Saturday, 28 February 2009

Random Links

I have no idea what to write about these days ... hence the long silence. Maybe I am bored with myself.
Anyway, here are some quirky thoughts and random links.

1) I know something Kim Hill didn't know (which is saying something) ... During an interview with David Haywood on radio this morning, she said she didn't know what an auto harp was. I remember as a child we used to have one at primary school (probably part of the Ministry of Education's musical supplies to schools back in those days). Also and anyway, Joni Mitchell plays one on her song 'California'.  (And while you're at it ...  Joni and Johnny Cash singing beautifully together; way, way back.) 

2) Yesterday while looking out the window at work - which is in an old villa converted into a childcare centre, and facing the street - I spotted a woman walking in the sunshine. For about a fortnight (which for my American readers is our word for a two week period) we have had rain, rain and low, cloudy skies ... so a walk in the sunshine was a novelty. Anyway, she looked like she was following her thoughts ... I could picture them like a thread falling from her forehead down to the footpath in front of her feet.

3) That day at work, also, there were two little tops hanging outside in the breezy sunshine. They belonged to two little girls who had managed to get to the taps (faucets) to play with the water, soaking the sleeves of their tops so that they had to be taken off and replaced by clean, dry ones. There were the tops, red and pink, pegged up by the shoulders, giggling and jiggling in the wind. (At the end of the day and pick-up time, the mother of the 'red top girl' would be cross because it causes her too much laundry when her daughter goes through too many clothes at play, whereas the mother of the 'pink top girl' would just laugh.)

4) The Mountain Goats are wonderfully quirky. My favourite is the 'Snow Owl' song. My friend Katherine has given me a couple of links to their songs. Here is one of them.

5) M is looking for fulltime work, but at the moment is doing temp. labouring jobs the employment agency is throwing his way. So far he has worked on a site where a new cemetery is being constructed. One of the men he worked with was from Manchester, England and upon being informed by M that he was an artist said, "Oh no, a fuken artist." But he did ask if M could paint him a soccer player. To get to that job M walked an hour and fifteen minutes each way, over the hill from St Clair to the suburb of Green Island (if you know anything about Dunedin, you'll know that that is a blimmin' long way.) The latest job he had was on a recycling rubbish truck where he had to ride the back while sorting all the rubbish tipped out from the bins on to the tray. He spent the day vommitting from a combination of motion sickness and the fumes from the rubbish. He said the worst smell was shampoo - especially when mixed with the smell of alcohol. (So spare a thought for the ones who have to deal with our rubbish, whether we recycle or not!)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Science of Rainbows

Some photos of the wedding of S and E in January. It was a fantastic day, one which I think I have finally processed 42 days later. (It takes me a while after overwhelming times.) Needless to say, it all went wonderfully, with the family and guests there from Japan adding to what was a unique ocassion.

The following photos were taken by my sister (McDinzie). Thanks McD - your photo taking is superb.

... guests gather. Here are some of my extended family about to make trouble ... no, not really ... yes, actually, they just can't help themselves ...

... but never this one - the happy father of the groom.

... the groom himself - the one farthest from the camera.

... the bride arrives with her papa.

... the line-up, and showing more of the garden setting for the wedding. (At this stage the thunder clouds were beginning to gather overhead.)

The Marriage Celebrant was Philippa Jamieson, a Dunedin writer. She did a marvellous job. Not only was she gracious and warm, but she knows Japanese and was able to keep the family from Japan up with what was happening.

... me reading out a poem especially composed.

... granddaughter A ...

An important part of the ceremony was the presence of little A. She was none too happy about being seperated from her mama. There were lots of tears and loud crying from her throughout the ceremony. Her mother reckons that it was her ire that brought along the black thundercloud full of rain and hail - yes, hail! in the middle of summer - to off-load upon everyone just before S and E repeated their vows. Well they say don't they, that rain on the wedding day is a lucky sign for a marriage? It rained on our wedding in Invercargill back in 1976 (although we can't lay claim to hail) and it also rained a little on M&K's wedding here a year and a half ago. This sudden downpour added some fun and drama; all guests had to hastily retire into the house. It also totally flattened my hair, giving me rats' tails for the rest of the photos.

And speaking of rain and such ... the other evening we were honoured by a visit from a big, fat rainbow. When I was about seven years old, a monstrous rainbow arrived in the paddock right next door to my Nana's house. It was so close I was absolutely convinced as I scrambled through the fence that I was was about to find a pot of gold. It was a life-lesson when all I found were cow pats and thistles. The science of a rainbow was duly explained to me. (I remember refusing to cry even though I felt like it - I was learning about pride as well! However the feeling of utter disillusionment is well remembered).

