Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Under the Radar

rocks at Cosy Nook, Southland

Cosy Nook, southern coast, Southland

Cosy Nook - perhaps above all else, the thing that I like about this small bay is the way the grass grows right to the sea's edge, affording an unusual contrast between the sea and land.

Cosy Nook is not all that well-known. And that's the way we like it (I was brought up just up the road in Orepuki). The artist Nigel Brown lives in Cosy Nook. Since he made this bay his home, the number of visitors has increased considerably. People curious to see where this well-known artist has made his home, drive into this pretty cove tucked away in its own tiny corner. Once there, they then they have to turn around - not easy on the narrow road - and drive out again; there is no way through a cove. Understandably, the locals don't always welcome this intrusion. They prefer their home to remain under the radar.

A lot of people live, work and create under the radar. It's where a lot of great stuff happens.

At this time of the year things begin to accelerate. Massively. Christmas for us happens in summer when longer daylight hours are already causing a busyness not experienced in the winter months. Christmas preparations collide head-to-head with the end of both the school and business year, causing a huge explosion of energy and related stress..

Writing for me has gone by the board for a week or two, or three, not just because off the silly season, but also because I'm accepting more work. This is good financially, but not so good creatively. An ancient dilemma.

However, other people are being creative enough to make up for my lack.

Here at this site; Waiting Room Poems (NZ); you will see what Ruth, a friend of mine, is doing to promote poetry in the community. 'Poems in the Waiting Room' does just what it states, placing  into the waiting rooms of medical centres and hospitals, selected poems that have been printed on to brightly coloured brochures. This year PitWR is running a poetry competition. (Details for this can be found as you scroll down the posts).

Another friend (I hope Jennie doesn't mind me calling her that ... we only met face to face for the first time last weekend) has also been inspired. She has launched Dunedin's very first ) Literary Walk. This is an informative guide designed to highlight our rich history (and present store) of writers. I wish her the best and can't wait to go on the tour myself.

I feel privileged to know Ruth and Jennie. Please take the time to click on the links above and have a look-see at what these two women are up to.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Through the Years

Steve abandons himself to the warm, Kyoto rain. Go here to read his blog Kansai Trails.

November 19th 

Nov 19th 1978 (Sunday) written from where we were working as waiter and waitress at Post House, Aviemore, Scotland.

A cold day today. We had a sleep-in after getting to bed late last night ... we saw the late-night movie 'Good-bye Girl'. Work is busy at the moment. The sun came out a bit this morning and it all looked beautiful - pink trees, blue hills.

Nov 19th 1979 (Monday) written from Dunedin; now working at Whitcoulls bookshop.

A busy day at work today which certainly helps. Went to a Fashion Show with Pam and Wendy. It's all the 1940's look with little hats with veils, gloves, tight skirts, tucks, padded shoulders, diamante.

Nov 19th 1980 (Wednesday) written from Hutt Hospital. Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Today at 4.35 p.m. our bonny boy was born. The 2nd stage lasted 2 hours and I had to do a lot of panting. Not nice. Robert was wonderful and we're absolutely delighted with our 4.080 kg (9lbs) son.

Nov 19th 1981 (Thursday) Manor Park, Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Stevie's birthday and a gloriously sunny day. We took photos of him with balloons (but no hat) cake and candle.

Nov 19th 1982 (Friday) Manor Park, Lower Hutt, Wellington. We now have two sons.

Robert arrived back on the 4.00 p.m. flight, Stevie had lots of presents to open. And then the FINALE of blowing out his TWO candles. A great day.

Nov 19th 1983 (Saturday) Manor Park, Lower Hutt, Wellington. 

Stevie had his birthday party and had a wonderful time. Uncle Dave and Aunty Marg were both here for it.

Nov 19th 1984 (Sunday 18th & Monday 19th) Manor Park, Lower Hutt, Wellington ... I'm pregnant with our third son.

Nice having Bar to stay. She's reading lots of stories. Robert and I made a birthday cake - a Noah's Ark. Mum, Alan, R. and Jill came for his birthday which we celebrated on Sunday (day before). We went to Rail Museum. Had a ride on the train which made Steve and Mike's day - and Mum's. Steve got the tummy bug back on his actual birthday, so no kindy.

Nov 19th 1985 (Tuesday) Ravelston Street , Tainui, Dunedin.

Stevie's first day at school was very exciting for him. Pizza Hut for birthday tea. Lynley and Alan here for the birthday. (His birthday party was on Saturday 23rd; 9 kids. Bar came and helped).

Nov 19th 1986 (Wednesday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Stevie woke up bright and early and the 'Sophisticated Six-year old' calmly unwrapped his presents. The coup of them all tho' was his school-bag. (Saturday) The day of Steven' s - he's just about too old to be called Stevie now - party. What a rowdy lot of boys! All trying to outdo one another to be funny).

Nov 19th 1987 (Thursday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Steve definitely doesn't get called Stevie any more. We were woken at 7.30 by Granny ringing to wish Steve Happy Birthday. He opened Nana's present - lots of exciting goodies. We had chips and hot dogs for tea and a Mr Whippy's ice-cream before. (Steve's party was earlier on the Tuesday - 3 people came - 4 were asked. A much quieter affair than last year).

