Sunday, 29 May 2011

Car Wash Blues.

I took this photo while waiting at the car wash. It was kind of symbolic, considering the day I was having. All I wanted was to get the car washed. Not an unreasonable request, I would've thought.
However, the first car wash simply refused to start once I was installed. Rather than hold up the line of cars waiting behind me, I opted to be refunded and drive off in my still-grubby car to another car wash. Here I was informed that the car wash had just broken down.
While waiting at the third car wash, I glanced across the road and saw the face. Yes, I thought, exactly.

This building was also across the road. A typical crumbling relic of days bygone when this area of town was a bustling, commercial hub.

Two air vents at the top of Sammy's Nightclub.

The building next to it has been rejuvenated somewhat, and is now a nightclub called Sammy's.


Last night we went to watch the Nuggets B'ball game. Last week they won their game, which ended a horror run of 33 losses. Sadly, last night they didn't repeat that win but lost by thirty points to a stacked Waikato team.

'Steven from Dunedin' refereed the half-time demo. game between two Intermediate schools.

After not watching a B'ball game for some years, I noticed how much more the entertainment component intrudes. And I wasn't as cold - the stadium's heating must be a lot more efficient.
Strangely, I kind of missed the cold. And I missed bona fide 'Defence!' 'Defence!' calls - now it's a recorded chant blaring out over the sound system, providing us with the noise we used to provide ourselves.
I watched, was entertained and when the Nuggets lost, disappointed. Yet I felt removed; not as involved. Maybe it was all a little bit too slick. Even though progress makes things easier and warmer, sometimes it just isn't as much fun.


Saturday, 21 May 2011

Kiwis Do Fly

This morning when I went up to the greenhouse to check on the tomatoes, I was expecting to see a bunch of dead leaves. I was surprised to see green growth and hidden emeralds - green tomatoes, ready to be plucked and brought indoors to ripen on the windowsill.

Early next week we say good-bye to our son and his wife as they leave for their O.E. (overseas experience). A lot of Kiwis travel. An estimated one million kiwis are living overseas. That is a quarter of our population. We hope most of them plan to come back ...

M and K are heading first for Japan to catch up with our oldest son and his wife and two children. After that they are going to China, then India and from there over to Berlin, Germany. They have no idea when they will come back to NZ - it may be just a six month trip, or longer.

Their proposed trip reminds Robert and me of our O.E. in the mid-70's.  To a larger or smaller extent, we were inheritors of our parent's perceptions of the U.K. as 'home', and that was where our noses were pointed. Through our years of growing up in New Zealand in the 1950's, '60's and '70's, British music and culture had been hard-wired into our brains and psyche. America was also an influence and a possibility for exploration; but the U.K. was definitely the place I had in mind to head for, ever since I was ten years old and started writing to penfriends over there. One penfriend had become especially close; another reason to go to the U.K.

We had no interest in S.E Asia, China, India, but Europe and Scandinavia were attractive, as was Greece and Israel. We got to see a lot of Europe in our combi van (bought on the street in Earl's Court, London, 1978, from another kiwi traveller). Only the threat of bus bombs, put paid to a planned bus-trip to Israel.

There are still some similarities - for example, M and K are travelling with packs on their backs, just as we did.

We will be sad to say good-bye to our two flying kiwis when they leave in a couple of days, especially as that means all three of our sons will be off-shore. But we are excited for them too. Bless them.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

All I Need Is the Pine Cone

On the way to work this morning I was rugged up in gloves, hat, scarf and warm jacket, thinking, "Winter's arrived."
I also thought about hungry birds as I caught sight of some flitting about in the brass notes of autumn's last remaining leaves. And I thought of bird feeders and how every year I think about setting one up. All I need is a pine cone, suet and bird seed. No, come to think of it, all I need is the pine cone and the suet. I already bought the bird seed. About three years ago.  
As I walked, I kept an eye out for the early arrival of the bus scooting past the stone wall on Silverton Street. It's always a worry, the thought that I might just miss it because of the bus being a tad early or me being a tad late. No such worries this morning, I arrived at the stop in plenty of time. 
Other cities have much cooler colours for their buses; our province has been landed with an unfortunate yellow and blue combo that seems to limit us to producing facsimiles of an ugly 1980's office memo.
I thought again about setting up the bird feeder. Just as every year I think about growing sunflowers and sweet peas. One day I'll actually do it. One day before someone thinks up a creative way of combining yellow and blue; or the world ends. Whichever comes first. 

Sunday, 15 May 2011

In Stone

The egg-shaped stone above reminds me a little of a Russian doll. A scarved babushka. Or clouds above a forest. Snow and glaciers. (I'd prefer not to think of it as a rugby ball, but then that's not being realistic, because of course it does look like one.)

