Sunday, 24 June 2007

Facts You Didn't Really Want to Know And Were Afraid To Ask

The bad weather continues. Bad weather!

We did venture out again - mainly because we were babysitting M's dog Jedi and had to take her for a walk. Hopefully these pictures convey the feeling that even if conditions were far from salubrious, they were still not without their charm.

I think these birds sheltering from the storm should be called Pied Pipers. However, their correct name is Oystercatcher.

This image of the cabbage trees blowing in the wind shows just how strong that wind was.


I have been tagged. Twice. Once by
Cailleach and once by Pepek, to supply eight random facts about myself. (Does that mean I now have to supply 16 random facts about myself?)
I have been reading other bloggers who have been tagged and have found their random facts fascinating material indeed. I was inspired. And then as reality set in - I began to feel intimidated. For how could I hope to deliver equivalent?

1. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts.
2. Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves.
3. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random facts about themselves.
4. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged (named and shamed).
5. Go to their blog, leave a comment telling them they're tagged (cut and run).

Here goes:

Fact One: I am short and used to get told 'Good things come in small parcels' right up until I was about eleven years old, when people started in with the addendum - 'and so does poison.' (Which I am hoping had more to do with the fact that I was now heading out of sheltered childhood into a world with sharp bits, rather than because it was particularly applicable.)

Fact Two: I was the eldest of a rowdy Catholic household of seven kids ... Well, my father was Catholic; my mother was Presbyterian. Of course because the Catholics believe(ed?) that if you weren't a Catholic you were headed for hell, Dad insisted we were christened before six weeks old and brought up Catholic. One of Mum's many rebellions against this rule was that we weren't to be given Catholic names - so there was not a Monica, Veronica, Theresa, Bernadette, Patrick or Michael among us. (However Dad was allowed free reign with the second names, so we have Frances (my second name) Elizabeth, Patrick, Stephen ... etc. ) None of us are Catholics now. But then again, none of us are Presbyterians either ... We all follow our own calling in our own sweet, rebellious ways - maybe we all took after our Mum in the end.

Fact Three: I am named after a film-star and I'm in the Cockney alphabet. For those of you who don't know the Cockney alphabet, one version of it goes 'A for 'orses' (hay for horses) 'B for mutton' (beef or mutton) 'C for Highlanders' (Seaforth Highlanders) etc. Then ... 'J for Oranges' (Jaffa oranges) and 'K for Ancis' (Kay Francis - the name of a '30s & '40s film-star) and my first and second names. For other variations on this alphabet - see here.
Kay Francis' famous quote is - "My life? Well, I get up at a quarter to six in the morning if I'm going to wear an evening dress on camera. That sentence sounds a little ga-ga, doesn't it? But never mind, that's my life...As long as they pay me my salary, they can give me a broom and I'll sweep the stage. I don't give a damn. I want the money...When I die, I want to be cremated so that no sign of my existence is left on this earth. I can't wait to be forgotten." —From Kay Francis's private diaries, ca. 1938

I didn't particularly like the name Frances because I was told that not only was I named after a film-star, I was also named after a Great Aunt with the (to me) awfully embarrassing name of Aunty Fanny. I did not want to be named after an Aunty Fanny!!! No siree. (BTW here in the Antipodes, 'fanny' has a different meaning to the American version - it doesn't mean the rear end of your anatomy. Oh no. It means the front part. ) To have 'fanny' as any part of my name, was to me simply appalling! Luckily I had a grandfather whose second name was Francis, so I opted to be named after him, thank you very much. Problem solved.

Fact Four:
My nickname as a child was Kaybells. This was because my father had teased his brother after he'd named his firstborn Joy, by calling her 'Joy Bells'. So when I was born and named Kay, Uncle Jack teased my father back by calling me 'Kay Bells'.

