Wednesday, 31 October 2007


I have decided the post-a-blog-a-day for NaBloPoMo may as well start now.

The posts will be probably be just like me: short.

Maybe even just an American Sentence

Here's my American Sentence for today (in kiwi-vernacular):

'Exsqueeze me? Whatever rocks yours. I must get back to the orifice.'

Monday, 29 October 2007

Trained and Boated

Here's a link to the blog of an ex-pat Australian who lives in Sweden - Marie - a must-read blog if you like boats, dogs, bird-life, cockatiels and good writing ... and blogs with interesting titles ...

I am now trained. There are five of us who completed our training as guides today, and we celebrated with some lemon cake H kindly made. We were also taken on a trip on the 'Monarch' ( a launch that makes daily excursion trips up the harbour.)


albatrosses nesting on the headland

albatross swimming

the lighthouse

caspian terns on the wharf railing

and then the road home.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Fine Reads Fine

Emma Neale was the guest reader at the last of the Octagon Collective Poetry Readings for the Spring Season held at 'Circadian Restaurant' on Wednesday 17th October.
What I have found intriguing about these readings has been the variety, not only of readers, but of audience as well. We had the regular attenders who never missed a night, those who attended a little less regularly and those who attended sporadically; sometimes just the once as a friend and/or admirer of the guest reader. This creates an ever-changing, colourful border of annuals around the steady perennials. It also means that the atmosphere for each reading is charged a little differently.
On the 17th the atmosphere seemed upbeat, cheerful, friendly, with maybe a little uncertainty lurking in the background. This in part reflected the students that were there because of Emma. Emma is lecturer for a poetry workshop paper at Otago Uni and some of her students were there to take part in the Open Mic section. Their poetry was attractive, polished and held tenderly by the writers who owned their work with gentle pride. Some of the readers read for the first time, but such was the support relayed and confidence instilled by Emma, the nerves didn't show. The poetry was given the delivery it deserved. I especially enjoyed Marion Jones' reading. However, not all the readers there were from Emma's class. Another reader whose reading I enjoyed, and who isn't associated with Emma's paper, was Martha Morseth.
Like her students, Emma holds her poetry gently and yet with an understated confidence. I was pleased to hear her read some poems from her upcoming publication. Each of her poems is polished smooth; each holds a central truth the poem is designed around. The poems I enjoyed most were about the fascination that the relationship between mother and child creates. Emma is able to isolate herself from the intensely personal and from this removed position, sum up an all-too familiar, all-too engrossing situation. The result is pure poetry. She has an adept writing eye and hand. Her poems are deft and economical; pure gems. As well as being a talented writer and poet, Emma is also a thoroughly likeable person. I look forward to her newest collection, out soon.
I enjoyed Poppy Haynes and Rhys Brookbanks mc-ing. It's good to have young, fresh-faced (I bet they'd hate me saying that!) people involved in the poetry readings. I also liked Poppy's descriptions of Emma as a teacher - how she cared for each poem the students wrote, taking them home with her to mull over, caring for them, watering them and then giving considered suggestions back to the writer as to how to improve and work the poem towards the perfect. Who could ask for anything more?
The next Octagon Collective Readings will start up again in March - April 08. Until then, I feel confident that all Dunedin poets will be squirreling away their summer efforts in readiness for the great unveiling in autumn. Or is that far too grandiose of me?

Bird's Eye View

Stewart Island shags having a bit of a goss session.

I've gone a bit crazy with all this time on my hands ... and registered for both NaNoWriMo and NaBloWriMo. This means that I have accepted the challenge to write a novel in a month as well as a daily blog-entry. As I said, I must be crazy.

Black-backed gull.

I'm all trained up at the Albatross Centre and ready to go. Bring it on! All that's needed now is for the albatross parents to lay their eggs and settle down for the long incubation period. The observatory is actually closed at the moment so that the birds can settle down undisturbed. Did you know that albatross (in the main) mate for life, and that both parents share the incubation and rearing of the chick?
The Observatory will be opened again to visitors in late November, once all the eggs have been laid. Albatross Centre staff can then take people through and stun them with interesting facts and background info. on this amazing seabird.

