Thursday, 29 September 2011

Portishead, Patagonia and Pink Gumboots,

... Today this Cooke Baked

It needed to be a recipe without eggs (we were out) and the first egg-less one I saw was Gingernuts, pg 40 in the trusty 'every kiwi baker's standby', Edmonds Cookery Book.


125 grams butter
1/4 cup of brown sugar
3 tbsps of golden syrup
1 tsp Edmonds baking powder
1 tablespoon boiling water
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
3 teaspoons ground ginger

Cream butter, sugar, syrup. Dissolve baking soda in boiling water. Add to creamed mixture. Sift flour, ginger together. Add to creamed mixture. Roll teaspoonsfuls of mixture into balls and place on greased oven tray. Flatten wit a fork. Bake at 180 C for 20 - 30 mins. Makes 25.

They turned out tough little cookies, but tasty enough. I'd made them SUPER QUICK as the grand-kids were here, requiring vigilance ...

Grommet was his ever-obliging self and happy to act as a play prop.

... eventually making his escape.

In the middle of it all, I managed a skype with our son Chris who is in Patagonia, Chile.

While talking to him, I heard an almighty crash. V had thrown a small glass dish on to the floor of the conservatory. A gift from a flat-mate from the time I was a student in Dunedin in the 70's, now destined for the 'mosaic-pile'. (It had survived the boys, but not the grandchildren!)

I attached the 'Made In Kyoto' Grandparent cards on to the fridge today, and thought of our wee family in Japan.

I listened to:
Portishead 'Roads' (courtesy of Chris, who sent it to me over Facebook). Beautiful. Good to listen to while flinging together a batch of biscuits cos it slows you down a bit, which can only be a good thing when you're baking.
Brett Dennan's 'Blessed Is This Life' (very fitting for a day when you have heard from all of the family).

It feels good to be on board again after three days in bed with a horrible cold. And tomorrow is Friday - already!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Scrumming It

I can't even think the phrase, "I do love a brass band" without hearing it said in a northern English accent (perhaps the way my great-great-grandfather from Huddersfield would have said it). But we weren't at the new Dunedin stadium to hear the brass band,


who (oddly enough) at one stage, performed a haka ...

we were here (along with this lot)

not to watch an errant blue balloon

or even to discuss the merits or de-merits of the latest footwear fashion in rugby boots,

(although, on that subject, I like the bright boots; I find them very spec. fic. Tim Jones will know what I mean).  

here, a ruck forms

We were here to watch the rugby. (Parts of which was very watchable).

We were watching England versus Romania (or Rumania ... apparently both spellings are acceptable).

here, a scrum

Despite both Robert and I having English ancestry, we weren't supporting any of the two teams.

We were just there for the occasion.

As I say, some of the rugby was very watchable ... as above. (English kicker, Jonny Wilkinson in his customary 'prayer position' before kicking for goal).

England won. By a lot.

This is our second attendance at Dunedin's new stadium. A new stadium that is costing Dunedin ratepayers a lot and for that reason, a lot of Dunedin citizens are agin it.

But it's here now, so in order that it not become a white elephant and to get our money's worth, Robert and I are happy to go along to events and enjoy the benefits of a covered stadium. (We were very grateful for the roof last night when a bitterly cold and wet southerly blew in).

New Zealand is hosting the Rugby World Cup at the moment. As a nation, we are fast becoming au fait with bunting and flag-waving. Rugby Cup fever has hit the whole country.

Some people I know aren't happy about all the attention rugby is grabbing. I wasn't sure how I felt about it, but I find myself enjoying the excitement because after two major earthquakes, a mining disaster and other bad things that have happened to our small country recently, we need the bolstering and energy that World Cup fever is supplying.

Before the match, we spent a bit of time in the centre of the city where the atmosphere was one of celebration and 'party mode'. The same is being reflected around other NZ cities. I heard that earthquake-ravaged Christchurch was also getting into the spirit at the rugby centre set up for them in Hagley Park.

