Sunday, 31 August 2008


Into this clamour of sun
then, let us go
where a chopping wind
makes kindling 
out of any hope of calm.
Hard to think
isn't it 
of new ways to greet
something this green,
this spring that again 
presses? Nothing remains. 
Let us let go then 
of winter with its close dark, 
and sing, like the magnolia
and early plum, let us 
open our veins.

Kay McKenzie Cooke 

Dose of Late Winter

Last weekend we woke to this scene. R's parents live in Queenstown and a visit to see them always provides us with welcome doses of lake and mountains.

On the way we stopped for a meal at Lawrence. From the small cafe where we were treated to a yummy seafood chowder (my choice) and hot pot (R's choice) we could see across the road the hotel named by an Auckland couple who found their way south, bought a hotel and named it before the locals had a chance to  do it for them. ('Jafas' is vernacular for Just Another F*** Aucklander; in case you didn't know!)

Monday, 25 August 2008

A Walk Back In July

St Kilda and St Clair beaches (one runs into the other) are constantly under seige from the sea. Much of south Dunedin is reclaimed and it is as if the ocean is trying to claim the land back. Hence the machines at work rebuilding high tide damage to the sand banks. To form the high banks they are dumping sand that has been imported from elsewhere.

Some surfers braving the freezing breakers.

On the way back we walked along rugby* grounds (sports grounds) at the back of the sand dunes; grounds that are being eaten away by the wind and waves; and came across this fellow. I thought it was dead until I read the notice and discovered that it was in fact sleeping. 

*'rugby' for American readers, is a type of football game very popular in NZ. 

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Sepia Suits

I have tried to be a little arty with the photos to cover the fact that they are out of focus and carelessly taken.

The fourth reading of the winter season run by the Octagon Poetry Collective was held at the Circadian Rhythm cafe on Wednesday night. And at last I have some spare time to put in a wee report.

Richard was the host for the night and as such his role is to introduce the featured poet for the night - in this case, Bill Direen. A poet of some merit himself, Richard is a staunch promoter of poetry in the south.
To be introduced by Richard is to be bathed in glory! Articulate, fresh and lavish, Richard's introductions can never be accused of being tired cliches dutifully trotted out for the occasion. When it is my turn to introduce noted poet Jenny Powell in a month's time, I only hope I can do her as much justice as Richard did Bill.

Here we have the poet Peter Olds.  
At the risk of trotting out tired old cliches myself, Peter is almost entitled to be called an icon, at least in NZ's poetry circles. He read an amusing poem about the late and revered (and very much missed by Peter and other NZ poets / writers) Hone Tuwhare. I now have Peter tagged as a source of info on Hone for the tribute I am doing on him in October at the Speech and Communication teachers symposium.

And talking of established and well-knowns; Bill Direen (who is as well known in avant garde musical circles, as much as in poetry circles) was the featured Poet for the night. He treated assembled, rugged-up Dunedinites condensing the cafe's window glass, to an enjoyable, high quality reel of poems. I was particularly charmed and drawn to his landscape poetry. In my humble opinion, Bill is one of our finer exponents of this particular genre. He is able to knit into the landscape descriptions of relationships so that the two, nature and humanity, meet and fit perfectly; naturally.

Other readers at the Open Mic were myself, David Eggleton, David Holmes, Angela (I've forgotten her second name ... but she's definitely a young poet to watch; she is an adept wordsmith.)
There were also a couple of other readers I hadn't heard before.
All in all, a night of quality poetry. We left feeling very satisfied, both with the poetry we'd listened to and the meal of samosas and other Indian fare we'd enjoyed before the event. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


A message on our phone last night sent a chill right through me and made me cry with relief.
Our son had rung to tell us he was okay. That morning he was in a helicopter crash on the West Coast. He survived - as did the other three men (although two of them had broken legs.) C survived without a scratch.
This link gives you more information.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Winter Green

Our lawn has turned to moss, there has been so much rain this July - according to records, it has been the wettest July for some decades.
At last a break in the clouds. Dunedin has had the least July sunshine of all the main centres in New Zealand. What a grey old month it's been.

