Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Red Moon

Work is so much better since I 'gave myself a good talking to ' (as Barbara from Barbara's Bleeuugh put it.) There was also an adjustment made as to who I have to deal with on a daily basis, which has made the whole scene so much more pleasant. In the interests of privacy and discretion, unfortunately I cannot give you all the juicy details. Suffice to say, I now pretty much enjoy my days at the pre-school (although of course I would far sooner be at home writing ... and my daily instinct to flee is still a mighty strong one.)

Last night ten women poets from Dunedin gave a reading to celebrate one of NZ's most famous writers - the late Janet Frame. August 28th was her birthday. I was one of the readers. I had a thoroughly enjoyable time listening to all of the other readers - each with their own distinct voice and style. As I said to someone afterwards, what a rich vein of poetry we have in our little city. May it continue to be mined.

There was also a lunar eclipse last night. The sky was cloudy, but ABM was excited to see what he could when the ragged clouds parted. (See photo above.) I ventured out at one point to have a look. It was an extremely chilly night, so I didn't stay out for long. Still, a red moon only comes along once in a blue moon.


Sunday, 26 August 2007

Pictures Tell the Story

Just back from a fantastic weekend in Christchurch.

I am posting a few of the photos we took. More pictures than words for this post.

We went there for my sister's 50th birthday.

The weather was glorious ...

Spring was in evidence everywhere we went.

And the mountains (Southern Alps) were a stunning backdrop as we wended our way back home.

View from where we had a coffee in Timaru

Thursday, 23 August 2007


Towards St Clair from St Kilda

I woke up last night (or more aptly, early this morning) and couldn't get back to sleep. From 1.30 a.m. to 4.00 a.m. I was kept awake by thoughts of why I wasn't enjoying work, and why I wasn't writing - knowing full well that the two things are linked.

I decided I wasn't taking a pro-active enough approach. Lately my life-attack skills have been lacking in oomph. I resolved to once more take on my more characteristic resilient approach. Then I went back to sleep.

Close-up of oyster shell

In the morning, I woke up knowing that any shortfall in my sleep tally was going to be more than made up for by the new resolution I now felt. I was also counting on using up some of that positive, mental energy I'd managed to store while lying there planning in the dark.

As a consequence, work today was enjoyable. All it took was my sleep broken in the middle, and a lot of angst in the early hours.

All it took was remembering who I was and why I am here at all. These are the things I thought about in the dead of the night as I listened to the wind soughing in the big pines at the back of our house. As I heard the rain and small twigs and cones dropping on to our corrugated iron roof.

The big thoughts you have in the middle of the night as panic is slowly replaced by purpose.

Cat lying on concrete path

In the morning I felt like I had been round and round and out the other side.

Tonight however, I need my bed to stop acting like a psychiatrist's couch. Tonight I just want to sleep.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Got The Pip

'Made for weather' is making a small impact, which is comforting to see. A great review by Iain Sharp in the 'Sunday Star Times'. A workmate cut out and brought another review which was in Mosgiel's community newspaper.

The dinner on Saturday night was fun. We chatted volubly on subjects dear to the hearts of all who suddenly find themselves on the middle-aged side of young. ABM was mortified when he spilt some red wine on the carpet, and only made worse when I tried to dab it up with a red serviette - silly me. I rang them tonight to see if they had to re-carpet the whole house. P said we really mustn't fret, some stuff she found in the cupboard 'took it right out.' Whew!

The week is almost over. I got six dvds from the library to watch before Thursday night. Why did I do that? 'Blade Runner' is one of them. Harrison Ford when he was desirable.

My daughter and her family were around for a meal last night. She asked what was my fav. Star Wars character. I said R2 D2 - which was apparently the same answer as my granddaughter's. Dunno if this is good or bad. When I asked my daughter what her favourite character was, she said, "Darth Vader of course." (She favours the dark side.) "She tries to anyway," her partner K teased.

I am reading the book, 'Mr Pip' by Lloyd Jones. This book has been doing well in the awards stakes, and selling well overseas (a benchmark to some degree.) Jones is a natural writer and enjoyable to read. The first adjective that comes to mind is 'smooth'. No rough edges or jarring moments. And with the odd surprise of a brilliant description.

