Sunday, 29 June 2008

Fruit Puffs Rule!

NOTE: I went on a blogging binge this weekend - so don't just stop at this post - scroll on down until you get to last week - then you can have a rest! :)


My sister McDinzie has told me off for getting too negative about the state of the world. Always one to stay on the positive, she often sets me an example and leads the way in frivolity and fun.

For my birthday on Wednesday. She couriered (yes! couriered!) me a huge bag of Fruit Puffs. (I had previously bewailed the fact that I couldn't find any in the shops when I was making Lolly Cake to send to my son in Japan.) Never one to take the negative as the only solution, McDinzie set out to prove me wrong. In buckets!

I am ashamed to say that the packet was twice this size; since Wednesday, Robert and I (mostly me) have made much inroads; as you can see!

So - here's to more Fruit Puffs in the world!
More sweetness!
And light!

May the colours of the mighty Fruit Puff take power, adorn, smother, over-rule and conquer the very fabric of the planet and reign supreme!
May Fruit Puffs form their own clusters, propogate and take over! May hordes of raging Fruit Puff horsemen rampage and pillage and burn every last drop of doom and gloom until a more fluffy and cheerful, pastel-coloured lolly (or candy if you're American) peace reigns!

May they design small and intrepid, zippy little space craft to take out the earthly cumbersome war machines!
May they replace bio-fuel and petrol (gas if you're American) as the one and only reduced solution for snail-mail, skateboards, vespas, cars, jets and pigeons alike.

And so in McDinzie's honour - and because she puts things into a more cheerful perspective and tells me off when I get too morbid - here's the Fruit Puff Anthem: (sung to the tune of 'Yellow Rose of Texas' - which as JD says, is the great standard for any good poem's beat. Not that this is a good poem, far from it; it's far more fun!)

Glorious Fruit Puffs

(anthem no. 567 circa. 1877 in the 'Hymnals
of the Outer Climes of Gummies Bush, Southland, New Zealand.')

We never take no for an answer,

We never lie down and die,
The universe will be okay
When a Fruit Puff is nigh.

So all of you who say now
That no longer will there be
A Polar bear on the ice
Or a turtle in the sea,

Take it from us Fruit Pu-uffs
There is nothing to fear
Cos there will always be an earth
When Fruit Puffs are here.

So always remember,
Fruit Puffs are gonna win
And never do forget
To wear your Fruit Puff grin!

Cousins, Communications and Co-incidences - Or - Blood Will Out.

My father always found it amusing to state, "I was an uncle before I was born." When you are born at the tail end of a large family, this can happen.
A year and a half ago a cousin in Auckland got in touch with me after he came across my website. It was crazy and amazing. He was one of many, many cousins in our huge Catholic, extended family, that have never met. However, this particular cousin I did sort of feel I knew - even if only as the little, fairheaded boy in a black-and-white photo that through the early part of my childhood, was always pinned next to the mantlepiece in our kitchen.

In this photo, he sits on the bar of my father's bike. My father is also in the photo looking extremely young (my guess is about seventeen or eighteen) and dressed in a Sunday-best suit - or jacket anyway, and rather ill-fitting I note now. He is holding up the bike that my small cousin is perched on. My father has a carnation on his lapel, which leads me to believe that it is maybe a photo taken after the wedding of one of his older siblings.
"Who is that boy?" I remember asking, and more than once because I always liked the sound of the name.
"Jimmy Joe," Mum or Dad would answer. Jimmy Joe ... Jimmy Joe ... I'd run the name around in my mind, wondering where or what 'Jimmy Joe' was doing now, twenty or more years on from when the photo was taken. How was I to know that in another forty years I would find out?


And so, back to the present - I emailed back to this cousin who had suddenly appeared out of the blue. (I can't help wondering what my father, who died way back in 1968, would have made of all this on-line journalling, websites and emailing business; let alone communicating by web cam.)
- Are you Jimmy Joe? I emailed back.
- Yes, I am indeed, was the reply.
We have since shared memories. Jimmy Joe (I'm sure he doesn't mind me calling him that, although of course he isn't known by that name now) in particular has given me precious insight on my father as a young man. He remembers times on the McKenzie family farm in Orepuki and my father (his Uncle Don) mercilessly teasing him and taking him for wild tractor rides through the bush and down steep gullies.


