Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Libby of Lawrence 

Samples of Libby's garments made from felt

Libby's shop

St Patrick's, Lawrence

bell and belfry

I so want to say a strew of acorns, but seeing as the word strew is actually a verb, that would be wrong


Dear Reader,

When I was in Lawrence recently, I met Libby. Her 'hello" greeted me before the shop's front door had even properly closed behind me.

I said I'd like to just take a look around if that was okay. I was made to feel welcome to do that, and I spent the next wee while looking at all the things piled, displayed, collected and heaped in every corner.

The small shop appears to have originally been (I didn't ask) a hundred-year, or older, wooden cottage. They made houses smaller back then to house people who were also a lot smaller back then

The tiny shop was stacked to the ceilings with second-hand clothes, hand-made garments (knitted, sewn) toys, jewellery, ornaments ... I was told there was 'more upstairs'.

I made my way up stairs that were obviously designed for a sprite. My feet hung over each step. The landing, the size of a bread-box, was chocka with second-hand toys and crockery and mirrors; tastefully and sweetly arranged, I might add, like everything else in the shop.

I had a quick look around the one upstairs room, each creak from the wooden floor boards announcing my whereabouts and progress.

Downstairs, Libby (I found out her name later when I took her photo) was standing at a table top where she was using a hot iron to shape a woollen garment. I don't know much about the process that goes into making things from felt, but after talking to Libby I learned a little more.

I liked the colours in the top she was making - natural, earthy colours; browns, blacks, creams and greys. Merino, she said, which is far superior to perendale but correspondingly, far more expensive.

Basically, a felt garment is wool worked into a seamless shape by encouraging the woollen fibres to meld and hook together (through steam and heat? Not sure about that; I obviously didn't ask Libby enough questions, and tonight I don't particularly feel like using Google to check my facts).

Libby makes vests, hats, head-bands, scarves, dresses. (And other things I didn't notice, I'm sure).

I ended up buying a purple, green and pink hat because it reminded me of a watercolour. I asked Libby if she would mind if I took her photo and told her I'd write about her shop in my blog.

Well, why not? I thought.

After leaving the shop, I walked up to the church lording it (sorry, terrible pun) on the hill behind. I see this church every time I go through Lawrence, but have never seen it up close before.

I had an inkling that it would be a Catholic church, and I was right.



Monday, 4 July 2016

By the Old Railway Track

my favourite sinkhole 

my favourite sinkhole in situ

... and again ... even more in situ

if you look closely, you'll see a small bird on the table. A fantail (piwakawaka) 

sun-blasted cabbage tree (ti kouka)

sun-blasted ti kouka in situ

before the frost

after the frost

before ...

after ...

a morning this cold is best viewed from inside  

the promise of sun to turn the white green again ...

Dear Reader,

I have just spent a week on a (self-induced) writing retreat. My brother and his wife own a cottage that because of its proximity to a disused rail tunnel that forms part of a cycle track running through their farm, they call Tunnel Cottage. They rent out the cottage to bike riders riding the old railway track that ran from Lawrence to Roxburgh. Actually, the line ran from Dunedin to Roxburgh, but this cycle track starts at Lawrence. As the house isn't used in winter, they very kindly allow family to stay there. I find it ideal as a space for uninterrupted writing time.

This is the second time I've taken them up on their offer. Last time was two years ago when I was working on the very first stages of the first draft of my novel: 'Craggan Dhu: Part One: 'Time Will Tell' (working title).

This novel has (so far) been more than six years in the making ... I remember making initial notes when the first Christchurch earthquake struck back in 2010. And even before that, it was simmering away at the back of my mind like a pot of Mum's vegetable soup on the back of the coal range.

This time I was working on the completed first draft, hoping to finish up with a second draft. However, despite some really great writing days and the valuable opportunity to spend long blocks of time on it, it was slower going than I'd hoped. But, it was enough time to untangle some major knots in the plot and I am now much closer (in fact very near) to having the second draft ready.

The cottage is situated on a hilltop in the middle of green hills and surrounded by lots of trees. The main highway through to Central Otago runs right past the front door; but far enough away so that the traffic noise doesn't intrude. In fact, I liked the comforting, companionable hum from passing cars and trucks. I needed that human contact - even ones seen briefly (or imagined) behind the wheel of a fast-moving vehicle.

Every lunch-time when the sun hit the front of the house and deck, about eight to ten fantails (piwakawaka) would arrive for their meal of insects gathered from under the eaves of the house. While I sat having my lunch at the outside table they would land very close, but always moved as fast as a blink, so that it was impossible to take a photo. In fact I didn't even really try. I just enjoyed their company and sat watching their delicate, aerial manouevres between the tortured willows and the cottage..

At night there in the middle of the country, the darkness is like black velvet, without any light to be seen (apart from the moon and stars ... but I was inside and they were outside - on the other side of the curtains).
As the wooden walls cooled down from the warmth of the day's sun, and from the heat off the log burner I always kept stoked, the whole house would crack and snap in a very alarming manner. I heard a possum or two running across the tin roof, but that was okay as I could identify that particular noise. But there were other noises I couldn't identify that gave me pause.

