Tuesday, July 31, 2007

And Another Glimpse

Since I've had a really busy day, I'm posting another of yesterday's photos - a further glimpse of the inside of the boatsheds. With luck, I'll write a longer post tomorrow.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Rainy Days and Mondays

I lay in bed last night thinking of England. Outside, the rain was coming down so hard it sounded like being in a cave at the back of a waterfall (at least, that's how I imagine it would sound at the back of a waterfall). I thought of the flooding in England and the old nursery rhyme:

Dr Foster went to Gloucester
in a shower of rain
stepped in a puddle
right up to his middle
and never was seen again

Which just goes to show that England has always been a rainy place, and maybe the current extreme weather there isn't about global warming at all.

Interestingly, I've heard nothing about floods in Scotland. Is it dry up there, or is it always so drizzly and misty in Scotland that they haven't noticed any difference?

Whichever it is, I'm hoping that September will be fine, so we can see some of the landscape we are going to visit. And take photos. My digital camera doesn't like rain that much. P. was commenting that the camera he covets is on special at about $700 below its RRP. It's an SLR and is sealed so that it's weatherproof - perfect for taking photos in a wet English summer. And in fact, he had planned to buy one before we went, but now he has no job, so it is off the purchase list for the foreseeable future. Maybe I should just buy an umbrella, and one of us can hold it over the other during photo taking endeavours.

As it happened, the rain stopped here by lunchtime. So I was able to make a photo stop on my way between jobs at lunchtime, so that I'd have a daily photo to post here. I parked my car near the Antigua Boatsheds, a scenic spot much loved by calendar photographers. If you want to see such views, click the link. In winter it is another matter, of course. I thought there might still be a few tourists out paddling canoes, but there was nothing. And no brightly coloured canoes sitting on the deck in rows waiting for customers. So I photographed water running over the weir, and ducks on the bare wooden deck, and then I strolled closer and realised that the boat sheds were indeed open for business. The doors were open, and inside I could see the stacked paddles, and in one shed, wide flat punts. On the walls were hung the jackets and hats worn by the operators of the punts, to give a traditional English look (since Christchurch likes to pretend to be an English city, which it is not, of course).

So, my selection for "photo of the day" is this shot of straw boaters hanging just inside the door, taken from the opposite door. I think those are old glass lanterns on the shelf above.

(I did take some sky photos on the way home, too. But there's a limit to how many sky photos I want to post).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Three More Days' Worth

Here are the photos from Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I took some spectacular sunset photos on my walk home on Thursday, but I decided I liked the simplicity of this one:

On Friday I stopped on my way home to go into Cathedral Square which is the central base for the Christchurch Arts Festival. I wanted to take photos of the giant inflatable fantasy flowers. I may do a catch up post tomorrow, I have so many photos to choose from. But for no, I thought I'd share this piece of installation art. The artist is actually living in this house. His blog is wherearethefinethings and if you click on the link you can see photos taken by the artist of passersby peering in through the windows.

And today I have once more been immersed in genealogy files. But this afternoon I went out to photograph the daffodils I had seen blooming just along the road. I was very surprised to see them out so early, it still feels like winter. I did get some nice photos, but instead I am posting this one:

(It wasn't really that dark, just the camera being fooled by the very bright light of the low sun - the trees came out even darker till I adjusted the levels in Photoshop.)

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sunrise, Sunset

I've been keeping up with my plan of taking a photo a day, but I haven't been keeping up with posting them. (Really, a bunch of photos each day so that I have at least a chance of finding one among them that I like).

The days are beginning to get a little longer, but not long enough yet for there to be much daylight before and after work. This has its compensations - the light is actually more interesting in the early morning and close to sunset.

Here are the last three days' worth of photos:

The mountains are not as close as they look, as I zoomed the camera quite a bit. The Canterbury Plains are the largest area of flattish land in New Zealand, which is not saying a lot by world standards. The Southern Alps are about 100 kilometres away across the plains. That's the runway of Christchurch Airport in the foreground - I work very near here two and a half days a week.

