Saturday, 31 March 2007

Birth date Tag

I wasn't the only one born in 1953. So was the Chevrolet Corvett.

Kamsin from Fearfully Made has tagged me for 'What Happened on Your Birthday'? This entails going to Wikipedia to find 3 events, 2 birthdays, 1 death and 1 holiday that happened on your birth date - that is, month and date (not necessarily the same year). Then you must tag 5 other bloggers.

On my birthday: 25th June

... in 1876, the Battle of Little Bighorn happened, in 1949 Bugs Bunny was released in theatres in America and in 1950 the Korean War began. (It seems Bugs Bunny was a little light relief between wars.)

George Orwell, author of 'Animal Farm' and '1984' etc., shares the same birth date as me, as does Carly Simon the American singer, probably best known for her song, 'You're So Vain'.

Colonel Custer died on my birth date (see ref. above to the Battle of Little Bighorn.) And so did Jacques Yves Cousteau in 1997. (I chose two because I figured Colonel Custer was a given!)

And apparently it's ... ta-dah - National Catfish Day on my birthday. Who'd-a known?

The five bloggers I tag are : Remiman, Avus, Herhimnbryn, Becky and Camille.

Friday, 30 March 2007

The Happy Red Guy

Here is my very late, Friday night entry for Poetry Thursday.

This happy chappy is a bit of street art. Underneath him, are the words

The happy red man has been there for about two years now. One day he will be painted over, but for now it gives us a lot of joy whenever we drive past and see him still there.






We spot it, your street art, through the railings
of the over-bridge, spray-painted

on a boarded-up window ‘you can see
the sky’ painted vertical in black

below. Instructions we follow, lifting
our eyes to see him there, a ruddy, raddle

-red accountant - well, he’s got to be,
with hair like that, black, brylcremed

and perfect. Either that, or a sun-burnt
Four Square grocer drifting off

to paradise. And every time we drive past,
he makes us grin this character that’s yours,

the rosy, pear-shaped guy delirious
with exhaust fumes, blissfully hanging

above where the walkway begins
to spiral, above where the sun never shines.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Tired Hedgehog

I've been having trouble sleeping the last couple of nights. So when I get home from work, even though it is only 2.00 in the afternoon, all I want to do is sleep.
I feel a little like an animal with an overwhelming urge to hibernate.
However in our fairly temperate climate here in New Zealand, I believe about the only animals that hibernate are hedgehogs.

(Below is probably all you need to know about hedgehogs in New Zealand but were afraid to ask. Written by school children, it's an extract from a longer piece I found on the internet.)

In 1870 the hedgehogs were sent on a boat to New Zealand. They have short legs. They can run.

By Alex.

Hedgehogs are mammals. They eat slugs and snails. They sleep in the day and are awake at night. They are nocturnal. They get run over by cars because they are on the road at night. Hedgehogs crunch snails and munch!

By Kristy.

Although I can identify somewhat with a prickly, short-legged, nocturnal mammal with no road sense, maybe I am really more like a cat.

After a two-hour kip this afternoon, I am feeling fully restored. These autumn days, the nights are closing in fast. The curtains are drawn as early as 6.00pm.

In today's mail was the certificate for my short story.
It's gone up on the fridge.

I also received an appraisal from the judge, Owen Marshall, who described it as 'a successful story which captures Frances's slightly 'Ugly Betty' character with wry, satiric humour.' (As Frances is a semi-autobiographical character, I don't know whether to be flattered or not!)

A good two hours of writing beckons. Maybe I'll even manage to write something for Poetry Thursday - although by the time it's written, it's more likely to be 'Poetry Early-Hours-of-Friday-Morning.'

But first .... I think what I really need

is a cup of coffee.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Tiger Tea Anyone?

Today started out a little cooler than yesterday's mild and warm autumnal treat. Autumn mist appeared over the tops of the peninsula hills.

It was Otago Anniversary Day - so no work. I went for a little explore and found myself in Port Chalmers. Or to those who live here, 'The Port'. Or even just plain 'Port'.
Because the channel closer to the city itself is too shallow to allow most ships, the container port is situated at the mouth of the harbour.
This view down the sloping main street is the view that greets you as you cross the railway line and turn into the small town. The towering loading machinery looms over the smaller buildings of the town. The black and white building bottom right is a typical bluestone building which is a feature of some of the older buildings in Dunedin.

