Five months in five photos


I’m so bad at updates that even this mass update is late. 


In early December I tagged along on a trip to Northland in a hunt for Cambridgea reinga and what felt like every stick insect on the Cape. I managed to nab my study specimens and not drink myself into oblivion to cope with the company. (Disclaimer: This is a joke). It was a week of spirited scouring of the forest floor to which the only downsides were the dregs of information slipping in through dodgy reception that my grandpa wasn’t well. He had already been sick but the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan while I was away. It occurs to me now that I never got a straight answer about exactly what his diagnosis was.

I arrived home just in time to head out for a dress rehearsal. The choir I’m in (they come up later so it’s worth introducing them) were performing Benjamin Britten’s St Nicholas the next day.

The next morning, Anthony and I went to visit Grandpa at the hospital after breakfast. That is, Anthony proposed to me after breakfast and then we went to break the news to Grandpa. From there, I went on to the concert and the next morning I got on a plane to Wellington to work at a Royal Society workshop.


The main Chathams Island is not what I expected. I was there for a week with Anna where we bundled up spiders in gladwrap to measure them. They were out in force so we didn’t have any trouble getting the numbers that I wanted but, wow, there is something desolate about that place. It’s not that it’s barren per say so much as that it’s got the feeling of a room recently abandoned with country side that’s a wild carpet of gorse striped with pockmarked roads. We drove to all four corners of the island on roads which just ended without any sort of declaration and we watched The Silence of the Lambs on VCR at the DOC hut.


So to get the humble brag out of the way, the choir went on a trip to New York to perform Paul Mealor’s Stabat mater and Jubilate Deo at Carnegie hall in a choir amassed by DCINY under the direction of Dr James Jordan. When we weren’t rehearsing we were swanning about Times square and the Metropolitan opera. When asked “how was New York” it’s easier to talk in specifics because when I’ve tried to describe the emotional journey I went on, people start looking at me like I’m touched in the head. Because to anyone else, it’s all “music’s all about making a connection, man. It moooooves you.” So suffice to say, I happy cried and cried cried >5 times during rehearsals and performance.


Right. So this is how my first week of March went. Anthony and I had decided to get married on the 6th so that Grandpa might make it. Sunday 28th we had lunch with my Thai family to celebrate the engagement (may I say that Anthony and I had had our respective hens and stag nights the previous night and were “worse for wear”). We’d received a phone call from Nana to say that Grandpa wasn’t well and we popped in on our way home. Anthony and I didn’t leave until later that night. Somehow every child and grandchild who lived in Auckland managed to pop in that day. Grandpa died overnight.

I don’t’ know how other people respond to death of a loved one but I think for us our minds scrambled to find the patterns which would explain what we were feeling.

Things I concluded:

  • He died on the 29th of February,
  • The 29th is the day before his birthday
  • The 29th of February only occurs on a leap year
  • Eve’s [the cat] back.
  • Eve was named such because their first cat was “Adam”.
  • Evening

The remaining days are everything you would expect as we tried to take the cracked sky into ourselves. One and a half days mourning at my nana’s house, three days tangi at Orakei marae. Three days after he died, I turned 26 and three days after that, I got married.

Blackroom Leilani & Anthony Sneak Peak-1

Again, it’s hard not to rationalise but, hell, if he’d died a day later, we would’ve had to call the whole thing off. If he’d survived to the weekend, he wouldn’t have been able to come and Nana probably would have stayed at home with him. Because he died, every family member who couldn’t come to the wedding was suddenly in town for the tangi and might as well stay on. Hell, we hadn’t even considered inviting our family from York because it’s York, y’know? The wedding numbers swelled.

In spite of everything (or perhaps because of everything), I don’t think we could have been happier on that day.