On Tuesday morning I captured this peaceful river scene near my home on the way to work.

On my way home today I stopped in the city. The late afternoon sun was lighting up these two buildings, which were reflected in the river (there are two main rivers in Christchurch, this is the Avon and the one near my home is the Heathcote).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Surfacing Briefly....

Today I started checking my genealogy files, and taking notes so that I have all the information I need on hand on our trip to Scotland. (I'll put the files I want on P's laptop which always travels with him).

I'm rapidly remembering how addictive genealogy can be, and how it keeps me occupied for hours at a time. But I came across this titbit (not one of mine, it was just on the same page of an old newspaper), and I thought I would post it for the entertainment of my readers:

At Bodmin, on the 10th ult., Mr Edward Cocks, to Miss Maria Lord. during the day one of the gentlemen of the wedding party kissed the bride, an event which caused some unpleasantness and jealousy to the bridegroom. At length a quarrel ensued, and the bride, in the height of passion, took off her wedding ring, threw it at the bridegroom, and then left him; up to this time they have not met.

(Stirling Observer1 May 1856, p3

I wonder what happened in the end?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Just Relaxing at Home

After a busy week at work, it's good to have a day doing nothing much, once in a while. So, when my eye caught on the collection of objects on my windowsill, I decided to make that my photo for the day.

Among other things, there is a pile of chestnuts (I love them, in autumn I often carry one round in my pocket to feel its smoothness), a gum leaf, an empty crab shell, a smooth white stone, and jars full of pencils, brushes etc (it's been way too long since I used those).

The tall round object is a sort of Korean toy drum that my daughter gave me. There is also a shiny toy windmill that was a giveaway at the market day from Heritage Week a few weeks back. The light bulb is one I took from my lamp to replace it with a low energy bulb. I kept it, since it still works.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen...

I noticed on a container of drinking chocolate powder that it is "made in New Zealand, packaged in Australia". So, they ship it over there to pack it, and then they ship it back. What kind of sense is that?

And the brand of yoghurt we buy not only has a best by date, it now has an actual time. As in "best by 13 August 4.04 pm". I wonder what happens if you are half way through a spoonful when the clock ticks over?

Friday, July 20, 2007

On the Way to the Bookshop...

Once again my first chance to take photos was on the way home from work, and because it was grey and raining there wasn't much light around.

I had passed a bookshop a week ago and noticed they had 25% off the Rough Guide series of guidebooks. Unfortunately they didn't have the one I wanted (Scotland) in stock. But they were able to order it in and it was still 25% off, so I was on my way to collect it. After booking almost a year ahead, our big trip is fast approaching. I'm a little scared to get too excited about it yet, it still hardly seems real.

When I came out of the bookshop the streetlights were on, and I took a number of photos rather quickly, because it was drizzling and I didn't want the camera to get too wet. It was a bit of a hit and miss affair as I probably should have been using a tripod. I think this one is not quite sharp, but it was the one I liked the best. The old building in the picture is owned I think by the City Council and is mainly used as an exhibition centre (it was previously a tourist information centre). In the foreground is a street along the river which is lined with restaurants, they all have tables and umbrellas by the footpath, but no one was brave enough to be sitting out there tonight.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Poetry Thursday: Tennyson

When I was in high school, one of the poets we studied was Tennyson. There were a number of poems that we read as a class, and then we were given an assignment to find another poem and write an essay on it. I wanted to find a poem that no one else in the class would choose, so I went to the library and borrowed a very fat volume - the poet's complete works. I eventually settled on "Locksley Hall" which as I recall was a rather political poem about his vision of the future. But the one that really struck me was a poem that was written when he was about seventeen, "The Skipping Rope". Not because it was good, but because it was apallingly bad. Or so I thought then, and I still can't see anything in it that would make it worth publishing. Or that wouldn't embarrass the h* out of any seventeen year old boy today.