Now cut to even more recent times. Just last week in fact, when yet another crazy co-incidence happens with this same cousin. (I am beginning to think that my father is having a little fun at our expense. I can almost hear him chuckling.)
And it has to do with this book cover on this post about the anthology, 'Swings and Roundabouts' which has a poem of mine in it. There I noted that the photo on the front cover

could almost be of our two sons ... Allow me to elaborate a little: the expressions and likenesses the photographer Mark Smith had captured (and here I have taken the liberty of some cut and paste with the photo, and hope Mark doesn't mind ...)

kept arresting me ... I was for ever transposing the faces of my two oldest boys (when they were at about the same age) on to the faces of the boys on the cover.
(And looking now more closely at the photo close-up, I see that the older boy could be a double for my brother's son at that age.)

Well ... when Jimmy Joe read the post, and saw the photo on the book's cover, he (and I quote from his email) 'just about fell out of my chair.' The book (which he didn't know anything about before my post) had featured on its front cover, his two grandsons! (Or put another way; my sons' third cousins.)

I've a feeling that that sort of thing could only happen in a small country like New Zealand.


monkey puzzle sunrise

I have been writing some new poems - to read, go to 'monkey puzzle sunrise' or click from the sidebar.
Here's one of them, hot off the press:

monkey puzzle sunrise

‘I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy! ‘ Louise Bogan

This morning,
this sunrise.
This tree,
this terror.

This planet
on an axis
of evil. No. Pure beauty.

This t-shirt
soaked in blood. No!
This sky soaked
in bleeding light.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Saturday, 28 June 2008

And while we're on the subject of Zimbabwe and Mugabe (see post below for Rethabile's poem that has stemmed from just one of many such atrocities occurring right now in Zimbabwe) a poem that Katherine has kindly let me post here. Her poem doesn't let the history off the hook - lest we forget.
It is not an easy poem; but it's factual.
'nor that sadistic men be excused' ... this line at the end is where the poem says it doesn't condone Mugabe's actions.
That Mugabe had a choice is pointed out when it compares Mandela and Mugabe and the different roads they chose to take. And right now the world is seeing (quite graphically) the results - one is a dictator, the other a peacemaker. Right there is the choice each man made.
The poem to me isn't a poem in favour of Mugabe but it is in favour of laying out on the table the whole picture; the facts and liabilities.



'The native is to be treated as a child and denied the franchise. We
must adopt a system of despotism in our relations with the barbarians
of Southern Africa... I personally prefer land to niggers.'
Cecil Rhodes (1887)

It's easy to call Mugabe a demon,
ignoring the fools who fouled it up before.
Bob wasn't spawned from Beelzebub's semen;
the tiny baby Bona Mugabe bore
was once a crying, watching, wriggling human,
a struggling life, no less, no worse, no more.
To call him monstrous fails to face the fact
that caring's a counter-intuitive act.

Mugabe was a quiet, dutiful child
who helped his mother when his father left,
a little boy, he labored hard and piled
books in his bag and loved their sombre heft.
Never considered reckless, mean or wild,
never caught in mischief for a fight or theft,
he played his tennis, tailed the priest,
dove into studies, kept his trousers creased...

Bob was a baby in 1924.
25 years before, his mum had seen
Sir Cecil Rhodes exclude the African poor
from power to grab the country's gold and green.
Just five percent of the country wielded more
than 95% of votes -- obscene! --
but settlers thought that this percent was fine
as recently as 1979.

The 1940s brought more settler whites,
thousands of farmers keen to cash in on crops
Bob, having education in his sights,
trained as a teacher, staying clear of cops,
and taught in Ghana studying African rights
admiring Nkruma, making lecture stops.
In 1960, with Sally his wife,
he started to live a hard political life.

Arrested in 1964 he spent
ten years in prison for subversive words.
The empire's policy NIBMAR ripped the rent
between Rhodesians and the Crown XX;
Prime Minister Smith's swift telegram went
to Harold Wilson: a verbal gift of turds.
The Unilateral Declaration came
and kept four million African citizens lame.

Mugabe labored in his cell to gain
a Bachelor and a Master of Laws by mail.
He did this enduring the bitter chain
when his little toddler died, kept in jail
denied the funeral rites. Pleas were in vain
when Sally, in Britain, had her visa fail.
The Foreign Office welcomed Ian Smith's kin;
Only at protests did it keep Sally in.

