Friday, 31 March 2006

Sam Not Ben

Banner from Photo I took
Originally uploaded by heatherashley.

Another grey poem - I seem to be in a grey poem mood even though we have had two bright sunshine-y days since the last grey day.
Maybe grey days are more poetic?

Son no.2 and K. left for home today. I miss their energy and warmth. They were great company. They got a ride through to Christchurch and we shouted them a bus-ride from there to the ferry in Picton tomorrow. No hitching and sleeping on bark chips for the return trip!

I had a full day's work today at a kindy. What a wimp I am - I don't like working full days. I miss my home! :( I miss the long, leisurely spaces between things when I'm at home - the dawdling as I make myself a cup of tea. The sleep-ins to read. Blogging in my pjs!

At 'work-world', things zoom and zip and I get told to do things, whereas at home I'm the only one telling myself to do things. And I'm a pretty good boss.

Now that the days are getting shorter, if I get called into a full-day's work I leave home just after the sun has risen and arrive home just before it sets. This makes me feel like I've missed a whole lot of daylight stuff that was going on around my home while I was away. The fantails and the waxeyes feeding on insects and berries; the sound of the bellbird doing its rounds. The flop and flutter of a fat orange-and-black monarch butterfly. The cats stretching after their nap on bed or chair - Aggie sitting up on her haunches like a rabbit, paws bent in front of her chest, as she tracks the flight of a blackbird. All that.

I said I was a wimp.

I shouldn't complain. The money's nice. I can buy books and cds again. The kids are very cute and good. (I can still see the solemn little guy who looked at me with his dark-brown eyes for a full six seconds before saying, "My name's not Ben, my name is Sam.")

Our clock has just chimed midnight. Time for bed, it's tomorrow already - Saturday - April Fool's Day, The sooner I get to bed the sooner I can get up again and do some long-overdue poetry writing. I wonder if I still remember how?

Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Lift Those Hairy Legs!

No writing again today. I find it impossible to write when other things are going on - like family staying. It doesn't matter. Anyway, it's kind of nice holding in that frustration of not getting pen to paper and letting the anticipation of having time to write again grow. It makes it all the sweeter when it does arrive. Delayed gratification. Put it down to the catholic in me.

I have accepted a position offered to me yesterday as support teacher at an early childhood centre. I am panicking a little, knowing that the time I've had to write in the past two months will disappear in three weeks once I start the job. But at the risk of sounding crass, we need the money.

The hours are 8.00 am to 1.30 pm, which should give me a bit of leeway in the afternoons for writing. And to be quite honest, on any days I do set aside solely for writing, I often don't start until after lunch. The earliest I ever seem to be able to sit down to write is 11.00am. Afternoons appear to be my natural preference. Or at night - I have been known to write through to about 3.00 am many times.

I finished Carolyn McCurdie's excellent book called 'The Unquiet'. Very well-written in a restrained, believable style. There is a natural tone to the book which sets up a nice tension between the believable and the fantastic. A lesser writer could easily hash it up, but in Carolyn's capable hands the story of planets and countries disappearing, with the subsequent rescue of New Zealand and consequently Earth and Pluto by two kiwi kids, is very plausible. She has some exquisite descriptions as well.

Look out for more from this writer. An impressive first children's novel. I am now reading Katherine Paterson's 'Bridge to
Terabithia'. It will be interesting to see how it stacks up against Carolyn's book! (Knowing Carolyn of course could make me a little biased.)

I am a backslidden poetry reader. I have read very little poetry so far this year, preferring to read novels, murder mysteries and childrens' books. However for the sake of my second book, at present a fragile draft of a thing, I believe it has become imperative. I need to get back into some serious poetry reading. It's like training for an event, or breathing life into something that lags. It is time to "Lift those hairy legs!"as a friend of mine infamously, and to her enduring embarrassment, shouted out when walking a little behind someone she mistook to be one of her friends. That incident happened thirty years ago now but has proved a handy command for those times when I've needed to spur myself on. Like now. (Thanks P.!)

Monday, 27 March 2006

And Not One Trampled Daisy

The 21st birthday party went off without a hitch. The loud music was turned off at half past midnight, so hopefully the neighbours weren't too annoyed by the intrusion of very loud hip-hop, techno and a bit of Ben Harper until then ...

Son no. 3 was really pleased with how it had gone, and the work we'd put in to ensure all went well was acknowledged. He stood in the kitchen - or should I say leaned / swayed in the kitchen - and with a huge grin that refused to leave said, "You're champions." It was heartfelt, if a little slurred.

At 1.00 a.m. a taxi-bus they'd ordered arrived to take the revellers into town. They went to a karaoke bar apparently ... at first anyway. Son no. 3 eventually arrived home at 6.00 am.

