Friday, 29 December 2006

The Road Back Home

(Please NOTE: All photos used in this post - except the one acknowledged as my own - are from Fickr. Click on each one and the photographer's name will appear.)

We arrived back last night from a short holiday in Queenstown.

New Zealand Queenstown
Originally uploaded by maggi_wlsn.

After a Christmas morning breakfast of bacon and eggs, followed by a traditional-to-our-family port and slice of Christmas cake, we opened our presents to each other. Then ABM and S and I travelled through to Queenstown, ABM's home-town. M &K remained behind; they'd organised themselves to cook Christmas Dinner for a friend who had no other means of having a Christmas meal.

Queenstown has gone from tin-pot town at the head of the lake in the 1950s, to international tourist resort.

NZ : Queenstown Pier
Originally uploaded by Ann64.
We have watched it grow - and still it grows. In the thirty years since I've been going there with ABM to stay with his parents, there has never been an absence of construction work of some description - cranes, earth-movers, white, wooden safety-barriers, orange, safety-netting and piles of gravel are as familiar sights as the mountains and lake. I notice too that some of what was erected thirty years ago, is now being taken down to be replaced with something even flashier.

We, however, are lucky to be able to escape this madness, and relax in peace among the pines and gum trees. This photo I took a couple of years ago shows the view we look out on from my in-laws' home.

The highlights of the holiday were:

(NOT the weather! Which was mixed - but still better than the weather back home in Dunedin ...)

The food: Trout caught by a marauding, boat-y, band of brawny, young-adult, male cuzzies, then victoriously hauled home and smoked on the b'b'q. The Christmas Day dinner of mutton roast, new potatoes swimming in butter, beans, white turnips etc. followed by trad. Christmas Pudd., trifle, pavlova etc. Another meal another night, of Pork roast with trimmings ... And on it goes. (Do I need to explain that ABM's family are foodies!? If you knew what their surname is, you'd laugh as it's rather appropriate.)
* The walk: along the lake's edge to where a new lakeside township is being constructed, along with a fantastic, made-to-order golf course. ('Vairy' exclusive: Hollywood stars buy here. Think: pluty, pluty, pluty.) What a site. Just look at the view.

View from Jacks Point
Originally uploaded by le_sloth.

When us plebs walked around the empty sections, we could hear skylarks. I wonder if it will ever be that quiet again once the houses are built and the 'privileged populace' actually move in? Apart from that 'site'; as we walked, there was the even more impressive 'sight' of the lake and mountains. I was once again impressed by the flora - such as the wild flowers; lupins, daisies, foxgloves, poppies; and the cabbage trees. But no camera to record the sights, as S has borrowed it for his jaunts.
* Son. number 3: Seeing C again after he arrived back in Queenstown from Milford after his stint guiding on the Milford Track. But it was a swift Hi and Bye, as now he's off to a musical festival on the West Coast.
* The trip: from Queenstown over to Wanaka to visit the family I used to be nanny for. They are holidaying there. I hadn't seen them since they moved to the top of the South Island in July. And how I've missed them! I got lots of hugs and greetings. It was especially wonderful to see the youngest boy M. again. I looked after him from when he was six months old until he was two. To get to Wanaka, we drove over the Crown Range, a winding mountain road,

with - once again - wild flowers galore. Especially lupins. Clouds of yellow lupins lining the riverbanks.

And glorious smears of purple and pink lupins beside the road.

Originally uploaded by Peter Sundstrom.
Because this has been a wet spring and summer, everything is especially green and verdant. Hawks also abound. Must be some good tucker for them down among the stalks of grass.

The car-ride: With ABM and my mother-in-law (who is recovering from a serious operation, but recuperating well thankfully) up to the top of Coronet Peak - which in winter is a ski resort. What a stunning view from the top.

View from Coronet Peak
Originally uploaded by I Am Joe.

The visit: On the way home, dropping in to see my brother and sister-in-law and as usual having a good laugh with them before we carried on our way home to Dunedin. What was especially good was them offering to take the car we had to leave at their place on the way through, to a mechanic friend at their local garage. (Yes, car troubles on the way to Queenstown on Christmas Day, meant we had to leave the Alfa at their place, which fortunately for us is halfway between Dunedin and Queenstown. We were also lucky in that we were able to travel the rest of the way to Q'town with S who was driving behind us in the other car.)


It is ABM's birthday today. To celebrate, the five of us had a leisurely lunch at Glenfalloch Gardens where we sat outside. Tall, established trees sheltered us from the pesky breeze chopping up the harbour.

As we are still on holiday, we are enjoying having the time to do such things as listen to cds (KT Tunstall, J.J Cale, Eric Clapton, Nillson, Neil Young, the cd called ' Mad Dogs and Okies' which S gave ABM for a birthday present ...) and watch ABM's Christmas dvd - 'Coffee and Cigarettes'.

I've also got a pile of holiday reading to get through - so far though, I am not making good progress. I am 100 pages only into Haruki Murakami's short story collection, 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.' I don't know if this slow progress is good or bad. It probably means that I'm more active than I'd anticipated.

It's good to be back home. Even if a trifle cold (because, after a glorious morning and early afternoon, it is now a mite chilly.) ABM is cutting kindling for the fire. We are planning a 'night in' watching dvds and reading by the fire. Ummm... remind me again - it's summer, right?

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Boxing On

I am writing this in an internet cafe, the traffic swishing by at my back, like the waves on a beach. Luckily, the real waves of a mountain lake are only seconds away.

Walking down here to the town from where we are staying, I walked along a track with each side strewn with daisies, poppies, lupins, foxgloves and summer grasses with fragrant seedheads - timothy, cocksfoot ... The broom is in flower too and provides a rich, yellow background. Luckily I don't suffer from hayfever, as the scents of the grasses and flowers were particularly strong this morning after last night's rain.

I noticed the foxgloves prefer to grow alone, whereas the lupins prefer to clump close together. I smiled a wry smile as I realised something about myself - I'm more of a foxglove than a lupin.

Friday, 22 December 2006


It was my last day at work yesterday - for the year, and at that particular place. I start another job in the middle of January - looking after a newborn baby. Oh how happy I will be working for myself, yet again; freelance, without the grappling-irons
My daughter and granddaughter were here with us on Wednesday night for our (what has become traditional) own, special pre-christmas dinner and gift unwrapping. Granddaughter (and niece) B as usual kept us amused and entertained with her usual natural aplomb. She is always the Santa and has the job of handing out the presents from under the tree - and does it beautifully. We are putty in her hands. She charms and delights us without missing a beat.

