Monday, February 28, 2011

A New Sort of Normal

Today I got to go back to work at my other job, almost as if things were normal. That is, if normal includes slowing down to 20 kph to drive through clouds of fine dust rising from the rapidly drying piles of silt. Or coming home at lunchtime to use my own primitive santitation facilities, rather than overload the boss's primitive sanitation facilities (we work from his home).

The good news is that the water came back on at his place in the morning, not very good pressure, but over the course of the day it got better and he even has water on upstairs now - it still has to be boiled, but tomorrow I won't have to rush home at lunchtime. Here, however, the water is still very low pressure and makes little difference to anything much except that we can probably get away with flushing the toilet once a day or so, as long as no surface sewage appears anywhere in the neighbourhood.

And I managed to reschedule my physio appointment that I didn't quite get to last week - the clinic where I was supposed to go is closed, but I was able to visit the same physio at a different clinic in the same group.

The third good thing was that my two younger daughters arrived back from an overnight stay at Rangiora, a country town just to the north of here, with a big bag of freshly washed and dried laundry. So the evening was spent first putting books back on shelves (after I hunted on the floor for all the little lugs that plug into the holes in the uprights to support the bookshelves) and then ironing the freshly washed clothes. Our bookshelves are braced to the wall, but some of the shelves are moveable, and most of those crashed to the floor during the quake along with all the books on them.

Sadly, I heard that our local supermarket, just two blocks from here, is so badly damaged it has to be demolished. All the staff have lost their jobs. I'm hoping the same won't apply to the pharmacy, bank, cafe and Post Shop that are our other local shops, but I'm not very confident.

A couple of links:
firstly, one to show that the locals have a sense of humour

and secondly, the government earthquake appeal site. Apparently the amount of damage is greater than that done by Hurricane Katrina.

Oh, and I was going to mention that the first night we had the power back on, we were watching the news on TV and the presenter commented that the weather had turned cold, and it felt like mid-winter. Clearly she hasn't ever been in Christchurch in mid-winter, because the temperature was close to 20 degrees C (about 68 degrees F, for Americans). Probably an Aucklander!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Earthquake: Day 6

Last night I was reading blogs and news sites and read on my daughter's blog that she had her water back on, and that her cat had put in an appearance (I don't know where cats hide in earthquakes, but they generally take off for at least a day or two). So I was happy for her, and also a little bit jealous. Then I read another blog, from someone in the next suburb over in the other direction, who mentioned very casually getting his water back on, as if it was rather normal, and I started to feel totally pissed off. If there was water on in one direction, and water on in the other direction, what about us? I tried to tell myself I was being irrational, but I went to bed feeling very stressed out, anyway.

When I got up this morning I was feeling more or less over myself. After all, even if there are people in the city better off than us, there are still very many a whole lot worse off. You can't after all be much worse off than being dead. Or having someone you love dead. And then some of those who have lost loved ones have also lost homes and jobs.

D stayed at her house last night because she wanted to be there for her cat, she had been sleeping over each night up till now for some sisterly support. In the morning she headed back on foot, she texted me that she was running late so I went part way to pick her up, we loaded deck chairs into the car and headed off to the South Library where our church and another local church were holding a service outside on the lawn. You can see from the photo that it was a lovely sunny day, and it felt really good to get together. There was a large congregation including quite a few people from other churches, or no church, who just felt the need. And also a large contingent of news media people - D was interviewed beforehand by a television reporter, and I was interviewed afterwards by a radio reporter. But then, they probably interviewed lots of people and picked someone else with something more interesting to say for their shows, rather than my rather dull babbling :) Here's the report on Stuff and in the New Zealand Herald - the latter includes a photo of our service.

And it was great to see that our beautiful library building was green stickered meaning that it has been assessed as safe. It is however, closed till further notice. Presumably it is needed for more urgent purposes in its role as City Council Service Centre.

Then we headed home pausing on the way to take the photo in the previous post.

