Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Eve of All Hallows

Trick or Treat?

I say it's a treat to watch Anna Paquin all growed up in the vampire soap opera True Blood.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Crepuscular Rays

Last evening, that classic sign of celestial benevolence manifested, like a child's drawing of the shafts of light radiating from the setting sun.

According to my new cloud book, the phenomenon is called "crepuscular rays"; also "Jacob's ladder".

Earlier I had experienced the vivid sense of living in a McCahon painting, with the green hilly landscape of the peninsula cut up by the rectangular shapes of my window frames.

Next time I looked out it was a Turner painting inviting me to walk out into a squally stormy evening.

I keep telling people how windy and wild it almost always is here, with a storm factory churning out almost constant extremes of weather.

They say things like, Ooh how lucky you are, and, It sounds amazing!

I'm not sure, though, that this place is really fit for human habitation.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Pavlova Nirvana

Here's a pavlova just the way I like it. Home made. Crisp - even hard - shell, that rings when you bang your spoon against it! Under the crust, are pockets of air, a bit of squishy delicate fluff, and the merest touch of sugary stickiness. Perfection. Just like mother used to make, and unless you make your own, it's a very rare example of the genre these days in this era of the mass-produced cowardly marshmallow pav you can buy in the supermarket.

This one is to be had at Tony's Wellesley Street Restaurant in Auckland. I had it after the carpetbagger steak (stuffed with oysters). It's no wonder I'm losing the battle with my waistband!

I like the fact that the cream is served only on one side, and so can be scraped off easily. I don't care for whipped cream as it gives me a headache.

"The Original Tony's" claims to be Auckland's oldest surviving restaurant and it certainly has been there for as long as I can remember. It's great to get a table by the window and watch the world go by. And the world does indeed go by - just off Queen Street, it's one of those places in the world when eventually you will happen upon almost anybody you can think of...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sylvia Plath's Birthday

What would it have taken for Sylvia Plath to have lived to the age of 77?

If she was on Prozac would that have helped?

If she was on Twitter would that have helped?

Happy Birthday Sylvia, and thanks for the beautiful poems.

I'm sure you've saved a few lives with them, even if you lost your own.

Monday, October 26, 2009


A reminder that at this time of year we should drive carefully, as duck families are out walking their young, and our roads and streets intrude upon their traditional promenading grounds. I snapped this sign at Hawera in Taranaki last week.

Yesterday, home at last, and I'd missed the view out over the bay, I sat all afternoon and watched (through binoculars) a mother and father duck and their six babies go walking far out on the sandflats, at dead low tide, but it was a harrowing business. There was some sort of skirmish way out at the water's edge, with a large winged predator - a skua I guess - and a brave defence from one of the ducks. By the time the family returned close enough for me to count all the ducklings, there didn't seem to be any missing, but Father Duck was limping badly...

No Place like Home

One of the joys of travel is being away from home; another of the joys is the return. The road home passes this boat house on the Otago Peninsula.

New Zealand Book Month

I have been doing my bit for New Zealand Book Month, and I have been spending up large. The haul includes:

Zone of the Marvellous Martin Edmond (AUP)

Anna Kavan's New Zealand: A Pacific Interlude in a Turbulent Life
edited by Jennifer Sturm (Vintage)

Godwits: Long Haul Champions
Keith Woodley (Penguin)

The Goose Bath
Janet Frame (Vintage)

Way back Then, Before We Were Ten: New Zealand Writers and Childhood
edited by Graeme Lay (David Ling)

Helen Clark: A Political Life
Denis Welch (Penguin)

Strong Language: Very Quotable New Zealand Quotes
compiled by Jim Weir (New Holland)

Hypnic Jerks
Geoff Cochrane (VUP)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Cloud Appreciation Society

I found two glorious books this week that have emerged from or owe a debt to the huge database of wonderful clouds and information about clouds, held by The Cloud Appreciation Society. Fantastic!
Found them in a most excellent bookshop in Whanganui by the name of
Paige's Book Gallery
Books, Stationery, Newsagents
68b Guyton Street, Whanganui
New Zealand
06 348 9095

One of the great joys of travelling around is the discovery of indispensable independent bookshops holding firm against the tide of pap and commercialism that has overwhelmed so many of the mainstream stores.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Pillow Menu

On request your choice
of pillow
can be scented
with lavender
to help relax
and soothe the senses to sleep.

Thursday, October 22, 2009


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

W. H. Davies

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Planes & boats & trains

I can see my house!

Tooku Maunga

Go the Train!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The past is a foreign country

They do things differently there.

And on this road trip through the past, I have journeyed through several provinces, and it seems they do things differently there too. At times it has felt like Deliverance the movie. And at other times it has been disarming to encounter such friendliness.