Nov 19th 1988 (Saturday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Steven had a marvellous day. We got his bike this morning. It cost $230 so he was told not to expect much for Christmas. He's frustrated because he can't immediately ride it. He had his party in the afternoon with 12 boys altogether. Very noisy and energetic. We organised lots of games. The kids from church were the worst behaved.

Nov 19th 1989 (Sunday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Steve had a real happy day. He got a Garfield from Granny & Granddad. His party was today. Nine year olds!!!! Greg was sick (pure over-eating!) I turned to see him with his cheeks full and eyes bulging and rushed him into the bathroom. Steve had planned some games (obstacle race and a Pin the Tail - with a difference as it was pin the tail on the salmon!)  

Nov 19th 1990 (Monday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Steven's party was on Thursday. We all went to MacDonalds. Robert took them to the beach after MacDonalds and they had popcorn and fizz back here. They played tapes - Poison and Bon Jovi and got dressed up in some weird outfits. We took photos. Despite the modern haircut and cool approach to things, deep down Steven is a kid who loves to make supper for the family cares about environmental issues, little kids and knows when I'm feeling down. He has a sparkling agenda going on in his head at all times. He's a typical 90's kid.

Nov 19th 1991 (Tuesday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Steven's birthday but after opening some of his presents this morning we won't see him until after school camp.

Nov 19th 1992 (Wednesday) Ravelston Street, Tainui, Dunedin.

Steven's birthday party today with six of his friends - some of them rather large. The party was relatively easy as they virtually entertained themselves. But they are a volatile, unpredictable combination. Ended with Robert taking them to the beach where they had a 'grundy run' into the water.

... and so the years go! I stopped keeping a diary at this point. It's been interesting to read back. The main impression I get from reading what I wrote of ordinary family life and events back then, is that I was very busy. Probably too busy. I'm glad those days are over! and that I am not as busy now as I was back then. I guess it's all about ages and stages.

Happy 31st birthday (yesterday) to our son Steve! a busy husband and father. I guess it's now his turn.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Fall Into Ruin

monkey's wedding

All day we have been waiting for the sky to come apart,
to fall into ruin like a house abandoned,
foxgloves growing in the old coal range.

Clouds in the east forming an avalanche that slowly churns,
milk in coffee, turning dirty grey and rain
drops between slices of sun.

"A monkey's wedding," said C., " weather like this".
The sun and rain dancing guests.
All day we have been waiting.

Note: 'A monkey's wedding' is a South African saying used to describe rain and sun together.

The bright pink peonies featured here, have opened as wide as dinner plates. They've lost all their Saturday-blush of fulsome crimson, and float above the bench like pale moons. Mother-of-the-bride hats. Cream meringues. Their heavy petals are falling to lie, waxen lips on the carpet, among the fruit bowl, or on top of the teapot.

The weather has behaved strangely all day. It didn't know if it wanted to be sunny or rainy.

Poetry workshop was held at my house today. We each chose a random phrase and wrote a poem from that. My phrase was 'fell into ruin' (which I actually mis-read as 'fall into ruin'). We'd been talking of the world's financial crisis, so it seemed appropriate. Even so, I ended up writing about the weather. As I so often do.

Each poet wrote a poem in their own voice. I wanted to write about a cow, but decided that was for another day. I've got two other poems in mind as well - one will be about a neighbour's comment (made twenty years ago now, but never forgotten) and the other about a woman called Molly.

The next workshop will be next year. Where has this year gone?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Quiet Life - Stone Story No. 3

Stone Story No. 3

quiet life

Stain of sunset, summer grass,
or clay banks in the cutting
between our house
and Falls Creek Road;

the track we called The Lane
with its thistle, broom,
gorse and long, wet grass
rotting in winter frosts.

There is too, a hint
of darkness,
of damage, of wine
or the beginning of rust,

as if this stone has skin
and breathes changes
that float like smoke
on its surface.

Then I see why it is the stone
to tell my story.
There, a short figure in a hat
and big, warm boots,

who stands in the mist
with her hands in her pockets
as if she does not believe
this is her life,

this thing as large
as a dragon that breathes
and burns in clouds of gold
such fire, such silence.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Monday, 14 November 2011

Stone Story No. 2

Stone Story No. 2

the bear and the moon

A father tells stories to his children
while he works the earth,
his words falling
into their heart's pool
to shine like stones in the rain.

He tells them of the moon,
how it keeps its far-side
forever in the dark,
how it spins
light side up.

His words are cold draughts
his children spend a lifetime
drinking long after he has gone,
this father, this pale bear with the moon
at his knee.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Peonies and a Tiger Hat

Having our son and daughter-in-law back with us for a short time, has brought its delights ... the tiger hat ... (as per this post) ...

peonies ... and delicious, ethnic meals ... among them.


... snow on tussock, taken last weekend at Shotover Holiday park - this Saturday is a sunny spring day, so it's hard to believe we experienced snow only a week ago ... 

