Thursday, 30 July 2009


My Nana (Bessie Butler) as a child.

Have reached two writing deadlines this past couple of weeks, so I'm very feeling smug. There are more deadlines on the horizon though, just to keep me on task. Deadlines are great ways to keep me writing. Otherwise it feels like I am writing at the bottom of an empty water tank, thrashing out at hollow, tin walls.
Our son Chris has arrived for a couple of nights as his week's snow-boarding in the South Island mountain ski fields had to be abandoned sooner than planned because of bad weather. But he got in four days worth, so he's happy. We will savour every moment he's here because soon he is going overseas for a year. First to Chile, then Portugal, then Mexico.

My Grandad (Reg Lee).

This will mean that over half of our family will be living overseas. Kiwis, although named after a flightless bird, are anything but grounded - in the sense of flight anyway. We have a reputation for being incurable travellers. Scratch any corner of the world, and you'll most likely find a kiwi. Some think this yearning to wander (like Di) is because we live so far away from anywhere else and need to get out and experience the world in order not to feel so cut off. But I think it may have something to do with the fact that we hail from migratory and / or emigrant stock. At present my sister and partner are curiously exploring Townsville, Australia and intend to go from there to the Daintree Forest, among other places in that part of the world.
Meanwhile back here in the middle of a very long winter, we will keep the home fires burning. For me, tomorrow is another writing day. I will be writing about home and family history and what I see around me. For now, happy enough to be grounded.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Congratulations Cilla

Yellow flag snapping in the wind at Bayfield Park

Thanks to Michele Leggott for what she has achieved in her role as New Zealand's Poet Laureate for the past two years. I wish her well for whatever she has planned from here on in. She is an admirable woman and I have huge respect for her as a writer and as a person.
And huge congratulations to Cilla McQueen for her appointment as our next Poet Laureate. A well-deserved appointment. I am thrilled to bits for her because she is one of my favourite poets and has been for a very long time now. She is also the nicest person, unaffected and natural; a down to earth lady and ... well, as I said, nice. Funny too with a quick sense of humour and an insightful mind. Plus she's intelligent and interesting, warm and generous. And an awesome poet. She lives in Bluff, Southland now (which for those of you who don't know New Zealand's geography, is right at the bottom of the South Island - as far as you can go before leaving the mainland.)

Witch hazel
Meantime I am plodding away in my own fashion churning out words and pleased with what is shaping up from them. Although it is all pretty scattered stuff at the moment, I am beginning to fashion stories and poems from what I am coming up with. Having two full writing days to work with through the week has made all the difference.
Part of my enjoyment has come from reading through old diaries and notes. I am so pleased I kept such things, although some of the material makes me cringe. I was so idealistic when I was young. But then, weren't we all?

Oyster catchers on Bayfield Park - stopping in and sheltering from the storm at sea.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Poet Envy

Ice plant climber; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

I love reading poetry, but when I read poetry written by fellow New Zealand poets I am left with a mish-mash of feelings. Among them; envy, defeat, admiration, inspiration ... The envy is self-explanatory as the poetry is always excellent, I feel my own could never be as good; so I feel envious - a 'why can't I write like that?' feeling ... is that envy? I guess it is.

Stone retaining wall; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Defeat because, again, it is so good why do I even want to bother to add my paltry efforts to the grand pile? Then admiration because I can't help but sit back in awe. And finally inspiration - thank goodness, because that is what gets me up from where I lie floored by all the skill and exquisite turning of words and phrases; all the ease of language and new ways of putting ideas across; all the quiet humour ... to embrace the motivation and spur to keep on writing myself.

Overbridge reflections: shadows and bars; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Sometimes a thought, memory, connection or just plain astonishment is triggered by another writer's descriptions. For example, Tim Jones' poem about the keas in the Gore Gardens (already I have written a response to this haunting poem) and all other southern evocations he calls up in both his poetry collections - as well as a range of other subjects. Or the stunning poetry about Antarctica in Bernadette Hall's, 'The Ponies'.

Lime-deposit scribbles on rock; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

And in 'Calypso', Bob Orr's marvellous evocations of Auckland ... a place I have only visited briefly, and a very long time ago ... that caused its harbours to materialise before my eyes.

