Friday, May 1, 2009


a) Mayday. (Google time doesn’t reflect Kiwi time). To me it’s not the workers’ day that it is to most of the world. Rather, it’s the beginning of the duck shooting season. When I used to walk to work through the Botanic Gardens at this time each year the duck pool was crowded. During my youth Uncle Charlie turned up year after year with ducks and Canadian geese he had shot. Two of my half-brothers are keen duck-shooters. Mum had kept from the farm the big deep-freeze and each year it stored many ducks. Every time I visited there would be wild duck on the menu. Once Mum gave a duck to a friend who didn’t realise the possibility of shot. She put it in the microwave to cook. The result was an explosion that destroyed the duck and the microwave.

b) Someone asked did swine flu scare me. I am well aware how vulnerable I am not just to swine flu but to ordinary flu or even a cold. In my condition a risk of secondary infection is obvious. Death carries its own certainty. It’ll come in its own time. Of course one has fears. The other night when a gale was buffeting the house I woke up needing to go to the toilet. (An advantage of the mask and the machinery to operate it means I don’t normally hear the noise). I made a cup of tea and listened to the wind and rain. The thought flashed across my mind – what a hell of a time for the earthquake to happen. For a while the hobgoblins had a field day but common sense came to the rescue. I put the mask on and went back to sleep. With luck the earthquake won’t happen in my lifetime.

c) By coincidence I had two emails this morning one after the other both talking about President Obama. One was from Roger Robinson in upstate New York saying how well he was doing. The other was from my sister-in-law Margaret to whom I had recommended his autobiography. Here’s what she wrote: I have at last got a copy of Barack Obama's 'Dreams From My Father'. I was shocked to find Ashburton (Whitcoulls & Paper Plus) had no copies. The girl behind the counter in Whitcoulls hadn't heard of Obama - shock! And when she went to look up on the computer list, wanted to know how to spell - shock!! I ended up getting my copy in an excellent book shop 'Take Note' in Hokitika.

d) I’m reading Colin Thiele’s poetry book ‘In Charcoal and Conte’ Thiele was a South Australian writer and teacher. His childhood memoir ‘Sun on the Stubble’ is one of my favourite books. He grew up in a German farming settlement and his loving accounts of pioneering life and adventures are heart-warming. As a poet his striking word pictures are a characteristic. Mrs Henschke’s ‘great bells of her breasts/Shaking with the carillons of laughter.’ A street scene: ‘She on the pillion, girl koala, clinging …’ A school classroom: ‘Only at the door a hangdog sneak of sun/ Slunk in, curled up, dozed and dissolved/ Slowly into a still warm pool.’

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