The first night I thought I could hear human voices outside. As the nearest neighbour is about three k's away, I was more than a little un-nerved. A covert look through gaps in the curtains, re-assured me that there was no-one 'out there'. The next day when I saw some pigeons on the power lines, the penny dropped. What I was hearing was most likely the low cooing of pigeons.
Another night while on a middle-of-the-night visit to the toilet, I thought I could hear someone outside chopping wood! The slow rhythmic tock-tock-tock couldn't be anything else. I somehow managed to talk myself out of that ridiculous notion and dropped back off to sleep.
The next day in the comfort of daylight (I now know what 'longing for the light of morning' means) I realised that it was actually a dripping noise coming from inside the toilet cistern. At night, the sound had been magnified tenfold. Another night - by this stage I was ready for home! - the noise of my rumbling stomach caused me a second's mild panic.

The last morning I awoke to see that there had been a visit from that *'blond assassin' - Jack Frost. It was so heavy it almost looked like it had been snowing through the night. But the sun soon blasted that sucker, so that by lunch-time all green was restored and the roads clear. *from an Emily Dickinson poem.

I made my way home, second draft primed for actual completion by the end of this coming week.

When I finished the first draft, my family very kindly toasted my achievement. I'm hoping for another toast when the flag comes down on this draft. (And the third and the fourth?) But that may be asking a bit much. After that (which by my calculations, and  realistically-speaking, won't be until *next year) it will be ready for a reader or two to read it and give me their feedback. (Which will be nerve-wracking). *I say next year, because in Sept. - Oct. I'm taking a six-week trip to stay with our son and partner and wee girl, in Berlin; as well as fitting in a five-day stay with my friend in the U.K. The novel is going to have to go into an induced hiatus /stasis /suspended animation ... during that time.

By which time I will be ready for another visit to Tunnel Cottage (when available) along with all its quirks and charms. It'll be good to see it again. (I believe we've bonded).


Saturday, 18 June 2016

Moons in Junes

protea; represents change and hope

posing tree still in its autumn skirt

we need more rain

cute urban nature sign about seagulls

cute urban nature sign about spring tides

solid, practical sign showing the way to the albatross and penguins and seals - among other attractions

one of my favourite trees and the best thing about it, is that it's all ours

Dear Reader,

The '30 Days Wild' (#30DaysWild) challenge runs until the end of the month. It's a UK challenge that I have butted in on. It requires keeping eyes and *ears out to note nature. Participants are also invited to do various things that require interacting in fun ways with nature. Because going on a picnic doesn't really appeal in the middle of winter (cold grass = cold arse!) I'm opting for the easy road and just keeping my eyes open for the little things I come across in my normal run of the mill activities.

*the quality and degree to which I can hear nature, depending of course upon whether or not I'm wearing a woolly, winter hat. Luckily this year (so far) winter is being kind and I've hardly had to wear a hat on my outings

Apparently the lunar cycle we are in at present, has a full moon at solstice - the first time for seventy years. Seventy years ago my mother was a fifteen year old high-school student, my father a 26-year old flanker for the Orepuki rugby team, and I was seven years away from existence. As a consequence, this is my first full-moon-winter-solstice (if the facts about the full moon are correct, that is. It gets a mite complicated when half the world is experiencing a different kind of solstice to the other half. Maybe it's only half of seventy years ago? I'll stop. I'm only confusing myself).

One thing I am sure about: it's Dunedin's mid-winter carnival tonight - food stalls and a lantern parade, followed by fireworks. My son and his family are taking part in the lantern parade, so we will be there on the sidelines to watch the display - which is always beautiful.

Writing for me at the moment consists of poetry and book reviews. 'Craggan Dhu: (Part One's) ' first draft is slowly becoming a second draft, but still with a ways to go. Like me seventy years ago, maybe - except the novel is far more substantial than just a twinkle in my father's eye!

Really hanging out for that week away in a cottage with no interruptions, appointments, duties or distractions of any kind. Just a grindstone with my nose attached.


Sunday, 12 June 2016

Low Tide Waltz

seagulls and black-backed gulls

gulls over Andersons Bay inlet

winter leaves

Dear Reader,

Another walk to the inlet to see what I could come up with for the #30DaysWild challenge.

At present here, low tide is around 4.00 - 5.00 pm. Despite the inlet not being as attractive as it is at high tide, an ebbing tide does expose the interesting workings of the inlet's underbelly, and never fails to provide entertainment of the avian variety.

Yesterday at dusk, the gulls were indulging in a feeding frenzy. Possibly the result of a glut of mackerel. The inlet can resemble a simmering pot when the mackerel are in and jumping.

My favourite birds to watch diving for food, are the terns. There were no terns to be seen today. Black-backed gulls do throw their weight around, so it's reasonable to assume that the more slightly-built terns are wary.

As I watched the aerial waltz-moves of the gulls, the *music playing through my headphones provided an apt theme tune for the visuals. It was a sweet moment.