Meanwhile ... I must not fret about not earning much money until that time.

An interesting thing going on at the Centre (and one which can be followed on the website ) is the attachment of satellite transmitters to three fledglings. The transmitters are fixed to the back feathers so that their movements at sea can be followed. The trio includes Toroa, the 500th chick hatched in the colony's 70-year breeding history.
When the young birds leave Taiaroa Head, and providing they survive long-line fishing lines and other dangers and toils, they do not touch land again for about four or five years, when they return to their land of birth and begin to search for a mate. This 'teenage' stage, when they socialise and generally 'look around', takes about three or four years as well.

morning shadows on the harbour

As today is not a workday, I plan get some of my NaNoWriMo novel outline done. Plus write a poem or two. I also want to send some of my recent poems out to various newspapers and magazines.
What I intend to do with the novel material, is re-draft what I started last November. I expect to end up with some more new stuff added to old. I hope also by this process to get some momentum going. The biggest challenge right now is to figure out the p.o.v. First person or third? Or maybe even (keeping it topical) bird's eye view?

Tuesday, 23 October 2007


Gateway, St Clair

Coffee, a look at M's paintings up on the upstairs wall at the 'Starfish' cafe in St Clair, and M&K's long-awaited wedding reception (Part two of their wedding which took place six months ago) have been the highlight of this long weekend.
For me this long holiday-weekend is going to be even longer, as I am not expected back at work until Wednesday. Surprisingly, despite having time to write, read and relax, I am not best pleased. This new job is fantastic - the only hitch with it is that there isn't as many hours as I was led to believe. I thought it was a forty-hour a week job. It is far from that at present, which rankles. I want to work. I am ready and willing and fit. I am free of family commitments. I am set and ready to go. Being short-changed on hours frustrates and disappoints.

ABM, St Clair

I feel hoodwinked. However, the tourist season has yet to kick in, plus the Centre's Observatory is actually closed to visitors until the birds have settled on to their nests, so the hours apparently aren't there until late November.

Street sculpture, St Clair

Which is fine in itself and reasonable - but I would've liked to have known that before I accepted the job and abandoned the full-time job I did have.

Al fresco, St Clair

Anyway, today I will spend catching up and learning a little bit more, and memorising the facts, about the old Fort that we take visitors around. (All unpaid research, albeit fascinating.)

New outlook from playground, St Clair

It is very windy here today with gale force winds. C. heads back to the West Coast with his orange kayak attached by rope to the roof of his car. I hope it's tied on securely as it's likely to take off otherwise.

M&K are having a belated honeymoon, and are also taking off (hopefully not literally!) with their tent. The forecast is for the wind to have passed over these climes by lunch-time, so all should be calm and peaceful once that happens.
And we have been left with Jedi to take care of. Jedi's not sure about this.

She has grown very old over the last six months, and is not quite the same spry, inquisitive dog she was six months ago.
Now that the house has emptied again, I am left here with Jedi and my music - I have a 'K's Special Mix' (ha-ha) - a handpicked song-selection which I'm playing from iTunes. At the moment, 'Bittersweet Symphony' is on, a song which takes me right back to winter 1997 and a warm kitchen and me peeling spuds for dinner for a family of four (we had Yuki from Japan staying with us that winter.)
To be followed by the Righteous Brothers' classic, 'Unchained Melody', followed by 'All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe' by The Hollies, 'Immigrant Song' by Led Zeppelin and 'Kathy's Song' by Kate Bush .... Whaddya mean I'm a obviously a product of the fifties and sixties? Is it that obvious? (I do have a Foo Fighters song on the list as well - does that help?) But then any gain that gives me is probably lost by 'Your Cheatin' Heart' by Hank Williams Senior and Jimmy Durante's version of 'As Time Goes By'. (Music choices are very subjective things.)

Time now to do some writing. Inspired by Amy Clampitt - and some AA Ammons that I read this morning, I think I will write about what I see from out of my window. Strangled tape/ in a lurid, green/ tree, writhes, / forms cryptic shapes ...

