Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Warm Plums

The other night on my way home from work, I stopped to take this photo of a freakish fan of sunlight over the harbour and city.

Convolvulus is a twining plant that is rather invasive once it gets a hold. Johnny-Pop-Out-of-Bed is what we used to call it as kids - and we'd squeeze the bottom part of the flower to make Johnny do just that.
Today I picked plums from the tree at the bottom of our driveway.
Tomorrow I plan to make plum sauce.

Grommet, who always has to be in the middle of any action, investigates.
As well as pick plums, I've been painting ... hopefully I will soon be able to post the 'after' pictures.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

Today's Takings

Morning sun at home.
At work ... poroporo growing by the side of the path leading up to the Albatross Observatory. It is a plant related to the potato and deadly nightshade and which apparently contains steroids. Poroporo is Maori for purple.
Dandelion. Not (as I wrongly supposed for years) named because of its resemblance to a lion's mane - but because of the French dent de lion meaning lion's tooth, referring to the coarsely-toothed leaves. And did you know (courtesy of Wikipedia ... ) In modern French the plant is called pissenlit, which means "urinate in bed", apparently referring to its diuretic properties. Likewise, "pissabeds" is an English folkname for this plant, piscialletto in Italian and in Spanish it is known as the meacamas. How interesting!

Seagulls do not like to share their air space - and this one is letting an albatross know all about it. Does the albatross look bothered?
On one side of the headland, a small ship cruises around the sand spit and into the harbour.
On the other side, signposts show where the albatrosses head when they leave here. (They are capable of travelling 1,000 kilometers; 500 miles; a day) ...
... and a view of the Albatross Centre, car park and display board.

Saturday, 19 January 2008


NZ has been rocked by the brutal murders of three young people in the space of a week. The latest death was of a young Scottish woman visiting our country. Adding to the surreal nature of these events have been the deaths of Sir Edmund Hilary and then the poet Hone Tuwhare. It's been a little weird because the latter deaths (both relatively peaceful) are of men, both in their eighties, who have made much of their lives and who have become NZ icons; yet the young people died horrible deaths and were robbed of any chance to live long and successful lives.

The other morning on the way to work, I took a corner too quickly and on the wet road, the car went out of control. Until I managed to regain control, I was a whisker away from a serious collision with an on-coming car. Of course I couldn't help but wonder if I too could have died that morning.

This week, then, has been a heavy one in many ways. However, this morning I felt the heaviness lift a little. Some fantastic flying by the young albatrosses out at the Albatross Colony helped. Plus there are now two chicks that have safely hatched. I am beginning again to believe the quote by Louise Bogan which I use on my header.

Surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy ...

RIP: Sophie, Michael and Karen

Monday, 14 January 2008

Sky Calling in the Rain. Or. What Makes a Good Day.

Today out at the headland was a good day for the albatrosses. A southerly blew in, along with lashings of rain
and unlike summer-holiday seeking people, albatrosses enjoy blustery, cold, wet conditions. They get together and have a party to celebrate.
They show off their impressive 3 metre wing-spans. (That's 10 feet for those dealing in imperial measurements.)
I have named this albatross Scruffy on account of a loose wing feather. Scruffy is one of the juvenile birds hanging out on the headland this summer. Here we see Scruffy partaking in a little sky calling.
I think that in the end maybe the thing I like most about albatrosses are their big, flat, pink feet. I like the way they keep an albatross humble, because no matter how majestic you look in the air, you're never going to fully pull it off with feet that look like spatulas.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Sleeping Dogs and Hot Albatrosses

paint splodges on table-top - M's working surface

I go for an early morning walk with my friend A. This morning, even at 8.00 a.m., it was very hot and still. I am due out at work on the headland in a couple of hours and I hate to think what it will be like out there for the albatrosses if the weather is the same out there. Such large birds and with thick, velvety layers of feathers, they will swelter as they sit on their nests unable to leave to go out to sea to cool off - at least not until their mate arrives back in to exchange (which can take up to a week.) It is a pitiful sight to see them sitting there, bills agape, panting like dogs. Luckily the DOC rangers have set up a watering system so that the birds can experience their own private rainfall if things get desperate.

