Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Beached

Start as you mean to go on ... a country girl in the city is often how I see myself ... I notice the one foot standing firm, the other looking like I want to leave. Divided I stand.


On New Year's Eve we set off for a week's holiday in Kakanui - a small beachside town where our son and daughter in law and their small daughter now live. 

The beach there is interesting for what the ocean throws up on to the sand. All the more interesting this time because of flood detritus that had been tipped into the sea at the river mouth, ending up on the shore.



This log however, has been beached for some time. It looked to us as though an insect of some description has been using the smoothed, weather-bleached bark to draw on.


An interesting arrangement of wrack.


No, not a UFO ...




Just down the road from Kakanui, is Moeraki beach, famous for its boulders. They are a geological phenomenon where spherical stones are formed inside clay, a bit like a pearl inside an oyster.




And then just up the road, there is the Totara Estate, a historical site showcasing the farm where in the late 1800's, New Zealand's first frozen meat shipments were planned, organised, managed, produced and launched. From here, frozen mutton (some pork, some beef) was shipped to England, heading for the London markets and providing a welcome financial injection for New Zealand farming industry at that time.


Totara Estate provides a fascinating history and peek into times past, with the added novelty of a jocular, knowledgeable tour guide, and waiting staff  dressed in 19th century costumes, ready to take us on a tour and if we so desired, serve us tea and scones.
Because of Covid, it was very quiet. Usually the place would be bustling with tourists. We saw 'what the tourists see' - something that has been made more readily available to us kiwis since Covid has closed our borders to visitors.



Shepherd's delight. 
A sunset to mark the end of one decade and the beginning of another. Hoping for more delights rather than warnings through 2021. 
We can only hope. 


The last photo on my camera for 2020. I thought it appropriate. A symbol for 2020, when we all ducked for cover from Covid. 

Saturday, 19 December 2020

Cool Change

yellow poppy caught out

Robert and I left city limits for a blast of Central Otago - his heart's home. I asked him if he'd like to live there again and he said he wouldn't be averse, but is happy in Dunedin - our oft-grey, moody little city of choice.

This range is known locally as the Sleeping Nun. Looking from the left you can see the side profile of a sleeping nun - her wimple, forehead, nose and chin. Full scale, the rest of her prone figure can be traced in an outline against the sky.



Queenstown, was Robert's childhood home. However a lot has happened to it since he was born there in the 1950's. Over the decades since then, it has become a popular tourist destination with visitors from all over the world coming to holiday here. A population explosion transformed (for better or worse) the sleepy little town he knew into a flash, upmarket resort full of hotels and restaurants. Since we got together in the 70's, I too have witnessed Queenstown's growth from (when I first got to know it) a rustic, burgeoning tourist spot, into the hectic, full-blown resort it is now.




A railway line for the steam train Kingston Flyer, presently un-used.

Kingston at the southern end of Lake Wakatipu, is a small town - fast becoming a dormitory town for people working in Queenstown - and where we spent a night, before travelling on to Queenstown the next day. We had our evening meal at the Flyer Cafe there. The meals we ordered were so large, we ended up sharing one meal and taking the other (a large pizza) home to eat the next day.



We are always astounded at how soon we can enter a totally different climate and environment in this country full of micro climates. Three hours after leaving our coastal city, known for its cool temperatures, surf beaches and lush, green hills, we can arrive in Central Otago and a completely different landscape of dry hills, blue lakes, mountains and vineyards ... and with a temperature change that in summer can be ten to twelve degrees warmer. 

We don't visit Central as often as we used to when R's parents were still living in Queenstown - which they did for over sixty years. Time moves on and parents die or (as in the case of R's mother) need to be cared for elsewhere. It had been six months since our last visit. Which seems a very long time when you're used to shorter spaces between visits.

We felt quite emotional being back among the mountains.

In the background, the Remarkables mountain range and Lake Wakatipu.

After spending a bit of time in Queenstown and marvelling at how refreshingly, yet eerily, quiet the town was because of there being so few tourists, we drove through the Kawarau Gorge to Cromwell, experiencing such hot temperatures we had to find a cool spot under a tree beside Lake Dunstan, before deciding a cold beer is what we really craved.



