Sunday, 31 January 2010


Summer's out of breath
from rushing to get here
and so real we could reach out
and pinch it.
It's apologetic

and knows its late arrival
has made us grumpy,
nevertheless it's hopeful
of a full pardon.
On the trip home I collect evidence,

car windows wound down
with brown arms hanging out,
hands fingering heat's warm beads.
On the Cromwell bridge
three young lads, careless towels

slung around their necks.
As we drive over I look down
into the river's deep, swift throat
and ask, "Was it Steve who jumped
off here?" "Yep," Robert nods

and that's all we say
but thoughts do occur like,
you bear your children,
bring them up, keep them safe
only to have them jump

off bridges, drift dangerously
with untrustworthy
currents, land on rock,
punch the air. Fan-shaped, silver
spray over orchards.

Brown hills shaped like skulls
of elephants, or buffalo.
Barefeet wincing over warm gravel.
Squinting hitchhikers,
thumbs hooking

blue sky. Real-fruit ice cream
deep in berry country
near Roxburgh, where sun sears.
The machine crushes
and creams frozen raspberries.

Sun stings
the backs of my knees.
Ah! Summer, there you are
you've had us covered.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Backyard background

Saturday dawned grey-ish with the sun trying very hard to bash itself out from behind thick cloud. (Come on sun - you can do it!)

Went for a coffee with a friend down at St Clair; Pier 24 Cafe and Bar at the St Clair Resort. Enjoyed a rich, smooth, black coffee made by Gary, whose coffee-making skills I can highly recommend - say I sent you.
The view there is of the ocean from a position perched above the beach. We could look out to where the waves curl up and unroll, like umbrellas, with surfers making the most of a medium surf.

We continue to clear our section of overgrown greenery, letting more light into our backyard. I noticed a lot of birds feeding off the berries and plums (too high for us to gather) so despite our felling, we've obviously still left enough for them to forage among. The grey warbler was around. It's a shy, elusive bird and hard to spot, unlike the fantails and wax eyes that flit very close to the house.

The birds need to watch out for our cat Aggie, she likes to hunt them down - bad, bad cat. We are thinking very hard about buying a bell to hang around her neck.

Some birds fly in a bunch and some are loners. I feel an affinity with the grey warbler as it practices its mournful scales. It too likes to sing behind cover and fly alone.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Walk On By

Yesterday morning dawned grey in dear old Dunedin. It is often grey in dear old Dunedin. Luckily I am rather fond of grey days. Even in the middle of summer.
We went for a walk along the harbour to the Vauxhall yacht club car park and jetty / launching ramp where a cheery man was preparing to take his small yacht out and make the most of the slight breeze.
We passed a few others out walking, but not many. Most people who were out and about on Sunday morning were in the cars that were swishing past.
Walking is a conspicuous event in a small city. I am sure that to some people who see me out walking (as I do regularly to or from work) I will be that strange 'Walking Lady'.
I can understand those who have i-pods, as it creates a diversion and helps block out any self-consciousness or embarrassment at being noticed. Personally though, I don't like them as they remove me too much from my immediate environment.
I remember when we were in LA in the' 70s (a stopover of one day on our way to the UK ) we left our motel in the early evening to go look for a hamburger place and couldn't believe we were the only ones in the whole of that huge city, walking. (Or that's how it felt anyway.) We were such naive, country-bumpkin kiwis. I mean to say, we could have ended up victims of a drive-by!

Some summer colour we found in Sunday morning's grey.


We have had some tree pruning done around our property with its arbour views. Pines, and some other large trees that are neither use nor ornament, have bitten the dust and been turned into firewood for winter. This culling has let in a lot more light. Hopefully we will get grass again in bald patches where it had died off, and the glasshouse mouldering these past few years in the shade, will bask once more in sunlight with the grapevine inside, again producing grapes.

Friday, 1 January 2010

How I Made My Mother Walk In The Heat

Let's make the most of the sunshine while it's here and go out for lunch, I suggest to my mother. We head for the Gardens, following a lavender trail, to reach the rose garden

where we spend a dreamy few minutes admiring the colours, scents and varieties.

My mother comments that she'd heard that roses are so popular because they remind men of women's breasts. Okay. Didn't know that Mum. And cabbages too, Mum said. Okay ... didn't know that either.

Mum is very patient while I take my shots. You and your sister are both the same she said, always taking photos of the roses.

This one was called Disco Dancer. The sun was very warm. Luckily we both had our hats on.
A young mother who is trying to persuade her small, squirming son to wear his sun-hat, points us out.
"Look! Those two ladies have their hats on." (She didn't say 'two old ladies' did she?)
We head towards where we believe we can get a cup of tea and a sit down.

Now that is the kind of garden I would love, I say. A wild, English country garden ...

Look at those foxgloves!

And lupins!
Dammit, the cafe is closed.
Mum needs a sit down. She wants to sit under the tree by the frisbee throwers, but I say No let's push on to another seat over under the oaks. I don't trust those frisbee throwers.
When we finally get there, we find the seat nearby occupied by a sixty-something year old man in a schoolboy's hat, shorts, long school socks and a scarf. He's eating sandwiches and drinking tea from a thermos. "Happy New Year!" he says cheerfully. Maybe we should have sat by the frisbee throwers after all. (At least it's not like in Japan where some eccentric middle-aged men dress up as schoolgirls!)
Still nothing to eat or drink. I head for the world's steepest street and a cafe out that way that might be open or might not.
It wasn't. Mum had never seen the steepest street in the world.
It is pretty steep, she says. Then she says that she's feeling a little dizzy.

"Must be the heat, " she says.
I never thought I'd hear my mother admit that Dunedin was hot. We head for McDonalds.
I'd like a Big Mac and a milkshake, Mum says.
We eat it in the car on John Wilson Drive with its ocean views. We have the windows wound down so we can hear the waves and get some relief from the heat. (With our unreliable summers, I feel I need to use that word 'heat' as often as I can, while I can.)

"That was lovely," Mum said as we pulled up at our house. I was relieved to hear it.
My sister texted me - You made our mother walk in 28 degree heat!

Maybe I need a little more practice at taking my 79 year old mother for a walk. (Difficult to achieve when she lives in the North Island and I live in the South Island). She's gone now to stay with my brother and his wife for a couple of days. They told her that they have put a couch out on their front verandah for her to sit in the sun and read. There is also mention of a hammock. But we all agree that there may be some difficulty in getting her out of it again! We chuckle at our mental pictures of Mum being unceremoniously tipped out and left stranded on her tummy. (Well, that was my mental image anyway. Naturally I can't really speak for the rest.) But maybe best if Mum chooses the couch. And no more long treks around rose gardens. In the heat.

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...