Monday, 1 February 2016

Planned Neglect


Round hay bales in paddocks at Morton Mains - looking towards Hokonui hills in the distance. 

This is the district where my great-grandmother Alison Butler (nee Riddell / Riddle) was born

Hoping to make some sort of connection, with the area, my aunty and I made a visit to where her grandmother (my great-grandmother) spent the first seven years of her life, before moving to the southern coastal town of Orepuki, where she lived out the rest of her life.

It is a rather nondescript place (plain, comes to mind - maybe because of its flatness). It is a place of quietness. Yet, I sensed a depth in the silence of the land where the straight roads; crossroads, fence-lines and railway line moving through, mark a starting point; a potential spring-board for many futures. 
Morton Mains is a place of plains, of straight lines. Even its name hints at a stand being made for measurement. 
Even thought the definite is marked out here in the form of road-signs, hedge-rows, gates, straight-as-a-dye flax-plantings and sunken roadside verges; I sensed an eerie indefinite; of possibilities; of a constrained freedom; of something more, just off to the right, or to the left, or straight ahead.
My aunty was particularly impressed with the fact that it was possible to see across the plains right over to the Hokonui Hills, where at the foothills, her hometown of Gore is situated. 

X marks the spot ... was this a sign that here is where my great-grandmother once stood looking out to a future horizon?
(It is in fact a marker for European and American tourists to keep to the correct side of the road. In New Zealand, we drive on the left).

My aunty and I travelled on to where our grandmother & great-grandmother also moved on - to a road that leads to the Longwoods - a range of hills forested in native trees; now protected, but not before the bush below its foothills, was turned into rolling pastures

Looking over towards Te Waewae Bay and Foveaux Strait at the back of Orepuki



Another day, different weather, different location and with different people ... a wander around a cemetery ...

A row of toadstools - poisonous. 
We have very few edible fungi in New Zealand, but the ones that are edible, the field mushrooms, are very tasty and often free for the picking

From where we were staying, for the first two days, we looked out over a rather rainy camping ground and bay at Moeraki 

A visit to nearby Oamaru. This vintage truck is parked in the historical, harbourside precinct of the town of Oamaru, where most of the buildings are made from a type of limestone that has come to be known as Oamaru stone. This area of the town has been slowly transformed into an artisan area, with many of the large store-houses and warehouses converted into art galleries and studios.

At dusk we went to a spot where it was possible to see seals and yellow-eyed penguins settling down for the night. (Failing light meant that the penguin shots didn't turn out).

An even closer encounter the next day at a place farther along the coast ... Needless to say, we swiftly moved ourselves away ...

The rocks were festooned with fauna of the flipper-kind ...

... and the feathered kind ... (in this case, spotted shags)

Yarrow & yellow lichen

Petite perfection


An ocean of grass 

On our way home, we called into a forested area with caves and rock formations. Looking up from our spot in the sun, where we were watching out for birds, we spotted this grotesque rock.


Dear Reader,

I have started the year firmly focused on finishing the novel I am in the middle of.
Unlike other years, when from February on, the year skewered off into all sorts of other directions never to right itself again, this year I am committed to keeping it fixed on course.
I shall treat it like a yacht, with myself as the solo yachtie. I will do my best (failing the occasional unexpected squall) to follow the course as charted and in this way, reach my destination - in this case, a finished first draft ready for shaping into readiness for publication.
Rather than set myself the impossible task of working on my book every day, I have worked out a time-table of planned neglect. That is, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I shall neglect everything else that is not to do with writing my book.
I've called it the T.W.T. Offensive.
On my neglectful days (Tues.Wed.Thurs.) I shall take myself off where no-one can find me - to un-disclosed locations - where I shall immerse myself in the quiet world of my novel and its characters.
By giving myself permission to be neglectful, I can relax into my writing days, knowing anything else that needs to be done; the urgent and the important; the needful and the necessary; can be done on Mondays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; four whole days to pay attention - which, by the way, I think is extremely generous of me.