Lunch (the pizza from last night) in Arrowtown by the river. Another favourite spot. Peaceful and shady.

Swing bridge, Whitechapel

We were doing the round trip: Dunedin to Gore (to visit Robert's mother there) then Kingston, Queenstown, Arrowtown, Cromwell and back to Dunedin through the Fruitlands of Roxburgh and Ettrick, stopping off in Millers Flat to see my brother and sister in law there, before heading back to the Pacific Ocean coast, the weather usually getting cooler (and sometimes) greyer by the kilometre. 

Poppies by a stone wall at Johnson's Orchard in Roxburgh - a local orchardist I highly recommend. They have an honesty system where you are trusted to use the till if you need change; or pay by eftpos if you know how to operate the machine (instructions provided.) I bought some delicious peaches and cherries there.

While in Roxburgh R played a round of golf while I pottered about the town and environs, exploring what shops and cafes they had available (most of the cafes closed, because again; no tourists) in this small Teviot valley town perched beside the mighty Clutha river and looked down upon by craggy, rocky hills. I paid a visit to the cemetery there, being a fan of country town cemeteries.




I titled this photo 'Angel Under A Cloud.' The dark clouds above the town a portent of the rain we ran into farther down the road. Even so, the weather was calm and warm.

At the cemetery the only other (living) person there was a young woman on a ride-on mower mowing the grass between plots. She gave me a friendly wave as I left. 

After Lawrence and the dreadful dark and winding Manuka Gorge (not my most favourite part of the trip between Central and Dunedin) we knew we would hit rain. We could only laugh. We'd had our top up of Central sunshine and so we happily headed back home into Dunedin's cool change.



Sunday, 29 November 2020

Whatever Bubbles Up


It does help to have a beach to walk along when trying to motivate yourself to go for a walk. 


The seagulls seemed to be having a party. They were very interested in what they could see in the outgoing tide.




Kelp always gets my interest. 

Niwa is an anagram for New Zealand's 'National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research' scientific organisation. Their climate outlook for November to January says marine heatwave conditions may develop in the ocean surrounding New Zealand, with air temperatures very likely to be above average in all regions of the country.

Rainfall is most likely to be near normal in the north of the North Island and about equally likely to be near normal or below normal for all remaining regions.

And the tropical cyclone season (November 2020-April 2021) brings elevated risk for New Zealand, Niwa says. 

~*~



Pandemic precautions pressed a button and stopped stuff from happening and then when the  button was released again, the dam burst - maybe in my case just a small dam made by kids with logs in a creek - but what followed was a clutch of poetry readings and associated happenings. 

At the end of it all, I have ended up exhausted.

So time now to sit back and have a think. To sit outside under our kowhai tree and allow nature to act as a salve. 






Speaking of trees and who doesn't like speaking of trees, I'm looking forward to getting into some family tree research in 2021. Hoping it will lead to more writing - poetry or prose, who knows? Hopefully both. I'm open to whatever emerges. 

Whatever bubbles up to the surface from my mind's primordial mud. 


Friday, 13 November 2020

Some Rain



'Into each life some rain must fall' Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In Aotearoa / New Zealand we continue to swing back and forth between minor outbreaks of Covid and Levels of protection. Recently all known cases have come from quarantined New Zealanders returning home.  Six weeks ago, after a community outbreak in Auckland, the whole country went back into Level Two and Auckland - our largest city - went into lockdown for two weeks.

Breaking news today is another community case recorded in Auckland that cannot be traced back to the border or to quarantine facilities.

This is worrying. Auckland may have to once again go into lockdown. The country may have to go into Level Two or Three. This is a continual worry or threat. We are grateful that we can go about 'business as usual' while a lot of the rest of the world cannot. But we cannot afford to get complacent. Not until there's an antidote made available - and realistically, that could be a year or two away.

