Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year Gold

Playground early evening; Queenstown, New Zealand 

Dear Reader,

I write this from my husband's birth-place in Queenstown, New Zealand; appropriately enough for the day that I write these words, is his sixty-first birthday. We are celebrating it (as we as a couple have done most years now for the past forty years) with extended family. 

This year it is the first birthday without his father, who passed away early spring this year. As his mother has stated a couple of times, we keep expecting any minute to see him appear. It still feels very early days since his death.

I am also missing my mother, who died a year and a half ago. I miss her especially on those occasions when family matters - such as birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day, Christmas and New Year.

Thankfully, the strength we have inherited from our parents, stands us in good stead when the time comes to weather the grief of their passing. 

up the creek and among the lupins with daughter-in-law and grandchildren

Robert's 61st birthday pavlova

our daughter-in-law from Japan made omurice (requested by Robert) for the birthday dinner 


Home again and time to look ahead to a new year.

writing desk awaits

New Year's eve wine and Christmas lilies - for me, the smell of these lilies always announce Christmas - New Year more than anything else does

I have high hopes for this new year. (Maybe it'll be a year of striking gold; metaphorically speaking).

Robert, our daughter-in-law and grandchildren, gold-panning in a creek by the Arrow river - more practice than anything else as the chances of finding gold in a subsidiary flow, is unlikely

symbolic - new leaf with gold-seekers in background

Last year was a year of letting go and farewells. Even our cat, Aggie died! (As she was aged 17, she'd had a good run).

We also had to say good-bye to our car, Ruby. Our new car is a white station-wagon we call Shiro - the Japanese word for 'white'. This time I believe the car is a male and I've dubbed it, 'Shiro my Hero'. Because they were parked for a short time beside each other in the car sales yard, I am trusting that Ruby took the opportunity to pass on to Shiro her mantle of a well-behaved and reliable machine. (Yes, Robert thinks I'm crazy too!)

by the Arrow river, Arrowtown, NZ

Another farewell - in June, after they'd spent autumn with us, we bade adieu to our son, his German partner and their baby daughter, when they headed back to Germany. (Thank the good Lord for Skype).

Also that month, we moved out of what has been our home for 20 years, which meant packing away a lot of 'extra stuff' into boxes and storing them in the garage.

We are now happily transplanted into our new apartment downstairs; our son and family living upstairs.

The close proximity of grandchildren has been a novelty and a delight, even if it has meant letting go of what was previously un-interrupted, long lengths of writing time.

pastel-pink lupin growing wild

I wonder what the year ahead will bring? I'm hoping for some good writing time, whatever form this takes.

I will keep you posted.


Friday, 11 December 2015

Glint of Ruby

purple pansies, Granny's garden, Queenstown, New Zealand

Dear Reader,

All of a sudden, it's December again.

Here in New Zealand, that means summer and a summer Christmas. To people in the northern hemisphere, this may seem topsy-turvy, but to us southern-hemisphere dwellers, how we twirl in the universe is just how it is and having Christmas in summer, feels very normal and right. Even though images of snow, holly, sleighs and roast-meat meals followed by plum-duff puddings are somewhat out of synch with our summer season, we have adapted.

sweet peas against schist rock, Queenstown, NZ.

I've had to turn a deaf ear to my novel's murmuring for attention and abandon it for now, as Christmas preparations kick in and I devote my time to making Christmas presents

Why 'make'?

You may well ask.

I am posting the explanation below, via a newspaper article that appeared in our local newspaper.


rock garden, Queenstown, NZ

The presents I am making for Christmas involve sewing seams by hand. Back stitch is the preferred stitch; superior to tacking, it edges forward, then heads back to double-check that all is well; all is anchored; before making its next advance.
In this way, the sturdy and reliable back-stitch creates its own momentum of insurance.
As I stitch and when all is working together as it should, save any knots or glitches, the silver needle starts to fly and I can't help but think of how life too is a mixture of going forward, then checking to secure the present to the past before progressing farther.


Who knew that ruby sand was even a thing?

Last month I attended a sesquicentennial in a special place (which I have talked about often before, but this time will leave un-named).
It is a place by the sea that is my heart's home. Hallowed ground. For me, it is ancestral ground and my feet never stand as firmly as when I am standing in that place.

And in this place, it is possible to find ruby sand.

I never knew there was such a thing, but during the sesquicentennial celebrations, a woman came and sat down beside my aunt and me and during our conversation with her, quietly produced two minute phials filled with the dark-red glint of ruby sand. She explained what it was and how it is procured and then proceeded to offer the phials to us, as gifts. As tokens of our brief return home.