Fact Five: When I got married, I gave up my Scottish name McKenzie for an English name, Cooke. So when I began to write, I added the name McKenzie back in again. I always liked having the name McKenzie, mainly because of the 'z' in it. This made it a great name to have for when playing the Alphabet Game. Ever played the Alphabet Game? Someone stands up the front and calls out letters to everyone else standing at the back. When a letter that is in your name is called, you step forward. No-one else's name had a 'z', so to my mind this always gave me the winning edge.

Fact Six: My blogging name Chiefbiscuit came about because my husband and sons always get nicknamed 'Cookie'. As I'm actually the chief cook and bottlewasher, it stands to reason I should be called, 'Chief Cookie'. However, as that was a bit obvious, I decided Chiefbiscuit would do instead. Get it?

Fact Seven: I became a grandmother at the age 43, which seemed excessively young to me at the time and so I didn't want to be called Nana or Granny or Gran'ma. Besides, because of a complicated 21st century set-up, my granddaughter had three grandmothers - now she's got four! So B calls me Kay. (Sometimes tho' she calls me 'Gran'ma Kay'.) I think when more grandchildren come along, I'm actually ready now to be called Gran'ma K.

Fact Eight: I will be 54 years old tomorrow. Yes, it is my birthday, Monday 25th June. And the weather is forecast to be very cold, with sleet and snow to sea-level. So, what's different? It's always bad weather on my birthday. Which makes me feel ... kinda special actually.

I tag: Kumonkey, Mcdinzie, Dinzie, Becky, Anne, Kamsin, Carole and Catherine.

Cheers! (My shout.) Which is 'kiwi' for 'my turn' ... to buy the drinks or whatever - cos it's my birthday, you see. Although, I always think it should be the other way around. Don't you? If it's your birthday shouldn't people be buying YOU the drinks? But anyway, I will be providing the morning tea at work tomorrow. My shout.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Onomatopoeia - Now Try Saying That Backwards

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday ... Zoosh, woosh, zip, zam, bobble-bop, whee!
(Some onomatopoeia for the sound this week made as it rushed by.)
I spent all yesterday (bobble-bop) in bed fighting off a flu bug. I did have some company - Ian Rankin's D.I.C. John Rebus. A purely cerebral relationship, I assure you. I have now finished 'The Falls' - one of the three Rankin books I borrowed from F-i-L. I've now started on a second, called 'Black and Blue'. In this book Rankin has upped the ante. The seamier sides of Glasgow and Aberdeen, as well as Edinburgh, are given living colour as D.I.C. Rebus gets drawn into the criminal underbelly, and as his isolation and rebellion become more pronounced.
Apparantly Rankin's new book, soon to be launched, cannot be named and is being referred to as 'Rebus XX'. No doubt a publicity stunt to promote sales. The lines between a writer's credibility and a promoter's mis-placed enthusiasm becoming a little blurred?
In this week's NZSA newsletter it says that Rankin is soon to visit the North Island of New Zealand ... I wonder if he makes it down this way? Hopefully all the ice and snow will have gone by then. O yes indeedy. Ice and snow. We have had a 'polar blast' (as weather people are fond of calling it) and not just one, but two. Or is that three? I've lost count ... here's me trying to keep track, counting on gloved fingers.

ABM and I went out this morning for a wee explore. We saw one or two cars ... of course the four-wheel drives with their grunt and brunt had to prove the point of their existence in a city. I bet once the owners saw the ice, they rubbed their hands in utter glee at the chance to brave the elements to go out and get a newspaper. There they were slipping and sliding and daring the icy roads. We saw a man and woman pull up outside their house and go in with two bags of groceries each - the woman wearing her dressing gown over tracksuit pants and ugg boots. (No, I couldn't work out why she would go out dressed like that either.) But most people were staying put. We were the only two in our neighbourhood mad enough to be out walking. Our feet made loud crunchy noises as we walked - so loud, I was afraid we might wake all the Saturday morning slumberers.