Any geologist will tell you that in a stone lies the story of the earth. Molten layers cooling ... soft rock eroding away, harder rock remaining and all of this revealing time's layers.

This stone is a memento, brought back from the edge of the lake after our stay in Te Anau at the beginning of this year. When I look for stones to collect, I try to limit myself to only one or two, otherwise the tally would rapidly approach the ridiculous, with a ton of them in the boot weighing down our small car.

I see a nicer one and pick it up, discarding others, then see another that is superior, or different. I make myself decide. I can't own them all. No, own is not the right word. Borrow. I am a transporter of stones, like a river. Or, going by how many I have gathered over the years, a truck.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Fiery Blue

When I look at this small glass box I am transported back to 1972 and a flat-mate of that time who gave me this as a present. You know how some people are amzing at choosing gifts? Jen was one of those people. I keep it on a windowsill where the light catches it. I love the way it reminds me of frozen heat.

Monday, 9 May 2011

'Patience Achieves Everything'

Lately I feel like I'm being jolted into a different space. I am still processing it all, but I suspect it has something to do with the lost art of patience. I am thinking, if I practice patience a little more, will it give me more control over time?

Take any weekend here in Dunedin, and you have a choice of gigs to attend, art galleries / studios, museums, movies, coffee houses, restaurants to enjoy.

If you are more inclined to just wander and look, there is interesting architecture; buildings and cathedrals to look at; mid-to-late Victorian, Edwardian, 1920's art deco, 1930's and '40's villas, 1950's bungalows.  There is the decorative, bluestone and limestone Railway Station designed by George Troup.

If fashion is more your thing, Dunedin is a leader in innovative fashion and there are many clothes boutiques to visit. There are jewellery and pottery shop / workshops and galleries, where it is possible to buy (or simply look at) locally made crafts and jewellery.

Nature can be found both within the city as well as on its outskirts. Easily accessible beaches are home to penguins (the Yellow-eyed and Blue) and fur seals, sea-lions, and at times dolphins and whales can be spotted. Some of the beaches are surf beaches - however, wet suits are advisable; the southern ocean is not tropical.

The Otago Peninsula is a picturesque sleeve of land that separates the city from the eastern beaches and Pacific Ocean. A twisiting road takes you past bays, beaches and harbours. There are craft shops, galleries and historic houses to investigate. The high road with views over the harbour, and in parts lined with historical limestone walls, is where Larnach's Castle (even if a very small one) is located on its own windswept headland.

The Taiaroa Head Albatross Colony is located at the end of the peninsula. Here, depending on the time of the year, it's possible to go on guided tours to see albatross soaring, landing and nesting. During the winter, if the birds have nested near enough to the observatory, the tour guides will show you the baby chicks - large, fat snowballs of white fluff, that before they fledge, are bigger than their parent birds.

A bit over three years ago, I spent a season there as one of those tour guides. An occupation that for me proved too tedious. I resented having to repeat the same spiel four or five times a day. The trip out to the colony too, although beautifully scenic, was a long drive on a tricky road. But I have great memories of seeing albatross flying up close; splendid giant birds of the ocean. Another highlight of my time there was when Fleur Adcock, a NZ / British poet, turned up in MY tour group. Sweet.

And then there is the Gorge Railway expedition train ...  and Tunnel Beach, the glow-worm caves, the walks, the climbs ... The poetry readings, the art scene, the cultural scene ... The University part of town and all the energy that that creates.

Dunedin's weather is not its best feature, which puts a lot of people off living here. This is not a bad thing as it means we never have to worry about congestion. Necessity demands that any unreasonable expectation of a long, hot summer are constantly lowered. Call it a perverse quirk of nature, but to me this is part of Dunedin's unique charm. Don't get me wrong, sunny days in Dunedin do exist, it's just we can never rely on a whole row of them.

At the risk of sounding even more like a tourist brochure, there is much here to explore and re-discover. To appreciate. To get around them all is going to take time. And patience. I wonder ...

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Saturday Rain

like swans 

The rain falls down
on to the roof. Heavy rain
that sounds like running feet.
I shut my eyes and see him
walking away

with another short man, 
maybe it's Jesus. Both
dressed in brown. One
of them lifts an arm high
to make a rainbow.

On the way out,
in the foyer, the folded umbrellas 
of mourners look like swans 
about to swim off 
into the grey rain.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

For Larry

To hear that a friend has taken his own life, feels like a blow to the stomach. Is there anything more anyone could have done? Guilt creeps in. Was there something more I could have done?

Now there's a gap in the art and creative scene of Dunedin. No more short, American magician on the street. Happy as Larry. No more art discussions. No more Larry poetry. Creative projects - ukelele, piano, time-lapse photos.

No more Larry anywhere in Dunedin. In the world.

