Thursday, May 28, 2015


There stands a heron on the ledge, smooth chestnut wood, carved by a twelve-year-old boy. 

It watches the day, chin raised; body taut and upright. Eyes invisible; knowing. It’s a good-looking bird and seems to know it.

That boy is now fifty-seven. The heron lives on in upright, polished youth, watching the day with knowing, invisible eyes.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


I didn't win. Let's be clear about that. I came second. It was a literary prize for flash fiction. Second is my middle name. Second is my second name. Ha! In fact I have come second a lot in my life, but never before in writing.

Coming second in a writing competition, however small, feels like a win. To beat various other writers is to win, nasty as that is. The judge was a poet, writer and former professor of Law and all the competitors were members of the NZ Society of Authors, Auckland branch, so one feels in good company at least.

If my second counts as a win (not to obsess about it or make a big deal of it or anything), it is my first competition win, if you don't count my publishing contract, which was won in a sense.

I Googled the actual winner. She is none other than the judge for the current NZ micro flash (100 words) competition. She has published here and there and won writing competitions before. Her name is Eileen.

It was my first time entering. 150 words on an expressed theme (marriage equality); a tight task master alright. I wrote exactly 150 words, excluding title. Use all the words, I say.

There was a third place awarded, which seems to suggest a significant number of entries - or at least three! All the place-getters were female.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Proust and his prodigy

When in doubt, read the leader and the follower...

Indeed with the written word, there is no real leading and following. All good writing is unique and follows no one and no body, at least not directly. You 'follow' others when you pay tribute to them in your style of work. But you never copy, consciously or not.

You're not supposed to qualify 'unique', so I won't. But if one did want to emphasise that uniqueness in writing, without breaking the rules of grammar, one would want to say that good writing, as both these memoirists produced, is UNIQUE.

So I am reading both Proust and his prodigy, Karl Ove Knausgaard at the same time to better compare and contrast these famous, long-winded, unique male authors.

They wrote and write - in the case of Knausgaard - about their private, sometimes public, and always very male lives, living almost exactly a century apart.

Proust's first volume (they each wrote several volumes of memoir) was published in 1913. Knausgaard's first volume was published in Norway in 2009; 2012 in English translation.

M has just bought me the fourth volume of Knausgaard's 'struggle', the Hitleresque subtitle of his six-volume memoir novels. I will finish my own struggle of the book by the author I know and hopefully Moby Dick, which has stalled half way some books back, first. I was in no burning hurry to keep going with Knausgaard after finishing Vol. III. He wore me out a bit. M's only managed two volumes so far.

Proust I'm looking forward to. I started the first volume a few years back and got a few chapters in before being daunted by the seven volumes and using that as an excuse not to even finish the first. One good thing, Knausgaard has softened me to the concept of seven volumes, though I have only managed three of his - so far...

Knausgaard V. Proust:

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Dawning NZ

Autumn blossoms (Rhododendron)
I watched the day dawn today,
and what a privilege it was!

Night  Parlour II
Night Light III: Autumn leaves match old bricks
Dawn I
Dawn II
Dawn III: Let there be light and colour! 
Dawn NZ (23/05/2015) World first dawn of this day and all others
Day I
Day II (Conor's view)
Day III: Autumn Parlour view
Day IV: I love autumn!

Friday, May 22, 2015

I know I'm a bad mother...

... because I 'let' my sixteen-year-old son watch R-rated rape scenes on his computer screen in his bedroom, unsupervised and illegal. But what I don't know is what to do about it and how to be a better mother. He is too old for me to restrict his computer time or police the content, as I used to do with his older brother until I gave that up too, feeling in the end it was not worth the bother. 

We do have arguments about the excessive violence on the computer games he plays, which invariably enrage him to the point of non-communication for days and don't seem to get us anywhere or change anything. 

So I'm blogging about it instead. (He doesn't generally read my blog, any more than I watch his computer games and downloaded shows. I know I am supposed to but I literally can't face the violence. This is probably partly because I spent ten years researching domestic violence and homicide for my PhD thesis. Also, I don't feel comfortable invading his bedroom space for more than a few seconds at a time. There are a number of very good reasons for this).

