Thursday, 19 August 2010

outside viewing

Remarkables, Queenstown

outside viewing

Soon we will leave
this mountain shining wide and grand,
shards of wind
needling its uncompromising ear.
The woman at the next table doesn’t know
there is a crumb on her lip,

the tourists that they must not
feed the keas. It's the kids, not us,
skiing. We breathe in white air, deep and brilliant.
Diminished yet grateful, we drink coffee
from a thermos, hear the kea’s
cry of the abandoned.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

for the derelicts

buildings in Port Chalmers

Dunedin and its environs is full of beautiful, old buildings and people who care about what eventually happens to them.These fighters are tireless toilers, fighting for the conservation of the buildings with written submissions, lobbying, attending meetings etc.with the dedication and passion that such work demands. I really have no idea of what goes into such efforts, but I  admire people who have a heart for, and do all they can to save, what deserves to be saved. When we have no respect for our past, we cut away the very ground we stand on. 
Some years ago I worked in an apartment that was opposite the old Post Office in the Exchange area of Princes Street, once the commercial hub of Dunedin. Looking out the window I looked straight into the heart and soul, the dead eyes, of something abandoned and derelict. 
I can't help but wonder if we really went all out and gave free rein to our imaginations, and were listened to and encouraged, if something creative couldn't be done to preserve such buildings and areas clearly dying from lack of life and use? Sadly though, I fear that the resulting flotilla of ideas and energy would only scare, confuse and annoy the bureaucrats, naysayers, pen pushers, bean counters, suits, old boys et al who hold the seat of power and make the ultimate decisions.  

4.00 p.m. from Apartment 3A

From a third floor window
the rain smears and steams, 
the cool, 4.00 pm crackle
of tall buildings, the chirr
of buses and high-school kids
who yell across the street

where it deepens and tail-lights
redden like leaves. Against a sky 
the rain has deadened, 
pigeons fold over the flat roof
of the old Post Office
as it weeps black into grey.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Thursday, 12 August 2010

in the gloaming

Tractors remind me of my father. These ones are from the Clyde tractor museum.

My father was a typical Southland farmer and not given to fancies. However, one day he came home with a story that he and another farm-worker were sure that they had seen something that could only be described as a UFO.
They had been moving cattle into cattle-yards ready for the truck to take the cattle away in the morning, so it was just on dusk. He had experience of 'Southern Lights' (sun showers causing waves of light) and knew that it wasn't that. From what I can remember, he said it was more like a couple of different coloured, hovering lights, a little low to be aircraft.
It intrigued me that my father had seen something unexplainable and weird. Something so interesting and different. Out of the norm. As I was a teenager at the time, I thought that this was an especially admirable achievement for a parent.
Dad never travelled and as it turned out, didn't live for much longer after this incident, so never saw his seven children grow up, or his grandchildren (and now great-grandchildren). However, he had witnessed something that was 'out of this world' before he actually left it, and not many of us are lucky enough to have had that experience.


He saw one once.
Over the cattle-yards
just on dark. A hover
of lights. Wasn’t just him either.
Bruce saw them too.
Between them, tentative awe,

telegraphic sentences, 
puzzled shrugs,
a wry acceptance
that no-one would believe them.
But no denying it.
Never in forty-five years

had he left the South Island. 
Never been farther north
than 300 miles 
to Christchurch,
yet he’d seen this
sky-dance, this hint

at some kind of outer space.
And in just three years
from that night,
he would be dead
and buried under sods
of Gore’s cold clay.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

so green it's blue

side of church, green tree, Clyde

In the interests of my latest poetry collection, I have been listening to a lot of popular music this week (and watching a lot of Youtube music clips and videos). I have been listening to a range, from the recent past, as well as from the 'ancient' - relatively speaking. (After all, I am talking the 1950s!) 
I have been catching up on music my kids listened to in the '90s and early 2000's and found that they actually had good taste. (I just didn't have time at the time to take it all in. Well, apart from a few of the more melodic songs, like 'Bittersweet Melody' by TheVerve, 'Daughter' by  Pearl Jam, 'Razor' by Foo Fighters ...)
But I am tired of thinking and researching popular music. I'm about ready now to just listen to any old music for straight enjoyment again; no agendas.
Below is a poem I wrote some years ago while listening to a Gillian Welch c.d. I have. I fell asleep listening to a long track called 'I Dream A Highway'. I remember how it suddenly seemed surreal to be listening to this music from another country's culture in my own, New Zealand suburb on a Saturday afternoon with NZ'ers out and about doing kiwi suburban stuff like mowing lawns ...  The track is about 15 minutes long and I can attest to it being a wonderful lullaby, as well as some kind of motivation for this poem. (There is no banjo playing bluegrass on the track; but they were there in my imagination).

so green it’s blue

This music is homesick
for a bayou. It's a foreign accent
in a suburb that gurgles with lawnmowers
doing the breaststroke
through oceans of grass
and air that swirls

with the catfight-sound
of electric saws. It is music that picks
and talks of grass so green it’s blue.
Music that pines, this plucked banjo
I listen to in a town fastened
to fast-cooled, volcanic remains.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Sunday, 8 August 2010

What Condition

Church bell in Clyde.

