Monday, January 19, 2015

Evanston: a bargain; a masterpiece; an aberration

        I’ve been flying to and from New Zealand’s Bay of Islands for years and I have, or had, it figured out.
        Flights leave Auckland for California in the evening, starting about 7:00 p.m.
        Air New Zealand used to operate flights from KeriKeri, the tiny, single runway Bay of Islands airport, several times a day.
        My established routine was to row ashore in the morning,  hopefully before the wind came up, drive a rental car to KeriKeri, have a pleasant, leisurely lunch at Marsden Estate Winery near the airport, which has good wine and fine food in tranquil surroundings—the above photo was taken from their restaurant--and be on the 2:30 p.m. forty minute flight to Auckland.
        However, yesterday when I went to book my return flight from New Zealand in May I discovered that Air New Zealand has discontinued all mid-day flights from KeriKeri, and I’d have to fly at 9:30 in the morning and sit around Auckland International all day.
        An alternative is the bus.  Both Carol and I have ridden it a few times.  The distance is about 140 miles/222 kilometers, mostly through lovely scenery, in seats far more comfortable than those offered by airlines in less than business class, takes four hours and usually costs about $30 NZ/$24 US.
        When I went to the Northland Express website, I found to my surprise and pleasure a special non-refundable fare of $1.00NZ/80 cents US.  Reading further I learned that there is at least one $1.00 seat on every bus they run.  Even with a $3.99NZ booking fee, this is some bargain.
        I’ve got my $1.00 seat and am booked to return May 19. 

        If you listened to the 59°North podcast, or have been reading this journal for a while, you know that I am not religious.  You may also know that I like a lot of religious music:  Bach’s Passions; Beethoven’s Masses; numerous Requiems, from Mozart to Faure; and many others.  To which now must be added Elgar’s THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS.
        I finished reading the novel of that title; but the first Gerontius was a poem by Cardinal Newman about a man on his death bed dreaming of what he will experience after dying.  Sir Edward Elgar wrote a choral piece based on the poem, which for some reason he didn’t like being called an oratorio.  Perhaps the same reason I don’t like this journal being called a ‘blog’.
        The first I knew of ‘Gerontius’ was a boat of that name I saw in New Zealand decades ago, obviously belonging to an owner of musical taste.
        I enjoy Elgar’s music, particularly the Cello Concerto, but I would not have included him in the first rank, and for whatever reasons never listened to his ‘Dream of Gerontius’ until this past weekend when I found a YouTube video of a performance of the work at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.  I was wrong about Elgar.  His ‘Gerontius’ is magnificent, and in my opinion stands with the greatest choral music.
        Newman’s poem can be found here.  But Elgar did not follow it exactly.  His libretto is here.  
        There is pleasure in coming across something so beautiful and new to me, while regretting that it remained undiscovered for so much of my life.


       Last year may, or may not, have been the hottest in thousands of years.  NASA and NOAA say it was and provide this map showing places above average in reddish shades and below in blue.  

        Other scientists agree that readings were higher than ever by 0.01°C, but say that falls within a 0.05°C margin of uncertainty. 
        What I notice in the map is that only three land areas were cooler last year:  the Namibia/Angola border; Antarctica; and here.
        Those of us who live here already knew that.