Yesterday and this morning I've been reading some of the online reaction to the latest "Game of Thrones" episode that I am told culminates in a shocking and many say deeply exploitative rape scene of a main female protagonist. The comparison is made with the latest Mad Max movie which is said to cover the issue of sexual abuse and violence against women in a much more progressively feminist way. Abused women get to regain some power. The author of "The Vagina Monologues" was a consultant on the film.

A few links to the discussion:

After reading some of this discussion yesterday I did confront my son with a question about his reaction to the rape scene in GoT, presuming he had watched it, which he had, and he totally disagreed with the criticism, though he said he could 'understand' it, whatever that means, and that he'd watched it with his 18-year-old online mate, whom I have never met, and said that afterwards they were both speechless with shock and awe for some time. 

At least it wasn't passé to them, I suppose, as just about everything else seems to be to teenage males of the Computer Age. I was some way pleased it rendered him speechless, as much as I despaired at his passionate defence of the scene's artistic merits. 

Rape is a part of life as we know it, as many defenders of the latest cultural manifestation of entertainment rape are keen to remind us, but does it have to be? To what extent are these cultural representations condoning and perpetuating it? And what do we, as mothers and fathers, do to make our children see the possibility and advantages of a different, non-misogynistic world where males of all ages are not awe inspired by representations of rape and other forms of violence, much of it against women?  That is the question. Pity Shakespeare didn't ask it.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wonderfully wrong

AUSTRALIA: To my mind this land I have just arrived back from is perfectly described - as "wonderfully wrong" - by the author of the book I happened to have taken with me to read in that wonderfully wrong country for the occasion of my uncle's funeral.

Wonderfully wrong: In two words, this English author (Penelope Lively) has managed to encapsulate the essence of Australia, something I fear has eluded me in my two-hundred-plus-page memoir, despite Australia being my country of origin, not hers.

To be fair - to myself - this Booker Prize-winning author was not describing the country as a whole but its bird life, so my usage is slightly different. She, however, must take the credit for the best encapsulated description of a country there ever was.

As for my brief visit to that wonderfully wrong land, principally for the occasion of my uncle's funeral, which may, I hope, also be described as wonderfully right without disrespecting my uncle, who was done proud by his sons, grandson and wider family in one of the most respectful and life-affirming funerals I have ever been to, the rest of my trip was kind of wonderfully wrong. There were lots of family and friends catch-ups squeezed into the five days with all the wonder and wrongness that these sorts of things, done in a hurry, seem inclined to entail (in Australia).

My mother, whom we stayed with, was in fine, wonderfully wrong form, refusing to concede in any measure, at the age of 91 going on 92, that her collision with the side of the house whilst reversing signalled a diminished capacity to judge distances and the possible beginning of reduced driving activities for her. I can't think where she gets her obstinacy from.

As a result of the wonderful wrongness of our Australia visit this photo of an 'ocean of cloud', as my better-half companion on this trip described the view from our China Airways return flight taken as we descended into Auckland against the stewardess's command that the camera be turned off because an 'electronic device', was the best I could do to capture this idea of wonderful wrongness. Considering I might have crashed the plane in taking it, though my camera is not a phone or electronically connected at all, I think it is a fitting visual accompaniment for this post on Australia's wonderful wrongness, especially as it is, technically speaking, New Zealand cloud.  


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Uncle Owen

Uncle Owen on the right, with his middle son Ross. Me on the step,
scratching my knee.
My Uncle Owen died on the weekend. He was the only uncle I ever really knew.Though not a blood uncle he was a significant presence in my life from the start and always took a genuine and keen interest in what I was doing.

He added value to my life and to the lives of his children and many others, which is all that anyone can hope to do. He lived a full and long life, running a boys' school for many years and being an involved husband and father - and uncle.

Still it seems he went too soon. I will miss him.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Daisy Day, Mum!


These divine delicacies that I received this morning in honour of my maternal marvellousness, were NOT a Mothers' Day gift from any of my children, but a gift from their father, who seems to appreciate what a good mother I am a tiny bit more than they do.