We are very glad our house backs on to a hill which gives us shelter from the southerly blasts.
C's car parked at the top of the drive, is adorned with a cap of ice.

While the sun was still shining and the roads were melting just a little, we went out and bought a) a webcam and b) some wool because a) I want my sister, and my friend C in Britain, to see me when next I Skype them and b) I'm going to knit Son C a warm jersey for the winter job we all hope he is successful in attaining soon. The webcam works perfectly - except I find it's very off-putting as I'm used to seeing myself as a mirror-image, not as a dork.
While out, we saw two female shoppers wearing their pyjama pants ... Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Don't ask me why snowy, icy polar-blast weather brings this particular sleep-wear trait out in Dunedin citizens. Is it just in this part of the world? Or has this odd habit been noticed elsewhere - if so, please enlighten me.
I discovered that the wool shop - 'Knit World' - has moved and what was 'Knit World', is now a tattoo parlour! I bet I'm not the first middle-aged woman to scuttle in and then out again at a very rapid pace once the realisation hits!

After a long spell, I am beginning to feel my rusty poetical joints begin to squeak back into action again as I ready for NZ's Poetry Day, July 27th. I'm reading poetry on that day here in Dunedin. And all going well, my book 'made for weather' will be launched that day. The week before that, I've been invited to read poetry at a church, along with three other poets - Sue Wootton, Elizabeth Brooke-Carr and the minister of the church herself - Susan Jones. The church is in the Dunedin suburb with the funny name of Opoho. It makes me smile when I see 'OPOHO' written up on the front of the bus I sometimes catch. It's like the word is obsessing on the letter O. It is a word I would like to, one day, include in a poem. Imagine ending a poem with: 'Oh Po Ho'!


Sunday, 17 June 2007

Far and Near

There has to be a good reason for me to leave the fireside and venture out these winter evenings.


However, overseas travel could give me reason enough. At the moment our part of the globe is (as Apprentice said to me in a comment) 'at the back of the Austrian clock'; when it is light and sunny on the other side, it is dark and dour ( & vice versa, ad infinitum) for us in the Antipodes. At the moment we only get a glimpse of the sun as we roll past it each day, and so it is very easy to yearn to be where the sun shows its face for longer.
ABM and I do have definite plans to travel. It is a matter of being patient and earning the money to make it possible. We plan to, in 2010, visit family in Australia, and then travel on to the UK, Ireland and possibly some of Europe. First priority though, is to visit Son S in Japan next year. He has started a blog called Mountain to Sea and what he describes there, added to what he has already told us in person, is certainly making me even more keen to get there. (At the risk of sounding biased, I highly recommend his blog for its impressions of Japan.)
A blog that I've revisited again after a spell of forgetting to 'look in', is Anil P's blog, 'Windy Skies'. He is passionate about his country India and writes about his travels there with patient gentleness and considerable craft.


Winter has driven ABM and I to the shops to buy a warmer duvet. Something we should've done months ago. Now that I have a full-time job, I may not be writing or blogging as much, but at least I now have money to buy things we have long needed.
However, shopping is not something either of us enter into joyfully. Maybe it is because we both have Scottish blood and are loath to part with our money. But I think it is more to do with the fact that we are introverts and find the interest shop assistants give us intrusive, annoying and highly distracting. Well, I do anyway. ABM is probably too nice-natured to feel quite the same way. Plus he does like to gather information about a product. This combination of niceness and the need for info. draws shop assistants to him like bees to honey. I just want to be left alone to take my time to decide for myself without a shop assistant rabbiting on and applying pressure. Questions and remarks such as, "Is it a cold place you are living in?" "What bedding do you have at present?" "You might find that with two bodies in a bed, you are better to have a King-Sized duvet, so that the sides don't pull up" are far too personal. I am a private person. (She says, blogging away to her heart's content!)
Poor wee T at 'Beds R Us' did her best. But she should've just stopped her sales pitch a full ten minutes before she did. And she should've read my very obvious body-language waaaay before she did. ABM's niceness didn't help of course. She was getting mixed signals poor girl. Wasn't she instructed in her training sessions to 'Always take the cue from the female?' It's always the female who will make the ultimate choice.
Anyway, T didn't get the sale, another shop did - one where we were free to look around on our own without 'assistance'.
We came home very pleased with ourselves and our purchase, and it was with great joy that we stored away all the now un-needed extra blankets, along with the thin summer-weight duvet.
Next on my shopping list is towels. Do you find towels are a little like ballpoint pens? They just keep going missing? Of course having sons coming and going, and each time they go taking a towel or two with them - which never come back - doesn't help.