The second poetry reading at the Circadian Rhythm is on tonight. I have opted not to go. It's been a rough week at work and tonight I just want to chill out. I don't know when this job of mine will turn a corner and become enjoyable. I keep waiting! Hoping for a miracle. It is probably the most un-enjoyable job I have ever done. I am applying flat-out for another. 'nuff said.


Saturday, 18 August 2007

Just Us

This boot is one of many knick-knacks we inherited from ABM's great-aunt Phyllis. My Nana also had one of these ornaments. They were popular in the 1940s and '50s. Is it a kind of elevation of the common man? The working boot, evoking blood, sweat and tears and a job well done at the end of the day. A drain dug. A road mended. A track cleared.

Speaking of tracks cleared, this morning we farewelled C our youngest son who is off to take up his position as an 'Official Track Clear-er' for DOC. This time I believe it will be a long time until (if ever) he needs to come 'back home' to roost. This time he has got himself a permanent job (other times the work has been seasonal.)
As I washed the bedding and towels and cleaned out his room, I felt it sinking in more and more: ABM and I have the place to ourselves again. ABM said that the expectation of imminent return has its own presence, and it is a weird feeling when it's absent. I agree. When someone is living with you, even if you don't see them much (C was often out for long periods of time) there was always the expectation that he was coming back for meals, to sleep, to do his laundry, to sit and watch TV with us, play his music, catch up on his emails, have a shower etc. Now even that has gone, leaving us with JUST US. A nice feeling, yet a strange one. It'll take me a week or two ...

C said it's whitebaiting season, and therefore the busy season in the West Coast town where he's headed. In the supermarket the other day an older woman in the queue behind me had a packet of frozen whitebait in her basket. She couldn't resist telling me how it seemed a shame she had to resort to buying frozen whitebait, as she remembered when she was younger catching it fresh and cooking it up into patties, and how scrumptious it was. "It's not the same at all," she said ruefully. I couldn't think of anything to say that was appropriate, wise or witty. In the end, "At least you have your memories," was all I could come up with. Duh.


View from Arawa Street, Dunedin.

We have been invited round for dinner with friends tonight, and we're bringing dessert. As usual I was stuck for brilliant ideas. Not being into cooking, it's always a major dilemma. I often end up going to the supermarket and delving into the freezer to find something expensive and different.
If I was into living up to the expectation of all upper middle-class-ers - listening to Kim Hill and hearing about how to make an Auckland dessert; something that doesn't involve crystallized cherries or angelica, something with white chocolate, raspberries or schnapps, something called baklava, New York Cheesecake or Cranberry Hootycreeks; maybe then I could really impress.
But there's too much of the Southland girl in me for that. (At the hint of anything pretentious, I can always hear my father's voice growling, 'Lah-di-dah.')
In the end I've used a tried and true, 70s recipe. The old chocolate chip log. Chocolate chip biscuits dunked in sherry and then, using whipped cream, pressed together into a log. Simple, homely and able to be made quickly if you're armed like I am with my mother's Southland elbows.


Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Head North

The walk after work and before tea seems to work out quite well. Tonight there was a definite frosty sting in the air.

These fellows took my attention with their red beaks and legs. You'd swear they knew I was taking their photo, they look so damn coy.

I continue to struggle to write anything of substance. Even a poem seems to be beyond my capabilities right now. At least I can read. I'm still reading the 'Bedside Book of Birds'. As well a bit of Denise Levertov, and just for contrast, Bosworth writing about Johnston. I eagerly await the book of collected poems by Amy Clampitt that I ordered from Amazon.

Every morning on my way to work I come to a crossroads. To the right is the way to work, to the left is the road out of the city. Every morning I am tempted to just go left. Flee town and head north. Every day I am walking proof that temptation can be overcome.

Monday, 13 August 2007


Mondays are always a little fraught. That familiar draggy feeling hits about 7.00pm Sunday when I realise that the weekend is coming to an end, and it's back to work again in the morning.