I am left with memories like quick shots in a film.


Meeting Larry on a bus.
Larry reading his white poem,
his Facebook poem, his St Clair poem.
Larry reading his poems
in Re-Fuel, in Arc,
in Circadian Rhythm. Larry
in our car. Larry in the Mou alley.
Larry playing the piano.
Larry's lagniappe biscuits,
as sweet and light as air
full of snow.
Larry across the street at the lights.
Larry in St Clair. Larry in View Street.
Larry above the Starfish.
Larry at an outside table
at Mazagran.
Larry in the distance. Larry across the table.
As we sit in a Japanese cafe slurping noodles,
I spot Larry putting out his rubbish bag.
When was the last time I saw Larry?
When was the first?

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Monday, 2 May 2011


Today the wind returned. I had been enjoying our recent calm autumn days. The windy conditions reminded me how much it changes your mood; how it disturbs your psyche. It's annoying, noisy, intrusive, messy, cold and unpleasant. We are a set of lean islands stuck in the middle of a vast oceanic space, so wind is unavoidable. Our capital city Wellington, is known as the Windy City. There isn't anywhere in New Zealand unaffected by wind. (If there is, please let me know, and while you are at it, the current real estate prices).

The day is now drawing to a close. It is getting darker earlier. The wind will be wiping the last of the autumn colours off the trees. On our recent trip through to Central Otago for Easter, we saw a lot of russet and golden-yellow autumn tints in the trees - especially in the Lombardy poplars, a species of tree very 'popular' in Central Otago. I guess the shape of the tree denotes how straight and deep the roots go down, therefore ensuring their survival in the hot dry summers and bitterly cold, winters.

The wind has dropped now as it often does at this time of the day, seeming to follow the sun down over the lip of the horizon. It has blown itself out. Neighbours are calling out on their dog, Chaos (or Kaos?)Makes me smile every time I hear them call, "Chaos!" Especially on a day like today with the wind in just that sort of mood. Oh well, going by the cheerful, answering bark of the errant canine, Chaos is once again on its leash. Peace is restored.


May has started off with some sad news. A friend's 21-year old nephew was killed in a helicopter accident last week. I cannot stop thinking about the family. Our heart goes out to them. We also can't help but think back to August 2008 when we got the news that our 23-year old son had survived a helicopter crash. After Chris realised that he and the others in the helicopter had survived, largely because it landed in a large tree, one of the first things he thought was, "Thank you, tree".

The poetry readings on Friday night down in Invercargill, Southland went well. A small audience (being the same night as two major sport's events and the televised Royal Wedding, had its effect I'm sure) were treated to some quality poetry from Tim Jones, Joanna Preston and Lynley Dear. I read as well, focussing on poems about Southland - of which I do have a fair number having been born and raised down there.

It was good to meet Lynley and to see Jonanna, Tim, Rebecca and Hamish again. After the readings we were treated to dinner out together, where we had a lot of laughs with conversations and discussions that sparkled with wit and good natured banter.

Invercargill strikes me as being right up with the play as far as the arts go. This has a lot to do with organisations such as the Dan Davin Foundation, and to Invercargill librarian Rebecca Amunsden's organisational abilities in getting the Southland Arts festival up and running so successfully. (It runs for a month, so do go see it if you are down that way or have the opportunity to get down there).

I attended Tim Jones' Speculative Fiction workshop on the Saturday and thoroughly enjoyed having my mind opened to new genres of writing; genres I know very little about. Among the few Science Fiction books I have read, are 'Neuromancer' by William Gibson, 'Left hand of Darkness' by Ursula Le Guin and a few Jack Vance books. Thankfully this meant I didn't feel completely at sea. I discovered that writing Paranormal Romance probably doesn't appeal to me - or for that matter, Horror, or Fantasy. And I doubt my scant scientific knowledge would bear the weight of my clunky attempts at writing successful science fiction.

I enjoyed the company of the writers at the workshop. They were intelligent, articulate, funny and totally committed to getting published (some of the writers were as young as 14 and with astonishing writing abilities). Tim led a splendid, interesting, informative workshop which was entertaining and intriguing. I may not be able to write anything fantastical or anything that bears even a close resemblance to science fiction, but I know I could easily write poem or two about the fascinating people who do write it.

In the time that we were down there, Invercargill was bathed in sunshine and looking damn fine. I always enjoy visiting that city. When I was a child, Invercargill was the metropolis - a golden, busy, exciting place, full of light; a wonderful place for shopping, or shows at the theatre, films at the picture theatres, or for swimming at the indoor pool, milkshakes at the Copper Kettle ... When I am down there, I can still feel that unique Invercargill-buzz I felt as a small child. Until next time Invercargill. Au revoir.

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...