Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Poetry Reading, Winton

'Creamota Dan' on the wall of Gore's historic Flemings mill, now no longer used to make rolled oats ...
After the reading in Gore was over and we'd thanked Penelope and the Gore library for all their support and enthusiasm, it was time for lunch. Penelope recommended the Green Room cafe; a cafe situated in part of St James Theatre.

Gore Gardens 
To have lunch there seemed as appropriate as our dinner at Howl at the Moon the night before. Jenny's mother and my mother had both worked in picture theatres. I had just read a poem at the reading that made reference to my mother's employment in the late 60's, making ice creams at Gore's St James Theatre. However the Green Room's popularity meant there were no tables left for us. We ended up having lunch on the top floor of that good old Southland institution, H&J Smiths. We took a table by the window that looked out over Gore's tidy streets with their hanging flower baskets.

... Gore's Main Street; this photo was taken at a different time, one an early autumn day ...
After a light and tasty lunch, it was time to head off to Winton for the second poetry-reading event on Jenny and my (J&K Rolling's) Southland Whistle-stop Tour. We had a little over an hour to get there. As we passed through the riverside town of Mataura, I realised that from now on, this plain, functional meat works and paper works town, had been transformed for me by Jenny's 'Southland poetry'; in particular her poem where she imagines Marilyn Monroe in Mataura.

... Jenny reading her poetry in Gore library ...
The turn off to Winton took us into the heartland of Southland, or Central Southland as it is known. Like Otago (and other provinces in New Zealand) Southland is divided up into the points of the compass: Southern, Western Southland, Eastern Southland, Northern Southland and Central Southland. I don't know if it's as defined now, but back when I grew up in Southland, each district had its own distinct character.

... road in Orepuki, Western Southland
Western Southland (where I spent the first ten years of my life) had an early history of gold-mining and settling the land. Occupations were largely connected to services such as the railway, dairy factories etc. and forestry, fishing and farming (dairy and mixed-farming) were well established. Both the residents and the land, sported a wild, south-coast rigour. Strong, affable communities were made up of descendants of early settlers from Scotland, England and Ireland, as well as tangata whenua; they were tough people with a robust sense of humour, who knew how to both live and play hard. In the 1960's, rugby and netball (called basketball back then) were the established main sports. As well as sport, the church, the pub, horse-racing, hunting, fishing and community groups and networks were important.

When we moved from our little town of Orepuki, Western Southland to Otama Valley in Northern Southland, it was like moving to a different country.

The wild coastal flavour was replaced by a light-filled and gentle inland landscape of rolling hills; tussock-covered at the top; surrounded by tidy and verdant plains. Rivers cut across these plains and at that time were clean and good for swimming and fishing. (These days, because of the run-off from dairy farming, the rivers struggle to remain clean - it is a New Zealand-wide problem). The farming tended to be crops, with sheep and cattle farming. In contrast to the more rugged, working-class Western Southlander, Northern Southlanders appeared a little more refined and prosperous. Around where we lived, for example, there were clusters of good-living, church-going people who didn't drink or party. 

... a dog called Tussock ...
In Northern Southland, horse racing and deer hunting, was replaced by gymkhanas and dog trials. Basketball wasn't played either; instead it was hockey. I was forced to put my treasured basketball away and instead take up a hockey stick. Not that I minded. The weather too was different - more definite: sunny and dry in summer and frosty and snowy in the winter.  

Behind Orepuki, Western Southland, looking towards Princess Range  ...
As Jenny and I motored towards Winton, I tried to describe to her some of these characteristics of Southland as I knew it back in the sixties.
Deep, green paddocks flashed by us as we zipped along country roads largely empty of traffic. Then before we knew it, there we were in Winton – but where was the library?

... typical shop-fronts in small town New Zealand ...
Once we found the library, we were treated to another friendly, warm greeting; this time by librarian, Raewyn Patton. Again, just as in Gore, we were overwhelmed by the work that had gone into highlighting and promoting the event. When we saw the banner Raewyn had made and put up for us, we were tickled pink! How kind that was and how good it made us feel – we felt both valued and (I hope this doesn't sound too twee) rather humbled.

As in Gore, the people were open, unassuming and attentive listeners, with some takers for the Open Mic. A portion of the audience were made up of regular members of 'Bookworms' - a community writing and reading group run by the library. The Open Mic. segment of the programme was opened by a particularly stunning, very powerful poem, written collaboratively on-line, it was about bullying. It was read out by one of the poem's writers, a senior high school student. 

We were leaving Winton feeling encouraged and welcomed.
Before we left, we had a look around Merv and Milly's – a fashion outlet shop as both of us wanted to buy something as a memento of Winton and its warm reception.

From here it was a short trip through misty drizzle, into the city of Invercargill. We settled into our accommodation, catching up on the news of the Seddon / Wellington earthquakes and meeting up with Rebecca Amunsden in Zookeepers Cafe. She was our Invercargill contact and had organised our reading event in Invercargill for the next day, Saturday.

to be cont'd ...


Katherine Dolan said...

Loving this tour -- the wealth of memories connected to place, beautiful images in bright NZ sunlight, cosy libraries and the memory of your voices. Almost as good as being there!

J.T. Webster said...

What a shame you couldn't get a seat at The Green Room cafe. Ross and I always lunch there when we drop Tabitha off to camp. Their food is delicious!
Your tour sounds lots of fun! I'm enjoying reading about it.

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