Logs piled ready to be loaded on to ships.

Near to the Lookout over the port, there is a sculpture garden that was opened last year. It features four sculptures that blend well into the native plants and the harbour backdrop. I was particularly taken by this figure standing on its head. I remember reading on the plaque that the sculptor's first name is Sharon ... I forgot to take note of her full name. I do know she has Maori heritage.

Port Chalmers is quickly becoming a base for people of a creative persuasion and there are lots of galleries to look through. Unfortunately Monday (even on public holidays) is the day they are all closed. Except for this one gallery.

The Tavern was open, but I opted for a cafe where I ordered a flat white and a BLT bagel. To scaredy-cat me, this hotel has unwritten signs all over it ear-tagging it as one of the last bastions for rugged kiwi working blokes. If I'd entered its dim interior, I'm sure I would have felt very out of place. (Another indication were the two typical-kiwi-blokes outside laughing at me taking a photo of ...

this mailbox.) This is another indication that we are in an area that has a 'creative vibe' going on. On the street where I live, to have a mailbox like this would seem pretentious and a little silly (it would probably even detrimentallly affect your house price!) But in Port, no, it is completely acceptable, because, don't you know, it's an arty-farty place. (Aren't people funny?)

This wee shop on the main street took my eye. It reminds me of shops in the country town of my childhood. It seems to add to the quaint, folksy character that Port Chalmers is promoting.

Unlike this faded wall I saw on the trip back home. I just had to stop and take a photo. Can you see the faint outline of the same Tiger Tea advert? But I kinda like that we still have faded walls and derelict buildings and shops are allowed to quietly tumble down. I'm sure this is one wall that is tagged for an overhaul. I'm glad I got a photo before it happens. Once again, it reminds me of the towns of my childhood.

Even though folk-art mailboxes aren't 'quait' the thing to do in Dunedin's orderly city suburbs, painted bus-shelters are. This is one I spotted in between Port Chalmers and Dunedin city.

Well ... work again tomorrow. Alas and alack. No more wandering about the countryside taking photos.

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Just Basking

* Basking in the sunshine of early autumn. This is a view over the golf course ABM just about lives at! A long weekend for Otago as it's our Anniversary Day.

* Some matchsticks against flax at the bottom of our driveway - celebrating the colour orange.
And on Friday, local musicians celebrated too - Heritage Day - with some Dunedin punk-rock bands from the '80s getting back together for a retrospective concert. Son M went along. Among other bands, The Clean, The Chills and Sneaky Feelings played. He was disappointed The Verlaines weren't part of it. Maybe next year. And if the response to this inaugural concert is anything to go by, there will be a next time.

* Another reason for M to smile was the launch of a cd by Dunedin group 'The Dry'. M did the art work for it. Very cool. Go to this site to have a look.

* Found out I have received a Highly Commended for a short story I sent into a competition. Confirmation that the novel I am working on is on the right track, as the short story was an excerpt from it.

* All the more reason why I should be at my desk writing ...

and not out taking photos of blue tractors on Tomahawk Beach.

*The little dark spot against the sea to the left, is Jedi participating in her favourite sport of chasing seagulls.

Early autumn colours from zinnias at our front door - all the more reason to bask a little longer in the sun before winter in its dark-grey overcoat comes knocking.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Thank God for Little Sisters! (Who Give To The Poor ;) )

I am so excited! My sister - McD - has give me her 'old' camera (which just happens to be a Canon.) So now I can post lovely piccies - as soon as I can work out how to operate it. McD informs me it is a lovely camera - in fact there was major trauma involved on her part to give it away. I have assured her it was to a good home.

Anyway, here are today's efforts - excuse any lack of clarity - it's definitely not the camera's fault - it's the driver's.

This is the view looking out to White Island through the old wooden poles at St Clair beach. It was a corker day today, the sky the 'bluest blue' and the ocean a veritable blue-and-white symphony.
There were one or two surfers out to test the breakers.

