Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A Drowned Village, An Invisible Road

On our way back from Queenstown last visit, we were struck by how calm Lake Dunstan was and stopped to take photos.

Robert's a fan of the panoramic.

I prefer the straightforward approach, capturing the square.

I can never look at the lake and the town of Cromwell as it is now, without remembering the part of the town that used to be visible, before the Cromwell Dam was built.
That part of the Cromwell I remember, is now under water. A drowned village. And whenever I'm travelling on the present highway, zipping along and around the edge of the slow and heavy, man-made Lake Dunstan, I always remember the narrow, winding road far below that we used to travel on in Robert's parent's teal Austin 1100. The road that ran alongside a swift and crooked, fast-flowing river, but which now lies at the bottom of the lake.
I am warning myself a lot lately, not to be tethered to the past. I don't want to go into the rest of my future so dragged down by chains of the past, that I am in danger of missing the total experience that the present has to offer.
Even so, when in the vicinity of the relatively newly-created Lake Dunstan, the past still tugs at me through an image of drowned buildings and streets, and an invisible narrow road; one that once faithfully followed the natural curves and valley contours alongside the Clutha when it was a vigorous, free-flowing
The takeover by the present reality of a sleeker, more efficient, modern highway following a sluggish, fat dammed river, fails to impress me as much.
Maybe I'm deluding myself, thinking that the old road and those old streets and buildings need me to keep remembering them.
To shake off these sleeve-pulling memories, I take myself in hand, instructing myself to stop over-thinking, to just dwell on the lovely colours and play of light on the skin of wide Lake Dunstan. I make concerted efforts to appreciate the result of humans daring to rein in the mighty forces of nature. The dam. It's pretty impressive.
But at other times, I know that I am kidding myself.
I did prefer it the way it was.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Libby of Lawrence 

Samples of Libby's garments made from felt

Libby's shop

St Patrick's, Lawrence

bell and belfry

I so want to say a strew of acorns, but seeing as the word strew is actually a verb, that would be wrong


Dear Reader,

When I was in Lawrence recently, I met Libby. Her 'hello" greeted me before the shop's front door had even properly closed behind me.

I said I'd like to just take a look around if that was okay. I was made to feel welcome to do that, and I spent the next wee while looking at all the things piled, displayed, collected and heaped in every corner.

The small shop appears to have originally been (I didn't ask) a hundred-year, or older, wooden cottage. They made houses smaller back then to house people who were also a lot smaller back then

The tiny shop was stacked to the ceilings with second-hand clothes, hand-made garments (knitted, sewn) toys, jewellery, ornaments ... I was told there was 'more upstairs'.

I made my way up stairs that were obviously designed for a sprite. My feet hung over each step. The landing, the size of a bread-box, was chocka with second-hand toys and crockery and mirrors; tastefully and sweetly arranged, I might add, like everything else in the shop.

I had a quick look around the one upstairs room, each creak from the wooden floor boards announcing my whereabouts and progress.

Downstairs, Libby (I found out her name later when I took her photo) was standing at a table top where she was using a hot iron to shape a woollen garment. I don't know much about the process that goes into making things from felt, but after talking to Libby I learned a little more.

I liked the colours in the top she was making - natural, earthy colours; browns, blacks, creams and greys. Merino, she said, which is far superior to perendale but correspondingly, far more expensive.

Basically, a felt garment is wool worked into a seamless shape by encouraging the woollen fibres to meld and hook together (through steam and heat? Not sure about that; I obviously didn't ask Libby enough questions, and tonight I don't particularly feel like using Google to check my facts).

Libby makes vests, hats, head-bands, scarves, dresses. (And other things I didn't notice, I'm sure).

I ended up buying a purple, green and pink hat because it reminded me of a watercolour. I asked Libby if she would mind if I took her photo and told her I'd write about her shop in my blog.

Well, why not? I thought.

After leaving the shop, I walked up to the church lording it (sorry, terrible pun) on the hill behind. I see this church every time I go through Lawrence, but have never seen it up close before.

I had an inkling that it would be a Catholic church, and I was right.



Monday, 4 July 2016

By the Old Railway Track

my favourite sinkhole 

my favourite sinkhole in situ

... and again ... even more in situ

if you look closely, you'll see a small bird on the table. A fantail (piwakawaka) 

sun-blasted cabbage tree (ti kouka)

sun-blasted ti kouka in situ

before the frost

after the frost

before ...

after ...

a morning this cold is best viewed from inside  

the promise of sun to turn the white green again ...

