Saturday, March 31, 2007

Take a Walk With Me #5

Last Saturday, I took a long walk. This Saturday, I'm being domestic. It's a beautiful warm autumn day. I have two loads of laundry on the line. I'm getting my exercise by sweeping and mopping floors, vacuuming and generally tidying up. My pedometer broke months ago, but I'd guarantee that I've walked enough steps to get in my daily quote of exercise, and then some more. I'm enjoying little things. Like my new electric jug. It replaces the one given to us for a wedding present. That one was a fine long-lasting stainless steel jug, but it was built in the days before they came with a built-in shut off. Every so often I'd leave the room for a minute while it was boiling and forget to come back for a while - which resulted in a burnt-out element. This time I planned to replace the element, but I found that it would cost as much as a new jug. Furthermore the plug was no longer legal, so should the cord need replacing I wouldn't be able to. The new jugs come all in one. If the element goes, there's nothing to do but throw it out. I have deep reservations about this from an environmental point of view, but at least the jug turns itself off when it comes to the boil. Which means I am far less likely to return to a steam-filled kitchen and a burnt-out element.

Oh, and then there is drinking coffee from my favourite mug from Happy Hens.

In the meantime, here are more photos of last week's walk.

After High St, I arrived at Cathedral Square which is the centre of the city. There is an area in the city which is promoted as the "Cultural Precinct". It includes the cathedral, library, museum, art galleries and the historic tram which takes a tourist route around the central city. All these attractions were having an open day last Saturday, which was one of the reasons I went into the city. Of course, by the time I had got there I was getting tired! I estimate it would have been about a one hour walk, but I kept stopping to take photos and browse in shops, so I was on my feet for more than three hours.

This is the spire of the Anglican Cathedral. Usually they charge five dollars to climb the tower steps - there is a fantastic view from the top. Last Saturday it was free. I had planned to make the climb, but by the time I got there I looked up, listened to my feet talking to me, and decided "been there, done that".

The various attractions of the Cultural Precinct were marked for the day by these huge red inflated balls. I was about to take a photo when the young girl came up to give it a push. (She did move it a few feet, though it was rather wisely tethered by a chain).

Often at the weekend there is a game of chess going on in the Square using these huge chess pieces.

Almost at the end of my walk now - I will post the final few tomorrow and then I will have to think of something else to post about!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poetry Thursday: More Image Inspired Poetry

I seem to have jumped the gun on the Poetry Thursday prompt. Last week we were asked to write poems inspired by images, and I posted a poem inspired by a Picasso painting. This week we were asked to take it one step further, and try a poem based on a painting - perhaps specifically from the point of view of the model or the painter - what were they thinking? Since that's what I did last week, this week I am posting the poem that was my alternate choice for last week's prompt.

I am happy to say that I was talking to the poetry editor of Takahe magazine at a poetry reading last night, and asked him about his definition of "previously unpublished". I've now established that it's OK for me to submit poems that have been on my blog. Some journals won't accept them. Since Takahe is the only literary journal that has ever published my poems, I now know I can post my poems here and still have at least one possible place to submit them. (Being on the staff probably helps - I do the accounts).

This poem was inspired by a number of things I saw in one particular week. I thought the fence photo showed the name of the fence strainers, but when I checked it didn't show up. Strainrite is the brand name.

(Poem taken down for publication reasons)

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Take a Walk With Me #4

A few years back our esteemed City Council decided to instal a sculpture to honour Queen Elizabeth II. This sculpture is placed on the pavement just outside Alice's, the video store I referred to in the previous post. What did they choose? Three bronze corgis. It was not a decision that was without controversy. I think they are quite fun, except that they do tend to get in the way of pedestrians.

On the opposite side of the road I was intrigued by the contrast of the bright orange bin and graffitti covered concrete wall at the back of the alley, against the rather upmarket shoe shop next to it. (I'm thinking I might go back and experiment with the angle on this one).

A small correction: of course, as I should have seen if I had looked at the photo, the phrase "Do what inspires you" doesn't advertise the CPIT. It is actually a slogan of NatColl which is a private tertiary institution teaching subjects such as graphic design, web design, digital imaging etc. (It's still a good slogan!)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Take a Walk With Me #3

At the end of yesterday's post I was heading north, on the eastern fringes of the city. I then turned off that street onto High Street. Christchurch is laid out on a north-south and east-west grid of streets, mostly, but High Street cuts across on a diagonal. So in these photos I am headed north-west into the city centre.

