Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Home Front

photo taken by Jenny Powell

It seems an age since Jenny and I went on our latest J&K Rolling poetry reading whistle-stop to Orepuki. I cannot believe it was only three weeks ago.
Looking back, the standouts have to be:
*The reception we got at the Orepuki Beach Cafe; their warm hospitality and in return for us bringing our poetry, the great meals they gave us, cooked from food sourced from their farm and from the ocean at their doorstep.
*The people who came along to hear us read and their participation in the open mic. part of the proceedings.
*The scenery around Orepuki that never fails to speaks to me of home.
*Being able to show Jenny around my 'heart's home'.
*Waking up to an Orepuki morning for the first time since leaving here as a child. (I have visited many times, but there's never been a place to stay. Now there's the lovely, comfortable Quartz Cottage for visitors to stay in).

morning view from Quartz Cottage


Mum loved ragwort, even going so far as to tend a stray wind-blown plant that popped up in her Palmerston North backyard!
It was because this weed with the brilliant yellow flower, reminded her of the ragwort-covered paddocks of  her childhood home in Orepuki. As children they got paid to collect it by the sack-full, because it was perceived as poisonous for cropping animals. (In fact, cropping animals tend to avoid it. However this also means that if left to its own devices, it will take over pasture. So, in fact, having children collect it was not a bad idea).

The mention of my mother leads me to perhaps the over-riding highlight of our whistle-stop.

Both Jenny and I knew that the theme for this reading tour would be 'Mothers'. Both our mothers passed away last year and two other people important to us also recently lost their mothers.
This was a trip to where my mother was born and brought up. It seemed written in the stars that we would be aware of our mothers and alert to the signs that we had their blessing.
And so it was.
The ragwort for me was just one of many such quiet signs.

Yellow roses are another reminder for me of my mother. It was the flower her and Dad claimed as 'their flower'. Dad's mother (my Granny McKenzie) had them growing at the house where he grew up. Because he worked on the family farm, he had access to these yellow climbing roses and on their anniversary (when he remebered, perhaps!) he'd pick one for Mum. Simple, effective, endearing and best of all I'm sure in Dad's eyes, free!


drowning water lily ... 

A water lily just hanging on and no more. I am very fond of water lilies. Recently I have felt like this particular water lily, a little discombobulated and trying hard to keep its head above water.

There's been a lot needing done around here on the home front, but we're getting there.

bed made up and ready for family coming to stay

cot fit for a grandchild

Monday, 9 March 2015

Poetry in Orepuki

On our way to Orepuki, Jenny and I stopped at the fishing-port town of Riverton for a bit of a look at what was on offer as far as the shops went.
We found a second-hand bookshop called The Cosy Book with a gift shop next door.
When we asked about the buildings that the shops are in, we were told that they are probably the oldest shops in New Zealand.

From Cosy Book, to Cosy Nook.

Jenny had never seen the little cove called Cosy Nook. She was suitably impressed, even if a little wind-swept.

We were on another 'JnK Rolling' road trip; delivering and picking up poetry in the southern coastal town of Orepuki (which also just happens to be my old home-town, having spent the first ten years of my life there).

Two Orepuki-ites, Penny and Brian, have restored an old Orepuki house (which co-incidentally was where my great-aunt; Aunty Mary Simpson nee Hirst; used to live) and have successfully turned it into an attractive and popular cafe called, Orepuki Beach Cafe.

This is where Jenny and I were reading.

 Penny offered us a complimentary meal - whatever we wanted to choose from the menu. How generous. We both chose the flounder, which didn't disappoint. Delicious. They've got a gifted chef at Orepuki Beach Cafe.

People had started to drift in. A quiet buzz started up with the friendly, un-pretentious atmosphere that I associate with Southland.

Then it was time for the Open Mic part of the evening to begin.

Below are photos of a sample of the ten or so readers who took part.

The Open Mic part was then followed by Jenny and myself as featured poets.

One couple had come over from Te Anau, someone else had driven there from Invercargill. The atmosphere was lively and entertaining.
Once again - as we have found at all of these heartland-in-the-hinterland readings we've organised - the response was positive and the poetry great.

The cafe has become a repository for Orepuki's social history, with information available for customers to read. Orepuki has a history of gold-mining and other industries such as sawmilling.
On the wall is a large photo taken at Orepuki's Jubilee in 1952. Among the people shown in the photo, are my late parents. It was nice feeling that they were there with me.

It was weird for me 'returning home' - it always weird going back to this place I once considered was my whole world. (Part of me still believes that about Orepuki).
The attachment to this place that I formed when I was small, goes extremely deep. Not surprising when you consider how many of my ancestors hailed from here.

looking towards Te Waewae Bay with the Princess Range in the background

Very cool to wake up in Orepuki. Because there hasn't really been much in the way of accommodation for many years, it was the first time I'd stayed in Orepuki overnight since I was a child.
Memories of mornings as a child flooded in. I remembered Dad's morning factory-run, driving the tractor to the local dairy factory with a wagon-load of milk cans behind. I remembered Mum getting us ready to go to school. I remembered walking to school, taking for granted how beautiful the surrounding country-side, how spectacular the view out over Foveaux Strait.

old shops - MacDonald's draper's shop to the fore. Every return visit I seem to see more and more of the old town (as I knew it) literally disappearing into thin air 

The people who still live here - lifelong residents and in-comers alike - along with such places as the Orepuki Beach Cafe and the tavern, are what keeps Orepuki's bruised old heart beating.

Quartz Cottage is a great place to stay in Orepuki. (Recommend it!) I awoke to a still, peaceful morning that the sunlight was kindly painting-in. Magical.

 Not far away from the township of Orepuki, Foveaux Strait beats against the cliffs that stretch all along the wide sweep of Te Waewae Bay.
Last night it was as loud as a train. In the morning it sounded even louder. The sound woke me up in the early hours and once I homed in (pun intended) on its loud roar, I couldn't get back to sleep.

looking towards the Takitimu mountains

... all that's left standing of the railway station platform where the steam train regularly called in to Orepuki station

After an astonishing, very yummy and generous 'Orepuki Grill' for breakfast ...

... it was time to bid Orepuki adieu.

Jenny was smitten with my old home-town and says she's coming back. Everybody knows that it won't be too long before I'm back. Just try and keep me away.

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...