Saturday, March 30, 2013

Spring Forward, Fall Back

Today is the last day of March, and it's nearly the end of Daylight Saving in this country. (Thanks Kiwi Nomad)
I always feel sad at the thought of longer nights, dark evenings and mornings, cold and rain... 
In those foreboding words from Game of Thrones: "Winter is coming!"

This morning the dog and I walked around my college's horticulture and farm unit; 
we found clear evidence of the fact that we've already had a month of autumn.

All of the apple trees had rotting fruit under them -

The kiwifruit look almost ready to pick, although in fact they will 
hang under the vines for at least another month.

The weather needs to get a lot cooler, to bring up the sugar 
levels in the fruit, before they're harvested.

Looks like a good crop this year!

I hope you all have a lovely Easter Sunday.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grey days

For Thematic Photographic's Grey theme, I have some shots - not of 
our current bright-blue, sun-hot, drought-ridden days, though!

A grey summer day from 2011:

and a cold winter's day last year:

two of the locals:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sunday Snapshot

Last night we had a beautiful sunset. 
There was an odd moment at the end of it, when a column of light shone upwards. 
This shot doesn't do justice to what was an amazing sight.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Visiting Antarctica

No, it's not me who is visiting.
I wish.

Through a programme called Artists to Antarctica, a number of New Zealand writers, painters and photographers have been able to spend time on the ice and explore the place through their work, with the Fellowship's stated aim of increasing our "understanding of Antarctica's value and global importance". 
There is also a United States program run by the National Science Foundation; a New Zealand photographer called Anne Noble won this in 2008 (the only non-American that year) and took some beautiful shots, including this (see others on my previous post):

The book that I mentioned in my previous post is called These Rough Notes
The cover doesn't show up well because it is white.

It is a slim volume published by Victoria University Press, and it contains Anne Noble's photographs; poems by another Antarctic Fellowship artist, Bill Manhire; and a CD of the poems set to music by Norman Meehan and sung by Hannah Griffin, a jazz and blues singer who was once one of my students.

The title of the book is from some of the last words written in polar explorer Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s diary from 100 years ago, and some of the poems refer to that ill-fated expedition. There is also reference to the Erebus plane crash in 1979 in these haunting lyrics.


Here are two of the poems/songs - for, by and about some of those visitors to Antarctica.

Scott Dead
I never thought to pay this price
The wind takes every word I write
The wind's another kind of knife
We sink and sail beneath the ice
I never thought to pay this price

Each day I dream of dying twice
And every day I pay the price
I hardly feel the cold frost bite
We sink and sail beneath the ice
We sink and sail beneath the ice

The wind's another kind of knife
In the midst of death we are in life
I never thought to pay this price
I write a final letter to my wife
beneath the ice, beneath the ice...
 - Bill Manhire


Erebus Voices: The Mountain

I am here beside my brother, Terror.
I am the place of human error.

I am beauty and cloud, and I am sorrow;
I am tears which you will weep tomorrow.

I am the sky and the exhausting gale.
I am the place of ice. I am the debris trail.

I am as far as you can see.
I am the place of memory.

And I am still a hand, a fingertip, a ring.
I am what there is no forgetting.

I am the one with truly broken heart.
I watched them fall, and freeze, and break apart.

- Bill Manhire

Pictures from here (Grahame Sydney), here, here, here and here.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thinking about Antarctica

I've been thinking about Antarctica 
- and not (just) because it is so hot here, and has been for months.

Many New Zealanders have a strong sense of connection to Antarctica. 

Growing up in Christchurch, we had a keen awareness of the US base 
adjacent to Christchurch airport, where Americans came in large 
numbers in (our) spring, to prepare for their summers on the ice. 

Operation Deep Freeze began in 1955, and continues today.

I remember seeing the huge Air Force Globemasters when I was young, 
and being taken to visit the Antarctic wing at the Christchurch museum. 

A statue of Sir Robert Falcon Scott stood in the city, commemorating his death in 1912, 
while he was returning from his journey to the South Pole. 

Sadly, it was one of the many monuments and statues which was toppled by the 
earthquake in 2011.

In 1979 we lived near the airport, and another strong memory is of lying awake for hours on a night in November, desperately hoping to hear the engines of Flight TE-901 which was hours overdue from its sightseeing flight from Christchurch to Antarctica and back. 
The plane had collided with Mt Erebus; all 257 people on board died.

These musings about the frozen continent are happening because I have been reading a beautiful book on the subject. I had intended to tell you about it, but this post is long enough, so I'll keep it for another time.

Pictures 1 and 6 by Anne Noble, from here; picture 2 from here; pictures 3 and 4 from here; picture 5 from here 

Sunday, March 3, 2013



I saw this idea today on Jilda's latest post and thought I would like to do one too - although it should really be posted on the 1st of the month.

March ... Three days into official autumn in this downunder country. Maybe the drought will end soon? We have had no rain for two months, and none to speak of for two months before that. The ground is brown, we are not allowed to water our gardens, and the farmers (and their stock) are suffering.

March ... the new school year is well and truly under way. It is so BUSY!!! We are understaffed and that means huge classes. In my Year 12 English class (age: 16-17) I have 29 students. That is far too many for a top academic class where the pressure is on them, and me, to achieve excellent results in national examinations. The marking load is going to be horrendous. My Year 11 and Year 13 classes are a more realistic size (26 and 16 respectively).

March ... in a week my little granddaughter will turn 4 - unbelievable. I can't wait to go and visit them in April. We talk often on the phone or Skype, but I can't believe how much I miss her and her little brother since they moved to Australia last September. It was wonderful to have them all back at Christmas.

March ... March was my mother's birthday month too. It is 12 years since she died, but the 16th of March never passes without my thinking gratefully of her strength and determination.

March ... the last month before Daylight Saving ends on the 1st of April. I feel sad when the evenings are darker earlier :(   I am a summer person, and I dread the winter's arrival. At least winter in our new house will be warmer than we have been used to in the past, with our double glazing and efficient insulation.

My northern hemisphere friends will be greeting the onset of spring soon...  Come visit our beach! (picture from here)

Friday, March 1, 2013

A poem for the weekend


                  Once in a while
                  you may come across a place
                  where everything
                  is as close to perfection
                  as you will ever need.
                  And striving to be faultless
                  the air on its knees
                  holds the trees apart,
                  yet nothing is categorically
                  this, or that, and before the dusk
                  mellows and fails
                  the light is like honey
                  on the stems of tussock grass, and the shadows
                  are mauve birthmarks
                  on the hills.

Brian Turner
from 'Elemental - Central Otago Poems'

Photo from here