And here is a photo I took of Grommy our cat.

And one of Jedi our son's dog - who is getting old now and loves to sleep ... and sleep ... and sleep some more.

In Sunlight That Shines Like Moonlight

I just about didn't do anything for this week's Poetry Thursday. I've gone and caught myself a head-cold - no surprise when working in close proximity to 'littlies'. I am taking tomorrow off work to recover. Usually I 'soldier on', but this bug is a real doozy, so I am treating it with the respect it so obviously demands.

Because I have a poem in my book 'Feeding the Dogs' which fits this week's prompt, it has made it an easy one for me. And I so need easy right now.

I wrote the poem from the photo I've also posted. It shows myself and my mother on a swing down on the beach. Remember when they used to build swings on beaches? Well, I do anyway.

black and white photo

From where I sit on your knee
I look down. It might be
at the strange sight
of your shoes, your feet
as they fly

over the sand - it is all new
to me; the squeak
of the swing as we fall back,
surge forward, just like the sea
that builds and collapses

in front of us and behind
Dad who takes the photo
with a camera
with a jack-in-a-box lens
of pleated black.

From the perspective
of time you, my mother,
are no more than a child
yourself. Today
all we have to show

for that day is this small square
photo made up of greys
and no colour to intrude
or take away from the sweetness
of capture: here we are then

in sunlight that shines
like moonlight
where I smile at the sensation
of flight and you
at my tense joy.

Sunday, 18 March 2007


Sunday Scribblings has inspired me with its prompt to write about inspiration.

Without inspiration, each day would be such a drag I couldn't bear to live.

'I thrive on constant stimulation artistically, whether it's listening to music, seeing art, or whatever. I try to inspire myself because the urban world and politics are quite draining.'

Samantha Morton

Most days I find inspiration in what I see and hear around me. To the bitter cynic I am disgustingly optomistic and resilient. But I make no apologies for that. And it's not to say I don't appreciate hearty lumps of cynicism and suspicion to go with my optomistic preferences. I have a wary eye and I harbour an appreciation of the ironic. (After all, I was born in Southland and a fair percentage of my heritage is Northern English, as well as Celtic.) Which all helps to temper the optimism so that, I trust, in the end I'm not too much of an unbearable pollyanna.
Note: Even though I would describe myself as an optomist, I deplore sentimentality and other such mawkish behaviour.


Recent inspirations from my mental notebook:

* The sight of a fantail yesterday in the playground of the early childhood centre where I work.

This photo is on the front cover of 'NZ Forest and Bird' (Nov 2006) and was taken by Rod Morris.

* Taking Jedi (son M's dog) for a walk today (Jedi insisting on stopping at every fourth power pole to sniff at something that she found totally absorbing. And I mean, totally absorbing. I guess she was finding inspiration in her own unique way) a strong wind blowing in from the south and the sky grey and woolly and low - the clouds and the wind suddenly looming in after a long, blue-sky day, a reminder of the fickle weather we have here at the bottom end of an island with the Pacific Ocean on one side, the Tasman Sea on the other. It's like living on a boat.

* My husband's face as he left to watch a basketball game and as he described what it was like watching a basketball game long after he can no longer play like poetry in motion. As I looked at his face I realised how much time we have been together and how much we have seen ourselves grow older, how far removed from our younger selves* we are now, but that it is all right - it is okay. We have come so far. We have so much history. (And I still remember his moves on the court even if no-one else does.)

* (An appropriately blurred image of our younger selves somewhere on a motorway in Britain in 1977.)

* Poetry in a book called 'Markings' by Cilla McQueen. Her weave of words and images and invitations into her world of nature and the magic of language as music.

Equally the poetry of Ruth Dallas, in her latest book, 'The Joy of a Ming Vase' and how inspiration can be found even when age causes your world to be scaled down to a very small one of pot plants, vases and memories.
Reading both books in the last of the sun today was inspirational. To re-acquaint myself with poets who relate to and reflect the landscape of the southern climes of this land I live in, has inspired me to write some more poetry of my own.

* A postcard that arrived today from our oldest son S in Japan to his brother M which reflected the esteem in which he holds both his brothers. Both ABM and myself beamed for a full minute. (I wonder if offspring realise how much it warms parents' hearts to have confirmed how much their children love each other?)