Actually, there is one thing that I think makes it worth publishing - the sheer comfort of knowing that even a great poet can write bad poetry. So, for this Poetry Thursday, I am reproducing it here, and if anyone can see any merit in it, I'd be delighted for you to leave a comment to that effect, and explain why (I could always use a little more education).

The Skipping-Rope
Sure never yet was antelope
Could skip so lightly by.
Stand off, or else my skipping-rope
Will hit you in the eye.
How lightly Whirls the skipping-rope !
How fairy-like you fly !
Go, get you gone, you muse and mope --
I hate that silly sigh.
Nay, dearest, teach me how to hope,
Or tell me how to die.
There, take it, take my skipping-rope,
And hang yourself thereby.

- Alfred, Lord Tennyson

For some better poetry by Tennyson, you could try "Ulysses", "The Lady of Shalott", "The Eagle" for a start. A google search will reveal many others.

For more poetry posts, visit Poetry Thursday

And here is the photo for the day : "Winter Trees" (taken almost at dusk as I walked home from work)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I'm really looking forward to longer evenings in the coming months. As it is, I feel rather limited in my plan to take and post a photo a day, given that it is getting dark when I leave work. And neither of my workplaces is located in an area where there is a great variety of photographic opportunities.

I went for my mammogram this morning, and thought I might find a good photo somewhere near the clinic - there is a river with attractive vegetation along the banks. But somehow more river shots, in the drizzle, just didn't do it for me. On the way home after work I eyed up various possibilities for interesting photos in a few weeks time, when it's not too dark. But for today, I am posting another photo that makes me smile - a quick shot in the bakery where I stopped on the way to work to buy some lunch. (If I'm going to continue to take a photo a day, I'm going to get used to people looking at me as if I'm slightly nuts).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Photo for the Day

Despite all my good resolutions, no photos were taken today. I did take my camera along when I went to work, but it was grey and drizzly on the walk there, and greyer and drizzlier on the walk home. I didn't want to risk moisture in the electronics (and I was hurrying to keep warm).

This is a shot I took on the way back to my car a couple of weekends ago, after I was at the market day at the beginning of heritage week. Christchurch prides itself on being a very English looking city, and one of the tourist ventures is punt rides on the river. I took this with lots of zoom. I think they are enjoying themselves. (I seem to be favouring cheerful photos lately. It must be the weather!)

Monday, July 16, 2007


"Skipping" - statue at the Christchurch Arts Centre. The fine Victorian Gothic buildings in the background were once the home of the University of Canterbury, and now house various art studios and shops.

The artist Mackenzie Thorpe says "when someone asked me about the piece recently, I talked about children who may be living in war-torn areas, who have little in the way of material goods, but if you give them a stick, they will turn it into a car or airplane, for example. If they find a piece of rope or washing line, they have a skipping rope. In Skipping you can see the joy, it's just apparent.....I think Skipping is a hopeful piece, it makes me laugh and it gives me hope."

I'm hoping to add a photo a day to my blog, if possible it will be a fresh one each day but if I don't manage to take any I like, I have quite a few in my archives to draw on.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


There's a small pile of hair clippings on our floor right now. My sons darkish brown in the middle, with my own....ummm....blonder locks in the middle.

Now that I'm growing grey, I rather like the shade of my hair. My eldest daughter stopped in this morning and we walked to church together. I commented to her that my hair seemed to me to be blonde rather than silvery grey - "or am I just deluding myself?" Children of course are no respecters of their parents' feelings. She was quite happy to assure me that I am deluding myself. Still, it's more of a golden grey than silvery grey, I'm sure. (You can always check my sidebar photo and see what you think).