Weddings and rainbows ... what the heck - why not complete the Hallmark theme ... with caterpillars and butterflies?

Remember Casper the caterpillar and his chrysalis at my work? Well the other morning the chrysalis began to darken ...

Then as the shell of the chrysalis thinned to transparency, the faint outline of the monarch butterfly markings could be seen.

A shame I couldn't set up a proper time lapse, but alas too many childcare duties. As we went about our daily routines and the usual busyness caring for infants and toddlers entails, the butterfly slowly got free of its chrysalis shell and emerged, a little damp, but quite exquisite.

The next day his swan plant home was taken outside, and Casper flew off on butterfly business.


And that's not all! Another perfect day today ... A cool-ish, end-of-summer day as autumn shoulders its way into summer's party. Good conditions for a walk. I headed for St Kilda beach. Here are some images from my little excursion.


Saturday, 7 February 2009


I work with people all week and being the introvert that I am, one of the main aims of a weekend away is to get as far away from people as possible. Staying in motels and/or hotels is too expensive and we are not crib or holiday home owners. Also, we resist the baby boomer trend of owning a camper van; too pricey and too cumbersome. So we have decided to put a theory to the test: whenever we go on a weekend jaunt, we will point the bonnet of our car to whatever point of the compass indicates good weather, travel no more than an hour and a half, spend the day exploring, picnicking ...
and the night in a standard cabin at a camping ground. This seems to us to be by far the most interesting, comfortable and affordable getaway deal.

The only flaw in this plan is that camping grounds are very public places. They bring me, the incurable introvert, within the close proximity of strangers. When you’re frying your eggs and bacon or brushing your teeth, alarming things can occur. For example, when my husband went to have his morning shower, because of the stable-door arrangement it didn't take him long to work out that a whole family (mother included - and remember this was in the Male showers) was in one cubicle, showering together. Nothing at all wrong with that per se, but in a public place? I guess it is nice for that couple to be so liberated, but please! All my husband wanted was a little Male-Female separation. I wonder what the reaction would have been if the family-with-father-included had decided to use the Female showers? Are we being unreasonable? All we want is to carry out our (necessarily public when camping) ablutions in as private and straight forward a manner as possible.

With camping grounds there is the instant community factor where, like it or not (and I am misanthropically inclined enough not to) you are thrust into a nest of strangers and expected to exude goodwill and smile at whoever you meet, even when you happen to be half-dressed, without your contact lenses in and fumbling your way blindly towards the toilet block. You could give off vibes that you are from another country and don’t speak English or know Kiwi customs; however, more often than not it turns out that it’s a German tourist that is wanting you to be sociable.

In the kitchen, strangers smile their hail-fellow-well-met smiles at your frying pan and then pass inane comments like, "Golly, that smells nice. Oh, look it’s only butter.” Or feel compelled to explain to you that they had to take a bottle of Coke away from their site because it was attracting wasps. Do I care? No. Does that make me a bad person? Yes, in a camping ground situation, apparently it does.
We have figured out some strategies, and will continue to hone these as we carry on with our experiment. For example, arriving at seven p.m. and leaving at seven a.m. may be a good idea. That way, we can cut down on the rubbing shoulders factor; by arriving later, we will miss the teatime rush and necessary stranger-proximity, and by leaving early, ditto for the corresponding morning shower time.

There may be some advantages to residing among the masses in a camping ground. For example, seeing kids on bikes and hearing their uncomplicated laughter as they kick a ball, and having it dawn on you that the ordinary, grass-root pleasures in life are still to be found, triumphantly flying in the face of any general pessimism about the state of the world. I heard a six-year old informing another kid, “My Mum and Dad are going to buy a Harley Davidson”. Clearly, if kids are still boasting, kicking balls and riding bikes, all is not yet lost.

Tonight we are staying in a camp with the name 'Camp-Run-A-Muck' with other cheesy names for areas in the camp, such as 'Gerry Attrick Korner'. Hmmm. Well, at least it was a clean, pleasant, well-run camp with strong, hot showers, plenty of chattels in our cosy, clean cabin, a comfortable bed and all noise ceasing on the dot of 10.00 p.m. Well ... apart from some extraverts who insisted on having loud conversations outside their caravans, saying things like, “Hello and who is that young lady there with you?” in an annoyingly jovial uncle’s voice - the kind of uncle that kisses you at Christmas with beery breath and you really wish that they wouldn’t, especially on the mouth. Their sentences tend to start with,”Tell you what,” and end with a sarky, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” followed by great guffaws. They know full well their voices are filling the camping ground, and it delights them, giving them great joy and a sense of power because they're laying claim to ownership of the night and all sleeping patterns within a mile radius.
“No worries. Not a problem,” the jovial uncle says, “We actually got a photo.” More belly laughs.