High Street has quite a quirky mix of shops - some slightly seedy and others less so. There are antique shops, second-hand record stores, stores selling designer fashions, others selling herbal products, crystals and incense.

I was rather taken by the mint green motor scooter propped up against this bollard (is that the right word for it?). Behind it was a small cafe with tables and chairs on the pavement. The posters at the top advertise CPIT (seen in my previous post) and read "Do What Inspires You".

Charlie Chaplin stands outside a video store called "Alice in Videoland" or "Alice's" for short. Alice's is Christchurch's best store for alternative and foreign videos and DVDs although they do have mainstream movies as well.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Take a Walk With Me #2

These shipping containers were stacked by the railway tracks. I thought the blocks of colour looked rather quilt-like.

Across the railway overbridge and into the fringes of the city area. This is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

Looking back towards the hills in the direction I had come from. A rather ordinary street scene, except that I loved the way the blue building and the blue car echoed and intensified the blue of the sky. The blue building is part of the CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology).

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Take a Walk With Me...

My plan was to get up early this morning, go for my usual walk up the hill, then take my daughter shopping (she had a step ladder to pick up for her new house which is a bit awkward on the bus, and she doesn't drive).
When I woke, however, I found the hills were shrouded in mist. So I read the Saturday papers until she arrived. Later, when the mist had burned off, I thought about my walk. But I also wanted to go into the city centre for various reasons. So, I thought instead of driving into town, driving home, then driving to the hills for my walk, I would just walk into the city instead.

I took a great many photographs. So I decided to spread them out over a number of posts - if you care to come back later in the week, you get to walk with me all week :)

I started off in the suburbs of course, and went past this park where a game of late summer/early autumn cricket was taking place:

I'm not really into cricket, but I did love the crisp green and white, bathed in sunlight.

Friday, March 23, 2007

It's a New Zealand Thing...

I snapped this photo of the latest Tui billboard on the way to work this morning. Can you tell what it is advertising? This is a long-running ad campaign in which the left hand side of the billboard changes (it has a black background, but the photo has lightened it and picked up the fact that the previous lettering has been painted over). The right hand side is always the same - "yeah, right".

This phrase has come to represent Tui so much, that road signs pointing to their headquarters apparently read "Tui. Yeah, left".

Since I feature poetry on my blog regularly, I was rather taken by this version.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Images

This week's prompt at Poetry Thursday was to be inspired by an image.
Once again, I've been pretty busy (looking forward to a break at Easter), so I pulled a poem out of my files. This poem was inspired by a Picasso painting which you can find here (you will need to scroll down the page).

Seated Woman with Fish Hat

after Picasso

I'm sitting here with a turbot on my head
This is ridiculous
I hope it's finished soon
Even with the lemon on top,
This fish is starting to stink.
That fellow - Pablo something-or-other -
Calls himself an artist - Hah!
He's given me two eyes on the same side of my face
Like a flounder
Doesn't know a front view from a profile
If he's an artist, I'll eat my hat

More image-inspired poetry here

Monday, March 19, 2007

Four Seasons in One Day and other Weather Related Matters

Summer is coming to a close here, and the weather has been very erratic with wild temperature swings. Yesterday started cool and damp. I set off with a friend for an orienteering event. We went over the hill (the crater rim of an extinct volcano) and headed around the harbour, and suddenly as we rounded a corner we found brilliant sunshine.

I completed my course in the warm sunny weather (perhaps a little too warm since it was quite steep!). I'm pretty pleased with the way my fitness has improved - I maanged the steep climb pretty well. I was slowed down a little by a couple of navigation mistakes. I'd planned to run the last few controls which were on open fields in a slightly downwards direction, but the ground was so rough I had to pick my way fairly carefully. The course started and finished in a rather attractive farm park where there are historic farm buildings and equipment, and rhododendron gardens. So I had taken my camera along planning to take photographs afterwards. But shortly after I finished I realised that the sky had turned dark, and soon drops of rain were falling. We set off back home just as a spectacular thunder and lightning storm struck, and at one point we had to pull off the road as heavy hail made for poor visibility.