In the afternoon I decided to do some cleaning up, I am taking this rather slowly. However I decided it was time to get on with it, and to trust that not everything put back on shelves would end up on the floor again. So I borrowed the neighbour's vacuum cleaner (since ours seems to have died in the quake) and cleaned all the potting mix off the upstairs hall floor, put the cacti outside, since there is no chance they will be watered inside at the moment, put the bookshelf back in its proper place against the wall and put all the books back. The hall looks even tidier than normal. I tidied and vacuumed the bedroom as well before returning the cleaner - and figured that the reason why my wardrobe door wouldn't open wasn't that the door frame had warped, as some of our doors have, but because something was stuck behind it - so I have rectified that problem, and now I can get at my clothes properly.

Only somewhere around half a dozen rooms to go (not counting the offsprings' bedrooms, which are their own problem).

I feel a bit lazy and guilty about the pace of my cleaning up when I read of the huge efforts that people like Helen are having to put in to clean silt up from their properties.

My boss contacted me and confirmed that I could go back to work tomorrow if I wish, however he will give me extra time at lunchtime to come home, as he has no water either. I guess he feels that if one has to use makeshift toilet arrangements, it should be in one's own home. So we will see how it goes. I'm sure I'll feel better with something useful to do. His daughter who normally works for an accounting firm in the CBD (on the sixteenth floor of her building - it must have been terrifying) is also going to help out.

Actually, we do seem to have some water now. There is water coming out of the downstairs taps, slowly, but nothing in the upstairs bathroom, the pressure must be too low. I'm beginning to think it's not going to be a matter of either "water" or "no water". Several neighbours have discovered broken water pipes on their lawns or in their gardens, and I suspect as each of many, many breaks are found and fixed, the water will increase in pressure, a little at a time.

There's also a rumour that we are going to get a Portaloo in our street tomorrow. This could be a good thing or a bad thing - it may well mean that we are in for a long wait to get the sewage properly fixed.

Thematic Photographic: Letters

This one is for Carmi's Thematic Photographic. Anything with letters in it, is what he asked for this week. I was tidying up some stacks of old newspapers (a couple of weeks old) after tuesday's quake and kept seeing articles on the recovery of Christchurch from the September quake. And then on Friday I passed this sign on the way home, the road was busy at that point, but I had to go back and take a photo as it was so ironic. The sign was erected after the September quake to let people know that despite the presence of damaged buildings, many shops were back to normal operation.

The second photo is taken from the other side of the sign. The pile of rubble was a historic stone church. The presence of the bulldozer indicates that this is what is described as "cleaning up". After the first quake, it was hoped to repair many of the historic buildings, now many of them are beyond repair and are coming down for safety. From here north, the streets are again closed off, the business owners who were just starting to get their livelihoods back again have no income.

Rebuilding Christchurch, One Sandcastle at at Time

When an earthquake occurs where the soil is sandy, the shaking compresses the ground and forces ground water mixed with sand and silt up through the surface layers of soil, this is called liquefaction. It results in vast areas of sand and silt on people's properties, which is being dug out and dumped on roadsides for later collection by council trucks.

Our street is not too bad, this is the next street over from us. My daughter decided that all this sand was just crying out to be made into sandcastles:

They won't last long, even if they have to wait a bit before the trucks get round this way, the aftershocks will take care of them. But for a while, every car that passed held a person with a smile on their face, as they saw what she had been up to.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Earthquake: Day 5

The last couple of days I have managed to get to work, I have two jobs, one is suspended till next Monday at least but my usual Wednesday and Friday job is very near the airport and I went there yesterday, and again this morning because I had some serious catching up to do (both for earthquake and non-earthquake related reasons).

I was a bit concerned about possible congestion on the roads, however it wasn't much of a problem. I couldn't take my usual route which goes through the cordoned-off area, instead I headed first west then north to avoid the central city. The first crush of traffic - people trying to get home - and the second crush - people trying to leave, or buy essential supplies and petrol - seemed to have settled down. And I found a different world out there - the further I got to the north-west, and away from the south-east, the more normal things looked. There was some damage - the occasional wall that had fallen down, even one or two chimneys - but basically, I saw very little difference from before. I had expected the newly painted walls at work to have cracks in them, but in fact everything seemed totally undamaged.