P - my husband - has always cut our children's hair. I don't think either of my boys have had a paid haircut in their lives, and the girls have not had too many either. He does a pretty good job. But I've never let him loose on mine before. Now that I'm working full time though, it's hard to find time to get to the hairdresser, and besides, our budget is rather tight. It's a quick way of saving quite a lot of money in one go. He offered to use his number 5 comb, or maybe a number 1. I pointed out that the reason was to save money, and it would be rather expensive for me to buy a wig. So he stuck to doing what I asked, which was to trim off about two months worth of growth. It seems a bit less layered than before, but he did a fairly respectable job.

More musings on hair at Sunday Scribblings.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Into the Forest

Today my mood lifted considerably after I spent a few hours wandering around a pine forest. There's nothing like exercise and fresh air to lift the spirits. I just have to remember to deal with some of the underlying issues which are still there, even though I feel cheerier.

It was a beautiful frosty morning. As I drove through the countryside there were some very picturesque scenes, however I didn't ahve time to stop and take photos as I had chosen bed over leaving early, and unfortunately the best views were from the motorway where there was no stopping.

This is the forest I was walking around in:

and the closeup of blackberry leaves shows the frost:

This was the reason I was walking around the forest:

The girls were participating in the New Zealand Secondary School Orienteering Championships. My job was to patrol part of the course and make sure that random passers by didn't steal or damage the expensive electronic control boxes (the blue part on top of the stake by the orange flag). Unfortunately, the day before, idiots had taken eight of these along a pathway - they are of no use to anyone else, it just spoils the fun. Today though, there were no problems. And a good time was had by all.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Grumpy on Friday

Today I am feeling grumpy over something that is so trivial that I'm not going to share the details. Two things, actually. They make me feel lacking in social skills, probably because I am. (That's why we blog, I guess). I was thinking about those polls that ask if you could go back and change something in your life, would you? Well, I could answer that I want a different husband, or a nicer house, or more travel, or to have a better job, but would I be happier? Probably not.

There are people on earth with better lives, and there are others (the vast majority, no doubt) who are worse off. And what would really make my life better would be to learn how to inhabit the life I have with more grace and generosity.

In the meantime, to cheer myself, and the rest of you, up, here is a spot of sunny yellow. This odd little building is a vintage clothing store, whose window display caught my eye while I was driving to work. Fortunately, I carry my camera with me more and more often these days.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Photo Thursday: Weather

It's Photo Thursday over at Create a Connection. Katherine (with a K) has asked us to post a photo that reflects the weather in our neck of the woods.

To digress a little, there are things I love about my life at the moment. I am actually enjoying working full time for the first time in around thirty years. It's nice to go out, feel I'm doing a useful job, and come home knowing someone else is putting dinner on the table. They do say a change is as good as a holiday, after all.

On the other hand, I feel a little like I imagine my daughter D felt when she first started school. This wonderful self contained child who never before in her life uttered the words "I'm bored" would be saying them the minute she set her foot in the doorway. It has something to do with being told what to do all day, I suspect. It drives creative thoughts out of the brain. Although I could find fifteen minutes a day, at least, to write or for other creative pursuits, I seem to need a lot longer than that to shift gears. It's easier by far to spend the evenings doing laundry, ironing, tidying up or other mindless chores.

So I haven't written anything for a while (which is why I have nothing for Poetry Thursday). My main creative outlet at the moment is photography. Though my photos are rather quick snaps. Still, I like taking a few minutes, when something has caught my eye, to stop and take a photo. It reminds me to look at things with fresh eyes.

Now, back to the weather around here. Cold and wet. This poses a challenge as far as taking photos goes, because I don't think my digital camera would be too happy being out in the rain. However, on my way home from work yesterday, I had stopped off on an errand. When I got back in the car, it was dark and there was rain on the windscreen. So before I drove off I took photos of the streetlights. The rain seemed to do something strange to the lights in the camera - fortunately I wasn't seeing these effects with the naked eye, because it would have been difficult to drive!