Last night though, I could have done without the English St George cross being waved under my nose by the rabid (and very loud - I am talking Town Crier proportions) English supporter sitting next to me.

I am not a rugby fan per se, but there is enough history of the sport flowing in my blood from rugby-loving ancestors (on both my mother's side and my father's) for it to rise and take even me by surprise.

After coming home from the Eng. v Rom. game last night, Robert mulled us some wine and we watched (on TV) the All Blacks (New Zealand's national rugby team, so-called because of their all-black uniforms) beat the French. It was a revenge game they have waited 4 years for, and it was very, very sweet to watch the AB's win in such a convincing and poetic manner.

Whenever I engage with the game of rugby (not so much with its culture, which is another story again) I feel close to my rugby-loving ancestors (Scottish, Irish, Maori, English). If only for that reason, I do not object when the rugby fan in me wants to come out and play.

Today this Cooke Baked ...


1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Mix together into a batter. Place in spoonful amounts on to a hot base of frying pan or skillet that has been rubbed with butter.
When the bubbles formed on the surface of each pikelet begin to pop, flip them over.
Makes about 10.

We ate them with butter and 'McDinzie's Wild Blackberry' (my sister and brother in law's home-made jam).


Wednesday, 21 September 2011


These two cards arrived yesterday in an envelope addressed to Grandma and Grandpa. They are from our two grandchildren in Japan. They were made at the playcentre they attend with their mother; made for the third Monday of September; a National Holiday in Japan - (Grandparents Day) Respect for the Aged and Longevity Day (keiro no hi). Cool eh. A little veneration goes a long way. All countries should have such a day.

The staff-room clock where I work as an early childhood reliever (teacher). On breaks, it lets you know how time is running out. Its seconds hand is a tangible example of how time can be measured, second by second. 

Part of the notice-board at work; reminders, deadlines, work-related goals and bullet points. (I've always thought the term bullet points an appropriate term). As a reliever I no longer have to worry about these things.

 A different kind of work-space.

At home, at my desk is where I love to be.

Like I was today, but not tomorrow when I am back with the clock and the drawing pins.
Like a kite - free to fly, yet tethered by the obligation to work. (Luckily, the people and kids I work with are cool. It is not all bad).
And money is cool too; come pay-day.

Monday, 19 September 2011

'an awkward dance on clay-coloured legs'

No, Robert's favourite bird isn't the heron. 

Above is a photo taken of a blue heron we saw yesterday during our walk around the inlet. I have written a poem about the wading birds found around the inlet, the blue heron among them. (I have used a line from that poem for the title of this post. Maybe I will post the poem another day).

We also saw (but I failed to get a photo of) two paradise ducks and as is most often the case when you see paradise ducks, just the two of them, one male and one female. 

"There you go," said Robert, "Paradise ducks. They would have to be one of my favourite birds."

Paradise ducks are endemic to New Zealand. They have distinct alternating calls (or honks) as they fly overhead; calls which never fail to remind me of the wide-open spaces of New Zealand's South Island; of mountains, lakes, tarns and tussock. 

The call of paradise ducks are a motif from my country childhood, as evident in this poem from my first book of poems, 'Feeding The Dogs'.

the bleat of dusk

Paddocks which seep,
hiss green after rain;
the call of paradise

ducks flying low
over rusty bracken,

ticking tractors, tangled
tresses of binder twine,

beer pot hills, dust balling
behind the school bus;

down by the white bridge

twitchy dragonflies
with hologram wings.

This land that rocks
me never sleeps. Through
the shelter belt of pines
the wind from the north;
it calls

my name, I run
as far as the septic tank
and back. The sound
of yodelling; dusk soaks
my father feeding the dogs.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Volcanic Remains


When the car reached the bottom of our drive Robert turned to me, "So. Where to?" I reached into the pocket at the back of the seat behind him and pulled out 'New Zealand's Short Walks'.