Yesterday morning, I felt very muddle-brained and inattentive, but by the afternoon I was beginning to calm down and feeling the benefits of focussing on the work rather than recent events. What's more, no shakes! When I arrived home, I was greeted by a large (4.4) shake just after I walked in the door. There were about six more in the next couple of hours. I asked "has it been like this all day here?" and was told yes, they had been feeling small shakes all day. It's about fifteen kilometres from my home to my work, and the difference it makes is amazing. Clearly, most of the aftershocks are centred close to Tueday's original shake, nearer to this side of town.

On the other side of town - the work side - shops are open as normal. Here, there is very little open. Presumably, even if undamaged, not being able to provide toilet facilities for your staff is a big problem for a business. I bought one or two items the first day. We haven't needed to panic buy, due to my husband's habit of stockpiling emergency supplies - now proven to be very worthwhile. This morning, with power back on, there was even a loaf of fresh bread baking in the breadmaker.

This morning I went back to work very early, the nature of the work means that other staff are there very early on a Saturday, and I don't have an office key, so I headed off to do a few catch-up hours about six a.m. when I knew the office would be open. My eldest daughter* couldn't sleep, and had some shopping she wanted to do, so she came along with me. While I worked, she wrote on her laptop, napped, and filled up water bottles. Over there, they have flushing toilets, and running water that, I am assured, comes from a different well from the city supply, and doesn't need to be boiled.

After I finished we headed towards home, stopping off for supplies on the way - pet food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and hardware supplies. In the hardware store it was quite clear what items were the best sellers - tarpaulins, ropes, water containers. I heard someone ask for hand sanitiser, but she was told they had sold out. D was looking for an electric kettle to replace one that had broken in the quake, she couldn't find one. So we went to another store - they didn't have any for sale, but did have one out the back that "we aren't using" - and gave it to her for nothing. We bought buckets, torches that charge by hand winding and therefore don't need batteries, and will also charge a cell phone - we hope not to need these, but they were quite cheap and it seemed a good idea to add them to the emergency kit. D bought dust masks which I hadn't thought of - but given the amount of sand and silt on the roads that is rapidly drying out, I think it was an excellent idea - we expect to be walking and biking quite a bit in the next few weeks, and it is going to get very dusty out there.

Among the fresh fruit I bought were some surprisingly cheap oranges - surprising that is until I noticed they were all a rather odd shape, slightly flattened - rather as if something heavy had fallen on them!

Again, no shakes that side of town, but we have felt plenty of small ones since we got back home.

According to the paper, around 800 Portaloos (portable toilets) have been distributed to areas of greatest priority. I'm not sure what that means - either you have water and sewage connected or you don't, so I can't help wondering what the criteria are. The only ones I have seen are at some council flats, which seems fair enough as there are a large number of elderly there, and no gardens to dig a hole in. My daughter's friend suggested that if there was raw sewage coming to the surface, those areas would be higher priority, which made sense to me. The problem is supply. In the September quake, all streets with no sewage received Portaloos within a few days - if not one per household, at least one for every few houses. Many of these areas still have them nearly six months later as their sewage is yet to be repaired - and is probably now a good deal worse. But now half the city is without water and sewage, and there are no more to be had in New Zealand, so 900 are being flown in from the United States. So, thanks to my American readers for sending us your toilets!

I'm not a person who is comfortable not knowing what is going on, I'd really like to know if we can expect to receive at least one for our street, and when. Supposedly there are a hundred teams going out from house to house checking on residents' needs and safety, including in our suburb, but we haven't seen anyone yet - the task is huge.

Today I decided to clean up a bit - in the upstairs hallway the bookshelf came down, and with it a large number of cactus plants in pots. I had picked up the bookshelf and put the first couple of rows of books back to make a clear path down the hall, but the other two rows were still on the floor, along with a lot of potting mix. So, I switched on the vacuum cleaner, it went for a moment or two, then stopped. It seems something happened to it when it fell over in the quake. My husband has taken it apart and cleaned it and fixed up a couple of things, whether it is working or not I will find out when he puts it back together again. Otherwise there are plenty of good neighbours who will lend me one, I'm sure.