Nelson Mandela, after twenty seven years,
emerged from prison smiling, a force for Peace,
loved partly, perhaps, because a civilian fears
that decades of waiting for a just release
would make you bitter, crazy or dissolve in tears.
How could you keep on smiling, loving, when
your life was crushed to serve the means of men?

Mugabe's freedom steeled mistrust of Peace;
he favoured militance to secure the prize.
Militance suited Smith as well; Police
chopped, agents poisoned wells, his spies
put anthrax in the market bread -- caprice
stained lakes with sickness spreading through the land
malice put all oppostion into the sand.

The point, in case you think I am confused,
is not that whites are all to blame for crime;
nor that sadistic men should be excused.
The point is men are made by place and time;
Mugabe's land and he himself were long abused,
scorned and denied in toxic, racist slime.
The gurhakundi, autogolpe came
from playing a common human game.

Katherine Liddy

Friday, 27 June 2008

Shedding Light

At the moment where I live, weather-wise it's very bleak. Being in the middle of winter, not surprisingly, it is grey and cold, without a skerrit of sun. Well ... perhaps a snippet sneaked in under the low, thick, grey cloud cover at one point today to cheer me up for a second.
And when you watch too many newscasts like I have today, things seem very bleak all over the world. You'd have to be callous-hearted person not to care. I admire people like Rethabile whose heart for his homeland of Africa - especially the southern part of that continent - motivates him to use strong, powerful poetry to quietly, tirelessly and effectively advocate for those without a voice; to the victims of those who are wrongly imprisoned, who have suffered from violence and for the families of those who have been murdered for their political beliefs. Because no matter how civilised we believe the world to be, with all its technological wizadry and sophisticated living, the majority of people on this planet are living without rights.
Here is a link to Rethabile's most recent poem about the murder of a headmaster in Zimbabwe.


Monday, 23 June 2008

Nearest Book, pg 123, fifth sentence ...

Anne of Cat Politics set me a wee task - to reach for the nearest book, turn to page 123 and write the fifth sentence.
So I did:
'Similarly on superconductor b there will be a steady current, to the left, at any point to the left of the wavefront.'
which happens to be the fifth sentence from the book, 'The Electromagnetic Field' by Albert Shadowitz.

Now doesn't that make perfect sense?
Acually, I think the author's name is more interesting than the subject.
That will serve me right for having Robert's physics textbooks closer at hand than a novel or a poetry book.

And now I must awa' to my bed ... as the Scots say. (After all, it's ... shhh ... 4.05 a.m.) and I've got work tomorrow.
Gaahhh ... as my friend from Little Red Omnibus would say.

Oh and yes - I pass on the above task to anyone who is casting about for something to blog about. :)

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Great Beginnings

This was the view that greeted me when I swooped back the curtains one morning through the week. Taken from my new office. Winter is a bit of a drudge. I like the word drudge - it conjures 'trudging through darkness' which is exactly the feeling of mid-winter for me. Think: George Herbert's quote - 'A mile in summer is two in winter.' Although I have to say that the winter darknesses are interrupted by welcome, sunny 'middle of the days' - not unlike a stripe of lemon icing in the middle of a chocolate cake.

Matariki - the Maori New Year - is with us again. The link takes you to a description of this event from the excellent 'Te Aro Encyclopaedia of New Zealand'.

The Pleiades is the European name for the set of stars Matariki refers to. When these appear in the Southern Hemisphere sky, the Maori new year of planting crops etc. begins.
It appeals to me to begin the year in the winter - after all, that is when the rest of the world begins the year.
So in keeping with this sentiment, I have decided that could well be the cycle my writing follows - in winter, fallow; all ideas and imaginings restoring in a muddy, murky darkness; until emergence in spring. It is good to view winter as the beginning; the idea that it is in the middle of the cycle is a transplanted European idea. My sister and her partner have the right idea with their winter project of an establishment of a vegetable garden. (I wonder if they are aware that they are following the Maori planting cycle?)