Meanwhile we continue in this fragile state. We are encouraged to use the tracing app and to wear masks and to practise social distancing when in crowded spaces. But from my observation the old Kiwi 'she'll be right mate' syndrome is prevailing. I have yet to see more people than myself using the app when I enter a shop etc. and sometimes to be honest, I forget too. And as for masks. Along with the rest of the world, we are not fans. They have yet to become common, everyday, every place attire in New Zealand. However, after the community outbreak case picked up in Auckland yesterday, I will be donning one when I board the plane north next week.


I have struck a bit of a (very welcome) lull after a really busy period. Most of the busy-ness was a result of follow up to the launch of my poetry book, Upturned. This involved poetry readings mainly. Some readings were organised and then had to be cancelled and / or postponed as we ducked and dived between Covid precautions and restrictions.  A certain amount of gather also happened as postponed events and new events clumped together after restrictions were lifted. The opportunity to use what time was available before another restriction arrived, was grasped at, causing almost a backlog of events suddenly released like water in a dam.


  

Through all of this activity, I travelled to Wellington, staying there for nearly a month, giving me time to catch up with my brother and sister there and to promote my latest poetry book, Upturned. It was a chance to get together with my publisher and editor, Mary McCallum and her team at The Cuba Press. There was a buzz and an energy to it all which I enjoyed and appreciated.

However, near to the end of my stay, this exciting time full of pleasant activity and sights was marred by the sudden death of my brother in law while I was staying with him and my sister. I still can't quite take in that this actually happened. He suffered a heart attack and was taken to hospital by ambulance, but had another heart attack while there and didn't recover. 


I and another sister plan to travel up to Wellington next week to stay for a few days with our bereaved sister to support her a bit more at this deeply traumatic time. I say 'plan to' because in these days with the possibility of Covid popping up unexpectedly, any plans by necessity are subject to the possibility of a community outbreak somewhere, someplace, and the subsequent precautions of disruption and cancellations. 


The sudden death of my brother in law has shaken me, as any sudden shocking event does. Things fall into perspective (I very quickly sorted out priorities from side-line concerns.) The present moment becomes more meaningful. Family / whanau takes precedence. 


I did have a literary festival to attend as I was part of one of the events, and my sister urged me to keep to that commitment. I felt bad leaving her but was reassured she'd be okay as she had her daughter with her and other family members close by. However, my heart really wasn't in the excitement that a literary festival creates. Especially one that was able to be held during Covid, making it extra special and unique. My capacity for delight was only able to rise to the halfway mark before it hit the sadness I felt for my sister. The shock hadn't worn off and I was getting flashbacks (and continue to even now, three weeks on.) 

This half-happy, half-sad state remains. But I am not in no rush to evict it. It is simply part of the process of recovery - a process I intend to let happen as it should, naturally and in its own time. I am tending towards keep a low profile (keeping my head down) during this recovery time. Probably a good thing - that way maybe in a funny way, Covid and its repercussions cannot take any pot shots.


All of the above photos were taken a day or two before my brother in law died and reflect his and my sister's locality. They were taken on a sunny day when we walked along the beach. A day when we had no idea what was around the corner. Like everything in life.

All the more reason to 'Stay with the ragged joy of ordinary living and dying ' (Donna Haraway)


Update: So far the community case is being contained and Auckland did not have to enter any precautionary alert levels. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Hope



The cover of my new poetry book, Upturned. Launched on June 25th.

So much has happened since I last wrote here. 
We have been in and now out of Lockdown and seemingly a haven free of Covid (for now?) 
Cases are arriving from overseas daily and everyone who arrives is quarantined for two weeks. Most of those arriving are New Zealanders arriving back home from India, Europe, America, England, Australia ...

In other news (see above) I have had a new poetry book published. My fourth - this one with a new publisher. The books are available to order and / or buy from the publisher at The Cuba Press. 

At the same time, I have published a novel. Talk about a tiger for punishment! 


This book is available from Books Amazon 

These are odd times with us feeling cut adrift from the rest of the world, living in our own bubble. 

The world is falling into autumn and we are about to spring into Spring. Still wary of community outbreaks and of having to create safe borders wherever there is (if ever there is) another outbreak.





