Tuesday, 4 January 2011


When R was a young Civil Engineer, part of his brief was to design a flip-bucket for the Clutha Dam. That was over thirty years ago now. It was a project that like all hydro-electric schemes wasn't without its opponents. However, engineering was R's job for a time. Now he just teaches it.

Over the years, as we have travelled through to visit his parents in Queenstown, we've often pulled into the dam's viewing platform to have a look, but never managed to see the flip-bucket in action. On this latest trip through, however, it dawned on us that with recent heavy rain, the dam would be at full capacity with the flip-bucket doing its thing.

Sure enough, we were rewarded with the sight of a flip-bucket working perfectly, deflecting the weight and flow of the rushing torrent down the slipway and sending it into an impressive billowing cloud of foaming spray. It was doing exactly what it was designed to do - stopping too much water from rushing all at once on down into the dam's outlet. The fact that the day we finally saw it operating happened to also be R's birthday, was icing on the cake.

His birthday falls in the week between Christmas and New Year and provides a good excuse to 'keep the party going', especially when we are with extended family holidaying together for the Christmas, New Year break. His sisters usually make him a cake. As you can see from the photo above, these cakes are never ordinary, but always meaningful as well as delicious.

The walks continue. Sometimes I am accompanied by R, sometimes I am on my own. Sometimes I bring along the camera. As I walk, solutions and ideas tend to tear themselves off from any problems and anxieties, leaving the latter to lag behind; the way it should be, because problems and anxious thoughts don't make good company. 

I used to have a Peanuts poster depicting the security-blanket toting Linus stating; “There is no problem so formidable that it cannot be run away from.” Or walked away from.

During this summer break, I've been reading poetry. It's always hard to choose what to buy; New Zealand has a rich source of local poetry from which to choose; but I ended up with Bernadette Hall's 'Lustre Jug', Fleur Adcock's 'Dragon Talk', Paula Green's 'Crosswind' and Anne Kennedy's 'The Time of the Giants'. Plus I also have David Karena Holmes' 'Genesis', David Eggleton's 'Time of the Icebergs' and Cilla McQueen's 'Radio Room' to read as well. 
While in Queenstown, as I read I'd lift my eyes to the view of Lake Wakatipu, and the Remarkables mountain range in their summer gear; looking a little pink and embarrassed without any snow on.

(If you look closely, you can see a fish in the creek).

As my eyes flicked from the words on the page to rocky-sided mountains, the mountains in the tricky light looked like a knobbly row of leathery toads crouched on their haunches ready at any time to hop into the cool lake. Every time I looked up, it seemed that they'd edged forward just a little more.

And then there was the wooden rocking-chair on the deck beside me creaking and rocking slightly with the heat. As if an invisible person sat beside me. Once I pretended it was my father – dead now some 42 years. What do you think Dad? I asked. To which he replied; It all depends upon your perspective. I looked up at a noisy jet flying overhead at the same time, with its wings the shape of a pick-axe and its tail the shape of a crampon, it seemed to be scratching for a hold on the sky's icy-blue surface. I looked again over at the chair. Empty.

Then my brother in law arrived and sat down in the chair. I told him about how it had been creaking in the sun and how I'd imagined someone was sitting in it; omitting the added craziness of pretending it was my dead father. Talking to yourself? he asked. Yes, I said, exactly.

We both looked out at the mountains and commented on how slowly this new year was arriving. Slow and easy. In the garden, honey bees were gathering pollen. One had a heavy load of yellow pollen which made it look as if it was wearing anglers' thigh-high gumboots. Two white butterflies twirled past.

I looked down to where the bees continued to butt at the flowers of the clover, and asked my brother-in-law (a rural advisor) about the recent outbreak of the damaging clover weevil. He didn't think the recent release of wasps that it is hoped will rid the country of the weevil, was going to do much to curtail the problem. I got the impression it wasn't an agricultural disaster of mammoth proportions and couldn't help but feel relieved. The less disasters this year, the better.

We are back home now and pottering away on our 'estate', tidying the trees and shrubs that have got away on us in the thirteen years or so we've been in this house. We are letting in the light. Hacking away dead wood. Meanwhile, the weather continues mixed. Clouds and sun fighting it out. The clouds seem to be winning. The sun maybe could do with a flip-bucket.


Catherine said...

I'd love to be going for walks, but I have strained something in my heel. I walked on the beach today, thinking it was better, but it wasn't :(

J.T. Webster said...

I enjoyed your holiday photos and hearing about your time away. It sounds like you had a good time recharging your batteries!

McDinzie said...

nice entry...good to read your thoughts

and I too sometimes have a chat with dad...its that positive re-enforcement :-)

Penelope said...

Lovely post, Kay. And now i know exactly what sort of 'cake' to make for my R in 3 weeks! But are they really releasing extra wasps into the world? (asked the honeybees, quaking in their pollen boots).

Avus said...

Thank you, Kay for a wonderful post. Even an image of The Earnslaw steamer to pander to my nostalgia.

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