I always say Christmas is busier (harder?) for females than males ... don't hate me males. But it has to be said. There. I've said it. Not grizzling ... just stating.


Only two more days to go and it's Christmas once again - the 54th Christmas I have experienced so far. Put like that, I sound ancient! So why does it feel as if it's only about the twentieth? It's a puzzle.


My Poetry Thursday poem is from my book,'Feeding The Dogs'. I probably chose this one because it makes an allusion to Christmas, but then again it may be because it was just where the book opened.

the rifle

Beautiful shoulder-blade
of honeyed wood
shaped for an iron barrel
of fine, dapper lines
with finger-shaped trigger

kept separated from its bullets
and only taken out to kill
injured or old sheep dogs
or sick cats, or geese at Christmas.
Kept in the dark

propped up in a corner
in the wardrobe
behind Mum's lavender
dress for best, the one
she always wore to the Races

along with the necklace
Dad bought one anniversary
with its fiery, cut-glass beads
spiked with light and sparks
that shoot from her throat.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Jet Skis and Wild Poppies

Californian poppies growing wild at Bannockburn, Central Otago.

On Saturday the 9th, we went through to Bannockburn for ABM's twin nephews' 21st party. Here is a photo I took of Bannockburn and part of Lake Dunstan which was formed when they constructed a dam on the Clutha River.

ABM's sister and husband hired a camping ground for the event. Over a hundred people were there and we were all fed to the max. Some people have a gift where food is concerned - ABM's sister certainly does. She produced platters and platters of it. The hams were massive. I've never seen such gigantic ones. Being farmers, they believe in produce.

The surroundings were stark and brown - Bannockburn proclaims itself as the 'Heart of the Desert', which is a bit of over the top. However, it can fairly be described as bare; but rocky rather than sandy. The rainfall is very low as well and it gets very hot in summer. It is generally described as having Mediterranean temperatures and is a grape-growing area.

The sign is a little misleading though because after the tra-la-la! ... and drumroll please ... there appears to be nothing there!

Wild flowers are growing there in abundance. I couldn't stop taking photos. This photo shows the prevalent Californian poppy. The purple, low-growing flower is wild thyme which covers the hills just like heather covers the hills in Scotland. Being thyme, it fills the air with a smell like the stuffing for a goose! Small, nudging honeybees smother every bush. The pink flower in the background is rose-hip which also clambers over the rough, bare hillsides.

I should've been taking photos of family, but kept getting sidetracked by the flowers.

My favourite part of the weekend was sitting up on a high bank surrounded by a carpet of the fragrant thyme and a profusion of orange and yellow Californian poppies, rose-hip and other lichen and dried-moss-like desert-plants. I perched there looking down on the party guests cavorting in the water and 'doing stuff' with bikes and boats and cars.

This photo is one I took from my perch and shows the carpet of flowers at my feet. The photo looks a little dusty because the car being driven past as I snapped the photo, is churning up a white cloud of dust.

It was warm rather than hot. The party-goers were a crowd not interested in drinking (this is unusual for kiwi 21st parties believe me.) They preferred to be alcohol-free and to just enjoy Lake Dunstan, boating and tearing around dirt roads in cars and on bikes. There was a jet boat, a jet ski and a wave rider as well as an assembly of motor bikes. They were very active.

However, I always think there's something a little ironic about enjoying the countryside - getting away from the city - in order to ride noisy machines. I was more interested in the landscape. I kept escaping from the hustle and bustle and conversation to find quiet spots in which to savour the deep silences, which in a place like that, are never far away.

Back at base, in the kitchen, there were many practical people who liked nothing better than to make salads and generally ensure plates were piled high. I have to say, I always feel slightly out of my depth in such situations. But, I hasten to add - I did my bit. Pulled my weight. Lent a hand.

As we travelled home, I enjoyed seeing the change from Central's brown and bare rocky landscape (Ruth Dallas has described it perfectly in a poem as 'moonscape') to the green paddocks of Lawrence and beyond. I said to ABM that if we ever moved to Central - as we are sometimes tempted to do - I would miss the ocean. I think I would also miss the colour green. Although there is always green to be seen in the shelter belts that scramble over the rocky landscape.

Originally uploaded by Waynem.

I was particularly struck by the poplars. Rows and rows of them, sinewy and lithe and elegantly painting strong, green stripes against the sky.

NOTE: This one isn't my photo.

Sunday, 17 December 2006


Here is my contribution for this week's Sunday Scribblings.

It is Christmas Eve and I know that soon, when the sky above planet earth grows dark, Santa will launch his reindeer-drawn sleigh and begin his trek to every house in the whole world. And I know too the first part of the earth to grow dark is ours. Maybe already Santa has started on the North Island where it gets dark first. Down here though, at the very bottom of the South Island, the sun lags behind, taking its own slow and dreamy time. Already it is nine o'clock and still light. I stare at the sunlit-pink curtains in my bedroom, willing them to darken to claret.

I fidget about in my bed trying to find a cosy, comfortable space. I call across with a loud whisper to my sister in the other bed. But the lumpy bedclothes don't move. She is asleep. Lucky her. I would love to be able to go to sleep as quickly as she did, asleep even before it is properly dark. Maybe I won't be able to get to sleep at all tonight. What will I do if Santa arrives while I am still awake? I'll have to pretend, but I'm really not sure if I can fool Santa, he has had so much experience.

I crawl over my bed to get to the window that my mother has opened just a little to let the summer-night air in. The curtains billow in and out in the breeze. In and out. In and out. Kneeling at the foot of the bed, I lift a tiny corner of the curtain to take a peek. I can see the dark square of the swing's wooden frame and the chain and seat that hang there, not moving, just waiting, obedient and patient. I see the tin walls of the garage beginning to turn from silver to black. Somewhere a blackbird sings, "Petticoat, petticoat."

I drop the curtain and smell a whiff of mildew and dust. I check that Dad's woollen working sock still hangs at the foot of the bed all ready for Santa's goodies. Back under the blankets, again I shut my eyes. Through the wall at the head of my bed, I hear my parents' voices as they move about in the kitchen. I hear scrapes and bumps, murmurs and sometimes a cough or a laugh. I think of the plate with its slice of Christmas cake, left on the table along with a glass of milk. In the morning all that'll be left on the plate will be some crumbs and a raisin and beside it, the glass with a cloudy tide-mark. I think of the green enamel basin, flecked black where it is chipped, and full of water all ready on the back lawn for the reindeer to drink from. It sits there on the mown grass smack bang in the middle of the square of light the kitchen window throws out. I remember how last year on Christmas morning, still in our pyjamas, we went to check if the reindeer had drunk the water and discovered scrape marks on the lawn where their hooves had landed, and a flat, orange balloon that must've dropped from the sleigh.