The small wax eyes love the sugar water and the sugar and oatmeal mixture I put out for them.



As Spring approaches I can’t help but wonder what’s the summer ahead going to be like? 
Hoping for the best, I’ve booked a week’s stay by the beach from New Years Eve on. 



It’s all we can do isn’t it? Hope. As the seasons change and the days grow longer, hope doesn’t seem such a bad thing.

I hope all of you and yours are okay, wherever you are in these troubled times. 

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Not Reading


A view from my writing room.

A view I am looking at a lot in these days as self-isolation. I am not 70 yet, but near enough to it to warrant feeling concerned when I venture out into the community. In Aotearoa, seventy-year olds and older are being urged to stay home.

My country is on National Alert Level Two for the Corona Virus. We haven't had any deaths (or even anyone in Intensive Care units) so far. But the virus has now travelled from just affecting those who have arrived on our shores from infected countries, to manifesting in the general community (two cases). So far we have 67 cases reported.

We are a lot better off than most of the planet. So far.

Our population is nearly five million. We are an island (well three or four islands in fact) so we can shut borders fairly easily. And they have been shut. Cruise ships have been a concern as these weren't monitored well enough two or three weeks ago. The horse may have bolted there as passengers who disembarked could well have been carriers. Now they too aren't permitted to dock.

I haven't moved far for a whole week and family who live close by, have also largely remained home.
It is scary, but life does go on as we negotiate around this outbreak. Everyone in my wider family still have their jobs. We are concerned for family overseas, but thankful for video contact with them. They are well and safe.

For me, it is not a great change to self-isolate. Normally, I do not venture out much anyway. However, I do enjoy meeting friends for coffee, going to the movies and I help out with a Church-run pre-school, music playgroup each week. These activities are curtailed for the foreseeable future. As a writer, being shut-in is no bad thing. Even so, I have found it hard to settle to writing when there is muted panic happening all around.

I am doing crosswords, watching Netflix, but surprisingly, not reading. However, when I do begin to read again, I am thinking that the many books on our bookshelves will be a good place to start.

When I am in the midst of writing - as I am at the moment with my fourth poetry book getting ready to be published (more on that later) - reading isn't to the forefront. I tend to not read when I am writing. And vice versa.

My book is nearly ready to be sent off to the printers. It is my fourth poetry collection. Exciting! But as I am finding out, this being my first ever pandemic, such excitement is clouded by the limits that being in the midst of a pandemic causes A normal launch is out of the question. A virtual launch may be possible, however. (I wonder if it will stretch to holograms?)

A major disappointment has been the postponement of Aotearoa / New Zealand's poet laureate toktoko event. (At least it's not cancelled like many other musical and writerly events.) I'm disappointed about this mostly for David Eggleton (our newly appointed laureate) but also for myself, because along with two other poets - Jenny Powell and Michael O'Leary - we are at the invitation of David, to be support poets at the ceremony - a huge privilege.

Despite the disappointments and restrictions to freedoms and privileges (formerly taken for granted) I remain thankful for many, many things. The blessings far outweighing the curses. And it's easy to be thankful when we have a Prime Minister who ends her address to the nation (the first such address delivered in this country in my living memory) by telling her people to be strong and to be kind. I'll give it my best shot.

Take care out there!


Monday, 3 February 2020

Local Focal


A very Victorian Presbyterian church on the corner. This church is now empty - not because of disinterest, but because it didn't pass the earthquake standards and its congregation couldn't afford the requirements needed. The fate of many such churches in New Zealand.


Across the road from the church, this view over the inlet and the more distant harbour. This is the view from a neighbourhood cafe we like to frequent. Its name, Bistro on the Terminus, alludes to the fact that its location is the site of where once upon a time the trams would begin and end their journeys.


It makes me feel happy if, rather than trawling into centre city and the malls for what I need, I can do it all locally, in my local suburb - in my little corner of the city. That way, it feels like the larger corporations and chains aren't getting it all their way.

Beached

Start as you mean to go on ... a country girl in the city is often how I see myself ... I notice the one foot standing firm, the other looki...