Yesterday too, I spent the day in town shopping. This is unheard of for me. A whole weekend shopping. It's kind of scary. It has been a loooong time since I've done that. I bought three warm scarves (for some reason I never think I've got enough scarves) - orange, blue and yellow - a couple of bead-necklaces and three poetry books. One with Emily Dickinson's poems in it, Cilla McQueen's 'Firepenny' and 'Dragon Cafe' by Peter Olds.
I also bought myself a pair of dark-coloured jeans. Dark-coloured jeans rather than blue was niece SB's suggestion a few months back. And I believe a niece's advice is worth following. When I had to go back to the rack and fetch a smaller size than what I usually wear, I realised my cunning eating plan must be working. I may soon have to change my blogger name to Chiefwafer. (I wish!)


Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Darwin's Theory and Van Gogh's Ear and What Really Happened

Son S in Japan has started a blog. Go here to read his first entry. Tell
him I sent you!


It's dark when we go to work and dark when we return. I don't hear birds around our house anymore during the week-days. However, at work there are birds in the trees above the bark chipped playground. And over the fence, in Lindsay's Creek, there is a dead drake. Today one of the teachers spotted ducklings. Ducklings in June is a weird thing. Maybe evolution is having an effect, because ducklings born in spring in this particular locality are not destined to live long. They are either eaten by cats or dogs or black-backed gulls. So just maybe these ducklings have been born out of season in order to have a better chance. A good example of Darwin's law of survival.

I got home and played some of our I-Tunes selections while I cooked dinner. My selection included, ELO's 'Mr Blue Skies', Beach Boys 'Good Vibrations', Foo Fighters 'Razor', The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony', Patsy Cline's 'I Fall To Piececs', Kate Bush's 'Cathy's Song', Emmylou Harris' 'Evangeline' and Jerry Rafferty's one-hit wonder 'Baker Street'.
The last song always takes me right back to England in the late-seventies and a little room in the staff lodgings of Heath Lodge in Welwyn in Hertfordshire. We were waiter and kitchen-hand respectively. It was a grey winter in 1977. Sometimes on our days off we would walk through country lanes and villages (similar to the setting of the TV programme 'Midsomer Murders') to get to the 'Big Smoke' of Welwyn Garden City. I remember the dismal sound of crows cawing in bare elm trees, and seeing red-breasted robins, their scarlet chests a welcome slash of colour. Other times on our days off, we'd take the train into London. I must say my knees have never felt so cold as they were in London that winter.
Once when we were walking down an ordinary street in Welwyn, we saw a plaque outside a place where Vincent van Gogh once stayed. Son M has just been reading a biography about him. He told me that Van Gogh only ever sold one painting. And contrary to urban myth, he didn't cut off his ear and post it to an ex-lover, he accidentally slashed a little bit of his earlobe with a razor blade; that's all. So much is known about him because he wrote regular and open letters to his brother. I think if he was alive today, he might have had a blog. My favourite Van
Gogh painting is 'Sunflowers'. What's your's?


Sunday, 10 June 2007

Muddy Gumboots

We stayed at my brother's farm Saturday night. A cold night, but warm inside by the wood burner. The next morning dawned bright and clear.