Later in the news I heard that in the North Island, the crater rim of Mt Ruapehu broke, releasing a long-expected lahar - photos at this site.

This morning at work we had a power surge. I'm not sure if this was weather-related too. I headed along the road to job number two to find that the computer network there was down and I couldn't do anything. As I sat there contemplating what to do I gazed at the hunting trophies on the wall and realised that of the four stags, three were looking straight at me. A little unnerving!

(Eventually I figured that as I couldn't do any work, I might as well just head back to job number one and do some more there until the computers were fixed. It's very handy when juggling two jobs to have them five minutes stroll away from each other).

Saturday, March 17, 2007

More Poetry and a Housewarming

I am having a very poetry filled week. Yesterday after work I headed off to the Madras Cafe Bookshop for the launch of Bernadette Hall's new book "The Ponies".

The first part of the book is made up of poems based on Bernadette's experience as an Antarctic fellow. Artists to Antarctica is a wonderful scheme which each year sends around three artists to the Antarctic. They are from all disciplines: writers, musicians, painters, textile artists, furniture makers and others have all benefitted from this scheme.

The title poem of the collection, "The Ponies" can be found here.

The second section of the book is a short one - four beautiful elegies written after the death of Bernadette's niece in the London Underground bombings in 2005. And the third section is more of a mixture. Of these, The History of Europe was included in Best New Zealand Poems 2005, and several of the poems, and an interview, are online in Turbine 2006 (along with many other fine New Zealand poets).

I love book launches - there's always tasty finger food, speeches that are interesting and not too long, readings from the book (Bernadette is a great reader) and a good gathering of local writers, many of whom are friends. I used my book voucher from Wednesday night to help pay for the book. (There are all sorts of things I am doing without, to save money, but I can't do without poetry). And when I got it home I noticed the page with the list of her previous books. There, in the section "edited" was "The Chook Book" - the collection of poems produced by the small poetry group I belong to. This is typical of Bernadette's warmth and generosity. It certainly wasn't a career advancing move for her to edit our book. And to see our small, self-published collection listed along with other "important-to-national-literature" publications gave me a small thrill.

I rushed off from the book launch because my daughter was holding her housewarming party. That's another pleasure - for me to see her established enough to buy her own house, in a financial climate that makes it very difficult for young people to do so - especially young single people.

I'm taking this as an excuse to get some quilt photos onto the blog. When I saw that one of the bedrooms has lilac walls and purple curtains, I thought of this quilt:

I went to fetch it when she moved in, to offer it to her as a house-warming gift, and found this quilt as well:

At the moment she is trying them both out to see which one she likes best. I did suggest she keep them both, but she said then she would have to decide every night, instead of just once! (Edit: I realised it wasn't clear from what I wrote, but I made both of these. I have quilts on the beds and quilts in the cupboards here. Giving them away means I can make more! We don't have money to spare at the moment to buy here a big housewarming gift, as I would like, but it's a pleasure to have something to give her from our non-cash abundance)

Friday, March 16, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Defined

"Twas brillig, and the slthy toves..."
Oh wait, that's Lewis Carroll!
For this week's Poetry Thursday prompt we were invited to find words that we didn't know the meaning of, choose a favourite and write a poem defining it. I turned to "Mrs Byrne's Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure and Preposterous Words". It was hard to resist peeping at the definitions. But I did come up with quite a long list of strange words - too many to restrict myself to one. Hence my poem which attempts to define "Zythepsary" includes quite a number of the other words. It will be interesting to check the meanings and find out how much nonsense I've written.

Despite being as busy as ever, I really wanted to take part in this prompt. So it was rather hastily written, ten minutes at bedtime one evening gathering words and ten to fifteen minutes last night putting them together. And now it's Friday morning, but after all it is still Thursday in the USA so I'm not really too late. (And for a bonus, my Wednesday post was about poetry, too).


Book of secrets
I dare not put it
with the other books
It sits in a dark corner
In sunlight it might become
velivolant, the unicorns, greffiers
and monachals that adorn
its cover might kick up their heels
tardigrade, might escape
into the room, a fanfaronade
of creatures around my bed.
I am quisqous - I dare not
open the cover
lest I drown in its
fimetarious pages

More strange words here

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Breathing Space

That's something I don't seem to have much of lately. I find myself thinking back to the last time I worked full-time. It was before I had any children. I seemed to have more spare time then - well, I started work earlier (which meant getting up earlier) but I was finished by just after 4 o'clock. In summer I would often stop by the swimming pool on the way home to swim laps, but I was home in time to cook dinner and then I had all evening free.