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Good Press

twisted tree trunks, Bannerman Park, Gore; wrestling for the right to light

black and green to offset the black and blue of town-bashing 

Let me explain the comment under the photo above:
Somewhere in the bombastic 1990's, Gore received an un-deserved bad rap, brought on largely by a few cheap, throwaway, 'shoot from the lip' descriptions by a couple of 'small-town bashers'; city types; quick-fire McGuire-TV 'stars'; fast-talkers from the North Island; who during a nationwide, TV-documentary run through New Zealand's hinterland - claimed (on-camera) that they'd been bullied and ran out of town by local hoons in cars with rear windows missing. (Possibly, by local hoons who could spot a mile off, bullshit and condescending, pretentious prats).
Once safely out of Gore's borders, the TV made a meal out of this footage (such as it was) and got their revenge by giving the whole town of Gore a bad reputation - one that the rest of New Zealand seemed to swallow.

 secret garden; Bannerman Park, Gore

The hoons were ratbags and deserved to be shown up for the nasty types they were, but it was unfair of the TV presenters to to paint ALL of Gore with the same brush. They revelled in the material they got from the experience - of course - it was TV gold.
The good people of Gore just had to grin and bear all the jibes that followed (for years).
Not  that Gore allowed the cheap shots to take the power. They've got bigger shoulders than that. They just got on with living the good life that Gore offers and trusting that if the rest of New Zealand care to check it out for themselves, they could see for themselves: that life in Gore is good.

 cemetery outlook towards Hokonui hills; Gore, Southland, New Zealand

Gore has a sporting culture that has always been a strong one. However, my interests don't lie there; I'm more your 'Culture Vulture' and I can report that on that front this town is thriving. Among many other virtues in this area, the town has a renowned art gallery, a modern library, a privately-owned picture theatre that is on the Film Festival circuit and a fashion industry that is fast-developing.
Gore is also looking great, with its main street (looking wide, clean and neat) lined with attractive, well-maintained flower-baskets.
Whenever I arrive in Gore, or drive through; I am always impressed by its buzz and sense of purpose; the unpretentious energy evident on its streets.

statuesque skyline; Gore cemetery

During my walk around the town while taking the photos featured in this post, I was greeted several times by friendly, cheerful Gore folk who wished me a good day and I in turn, wished them one back.
Anyone with half a brain can see there's more to this town than just the few bad eggs that are in every town; a few stereotypes; a few cheap jokes. I lived in this lovely town for a couple of years in the late sixties when it offered solace and healing. It is a great place - and becoming even greater, because the people who care about Gore, are proud of it. Gore is good.   

Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year Gold

Playground early evening; Queenstown, New Zealand 

Dear Reader,

I write this from my husband's birth-place in Queenstown, New Zealand; appropriately enough for the day that I write these words, is his sixty-first birthday. We are celebrating it (as we as a couple have done most years now for the past forty years) with extended family. 

This year it is the first birthday without his father, who passed away early spring this year. As his mother has stated a couple of times, we keep expecting any minute to see him appear. It still feels very early days since his death.

I am also missing my mother, who died a year and a half ago. I miss her especially on those occasions when family matters - such as birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day, Christmas and New Year.

Thankfully, the strength we have inherited from our parents, stands us in good stead when the time comes to weather the grief of their passing. 

up the creek and among the lupins with daughter-in-law and grandchildren

Robert's 61st birthday pavlova

our daughter-in-law from Japan made omurice (requested by Robert) for the birthday dinner 


Home again and time to look ahead to a new year.

writing desk awaits

New Year's eve wine and Christmas lilies - for me, the smell of these lilies always announce Christmas - New Year more than anything else does

I have high hopes for this new year. (Maybe it'll be a year of striking gold; metaphorically speaking).

Robert, our daughter-in-law and grandchildren, gold-panning in a creek by the Arrow river - more practice than anything else as the chances of finding gold in a subsidiary flow, is unlikely

symbolic - new leaf with gold-seekers in background

Last year was a year of letting go and farewells. Even our cat, Aggie died! (As she was aged 17, she'd had a good run).