One with the traffic lights green, and one where they had turned red:

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Not as Cold as it Could Be

The forecast snow failed to eventuate. Though I think Chiefbiscuit has had some in her part of the country. The lack of snow doesn't mean warmth. I woke this morning to a bright sunny day, which means a hard frost. The water in this birdbath was still well frozen over at noon:

The sun doesn't reach the backyard in winter. There wasn't just frost, but a series of little waterdrops on the grass had frozen solid, like hailstones

and on this fern:

I am feeling lucky. My daughter and I went to see "Paris Je T'Aime" ( a series of "small neighbourhood romances" set in different areas of Paris) on Friday. I had free tickets which I had won by entering a giveaway on the website of the New Zealand Listener magazine. Buoyed up by my luck, I then went to the website of the Montana New Zealand book awards and cast my vote for reader's choice. This puts me in a draw to win $1000 worth of book vouchers. The next job on the list is to go through haiku I have written for one deep breath, and see which (if any) can be rewritten to a 5-7-5 pattern, for the haiku competition I previously mentioned - the prize for this one is a set of all the poetry book finalists for the book awards. (Those reviewed in my previous post, plus the three that are in contention for the best first book of poetry, which I actually preferred to the three in the main competition).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Poetry Thursday: A Clutch of Poetry Books

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for poetry. Or at least it does, after I spend the day at work, eat dinner, do the dishes and a pile of ironing. Thursdays are turning into a busy day. It wasn't helped by my adventures getting a cup of coffee when I got home. I put the coffee in the cup and held it under the cold tap (I make my coffee in the microwave). The water hit the coffee and shot me in the face. There was air in the pipes, because P had been working on the plumbing. After I cleaned up the coffee from my glasses, the bench, the walls, the floor, the ceiling ... then I made another cup and relaxed for a bit.

I have been reading the three books that are the finalists in this year's Montana book awards, in the poetry section. This is for books published in New Zealand in 2006. They are quite a diverse bunch. Firstly, The Goose Bath by Janet Frame. I have to confess I haven't got very far through this one. Unlike the others, it is a very fat hardback book. Janet Frame, who died three years ago, is one of New Zealand's finest fiction writers. However, although she wrote a great deal of poetry, she published very little of it in her lifetime. As the preface shows, she didn't really feel at ease with poetry, and didn't know how to edit it. She stored all her manuscripts in "the goose bath" which was the large concrete base of a fountain, previously used as a bath for geese. They were left, rather deliberately apparently, for others to edit after her death. The book will undoubtedly be the basis for a PhD thesis or two. However, the poems are often full of false starts, and seem rather raw. There are flashes of brilliant language - it would probably be a good book to dip into, but I have to return it to the library. It is possible that it will win, because of Janet's reputation, but I'm hoping it won't. Not least because there is money attached to the award, and it would be nice to see it go to a living writer.

The second book is One Shapely Thing by Dinah Hawken. This is a slimmer book and contains not only poems, but also two sections from her journals, written after 9/11 when her husband was working at the UN in New York, and in early 2002 when they were together in Geneva. I'm always a bit uneasy about published journals. I see journals as a rather private thing, where one is free to dump all sorts of things without censorship, and it seems to me that they become rather self conscious if edited (as surely they must be) for publication. The journals do however cast some light on her thought processes while she was writing the poems. That helped, because the poems didn't really grab me straight away. I thought they might, because they are often concerned with the natural world, and I usually like poets who write on those themes - Mary Oliver, for instance. Dinah's, though, seemed rather more obscure, and perhaps detached. There is a poem called "The Company of Stones" which was written to accompany an art exhibition, and published in the catalogue. I should like to have seen it there, as I think that my understanding would have been enhanced by seeing the art work that it was written for.

A number of poems were written while she occupied the Poets in Workplaces residency at the Wellington Botanic Gardens. One of my favourite poems from this section describes in its last section an oak which has fallen over and continued to grow, lying down:

We love your love of the horizontal.
We wish that we too
could fall down in a Garden,
stay fallen, and still thrive.