There were only two of us - so the laundry was all done at the weekend, and often the dishes were left till the weekend too :) At one point I was studying for a piano exam, and when the exam date was announced it was a month earlier than I expected, so as soon as dinner was finished I practised the piano for three hours every evening.

Now I wonder where I found the time. Since my husband and the adult children still at home take turns cooking and doing dishes, I only have to do that a couple of times a week. But still, by the time I finish work, get home and eat dinner I don't seem to fit in much else besides laundry, ironing, various household chores, bits of necessary paperwork and of course I do manage to walk or jog several times a week still. I've taken off 12 kgs (about 26 lbs) since last September, gaining energy in the process, and I'm not about to let all that effort go to waste.

Still, tonight I managed to get to a poetry reading. Every autumn the Canterbury Poets have a series of readings, once a week for around six to eight weeks. Usually they receive a grant which helps pay for the costs of bringing guest poets from out of town. This year they missed out, so there are no out-of-town poets. Judging by the first two, however, the standard will be as high using only local talent.

Tonight's two readers were Tom Weston and Fiona Farrell. What struck me about Tom's poems was that lesser poets write about the usual poetic topics, while more talented poets often (not always) find inspiration in much more unexpected places - poems, for instance, about a plague of mice in a medieval town, or about a Turkish poet's journey to New York to find Paul Auster. One of the poems he read was The Unprepared Mind.

Fiona, on the other hand, had spent six months in Ireland last year, and her poems grew out of that experience. They drew on history and genealogy and the experience of immigration and invasion. Here is an earlier poem of Fiona's Eel

Both guests were a treat.

The first half of the evening is always "open mic". I read this poem. There is a weekly vote for the audience favourite - a process which I have mixed feelings about - however I was delighted to receive second place - a $10 book voucher - which is most welcome given our current limited income. I'm planning on putting it towards the cost of Bernadette Hall's new book "Ponies" which is being launched here on Friday night.

(Note to my American readers: $10 here is the equivalent of about $7 US. And books are much more expensive. $25 is fairly standard for a book of poems from a New Zealand poet).

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday Photos

Some images from my walk yesterday.

I took a different track from my usual one. It was quite a bit steeper. This is a view from the top, looking over the valley to the next spur where you can see the track I take on most of my walks. As you can see the hillside has got very dry and brown in the last few weeks. Summer is nearly over - in fact, technically it is autumn already, but we are having the warmest weather we have had all summer.

Normally the sheep would get up and wander off when I approach. This one was looking at me as if to say "'s just too hot to bother".

The magpies really do say quardle oodle ardle wardle doodle

Saturday, March 10, 2007

And in Other News

I just had to publish a link to this news story, which has to be one of the craziest I have seen this year.

Food Miles

It seems obvious. If we buy food that is grown locally, we can help combat global warming. This is the concept of "food miles" - surely food flown or even shipped around the world must contribute far more to carbon emissions than food grown nearby? I believe it's not as simple as that. For instance, there are two Farmers' Markets held on Saturdays within driving distance from my home. The food is locally grown - more or less - after all the farms are not within the city boundaries, but on the outskirts. The stalls are small. So each grower is driving perhaps 30 km in a small car or van to bring their produce to the market. And if I shop there, it is a longer drive than my nearest supermarket, which is just around the corner. Or even a no-so-close supermarket which I can stop at on my way home from work. I am fairly sure that each kilogram of produce sold at the Farmers Market is responsible for more carbon emissions than the equivalent produce sold at the supermarket - even though the latter may be driven several hundred kilometres to get there. It's the economies of scale - moving a large quantity of produce in a large truck to a supermarket closer to the target market.