The curtain continues to move in and out. In and out. Like my sister's breathing. The breeze outside tinkers with the down-pipe on the corner of the house and makes a tingly noise that could almost be taken for sleigh-bells. The gate squeaks. I squeeze my eyes shut and roll up into a ball under the blankets. The bedroom door slowly opens. Somehow though I know it's not Santa, but only Mum.
"You'd better get to sleep or Santa won't come," she warns.
"I can't get to sleep."
"Close your eyes and count to a hundred."
As she moves over to check my sister, a floorboard creaks under her feet. Then the door shuts with a disapproving click. I begin to count. A hundred seems a long way away. Surely by about thirty I'll be asleep. Surely. I hear a bump on the roof. My eyes fly open.


Friday, 15 December 2006

Roads of Grass

This is the fastest post I've ever written. But at least I've written a poem for Poetry Thursday - even though it's now Friday over here and so I'm officially late.

I may be back to edit and add more later.

named late

Before moving to Devon Street in town
we'd only ever lived on gravel roads
without official names
and a centre-line of May weed.

On one trip back to the old place,
a blue-and-white County Council sign
had named 'our road'
Salisbury Road. We laughed.

A whole town emptied by urban shift
now full of useless signs
with awkward street names
naming roads of grass going nowhere.


Thursday, 7 December 2006

The Thing That Startles

This is my response to Poetry Thursday's challenge for this week. Great list of questions to work from - Thanks Cam and Dana/Poetry Thursday.

This is a picture I took last year of Back Beach at Riverton, Southland, NZ.

'Waves' by Eleanor Farjeon

There are big waves and little waves,
Green waves and blue,
Waves you can jump over,
Waves that you dive through,
Waves that rise up
Like a great water wall,
Waves that swell softly
And don't break at all,
Waves that can whisper,
Waves that can roar
And tiny waves that run at you
Running on the shore

I believe this was the first poem I heard and truly appreciated as poetry.

Or it might have been ...

'Someone' by Walter de la Mare.

Someone came knocking
At my wee, small door;
Someone came knocking,

Tver - small door
Originally uploaded by Dona Juanita.

I'm sure, sure, sure.
I listened, I opened,
I looked to left and right,
But naught there was a-stirring
In the still, dark night.
Only the busy beetle
Tap-tapping in the wall,
Only from the forest
The screech-owl's call,
Only the cricket whistling
While the dewdrops fall,
So I know not who came knocking,
At all, at all, at all.

Both poems anyway, blew my six-year old mind. The power of words had begun.
When I was thirteen, 'The Force That Through The Green Fuse Drives The Flower' by Dylan Thomas also impacted.
(I seem to recall reading it at Wendon School, under a birch tree, around me the sound of blackbirds and the smell of gorse in flower ... but that could be a fancy.) Another poem I had pinned up for a long time on my bedroom wall, was part of a longer poem by Browning.
The year's at the spring
And day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hill-side's dew-pearled
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn;
God's in his Heaven -
All's right with the world!

There it was in between a picture

of Eden Kane on one side

and Frank Ifield on the other.

(You'll be relieved to know my idea of 'good-looks' has changed! since those days.)

I was forced to memorise a number of poems at high school. The one I remember most was 'Ode To Autumn' by Keats. I relished the words as if they were food in my mouth.

I read poetry because it encapsulates something that is either universal or which I have experienced myself. I also read poetry for the delight of words and language being used in ways that surprise me. Much like the reasons why I watch a movie or listen to music, I like the experience of fine-ness. Of being entertained. Of having my need for an artistic or creative experience satisfied. For the way it engages with a part of my brain and lights up neurons that nothing else lights up in quite the same way.

I write poetry and have done all my life - ever since I was seven years old. It is a way of expressing myself that appeals to me. It is a way of chronicling my life and experiences. It forces me to reduce an experience or episode down to its sauce. (Yes, that's sauce, not source.)

Poetry is also a good way to get revenge on your enemies - or on anyone that has done you an injustice in the present or in the past. Oh yes! There is nothing quite so satisfying as getting your own back in a poem. Poetry can be a very handy weapon. I guess it all boils down to expression - it is a form of expression. A way of speaking out, or of.

My experience with reading poetry differs from my experience with reading other types of literature mainly because poetry is more succinct and faster. I have been known to read an entire book of poetry before going to sleep. But I always read a poetry book more than once because poetry is designed for multiple readings. I have a heap of poetry books and I read them over and over. Until about the last five years, I spent ten years reading poetry alone - nothing else.

I find poetry in landscape, everyday conversations and quirky episodes, memories, people, my family, love, hate, music, books, walking, loneliness and moods ... I find poetry in cafes when I sit by myself and write about what is around me. I find poetry most when I travel, when I am out in the country, when I am subjected to new experiences and when I go back to the place where I was brought up.

The last time I heard poetry was last week at a Poetry Reading and which I was part of. There was an abundance of poetry - some good, some bad. Some exquisite. Of my own? Well, I couldn't possibly comment.

I think poetry is like a song without music. Like stillness. Like something elusive caught, dissected and examined. A thing that startles. A thing with the power to quietly astonish.

Yesterday I wrote a poem about a song-thrush I saw out on our lawn. I haven't seen one for some time. They've been scarce in our quarter over the last few years. I was reminded of another poem I love, 'Pied Beauty' by Gerald Manly Hopkins.
(Here is part of it.)
Glory be to God for dappled things
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced - fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle trim.


How could I hope to follow that? But anyway, here goes ...

Song thrush
Originally uploaded by Viche.


Watching Out

You are a long-legged, lawn-giraffe.
My mother
at seven years old,
covered in freckles
and no front teeth.

Your beak is a sewing machine's jab,
a needle, a stiletto's heel.
A mottled-skinned gardener,
you grub
for worms.

When the grey cat hunches, a missile
poised, I clap my hands
to warn
before shadows dappled
now and pretty, turn

to steel and a hot-breath, sun-round mouth,
picks and rips
the tiny bone-cage that is you,
trapped under feathers
of burnt-honey suede.


Saturday, 2 December 2006

No Medal, But I'm Happy

Well ... didn't make it to the 50,000 words, but got to 38,000.

I printed it all out and now have in my hot little hand 80 pages as part of a rough first draft which I will work on and add to. It was helpful to focus for a whole month on the 'novel' and to form the beginnings of something from the miry clay of memory, association and experience.