ABM and I had a quick tidy-up after they'd left, leaving the rest to do in the morning, and toddled contentedly off to bed feeling that we'd pulled it off. There were no fights, no fires, no broken glass - not even a trampled daisy!

Part of the reason for the nervousness was being a university city, we've got accustomed to accounts of how party-going, drunken students down at the university end think a party is not a decent one until they burn a couch and the fire brigade is called.

Also in the early stages of organising this party, we had considered hiring a hall. However the sport's club we were thinking of hiring it from stipulated that we had to hire security guards for the night. And it had to be two security guards at $20 an hour each. Apart from the cost, it made us wonder just what on earth 21st partygoers are capable of to warrant security guards. We were understandably a little shaky about having such a party in our own home.

The party all occurred downstairs in our garage which was, thanks to Son no. 2 and K., dolled up for the occasion with Xmas tree lights on the rafters. At times the noise coming up through the floorboards was horrendous - we had to turn the TV up to 35 to hear anything.

The chairs and oil-fired brazier we'd hired were a good idea as they sat around the fire to keep warm - it was a chilly autumn night. We had a barbecue for them and kept them well-supplied with pastries. We'd ordered far too much food as it turned out and now our freezer has enough food in it to last us until June.

And what is the best news of all? That was the last twenty-first birthday party we ever have to arrange. Yay, yay and thrice yay!

Saturday, 25 March 2006

Safe and Sound

Heard from all three sons today and don't it make a Mum's heart glad? (Sorry about the Crystal Gale misquote ...)

Son no. 1 sent an email from Japan to say he'd arrived back at Kyoto after a few days in Perth, Australia attending his friend's wedding. He caught up with my sister and his cousins over there - a couple of them he hadn't met before (I haven't even met them yet and they are aged twenty-four and twenty-two.)

Son no.2 was here when I arrived home from work at 1.00p.m. He had successfully hitched all the way after disembarking from the Wellington to Picton ferry yesterday morning. It took him seven rides in total he said. I said to ABM last night "I have a feeling that son of our's will be sleeping on a park bench tonight." Well my feeling proved to be right - except it wasn't a park bench, it was a school's playground. He said the bark chips weren't too bad for sleeping on. He woke up at about three a.m. found a well-lit skateboarding ramp to have a bit of a skate on until it was light and he could begin his hitching again. It is always good to hear these tales after the event!

Son no. 3 arrived safe and sound from Milford about half an hour ago - after midnight. ABM and I were getting a trifle worried ... I decided to do the dinner dishes. If we are ever expecting people and I start to do dishes, they always turn up right in the middle. Sure enough, Son no. 3 arrived right in the middle of me doing the dishes. (No we don't have a dishwasher and I'm perverse enough to be happy about it. A lot of my best stuff gets written in the middle of the dishes - and what's more, late arriving-sons often turn up too, which has got to be a bonus.)

So tomorrow it's the BIG 21st BIRTHDAY PARTY. I'll let you know how it went! (No writing today either - Son no. 2 is asleep in the writng room.)

Friday, 24 March 2006

Poetry Reading

Last night was poetry reading night at the Crown in Rattray Street. I picked up A. at the bottom of my street and she came too - a smart move as it turned out because if she hadn't come along there would have only been me and ten males. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing.

It was as it always is, an interesting night. There was a range of readings from Irish (Tom Paulin) to French (Baudelaire.) S. read a couple of Tom (I'm having a senior moment .. can't remember his last name - let's call him Sylvia's Tom for now) poems. Dv. read a poem he's written about trousers and L. read a poem about his zippered heart. R. opened the readings by reading a poem by the Australian poet, Peter Porter. B. read a poem about a middleaged hot and intense one (or it might have been two) night stand(s) - apparantly imaginary. Another D. (from henceforth known in this entry as 'Another D.') read three poems and got himself videoed as he did so. The person doing the videoing videoed him from all different angles - right up close, behind, in front and from the floor. It was a mite distracting. 'Another D'. is really a bit of a peacock .

The Crown is not what I'd call salubrious yet it has a certain, downtrodden, tattoo-den charm. A sort of southern Dunedin grunge meets alternative-arts grant. I mean Rattray Street? The Crown? R. says it has poetry connections from the 60s. Anyway it seems to work and good on him for being the engine that makes it run. Without it, Dunedin's poetry scene would be poorer. N.R. who is at the university at the moment (doing what I have yet to uncover) virtually performed a one-man show about his friend Charlie ... who turned out to be Baudelaire.

I forgot to ask L. if he wanted a ride home. He has to get the late bus home. The one that goes all over town before dropping you off at your stop. (Sorry L.) He and I had an interesting chat about lounge music as I realised I had no idea what lounge music was. I still have no idea what lounge music is.