I worry about what will happen to New Zealand if the concept of food miles catches on. Or if long-range tourism declines due to fears of global warming. It's what our economy relies on. So I was interested to read some figures in this article. (If you are interested, bookmark it. In the interests of selling magazines, the full text of the main feature articles are not available on line for a few weeks after the issue date). New Zealand farmers are not subsidised, unlike farmers in the European Union and other countries. They have to be efficient to survive. Apparently, in most cases, less total energy is used to produce food in New Zealand and ship it to the other side of the world than to produce it and sell it locally. Another interesting statistic was that half of all the energy used in transporting food is used in the journey from the supermarket to home. To reduce emissions you could choose the locally grown product, or you could combine your shopping list with your neighbour's and cut your trips to the supermarket in half for exactly the same effect. Or you could make sure to stock your pantry well, reducing your number of trips.

You can use a simplistic measure of emissions like food miles. Or you can investigate the true measure by researching all the emissions produced in the lifetime of the product. Unfortunately this takes a lot of research, so it is heartening to see that the UK supermarket chain Tescos plans to do it for us, and label goods sold in their shops with information on their total carbon footprint.

I hope that the world will keep buying our produce, and keep visiting us. Or will New Zealanders become an endangered species, starving at the bottom of the world? Perhaps then the World Wildlife Fund will mount a rescue campaign. One thing is for sure - we can't all emigrate back to Britain.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Not a Red Poem

This week continues to be busy, although I am gradually settling in to working full time. At the moment, P. is a house husband so one of my current delights is coming home knowing that someone else will cook the dinner. And sometimes I also find the laundry on the line. But I have been helping my daughter move house, baking a birthday cake for another daughter, shopping for her birthday present, and taking care of paper work, not to mention trying to fit in regular exercise - all of which leaves little time for writing.

Which is why this week's post is titled "Not a Red Poem". Red was the prompt at
Poetry Thursday
this week. But since the prompt is completely and totally optional, I have pulled out a poem from my archives on "white". Who knows? Maybe one day Liz and Dana will post the prompt "white". And maybe by then I will have a "red" poem to post. (I have had a little time to read passages on red in some of my books on "colour" - a topic that intrigues me. I have a wonderful list of names for different types of red. I'm sure a poem is lurking there somewhere).

I always felt this white poem needed three sections for balance. But somehow it seemed determined to stop at two.



white is proud
she scorns light’s caress
returns all gifts
has no form
does not possess
her own shadows


the baptismal gown
the daisy chain
the picket fence
the clean sheet

the fallen petals
the spider’s web
the far mountains
the ghost moon

the sharp fang
the winding cloth
the sepulchre
the bleached bones

Saturday, March 03, 2007


Possibly, I should feel anxious right now (see Wednesday post). After all, I am generally a rather anxious person. I get uptight about small things. Strangely, I don't seem to be feel especially anxious. Mostly, I feel grateful.

Here are some of the things I am grateful for (in no particular order):

1. The lovely place where we live. The river and the hills close by, where I can go walking.
2. The fact that our house is so close to paid off that the bit left really doesn't matter.
3. Free internet (courtesy of a son who works for an ISP).
4. Digital cameras - because of all the fun of taking photos without the expense of buying film.
5. Extra paid work just when I needed it (see Wednesday post, again). Granted, it is temporary, but it makes me feel something will turn up.
6. Free internet.
7. Our wonderful public library.
8. A big stash of fabrics, art supplies, etc just in case I should have time in between the extra work to feel like making something.
9. The fact that our trip to the UK in September is booked and mostly paid for, on non-refundable tickets. Can't back out of this one! (The air fares, a bit over half our accommodation, and the rental car are all paid for. We still have to pay for about a week and a half of accommodation, petrol, food - bread and cheese anyone? - and spending money).
10. The fact that writing takes not much more than a computer or a pencil and paper, and therefore is pretty close to free.
11. Did I mention free internet? :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Beauty

The prompt at Poetry Thursday this week sounded rather interesting. The idea was to describe whatever we thought was the most beautiful thing in the world, but without describing it. I may try it one day, but this post will explain why I didn't have time this week.

I couldn't miss Poetry Thursday, though. So I thought I would offer this small poem by Robert Bridges, on the topic of beauty and craftsmanship, which I have always liked (well, at least for the last forty years or so). It seems as if this week has been full of "hasty days". Perhaps I will have time to think about the prompt at the weekend.

All Beauteous Things

I love all beauteous things,
I seek and adore them:
God hath no better praise,
And man in his hasty days
Is honoured for them.

I too will something make
And joy in the making;
Although to-morrow it seem
Like empty words of a dream
Remembered on waking.

- Robert Bridges (1844 - 1930)