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Never A Shot Fired

There is a certain irony about having an albatross colony smack bang in the middle of an old defence outpost. In 1870 something (I have still to learn my dates) there was a perceived threat to New Zealand's coastline from Russian warships ...

As part of the defence effort, a gun (canon) with the ability to pop up, fire and then disappear back down into its hidden burrow, thus (in theory anyway) completely foxing enemy ships, was shipped over from England.

View through the Observation Post where the soldiers looked out for enemy ships. None arrived.
Today all we saw was an Australian naval ship on its way out of port after a visit. The obvious jokes were made! (Kiwis and Aussies enjoy having each other on ..)
We did see albatross soaring, and a few little swallows dipping and flying above the grass.
Peace reigns!

The gun was then duly ensconced into a custom-made basalt-lined pit in the dunes.

Whitewashed basalt-lined tunnel walls.

Secret tunnels were dug in order for the army soldiers to get to and from.

The gun (known as the Armstrong Disappearing Gun) is still there today, resplendent in Army Green. It still works too, although it has been a long time since it was tested. And as events and history unfolded, it was never needed, and so has never been fired in anger.

I cannot help but smile at the dear old albatross deciding to plonk itself on the headland among the fort and barracks. The albatross first chose Taiaroa Head as a breeding site in 1920, so was still breeding there during the Second World War and the Home Guard's training camps.

Part of the Museum display at the Fort.

Learning these and other fascinating facts is part of my homework tonight.

Right now at the colony, the albatross are arriving and establishing pair bonds and re-establishing breeding pairs (getting married again, so to speak.) For the next fortnight or so, they cannot be disturbed as they choose nesting sites and generally settle down for the long 13-month breeding cycle. At present until we are trained and can accompany the tourists and visitors, we have to be content with spotting them whenever they leave the headland to soar overhead towards the Albatross Centre. I haven't been able to get a photo as yet. But it is a goal.

Pilots Beach, where there are fur seals to be seen.

What a sight it is to see the albatross soaring. 'In all of nature there is hardly a more inspiring image than that of an albatross in flight. Its seemingly effortless sweep over rimless, often storm-tossed ocean speaks of a graceful endurance and a thorough command of its realm.'
* A quote from the writer Neville Peat from the book, 'The World of the Albatrosses' written by him and illustrated by Chris Gaskin.

Two painted bus shelters I go past on my walk to the car-pool pick-up point.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007


A view of boat sheds on the way back from work today. As you can see it was grey old murky day - very cold. Snow has been predicted on the hills. The wind was so strong out at the heads, that the rain felt like hail on my skin.

I have had two days now at the Albatross Centre and have begun my training as a guide for the visitors. It has been a steep learning curve!

And no this isn't an albatross ...
Seagulls always know when they're getting their photos taken and pose beautifully, like this one, dirty feet and all.

What is causing the learning curve is trying to learn the many facts about the albatross in order to regurgitate the information back to the visitors. Sorry about the choice of word 'regurgitate'; however, it's hardly a surprising choice when you take into account that one of the facts I have had to learn is about how the parent birds feed their chick with 'regurgitated ventricular oils'.

No this isn't Shrek after getting caught in the rain, or a green Snufflupagus ... it's algae on a rock.

Feeding processes, glider-wings, salt glands and other fascinating facts about the albatross are all being shovelled into my brain in great dollops. And another thing - I must remember not to call their bills 'beaks'; albatross are a seabird and therefore qualify to have bills not beaks. I apparently do these majestic birds a great disservice by calling them beaks. Therefore, my mantra of the day has been: bills not beaks, bills not beaks, bills not beaks ... Along with about a hundred other facts to be seared on to my frontal lobes (or wherever in the brain such information is held for instant recall.)

Jetty at the inlet

I can feel my brain suddenly jumping into life. It's a bit like someone caught snoozing. As if a red light, something like a Fire Exit in a picture theatre, has suddenly lit up the words 'Facts Alert'.