This ruby sand is sure to make an appearance in my novel - even if only to prove that happenstance forms a major part of any writing. (Even lamenting novels that have found themselves languishing on the back-burner until Christmas is over).

And how I want Christmas to be over.

There are aspects about it that I enjoy, but it always feels so good when it is all over for another year, taking with it all its accompanying, manufactured hooplah.

For it seems to me that for nearly a century now, the commercialisation of Christmas has caused the whole season to go insane - to lose its reason. But I'll leave any in-depth analysis of that particular angle (note, not 'angel') for another time (which may also mean, never).

Take care out there.


ruby-red raspberry, ripening in the sun in Queenstown, NZ

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Keeping Track

Aptly back-lit by sunlight near the end of the day, my mum's yellow bed-jacket hanging out to dry. It dates back to 1953. She wore this jacket (a rather old-fashioned idea these days, with hospital patients being discouraged from wearing night-wear during the day) for all of her seven stays in the maternity home. On the rare occasions that I wear it, I remember a life well-lived; and never forgotten

Dear Reader,

Personal journal / diary-type blogging (I'm not talking about journalistic blogs or professional blogs, they are another animal entirely) seemed to hit its peak about nine years ago, just before I-phones and Facebook arrived I conjecture. But the personal blog has now tumbled down to the wire. It appears to me that only those who thrive on the writing process; chronicling, recording, journalling; are still writing personal blogs. Or am I out of the loop? I confess I haven't gone on a hunt for new blogs to replace the ones I used to follow / read; most of which have dissolved into the ether.

A lot of of my blogger-buddies are now Facebook and / or Twitter friends. I still have a blogroll and I occasionally read the blogs on it that are still active. However, most of the blogroll is inactive. Occasionally I'll check up on an old blogger buddy only to find that their blog has disappeared. Others are still there, but they speak from the past and it's like flipping through an old photograph album. Still others are faithful blogger friends (and I appreciate you dear friends - you know who you are!) who have been there with me since the start, but they are few in number.

The audience was kind of the point of a blog, but for me, only when it went hand-in-hand with the actual process of writing. The size of the readership maybe at one stage seemed to matter, but in these 'down to the wire' blogging days, not so much.

When I first discovered blogging in the early days of internet, it was a way of connecting with others with the same interests. When I was a kid, one of my hobbies was writing to penfriends (or penpals). At one stage, I had a pod of about six or seven other kids I was writing to – kids from USA, England, Australia, France … Even from the North Island of my own country, which, yes, in those days seemed exotic. With the advance of the internet, interacting instantly with people, no matter where in the world, through blogging, emailing, messaging, brought back that same engagement I remember receiving from penfriend letters, but with the added dimension of immediacy. 

For me, Facebook and Twitter have largely taken the place (and widened) this interaction. And it is a far quicker, more efficient process. One click that you have 'Liked' something tells whoever posted that you are reading and usually appreciating, what they are posting.

Back in the day I would read a blog, comment and expect that they in turn would be kind enough reciprocate. However, at the peak of this to-ing and fro-ing (I guess this would be about 2004 -5 -6?) I found that the whole process of writing a blog, reading other blogs and commenting, was taking 2 -3 hours at a time!

2 – 3 hours was too much to take out of precious time set aside for 'actual' or 'real' writing (i.e writing that didn't involve blogging). If I wanted to keep on writing stuff that didn't incorporate blogging, something had to go. And it did. I gave up reading as many blogs and gave up commenting. As did many other bloggers. Bloggers were suffering blog fatigue. A sudden drop in personal blogging occurred.

When my sister gave me her old Canon, that helped, because I started taking photos, then posting them on my blog and letting them do the talking. In this way, my posts didn't have to involve so much writing and therefore take up as much time.

It also transpired that a lot of my blogger friends (a lot of them writers as well) also found that Facebook was a better way of interacting with like-minds, than blogging – which in the end, only took time away from the real business: writing. However, I wonder if Facebook too is reaching a peak that will soon flat-line?

But that's ok – there's still plain old emails or even phoning. (Not a favourite activity of mine, talking on the phone … Just so you know …) Facebook's almost become a fuddy-duddy thing to do. I don't know what's replacing it, and I don't want to. I'll stick with Facebook for now if that's where friends and family are. (Anyway, I believe I've found it's true genius – locating lost cousins).

All this is a preamble to me trying to work out where I now stand with blogging.

