Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Month of Photos #9

I spent some time in the garden this afternoon. The bird is a waxeye. There are both blackbirds and waxeyes feeding on the crabapple tree - the waxeyes wait until the blackbird has pierced the tough skin and then it can feed on the inside.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Month of Photos #8

Someone has been putting giant bandaids on damaged buildings around the city..

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Month of Photos #7

Once a week I go to clear a Post Office Box which is theoretically located in the Central City. But since that is still cordoned off, the box has been relocated to a temporary site, which also serves as the base for the postal rounds for a large part of the east of the city.

There are often a few bicycles lined up there, but this morning there were a large number. You can see that there is still some snow on the ground - which may be why these bikes weren't out with the posties, as they usually ride on the pavement to reach the letter boxes, and many of the pavements are still very icy.

I have a weakness for anything that makes a repetitive sort of pattern..

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Month of Photos #6

There's still quite a bit of snow about. I just had time to stop on the way home and snap this shot looking over a nearby park, before it got dark.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Month of Photos #5

Yesterday morning was spent shovelling snow from our driveway so that I could get my car out to go to work. It wasn't helped by the fact that the road had been cleared by a digger which left big banks of snow blocking the foot of the driveway!

My muscles are still aching. But on the underside of one of the slabs of snow, I found twigs arranged to form this smiley face.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Rapanui, by Barbara Strang


This year for the first time
we can walk right
up to the rock, she said.

I love this texture
the red knobbled base,
the curving basalt upstands,

see that bush
clinging on a high ledge -
amazing how plants survive.

If we could like mice
enter those crannies in the base
we'd be safe.

And do you know the true name
for this rock, she said?

Not answering
he turned away.

-Barbara Strang


I have been enjoying Christchurch poet Barbara Strang's new collection, The Corrosion Zone, which is published by Headworkx.

'Rapanui' is the Māori name for Shag Rock, meaning the great stern-post. The rock was a sentinel on the way to Sumner beach, but unfortunately it fell down in the earthquake of 22nd February, 2011. Visiting Sumner a week or two ago and seeing the rock in its present state put me in mind particularly of this poem. The photo at the head of the column shows the rock as it is now.

And here is a stunningly beautiful photo of the rock as it was.

Also among this week's Tuesday poems is another of Barbara's poems, Fatigues, at Tim Jones's blog. For more poems, visit the main Tuesday Poem hub site. (Check out the links in the side bar).

Monday, July 25, 2011

A Month of Photos #3

Snow Day!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Month of Photos #2

I had to walk round to the corner store to get milk this morning. I took some photos of the local library and shops - that is, of the demolition progress - but this caught my eye. The standard method around here of identifying which house is hosting a child's birthday party.

We can use a few smiles!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Month of Photos: #1 Front Row Seat

One of the blogs I visit quite frequently is Susannah Conway's. For the second year, Susannah is running the "August break" in which she posts a photo a day, and encourages others to do the same, as a break from writing wordy blog posts. It's a summer thing. Except that it isn't summer here, and anyway I will be away for the last week of August with unreliable internet access. But I like the idea of posting a photo a day for a while, so I thought I would start now, which gives me just time to get a full month in before I go.

I'll try to make it a sort of daily diary, posting a photo taken that day. But since there's not much daylight left when I get home from work, I may not always keep to that.

This photo in fact was taken yesterday. I drove past this scene without a camera, and took a trip back to get the photo. The stadium in the background was upgraded at huge cost for the forthcoming Rugby World Cup. Since it was damaged in the earthquake, it has not been used, and there is speculation that in fact the ground is so badly damaged that it may never be used again.

Of course it's not the ground as such that's the problem, it is whether or not it can bear the weight of several large multi storey grandstands. I think back to the days when my Dad took me to watch the rugby, and we stood on the sideline, or ran up and down, shouting "come on blues!". I had no idea back then what the game was actually about - I'm not much more knowledgeable about it now, either.

National Poetry Day

The US gets National Poetry Month, but here in New Zealand we get one day. For some reason, Poetry Day events in Christchurch always seem to be held in the day time. If I lived in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin or a number of other places, there would be evening events to go to. But for the last few years I have always been working on a Friday and hence unable to participate.