Signal house at Taiaroa Head

And it was while I was in this mode that I listened to the car radio on the way back from work

Looking back towards Taiaroa Head

as someone on Nat Rad talked about the endangered Hector and Maui dolphins. They are so endangered they are on the Red Endangered List - and that is VERY VERY endangered - that is right up there with tigers. There are only 100 of the Maui dolphin left. Shame, shame on New Zealand for not banning gill nets which are killing them off slowly but surely. We fight to save the whales, yet have forgotten about these wee guys. Come on ! Not good enough. Anyway, as I was listening to this, I found myself beginning to start to memorise dolphin-facts. I had to virtually switch my brain off: "Come on neurons, this isn't albatrosses we're talking - this is dolphins. You don't have to regurgitate dolphins. Only albatrosses. Go back to sleep."

Blue boat-shed on the road to Taiaroa. Note, more green algae on rock.

And tomorrow we start to learn about a hundred more facts about another thing the visitors have come to see on this wind-blasted headland - the Historic Fort and Disappearing Cannon. And I didn't even know the difference between breech-loading and muzzle-loading until today.

Lighthouse at Taiaroa

Monday, 15 October 2007

Speaking of Books

Hey S - you've been skyped!


You can read the latest instalments and exciting developments over at Shameless Lions Writing Circle where it seems Grace, the main character, is being unwittingly embroiled in some skullduggery. Of course, as is the nature of such collaborative works, the characters, readers and writers are completely unaware of where it will all end ... However I am sure that some writer yet to take up the plot, will realise that Grace (and readers) deserve to be enlightened sooner than later!

I hadn't got around to reporting on the poetry reading I was mc for - almost a fortnight ago now; which I will now hasten to rectify.
Cy Mathews was the featured poet, and he did the event proud with his urbane, modernist poetry of images. I don't always enjoy poetry like this, however, to me it appears that Cy's poetry entices, at the same time as it seemingly defies. It's poetry that is hard to understand completely - in fact, it almost creates a whole art form out of that very lack of clarity - and yet it delights with its strangeness, its surreal journeys into a world of images and dream-scapes. For me, one such image that stands like a pattern in relief, was Cy's description of a man making hand-holds in the back of a wave.

Bill Direen also read again. His landscape poetry describing countryside around Dunedin was full of strong, fresh images. I look forward to hearing more of the same at future readings.
Other poets read that night, but in all my rush to get away to the North Island, I have mislaid the list. Martha Morseth, Poppy Haynes, Jenny Powell, Larry Matthews ... and Graham, a local from Kaikohe, who is down visiting his mother ... they were some of the readers anyway.
The main impression of the night, I guess, was of variety; an assortment of voices and some spilt drops of poetry. And, best of all, I survived being m.c. No bottles smashed against the microphone tonight (something which did happen to me one night a few years ago during the reign of wild poetry nights at the Arc Cafe. Ah. Those were the days! Strangely, I find myself missing them ... )

This Wednesday (17th October) is the last reading of the Spring Season of Poetry at the Circadian Rhythm restaurant - supplier of superb vegetarian meals.


The other major literary event (to which ABM and myself hightailed it to from the airport) was the launch of Claire Beynon's superb - beautiful! wonderful! - book.

Superlatives do not seem adequate when trying to describe this book of poetry meeting art. It achieves a perfect dovetailing act: image with word. Maxine Alterio introduced the book beautifully, and I believe she mentioned the dovetailing aspect to it - it is certainly the perfect description.

As is the way of Claire's generous personality, the event charmed all present. It was held at the printer's (Rogan McIndoe) where the book was printed. A perfect place for a book launch when you think of it, there among the metal presses and mechanical surety. Down at ground level, where all the sweaty, inky work is carried out to birth a book. Claire is someone who manages to place the lovely, the surprising, the perfect, into the middle of everything she does. This launch was no exception.


Speaking of books. This one arrived in the mail the other day.

It's what I bought with the Amazon gift tokens I won from the Shameless Lions Writing Circle's competition, a few months back now, for the poem I wrote about the lion I named Kauri (refer to the sidebar.) I am also looking forward to receiving the latest Joni Mitchell cd, 'Shine', which I ordered about the same time.


And speaking of books ...

There's a whole book behind this door-handle.


Kowhai in rain.

And speaking of shine. The last of this kowhai's flowers seem to do just that - especially in the rain.

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...