But what a busy month to try and write in!!!! NaNoWriMo is a brilliant idea - but nevertheless, a Northern Hemisphere idea and as a consequence doesn't dovetail perfectly into the Southern Hemisphere lifestyle. (In fact I hear rumours of NZ already planning a June novel-in-a-month instead. So ... that would be a JuNaNoWriMo??) Over here, November is perhaps the busiest month in NZ's social calendar. It's when the end-of-year dinners and meetings and before-Xmas get-togethers are scheduled. Plus with Daylight Saving's longer hours, outdoor living becomes the focus - long, light evenings are certainly NOT conducive to labouring away in front of a computer's dim light. NEVERTHELESS - despite having family to stay, going out to dinner more times than in the whole, previous ten months - and other spring and getting-ready-for-Christmas-events - I am happy enough with the amount I managed to hack out.


Today is the second day of summer ... but we've had such a cold spring that we're kind of wondering if we're in for a white Christmas. As I write, a strong and cold, nor'easterly wind is walloping the leafy trees outside our house and despite the bright sun, I know it will be very cold and unpleasant if I venture out. I have decided I will stay indoors and read up on blogs instead. Having had a whole month off, I have got a lot of catching up to do.


I will leave you with some of my November Highlights (listed in no particular order.)

*Meeting friends for coffee

*Being a guest reader for a poetry reading event

* A job lined up for 2007 with a young couple to be nanny for their newborn baby

* My 76-year old Mum coming to spend some time with us & doing things with her like going out to afternoon tea at Glenfalloch where we sat on a grassed area surrounded by greenery and huge, old trees while a bullfinch hopped around looking for crumbs under our feet; going to a second-hand china shop - and finding some little bargains - getting in some dvds to watch in front of a roaring log fire (as I say the weather's been cold!) a trip through to Lawrence where we had lunch in a cafe called 'The Lemon Tree', which is run by a German couple who in NZ's off-season, go back over to Germany to cook for the Michael Schumaker.

* Going to 'The Departed' with ABM - a film so full of graphic killings that by the end, the audience was laughing when yet another person got shot.

*Six dinners out with friends and/or relatives

*Some walks along the beach

*In-laws staying a night

*Our youngest son getting a job as a guide for the Milford Track
*News that our oldest son will be home from Japan for Christmas and New Year

* The astounding art that our middle son is producing in his studio/bedroom at the end of our garage & having him and his fiancee K back here ( although there is now no December wedding to look forward to - they've decided to postpone)

*Spending time with my daughter and granddaughter
*Finishing the sci-fi book - 'The Necromancer' (of which I'm sure I only understood about 45%)

*Picking honeysuckle and lavender

*Seeing all the rhododendrons and azaleas that are out

Azaleas, Dunedin
Originally uploaded by John Gevers.

*seeing all the Christmas decorations - although this also can also make me feel very grumpy ... I am always a little ambivalent about Christmas ...

Originally uploaded by Bakko Brats


Originally uploaded by Aeode.
*Hearing the helicopters ferrying people (for $500 a trip) out to see the icebergs off our coast. The bergs are travelling north - four years ago they chipped off the old block: Antarctica ...

*Going to a friend's art exhibition of beautiful paintings she's painted after a three-month stay down in Antarctica (an example of her work is in the image below)

... and many more experiences I'm sure have already all dissolved in the mists of time ...

Saturday, 4 November 2006


My daughter told me B had been saying she wanted her picture in the paper and R had said to her,"Oh well, dear, you just have to be in the right place at the right time." Now B knows that wishes do come true.

We are having better late-spring weather now - this morning dawned hot - I went for a walk and just about melted along with the tar on the roads. Then a friend and I went for a walk along the harbour - yes! I've been for two walks so far today, how keen (or mad,take your pick) is that? I'm sure walking helps the writing process. I read somewhere once that it does something to the brain that is good for writing.


Thursday, 12 October 2006

From Pizazz to a Puddle (almost a poem ... )

All day I was emotionally available - I had decided straight off I was going to give today my all.Sometimes I don't. Sometimes I hold back a little; keep a little in reserve. (In fact most days being the conservative, reserved and - it has to be said - uncharitable little biscuit that I am.)

I was there for the positive, warm response to parents and children as they entered the centre where I work. I was there for the little tantrums and hurt feelings when some other eighteen-month old pushed or pulled. I was there to name the birds and native flower cards. I was there to listen (in a quality way) to my colleagues. I was there for the second mile. I was there. I was engaged. I was connected.

After work I met a friend and we sat at a cafe by the sea, our conversation peppered with the wash of waves. The smell of seaweed and sand and the soft touch of warm sun made us feel like we were on holiday. And I was there for my friend. But by now, fading fast. And I still had the grocery shopping to do.

As we parted company, I noticed some bird crap on my jacket. Pshaw!!! No doubt some friggin' little random seagull flying overhead.But isn't that supposed to be good luck?

Then it was time to go and load up the supermarket trolley. Luckily when I got there, most of the hassled parents and their shrill children (or should that be the other way round? Sometimes indeed, it is) were all away at softball practice or Pippins. However, I don't know if vague and bewildered singles are any better. There seemed to be a lot of dreamers blocking the aisles while they looked at hair product and discussed with a friend whether to go darker. And stalling at the cabbages. University students, who at this stage of the year have fallen out with their flatmates - yes, the very ones they were so merry with in March ... now in October it's a grumble and a bitch by the broccoli about Tara and her complaints ...
"I don't give a fuck if she's allergic, it's just a cabbage for fuck's sake."

There's no other word for it, the woman at the checkout looked wizened. I felt guilty making her pack my groceries. (Even though I know that's just silly.)Overall, we must've exchanged about three smiles, and she was very perky when she told me how much it all came to.
"268.86," she said.
I thought it had rather a nice ring to it.

Outside in the car park, a high-school girl was playing the accordian and there was a smell in the air of chocolate from the chocolate factory across the road. At the first set of lights, I sat behind a middle-aged man in a cabriolet. The breeze was lifting tufts of his grey hair at the crown - even from the back you could tell he was feeling very cool and not at all regretful.

Tallest son C helped me unload the groceries from the car boot. Then as I was bringing in the washing from the line, he called from the doorstep,
"What did you have in mind for tea?"
He would be happy to cook it.
Bless you my son!

That was when I poured myself into my fluffy slippers and while I was at it, a small red wine.

