All of you, I expect, especially those of you who think there may be potential for a new flavoured gin! 🙂  Well, I’ll put you out of your misery in a minute. But first… a little story…


A few days ago, Guyana Gyal’s post about Mr.Wrong.Car made me think of someone I knew, a long time ago, in New Zealand.

Like Mr.Wrong.Car, he was also despised, avoided and perhaps feared by many people. True, he was …eccentric. And with an aversion to soap and water. But he was , in reality, a gentle man and phenomenally intelligent in the field of plants, both native and introduced. He had a better than average knowledge of marine life, too. He gave me a shell once and told me its scientific name , though I have long forgotten that!

But most people called him Spring Heel Jack and rude little kids used to tease him and run like hell when he shook his fist at them, calling them names they probably deserved. He’d an extensive vocabulary of very colourful swear words!

He lived alone in a shack alongside the Otumoetai railway line and I always thought he had no friends. But his knowledge was greatly respected by museums and some school teachers. Perhaps Mr. Wrong.Car was like him. (If you’re interested, you can read more here ) It’s easy to write off people who don’t “fit the perceived pattern.” But how much humour, wisdom and love might we miss? And it’s not difficult to stay upwind when necessary!


I was scratching around in a box, looking for a particular item when I found something I thought I’d lost. As you do. Actually, I found three somethings and that led to an interesting morning in my friend’s studio, running some old plates through the press, to see whether they really were too badly marked for pulling good prints. Hmm…not the best, but at least I have the plates and can make new ones from old images. Well, once I’ve figured where and how to etch them! Not with nitric acid (which is what I used last time, under guidance in a studio) which is rather nasty stuff, especially in a home environment. I’m ” doing the homework” on another chemical, with much friendlier properties. But these are yesterday’s prints

                                                                                       My national emblem (and national nickname!)



                                                                                       Stitch bird (hihi, in Maori)

Personally, I think the background ruined this plate , but I think I can salvage something from it. And at least I have the cartoon. 🙂



I have some sketches waiting to be turned into prints, among them our mystery picture! The seeds of a Fishtail (Caryota) palm Which one I’m not sure, but I do know that at least one, Caryota urens, is also known as the toddy palm, or wine palm. So perhaps there is a gin possibility. Someone else can do that research! Here’s the photo I cropped to tease you.

                                                                                        Caryota. Fishtail palm

One more (crappy lighting!) picture before I go out to play with hoses. A few weeks ago, The Man and I went to a small showing of prints, photographs  and paintings by a talented young  woman. The Man remarked that one, in particular, reminded him of some of Andrea’s work( we have half a dozen of her drawings and will soon have “Water’s Edge”!). So I bought it!

“Mediaeval Storm” by Catherine Hines. 

This is an etching with aquatint and coloured inks.


And thankyou to those who popped over to Ziggi’s place with cheering words.

24 thoughts on “WHO WANTS TO KNOW?

    • Rosie! Haven’t seen you for ages! Hope all’s well now that things have cooled a little over there? Has the mysterious neighbour returned?
      For the record, the hihi is pronounced heehee. Not what I said when I ruined the plate! 😉


  1. Oo –that bird reminds me of a magpie a wee bit. It’s lovely. Have you ever done silkscreen? I keep thinking about it. As for the old guy, they’re usually the ones who, not afraid to think outside the box, make amazing discoveries and amazing things. Society’s the element at fault. And ‘Otumoetai’ — such a good indigenous name. Seems to me only NZ can compete with the Pacific Northwest. (I live near Tsawwassen.)


    • Magpie? Blimey! My drawing must be way off-beam!! It’s a tiny bird;see Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stitchbird
      Yes, I did quite a bit of silkscreen stuff years ago. All by hand, on my dining table;might set up a screen again now that there is space in the basement. ;-)And Otumoetai means (loosely) “standing, sleeping tide. ” It’s sheltered somewhat from the open ocean by Matakana Island so the tidal movement is more “sluggish” the along a coastal beach.
      Google Earth should help 🙂
      Yes, thinking about Mr. Hodgkins now, I wonder if his mental state would today be better recognised/understood.


    • At least our old fellow didn’t leap on ladies!
      I can see him in my mind now, striding along in his worn flannel trousers and sand shoes(no socks), an old hessian sugar bag over one shoulder. Skin like a walnut.
      When he died, they found some of his aunt’s paintings in his shack.


  2. good to remind ourselves that people are not always as they first appear to be… love the tale of “spring heel jack”.

    Isn’t it fun to always find things you are NOT looking for? Seems i do that a lot these days… and then promptly forget what the hell i was looking for in the first place.

    why did i come in here?


    • I tell myself that my forgetfulness has nothing to do with dementia and everything to do with getting side-tracked. And being a bit untidy. And not having enough storage space. And…what were you saying… 🙂


  3. I really like those prints in blue and white. I popped over to see if I could find examples of your printing on the brown Stonehenge paper. Maybe you could point me to some examples. It’s an interesting idea.


    • Sorry! I don’t have any Stonehenge to show, but might grab a sheet next time I’m in the shop. Come back soon…
      And the blue? Just a small jar of ink that was first to hand! If I ever get around to a “Willow Pattern” print that’s the colour I’ll need. 🙂


    • I think they originated in Central America, but it’s an easy stretch across to Florida, then north. And they spread across the Pacific (like many other things) with early sailors.
      Sadly, my last pawpaw bit the dust/mud in a storm last year and I have not planted new ones. Now that some trees have been cleared I can fix that!


  4. Right on, Mr. Writeon! Pawpaw is the common name here for Carica papaya. It’s mostly just varietal difference in the cultivated ones.
    If the Plant Police ever managed to “remove” all exotics, we’d starve!


  5. I don’t agree that your plates are problematic in any way…and I personally like the background very much. I was, in fact, going to ask you how you achieved it. I use nitric at home and find it a very nice etching acid (for zinc plates only). I dilute it 1 to 10, so it’s very mild. You can put your hands in it and not be stung. With a big funnel, a glass measure and a bath of 10 parts water (always add the nitric to the water and not the other way around), it’s really no problem to use it. You have to have a good place to store it out of the light and on its own.


    • Thankyou, Nancy. The background on the Stitchbird is aquatint, but I don’t like the “hard” area around the tail.
      The reason these plates were in the box o’ bits is that no one told me they’d oxidise if I didn’t coat them! With even my rudimentary knowledge of chemistry, I should have realised! 😦

      Nitric for zinc plates, yes. The problem is that I don’t have a wash-out sink with acid trap here and the Powers That Be get a bit twitchy these days. So I’m thinking of ferric chloride on copper.
      If you’re interested, I can email a link.


  6. Hey there Kiwi.
    They call me Kiwi too. LOVE The PRINTS! Must be the blue. Now – just what is the name of that chemical? Not that I’m even going to think of delving into another area mind. Just curious 😉


    • So…you would be a Kurious Kiwi, right? 😉

      In the print game it’s known as Edinburgh Etch, which is ferric chloride, with the addition of citric acid as mordant. I think if you google Edinburgh Etch you’ll find quite a few entries. Look for the name Keith Howard;he’s the chap who did the research and I think there is a PDF.


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