The only snow we could see was what remained on top of the Blue Mountains.

The paddocks were glowing with a healthy winter-green. Except where the tops of them were worn away allowing the mud to come to the surface. Oh yes, there was plenty of mud, mud, glorious mud wherever stock trampled or the tractor wheels rolled.

But where the land lay undisturbed, it was a glorious sight of bright green against the clear blue sky.

A wee sparrow on top of a fencepost is a typical rural sight.

My brother and his wife had fences to shift and feeding out to do, so ABM and I borrowed some gumboots and tagged along. R's very large tractor with its juggernaut wheels, rear fork-lift and front-end loader, certainly makes feeding-out a whole lot easier than what I remember back in the days of helping my father on the farm. Back then it was a case of bodily hoisting the bales on to a trailer, cutting the binder-twine with a pocket knife (which was a hard job on frosty days when your hands were numb with cold) and separating and then distributing the hay bales, section by section, as the tractor was driven slowly around the paddock. I have never had the pleasure of riding in R's pride and joy (which is about a storey high) but apparently the tractor has a heater inside the cab, and music! My father would be utterly astounded.

ABM gave H a hand to shift the electric fence. This gives the calves she is hand-rearing a bit more grass. The muddy strip behind them shows what is left of yesterday's allocation.

I had my turn too at helping out when I stood rather ineffectively in a paddock of swedes (which is what turnips are called down in this part of the country - which in turn makes tourists wonder when they see hand-painted road signs announcing 'Swedes For Sale'!) Some sheep had got into the swedes over night and so had to be shooed back out.

Bess the dog helped shift the sheep too, but like a lot of farm dogs, she wasn't that good at listening and had her own idea about how things should go. But all went well, despite Bess continuing to bark when she should have kept quiet.

After our very pleasant dose of rural life, we headed back to the city where ABM made a beeline for the golf course, and I met a friend for coffee.

We had a coffee at the Customhouse Restaurant with its harbour-view, highly polished surfaces and not a speck of mud to be seen anywhere.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Raw and Bricht


Today I had to restrain a fierce four year old boy with the narrow, freckled look of a feral cat. Afterwards my heart felt as if it had been wrung of blood. I took time out to stand in the staff room kitchen with its smell of cold lino, and drink water from a tall glass. And just for a moment, as I stared out at a leafless tree where three sparrows hung, I considered eternity.


Today a three year old started to cry. When I asked him what was wrong he said that it was because he wanted to play Bald Eagles first and then Carnivores, but his friend B. wanted to play Carnivores first and then Bald Eagles. Silly friend. Everyone knows you always play Bald Eagles before you play Carnivores.

At nine o’clock this morning some of the children and I stood by the classroom’s glass doors and watched fat snowflakes fall. But because they didn’t stick around, any hopes of snowmen or snowballs, or even of school being closed for the day, were dashed.
To steal a line from Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where The Wild Things Are’, winter ‘showed its terrible teeth and gnashed its terrible jaws’. Clear and bitter and clean. Each year winter seems to taste of new ice.
After work I happily strode to the bus-stop. My lungs welcomed the shock of fresh, cold air. I was warm and cosily wrapped up in scarf, hat, gloves, warm coat and sheepskin boot-liners. I felt protected from the elements like a polar bear, or an Antarctic geologist.
Winter! I love how it offers elements to brave and the chance to write, “I happily strode.”


Soon ABM and I head off to Beaumont to my brother’s farm. It is a’ raw, bricht nicht’ kind of day (although the ‘bricht’’ may not apply ... the sky is ragged and grey with snow clouds. And as ABM pointed out, as is his inimitable, reasoned wont; 'nicht' doesn't apply either as it means 'night'.) All I am hoping is that there is some snow on the ground at R’s place.

Meanwhile, as I pack a bag to take, I am also trying to think of a way to feed the birds I can hear calling from the trees around our house. The thing is ... we have two cats, so it’s tricky trying to work out how to feed the birds without luring them toward the jaws of death.