The camp is five minutes walk away from the beach where the waves are long and low, turning navy before exploding into white lines of foam. There the sky at our back was wide and high, the sunset colours, apricot and grey and the moon a shiny, baby-face peeking out from under a knitted bonnet of cloud. We walked where the air was still and heavy with the heat from a day of sun. I felt a strip of sunburn stinging my neck from when earlier in the day we drank coffee in the mid-day sun down by the harbour. I felt the sand under my feet, velvet-soft and cool. As we headed back towards the camp, a couple in a ute towing a small horse float pulled up alongside to ask if we knew the way to Paul Harris’s place. No, sorry, we explained, we are staying at the camping-ground. We are not local.

Later that night, after loud, jovial uncle had finally fallen quiet, I lay awake for a while listening to the sounds a small coastal town makes in the night. I heard what I thought was a long train going by, only to realise after fifteen minutes that no train can be that long and that it was in fact simply the unbroken sigh of the wind in the trees. In that disconcerting way that sounds play on your mind in the dead of the night, I started to fret that it could be the sea. I imagined a wave massing up to a terrifying point (much like those you see in Japanese woodcuts of a tsunami) ready to swamp us all, whether nosy, liberated or loud ... and I did for a moment worry for my fellow campers. But then I convinced myself again that it was indeed just the wind soughing in the trees. Soughing. What a lovely word, I thought ... and drifted off to sleep.
It did surprise me all the same, how even though I am a grumpy, old cow, when faced by a disaster (imagined or not) of gigantic proportions, there can be found in my cold heart a sudden rush of concern and compassion for my fellow humanbeings. When put to the test, it would appear that not only am I an old softy at heart, but also, in the end camper solidarity will out.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Works of Art

On Friday after meeting a friend for a coffee at St Clair, I walked home along the beach. A nice way to finish off the week.


Remember Casper the Caterpillar from a week ago in my last post? Well over the weekend of that week, Casper wove himself into a chrysalis.

I'm a little disappointed because I didn't get to see how it was actually done ... Unlike over at Clare's blog, where all is revealed with regards to her family of silk worms - fascinating! (Go take a look at the photos - plus film - of these little grubs doing their thing.)
This chrysalis is positively jewel-like. Smooth turquoise, a pleasing shape (tear-drop? beach-pebble?) with an exquisite gold thread and two tiny gold dots to finish it all off. And what gets me is it only needs to be a protective cover for the caterpillar, not a sari ... yet, there it is, an example of nature's generosity and sense of design. A work of art.


: Dan Davin's short story collection, 'The Gorse Blooms Pale.' I am enjoying the flavour of Southland in his writing. I find it interesting that most of the stories were written retrospectively and from overseas. (For most of his life he was editor of Oxford Press in England.) He actually left home (and Southland) early on in his life, in his late teens, when he went to Otago University. But Southland never left him. It seems that once Southland has you by the scruff of your neck, it just won't let go. That has been my experience as well.
I imagine Davin's country boyhood in Southland was very similar to that of my father's (who also had the Catholic background). This particular aspect is certainly adding to my personal enjoyment of the writing. It's a chance for me to glean some sense of that freedom my father had in 1920s New Zealand, to roam a wild, semi-primitive world.

Look who came to stay the night last night ... consequently, no writing done by me this weekend!


Things That Made My Week:

A gift from K in Japan

of a beautiful photo album of S&E's wedding

... a chance to reminisce on what was a unique and special day that at the time seemed to just whizz and whirl by in a swirl of beautiful people, family and culture mixtures, differences and flavours. Having the photos helps to have another look and see things I missed at the time.

(I will be posting photos here of the 'Big Day' sometime this week.)

And a Poems In the Waiting Room left in the mailbox (thanks Ruth) with one of my poems in it.
Here is a link to the County Kildare's (Ireland?) version that mentions the Otago, NZ, 'Poems In the Waiting Room' launched by Ruth Arnison (this link takes you to the NZ PITWR site with the good news of sponsorship from two businesses after they saw the newspaper article! Yay!). I am very proud to have been asked by Ruth if my poem 'Life's Work' (which I first 'launched' in this post) could be included. I hope lots of sponsors can be found. Anything that sets poetry free to roam among the public deserves to be supported.

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...