*I have three adult daughters, and two sons. Mostly randomly referred to here as "my daughter" or "my son", since it doesn't usually matter which is which for the purposes of describing what it's like here. Two daughters and a son currently live at home, eldest daughter has her own house a few kilometres away (also damaged), but has been spending quite a bit of time here, and the other son is in a student flat near the university, and has power and water, and no damage at all.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Earthquake Update

It wasn't long after I got back from my friend's place last night that the power came back on here. The feeling of joy was indescribable. Everyone in the house rushed for their computers to contact all those who had sent messages asking if we were safe. Also, it was just in time to save the contents of our very large deep freeze from having to be thrown away - or cooked on a massive neighbourhood barbeque.

Above you see the chimney mentioned in yesterday's post. As you can imagine it took quite a bit of effort to move it aside enough to get the EQC inspector's little red car out of the driveway. Yesterday, my husband also moved his out, it was a delicate operation and it is now parked on the street side of the chimney. My own car wasn't trapped because I wasn't at home when the earthquake happened. I was at work about three kilometres away, still on the most damaged side of town but a little further from the epicentre. When the quake started, file boxes started falling in front of me, all the drawers fell out of a filing cabinet behind me and the whole thing fell forward, and I ducked down under the desk. I have to say, I must be getting old, my reactions are not all that fast, and if I'd been under a falling brick wall, as some were, I don't think there's much chance I'd have got out of the way in time.

My rather shaken boss told us, "That's it for today. Go home". I was actually a bit reluctant, we were getting big aftershocks and I wondered if it was safe. I phoned home and got no answer, and figured everyone must be outside. So I started driving, things didn't look too bad although there were some cracks in the road, then all of a sudden the car took a bit of a swerve and a small tree fell of a bank on the opposite side of the road. The car straightened up and I kept on, till I reached an area not too far from home where there was a lot of flooding and silt across the road. Even though cars were driving through, slowly, I decided to go another way, but I encountered another very flooded and silty area. I was a bit worried as I knew that areas bordering rivers tend to suffer more damage and I had to drive along beside the river - so decided to leave my car and walk a couple of blocks home, through a back lane, avoiding the riverside. I had to take my shoes and socks off and wade. My already strained Achilles tendon did not appreciate that at all...

That's when I saw the chimney in the driveway, and yes, everyone was outside and very reluctant to go back in due to continuing aftershocks. It was several hours before we braved it much, although we did duck in and out very quickly a few times to retrieve items - such as my iPod, to listen to the radio (unfortunately the battery didn't last very long). And to answer the phone, which was my sister-in-law ringing from the North Island. So I told her we were safe and that I wasn't staying in there to talk for long. We did eventually go back in a few hours later, and the house does seem to be OK i.e. not in danger of falling on top of us, although there is significant new cracking.

I also went back to get my car, having spoken to a few neighbours about the best route, and was able to drive it the rest of the way without too much trouble. I took my camera when I went to fetch it and took a few photos, and also later walked up and down the river a bit, not too far because of my sore tendon, and took a few more.

Here is one of the streets I had to wade across to get home:

This is the local volunteer library, it had been fenced off since the September 4 quake as it had a crack in the wall, which has now fallen down.

The nearby road bridge with a large hump in it. During a quake, riverbanks tend to move inwards towards the river - apparently the two sides of the river moved inwards here, compressing the bridge and forcing it upwards. Road workers have since flattened this hump. Traffic was moving very slowly, bumper to bumper, as people tried to get home. My daughter who had been given a lift from the university, stopped at our place. She decided to stay a bit longer and let the driver continue alone, although she was going in the same direction. About ten minutes later, D set off walking, and it was only another ten minutes or so before she passed the Good Samaritan in the car.

In general, biking and walking were by far the best ways to get around in the first couple of days (and I discovered that though my biking skills are rather rusty, it didn't hurt my strained Achilles, so I will probably be doing more biking for a while).

There are of course far more dramatic photos around than mine. But I don't have either the time or inclination to go round taking photos of the worst damage - these are people's lives and homes, and it is my beautiful city that is so badly damaged. And of course, there are cordons around the whole of the central business district.

For more, visit Jim Tucker's photostream (Presumably he has some sort of credentials that allowed him in the area with the worst damage).

My daughter also has Flickr photos (Not as dramatic as Jim's, but still interesting). She also has a couple of new blog posts at her Dreamwidth blog. (Link is to the whole blog, not the individual post, so you can scroll down and read them all).

