Friday, 29 February 2008

It's A South Dunedin Thing

To get to my new place of work, I go through South Dunedin, an interesting, downbeat suburb in Dunedin with a working class background and history. It may not have much in the way of charm, but at least it has plenty of character, unlike some of the more prosperous, tightly-buttoned suburbs.

It is the most densely populated suburb in New Zealand, built on reclaimed, boggy land as flat as a pancake, and with a water table (
which rises and falls with the tide) no deeper than two spade lengths down below ground-level.

It is made up of a hotch-potch of low-cost, wooden bungalows and villas,
closely-packed together; chin-to-chin, shoulder-to-shoulder. Part of the population are long-term residents who go back generations. I often think of a little girl we knew from a South Dunedin family without much in the way of material benefits, who lived a joyless, hand-to-mouth existence. She lived only four or five blocks away from the beach, but at four years of age had never been taken to see the ocean. We took her to see it one day. I'll never forget her wide-eyed expression. When she saw White Island, a rocky outcrop about 4 kilometres out from the beach, she said, "What's that bit of dirt doing there?"

Lots of writers have written about South Dunedin, including arguably NZ's most famous writer, Janet Frame.
When a friend and I (who worked together in South Dunedin for a time) are hard-placed to describe someone's puzzling behaviour, we'll say, 'It's a South Dunedin thing,' and both instantly know just what we mean by that. The South Dunedin-thing may be hard to define, but it might be fun trying. One day.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Glenfalloch, Dunedin

Yesterday I went and had a look at a place where S&E are planning to have the Blessing of their Vows in January 2009 - having already got married on Saturday night, 3rd January 2008, in Kyoto.

No time right now to do much 'cept post a piccie or two. Until I get back to a workable routine of work and leisure-time (plus writing time somewhere in there too) that will have to do from yours truly.

Looking out from the restaurant where the Reception will be held.

The roses were looking particularly healthy.

And this is a tiger-lily growing among some fuschia: the exotic among the native. (A joke just for S&E!)

Monday, 18 February 2008

New Job

Of Things Homely And How the Future May Just Change All That

Belle highlighted the existence of these colourful, home-made, crocheted rugs ... how many of you have these at home? (Above is a close-up of mine, bought at a church fair fifteen years ago.) Don't they instantly remind you of Granny? Somehow I think the futurist writers and such, in their vision of a cold, minamilist, stylised future sheered of all memorabilia, fail to take into account the power of nostalgia ... Or maybe they are writing of a post-holocaust world, when all such things have been wiped off the face of the planet. A kind of Post-Afghan-Rug World ... where people have long forgotten the art of crochet.
Speaking of futurist worlds - will they still have fridges in 2525? Sunday Scribblers recently did a What's In Your Fridge? theme ... January's fridge was amazingly chocka and organised. What is it with our fridge and those large litre-bottles lying on their sides you ask? Methinks it shows a badly-designed fridge without enough fat shelves. Or else, on shelves meant for the milk and juice containers, we store bottles and jars which really should be in a cupboard. (This is actually a habit I've picked up from ABM's family.) How many things do you have in your fridge, that don't need to be stored there? (I wonder if in the future all food will be dried tablets as the sci-fi writers would have us believe?)
Imagine life without a fridge. No more fridge magnet galleries.


Giving Notice

I've handed in my notice at the Albatross Colony. Decided not to stay for the winter season. The road out there is beautiful, but also very long, turning 8.5-hour days into 10.5-hour days. The albatrosses are certainly very cool birds and I will miss catching sight of their daily wind-surfing. However, I will not miss endlessly repeating the same introductory ten-minute talk three times a day.
I have been offered a position teaching at an Early Childhood Centre and will start there in a fortnight. I'm looking forward to working with 'littlies' again and the more spontaneous, cheerful nature of the work. And I am also looking forward to having normal weekends.

Baudelaire and the Albatross Connection

A woman from France told me today that she has dreamed of seeing albatrosses ever since reading a Baudelaire poem about the albatross when she was at high school. As she is seventy-one years old now, she has waited a long time. Meeting people like her is something else I will miss when I leave the colony.

(below is one version of the poem translated.)


Often our sailors, for an hour of fun,
Catch albatrosses on the after breeze
Through which these trail the ship from sun to sun
As it skims down the deep and briny seas.

Scarce have these birds been set upon the poop,
Than, awkward now, they, the sky's emperors,
Piteous and shamed, let their great white wings droop
Beside them like a pair of idle oars.

These wingèd voyagers, how gauche their gait!
Once noble, now how ludicrous to view!
One sailor bums them with his pipe, his mate
Limps, mimicking these cripples who once flew.

Poets are like these lords of sky and cloud,
Who ride the storm and mock the bow's taut strings,
Exiled on earth amid a jeering crowd,
Prisoned and palsied by their giant wings.

— Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)

The Plight of Albert, the Misguided Albatross

A story I like to tell the visitors to the colony is of the now-famous albatross, Albert, stuck in the wrong hemisphere after a tornado (or was it hurricane?) blew him into the wrong wind-cycle and made it impossible for him to return to his own southern hemisphere. Ever since, he has been on a fruitless search for a mate among the gannets. Here is the link for that story.
(You'd think it would be possible to have him air lifted to the right side of the world wouldn't you? I wonder why no-one does that?)