Monday, 9 October 2006

Expeditions and Exhibitions

A week ago at this time - as I start this, it's early evening - we'd arrived at my sister J's home in Stokes Valley, Lower Hutt and were about to enjoy the scrumptious meal she and her partner D had cooked for us. Roast mutton & roast vegetables - pumpkin, potatoes, kumara - and a cauliflower-onion-&-leek casserole with cheese sauce that J had more or less invented.

That morning, we'd had a pleasant, three-hour trip across Cook Strait on the Interislander ferry.

ABM and I sat outside where it is easier to ward off any feelings of sea-sickness. So there we were, 'Ma and Pa' (a name we often call ourselves) guarding our spot on the sun-deck; a thermos of coffee and some sandwiches to stave off any hunger pangs brought on by the fresh ocean-air, and also, to be quite honest, to save money by not buying from the cafe on-board. How Scots are we? Very. ABM's grandparents were both born in Scotland, and I have a fair amount of Scottish blood too. However, as we neared Wellington, it got colder and a little chilly outside for me, so I retired inside and into a corner with my book.

After disembarking, we drove straight to my big, little brother A's home for lunch. He had baked a dinkum-kiwi bacon-and-egg pie, making it the way our generation were all brought up to make them - with whole eggs and no peas.

That night we watched a movie (J & D asked if we wanted to play 'Trivial Pursuit' or watch a movie) but for the life of me I can't remember the name of the dvd or anything about it - an after-effect of soft, wine-clouded ambience? Good thing we didn't play T.P. THAT night or we woulda lost for sure. (Which leads me nicely to where I can slip in the fact that when we did play 'Trivial Pursuit' with J&D - ABM and I won.)

Rather than go through each day and what we did while in the city of Wellington, I am going to list the highlights (I got this trick off January - cheers my dear) and in no particular order. (Of course I'd hoped to have photos, but will have to insert them later once our printer is fixed ... )

* seeing the framed photos on the wall of J&D's guest bedroom. They had specially selected photos from their considerable gallery - ones that meant something to us e.g. Te Waewae Bay, Monkey Island, Milford Sound, the Clutha Dam flip-bucket that ABM had designed in his Civil Engineering days ... it was so sweet of them to do that. And the photos are damn good ones too.

* on a marvellous, sunny and breezy day, going to see the exhibition of the British painter John Constable (see an image of one of his paintings at the top of this post) held at Te Papa (National Museum.) Boy that man could paint clouds! Now whenever I look at a cloudy skyscape, I know I will think of him. There was not one clear blue sky among all his paintings. He definitely favoured dramatic skies. It was interesting too to see how rural the outskirts of London (e.g. Hampstead Heath) were in the 1830s.

* later that day, while ABM was away playing golf, wandering around the Queen's Wharf area in Wellington by myself, the harbour an attractive blue and the boardwalk full of colour and life with skateboarders, families, tourists and joggers out and about and people drinking coffee in the many cafes. Seeing where the various poets' and writer quotes have been fashioned into stone slabs. Then over the bridge to Civic Square and down into the city itself alive with bustle and scurry and people just doing 'Wellington things'; talking about deals and money and policies - yet despite that, a general air of optomism and energy. A little stress yes, but generally handling it. At least that's the impression I got - I might be totally wrong. (Put it this way, I didn't see anyone in a business suit throwing themselves into the harbour.)

* a picnic lunch at Eastbourne/Day's Bay where the harbour changed in the twinkling of an eye from smooth and blue, to choppy and grey. And the view of Wellington city across the harbour, lying like a large machine at rest.

* an afternoon in the Wairarapa (with dramatic, swirling mist at the summit of the Rimutaka Hills) and Greytown with its boutique-y shops with tastefully decorated and restored shop fronts.

'Greytown. There's More To It Than Just Driving Through' announced the signs at either end of town. ABM was a tad bored, but I loved the knick-knacks that abounded there.

One art-gallery owner reminded me of the school prefects that used to tell me off for arriving late to school. When we happened to mention what a wet day it was she said, a little defensively I thought, "The gardens actually need the rain." Yes, for a second I definitely felt like I was back in high school.

* going to see the movie 'Wah-Wah' (btw a great movie) in Upper Hutt at a boutique theatre called 'The Lighthouse' in a '60s house converted into a picture theatre, in the suburbs, and where a black-and-white dog politely and discreetly welcomed everyone, and after you'd had your coffee, the owners showed you into the cinema like they were showing you into their living room - which in a way it was.

* meeting up and having a meal with my high-school friend R and her husband J at a noisy Turkish-food restaurant that had wicked Turkish Delight and loud music that, despite being turned down upon request, would somehow mysteriously turn itself up again.

* a rainy Sunday afternoon, meeting my brother and his family at a cafe on Oriental Parade, where the waitresses all wore black camisoles - one with three large safety pins to pull hers in at the back and at the same time, managing to make a little 'punky-funky' fashion statement.

* making the two-hour trip up to Palmerston North to see my mother and having a hilarious time there with her and my sister, cleaning out her cupboards - grabbing stuff which she was just going to put into a garage sale, but which had nostalgic value for my sister and me. Including an old-fashioned mincer, which I will be able to use (when I remember to that is.) We had a bit of a hat parade too - J took photos - meanie!

* while at Palmy, wandering around the Esplanade there and looking at all the spring flowers - and oh-so-cute ducklings.

I just love these pansies - their faces look ever so slightly disgruntled.

And these native flowers, called kaka beak, are nothing less than quintessential NZ. (Designed to make Wandering Woman even more homesick! Sorry Di!)

* playing trivial Pursuit with J & D and winning! (Or have I already mentioned that?) And generally hanging out with them in the evenings after they got back from work - watching their wide-screen tv and drinking ... coffee.

* going to see the writer Katherine Mansfield's house in Thorndon, with its authentic wallpaper, furniture and fireplaces dating back to the time Katherine and her family lived there in the early 1900s. Oh, and the beautifully made doll's house - modelled on descriptions of it in her story called 'The Doll's House'. The house reminded me very strongly of houses from my childhood - which was long after KM's time, I hasten to add. (Maybe back then they didn't redecorate as rapidly as we do these days, and some houses did retain their original 1920's wallpaper and dark varnish on into the '60s.) The garden was also authentic to the turn of the century. Marigolds and hollyhocks and lilac bushes etc.


The weather while we were in Wellington was sunny for a couple of days, and we took full advantage when it was. But a lot of the time it was grey and drizzly and misty. Luckily we weren't there for the weather. As we had been there only last year and did a lot of the tourist-y things then, this time we were more relaxed about just letting the days unfold. Despite Wellington being NZ's capital city, we weren't inclined to visit Parliament Buildings (called 'The Beehive' because it looks ... just like a Beehive.) Anyway, I get enough childish behaviour in the early childhood centre where I work.

