Sunday, October 31, 2010

Book Launch

Flap: The Chook Book 2
To be launched on Saturday, November 6
1 pm at Christchurch South Library

by The Poetry Chooks: Victoria Broome, Catherine Fitchett, Barbara McCartney, Christina Stachurski
with MC Fiona Farrell

Cover design by Mike Cooke

Only six sleeps to go!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Goodbye to an Old Friend

On the way to work yesterday I made a quick dash into the Madras Cafe Bookshop to take advantage of its closing down sale. (And also because I had an unused gift voucher that I wanted to use before they closed the doors). I don't think the closure is directly earthquake related, but the landlord has raised the rent above what they can afford - and the shortage of affordable premises for small, niche businesses is certainly not helped by the effects of the quake.

We need to value our small independent bookstores. Big chains may have their place, but it is the smaller stores that I head to when I want to find books beyond just those being promoted heavily by the big chains (and more and more, the big chains stock cookbooks, gardening books and celebrity biographies). I head to independent bookstores when I want good service, and perhaps a title ordered in specially. It is the small bookstores who are willing to stock books by local poets who are doing their own distribution - you can walk in off the street and say "will you stock my book"?

As for MCB as it is known locally, it has been host to many, many poetry readings, book launches and similar events over the years. It will be missed.

(After I took the second shot, I realised that the low light had led to a very long, blurry exposure. I thought of trying again, but I've seen so many Holga and Lomo photos on blogs in the last couple of years, that I'm beginning to get used to photos that once I would have thought technically imperfect. I decided I rather liked the effect).

Friday, October 29, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Yellow

Yellow hire boats photographed at Nelson Bay, Port Stephens, Australia on our recent trip. Blue and yellow together always make me feel summery.

For more yellow themed photos go here

Monday, October 25, 2010

Truth in Poetry

The other day I was checking out the Poetry Daily site and I came across an opening line that brought me up short:

Discovered in a New Zealand school's basement: a colony of garter snakes

It set me to musing on truth in poetry. I recalled a favourite poem by New Zealand poet Lauris Edmond, The condition. In it, she tells of standing on a bridge with a friend, watching trout, when he tells her that if they go upstream, they suffocate. I heard that this is not in fact true, but when he was told so, she refused to change the poem, because her very dear friend had told her so, and he must be right.

Well, In this case I can't see how the poem can be changed without destroying the poem. And besides, since she refers in the poem to what her friend says, there is no actual untruth in the poem - it is true that that is what she was told. It didn't really spoil my enjoyment of the poem to find that trout can, in fact, safely swim upstream.

But back to the Poetry Daily poem, Ourobouros. What is it that stopped me at the first line? Simply that there are no snakes in New Zealand. No native snakes, and no introduced snakes. Not in the wild, not in zoos, not in pet stores, not brought in for movies. They simply aren't allowed. So there is no way that anyone ever discovered a single garter snake in a New Zealand school's basement, let alone a colony. (Come to think of it, most schools that I know of don't even have basements).

The strange thing is that it seems totally spurious to set the poem in New Zealand. Substitute "New England" for "New Zealand" and the poem seems to work fine, though New England residents may tell me otherwise. I can just imagine that the poet may have heard this anecdote somewhere, and misheard "New Zealand" for "New England" so that's what she wrote when she developed her poem. It is probably a fine poem, but it lost all credibility with me as soon as I read the first line. I don't believe all poems have to be factual, but I do think that there are times when a little fact-checking is necessary.

I'd be interested to hear other opinions: do errors of fact matter in a poem or not?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Friday Evening

I stopped off on my way through the city after work on Friday. A three day weekend ahead. Friday evening always seems full of possibility. These photos were taken between the spot where I parked the car and the bookshop. A moment to savour.

The stone lion is part of the remembrance archway for World War I soldiers.

After work chilling out in the restaurants along Oxford Terrace

A chef takes a quiet moment in an alley

This fellow guards the entrance to the Bangalore Polo Club restaurant.

Today I felt sluggish. Eventually I did a bit of pottering in the garden. There was a massive eight hour free concert put together in Hagley Park to give people a lift after the earthquake. I caught some of it on TV, I picked out the acts I enjoy but I don't do crowds very well, and don't think I would have enjoyed being there, standing up, for hours on end through both music I like and music I don't. Clearly though, from the faces in the crowd shots, it was much appreciated.

And then this evening I dropped my daughter off at a friend's 21st party, in an area still without working sewerage, so I found myself driving past rows of portable toilets on the footpaths, over roads that were bumpy and cracked.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Feeding Time

Another holiday photo. This is a fish cleaning station in Port Stephens, New South Wales. The pelicans (these are just a few of them) were lined up patiently waiting for the scraps.

For Thematic Photographic's theme: savour

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Birthday List #38

Ride a Camel

- added to my birthday list when I found that camel riding was a tourist attraction in Port Macquarie, where we spent a week of our holiday.