My right arm is sore at the moment - is it RSI (from writing?) or maybe arthritis? I need to find out. Meanwhile ...

my left arm is saying to my to right arm

All your life I have been here
shadowing your movements.
I have yearned to do those things
you always did instead.

Probably good for you
to slow down now, regard
my existence
as useful, not inferior.

Give me the chance
and I'll learn the intricacies
of combing the hair,
brushing the teeth.

You never realised,
did you, how adequately
I can do things and how
much you never let me?

I welcome the chance
to be the one to reach
for the cup of coffee
and hold it to the lips.

I am thankful that I have two arms. In a situation like this, with my right arm 'sick', my left one can come  into service. I am surprised at how willing my under-used left arm is to work for me - as if it has been waiting all its life for this chance to prove how able it is.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Tiger Hat

Another feature at our nephew's wedding last weekend. Old milk bottles in a wooden crate, put to decorative use. 

It takes a lot to make me laugh in the mornings, but this morning the sight of my daughter-in-law in an antique dressing gown and knitted tiger-head hat, did the trick.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011


... this quail flew up from the path we were walking on, to perch on the branch of a tree where it eyed us with its placid yet beady eyes, as we tried to get the light and profile just so  ...

Sometimes all one wants to do is perch a while ... not roost ... just perch. At the moment we have a bit of that going on on in our family.

I think of our son perching in Chile, while his girlfriend from Germany, perches in Peru. When our son has finished his Patagonian perching, they will both perch on the same branch somewhere in (I believe) Bolivia. (Note: In light of the strenuous mountain-biking going on, 'perching' may be a mis-placed verb in the case of our son. However, I plead my case by insisting that he will soon be up and away again, so it is a form of perching, albeit of a particularly energetic variety).

And here in Dunedin, another son and his wife are perching for just a little while, before taking off again.

Meanwhile, Robert and I while remaining the firmly grounded individuals we always have been, are also experiencing a form of perching, as we look ahead to our overseas trip over Christmas and New Year.

from my perch

In this rain on this day,
in a fashion, in my own way,
taking in the existence of brown dwarf stars

and sundogs, an oozing
orange of a sun (today
hidden from me by grey, polar fleece).

As well, communing
with other spinning people
on the other side

of the moon waxing gibbous, 97% full.
Learning too, how
to accept

eternity, impermanence and compliments,
how to trust the givers of such
and that this branch will indeed hold.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Monday, 7 November 2011

Thyme Under Heaven

thyme growing wild outside the town of Alexandra, Central Otago, New Zealand

Triple-layer excitement! Amid all the excitement of Robert's mother's 80th birthday last weekend and our nephew's wedding this weekend; both held in Queenstown; was the fact that our son Michael and his wife Kate arrived back from Berlin. They are back in New Zealand for a bit of a pit-stop before heading away again to the U.K. in April.

They have spent five months travelling, starting off in Japan where our oldest son lives with his wife and two children, then travelling to China, Nepal and finally to Berlin, Germany where they checked out the local art scene.

... march of tyhme in November ...

Travelling through Central Otago, we were greeted with their spring show of flowering wild thyme, covering the hills and reminding us of the heather-covered hills we saw in northern England and in Scotland.

The smell of thyme reminds Robert of his Central Otago childhood. We stopped and he picked a piece to take home.

A few years ago now I wrote a poem about another occasion when we did this. It's a poem from my first collection, 'Feeding the Dogs'.

bottled thyme

spreading wild
marinades the air.

We stop, pull a lump
out, its roots still
dripping gravel
from the road's thin edge,

its scent bottled up
in the car
for him a reminder
of when he was a boy

and the backs of his knees
after a day
of sun's sear
were sunburnt pits

as he turned towards
home and the day's
heat drained from the face
of the sky

and the lake's lap
invited him
to sit for a while, sink back
into its cool drape,
but he never dared.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Pink & White

Remember, remember, this is the 5th of November - and SPRINGTIME in New Zealand ... so why did we wake to snow? Snow all around our little wooden cabin in Shotover Camping Grounds, Arthur's Point, Queenstown on Saturday. We were off to our nephew's wedding. A white wedding in November is an unusual occurrence in this part of the world.

The wedding venue - on the road out to Glenorchy, at Bob's Cove - was in Alveridge Hall, home of the bride's uncle, Ivan Clarke; creator of the famous 'Lonely Dog' character.

A stunning venue and beautiful surroundings for the wedding. No pictures of the wedding party or ceremony, guests etc. but I captured something of the many details that caught my eye. (The bride's favourite colour is PINK- and pink was definitely an an invited guest).

Mmmm ... a light, lemon cake with white chocolate icing - SO yummy.

Jars of sweets and candy were a feature ...

The bridal party's bouquets.

The car the bride and groom left in.

At one point, I took a break from all the festivities to take in some of the surroundings ...

As evening set in at my in-law's home, once again I was compelled to try and capture something of the  sinking sun's light reflecting off the Remarkables mountain range, signalling the end to a very good day.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Today It's All About The Sky

Earlier today the rain clouds began to gather.

Tonight the sun promised delight.

Sometimes it pays to lift your eyes.

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...