Sadly J became ill with a throat lurgy the day before we were to leave. She was like a little fizzy drink without any fizz left. Like a flat champers. She doesn't like being sick, and it showed! But despite not being able to have that last game of Trivial Pursuit, and beat them again, we'd had a wonderful time and a lot of it was due to her and D's enjoyable company and feeling relaxed and so at home in their place. (So thanks guys! We'll miss you.)

The trip home back over on the ferry and down the South Island, was without incident. Even though we were prepared to stay overnight somewhere on our way down, we did manage to drive all the way home - leaving Picton at 12.30 mid-day and arriving in Dunedin at 10.30 p.m.

Walking in the door to M&K's welcome of a warm fire and home-baking (K had baked a chocolate cake, Belguim biscuits and ginger crunch) was wonderful. "Ah! Home!" I said, and sank thankfully into its funny, familiar atmosphere.

Thursday, 5 October 2006

In Memory of A Figure from the Past

We got back from our holiday late on Monday. Since then I've been working longer hours than usual.

After spending the evening reading blogs, it is now time for beddy-byes and I haven't time to do much else than post a poem for Poetry Thursday.

I will report back about the holiday over the weekend.

This week's Poetry Thursday theme is 'The Body'. I wrote this poem some time ago (I have adjusted the age to bring it up to date) in a fit of depression over my middle-age spread, and memories of my former (almost boyish) figure of past years.


like a tree

Look at yourself
at fifty-three
in some changing-room

mirror. How generous
the double helpings
over the wiry frame

that used to be
more obvious.
How much there

now to seize
with both hands.
Like a tree,

the older the wider.
Look! How much
life has grown on you.

Friday, 15 September 2006

Getting Romantic

Today was a lovely spring day. Although there was a bit of a breeze, it was refreshing rather than annoying.

After I got home from work this afternoon, K & I went to a favourite cafe for a coffee and sat outside in the sun beside the sea and watched the waves unfurling in a perfect performance of symmetry.

Because of a personal crisis with a member of our family, we are all a little downcast at the moment. However it seems the weather is determined to cheer us up. Also, with the evidence of spring's abundance of energy, and everywhere symbols of hope and new beginnnings, one can't help but take heart.

Which all sounds a little like a romantic poet's viewpoint, so I have decided to compose a fittingly romantic poem in the style of Wordsworth or Coleridge. Although I think I'd actually prefer it to be more representative of Byron or Dickinson, my favourite romantics. The poem is my Poetry Thursday contribution (even though in this hemisphere it's now Friday early evening ...)

Normally I do not write like a romantic poet (well, I certainly hope not anyway) so, yes, this poem qualifies as something I wouldn't normally write. It's about some crocuses I saw one morning on my way to work. There they were in all their glory, surrounded by grass turned white from a heavy frost. The photo is one I took of the same crocuses, except taken on a sunny, frost-free day, so they don't look half as brave as they did that particular frosty morning.

Crocuses in the Frost

To the side of a path
I tread this day,
crocuses bloom
in formal array.

Such their bright aspect
of purple fit for king,
it does stop my throat
and tears unbidden spring.

For among blighted grass,
their bright vests undone,
each flower's heart exposed:
flayed by frost, healed by sun.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Poetry Time

This week's Poetry Thursday's theme of time, is a theme that has always fascinated me. I have written a lot of poems on that subject already. However, I did enjoy the challenge of coming up with yet another.
As it's a brand new poem, I haven't yet had the chance to give it the test of time (heh heh.)
No doubt I'll have to work on it a bit more yet before I consider it perfect. Meanwhile, please treat it as a bit of a toddler as far as poems go.

without or within

Every morning I wake to the sound of time.
It’s as if I wake again from the dead.
Another resurrection. Face it,
without time beating like a heart,
I would die. With nothing to hold it,
the sky would too. Without the shape
and frame of days, we’d all fall.
Without the dying and rising,
the existence of blue,
of slow seconds, the wave of gravity,
the space of an hour,
the resistance of tides and measured
moons; we’d all die. It would be as if
we never were.
I worry. Will I ever see you again?

Friday, 18 August 2006

When An Elephant is an Onion

I sorry!

No poem for Poetry Thursday. Again.

But I do love Poetry Thursday.

I love Poetry Thursday because it reminds me about poetry's existence at a time when I find myself concentrating more on prose.

Poetry Thursday serves as a good spur. A motivation. An inspiration.

I think Lynn and Elaine are amazing the way they consistently produce great ideas and incentives. Thank you Elaine and Lynn!

Long Live Poetry! Long live Poetry Thursday! Three cheers for Poetry Thursday!


Meanwhile - here is a little something I wrote yesterday on my website. Maybe it will do instead of a poem? Then again, maybe not ...

When An Elephant Is an Onion

When my daughter and I picked up my granddaughter from school today, as usual she was full of chatter and provided a running commentary from the back seat of the car on what was running through her brain. We had her thoughts on who was talking to who now, and why blondes had to stick together and the correct pronunciation of brunette - and if blondes are blondes and brunettes are brunettes, what are black-haired people called? And how she would like to be in the Guinness Book of Records for something like climbing the highest stairs. And did you know that it's impossible to kiss your own elbow? She's tried it and it is impossible. All finished off with a perfect rendition of, 'I'm walking on sunshine ... woo - oo'. The girl leaves me breathless!

Earlier I had helped my daughter take stuff out to the tip. When her partner saw the pile of full, black kleensaks she had put aside ready to throw out, he asked,"What's all that?" To which she replied, "Rubbish," in that firm tone females reserve for males about to query what actually constitutes 'rubbish'. The selection and getting rid of rubbish should only be done by females and only when they are on their own, well away from any perusal by males, or children.

"No recycling? " the man in the sentry box at the Tip queried in a tone specifically engineered to induce guilt. The black-backed gulls looked horrendous and large and ugly. The road was mucky and smelly. The heels of our shoes got covered in sludge and stunk the car out. My daughter said she saw some pukekos (*see a picture of one of these birds at the top of this blog.) And we both saw a black cat slinking off over a rubbish mountain. One happy cat with all those pickings and rats as well.

Today at the pre-school where I work, I was naming objects for the children. One boy had three game animals I was helping him to name. "Giraffe," I said. Then, "Tiger." So far so good. Then he held up an elephant. I meant to say elephant - truly I did - but for some inexplicable reason I said, "Onion."