Some conclusions are:

I still enjoy blogging. But not on such a regular basis as before. I don't want to become a slave to it. I like to be free to blog whatever the hell I want, so specialised topics, themes, subjects, regular poems ... and / or certain days-of-the-week posts, are out. That all smacks too much of being beholden, or driven and is not for me.

It seems that blogging has been the perfect vehicle for me to post photographs. But whereas writing is 'what I do' – and to a certain extent defines who I am - photography will always be just a side-line; a hobby. However, in my posts, I can use photography to express myself - without having to write as much as I do when I am working on my novel. (I don't feel like writing huge amounts in a blog post, on top of having just written fifteen hundred words, for instance). This may mean not posting as often. It may also, paradoxically, mean that when I do post, I will write more now, because I won't feel as pushed for time, or that I am working to a deadline.

As far as readership goes. I am no longer going to follow the advice of blogging-experts and try and 'hook in' Facebook friends, or Twitter followers. If people want to read my blog, they will seek it out. If they don't, then that's fine by me. This is going to be an interesting exercise for me – to write as if there's no-one there, and at the same time, as if the whole world is there. In a weird way; it's like starting again. (Google Plus – and I admit I have no idea what that particular mysterious little engine is all about - is maybe another way of reaching people: letting people know I've written something. But even then, I've yet to be convinced it attract readers … I may be wrong. Go on, prove me wrong!)

I will blog because it's what I do. I have always chronicled – from teenage years, I have written journals and kept accounts of what it's like to live in 'my world'. If there are others who find this as engaging or as inspiring or as riveting as I do – then they are my kind of people / reader and I'm happy to have them aboard. 

I will continue to write reflectively, rather than an opinionated account of what I think is wrong with the world. Politics will seldom come into what I write. Facebook is where I vent politically and even there, it's only occasionally.
The posts will be un-apologetically personal. In some instances, as personal as my family will allow. Understandably, they don't like me to divulge too much to the world - especially where it impacts on their own personal lives - and I totally respect that, and willingly (naturally) comply. Therefore, the posts will be personal, but when that intersects with family, I will adhere to the non-full disclosure clause.

I know this sounds upside down, or ironic, or counter-intuitive, but as I have already stated, from now on when I do post, I will be writing more that I have in the past. Photos will still appear, but my photography has lessened and hence the photos will be less. Maybe to a certain extent, I have photo-ed myself out. There seems no point in photographing the sea, trees, flowers over and over again.

My posts may now (I'm still unsure about this – this post is a bit of an experiment) take the form of a letter. Is this me going back to the penfriend idea? Whatever. I want to change my style a little. Time for a cool change. 

Finally, this may sound odd, but I would like to say Thank You to Blogger and the team, for creating the whole concept of Blogging. They won't ever get to read this, but I'd feel like an ungrateful swine if I didn't say 'Thanks' to someone in the 'blogosphere'; that amorphous, internet-webby-cloudy-thingy, who are responsible for this whole blogging era (and consequently, the post-blogging era - whatever that turns out to be). 

My life thus far has been pretty full. Pretty wonder-full. Sometimes I feel it moves too fast for me to keep up, but blogging has become an integral part of my being able to at least 'keep track'.

Take care out there,


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Tea and Sea; Poppies and Trees

Dang and blast it all - somehow this new blog post thought it had instructions to replace my previous published post, which now I cannot retrieve. 

(I see the comments to the previous post have remained intact!  Which is something to be grateful for).

A quick catch-up for those who didn't see my last post:
I was glad to see the back of winter as it was a tough one in several ways. The death of Robert's father (which was relatively sudden) hit us hard. 
To compound the resulting sense of loss, we also had to say good-bye to Aggie, our 17-year old cat. 

I have been working on my novel as much as I can. It's proving to be a bit of a slog. Very different to writing poetry. But nevertheless, there is satisfaction in seeing the work grow - a bit like knitting. Every stitch counts in the end and after a while you can actually see the progress you're making. 

And now it is Spring. 

Chamomile daisies collected by our granddaughter ...

... which she then made into tea.

A blaze of colour. Poppies in Dunedin's Botanical Gardens.

This photo was taken on another visit to the Gardens in winter before Spring bounced in on the act. The soft colour of these tree trunks puts me in mind of deer velvet. 

The Gardens are at one end of the city ...

and as luck would have it, at the other end, is the ocean.

I've been finding lately that as well as appreciating the beauty of flowers and trees in a garden, gazing (as mindlessly as possible) at the ocean breakers, is also a soothing and healing thing to do.

The insistent tides are symbolic of how despite what upsets our circumstances, life still goes on.