I am reading an Ian Rankin murder mystery at the moment. Set in Edinburgh, it gives me a sense of familiarity, not only because we were over there in 1977 (shudder ... so long ago now) but also because in Dunedin - which is another version of the word ‘Edinburgh’ - we have identical street-names to the ‘auld’ town. So when Rankin describes D.I. Rebus walking down George Street and then Princes Street (having just visited Canongate) it all sounds very familiar indeed.


Last night I dreamed that I was about to walk up a gravel road (very similar to a road I remember from my childhood.) The road spanned three hills that clearly curved before me like the undulating back of a snake. And to top it all off, at the end of this set of three hills, there were a quite considerable number of steep, concrete steps to conquer. I was looking forward to the exercise! However, I woke up before I could achieve my goal. I could ‘could've felt a little cheated, except for the pleasant glow of anticipation still there when I woke up.


One of our cats, Grommet, is a mad cat. He thinks he’s a dog. He likes to bound and would wag his tail if he could. And bark. This morning because it is so cold outside, he thinks indoors will do for bounding in. He’s a very heavy cat and the sound of him in the bathroom leaping from bath to hand-basin to floor again (and in the process rolling up the mat) makes it sound like we’ve got a herd of elephants in there.

Meanwhile our other wee cat, Aggie, is curled up quietly in the corner on a pink blanket. She knows she’s a cat and has no delusions of grandeur whatsoever. Just a very loud and chilling yowl whenever Grommet gets anywhere within an inch of her. (It is her only form of defence as he is so huge and a bit of a bully.) Except when it comes to feed-time, Aggie becomes all maternal and licks Grommet’s head and allows him to munch happily beside her.

But I mustn’t tarry. I’ve got to finish my packing and add a few layers of clothing to my person because in an hour’s time ABM and I head off into the rural interior where there are rumours of heavy snowfalls and feeding out.


Monday, 4 June 2007

Where I Go All Existential On You

Helen Bar-Lev, co-author of the book 'Cyclamens and Swords'

has been in touch with me and given me her website and email address should anyone wish to buy a copy. The art and poetry in the book simply and truthfully paint a picture of what it is like to live an everyday life in 21st century Israel. I wrote about it in a previous post and can recommend it as an informative and enjoyable read. Helen's website is here. And her email is:


You could be forgiven for thinking the photo below is taken somewhere on a sweltering hot day in Australia. However, the actual air temperature when I took it, would be sure to give the truth away. It is in fact a neighbour's eucalyptus tree here in the South Island's cooler southern climes. I managed to capture it just as the sinking sun was smothering it in light.

Make you think of a golden summer day? Ha! That just shows you how the camera can lie. I was about to pull the curtains and light the fire.

This is last night's sky's effort at a sunset. I kept taking photos as the colours deepened. Taking photos of sunsets can become a little addictive.
I have my suspicions though, that having seen one sunset, you've really seen them all ... after all, aren't all sunsets similar? So what makes us gasp anew when we see yet another?

Does watching a new sunset makes us forget all the others? Just how much reality can we retain? And then, as the science fiction writer Phillip K Dick used to say, what is real anyway?


Sunday, 3 June 2007


I have adopted a Shameless Lion from Shameless Words. Go to this Shameless Lions site and you too can adopt a magnificent Lion from Lyon, France, and as well, read what others have written about their lion.
Below is the image of the lion I have adopted. I have called him Kauri, and have written a poem especially for him.

Please Note: This is a writing circle that Shameless has created from his blog. Earlier (before edits) I may have given the false impression that it is my own writing circle ... uh-uh. I am not that imaginative.

I have named the lion I adopted Kauri because his colour reminds me somewhat of the polished wood of the giant kauri tree of Aotearoa. (Aotearoa is the Maori name for New Zealand.) I decided to develop this idea and imagined a lion such as Kauri prowling about in New Zealand's native forest (which is a rather incongruous thought.)