At last I have Fridays free. Which means I was able to attend the reading held at the University Bookshop - a wonderful shop that I would frequent more if it weren't for the issue of parking, as all parking on campus is permit only. It was a treat to be in a proper bookshop, one that doesn't give prominence to cookbooks and "biographies" of sports stars. And a treat to hear readings from local poets Kerrin Sharpe, James Norcliffe and Tusiata Avia, followed by a performance by singer-songwriter Adam McGrath of The Eastern.

There were earthquake poems, of course. But not too many. Tusiata Avia read her poem describing her drive to pick up her daughter from her inner city preschool, in grid-locked traffic after February's quake. Her journey turned into a hero's epic, in which her street turned into a river (that part at least, would not be exaggerated at all). Hordes of drowned wildebeests made an appearance, and she drove for five days. It was a powerful poem, full of emotional truth if not literal truth.

James Norcliffe's earthquake poem referred to "The Death of Seneca". It's always hard to remember poems hear once, however the phrase "the earth shrugged" sticks with me. Jim's poems, he said, were rather dark, but the commentary that comes with them is always spiced with humour, and the audience had plenty of opportunities to laugh.

Kerrin Sharpe spent a year at the International Institute of Modern Letters in Wellington. A number of her poems were set in Wellington. I particularly enjoyed "Sewing the World". Her mother, apparently, was a milliner. This poem was full of references to stitches such as feather stitch - but also to the streets of Wellington - a bonus for me as I spent the first half of my life there, and each street name triggered a visual picture in my mind. Although there is nothing in the way of straight forward fact in Kerrin's poems - she has a magical way of looking at the world.

Afterwards I browsed the bookshelves and found a small selection of "Revived Editions" i.e. second hand books. Most of the city's second hand bookshops have been casualties of the earthquake. So I was delighted to find some excellent poetry books here at very reasonable prices, and brought three home with me.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Clock-O'-Clay, by John Clare


In the cowslip pips I lie,
Hidden from the buzzing fly,
While green grass beneath me lies,
Pearled with dew like fishes' eyes,
Here I lie, a clock-o'-clay,
Waiting for the time o' day.

While the forest quakes surprise,
And the wild wind sobs and sighs,
My home rocks as like to fall,
On its pillar green and tall;
When the pattering rain drives by
Clock-o'-clay keeps warm and dry.

Day by day and night by night,
All the week I hide from sight;
In the cowslip pips I lie,
In the rain still warm and dry;
Day and night, and night and day,
Red, black-spotted clock-o'-clay.

My home shakes in wind and showers,
Pale green pillar topped with flowers,
Bending at the wild wind's breath,
Till I touch the grass beneath;
Here I live, lone clock-o'-clay,
Watching for the time of day.

John Clare (1793-1864)


A year or so back I read Adam Foulds' novel The Quickening Maze - or is it a novel? It reads as one, but focuses on real people - the poets John Clare and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and the doctor who treated both John Clare and Tennyson's brother Septimus. How much is truth and how much fiction I am not sure, but it is a compelling book.

John Clare was known as "the peasant poet". He was feted for a time, but never really fit in with the literati of the day, or with the rural society into which he was born. He spent the last part of his life in an asylum, gradually losing his grasp on reality.

Somehow his poems are ones I missed out on when studying 19th century English poets at high school. Reading the novel led me to seek them out. This one rather appealed to me, even before a google search led me to the meaning of "clock o'clay" which is, apparently, 19th century Northamptonshire dialect for a ladybird.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

City Farmyard

Some would-be farmers in the city keep chickens. And others...

I spotted the cow when I was out and about yesterday. Actually, it's fiberglass. But it made me smile.

Also making me smile are a couple of poetry acceptances recently. I'm a bit reticent to give the details until I see the poems in print. Earlier in the year, I had an acceptance that somehow didn't eventuate. The (online) journal appeared, my poem wasn't in it. Since it was the last issue before going into recess for a while, at least I feel that I can safely send the poem elsewhere.