Dear Reader,

I have just spent a week on a (self-induced) writing retreat. My brother and his wife own a cottage that because of its proximity to a disused rail tunnel that forms part of a cycle track running through their farm, they call Tunnel Cottage. They rent out the cottage to bike riders riding the old railway track that ran from Lawrence to Roxburgh. Actually, the line ran from Dunedin to Roxburgh, but this cycle track starts at Lawrence. As the house isn't used in winter, they very kindly allow family to stay there. I find it ideal as a space for uninterrupted writing time.

This is the second time I've taken them up on their offer. Last time was two years ago when I was working on the very first stages of the first draft of my novel: 'Craggan Dhu: Part One: 'Time Will Tell' (working title).

This novel has (so far) been more than six years in the making ... I remember making initial notes when the first Christchurch earthquake struck back in 2010. And even before that, it was simmering away at the back of my mind like a pot of Mum's vegetable soup on the back of the coal range.

This time I was working on the completed first draft, hoping to finish up with a second draft. However, despite some really great writing days and the valuable opportunity to spend long blocks of time on it, it was slower going than I'd hoped. But, it was enough time to untangle some major knots in the plot and I am now much closer (in fact very near) to having the second draft ready.

The cottage is situated on a hilltop in the middle of green hills and surrounded by lots of trees. The main highway through to Central Otago runs right past the front door; but far enough away so that the traffic noise doesn't intrude. In fact, I liked the comforting, companionable hum from passing cars and trucks. I needed that human contact - even ones seen briefly (or imagined) behind the wheel of a fast-moving vehicle.

Every lunch-time when the sun hit the front of the house and deck, about eight to ten fantails (piwakawaka) would arrive for their meal of insects gathered from under the eaves of the house. While I sat having my lunch at the outside table they would land very close, but always moved as fast as a blink, so that it was impossible to take a photo. In fact I didn't even really try. I just enjoyed their company and sat watching their delicate, aerial manouevres between the tortured willows and the cottage..

At night there in the middle of the country, the darkness is like black velvet, without any light to be seen (apart from the moon and stars ... but I was inside and they were outside - on the other side of the curtains).
As the wooden walls cooled down from the warmth of the day's sun, and from the heat off the log burner I always kept stoked, the whole house would crack and snap in a very alarming manner. I heard a possum or two running across the tin roof, but that was okay as I could identify that particular noise. But there were other noises I couldn't identify that gave me pause.

The first night I thought I could hear human voices outside. As the nearest neighbour is about three k's away, I was more than a little un-nerved. A covert look through gaps in the curtains, re-assured me that there was no-one 'out there'. The next day when I saw some pigeons on the power lines, the penny dropped. What I was hearing was most likely the low cooing of pigeons.
Another night while on a middle-of-the-night visit to the toilet, I thought I could hear someone outside chopping wood! The slow rhythmic tock-tock-tock couldn't be anything else. I somehow managed to talk myself out of that ridiculous notion and dropped back off to sleep.
The next day in the comfort of daylight (I now know what 'longing for the light of morning' means) I realised that it was actually a dripping noise coming from inside the toilet cistern. At night, the sound had been magnified tenfold. Another night - by this stage I was ready for home! - the noise of my rumbling stomach caused me a second's mild panic.

The last morning I awoke to see that there had been a visit from that *'blond assassin' - Jack Frost. It was so heavy it almost looked like it had been snowing through the night. But the sun soon blasted that sucker, so that by lunch-time all green was restored and the roads clear. *from an Emily Dickinson poem.

I made my way home, second draft primed for actual completion by the end of this coming week.

When I finished the first draft, my family very kindly toasted my achievement. I'm hoping for another toast when the flag comes down on this draft. (And the third and the fourth?) But that may be asking a bit much. After that (which by my calculations, and  realistically-speaking, won't be until *next year) it will be ready for a reader or two to read it and give me their feedback. (Which will be nerve-wracking). *I say next year, because in Sept. - Oct. I'm taking a six-week trip to stay with our son and partner and wee girl, in Berlin; as well as fitting in a five-day stay with my friend in the U.K. The novel is going to have to go into an induced hiatus /stasis /suspended animation ... during that time.

By which time I will be ready for another visit to Tunnel Cottage (when available) along with all its quirks and charms. It'll be good to see it again. (I believe we've bonded).


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...