I read out some Dunedin options. Karetai Track immediately appealed. The top of the track is where our son Mike and his wife Kate got married.
It was a sunny spring day, with no wind to speak of (the harbour was like a mill-pond). A good day to fulfill the promise we made 3 1/2 years ago on their wedding day: to one day go back there with our picnic basket.

The sea below was like a breathing thing, a large animal ramming against the cliffs. In one of my poems about another coast-line farther south (where I hail from) I liken it to a bull. As I looked down over the cliff today, I was reminded of that image.

We could hear the clear, yodeling cries of black-backed gulls. Maybe the NZ native falcon we saw fly off from among the rock-strewn ground, was responsible for their discomfort. Robert saw a gull trying to frighten it off. Through the binoculars, we could see it calmly soaring, unruffled.

Perfect conditions. We had caught the day at its best.

In Dunedin you have to do that, as there's a high chance the weather will suddenly turn bad. I reckon it's part of its charm, but not many people find changeable weather and the correspondingly touchy temperatures attractive. (This of course means that Dunedin's population remains small; which for me can only add to its charm).

Now you are just going to have to imagine the sounds - for example, the bleat of lambs and the calls of their mothers. Through the binoculars, I spotted a young lamb jigging on its spindly, spidery legs, then prancing over to its mother's side to burrow in for a drink. For me it's not Spring until I've watched lambs.

We were surrounded by thousand-year-old volcanic moraine; lichen spotted. Robert - ever the scientist - pointed out that the south-facing lichen was white, the north-facing, yellow or green.
The south-facing lichen in the rock above, was especially striking.

Always, there is a rock with a face.

We ate a good lunch from our picnic basket and used the hot water from the thermos to make ourselves coffee and tea.
In the time that we were there, only two other people passed by.
'My head's in Georgia but my feets says California-bound,' Robert said, quoting a line from a song we'd listened to earlier in the day (as we were washing-up all the dishes from last night's dinner with friends).
"Where is your head and where are your feet?" he asked me.
I said that my head was with our sons - all three in three different corners of the Pacific rim.
"And my feet", I said, "are firmly planted here ".
"So, scattered head and firm feet," Robert said.
"That about sums it up", I agreed.
He decided that his feet, and head, were also firmly planted here in Dunedin.
On a day like today where else would we rather be?
We lay back and listened to Robert's i-pod -  a Joni Mitchell (my most favourite singer IN THE UNIVERSE) track, followed by a Bob Dylan (who Robert is rather partial to) one.
As my sister said after our trip last weekend up to Christchurch in a van we slept in the back of; we are such hippies. (The word 'old' was not mentioned!)

Today I particularly enjoyed the sound of the skylarks.
Through the glasses, I saw one soaring, mid-trill.
I asked Robert what his favourite bird was (it used to be a hawk ... but I thought maybe it had changed). Never one to answer such questions in a hurry, I had to wait two hours for his reply.
(I will let you know what it was in tomorrow's post).

Monday, 12 September 2011

Brick by Brick

Friday's walk along the beach revealed a spring tide had been at work, high waves washing into the reclaimed sand banks and plucking out chunks of material used to bulk up the barriers set when land was reclaimed.

The sea appears determined to take back what was once its right - to roam inland and relax into estuaries and swamps over the flat land around Dunedin and its coastlines and harbour.

All along the beach, detritus and rubble lay as evidence of the sea undoing the dunes at high tide.


Saturday, we set off early for Christchurch for a niece's 21st birthday. We set off early because we drove up there in our son's van (it needed a run after months of just the occasional 'about town' outings) and as it is very slow on the hills, we wanted to start off when the roads were relatively empty.

I call the van Big Bertha.

'She's slow and thirsty, but she'll get you there' is how our son describes his machine. He's in Chile at the moment, so we are its custodians.