Here is the technical stuff at Geonet, the New Zealand earthquake information website.

There is so much more I could say, I will stop here for now...

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Normal Service Will be Resumed as Soon as Possible

Just to let people know that we are safe, the earthquake was centred about half way between our house and the port of Lyttelton so we are in one of the worse off suburbs.
The EQC (government earthquake insurance) assessor was at our house inspecting for damage from the previous quakes. He was on the roof, gave our chimney a shove and pronounced it sound, and was halfway down the ladder when the whole city started to shake and the previously sound chimney sliced neatly off and landed in our driveway behind his car, stopping him from getting out.
That was quite convenient since he and his assistant were able to cover the hole in the roof and make it weathertight before they went. (They did manage to move the chimney enough to get the car out).
For the first day we were getting aftershocks every 1-3 minutes. Quite stressful. They are still very frequent. My brain feels quite fuzzy at the moment so don't expect anything very literary in this post.
Our suburb has quite a lot of damage to roads and bridges. There is silt everywhere from liquefaction. Our house has quite a lot of new cracks but we think it is not in immediate danger of falling down. We have no power, water or sewage. I have just heard on the news that water supply is back to 50% of the city, I don't know if that includes us. Earlier I heard that there was no water in 80% of the city and no power in about 40% of the city.
We have enough emergency supplies of water at the moment and half a barrel full of rainwater - we hastily pushed the barrel under a piece of broken spouting the first night when it started to rain. We have a gas barbeque and gas cook top. We have an old style phone that still works - the modern cordless phones don't work when the power is off.

I am at a friend's house where she has power, typing this on her laptop. I have photos on my camera but won't try to upload them at the moment. My own computer slid to the floor, so I'm not sure if it is working or not - I won't find out till the power comes back on. No word on when that will be.

Because search and rescue was a priority this time, other things like getting power, water etc and checking how people were doing were a bit lower down the list but it looks as if they are getting on to it now.

I haven't tried to go very far, there is a lot of traffic congestion with many roads closed. Tomorrow I may try to get to work, I normally work near the airport on Wednesday and Friday, it will be a big detour to get there on the other side of town but things are relatively normal there and they have showers. I never thought I would appreciate that quite so much.

My daughter has hiked to a friend's place where they have water, power and sewage, she was going to write a post for me, so if you are reading this D, you can still add that link to your blog for more information.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Computers and Writing Routines

We have painters and carpet layers at work this week (that is, at my Wednesday and Friday job - I have a different job on the other days). On Wednesday when I arrived everything was being packed into boxes, and to add to the chaos, my computer had refused to start and was off site for repairs. So I gathered a few files and took them home, where I was able to do some work by logging on to the new computer database which is hosted at the head office in another city. Today I arrived at work with a car boot full of files, to find that our main room had been emptied out, and staff were perched in any odd corner they could find. I tried to find a corner for myself, but there was nowhere left. My computer is the server for some of our databases, and it needed to be close enough to the others so they could stay plugged in. An hour or two in a small room that was going to be taken over by the painters by noon was all I could manage. So I did the essentials, gathered up more files and headed home again.

Even though the database looks exactly the same, it feels strange working on my computer at home. It set me thinking about the importance of place in routine. When I am at work I focus on work, I get absorbed in what I am doing and the time often goes quite quickly. On my home computer it seemed different. I was more inclined to check my personal e-mails, take a few minutes here and there to look at websites, get up and walk around and so on. I did work longer into the evening though, which made up for all the mini-breaks.

Still, it seems that the work computer triggers work thoughts, and the home computer triggers thoughts of surfing the internet, checking e-mail, and playing sudoku. Poetry is another matter. I've been trying to set up a regular poetry writing routine but I don't have a particular poetry writing place. I remember a questionnaire put out by the now inactive site Readwritepoem, and one of the questions on it was "what's the strangest place you ahve ever written a poem?" When it comes down to it, all my poems are written in the same place - in my head. I might start off by free writing, but most of the work seems to get done while I am driving or walking or gardening. When I get to pen and paper, or the computer, I am setting it down, rather than actually writing. That's all very well, but what do I do if nothing comes? I can't help feeling that there is something I could be doing to prompt poems to show up in my head more regularly, but I'm not yet sure what it is.