Leak stuck to a green-slimed wall; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Elizabeth Smither's way of describing the small things in a garden, or city, that other people may only glance over and dismiss, inspire me to look again at the vein of a leaf and take up the challenge to put what I see into words that compel the reader to take notice. Cilla McQueen's almost deadpan, yet extremely clever, surprising and fresh, descriptions as always leave me smiling. Jenny Bornholdt's easy and sweet squeezing of juices from out of everyday life, its hardships, its tiny defeats and joys, makes for extremely pleasurable poetry. And Fiona Farrell's intelligent exploration of place and home and of Irish ancestry in her latest collection, 'The Pop-Up Book of Invasions', triggers wake-up calls and responses in the sleepy recesses of my own brain where ancestry and questing connect.

Stick insect, detritus; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

And all the other New Zealand poets (there are whole constellations of them out there!) do a similar work on my writer's brain and imagination. I salute them all. Thanks also to all the publishers who stalwartly publish New Zealand poetry, despite what must be less than satisfactory returns; because let's face it: how many of the general public reads it? So good job people - poets and publishers and all.


Barnacles on rock; Andersons Bay Inlet, Dunedin

Part of the reason I go for walks is not only for the exercise and space to think, reflect and plan - but to explore and discover. I always try to have my camera with me because you never know. Yesterday I was delighted by what I found at the edge of the inlet at low tide. (All the photos posted here are the result.) More poetry. It's enough to make me want to Smither a leaf, Orr a barnacle and Jones a seagull ...


Thursday, 16 July 2009


On my day off on Wednesday, I babysat my grandson while my daughter and granddaughter went to the latest Harry Potter film. A school holiday treat.
H. is a beautiful little boy with a lovely, peaceful nature. He is so easy to look after, happy to wander about, chattering away to himself, allowing me to participate in his play as I please. No sweat Gran'ma Kay! We feel very lucky to have such beaut, little (altho' B at 11 is now not so little) grandchildren.

Speaking of luck. The earthquake we experienced last night at 9.20 p.m. here in the south of NZ (and amazingly, apparently also felt - although faintly - in some high-rise apartments; from the eighth floor up; in Sydney, Australia) was the second-biggest NZ has ever experienced. It was 7.8 on the Richter scale, yet as far as geologists and other experts can ascertain, hardly any damage occurred. The fact that its epicentre was in such a remote place; an uninhabited region a little off the south-west coast; was our saving grace.
Robert and I laughed tonight when we saw on the National News, a film clip from a shop's camera of the earthquake as it was happening, showing one bottle flinging off a shelf. One bottle! Pictures of earthquakes of the same magnitude overseas show tumbling buildings and people running for their lives; but for us here in NZ, it's one bottle. Oh. I am being unfair. But somehow that clip of one bottle flying off the shop's shelf seemed very New Zealand.

Today's after-work walk was beside a rough sea. A recent high tide had bashed right in against the sand dunes and taken away a huge amount of sand, forming steep cliffs directly below the surf club and along St Kilda beach. It always astounds me how much sand a tide can shift. At times, plumes of foam shot up in the air as breakers clashed, and a smoky haze from the spray covered the sea.


Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Sky's Last Act

The air at five p.m. is certainly fresh, but not bitter. No need for any extra adornment of hat, gloves or scarf. I head for the inlet where the tide is out, the mud and puddles touched-up with the mild pinks and apricots of a winter sunset. Headlights from the string of homeward-bound traffic, form smudgy reflections in the still water. A few black-backed gulls feed from the darkening water.

The air is smoky, the ponderous clouds bottom-heavy, then thinning out at the top to stream away into tender, fragile edges of creamy silver. The water of the inlet reflects this last, quiet, low-key act of today's sky.

A eucalyptus tree vies with the clouds and sky for room. For reflection. Other people also out walking, slip past like shadows. Some shadows say 'Hello', some remain voiceless. Some walk dogs. It is almost dark. I head home


Sunday, 12 July 2009

Grave Considerations

A good thing to do on a cold day is go for a walk. Maybe a walk to the cemetery wouldn't be first choice for a lot of people. However I don't find them depressing, spooky or morbid ... if anything, they are peaceful places.

(Andersons Bay Cemetery.)

It was a little unsettling to see that vandals had knocked the heads off a lot of the statues - as you can see here.

At one stage, Robert and I became separated and I lost sight of him among the graves somewhere. Which was a surreal moment! However, his reassuring figure, tall, steady and reliable, eventually emerged from the grey, and all was well once more.

From there it was a short step over to Tomahawk Beach.

There was even a rainbow to end what was a very pleasant walk on a winter's Sunday afternoon.

Work tomorrow and Tuesday, then Wednesday off to write and read. Work again on Thursday, then Friday off to write and read. I am really sold on my new three-day working week.

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...