This shot is of the cabin we stayed in at Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park in New Plymouth. (Highly Recommended!) A lovely spot, with a reef heron foraging on the rocks below.

New Plymouth has a magnificent coastal walkway and an admirable tendency to celebrate the kinetic sculptures of Len Lye. And of course the beautiful mountain Taranaki stands back and anchors all.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

By Popular Demand

I have been asked to provide more puddings.

Happy to oblige!

This is an honest pavlova with proletarian leanings and with surprisingly fruity hench-flavours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Road Trip

Oh joy. Hit the highway and just go. :-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy 20th Anniversary to Us

With best wishes from the Heron Family

And Congratulations from the Terns and the Gulls

Monday, October 12, 2009

Science Fiction Poetry in Dunedin

It's either a feast or a famine around here, and it's been a feast lately for Dunedin poetry lovers. The legendary Circadian Rhythm on Thursday night this week will host Dunedin's fourth poetry bonanza in just over one week.

This time the theme is science fiction. And there'll be an open mike session so byo spooky alien martian robot killer space plague verse. Or something more esoteric, if you have it.

I'm disappointed that I will be away from home base this week so will unfortunately miss this performance (and the one on Wednesday night at the Public Library). Have fun!

There is more info about this movable feast, this science fiction poetry road show, on Tim Jones' blog Books in the Trees. He has listed the dates of other performances around NZ, and the readers on the 'Voyagers Book Tour', here.

is an anthology of NZ science fiction poetry edited by Mark Pirie and Tim Jones. Go out and buy a copy everyone so they have to do a sequel and we can make suggestions about some more great NZ poems they overlooked.

I'll be undertaking my own road trip (yippee!), mostly at opposite ends of the country, but with a bit of luck I might make one of the North Island Voyager performances.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Poetry & Music in Dunedin

Seven Dunedin Poets,

Emmanuelle Gomez, The New Self

and AJ Sharma

Circadian Rhythm, Dunedin

Saturday 10 October 2009

Poetry from 8pm, music from 9:30

$5 cover charge

From the Press Release:

Circadian Rhythm Café is excited to present a rich and varied evening of live poetry and music with readings by seven Dunedin poets and musical performances by Emmanuelle Gomez, The New Self and AJ Sharma.

From eight o’clock, seven disturbingly outstanding and diverse poets illustrating the word-hoard of literary talent that Dunedin has coveted in recent decades. The selection of writers reading their work have all published widely in New Zealand and overseas, exhibiting both international literary success and a fierce loyalty to home.

Readings will be given by:

Rhian Gallagher

Pamela Gordon

Marita Hastings

David Karena-Holmes

Sally Ann McIntyre

Richard Reeve

James Saville

Alluring songstress, Emmanuelle Gomez (vocals/piano), returns to the stage to perform songs from her recent EP, Vegetarian Savage, and debut new material. Gomez fuses folk-dub and pop melodies with theatrical tendencies, and captivates audiences with crystal-like vocal tones as she soars from sweet highs to rich lows through carefully crafted songs.

The New Self is an intense and expressive acoustic 2-piece featuring Laurence Smith (vocals/guitar) and Ed Wilson (mandolin). Smith and Wilson use the minimalism of their approach like a razor. Musical discordance and wide dynamic shifts support purposefully delivered lyrical melodies which focus their songs and weave emotive images around themes such as love, greed, faith and addiction.

AJ Sharma (vocals/guitar) is one of Dunedin’s most highly regarded musical craftsmen. With a career spanning 17 years, and recent album releases on Powertool Records and Nextbestway, Sharma’s music possess an ethereal beauty and entices you into a brooding lyrical journey full of emotion and intimacy. His performances are delivered with tenderness and honesty, and are not to be missed.

Event organiser Laurence Smith says, “Saturday night provides opportunity to sample some of the diversity and talent in the Dunedin arts scene. Combining poets (kindly organised by Richard Reeve) and songwriters seems natural, and will hopefully provide new and interesting experiences for the audience and artists themselves”.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Recently I enjoyed reading a very fine blog post called "Identity Theft" by indispensable New Zealand author Peter Wells.

Peter Wells in himself (that is, 'our' Peter Wells) wears many hats. He's not 'just' a writer, he's an anthologist, and a literary mover-and-shaker. Another string to his bow is that, with Stephanie Johnson, he co-founded and co-directs the marvellous Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. And he is of course so much more than that besides, including now, "blogger". But I'm not writing a bio! Go see the Book Council entry on Peter Wells if you want to know more.

The Peter Wells Blog is relatively new, and in an early post he talks of having discovered, in the course of setting up the blog and choosing a name for it, how many others there are out there in the ether, with the name Peter Wells. (Can he really be so unselfconscious as not to have already Googled his own name? It seems so!)

Now I too have my doppelgangers, so I was particularly interested in his response. I hadn't heard anyone else on this subject before.