We also had to say good-bye to our car, Ruby. Our new car is a white station-wagon we call Shiro - the Japanese word for 'white'. This time I believe the car is a male and I've dubbed it, 'Shiro my Hero'. Because they were parked for a short time beside each other in the car sales yard, I am trusting that Ruby took the opportunity to pass on to Shiro her mantle of a well-behaved and reliable machine. (Yes, Robert thinks I'm crazy too!)

by the Arrow river, Arrowtown, NZ

Another farewell - in June, after they'd spent autumn with us, we bade adieu to our son, his German partner and their baby daughter, when they headed back to Germany. (Thank the good Lord for Skype).

Also that month, we moved out of what has been our home for 20 years, which meant packing away a lot of 'extra stuff' into boxes and storing them in the garage.

We are now happily transplanted into our new apartment downstairs; our son and family living upstairs.

The close proximity of grandchildren has been a novelty and a delight, even if it has meant letting go of what was previously un-interrupted, long lengths of writing time.

pastel-pink lupin growing wild

I wonder what the year ahead will bring? I'm hoping for some good writing time, whatever form this takes.

I will keep you posted.


Friday, 11 December 2015

Glint of Ruby

purple pansies, Granny's garden, Queenstown, New Zealand

Dear Reader,

All of a sudden, it's December again.

Here in New Zealand, that means summer and a summer Christmas. To people in the northern hemisphere, this may seem topsy-turvy, but to us southern-hemisphere dwellers, how we twirl in the universe is just how it is and having Christmas in summer, feels very normal and right. Even though images of snow, holly, sleighs and roast-meat meals followed by plum-duff puddings are somewhat out of synch with our summer season, we have adapted.

sweet peas against schist rock, Queenstown, NZ.

I've had to turn a deaf ear to my novel's murmuring for attention and abandon it for now, as Christmas preparations kick in and I devote my time to making Christmas presents

Why 'make'?

You may well ask.

I am posting the explanation below, via a newspaper article that appeared in our local newspaper.


rock garden, Queenstown, NZ

The presents I am making for Christmas involve sewing seams by hand. Back stitch is the preferred stitch; superior to tacking, it edges forward, then heads back to double-check that all is well; all is anchored; before making its next advance.
In this way, the sturdy and reliable back-stitch creates its own momentum of insurance.
As I stitch and when all is working together as it should, save any knots or glitches, the silver needle starts to fly and I can't help but think of how life too is a mixture of going forward, then checking to secure the present to the past before progressing farther.


Who knew that ruby sand was even a thing?

Last month I attended a sesquicentennial in a special place (which I have talked about often before, but this time will leave un-named).
It is a place by the sea that is my heart's home. Hallowed ground. For me, it is ancestral ground and my feet never stand as firmly as when I am standing in that place.

And in this place, it is possible to find ruby sand.

I never knew there was such a thing, but during the sesquicentennial celebrations, a woman came and sat down beside my aunt and me and during our conversation with her, quietly produced two minute phials filled with the dark-red glint of ruby sand. She explained what it was and how it is procured and then proceeded to offer the phials to us, as gifts. As tokens of our brief return home.

This ruby sand is sure to make an appearance in my novel - even if only to prove that happenstance forms a major part of any writing. (Even lamenting novels that have found themselves languishing on the back-burner until Christmas is over).

And how I want Christmas to be over.

There are aspects about it that I enjoy, but it always feels so good when it is all over for another year, taking with it all its accompanying, manufactured hooplah.

For it seems to me that for nearly a century now, the commercialisation of Christmas has caused the whole season to go insane - to lose its reason. But I'll leave any in-depth analysis of that particular angle (note, not 'angel') for another time (which may also mean, never).

Take care out there.


ruby-red raspberry, ripening in the sun in Queenstown, NZ


'how this all harbours light'