Friday, 24 August 2012

By Any Other Name

My fascination with daffodils continues ... 

The name Daffodil is derived from an earlier "Affodell", a variant of Asphodel [ a type of plant with heavy mythological associations]. The reason for the introduction of the initial 'd' is not known, although a probable source is an etymological merging from the Dutch article "de," as in "De affodil." 

The Japanese word for daffodil is suisen.

 The German word for daffodil is osterglocke.

Here in New Zealand, daffodils appear in August - September.  Unlike in the Northern Hemisphere, here in the Southern Hemisphere, we do not associate these flowers with Easter. 

However in New Zealand, daffodils could easily be associated with Father's Day, falling as it does in early Spring - on the first Sunday in September.

According to ancient tradition, by giving a man daffodils, a woman is acknowledging his chivalry. 

But it needs to be be a bunch of daffodils, not a single flower, because (again, according to ancient tradition) a single daff. carried over the threshold of a house brings bad luck.

On the other hand, so they say, a bunch of them carried into the house may very well ensure that this spring your goose will produce a bonny clutch of fluffy yellow goslings.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Adding Support

I meant to pass this piece of news on before now. I have been asked to be a trustee for the Poems in the Waiting Room (NZ).  Read about it here 

Will keep you posted as news arrives. Ruth Arnison does a fantastic job with Poems in the Waiting Room (PITWR). It is her blood, sweat and tears that goes into it all - I am just there to add support (band-aids? and brandy?) in the background - with the bonus of the occasional cup of coffee and cheerful catch-up chat.


Mysterious building on Portobello Road Dunedin ... I have heard it was at one time a brothel. Who knows? But it is certainly a feature of Dunedin's lower eastern harbourside. Someone appears to be re-furbishing and restoring it.  To me it has always had a creepy look to it; ghostly pale.  Crusty-moon grey. Cold too there pressed up against the cliff and round the corner from any sunshine.

The bus-stop situated right beside the house has a portrait of the house painted on the side.

 if pale walls could speak

Leave me
to my tired grey,
my deathly-blue
sodden window-sills.
Leave me to rot.

Let the vines
the thistle the deadened grass
take me. Shade and I
know each other well. 
A painted coat cannot warm me.

Take as your cue
the bus that never stops.

I never did know joy.


Saturday, 18 August 2012


When I was a student teacher (1971) my first posting was at Tainui School (which is situated opposite these trees).

I was terrified at the thought of standing up in front of a class of kids, let alone opening my mouth and saying something - I was such a mouse.

The student who was in the classroom with me (I still remember his name, Struan Robertson ... a chain-smoking poet in a black coat who walked as if he was forever heading into a snowstorm ... I wonder where he is now?) told me I was a 'shrinking violet'. I think he meant well. Strangely, it was a description which pleased me. Ironically enough, I think it made me feel unique.

The other thing I remember was how cold it was; frosty mornings catching the early bus. I remember noticing a stand of trees (I think they could have been the ones in the photo above, although with their clean-shaven look, they don't quite seem large wild, ragged and dramatic enough to be the same trees). Plus I think the trees I remember were closer to the school. They have probably been cut down.

 I remember back then the sound the trees made when they caught the winter storms, or towered black in the mist and frost. They certainly became a feature of my time there at the school

Little did I know then, while waiting for the bus home, shivering at the bus-stop in an insubstantial, un-lined, home-sewn jacket and a (coincidentally enough) violet, woollen scarf wound around my neck, that I would end up living in this very neighbourhood. Little did I know then that my future husband would be a member of the golf course the trees grow on, or that my future children would be pupils at the school .

These cabbage trees (kouaka) grow at the front of the school. They weren't there back when I was a student, but were likely there when our sons were attending.

Spring has arrived, even though it isn't yet September (the official start of Spring in New Zealand). However, try telling the plum trees that.

Petals, like snow on the green moss.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Grey Matters

After several days of misty-moisty weather it was good to day to be treated to a clearer skyline ... although only just clear and no more. It was good to greet Mount Cargill again, albeit wreathed in a scarf of mist - its favourite accessory. And why not? It seems to suit grey mohair.

...  stadium in the foreground. It has many aliases:  'glasshouse' 'lunch-box' 'dish-rack' (that last one may just my own nickname).

I seem to have a thing for cabbage trees (kouka) at the moment; something about their sky-backed architecture ... this one is a little munted, but nevertheless has a rugged appeal.

An Otago (local) rescue helicopter making for the hospital. Dunedin's looking grey and cold, but looks belie - it was actually mild temperatures today with (believe it or not) a spring-y feel to the day.

...  Portobello Road - the ubiquitous McD's paper bag on the verge. 

Kelp in the rather cloudy water (after so much rain?) of the harbour. Dunedin's harbour is very shallow as it gets silted up. The ships arrive farther out at Port Chalmers. Some navy ships are able to make it into the city's harbour. There are plans afoot to dredge the harbour to a deeper level - which I find concerning. Here is an informative article which highlights these concerns.

And again, the cabbage trees. Kouka. Across the road from our place. I liked the way they were catching the light. It was a good indication of the end of the rained-on world we had been living in for some days, leaving in its wake verdant green shot with silver.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Daffodil Rescue

One sodden little daff. Doused, drippy and downcast.