So, what about you? How do you write, and where?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Roses, by Sue Wootton


St Valentine's Day has been and has gone,
another year without roses. We both know
that no bouquet could cut it, nor any bunch
of gathered roadside weeds tied with a bow.
A dozen long-stemmed lilies splashed with blood,
our mingled A! and O! My love, such wounds.
The heart is a deep mine, riddled with shafts.
Down we fall, lost and cold in catacombs,
blind, choking, stricken faces stiff as masks.
In the dark the cage waits with its winch. Come,
I give you roses: ten dozen blood-stained words,
garden-grown, imperfect. The little bird
in its cage within a cage is singing for its life.
Up! Up! Ring the bell! Clang the bars! Husband. Wife.


I fell in love with Sue Wootton's poem "Roses" when I first came across it in the Christchurch Press as the weekend poem. It was later included in her collection Magnetic South. A number of Sue's poems use the sonnet, or other traditional forms. Writing in form can so easily seem sing song, when we are used to poetry that sounds more conversational. We no longer accept the twisting of word order to fit the form, so that it seems to me that a good poem in form is much harder to achieve than it was a century or so ago. And yet, I love it when it is well done, as it is here.

Sue says of this poem: "the sonnet Roses is composed of 'ten dozen blood-stained words' Arguably an imperfect count (as the poem admits) - you have to count the title and each separate part of the three hypenated words."

It seemed a perfect poem for the day after Valentine's Day - as long as you are not too sentimental!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Tuesday Poem

One of my own poems this week.
Over ten years ago, I decided to make a year long project of researching and writing up my family history. I didn't know then how much I would find, and that I would still be researching ten years later. (The writing up part is yet to come).

It was inevitable that something of that research would filter into my poems from time to time. Today's poem is purely fictitious, but it does draw on what I now know of my Scottish families, and of others like them, for background.

Many Scottish families followed a very specific naming pattern. The most common variant is that the eldest son is named for his father's father, second son for his mother's father, third son for his father, and subsequent sons for other relatives such as uncles, or occasionally for an important figure such as the parish minister. With daughter's, the eldest was named for the mother's mother, second for the father's mother, and so on.

With high infant mortality, if a child died young, the name was very often used again, to ensure it was carried on. Unlike today, a name was less a sign of individuality than of belonging - and one might well find many cousins, all bearing exactly the same name.

Hard Water, Soft Rock

Five years since the minister called the banns
on three successive Sundays. There being
no objections, they were duly married.
Today in the same church, she names her daughter Agnes.

Twice before she has done this.
The first time it was famine, the second it was fever
that carried the child off. Scarce time
to have the bairn baptised, before
they're paying for the mortcloth.
She names her daughter Agnes,
because it was her mother's name.

Spring struggles with winter. Ice still sheets
the edges of the Bannock Burn. snow lies
unmelted in the kirkyard, in the shadows
cast by two small mounds. She prays
there will not be another.

She names her daughter Agnes,
because it was her mother's name,
and her mother's mother's mother before her
and because all families continue forever,
looking backwards.


"Hard Water, Soft Rock" was published in The Chook Book, my poetry group's first collection which came out in 2004 and is now out of print (though I may be able to find one or two if anyone desperately wants one).

Our second collection, Flap: the Chook Book 2 is now available at Fishpond, and at the Madras Cafe Bookshop.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Poetry and Disaster

One of my more uncharitable thoughts not too long after our 7.1 earthquake last September was "Maybe I should stay away from open mic poetry readings for a while, there are going to be so many bad earthquake poems around".

Which is why I found this week's feature article at Poetry Daily especially interesting. In it Katie Ford writes about the duty of the poet, with reference to New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina. This is the line that drew me in:

A reader recoils at the thought of large, painful subjects being written about poorly. I felt very validated on reading that line

I was intrigued to read further and discover this:
Perhaps, then, poets should not set before themselves the task of writing "about" anything in particular. Our task is blind, we find our way by feel—a sensation that can grow confident and nimble in the absence of full sightedness.