Yeah, oh yeah, (glad dance) ring out the bells! So pleased that Southland retains the Ranfurly Shield.

The pudding I made for the dinner last night (see yesterday's post) came home again more or less intact. The two of us whose job it was to bring dessert didn't consult, and we both brought along an apple pie. Her apple pie was a finer example than mine and better presented (I forgot the golden rule - presentation - and an old oven dish was just never gonna cut it). Anyway, I can attest that it was yummy - with all that butter in the crumb, it couldn't fail to be. This is how the recipe reads: Put on top of half-cooked apples. 1 cup of flour, 1tsp baking powder, 3 oz (100 grams) butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar. Rub all together. Bake 1/2 hour (oven temp. 150 celsius).

The evening was a lot of fun. The food was amazing - an exemplary, creamy pumpkin soup (P. roasts the pumpkin first which gives it a rich pumpkin-y taste) followed by home-made pate in individual dishes, followed by a chicken casserole and pasta, followed by the apple pies, whipped cream and home-made ice-cream.

The fun came from the condition of our middle-aged condition with all its pesky memory gaps. Every time we tried to think of a person, a movie, a piece of music or a place, we were forced to go through a mental obstacle course saying inane things like, "k, k, k, k ... his name starts with k," and, "You know, the old one, you know, the one who died, married to j, j, j, j something ... salad dressing ... Paul! Paul Newman!" Exhausting.


Saturday, 7 August 2010

Twenty-five Minute Post

I'm going to try and see if I can do this - put up a post in twenty minutes. (We are off out for dinner at a friend's place tonight, so that is all the time I have).

It was my job to make dessert and so I turned to an old recipe book of my mother's that my sister copied off for me (please ref. to previous post on biscuits called Slugs for more info. on this book).

There were mostly steam pudds. in the Pudding section (oh yes, it was always 'pudding', never 'dessert' in my childhood - back then, a dessert was a hot, sandy place). But I did find a recipe for an Apple Crunch, which turned out to be what we would call today an Apple Crumble.

I do not recall my mother making this pudding. She made Apple Pies, Apple Dumplings, Apple Shortcake ... but never Apple Crumble. Apple Crumble wasn't part of my fare until 1972 when it became part of the menu in the student flat I was in. SO I was surprised to discover a recipe for Apple Crunch /Crumble that went back as far as the late 1950s.

I asked Robert if it was part of his early memories, and he said that it probably wasn't until the late 1960s he remembers a discussion about what was the best 'crumble' for that particular pudd. It definitely wasn't part of his early memory of puddings.

I deduce from all this that back then the Crunch was a modern pudding that Mum didn't trust at the time, preferring to stick to the tried and true. I can imagine her thinking how would a crumble placed on top of stewed apples actually work ? She was more used to a dough-y topping for puddings. A crumble without any binder (eggs, milk) wouldn't have seemed 'right'. Back then NZ bakers weren't known for their innovative and adventurous ways.

I followed the instructions - with Robert's help I now know how to convert Imperial measurements to Metric. What a lot of butter this recipe has. And it includes Baking Powder, which today's recipes for Crumble don't include.

It smells lovely. It looks golden and definitely eatable. I will let you know tomorrow what the verdict was.

*BTW -  I was delighted when a writer friend here in Dunedin approached me to say, "You know how you said in your blog that you have yet to meet anyone who knows what Slugs are? Well, now you do! I remember my mother baking Slugs." I was so happy to find out that there were other Sluggies out there!

It's taken me 25 minutes. But no photo. 

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Not My Tuesday Poem

I have called this 'Not My Tuesday Poem' because sadly I have had to sacrifice my part in the Tuesday Poem enterprise. Mainly it's for the sake of my writing - especially in the interests of the collection I am cobbling together at the moment. Like all the enterprising couples who convert old barns to beautiful homes in that TV programme 'Grand Designs', this collection is taking 'much longer than first predicted' ... and so I need to give it some serious focus and divest myself of beautiful distractions.

I have enjoyed my stint at Tuesday Poem (it has indeed been a beautiful distraction) and I wish everyone involved in taking it even farther forward, all the very best.

The photo above is at least seven years old. It is of me outside the Katherine Mansfield House on a very wet Wellington day in May. There is a better photo of the house (plus info.) in this Wikipedia entry about KM.
After my visit to Katherine Mansfield's home, I wrote a poem about it. I have decided to air the poem again after word of Kathleen Jones' book about Katherine Mansfield jolted my memory of my own visit to the Mansfield house, and the poem I wrote about it.
Katherine Mansfield is an early twentieth century writer who was brought up in New Zealand, before moving permanently to England and living there for the rest of her life. She is one of my favourite writers.

Katherine Mansfield’s house

I imagine Katherine nowhere
to be seen.
Her childhood home
is full now of stilted reverence,

dark skirting boards,
stairs and of course, 
in the wash-house
on the window-sill,
the dried-out, blue-bag.

It has hush, china, writing stuff.
It has the strain of time.
Outside a small garden
leaps and bounds bright

inside its borders
despite the hiss of rain.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

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...