Sunday, 13 August 2006

Books, Books, Books ...

Apologies to Clare, after promising, I forgot to do the list of favourite books. But better late than never - here it is.

1.One book that changed your life? Dylan Thomas' poetry.
2.One book you've read more than once? 'Anne of Green Gables'
3.One book you'd want on a desert island?'Robinson Crusoe'
4.One book that made you laugh? Anything by James Thurber
5.One book that made you cry? It's been so long ... 'Black Beauty'
6.One book that you wish you had written? 'Anne of Green Gables'
7.One book you wish had never been written?'Pamela' by Samuel Richardson.
8.One book you are currently reading? 'A Fighting Withdrawal' by Keith Ovenden (a biography of the writer Dan Davin)
9.One book you have been meaning to read?'Red Tent' by Anita Diamant
10.Five people I am tagging: 64 Baker Street, Becky, Barbara, Belle & Wandering Woman.

Sunday, 6 August 2006

Spring is Coming!

Blue Flowers
Originally uploaded by Uwe Hermann.

See that? Yesterday I spied, just by our clothesline, some blue match-heads (also called grape hyacinths) just like these, which proves that spring is indeed on its way. Hey-hey!

Thursday, 20 July 2006

A Bit Late

The prompt for this week's Poetry Thursday was to write a poem about sex.

Ummm... yess ... rrright ...

I haven't written any poems about sex. One day I might, but that time is not right now.

Meanwhile ...

here is a John Donne poem I really like. It's about lovers tarrying in bed while outside, the sun shines.

by John Donne

BUSY old fool, unruly Sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains, call on us ?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run ?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school-boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court-huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices ;
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams so reverend, and strong
Why shouldst thou think ?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long.
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and to-morrow late tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou left'st them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, "All here in one bed lay."

She's all states, and all princes I ;
Nothing else is ;
Princes do but play us ; compared to this,
All honour's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus ;
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere ;
This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.


Saturday, 8 July 2006

This Little House


A lazy Saturday on a cold winter's day. Well ... not all laziness - I did clean the glasshouse - all the glass on three sides. And what a difference - now it is no longer a greenhouse (the green being a surface-covering of mould) but has been lovingly restored, with soapy water and elbow grease, to its original form of clear glass, and again to its proper status of glasshouse. With a rather withered grapevine inside I call Grapey. Let's see if Grapey likes the sudden sight of light streaming into his home enough to revive and sprout some new leaves in spring and juicy, dark-red grapes in autumn.

I woke at mid-day. The reason for such a long lie-in being because I sat up and watched a late movie last night, and so slept on from 2.00 a.m. until I had had enough sleep. The movie was called 'In The Bedroom' which is somewhat of a misleading title as it is not about hot sex so much as about a middleaged couple (not that ... well, you know what I was going to say don't you? ... ) and how they dealt with the murder of their only son. I won't spoil it for anyone else, but it is a surprising film. It starred Sissy Spacek - she has got to be one of my favourite actors, whatever she stars in, she makes it real - and was set in Camden, Maine. The final shot over the town was simply chocolate-box beautiful.

When I look up Camden, I see that it was the birthplace of the poet Edna St Vincent Millay. From there I went on to read a little of her poetry - I have read her poetry before, but needed to refresh my memory. A lot of her poetry it seems is about death and grieving.

One example ...

Ashes of Life

Love has gone and left me and the days are all alike;
Eat I must, and sleep I will, -- and would that night were here!
But ah! -- to lie awake and hear the slow hours strike!
Would that it were day again! -- with twilight near!

Love has gone and left me and I don't know what to do;
This or that or what you will is all the same to me;
But all the things that I begin I leave before I'm through, --
There's little use in anything as far as I can see.

Love has gone and left me, -- and the neighbors knock and borrow,
And life goes on forever like the gnawing of a mouse, --
And to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow and to-morrow
There's this little street and this little house.

(And from me in this little street and this little house - until the next time!)


Thursday, 29 June 2006

Not Keeping Up With The Joneses

This week's Poetry Thursday's prompt tied in with the poem I intended to post anyway - so wasn't that fortuitous / serendipitous or simply lucky?

It is a poem I wrote about four years ago and so I had to update it a little, e.g. I changed mobile to digital camera and video to dvd.

It is really saying, Hey just because we're middle-aged and middle-class, don't put us into the 'House and Garden' box. Don't assume we do all the typical middle-class stuff. It's saying the simple life is the life for us - anyway, we haven't got enough money for it to be anything else.
It's a celebration of being ordinary and un-cool - un-trendy.
If life really is always a high school class - we're the quiet ones in the middle of the classroom who no-one really remembers being there. The ones who notice everything and quietly write it up in their diaries!
It's a poem that says we like the quiet life; we're not great social-ites, gregarious entertainers or phone conversationalists, but we're happy with that, and we're okay!

we may be middle-class but we don't know our wines

When the phone rings
there's a race
not to be the one
to answer it.
We don't own a digital camera
or sip water from bottles.
There's no four-wheel drive in our drive.
No dishwasher.
No holiday to Australia

planned, or any
desire to grow olive trees.
We may be middle-aged, middle
class, but we don't know
our wines, have never been
to an opera in a quarry; don't have
barbecues or yearn for a spa.
I fell for him 32 years ago
because he looked

like Cat Stevens
- or Jesus. He fell for me
because of my powder-blue
raincoat and yellow shoes.
Our garden is scruffy, our tastes low-key.
We prefer to spend nights in;
hire a dvd,
light the fire,
eat chocolate.

Monday, 26 June 2006

It's Elemental My Dear

Cold conditions continue. We woke to another frost this morning with the roads extremely icy. First thing this morning on our way to work, ABM drove the Alfa and I drove CD's (aka Son no. 3) Toyota Corona, in tandem (or is that in a convoy? Dunno if two vehicles qualify as a convoy ... ) to the mechanic's for the Toyota to get what was needed fixed for its warrant of fitness. We were forced to travel at a snail's pace along white roads and up slippery slopes - Friday's daylong comments of Dunedin having 'hills like glass' was echoing in my ears. At one point we had to pull over in order for ABM to scrape ice off the windscreen. However, the sense of achievement once the mission was completed, was worth it. Because yay! Tomorrow I will have my car back and CD's car will be road-worthy again.

During my twelve-minute walk to work from where ABM dropped me off, I couldn't help but realise that first of all there is frost, and then there is frostier frost. I would've welcomed a balaclava. For me, what qualifies as the best of both worlds is to park the car about twenty minutes away from work and walk from there. I plan to keep up this daily exercise and experience of the elements. You really know you're alive when you feel frost on your eyebrows.