The whole article had me thinking - or rather, extended the thinking I had already begun - about the way I write. Usually, I start with an idea and try and make the words fit. I'm becoming more interested in starting with an interesting line, and exploring where it takes me. I haven't come to any conclusions yet. I do think that starting with an idea can work, but not always. That could be why I have so many failed poems! A proportion work, and many more don't quite make the grade.

Click the link if you want to read the whole article, the daily poems are archived on the site for a year, but I'm not sure how long the feature articles stay available, so it would be best to try sooner rather than later.

Thematic Photographic: Singles

I haven't done one of these for a while, since in January I was observing in words rather than pictures.

This photo was taken in late January - I was in the city and noticed this bauble that had seemingly fallen out of the window of an upper storey apartment, and landed unnoticed in the shrubbery. It seemed very appropriate for Carmi's theme this week - singles.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Things that are Bugging Me

1) Tiny urls.
I was browsing a magazine in a waiting room, and came across an article with a web link in it. But instead of putting in a long but memorable url - say www.myfabulousbookstore/latestbooks/poetry (that's just an example I made up, don't try to find it) they thought it would be helpful to put in a short link instead. Something full of letters and numbers say tinyurl.2xc4jm72 (another totally made up example).
Sometimes, a tinyurl can be helpful in finding a particular page in a very large website. In examples like the one above, the longer url is actually way easier to remember.

2) NZ Post
This is bugging me rather more seriously than no 1 above. It's part of the continuing saga of attempting to get Flap: The Chook Book 2 listed at Fishpond. (Which is a fantastic New Zealand online bookstore with great customer service).
First I had to get it listed at Neilsen's book database. The listing was relatively easy to submit - a simple online process - but was supposed to take about two weeks and in fact took two months. Once accomplished, I needed to send my books to Fishpond as consignment stock, since we are not distributing it through any of the big distributors. They advise that tracked post is the best. So, I paid extra for packing, sent off my parcel, and checked Fishpond every so often to see if it was listed as in stock. After a while it occurred to me that maybe I should check the tracking number (this can be done online).

What it said was : "your item has been picked up and is en route to a New Zealand Post depot".
Two weeks to get from the Post Shop to the depot seemed a little ridiculous.
So - back to the Post Shop, who gave me a claim form to fill out. Then I saw that there was a toll free customer service number, so I rang them. They informed me that as it was sent to a customer who gets a lot of mail sent out in a large mail bag each day, I should check with them first. The reason is - since they get a lot of mail, it is not always scanned in when it is delivered.

So why charge extra for tracking, if it is not going to be tracked?

Furthermore, since the nature of the parcel makes it business mail, there is a deadline for claims for nondelivery of 14 days - in other words, if I leave it 14 days to make an enquiry, I can't claim compensation. But I can't lodge a claim now and then check, I still have to enquire first - and may not get a reply till after the weekend - which puts me over the 14 day deadline.

So - I now have my fingers crossed that the parcel has actually been received, and is in the queue for a website update. Otherwise I will have to start the whole process of sending the books again. Without any compensation for the missing books. Not good customer service, in my opinion. (Apparently if it was a private parcel, I would have three months to lodge a claim. It's not as if we are making any real profit out of this).

Now - having got that off my chest, I will return to writing something more rewarding, such as poetry ...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Tuesday Poem: View, by Christina Stachurski

My writing group, the Poetry Chooks, has been meeting since 1999. We had a slightly larger group to start with, but there are a core group of four who are still meeting now. These friends have been an amazing source of inspiration and support in my poetry writing efforts over all those years. This week I've chosen a poem by Christina Stachurski, one of the "chooks".

Spending all January trying to make one observation of detail each day, for A River of Stones, put me in mind of this poem by Christina. It comes not from our recent collection, Flap, but from our earlier book, The Chook Book. It is my favourite of Christina's from this collection. Although seemingly simple, it has always lingered with me.


From the gate
of the Selwyn St
the lines
of lives once
chisel sharp
have lost their edge

Blue daisies drift
among the loving
pink of roses,
dark yews brood

We take a photograph -
you, me, Esther, Greg -
capturing this light

More poetry at the Tuesday Poem hub site