* This city I live in. Its changeable climate, its accessible harbours, culture, beaches, views, is sheer inspiration just all by its little self.

* The subtle, autumn colouring of the trees I look out at from the windows of our home (our house with the 'arbour View!)

Thursday, 15 March 2007


For Poetry Thursday's idea this week, we were to choose a word or words we didn't know the meanings of and write about them. A little like unwrapping a present with your eyes closed.
The word I have chosen is ‘cassoulet’, which without looking to see how it should be pronounced, I hear in my head as ‘cass-oo-lay’. The spelling of it reminds me of ‘poulet’ the French word for hen, and so the idea of a heavy-boned bird comes to mind.
To me the word ‘cassoulet’ has a sad sound. A sound of regret and unattainable desires. Of unrequited flight.


A squat and stocky bird
a little too heavy

a little too drab,
the cassoulet

cannot fly very high
but must instead

bear the heaviness
of fattened poultry.

And yet each morning
just before daylight scolds

such impertinence,
the cassoulet thinks itself

a lark swept up in an eddy
of lightness. Oh cassoulet!

Now, after looking up the meaning of cassoulet, I find it to be a meat and beans casserole! However, as the next word down in my dictionary is ‘cassowary’ - a description for any large, flightless Australian bird - I am led to the conclusion that when I randomly chose the word ‘cassoulet’ my eye also picked up the word below, ‘cassowary’, (the meaning of which I do know) and somehow in the interim, my brain juxtaposed the two words.

Bird stew anyone?

Sunday, 11 March 2007

A Grey Warbler and A Pink Cadillac

It’s an autumn sound, the song I heard today in the trees around our house. It came from our resident grey warbler. For all its tiny-ness, it has a very penetrating song. A monotonous falling scale. Heard in the rain, it seems particularly mournful and dreary. But we’ve not had much rain around here lately. Water restrictions are in place and the fire danger’s high. Today was soft and warm and the grey warbler's song seemed to fall gently into velvet air.

K and I went for a four k. walk over the hill to a suburb called Tomahawk. Then we walked farther on again, over to Smaill’s Beach - a rusticated, unpretentious little beach where people drive their cars right down on to the sand. We took M’s dog Jedi with us. Jedi is about thirteen years old now, hard of hearing and doesn’t see that well either. K thought she should be wearing a sign that said, ‘I’m the seeing-eye for this blind dog’. Twice we had to scramble to Jedi’s aid and pull her out of the way of cars. She just about upset a wedding party that was standing on the sand dunes for a photo shoot, by almost barging into them all. A bridesmaid in a pretty pink frock squeaked,
“Oooh dog!”
They’d all arrived in a sleek Cadillac the same shade of pink as the bridesmaid’s frocks.

We found some shade near a sand dune because Jedi was hot and thirsty. I decided to text M to pick us up as I didn’t think she’d have a very comfortable walk back. After arriving, M texted twice saying he couldn’t see us. I told him to look out for a pink Cadillac.

So for Sunday’s Scribbling’s topic of ‘ dream journey’, I really don’t need to look any farther than today’s walk to Tomahawk. It was an unplanned spur of the moment invitation from K which in the end I couldn’t resist. We walked over the hill, past the cemetery and down the other side into that dreamy, slightly tumbledown seaside suburb with the unlikely name, where people fix their cars in driveways and grass sprouts merrily and untidily in cracks and gutters.
To me Tomahawk’s always been a little strange and a little weird. For example, after we’d walked quite a way, I asked K, “How far to go now?”
“Just up there - see? Past Birdies, and then on up to where you can see that bomb shelter."
Yep. Bomb shelter. That's Tomahawk. A little strange, a little weird.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

'I See Red'*

* The title of a song by Split Enz

Thanks to beachcomberaustralia at flickr for this photo

As Elaine from Poetry Thursday suggested, I looked out for the colour red today and noticed it was everywhere - usually in small spots. Lights, signs, geraniums, tomatoes, autumn leaves, in M's latest paintings (and the colour of his dog Jedi's dog-collar.) Even the spaceship in the book I'm reading at the moment is red.