This morning started out frosty. Using a jug of hot water, ABM de-frosted the back window of my car (which is not the car in the photo below!) I arrived at work having had no breakfast, so made a cup of tea and munched on a muesli bar. It took until about 9.00 (an hour after arriving) for me to start feeling halfway normal and in the mood to be social.

(On my walk yesterday afternoon, a line of vintage cars unexpectedly rolled past me. I managed to take a photo of a few of them as they rounded the Shore Street corner.)

Today I got deliberately whacked on the shin by a four year old's clod-hopper boots, and later was scratched on the face by the same charming child. At those moments I just want to say,
"Stick your job." And walk out. But I don't. There are enough other sweeties who make it worth while. However, I am so over pre-schoolers. I believe I've got to the stage that the only ones I want to have anything to do with are my own future grandchildren. I am on the lookout for other work. Working with books in a library would be my first choice.

Speaking of new jobs, C is starting his at the end of the week. His boots will be picked up from the wood-pile and put to good use on the muddy bush tracks of South Westland. We will miss his lanky frame and good-natured presence. I managed to finish the jersey I was knitting him. It fits perfectly. I imagine it will be a well-worn jersey, ideal for the kind of outdoor work he's going to be doing. A Kiwi Brown, it's just the right colour for camoflague in the bush.

I am about to brave the cold depths of my Writing Room. I have had the heater there switched on for an hour now, so here's hoping it is warm enough.

It's a cold night tonight. There is a feeling of snow in the air and Spring has retracted back into its shell.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Call Home

How exciting - just Skyped S in Kyoto!

Shame he couldn't get his camera to work - shame I could! So he had pictures of me looking dorky (as these cameras seem to do) but I couldn't share the same advantage. E was there too. It was good to hear them both; E's chortle sounded like a wind-chime. They had just climbed a mountain, so were a little tired. (As you are after climbing a mountain.)

It is after midnight here and I should be off to bed, but have decided to write another entry. (A short one.)


Today I pottered about the backyard and took some photos of a tired, scruffy winter garden. I am thinking it is time to ring our Mr Green and get him to start mowing our lawns once again after the winter lull.

Mr Pig agrees. He doesn't look very happy does he? But then I don't suppose I would be either if the tops of my ears were knocked off and I'd spent all winter suffering the frosts out under a tree.


This was the outlook towards Mount Cargill from our house today. The wind was a little blustery, the clouds billowing and dramatic. Later the sun did shine, but in the end the clouds proved that they were indeed rain-filled ones.


Blue Happy Hen is a gift from my friend P. The Happy Hen factory is located on the Otago Peninsula, not far from here. My Happy Hen likes to sit by my desk. She is not my muse but maybe she should be.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Poets and Painters

Poetry readings have started up in Dunedin once again. The first of this new season was held on Wednesday at the 'Circadian Rhythm' restaurant.
Richard Reeve was compere. There were nine readers for the open mike sessions, which allowed for an interesting assortment. For me the most memorable readers from the Open Mike parts of the evening were Ann Jacobsen and Peter Olds.
Ann's poems leapt out at me, fresh and raw as if still stinging from the harsh sunshine on her family's Miller's Flat orchard.
Peter's were typically wry and astute - for example, 'The Elephant', with its striking descriptions, such as the one of large elephant droppings mixed with straw, 'looking like something you could eat'.
Donelle Karagedikli was the featured poet. She has the stunned look of someone who has recently moved to Dunedin from Auckland! (I jest.) Donelle is Publicist for University of Otago Press and has an engaging freshness and vitality that I'm sure partly comes from having lived in a larger, more tropical city. I hope she stays for some time, and isn't too put off by Dunedin's cold winter.
Donelles' fine poems hold the flavour of the North - Auckland in particular. Her poetry is characterised by subtle descriptions of paintings, buildings and relationships. The poems have a sophisticated timbre and are light on the ear. After hearing them, I would now like to read them.
The University-linked Dunedin Readings have had various life-forms over the last ten years. This Wednesday's event could almost be described as slick. It started at seven-thirty - unheard of in student circles! (What's more, it started pretty much on time.) It finished (at what seemed indecently early) about nine o'clock. I suspect I am harking back to the nature of the other readings, with their wild weirdnesses and oft-times bizarre rantings. In comparison, Wednesday night was very civilised.