I've been sending the poems out, but I haven't been writing anything new for a while. I figure that rather than waste time moping around not writing poems (which can take a lot of energy, it seems), it's better to do what takes my fancy. Walks on the beach to take photos. Home baking. Today I made it to a fabric/craft/homeware store where I bought thread and curtain tape, the first step to making some new curtains. I'm tired of the ones that threaten to disintegrate every time I grab hold to open or close them. And curtain making is one thing that doesn't need to go on hold while insurance claims are settled.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake Photos

A collapsed building in High Street.

The Hotel Grand Chancellor or "Leaning Tower of Christchurch". Demolition will take about a year, one level at a time.

Workmen taking down the damaged dome from the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament.

A view of High St through a statue outside the Christchurch Polytechnic. This statue was erected as part of the 6th Scape Biennial of Art in Public Spaces, which never happened due to the first quake on September 4th 2010.

Signs on the fence behind damaged buildings in High St.

While the rest of the country suffered wild weather and tornadoes, Christchurch basked in winter sunshine over the weekend. I took a break from running errands to explore a little further into the city, just to see how far I could get before coming up against the inevitable cordons.

We used to play a board game with the children called "The Amazing Labyrinth". It was a simple sort of roll the dice and navigate a pathway game, except for one feature - at each turn, the player took a loose piece of the board, and used it to shove a row of similarly loose pieces, so that the pathway changed, blocking routes that were previously open. Christchurch feels a bit like that at the moment. You never know when a tower will suddenly be declared potentially unsafe, and a street is closed off while it is inspected. Or there is flooding of low-lying riverside streets due to an exceptionally high tide. Or perhaps a street opens up once demolitions of dangerous buildings have been completed.

There are about 1000 buildings on the yet-to-be-demolished list.

Yesterday my daughter admired my shoes and asked where I bought them. I couldn't remember the exact shop, but I knew what area, and that the shop undoubtedly is not there any more.

We had visits from our insurance company and the EQC (government earthquake insurance agency) last week. No dollar figure yet, but we do have a long list of what will be fixed. The insurance company will take care of the driveway and all the walls and fences. EQC will jack up and level the front of the house, re-hang the doors that don't work, fill in all the cracks in the interior walls and ceilings, replaster the ceilings, repaper the walls, fill in the cracks in the exterior walls and repaint. And rebuild the chimney. Although there is some scheme whereby we can have a clean heat appliance instead, given that it's not actually legal to use an open fire any more. Some time within the next month we will find out their estimate for the cost. If it's less than $100,000, we go on the long list for their preferred contractor to manage the repairs. If it's more, they give us a cheque and our insurance company covers the balance.

I'm not in a hurry - if we get it fixed and there's another big aftershock, we could be back to square one. So waiting a year or so seems like a very good idea just now.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Tuesday Poem: Australian Poetry Library

I'm feeling a little lazy today - so instead of posting a poem, I have a link to offer:
The Australian Poetry Library has over 42,000 poems by more than 170 poets for you to choose from, all free to view online.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Weekend Pleasures

1. Three days of beautiful sunny weather. It has been unusually warm for the middle of winter.

2. Saturday was only the second day since February 22nd that there were no aftershocks felt in Christchurch.

3. Shoes! I went to a shoe outlet sale and stocked up on sensible leather shoes at bargain prices - then added to my purchases a ridiculously frivolous pair of summer sandals in "citrus" - a sort of lemony lime colour. I think it is the first ever pair of shoes that I have bought in a non-neutral colour, but they were so cheap that I thought the smiles they give me justified the purchase.

4. I had a very long soak in a warm bath. I expected to feel a little guilty - we are supposed to be limiting water use still, and not creating too much grey water, because of drainage issues. But in fact it brought me so much pleasure that I didn't feel guilty at all. I won't be taking another one for a while, though.

5. I went to a craft fair on Saturday and enjoyed browsing among the stalls. Lovely to look at, but not so much to buy - many of the stalls seemed to be aimed at the doting grandmother market, and I don't have any rug rats to buy for. I did bring home some brochures particularly for fabric stores that sell online.