I first knew there was someone else with my exact same name, exactly 20 years ago, when I was convalescing in a hospital ward after major surgery. Some friends came to see me, and enquired at the ward desk, as to my whereabouts. When they said My Name the nurse on duty said, "She's not here this week, she's away on leave."

But, but, but. It turned out that a nurse in the exact same hospital ward where I was recovering, had my exact same name. But for the exact same term of my stay, she was not there, so I never met her. I had a strange feeling, like one of us was matter and one was anti-matter, and that we had to be kept apart or the universe would implode, or one of us would disappear.

But that wasn't enough. Some time after that, I had a phone call from a local rest home. They enquired after My Name, and then said, they were very sorry to tell me, that my father had died. Fortunately for me, they named the poor deceased man, and it was not my father's name. (My father was fit and well at the time, so his death would have been a terrible shock.)

I don't know if it was the nurse's father who had passed away. Because I went on to learn that there are more people (in my city!) who have my name.

I am occasionally telephoned by someone searching for one of the other ones, so I have learned quite a bit about them. There is one who had a milk run; one who ran a service station; one who went to the Olympics; one who teaches English; one who plays in a brass band; and of course the nurse.

I don't think there are as many as six, I mean seven, of us though. But there are at least three of us, because apparently the nurse did not go to the Olympics. (It's a little like those children's page riddles where you have to match up the names and the attributes, only in this case all the names are the same!)

One of the others with my name attends my same GP and two of them bank at my bank, so I am always asked "which one" I am.

I suppose the other My Names also get phone calls looking for me, too. Some of the enquiries are probably just as interesting as the ones I get. Last year someone from the BBC was trying to contact me by phone, and when they finally found me, they said "Did you know there is someone else in your town with your name?"

Occasionally we get each other's mail. I have spoken to one of them once, on the phone, but I have never actually met any of them. We could form a small club, I guess.

Since I've been the Internet, I've discovered there are a lot more out there, with my name. One of them was even the head of state of a small nation. Many of them are authors and academics. One is a famous Hollywood actor, and she's the Google Queen. There are so many of them on Facebook I even forget which one is me.

I find it strangely comforting to know I'm just one of an army of me. And if there is any bad publicity or a terrible rumour, I can just say, "It wasn't me, it was one of the other ones."

Monday, October 5, 2009


"The moon sometimes exhibits the extraordinary phenomenon of an iris or rainbow, by the refraction of her rays in drops of rain during the night-time. This appearance is said to occur only at the time of full moon, and to be indicative of stormy and rainy weather. One is described in the Philosophical Transactions as having been seen in 1810, during a thick rain; but, subsequent to that time, the same person gives an account of one which perhaps was the most extraordinary of which we have any record. It became visible about nine o'clock, and continued, though with very different degrees of brilliancy, until past two. At first, though a strongly marked bow, it was without colour, but afterwards became extremely vivid, the red, green, and purple being the most strongly marked. About twelve it was the most splendid in appearance. The wind was very high at the time, and a drizzling rain falling occasionally."

(Courtesy of Project Gutenberg)

I didn't even know there was such a thing, but having seen it with my own eyes on Saturday night, I can vouch for the existence of the lunar rainbow. (I have often seen the white or coloured "ring" around the moon - but this was a real rainbow, a huge perfect arch stretching across the Otago Harbour from Port Chalmers on one side to Portobello on the other.)

The photos of lunar rainbows to be found on the internet seem mostly to be associated with waterfalls, and are coloured rainbows. The one I saw was white. I wasn't able to attempt to take a photo because of the extreme storm conditions at the time. The full moon was behind me as I looked towards an approaching southerly tempest, and the rainbow was set across in front of it.

It seemed an auspicious and lovely way to be greeted by the new environment (fortunately I like storms!) The cosy little house - which, it's becoming clear, is an ex-government building of some sort, likely a school house, that was moved here in the 1970s to serve as a holiday cottage - stood up well to the night of screaming gales with waves breaking against the sea wall and splashing up over the road, and sea spray being blown against the big front windows. The glass in the windows was being sucked in and out as the violent wind hurtled head-on against the house, which was rocking like a boat. A couple of times as my ears popped, I would open a window at the back of the house to ease the pressure, and hope the roof didn't lift... And it snowed and hailed all night. Weather courtesy of an unseasonal blast from from the Deep South.

This is how it's done, on the end of the Otago Peninsula. It's elemental, and wild. The birds and the seals are at home here, and the people are only guests.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Samoa mon amour


RLS: his visits
to the islands
were 'less reality
than dream'

these islands
slumber on
at dawn -
a cool time

before the sun
cuts itself
to soar

the little
islands are
canoes we



Tiavi Falls

Call it a bluff
we stand on
the edge


not to be

swift white
honey eaters

of course the
the water

but most
of all