Perhaps with a little more time with this collection, I might grow to appreciate more of her work.

The final, and slimmest volume of the three, is The Year of the Bicycle by James Brown - so titled because it was written when he was Victoria University Writer in Residence - each weekday he cycled to work, and in the weekends he took to the hills. The blurb on the back describes them as "exuberant, intelligent poems". They certainly do not suffer from an excess of adjectives. I think I would describe them as masculine and active. They start on very matter of fact. I find myself starting a poem thinking "well, so what?". And then the poem draws me in with a witty turn at the end, adding a subtle twist to what seemed at first rather ordinary.

For instance, one poem starts:

The fact of the matter is
I was born at Palmerston North Public Hospital
at 12.40 a.m. on the first of April, 1966.

and continues through the history of the poet and the city until we read

Lots of famous people come from Palmerson North.
Alan Gregg, bass player with popular band the Mutton Birds,
was once asked if he had roots in jazz. He replied
that he had roots in Palmerston North.

I have often wanted to use that joke myself,
and last week I got the opportunity when someone asked me
where I thought I was coming from.

I come from Palmerston North. We are a modest people,
but we are fiercely proud of the bustling, go-ahead city
at the heart of the Manawatu Plains.

In sci-fi movies, people often go back in time in order to try to
change history. This is impossible. You cannot change the past.
And nobody from Palmerston North
would want to.

It was once said (if anyone can give me the source of the quote, I'd be grateful), that the word "bicycle" is not suitable ever to use in a poem. Poetry has changed since then, and there are plenty of bicycle poems in this book. Of the three, I think it is the one I'd most like to see win. I have to admit though, that I would like to see next year's batch of finalists - books published in 2007. I have several likely candidates in my collection, all better than this year's finalists - but then, this is probably about the first review I've ever been brave enough to write, and it's only one opinion. (If you click on the links given for the writers, you'll find other views.)

More poetry at Poetry Thursday

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


1. The weather forecasters are warning us of a possible 20 cm (8 inches) of snow at sea level in the next few days. That must be why a certain clothes retailer has invited me to preview their new spring collection. I'd rather look at warm woollen jerseys. Which universe do these people live in?

2. I have been using library elf to remind me to return my library books on time. I can highly recommend it. Unfortunately today I picked up the wrong pile of books on my way out the door to work. The books due back today were left sitting on my desk at home. I figured it's cheaper to pay the fines for returning them two days late than to pay for petrol for a special trip to the library.

3. Our local newspaper is running a contest for Montana poetry day. It's for haiku on any topic. The prize is a complete set of all the nominated poetry books. I might enter. I just wish they wouldn't insist that the haiku have three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. See this article in Wikipedia which explains why.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sea and Sky

As I said in my Thursday post, I'm obsessed with the sky lately. Here are a few photos from the last few days:

This is taken from an upstairs window in our house, looking west

and this one is looking southeast over the hills - the only hills for miles around, with the full moon rising behind cloud

Not long after sunrise this morning, looking northeast

Today I went orienteering at Leithfield Beach,and after I finished my course I went down to the littoral zone to take photos (no, littoral, not literal. I've been fascinated by that word since I discovered it. It means the area where sea meets land)

Looking south, you can see the dim outline of Banks Peninsula (Christchurch City is situated where the peninsula meets the plains) behind the "flung spray and the blown spume". (If you can identify that poem and its author, leave a comment to say so).

The first half of my course was in this pine forest on sand dunes. It's quite tricky, as there are all sorts of little bumps and hollows in the dunes, so it can be easy to miss the one where the control is hidden. The rest of the course was easier, with long runs across open paddocks (at least, the navigation was easier, but since I'm not much of a runner, I was at more of a disadvantage than on the parts where the navigation is tricky).

This is the Pacific Ocean. The nearest land to the west, apart from an occasional island, is South America. A long, long way to the west. I think that sky is magnificent - always something new, it gets me every time.