ABM's father is an artist and he says every painting should contain the colour red somewhere because the eyes like to see a bit of red.

I wrote this poem about four years ago now. It hasn't made the cut for my new collection and I don't really know what to do with it. But I like it and I keep it in my Poetry Stack in honour of the memory of receiving at seven years old a shoulder purse for my birthday (or I'm thinking now maybe it was a First Communion present.) I was in love with that purse. (I wonder what eventually happened to it?) I loved the smell of it. I wanted to eat it, it looked so tantalising.
I haven't owned a red hand-bag since - the one I've got at the moment is brown leather and I don't feel like eating it.



A birthday present, it went with me

I ask my parents,
“When I go to heaven can I take it with me?”

this plastic shoulder-purse, as shiny as red
as a ruby rosary; as my auntie’s lipstick;

was for me forever after, the ultimate;
it was as far as the colour red goes.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Cherchez la Brain Cells

Akaroa was lovely. And here are some photos from flickr to prove it. As I can't get the photographers' names to appear underneath, please click on the photos themselves to see who the clever photographers are. (Credit where credit is due.)

Originally uploaded by steveandsarah.
The first one just taken today and posted about three hours ago - is this internet great, or what! I should have my own pictures up soon, after the usual wait for processing from my last century camera.

Akaroa harbour
Originally uploaded by Mollivan Jon.

Akaroa Town
Originally uploaded by Baba70.

The history of the place is that the French arrived in the harbour and planted their tricolor flag, but were two days too late - the Treaty of Waitangi with Britain had just been signed.

Happy to say, Niece S survived her budget accommodation experience. I'm sure, although she would never admit it (well ... maybe when she's forty) she will be all the more enriched from having had the experience of 'slumming it' with the rellies in Akaroa. (And darn it all - I didn't get to read until too late, Becky's comment on my last post with her suggestion to say to Niece S - 'Suck it up!' Oh boy would I have got her good with that! She wouldn't have known Aunty Chiefbiscuit had it in her!) Mind you, her mother - my sister L (not to be confused with McD) was just about as bad, moaning about how every time she looked around, there was a toothbrush-armed person on their way to the facilities to clean their teeth. Do I need to see that? she wailed. She also asked why all the campers were always so damn perky and happy? It was driving her insane. I felt like I should warn our fellow campers to refrain from offering their usual bright and cheery 'Good morning' (or 'guten Morgen' as the case may be) my sister's way, as they were in imminent danger of receiving a swift kick on the ankle.

Nuff said. We had good fun, with the rowdy game of charades on the last night the highlight of our stay. (And don't ask what b-i-l B from Australia mimed for the song title, 'She'll be Coming Round the Mountain'.)

We all then stayed another night with my sister in Christchurch, returning the rental car (and breathing a sigh of relief because the mobile phone that was rented with the car had survived its dunk in the Waikaia River okay; my sister S from Oz not having to pay for damages after all.) At 6.45 the next morning I dropped the four of them off at the railway station so they could catch the train to Picton, and then the ferry across to Wellington to see the rest of the family up there. They are having a most wonderful kiwi holiday. (Next instalment may be in my sister McD's partner, Dinzie's blog?)

Since arriving back from Akaroa and Christchurch, I've been writing prose and poetry for a deadline - today. I made it, but feel that the intensive writing workout has tilted my brain, causing brain cells to roll off into a corner (like one of those hand-held games involving tiny ball bearings) and now my head needs to tilt the other way, so my brain cells can reassemble into their normal pattern. (Seeing as I was up writing until three a.m.this morning, it is no wonder that I'm feeling a little confused - a little less than my usual alert wee self.)

Meanwhile ... I have got work again. Starting tomorrow, I'm back at the pre-school. Just for a month. It will be thrilling to see them all again after a little over two months away.

The weather continues dry. ABM has just come in from his usual twilight golf and said it was magical - still and warm. A beautiful night. We have no grass left on our lawns. As I pass what little summer flora we do have, I hear their tiny whispers, gasps and whimpers for water. I do try to remember to give them all a drink every day. I'm not completely heartless.

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...