ABM went up to Christchurch on Wednesday to see Bob Dyan performing. Bob gave his money's worth. (And that's saying something, because the tickets weren't cheap.) ABM said that the taciturn Dylan growled rather than sang, and the songs were given a loud, rock-y treatment. The words were hard to make out. Not that the aficionados were fazed. They know every word anyway. He played a Hammond organ. (According to an article in this week's Listener, written by Andrew McCallum, this is for health reasons.) I have yet to check with ABM whether Dylan and the band wore the Western-style (as in the 'Old West'-ern style) outfits, as described in the same article. ABM said he sang 'All Along The Watchtower', but didn't sing 'Blowin' In The Wind'. Dylan at 66 could safely be described as driven. Not only does he still write and record quality songs, but he hosts a radio programme, has published part of, and is still writing, his memoirs, and has acted in and produced a film. On top of all that, he is perpetually touring in this so-called Never Ending Concert. (The Christchurch Concert was the 1,966th concert.) The man has got to be a legend! And testament to his status as a legend, is the fact that the three concerts he is performing in New Zealand, were all sold out in three days, with minimal advertising.
I was happy to stay at home. I have never been a great fan of Bob Dylan. But that's not to say I do not acknowledge his genius.
If it had been Joni Mitchell, you wouldn't have been able to keep me away. She is another singer who was never going to be content to remain in the 'Folk Singer of the Sixties' box. She has kept writing (and brilliantly) new material, and in a sense, re-creating her style. But not many people know that. They hear Joni Mitchell and think 'Both Sides Now' or 'Chelsea Morning' and not 'Magdalene Laundries' or 'Hejira'. They are the ones missing out. Over the last forty years or so, Joni has written some strong songs with brilliant lyrics. She is due to release a new cd, called 'Shine', on September 24th. I must go and put my order in.
However, there will be no Joni concert for me to attend. Not that she does much in the way of touring - and I doubt if NZ would ever have been on her agenda anyway.
ABM was also able to see the artist Bill Hammond's exhibition on at the Christchurch City Art Gallery. He said it was stunning. We are both going to be able to view the paintings when we go up to Christchurch for a night in a couple of weeks. I'm looking forward to that.


My tentative plan to get up early and go for walks before breakfast didn't eventuate. Why did I ever think it would? However, I find that I can now organise myself enough to go for a walk before the evening meal.

Tonight as darkness fell, and the lights of the city began to glow like embers on a heap of black soot, it was freakily warm. An over-active nor'wester chopped up the inlet. The water in the gathering gloom sounded like a thousand fish smacking their lips.


Monday, 6 August 2007

Wondering ...

I have been writing a little bit of poetry lately. This is gratifying, because for some time now it has been a struggle to do so.

I think since the launch of 'made for weather',

the 'third book' in me has begun to stir. Dusty and flyaway-dry as tiny carrot seeds, the poems need sowing into tidy rows, and watered.


Son C has just been offered a job on the West Coast. Think green ferns and rain.

Think spectacular views of mountains and forest. (Above is a photo he took when working near there last year.)

Although it will be sad if he accepts the job and leaves home once again, it is good that he will have a permanent job. (It also means I need to get a hurry on and finish the jersey I am knitting him.)

I no longer need to walk part of the way to work now that I have got my car back from M&K. I miss the walks. Maybe I can go for an early morning walk before breakfast. Oh but these cold mornings! It is so hard to drag one's body from a warm bed and brave the frosty dew. The damp mist. And there have been rumours of snow on the higher hills. That means a thin, bitter wind trawling the streets tomorrow. Will the temptation to roll over and allow sleep to hold me a little longer prove too much?


Usually I look sideways at Spring's imminent arrival with its insistent new growth and rampant sap. Too much to clear and trim. But this year, after a harsher winter than usual, I find I am looking at the kowhai outside our kitchen window

with more anticipation than usual. I imagine the golden, bell-like flowers among the green leaves, and fallen ones lying on the lawn below, mashed by the lawn-mower; the smell of freshly cut grass lingering in the doorway ...


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...