The chances of ticking off everything on the list are not looking very good! I'm going to have to speed up my efforts a little. Of course, I'm sure I'll do lots of things that I didn't think to put on the list. Like experiencing a magnitude 7.1 earthquake!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Decluttering, and Other Things

I have been decluttering, which has been as much mental as physical. On Saturday, I found that a good hill walk went a long way to clearing out some of the tension I was feeling over multiple work and other obligations.

The hills are astonishingly green, the result of an exceptionally wet winter and warm spring. In fact it was so green just here, my eyes hurt a little to look at it.

Since Saturday, I have been much better focussed on getting through my "to do" list. This includes some writing for an online course. I'd been putting it off for a couple of weeks, so I signed up for 750 words, and having been tackling the various exercises by "stream of consciousness" writing - not so much like Julia Cameron's morning pages, which the site is designed for, but more like Natalie Goldberg's writing practice.

The other part of my daily writing practice is to observe three specific things each day and record them in a notebook. More on this in another post.

Apart from the mental decluttering, I've been doing some physical decluttering as well. Mainly in my writing/sewing studio. I managed to get it tidied up enough that I could get through the small door into the attic. I wanted to check out the chimney for quake damage not visible on the outside, and I had also heard of people who had found their roof beams had cracked in the quake or aftershocks. Fortunately, there were no signs of damage. I also went and bought some more lever arch files. It turns out that these folders don't do too well with repeatedly falling on the floor every time there is a big aftershock. The rings that hold the papers in get bent out of alignment and won't quite go back. So I've moved all the papers concerned to new folders, and rearranged the shelves so that the folders sit on the bottom shelf.

Just as well - we had another big aftershock today. Power went off in some parts of the city, there were goods off the shelves in quite a few supermarkets, and the airport shut down for about an hour while they checked for damage. I was at work, just beside some metal shelving full of files, and it shook and rattled rather alarmingly. I was just about to stop trying to steady my computer and dive for the shelter of the desk instead when it started to die down. I never quite appreciated before how long the aftershocks go on for after a big earthquake.

Spotted the following on the way home from work - someone has edited this sign:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Open for Business

The mayor of Christchurch wants us to spread the word - we are open for business!

So yes - although there are temporary fences around damaged buildings wherever you go, the weather is great, the flowers are blooming, and events are carrying on as normal. There is no shortage of good accommodation and restaurants that are open. It's still a good place to come for a holiday! The shaking? - Well, it might be a truck going past, or a sudden gust of wind (it's not, it's yet another aftershock, but they are harmless, really. Sometimes we don't notice any for a few days, and then there are several, but if you are out and about, you generally miss them.)

At the weekend the Indian community - and all of Christchurch with them - were celebrating Diwali in Victoria Square. I went along and took a few photos, though I didn't stay for the evening celebrations - Diwali is a festival of lights, so the event was planned to go on after dark.

The first photo shows the Diwali stars that decorated the area, and the second, some performers waiting backstage for their turn.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

When the Earth Sang

As the first of the Chilean miners are brought to the surface, I think of men in my own family history who also worked underground.
In the UK a hundred years ago, one in ten of all working men were miners. * There was my greatgrandfather, the son of a lamplighter, who worked in the coal mines in Scotland. It was to build a better life that he came to New Zealand after his marriage and the birth of his first child - a girl who sadly, died on the voyage. In New Zealand he found work as a carter. But nearly thirty years later, with a wife and eight young children to support, New Zealand entered a depression and he found himself without work.

He travelled to a remote area, away from his family, where he worked in an underground quartz reef gold mine. Perhaps by this time he had forgotten the skills of his coal mining days. He worked as a shot firer. One day he set two charges, one of which went off, and the other didn't. He went back to check (strictly against the rules), whereupon it detonated and blew him up.

Back in Scotland, many of his wife's brothers and brothers-in-law, and their sons, were still working in the coal mines. I came in contact with a distant cousin, who told me of the mining disaster in New Cumnock (where they came from) in the early 1950s. Unlike the Chilean mine, the coal mine was near to the surface, and the land above was peaty swamp. The roof collapsed, and water rushed into the mine. Thirteen were killed, but 116 more were dramatically rescued after several days wait - nothing compared to the plight of the trapped Chileans, but a tense time for those waiting above.

My cousin told me that the miners still have "The Old Rugged Cross" and "Flow Gently, Sweet Afton" sung at their funerals. These are the songs that the trapped men sung while waiting for rescue. Those waiting for news could hear the singing coming up through the earth under their feet. This is Burns country. New Cumnock sits "at the confluence of the Nith and the Afton". So Burns's song has strong local resonance - a sort of "local anthem".

Here are the words:

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes!
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise!
My Mary's asleep by the murmuring stream --
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream!

Thou stock dove whose echo resounds thro' the glen,
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den
Thou green-crested lapwing, thy screaming forbear --
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering fair!

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills,
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills!
There daily I wander, as noon rises high,
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye.

How pleasant thy banks and green vallies below,
Where wild in the woodlands the primrose blow:
There oft, as mild ev'ning weeps over the lea,
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides,
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides!
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave,
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave!

Flow gently, sweet Afton, among thy green braes!
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays!
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream --
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream!