I find that watching the ocean's inevitable collapse and re-gather; the sound of its continual rush to collide with the land; is strangely conducive to the act of writing. I don't always remember, but whenever I go down to the sea I try and make sure that as well as a camera, I've got pen and paper.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Last Line

'She gathers from where they tremble among stalks of green grass,
black, grey and white feathers that never rest but fly again from out of her pockets like clouds

or cold flames'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

swallow, Sinclair Wetlands, Otago, New Zealand

heron, Kyoto, Japan

crow, Kyoto, Japan

gull, Rostock, Germany

two black-backed gulls and one red-billed gull, Wellington, New Zealand

gulls, Dunedin, New Zealand

resting gull, Dunedin, New Zealand

Below is the complete poem:


I walk over the veins of a lawn and sink into the green that flies into every night when darkness turns to frost.

I remember. Through a gate, down a path to a door I will never forget.

The clock has been silenced so that I can sleep undisturbed by any charge of bells into a darkness
as deep as a mad eye.

The flowers bow their ponderous heads. I can see where the rain has fallen.

In the morning I consider the tenacity of the sun,
its bitter light.

I observe an empty chair, straight-backed and wooden in the middle of the room,
how it sits in judgement.

She has nothing in her hands.

I hear a mother who speaks to her baby in a language she does not understand. I know
the mother waits for the baby to grow old. The baby is my mother. This is a dream.

The trees in the garden have no doubts. I regard their umpire stance, the way they study
the sky.
The way they close like great gates.

In the shade of a wall, I have found a broken stone.

Sudden with shadows, the corner of my eye cannot see
where the light begins
its sad cycling.

She gathers from where they tremble among stalks of green grass,
black, grey and white feathers that never rest but fly again from out of her pockets like clouds
or cold flames.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

Fair Light

'Sudden with shadows, the corner of my eye cannot see
where the light begins

its sad cycling'. 

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(The line of poetry is the second-last line of the 12-line poem I have been featuring.)

Some photos taken a little over a year ago on a trip to Te Anau from Queenstown.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Home Truths

'The trees in the garden have no doubts. I regard their umpire stance, the way they study
the sky.

The way they close like great gates'.

Kay McKenzie Cooke

(line 9 of a 12-line poem)

... dark willows of Lake Waihola, shambolic guardians staggering against the light of a western sky

I had occasion to head south a few days ago. Whenever the compass points south, I am like a cantering horse with the smell of home in my nostrils. I still consider Murihiku / Southland as home, even though I haven't actually resided there for nearly forty-five years now.

Home is of course not just a single definition. I have more than one home.My feet are firmly planted in my home country of Aotearoa, New Zealand. However, there are countries where as soon as my feet touch down on their soil, I feel very much 'at home'. Scotland and Japan, are two examples. Maybe there would be more if I ever explore that idea. 

Within these islands I call home, I'd define TeWai Pounamu / South Island as my home island. And yet, I also have a strong affinity with the isle of glowing skies; Rakiura / Stewart Island. Some of my ancestors were Tangata whenua and Europeans settlers, there.

My husband's turangawaewae (place where he stands) is Queenstown (Tahuna) and Central Otago (Manuherekia). After nearly forty years of marriage, it has also become a place (a district) I call home as well.

For some reason, even though it is on the 'wrong island', I feel a strong bond with the city of Poneke / Wellington in Te Ika-a-Maui / North Island. Maybe because we lived for five years there in the Lower Hutt / Awakairangi (and our three sons were born there). Whenever I visit Wellington / Poneke, I feel at home. This is no doubt helped by the fact that it belongs to all of New Zealand / Aotearoa really, being our capital city.

And then there is Otepoti / Dunedin where I have lived for thirty years; nearly half of my life. It is this city that has truly become my home. My ancestors embarked here from Yorkshire, Derry, Edinburgh and London. One of my grandmothers was born here before her family moved to Murihiku / Southland's south-west coast.  


Today my granddaughter and I walked over the hill from where we live, to the beach-side suburb of Tomo-haka / Tomahawk. 

... 15 minutes by car from the inner city and there are horses by the seaside to engender a feeling of freedom from city constraints, limits and stresses ... 

 ... these pacers were being put through their paces, getting towed behind a car.

... granddaughter didn't want to go down on to the sand after reading notices about being aware of the danger of sea lions . She was happy just to keep a wary eye from a safe spot  ... 

... behind us, the hills of the peninsula ...

... a glinting Tomo-haka / Tomahawk lagoon with peninsula hills behind

... taken from Andersons Bay / Puketahi cemetery - surely one of the most picturesque cemeteries in the world?

.. and home we go ...


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...