We had arranged a place for ABM to pick me up from after work, but I arrived a little early so decided to pop into the Green Acorn cafe and get a coffee-to-go in an attempt to keep warm while standing waiting. (Even though it was only 4.30, it was already beginning to freeze again.) Once inside and about to order, I realised I didn't have my purse with me. Feeling sheepish I explained and was about to scuttle out the door again when the guy said he'd trust me to bring the money in tomorrow, and cheerfully made me a coffee. What a nice guy. He had an accent (I thought it was Scottish or Irish - sometimes I can't tell which is which. I know one lilts up and the other down, but I usually forget which way about it is.)

Turns out he was from Liverpool anyway. He said that Liverpudlians feel more akin to the celts than to the cockneys, so he wasn't offended when I asked if he was from Scotland.
He was telling me that his two flatmates had gone to a party in a field (of course he meant 'paddock', but I forgave him the cultural booboo - especially as I actually prefer the word field to paddock - just as I prefer the word pail to bucket) at Middlemarch over the weekend. It was minus 11 degrees, but they loved it. "But they would, they're hippies," he said, "and I'm not." Apparantly they'd stayed up all night and then watched the sunrise come up out of a valley of mist and frost as the dj hired for the party played on. Awesome, I'd imagine.

But all the same, I think I'm with the Liverpudlian non-hippie; I too prefer to be asleep at that hour, wrapped up warm in my bed, even if an awesome winter sunrise is occurring while I snooze.
I can only take experiencing the elements so far - I do have my limits. Somehow I think this week I've done pretty well. (Refer here to insert for pic of yesterday's polar plunge)
I'm prepared now to quit while I'm ahead.

Thursday, 22 June 2006


Here is my Poetry Thursday's poem:

do that thing you do with words

Blood, fire, stone,

found, sea, sun,
earth, sky,

blue, rock, ice, snow,

word, read, hope,

fill me with home.

river, daughter,


place me.

Maggot, sick,
vivid, bog,

putrid, unction,
rude, paddock, knickers,


titivate, urinal,

ululate, vole,


only yesterday,


made me laugh.

Thursday, 15 June 2006

Some beech leaves are still hanging in winter

This is a photo I happened to find in flickr (I am always amazed - it never fails me!) to demonstrate exactly what I saw today in the Botanical Gardens on my way home from work. I spotted some beech trees with leaves way at the top fluttering in the breeze - their golden colour shining in the low sun is what caught my eye. I thought at first they were flowers or blossom - but no. Just a few autumn leaves hanging on until the last possible moment.

Wednesday, 14 June 2006


Thanks to flickr for this photo which captures a sunrise a little like the one I describe in my poem posted below.

I wrote the poem at an informal poetry workshop that two other writer friends and myself have every month.

It's about walking to work early one morning last week just as the winter sun was rising in the east. The street was alive with all sorts of sights - the schoolboys sitting on a fence waiting for their bus were particualrly amusing - like boys that age worldwide, I imagine, they rejoice in casually wearing just their light cotton, school-uniform shirts in the freezing temps; refusing to wear regulation jackets or their warm, woollen school jersies. (I remember my sons were exactly the same - the jersey and jacket were never worn - what a waste of money!)

An early, winter morning is so dramatic I think - I tried to capture something of that here:

sky watch

All day the sky like a sleeping duck
hiding its head
inside its grey feathers
but not before burning
orange and blue, St Lee’s church spire
a black soldering iron
thrust into its cold fire.

I watch flames melt into grey
where the sky dips
and schoolboys without jackets
sit on fences, their shirtails
hanging out just one side.

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Wicked Winter

'Every mile is two in winter' ( George Herbert)

Originally uploaded by Weissryk.
This winter shot taken by Weissryk from flickr, shows the beauty of winter in my part of the world ...

In winter you need more clothes - which involves more laundry and more time needed to get dressed and undressed. More heating is needed - which requires more money and time and if like us you have a fire, more effort. As there is less daylight, there is more urgency to get things done while it is still daylight. Mornings are cold and uninviting, so it is a struggle to get out of bed. If there's been a frost overnight, again there is time and effort required to scrape ice off the windscreen.

Overall winter can be a bit of a slog.

However, despite all that, I still like winter for its chance to scurry away and semi-hibernate - scale down, pull the curtains, eat hot food like soup, macaroni cheese, toast; to listen to the rain on the roof, wear hats and gloves and scarves and go for fighting-fresh, bitter, brisk walks.

The landscape is more dramatic too, with the deciduous trees bare and dark against a grey sky, the groundcover thin; mud and earth showing through scarce strands of grass. Snow-covered mountains, orange willows, icy blue lakes and heavy seas white with the froth of winter storms.

I have a dear friend who writes beautiful descriptive letters (yes some of us still write letters) extolling virtues of each season. She is a gardener by inclination and occupation and so she knows the seasons off by heart and hand. Her celebration of each season over the years has heightened the changes for me too. She talks of winter being a time of restoration - when nature retrenches and retracts and slowly, quietly builds up its sap and energy for the sudden explosion of growth in spring.

Winter can be a chance then for us to do the same. To slow down and reflect and restore our energies. (Store our sap!) I do try, but more often get caught up in doing things. Sometimes I can feel busier in winter than summer. I can get caught out by the illusion that there is nothing better to do with my time and so take on extra commitments, ending up far too busy to enjoy the long, dark evenings. (Although as I get older, I notice I am getting wiser to this.)

In a way I envy animals who hibernate. What a delicious thing, to sleep the winter away! Yet at the same time I'd hate to miss out the particular thrills winter gives us - red berries against a stone wall; small flowers that keep on blooming through the cold. The glee of waking up to snow - or standing in the middle of its cold rush as flakes swirl under moonlight, or a streetlight, in a crazy, hypnotic dance. The fresh-air smell of frost on a winter's morning; iced-over puddles smashed into a spider-web pattern by the heel of a child. Fireside moments.

Once upon a time before my wider girth became an issue - or more than likely the result of such excesses - ABM and I would roast and salt some peanuts, mull some red wine, break open a bar of chocolate and settle down to a cosy winter's night indoors watching videos. Ah! Bliss!

And that's given me a most wicked idea for a treat for us both this weekend. After all - winter seems to go hand-in-hand with wicked - well, if nothing else, at least it's alliterative.

Clocking Out

 I have been neglecting this blog for some months. I think perhaps I should face facts and accept that it is indeed time to retire this blog...