent up, whatever. The only thing which was remarkable, was that the locks were still working. Kudos to Samsonite, brickbats to American Airlines. They did, however, make amends, and a check for a new suitcase is in the mail as I write this.
Our flight was due to leave at 4.10pm for NorthWest Arkansas. We finally pushed off from the gate at 5.20 because of some fuelling error (I guess it's best to get that right!!). We arrived about an hour late, even though the sign on the baggage carousel said that we were "on time". I suppose if you say it enough, it has to be true!!
Sharon was waiting for me when I arrived, true to her word, and we hastened back to Eureka Springs for dinner at Local Flavor. While I have to admit to being tired, I was perked up by being home in this town which I love. My house was still standing (if a little "buggy" - wasps, flies and fleas had invaded in my absence), and my cup truly ran over when my friend Randal delivered Chloe back here. I missed her.
Although, there were one or two things which conspired to spoil my enjoyment of the trip, they all failed. It was a most wonderful experience and to everyone who made it possible, and helped out along the way, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart. To all the people whom I saw that I knew from previous trips, I say how wonderful it was to renew old friendships. I hope to be back in 2011 and will do all I can to make that a reality.
So that's it! Now, after another couple of days recovery I must get back to work. There will be a brief hiatus over Thanksgiving, but I have two paintings which must be finished, and an article must be written for a magazine to be published next year. Thank you all for reading this. I hope I wasn't too boring. If you want to contact me, write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org. I always do my best to reply!