But never mind. I have my memories of when they did appreciate their darling mother. The best of these was when my youngest, who would have been three at the time, realised at the morning present giving that he hadn't gotten me anything (I didn't expect him to, my other two had made gifts for me at school), exclaimed with tears in his eyes: 'I didn't know how to get you anything!' before tearing off downstairs at a desperate pace and returning a short while later, despite his very short legs struggling up the stairs, with a single miniature daisy that he'd picked from the lawn, ran up to me and handed it to me with an adorable smile and hug.

Chocolates are good, yes, especially when they're French, like these, but that single daisy was better than all the chocolate in France - and I couldn't even eat it. It's the thought that counts, and that lasts over time, even when that child has long forgotten that he once thought you were the bees knees and the best daisy in the business. 

Happy Daisy Day, Mum.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The mother of all gardeners

While others are dusting with their feet, I can be found wasting a goodly amount of dusting time luxuriating in autumn, taking photos from different angles, at different times of the day, on different days, to produce essentially the same images, but never mind. Such is the depth and derangement of my autumn obsession. I have blogged about it before. It is quite possible I will blog about it again. 

I'm not much of a gardener, some evidence of which you will see here, but in autumn you don't have to be. The turning and fallen leaves arrange themselves as if designed by the world's greatest landscape gardener - which, of course, they were - Mother Nature; the mother of all gardeners.   

Friday, May 8, 2015

Fuck dust

Seriously? Dusting shoes?

For the second time this week this same ad, inside the same catalogue of crap, has been smuggled into our house within the two quality magazines - from different countries - we subscribe to for their political and cultural insights. Fuck off already I say to that! And fuck dust! And while we're at it, fuck sexism and fuck global capitalism!

Put some serious hair on those feet the thickness of that green worm hair you got there and I might consider making an investment - god knows it's not getting any easier to buy birthday presents for my teenagers. But don't be suggesting I've got nothing better to do than pick up your dust with my feet! My feet have got better things to pick up.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Look Mum, no hands!

I don't know what's gotten into me lately
but I seem to be becoming more and more
distracted by vegetables...

First Tomatoe Joe and now this bad boy carrot.
Actually, come to think of it, there was also
the 'capsibum' a while back
/2013/06/capsibum.html) which, if you
investigate, turns out to be a rather good fit
for Mr Big here.

Now, I think it's time for me to get back to my book,
and save the vegetables for dinner - except for Mr Big,
which I'm having mounted.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A week in the world

* Gay marriage in the US Supreme Court no longer a shoo-in to win the approval of the court.

* Nepal on its knees with more than 5,000 dead from earthquake.

* Asylum seekers drowning on Europe's doorstep in great numbers, as anti-immigration voices rise and Australia's PM tells Europe to send 'em back, like he did.

* The UK general election, forecast to produce a slight conservative victory, which would give the balance of power to the left-wing Scottish nationalists.

* US riots over the repeated killing of black men by white police.

* Olympic gold medalist who competed as a man declares 'for all intents and purposes' s/he is a woman.

* 'Spinster' reclaimed by woman writer as a progressive term for those who embrace an independent life beyond marriage.

* The aspiring first woman leader of 'the free world', Hillary Clinton, accused -
by a woman -  of delivering 'the most inept, phony... and meaningless'
presidential campaign launch ever.

* And finally, from the world of waste and whales: Advertisers for not so cheap junk infiltrate serious magazines with drop out catalogues selling 'mop slippers' that clean your floors while you (female feet) walk all over them making sure not to miss a single spot, and cushioned toilet seats with 'lovely whale design' lids for your female finger to poke appreciatively that will be approximately 7.5 thousand times harder to clean shit and urine-soaked pubic hair off than porcelain. But never mind; you'll have the lovely whale design to gaze at while you work.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

O Eliot!

Under sleep, 
where all the waters meet
O Eliot!

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea... 
Till human voices wake us, and we drown 
O Eliot! 

His soul stretched tight across the skies... 
O Eliot! 

Her hand twists a paper rose... 
She is alone 
O Eliot! 

Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall... 
To be wonderful and youthful, after all 
O Eliot!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Saturday, May 2, 2015

May-be, May-be-not

Welcome May, the crowded colour before the fall, my favourite month of all... 

On a totally unrelated matter, instead of shaving off our down under hair, why not colour it?