Yesterday we travelled on a journey into the interior - to a place called Roxburgh - and back, and so didn't have time to attend the mid-winter festivities (Festival of Light) in Dunedin's Octagon.
Instead, as the longest night of the year seeped into the shortest day, we travelled through bare, rocky ground, the light strange and mellow, with a full moon and the weirdly warm energy given off when water vapour condenses and crystallizes into snow.
The reason we were in Roxburgh was for a great nephew's 1st birthday. He was the cute, blue-eyed, blond-headed star of the show and in true one-year-old fashion, totally unaware of this fact.
I was intrigued by the setting up that a one-year old can be given. Is this only In New Zealand? He was given a huge toy transporter with bulldozer on board (the grandfather that's not my brother, happens to be a truck driver) ... although the uncle that was responsible for the present, still didn't get Dad's approval ... which he's probably been trying to attain all his life ... because it was a Mercedes and not a ... Bedford? (whatever the make that Dad/ Grandad drives anyway.)
And when great-nephew dipped his hands into a carton of Speights beer bottles, there was much gusty laughter of approval going on. Even if on great-nephew's part, it was purely because the clink the glass bottles made was an interesting sound. Families will be families. And all the more interesting when in-laws and outlaws are merrily mixed together in a combined gathering.
The party was held in a house that looks across the busy main street of Roxburgh to the golf course's rocky 'moonscape'.

(This photo is from my previous link to Roxburgh.)

When I asked the owner of the house if he enjoyed the view, he scoffed at such a prospect. What a waste of good rocks! I couldn't help thinking.
It was a home where they freely confessed they never sing. So the usual 'Happy Birthday' after the cake was cut (an impressive Thomas the Tank Engine made by Granny and Aunty T) was missing. I felt a a little forlorn about this. But 'Great Aunty' is way down the list from those-with-prior-rights to instigate proceedings, so my hands were tied. Maybe one-year-old great nephew was happier not to hear what would doubtless to him be just a sudden burst of off-key yelling. Already he had been thoroughly traumatised by the appearance of a scary, six-foot clown!

Listening: Harry Nilsson
Eating: Shortly - something that Robert is cooking - something with mushrooms and garlic ...
Drinking: G&T
Reading: A couple of NZ short story collections - Dan Davin's 'The Gorse Blooms Pale' and Laura Solomon's 'Alternative Medicine'.
Watching: Nothing - there's nothing worth watching - I think we'll have to get Sky.


Saturday, 14 June 2008


As the more observant among my faithful few! ha ha ... will have noticed, I have changed the name of my blog to 'made for weather'. I feel about my books as I do about my children - fiercely proud. And I feel a bit of promotion is needed for my second-born. Hence the elevated status to header for my blog. Well. If I don't do it no-one else is going to. (Oh Kay, you always were a slow learner!)
And 'Chiefbiscuit' as a name has been put to rest ... although, if you are attached to the nom - feel free to keep using it (I have actually become rather fond of the title Chief!)

Friday, 13 June 2008

Long Poem, Blue Bowl and Short Stories

Blue glass bowl on G&G's dining table - beyond are mountains, granite-faced and dusted with snow.


A very long poem by David Eggleton (one that was maybe especially commissioned?) has been plastered / incorporated on to the stone wall in Queenstown. I don't know how many people read all of the poem - it stretches a long way around the lake frontage.

I have read it all a couple of times and although I find it causes a bit of a crink in my neck, it's worth it for the strong images and clever language used to evoke the rugged history of the settlement of Queenstown.

Maybe it can inspire me to get on to writing the long poem quietly steaming at the back of my head.

On the way to work this morning I thought of a short story ... and then because it takes me 45 minutes to walk to work, there was plenty of time available for several more to leap to mind. (It is a good walk, except that I arrive to work at a childcare centre heated by a very efficient heat pump to 20 degrees, and so spend the next 45 minutes wiping the perspiration dripping from my face and neck and feeling totally discomfited.)

So ... with several stories in mind and one long poem (long enough to sculpt into the miles-long, pale cliffs of Te Waewae Bay? ... yeah - in my dreams!) this weekend will most likely turn out to be far too short.


Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Office Takes Shape

Have bookshelf, have desk, have room ... will write!

an earlier photo, when it was still autumn out the window

kitset bookshelf assembled & installed by ABM ... and loaded by me (two rows per shelf) ...

tonight's sunset gently simmers

no excuses not to write now!


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...