Before the 21st that night, we had time to look around the tattered and battered inner-city part of Christchurch; the after-effects of the two major earthquakes it has suffered.

It is one year since the first earthquake and six months since the second one. The first earthquake happened early hours of the morning and no lives were lost; although there was a lot of damage to buildings etc. The second one happened in the middle of a working day in February, and it took over a hundred lives. (Note: there have been thousands of earthquakes / tremors/ shudders since the first one in September 2010, a lot of of them sizeable and frightening and causing even more damage).

Surreal was indeed how it felt, walking around the outside of the fenced areas. The silence was eerie and cold.  Much of the city was un-recognisable, not just because of the damage, but because many high buildings have been torn down, altering the sky-scape and street-scapes of Christchurch forever.

It was hard for me to be certain, but I think this space was where an early childhood teacher training building once stood.  I attended a conference in that building about ten years ago.

The thing you instantly notice is all the space from where buildings have been knocked down. Christchurch  has gaps, as if it has teeth missing. It looks like a building site and very far removed from the previously tightly packed cityscape of businesses and buildings found in what was a thriving city.

We were told by family living in Christchurch, that many more buildings were still to be torn down, including the two large hotels in the photos below.

Things have been left exactly as they fell on the day of the second quake - February 22nd. When I looked inside shops, things inside are covered in dust. There is a sense of time stopping.

It was unsettling to see abandoned hotels with shattered glass, windows wide open and curtains billowing.

Perhaps the biggest jolt of all, was looking through a wire fence down what was once a beautiful, tidy view of the city's cathedral, only to see the shattered remains.

An abiding image I have taken with me after visiting Christchurch, is the care someone / people took  to make sure Spring flowers bloomed in the plots that were still able to be tended. This pride and resilience, this sign of hope; sense that  'life goes on'; is proof to me that Christchurch will rise up from the rubble.

The next day (Sunday) we drove around the Eastern suburbs, noting the slumped land, broken streets, walls, playing fields etc. Evidence of the upheaval caused when the earth juddered and tore Christchurch apart, is everywhere.

As we headed for Lyttleton, Robert's sister texted us - Did you feel that one? Another quake ... we hadn't as we  were driving in the van at the time. 'A 4.5', she texted,  'Not too big but it gets the heart racing'.
In the harbour town of Lyttleton, a bleak scene greeted us. It was sad to see that there really is nothing left there in the way of the shops, boutiques and galleries that used to be there. Homes on the hills appeared hunkered down and staunch in the face of the disaster that twice rocked them on their foundations ... and of course the shakes that continue to do so ... but it is impossible to know how many of the houses are okay. 

I didn't take any photos; it became too depressing taking photos of what was full of life and charming, but is now marred and ruined.

However, a cheerful fish'n'chip shop was doing a brisk trade and we ordered a take-away meal of crumbed hoki and chips. We ate it in the van, looking out over the harbour. If you scrunched your eyes and looked only at small parts, it was possible to believe that nothing terrible had happened here. 

Ubiquitous and ever-hopeful seagulls lined up for crumbs; we could hear the rain-drop patter of their feet on the van's roof; but weren't about to encourage them, so they were out of luck.


Oamaru - a small North Otago town with many white-stone buildings, statues, sculpture and Victorian architecture

We headed for home, feeling the sobering effects of having seen with our own eyes the state of Christchurch.

There is a sign in Christchurch that says (I don't remember exactly) but words to the effect that 'This City Will Be Re-Built - Brick by Brick'. It's going to take a lot of time, but there is enough hope and resilience evident among the broken-ness, to believe there will one day stand a resplendent re-built Christchurch.

A couple of writers  I know, Catherine and Joanna, who live in Christchurch and have experienced first-hand the earthquakes (which still to this day continue to rattle Canterbury) write wonderfully about what it is like to keep on keeping on after the earthquake. Do pay a visit and read their stories.

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...