This winter saw the uncovering of a major heritage site for Dunedin, when contractors digging out a basement for a new shopping mall going up in Dunedin, came across an old pioneer road. Back then (in the mid-1800's) the roads were so boggy in the winter, Dunedin was nicknamed 'Mudedin'.
The manuka log road shows the efforts of the early settlers to make a way over the mud. What a bone shaker.
As this filmclip shows, it is intended to preserve the road, as is, and make it accessible for the public to view.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Going Troppo

At the Butterfly House; or Tropical Rainforest display; at our local museum (Otago Museum) here in Dunedin, it is possible to see beautiful exotic imports such as these.

Apparently it would take too many plants to breed the caterpillars on site, so a continuous supply of chrysallises are imported from the Philippines.

There are about 1000 butterflies and moths of various species (about fifty species altogether.)

The difference between moths and butterflies?
Here is an explanation I got from this site - Although butterflies and moths are very similar, they have many differences. Most butterflies fly during the day, and most moths fly during the night. The best way to identify a butterfly from a moth is to look at its antenna. A butterfly's antenna have knobs at the ends of their feelers, and the ends of the moth's antenna is either feather like or plain. Most butterflies rest with their wings held up above their bodies and most moths rest with their wings spread out flat. Typically butterflies have brightly colored wings and moths have dull colored wings. Most butterflies have slender, hairless bodies, while most moths have a fat abdomen and furry bodies. Butterflies form a chrysalis during the pupa stage of their lives. In moths, the chrysalis is normally contained inside a cocoon. Most moths have tiny hook or bristle hooking the forewings and hind wings together. Butterflies do not have this hook. Moths have existed about 100 million years longer than butterflies.

I notice that they weren't all peace and love either - you should have seen the silent fighting going on at the eating stations! Big bully butterflies landing in right on top of the littler ones, for example.

And also ... a red-eared turtle.

We enjoyed our little visit to the tropics. It was very warm (there are shelves outside where before you enter, you can stash jackets and other warm, woolly outer garments) and the waterfall was very loud.
As well there were quails and a gecko or two, some tarantulas and zebra finches.
On such a cold, damp day, it provided a welcome, warm distraction and handy escape from the winter rain.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Albatross Chicks Die

Two of the Northern Royal albatross chicks that were born on the  Taiaroa Head colony last spring (when I was there as a guide) have died. The reports are here and here. The chicks that were hatched when I was there, are by now very large balls of fluff, probably weighing something between 4 - 8 kilos. They sit on their nests waiting for mum or dad albatross to fetch them back (every three or four days) some food  - bits of squid and octopus - from the feeding grounds out at sea. They are big enough now to wander about a little and will be getting ready to stretch their wings for their inaugural flight from home next month sometime. 
In such a well-managed colony as this one is, there is a lot of sadness when a chick dies (especially these two who have made it so far through.) It also means that at the moment there will be mean pickings for any visitors wanting to view any chicks on their nests from the observatory. I don't know if these chicks were any of the ones able to be seen from the windows of the observatory, but if they were, there won't be much to see there now.
I remember when I was guide there, the dissatisfaction of visitors when they didn't see any birds flying, and instead just got to see one or two parent birds 'sitting on the ground' (their rudimentary nests causing this impression) was definitely one of the downers to the job. Most visitors get to see albatrosses flying, but if they arrive early in the day the chances - especially on a calm, windless day - of seeing the birds flying in or out; or around the headland; aren't great.
Guides are unable to say much about it; it's more than their jobs are worth. Even if we did think the tourists who didn't see anything were entitled to get their money back. At the same time, I had no time for those who complained about not seeing hundreds of birds."What!?" they complained,  "You call this a colony?" Well, yes, actually we do. Check your definitions - a colony is a name for a place not a definition of number. 

I see now that customers who are disappointed, are getting a free ticket for a return visit. However, for a tourist heading away, this is of no use whatsoever. Personally (and I can say this now because I no longer work there) I think they should give any unhappy punters their money back. But then, I'm what is known as soft. Or Scottish. Or both.

My advice: if you are thinking of visiting the colony - go about five o'clock at night, and in summer when there is guaranteed flying. You may not even need to pay. For the price of a coffee, you may be content to see them circle the headland from the comfort of a seat in the cafe.  But  if you do pay for a tour, the experience of close views of these magnificent seabirds flying, are unbeatable. The sight of an albatross in flight at close quarters, is a stunning, memorable sight. I believe some writer said that those who have seen such a sight are instantly promoted to a higher order of being. (I cannot locate the quote, but if anyone else can, I will send them a Crunchie bar.)

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...