If you have trouble with the Scots dialect, there is a translation here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Almost Ready to Go

The book has been delivered to the printer, publicity e-mails are being organised, and we get a few weeks to relax a little before rushing about organising catering...

I hope to post a poem or two from the book in the coming weeks, with the permission of my fellow "Chooks"

Thanks to Mike Cooke for the wonderful cover art.

(I tried to upload a bigger version, but blogger displays it at the same size. Try clicking on it for a better view).

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Branched

There are "must sees" when going on holiday, like the Eiffel Tower in Paris, or the Sydney Harbour bridge and Opera House. But what I find delights me more are the surprises - things that I never knew I would find, but just happen on unexpectedly, either in the form of advertising material when we get there, or just stumbling across it.

One of these delights was Wingham Brush. It's a small area of nature reserve in the town of Wingham, New South Wales - but what is remarkable about it is that it is home to a colony of around 100,000 grey headed flying foxes (bats). We started along the boardwalks and as we ventured further in, became aware of a quiet chittering, which became louder and louder, and suddenly spotted huge numbers of these fascinating creatures hanging in the branches overhead.

Some peope are afraid of bats, but I think they are adorable!

They were all folded up when we arrived, and gradually as dusk approached, showed their faces and became more active. As it became dark and we left the cover of the trees, great crowds of them took to the air out over the river in search of food.

For this week's theme at Thematic Photographic: branched

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Quirky Signs

A couple of signs spotted on my walk home from work this week. The first has been painted on a fence since the earthquake:

and the second I found rather odd since there is not actually any gate in sight:

In case it's too small, the sign reads "Shut the Gate. The penalty is forty shillings for leaving this gate unlocked."

It occurred to me that these also fit Carmi's Thematic Photographic theme for the week, parallel

Our house was added on to at some stage, and the chimney, once on an outside wall, is now boxed in between two interior walls. I have been thinking that someone needs to go into the attic with a good torch and check down the space around the chimney for loose or fallen bricks. Especially since we are up to 1400 aftershocks, each of them rattling the house a bit more. It seems to be standing up to it, but brick work is the most vulnerable part of the building.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Postcards from Nundle

I photographed a lot of birds on our trip (making heavy use of zoom and crop)

My bird book suggests this is an Eastern rosella

and this is a crimson rosella

The Nundle woollen mill (see my last post but one)

Inside the mill - the machines were not working because it was a Sunday

This wool themed playground was a delightful surprise - there were a sheepdog and sheep instead of rocking horses, and the play hut was constructed to look like a woolshed. The supports for the swing were giant knitting needles.

The wonderfully old-fashioned Odgers and McLelland Exchange Stores. I also took photos inside, but won't share them as on the way out I spotted a "no photography" sign. We bought some cordial, and I would have liked to buy some honey but we would never have got it into New Zealand through agriculture checks (taken very seriously, with bags X-rayed in case there is something you forget to declare).

View from a hill behind the town (or should that be village?)

Monday, October 04, 2010

One Month On

We have been having wonderful spring weather lately. On Sunday I had a couple of shops I wanted to visit in town, so I took the opportunity in the same trip to walk around and take a good look at the earthquake damage. Although some rubble has been cleared up and buildings braced where necessary, no real start has been made on rebuilding as far as I could tell. (That makes sense, both because of the aftershocks and because, of course, insurance claims have to be processed, and engineering reports written, and building plans drawn up).

On the other hand, the city was alive with people. There was a real springtime vibe going on as people came out to shop, skateboard, stroll in the gardens, kayak on the river, and like me, take photos. It seemed that for tourists, pretty much everything was open as usual (with the possible exception of a few small restaurants, but we have plenty...)

Two young men enjoy the sun from an upstairs window of their backpackers hostel.

Shopping at the Arts Centre Market, and a damaged tower of the Arts Centre building nearby (most of it is earthquake strengthened, so fortunately not too much damage was done, just this area and one other)

The remains of the appropriately named Chaos Collectables

Pedestrians in discussion at a roadblock while Elvis looks down from a balcony

Bracing on an insecure wall at Our City O-tautahi. This is the city's original Municipal Chambers and is now used as an exhibition and meeting space, unfortunately it is currently closed due to earthquake damage.

Enjoying the Botanic Gardens - Peacock Fountain and spring flower displays.

We are still getting several aftershocks a day although most are in the 3 range and I don't often notice them. A 4.5 a few days ago was more obvious and occurred just as the radio station we tune into at work was playing Carole King's "I can Feel the Earth Move Under Your Feet". Any more suggestions for an earthquake play list?

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Thematic Photographic: Parallel

We spent most of our Australian holiday on the coast, but after the first week, we headed inland over the mountains and in to the city of Tamworth. It was a Saturday night when we arrived, and many of the places I would have liked to visit (such as art museums) were closed on Sunday, so instead we took a drive through the countryside to the small settlement of Nundle. One of the main attractions there is the historic woollen mill, where they still make yarn on their old machines, and sell it to handknitters, as well as selling woollen garments from other Australian producers, and, sadly, imported from China.

This photograph of the yarn drying on the racks in the dyeing area is posted for Carmi's latest Thematic Photographic theme, Parallel.