I sat out on our back lawn in the garden seat and had a leisurely breakfast, daydreaming about our trip to Japan in September to see S&E. They are due to have a baby in June. Yes!!! I am going to be a grandmother again. My daughter R is also expecting another baby in June. The due date for both babies is within a week of each other. We are very excited. I will be a grandmother of three. My sister's daughter is also going to have a baby in June - so, my mother will then be a great-grandmother to 8.
It is cheering to dwell on family. In the end, family is what matters most.
The Maori have a saying:
Ki mai ki au, he aha te mea nui o tenei ao Maku e ki atu - he tangata, he tangata, he tangata

If you ask me what is the most important thing in this world I shall reply - it is people, it is people, it is people.

I will always remember going on a trip through Northern Southland with my in-laws, heading for Te Anau, looking at the mountains ahead of us and commenting on their beauty. My m-i-l was not exactly scathing of the mountains, but said that if they were people, she would be more interested. I thought it a strange comment at the time and one I couldn't identify with. However, maybe her point was that people are in the end what are most important. I have to admit, that a lot of the time I prefer mountains myself - at least they don't answer back. But that's just my churlish, anti-social side coming out. Most of the time I manage to keep it under control; letting the sleeping dog lie; but occasionally it wakes up and has a snarl.


Thursday, 10 January 2008

A Surprise and A Shock

Imagine my delight when I looked up from the Reception Desk one Monday before Christmas to see that the person wanting to book a place on a tour to see albatrosses, was Fleur Adcock, NZ-born, British poet. I didn't want to say straight out, "You're Fleur Adcock!" - which was what I just about blurted out, until I opted for restraint. I confessed to her a little later that I'd recognised her.

What was even better, she was on my tour. It made my day. You could say I was all a-flutter! I have long admired her poetry. She is one of my all-time favourite poets.

It really was amazing to see her materialise before my eyes like that. Who would have believed it? I could hardly believe it myself, however I assure you, it did happen.

Today reading Harvey Molloy's blog, I found out that one of the reasons she is in New Zealand is to receive an honorary degree from Victoria University. She is a long-time resident of the UK these days, but as they say, once a New Zealander, always a New Zealander - e.g. Katherine Mansfield.


Pleased to say that I have finished writing the review I have been writing. I only hope that those who are waiting for it will see it as passing muster. I've spent long enough on it. So pleased to be able now to get on with writing other things - namely the short stories I have been plotting.

Our d-i-l received shocking news today. A girl she works with - who was in fact due to fly out tomorrow to a new job in Wellington - was murdered yesterday. This is the second time in less than a year that a young woman known to us has been stabbed to death in this city. It is shocking news. My heart goes out to her family. Their lives have been changed forever. Such a tragic waste.


Saturday, 5 January 2008


This is a photo our son C took of a West Coast bay near where he works.

Thanks to you all for your kind wishes for a Happy New Year.

Work continues to demand more hours than I would prefer, the long trip to work along the peninsula and out to the headland, then back again at the end of the day, takes time away from home and writing. The up-side to all that though are the harbour views I see on the way

and the chance they offer to reflect and think, even if I'm usually too busy to reflect on anything other than keeping my eyes on the narrow road with hairpin bends so as not to end up in the drink. (Apparently you are not considered a local until you have gone into the harbour ... needless to say, I'm more than happy not to ever be considered a local.)

On the colony at the moment, the albatross are incubating a single egg per nest. Four of them can be seen from the observatory windows, patiently sitting on their shallow nests, feathers as thick as fur rippling in the wind as they wait for their partner to return and the exchange to take place. For them this means sitting there for up to a week without food or exercise. It puts me in mind a little of the Dr Suess story about Horton the faithful elephant.
I meant what I said, and I said what I meant:
An elephant's faithful one hundred percent.

Another up-side to work is that there hasn't been a working day yet when I haven't witnessed the grace of flight these birds offer. Usually the birds we see gliding around the headland are one of the young birds who spend the summer hanging out on the colony. They've returned to where they were hatched to look around for a mate and to generally socialise (forming what we call teenage parties.)

Other birds also appear on the headland - the sight of the kitchen-utensil shape of a flying spoonbill labouring against a stiff southerly elicits compassion. I can identify somewhat with their less than graceful fight as they battle away, hardly making any headway. There is an owl - a Little Owl by identification - and its chick, and a gimlet-eyed, white-faced heron, often with a lizard tail hanging out of the side of its beak like an extra tongue.

On the home front, it's just ABM and myself with plans for summer maintenance, including a big clean-out of our garage. Transforming the spare bedroom into an office will now have to wait until I finish writing a book review and a couple of short stories. Until then, painting walls white will have to wait.

Reading: 'My Revolutions' by Hari Kunzru.
Listening to: The Chemical Brothers.
Watching: 'Midsomer Murders'

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...