... the daffs are down ...  

... drowned ...

... rescued; sheltered, safe & warm in Kay's Kozy Kitchen  ...

Daffin' About

... this photo was taken before the recent rain ... the first daffodil to make its appearance in our garden ...

Under a cloud of rain we are. Being mizzled on. For days and days now. And the daffs are bowing under the pressure of many, many drops, to lie downcast on rain-sodden earth.

I've rescued  15 of them, brought them indoors where they gratefully relax and lift cheerful countenances upon our kitchen, to brighten my time incarcerated here in the dry, indoors.

Daffodils should be more robust, especially as Spring can be such a rough season. These ones I've rescued have very long stems. Perhaps they've been genetically modified to look beautiful in vases, but this puts them at a disadvantage for gardens in late winter. They are early bloomers as well, so are having to weather the last of winter's grabby snatches of rain and wind.

For me, daffodil-scent brings back the childhood memory of one cool, breezy, sunny day day when two older girls (I have no idea who they were now) took me and my sister daffodil picking in the paddocks around our home. Swathes of tough, yellow daffodils blazoned the countryside, ready for the picking. (I say tough because to my mind daffodils growing in the wild are tougher and hardier than the hot-house varieties grown from the bulbs bought from our garden shops these days ... I may be wrong, but I don't think so). My sister and I came clomping back home in gumboots and laden with bunches of magical , yellow daffodils. This is a treasured memory that I can bring back the instant I put my nose to a daffodil.

On a recent visit to the Gardens with our Dunedin grandchildren, I spotted these flowers - some sort of violet?  Violets remind me of my Nana whose favourite colour was lavender and who often smelt of Yardley's April Violets perfume. 

... harbour in winter ...

... clipped maze ...

... late-winter-green ...

This is the sight that greeted us one morning - all the windows across  our conservatory were splattered by bird dung. How this was achieved we could only surmise. Perhaps it was  skittery flock of seagulls. Isn't a bird pooping on you meant to be lucky? Does that include houses? Maybe I should've bought a Lotto ticket ...

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Secretly Checking

turangawaewae ... Orepuki ... taken from the top of what was once the McKenzie farm at the foor of the Longwoods

I love phone conversations with my granddaughter V. (two-and-a-half years old). "My Daddy's meditating", she piped down the line yesterday. She then proceeded to tell me that she had her fairy dress on, and wings.  She always finishes with, "I love you, bye-bye".

It's not a good look, but it's just too damn convenient. I'm talking about wearing my glasses on a cord around my neck. I need them for driving, TV and looking at anything beyond two meters (two yards, six feet). Usually I wear a scarf so that the glasses mingle in a bit, hopefully un-noticed. A parent at work one day said how annoyting it was having to take glasses on and off and how she was always mis-placing hers. "You should have them on a cord round your neck," I said. Her reply was along the lines of that'll be the day and laden with allusions as to how it's such an 'old person / librarian-look'. (I just laughed along while secretly checking that mine were safely hidden under my scarf). At work yesterday though, I was wearing a plain turtle-neck without a scarf, the glasses loud and proud and hanging down like a necklace. J. (four years old and with an enquiring mind even higher than your average four-year old's enquiring mind) asked why was I wearing my glasses like that? I tried to explain. He wasn't impressed. "You look like a jerk", he said. Okaaaay. Today I wore a scarf and E.(a three year old with large and serious eyes) said, "I like your scarf, Kay." That made up for the jerk remark. Kind of. So far then, hiding my glasses under a scarf wins. (Well if it means I don't get called old, a librarian or a jerk, that's got to be good. Right?)

I've been feeling a little sorry for myself lately, for no particular reason and nothing major, just a season of the soul. But my dream last night made me feel a whole lot better about my life. I dreamed that I went into the bathroom and our bath wasn't there. Now in normal circumstances this would be classed as a major disaster. I am rather fond of our bath. Turned out 'someone' (one of those nebulous characters that waft in and out of dreams) had taken it away to get rid of a stain. Then when I opened the door to another room, it was full of unwelcome vermin. I quickly closed that door again. Among other things too hazy to remember now, but all of them unfortuante, someone was showing off a pet dog they'd just bought. Going by their excitement, they obviously thought it was an extremely cute dog. I wasn't saying anything because I thought it was the ugliest thing I'd ever seen. That's about when I woke up. I think my expression of disgust at the ugly cur was audible because Robert said, "Don't worry, you haven't slept in, it's not seven o'clock yet." At the time, half awake and still realising that it had all been just a dream and maybe my real life wasn't so bad after all, I didn't know how to explain that it wasn't the time I was moaning about, but a missing bath and an ugly dog.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Bird Eyes

... I remember reading once that a collective noun for parrots is 'a bravado of parrots' - a more common one is 'a pandemonium of parrots'. 
These two parrots at the Botanical Gardens veer more towards the bravado as they brave a Dunedin winter; perhaps they are waiting for warmer temperatures before causing any pandemonium.

gimlet-eyed, this grey (blue?) heron was having a real feast of something in the inlet's low-tide ...

 waxeyes eat down through a the end of a loaf ....

Hey bro! Leave some for me.

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...