* 'Paris, Texas', Ry Cooder followed by 'All Alright', Sigur Ros

Closer to home, the leaves of a tree at the bottom of our driveway caught my eye. The green leaves on the tree seem to indicate a tree reluctant to admit that it is mid-winter. However, today's fall in temperature may hasten the tree to take a reality check. There is snow in the air, I can smell it. Enough to turn any green leaf yellow.


Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ginkgo Leaves at Day's Ebb

the skin-like tones on the bole of eucalyptus tree

dusk over Andersons Bay inlet

sun sinks behind Dunedin city

two ducks on a sunset-stained inlet

Dunedin sunset

Dear Reader,

As part of the 30 Days Wild (a UK nature challenge I'm taking part in from way over on the other side of the world) I took the camera to the inlet just down the road and snapped some shots of a winter early-evening (or late-afternoon, depends whether you are a glass half full or glass half empty kind of person, I guess).

Alert to any sign of wildness in the city, I noted leaves plastered to the footpath. They looked like fallen stars. From their shape, I identified one lot as maple. Another group reminded me of ginkgo leaves I'd seen in Japan. They're easy to identify because they look so much like fans. ... I wondered if I was correct in my identification. I wanted to take photos of the leaves, but there was a woman washing her car at the maples and a group of young people playing basketball close to the ginkgo leaves. I feel far too self-conscious to take photos when there are people about. I just know that they'd wonder what the weird woman was doing.

I saw a flock of birds suddenly fly off, looking like the pieces of an exploded umbrella.

A smudgy-faced ginger cat; no doubt waiting for its owners imminent return home from work; greeted me with a single, plaintive mew.

I heard ululating black-backed gulls. Smelt the mud from an inlet laid bare by the low tide. I saw to the right, a pale new moon in a blue patch of sky, and to the left, the sun fast losing its grip on the southern hemisphere.

I stopped to watch two ducks, trailing placid, silver, v-shaped lines in their wake. Such peaceful birds. I stood there a while, gathering in the calm that often falls at day's ebb. (Just writing that last sentence, makes me feel like an 18th century poet. At that moment I wanted to be an 18th century poet. For one second, I was an 18th century poet).

Then, back to being just an ordinary, 21st century, older-middle-aged woman (just how do you describe someone aged somewhere between middle-aged and elderly anyway? Old? Somehow I'm just not ready to describe myself thus. Not yet.) I set off again, along the gravel track which today was full of glinting, moon-shaped puddles. Every so often I had to duck off to the side to let a homeward-bound cyclist go past. It's a popular area for dog owners as well and I passed a few dogs taking their owners for walks.

I'm sure that having the '30 Days Wild' on my mind meant I saw things I wouldn't have noticed otherwise. The old birds-nest in a bare-branched tree, for example, and the roses leaning against a garage wall, pink and staunch and still going strong, despite it being June. And then there was the five native trees along the boundary line below our driveway; splendidly pulling off their cool, winter looks.

Just as I reached home, my friend and neighbour, N. called out. She asked me if I was going to the Regent Book Sale (a regular, iconic Dunedin event) and would I like to go with her tomorrow? At first I said no, as I am going to go in on Saturday morning. Afterwards, I changed my mind, thinking, why not? Surely both the event and myself can handle two visits?

Going wild at a 24-hour Book Sale, sounds just like my cup of tea.


Saturday, 4 June 2016

Wild Idea

Wind-fish; a gift from a Japanese student (Yuki) who stayed with us in 1998. A little worse for wear now. It used to chime when it was windy, but we found the sound a mite annoying, so one wild, windy night, it was cut free of its metal tongue. 
It was lost in our garden for many years, until our daughter-in-law (also from Japan as it turns out) found it this year, when it was re-instated to something akin to its former glory; hanging from a branch and once more (except this time, silently) reminding us of greetings from Japan.

mossy branch

 purple polyanthus

prism & rainbow 

Dear Reader,

From the other side of the world, I am taking part in this - a UK challenge to a 30-day focus on nature through the month of June.

This is their description:

30 Days Wild is a campaign which challenges you to do something wild every day in June. That’s 30 days and 30 random acts of wildness!

Harder to complete in winter, I daresay, but the idea appealed to me. Any blog posts this month will reflect this '30-days Wild' theme.

One of the ideas is to leave part of your garden to grow wild. In my case that is not going to be difficult. In fact you could say, it has already been well and truly achieved.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Reflected in a Teapot

bedroom mirror and reflections 

bedroom mirror in black and white

twin beds & candlewick bedspreads 

lamp-stand with fringed lightshade

bookshelf 1

bookshelf 2

coffee cups on holder

coffee mugs on wooden hooks

reflected in a teapot 

salt & pepper shakers 

mantle clock and two scotties 

decorated vase

fabric roses

Dear Reader,

After my mother died, two years ago now, we had to clear her home of her possessions; a sad task. Part of the sadness involved the necessary and permanent disassembling of a home's personality and heart.

This reminder of impermanence may have been on my mind last weekend when I stayed with my aunty (my mother's sister) and the reason why I took the photos shown above, of some of the things that to me seemed to reflect her home's particular personality.
The personalities of homes interest me; but not the House and Garden variety of home so much as homes that by their very nature, show a devotion to the personality of their owners.

Like people, there are no two homes alike.



'how this all harbours light'