I didn't read tonight as I'm off poetry right now. I wonder if it will take the hint and start using its charm to tempt me back? I hope so or my second book's in a whole heap of trouble.

Thursday, 23 March 2006

Shopping Trolleys in the Leith

Otago University Campus
Originally uploaded by Tama Leaver.
This photo I found on flickr shows our university in the morning light. When I was there today it was as the light was fading, however the shadows and softer light are similar. Today however, the sky was a little greyer, a little grimmer.

What is it about mid-day that confuses me? I often get times wrong around noon ... I had arranged to meet my daughter today at 12.45 and turned up at 11.45. Maybe it's going back to 'real' time from daylight saving time, that has confused me.

Because I was an hour early, I decided to buy a coffee, plant myself at a table and do a bit of writing. I used to do this quite a bit two years ago, enjoying the experience of writing in the midst of a busy downtown cafe. However today it didn't seem as much fun anymore. I wrote a little bit, but everyone else in the restaurant appeared to be particularly loud and annoying, so I ended up just going back to my car where it was parked at my daughter's flat, and reading the newspaper until she turned up.

I ended up having my granddaughter B after school, which was an unplanned but pleasant surprise. One of the things we did, was walk around the university. She had never seen the Leith, which is a stream that runs through the university grounds.

We saw three supermarket trolleys lying in the stream. She was very puzzled as to why the students would think it a good idea to do such a dumb thing as tip supermarket trolleys into the Leith. I must say I had a hard time trying to explain. It's a tradition was the best I could come up with. To her, teenagers and young adults are a very scary, very weird breed. Except her uncles - she likes her uncles, and this helps her to understand the species a little more.

The Leith's official name is Water of Leith which is certainly a grand name for such a little body of water. B wasn't impressed by the coke bottle and other bits of rubbish she saw in the stream. There is nothing quite as righteous as an eight year old! However, she does have a point. Righteous indignation often does.

She was a little nervous of all the students walking past. "They'll look at me and think I'm a brat," she said. As it was just on five p.m. I told her the students weren't even noticing her, that they were all heading home and that probably all that was on their minds was food - pies, chips and two-minute noodles.

On the way back to my place we stopped to buy some spag. bol. sauce for dinner. After paying for my purchases, I thought I had lost her. I couldn't see her anywhere. That was a scary moment; how was I going to explain this to her mother? But she had decided to wait for me just a little to the side of where I was expecting her to be. She was playing on a miniature hand-held game. "I carry this everywhere with me so that when I have to wait for someone, I've got something to do," she said nonchalantly, completely oblivious to my panic and terror.

It was a grey old day today - my daughter and I agreed that Dunedin under grey, low cloud is not at its best. However, wandering around the old part of the University with B, seeing the mallard ducks settling down under the trees by the Leith and getting ready to go to sleep - heads tucked under their wings - with the bluestone buildings behind nestling back into the grey sky, it didn't look so bad really. Grey has its place. Just like the shopping trolleys in the stream. There's something traditional about it, even if not totally ideal.

Monday, 20 March 2006

A Dead Cowboy

At the moment I am writing a poem that is giving off signals that it aspires to be a 100-drafts poem. It is about my deceased father's continual appearances in my dreams as a ghost or at best an ineffective shadow.

I have finally become annoyed enough at these dreams (after thirty-seven years) to addrress them in a poem - an annoyed poem. Well, it's got an irritated tone at the moment anyway. It may not remain angry. It has the potential I believe to be sad, bitter or wry. I don't want it to be sad. I am tired of writing sad poems about my father. So that leaves bitter or wry.

It's strange to think that I am now older than my father was when he died. All the more reason to address the fact of continuing to dream about him. Oh I know there will be a million other reasons for the dreams, but I have deided to do something with it, if not about it.

For some strange reason, the song 'The Streets of Larado' has elbowed its way into the poem. This may have something to do with me playing an Emmylou Harris cd whilst writing it - although she has never to my knowledge ever sung that song.

I remember having to sing that song at primary school during those boring musical radio broadcasts we used to suffer during the 1960s. Oh dear. That song was like a dirge. It used to give me the shivers to be quite frank. What is it with kids of ten years old having to sing about spying a 'dead cowboy all wrapped up in white linen, wrapped up in white linen and cold as clay'? That and ' Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah', 'Clementine' and 'Minka, Minka' - all weird, adult-themed songs we were forced to sing inside, while outside the best part of the day slipped away. I can't look at a floating thistledown now without remembering being stuck inside singing those dreadful songs, and gazing out at drifts of thistledown floating beautiful and free past the classroom windows.

In light of those memortes, I can see now why the song has come into my mind. It was only about three years after singing 'The Streets of Larado' that I had to face the fact of my own father's premature death. Not hard to make a connection. Never underestimate the power of the subconscious, I guess.

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...