Traces of pounamu green
stain your legs. Lion, you are here
among the rimu and totara.
Greedy for the insects your paws disturb,
piwakawaka flit and cheep
above your burnished back
as long as a valley.

From the darkened depths
of forest fern and moss,
you lift your heavy head to gather
what grassland-sun can be found
up where trees lift branches
to granite mountains
and sapphire sky.

A silver waterfall crashes,
a river growls. You shake
your mane, the colour of polished wood.
As you merge into the land
it is as if you never were.
In the wind
we hear the kauri roar.

pounamu - A green river stone, or jade - also called Greenstone - which is sacred to the Maori and used in their jewellery and for tools such as adzes. It is regarded as a protected national treasure and is not permitted to be taken without permission from Kai Tahu - the South Island Maori tribe.
rimu and kahikatea are native New Zealand trees
piwakawaka is the Maori name for the small bird known in English as 'fantail'.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Il Pleut

Today it rained. It hasn't rained here for quite some time. We'd got out of the habit of dealing with it. As we drove into town we struggled to de-mist the windows of the old Alfa. It has many idiosyncracies. For example, the front window on the driver's side keeps slipping down, so two golf tees are needed to hold it in place. Also the boot sometimes sticks, and in order to load the groceries today, ABM had to reach through from the back seat to undo the latch from the inside. It is one crazy, cranky little car.

Last night I finished the book 'Cyclamens and Swords' by Helen Bar-Lev and Johnmichael Simon that Anne kindly sent me. The writers, through their poetry and art, paint a realistic and non-judgmental portrait of Jerusalem and the surrounding landscape. They seem to be saying, that to choose to love Israel, and Jerusalem in particular, is also to choose to have your heart broken, but that you learn to learn to live with it. They describe a kind of peace to be found there in the landscape - in the flora of cyclamen, poppies, olive trees and almond blossom ... the fauna of deer, pelican and hawk - and a peace also in the shadow of churches, temples, cafes and markets. But this found peace goes hand in hand with a terrible tension. A tension I would personally find intolerable. In that quarter of the world, constant threat cannot help but shape your daily existence. Is the person standing in front of you in line to buy pomegranates, a suicide bomber plotting to kill as many people in one go as he or she can? In its own way, for all its loveliness, it is a disturbing book, because it's a reminder - lest we forget - that the local neighbourhood for some of us earthlings teeters daily between sudden peace and sudden war. For all its allusions to political unrest, the writers appear to cast no blame; they simply reflect what their life is like.


C has arrived back from his road-trip North. He has subsequently had both his cast and troublesome wisdom teeth removed, and is now looking for winter employment.

And yes, winter has arrived. Both C and I noticed this afternoon that the air was full of the sound of birds establishing their feeding grounds. No doubt the sustained period of mild weather, followed by the cold snap this weekend, has driven them to seek out what berries and bugs can still be found.

Once the rain stopped, we could hear them defining their territory as they grouped and re-grouped, swooped and fed, and every so often sent out the familiar chiff-chiff-chiff warning to each other that there were cats about. I identified not only blackbirds and thrushes, but tuis,

chaffinches and bellbirds. As usual, it was hard to get a picture of them. (Click on the photos for a closer look. The birds below are chaffinches, the one above is a tui and the bird in the top pic is perhaps a bellbird.)

A phone call from S in Japan was a happy interruption. He was in Osaka with his Japanese girlfriend E, in a computer shop and looking to buy a laptop. He needed some advice from his father about specifications ... megabytes ... the attributes of macs and pcs. (I haven't a clue what it was all about really - it was just lovely to hear his voice.) He said it was really hot over there. What a contrast to the temperature here. But it's only fair. As our planet spins, we each get our turn to sit nearer the hearth. We know it and the birds know it.


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...