Live Feed

If you'd like to see the kind of thing that I have been looking at for the last few months, here is a live feed from the colony - usually showing an albatross sitting on its nest with a chick. NOTE: Northern Hemisphere readers - you'll have to look when it's light over here - so that may mean in your sleepy-time hours ... The chick is now getting to the stage where it is too big to fit under the parent and so is appearing more and more outside of the nest. The wooden boxes you see beside the nest are the predator traps - for ferrets, stoats (an animal similar to the ermine) and rats. Soon, because it's a big boy / girl now, the chick will be left alone on the nest and over the next six or seven months (through our autumn and winter) the parents will take turns to fly in and out to feed the chick a regurgitated slurry of fish, octopus and squid.


Wednesday, 13 February 2008

This Planet Rocks!

I received this award at a gala event over at Bonnie's place.

And I now pass it on to all my brilliant blogger buddies listed in my Chief's Delights link list on sidebar. To each and every one of you ... a big Thank You for bringing a sense of an international community into my home. Through reading your blogs, I am reassured - there are many more good people than bad. Now I don't get so depressed watching the news on TV.
Time now to divest myself of my beautiful midnight-blue Versace gown and don my more mundane work uniform (sleeveless vest with albatross emblem, and black top.) Have got to pay off the cost of the hire of award ceremony gown somehow!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Spoonbills & Kairos & Being Right Chuffed


is a lovely English adjective meaning - thrilled to bits! And I am real chuffed that Rethabile, a fine African poet, in his post for February 6th, has taken the time to review one of my poems. Thanks Rethabile! You can check out the review, and other things poetical, on his blog, Poefrika.

'Kairos' by Barbara Smith

I have also been doing some reviewing. I have reviewed Barbara Smith's book, 'Kairos'.

You can find that review here - Re Viewpoint.
(This link can also be found on my sidebar under 'My Other Blogs'.)


Spoonbills ...

... are a recent immigrant to our shores here in Otago. They have established a nesting site on the Peninsula, out at the headland where predator control has meant more and more species are selecting this area as a sanctuary for their nesting sites. On walks, I often see these birds feeding at low tide on the inlet.
(Just as I did the other morning when my friend A. and I went for our early morning walk. I went back later with my camera and took the shots posted above.)

Out where I work at the Albatross Colony, these birds can sometimes be spotted flying either out to their feeding sites, or back home again. They have a distinctive distracted kind of flapping action and their very white wings and fluffy crests shining in the sun, are a lovely sight. They flap a little like a heron with their long legs stretched out under their tail, while out front their black, ladle-shaped beaks give them a comical appearance; as if they could be on the hunt for some large soup pot.


Tuesday, 5 February 2008

'I Like Green Spray Paint.'

St Clair, Dunedin. View from upstairs at the Starfish Cafe.
Coffee and carrot cake (verrry yummy indeed) with R&B at the Starfish (yay for Doddsy the owner.) Son M's paintings hang on the wall.

B came home with me and we read a book M wrote and illustrated (here is a link to his on-line site ... and yes it is possible to buy his art from here) three years ago now - while he was at Art School
... an illustration from this crazy book is below. (One day it will get published if I have my way. It is a brilliant little book.)

(two favourite quotes from that book - 'Dusty was floating in mid air thinking about thinking' and 'Then the Ninja, the Spaceman and the Eskimo found a wet mouse' .)

We also had a look at a delightful little book called 'Furry Logic' by Jane Seabrook. (Two of my fav quotes from that - 'If at first you do succeed try not to look too astonished', written beside the illustration of a very astonished looking owl. And 'I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain just to eat roughage!' illustrated with a baby alligator.)
After that we watched The Simpsons and laughed at the same things. B decided her favourite character is Ralphie. I decided mine is Maggie.
Then we had Spag. Bol. for dinner.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Look Through Any Window

Looking north.
Out the window above the kitchen sink.
Looking east.
Looking south - the emerging study / office / writing room. (At least I've made a start.)

And all this I leave behind to go to work. Today's shift: 11.30 - 8.00 pm. At least it's still light until 9.00 pm.
At 9.00pm the little blue penguins (the smallest penguin in the world) come up out of the sea and head for their burrows in the sand dunes at Pilot's Beach, close to where I work at the Albatross Centre. One night I'll stay behind and watch them. Before leaving, visitors are urged to check under their cars to make sure there are no little blues lurking there and in danger of getting run over.
The sun shines brightly, although there are some hefty clouds milling. As long as there's wind out at the end of the peninsula for the albatrosses to glide by on. Then everyone's happy. I enjoy the job, but do sometimes feel I am a performing seal. Raising my voice so I can be heard above the air conditioner. Smiling between sentences. Answering the same questions ...
I have applied for a job at an early childhood centre closer to home. I said I'd never go back to that work, but it's familiar and wouldn't involve so much driving, or working in the weekends and public holidays. Besides, I don't have to talk in a loud voice. Or talk at all if I don't need to - just sing!

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...