Monthly Archives: June 2014

MOOCS

I’m so stuffed with poems and poets I can hardly write :)

I am doing the Iowa University Poetry Writing MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) and not a little obsessed. It’s free! I spend all day reading others and sketching mine. I quickly developed my favourites.

http://iwp.uiowa.edu/iwp-courses/distance-learning-courses/moocs

Our first exercise was presented by Robert Hass former American Poet Laureate. We had to experiment with the ordinary around us in one, two, three and four lines. As Miranda’s mum says, “Such fun”.

Here are some of mine:

Chandeliers on Blue Velvet Chairs

There are chandeliers printed on the backs of the blue velvet chairs.
Who next will lean back on them, wearing them thin?
Rubbing the nap with their opinions.
Smoothing it softly when they leave, righting the lights.

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A Charlatan Rainbow

A childish rainbow arced across
a grief-stricken sky
no gold,
a cheap prism of trickery

(aka “it was his time, dear”)

My library books are overdue
Pregnant with lives
I haven’t got to know.

My library books are overdue
blank looks, unleafed lives
still born baggage.

My library books are overdue
Clumsy baggage
entitled to burst.

Two liners
The bread is still on the bench at midnight.
Why do we plague each other in this way?

The lavender candle burned right down
And exploded.
Who will smell the lavender, who the burn?

The soap in the dish in the spare bathroom
Is cracked and dry.
Will he ever come back?

The birthday cards are old and need taking down.
I hope it is soon, the ink is fading.

The ferris wheel chair has tipped upside-down at the top of the curve.
How do you know which way up the world is?

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The spider’s web is still there.
Why would you expect things to change ?

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Phone ringing in an empty room.
Dried flowers rustle in dry vases.

Phone ringing in an empty room.
He turns his head towards her,
the pillow muffling the sound.

Phone ringing in an empty room.
The small car slews and slides down the steep bank.

The rain fell all afternoon.
More falling is predicted.

The cup is ready with the teabag.
Is this love?

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Hope your day is simply spiffing, like mine. FG 

 

A stranger came to the door yesterday.

A stranger knocked on the door yesterday around 11 am. The anxiety I felt surprised me. The only people who knock at our door usually are the little girls from next door so it’s silly really. Anyway it was a man from Statistics NZ and we have been chosen to be visited at three monthly intervals.
He hadn’t made an appointment and was ostensibly at the door to do that. It seemed a strange time to me. How both easily suspicious and easily able to let someone through our door we can be. He wore a plastic tag but actually I didn’t look at it carefully and should have. Sometimes we are too polite. Or maybe we should take people more on trust? I can’t decide.
His visit coincides with my reading of Anna Funder’s novel, All That I Am. It is based on real events in 1933 Berlin when Hitler’s abominations began. How easily he framed the socialists for the Reichstag Fire and then imprisoned or killed anyone who might oppose him in the upcoming elections., There were no legal processes, no trials. He”passed” a law permitting arrest without warrants, house searches, he closed newspapers, and banned political meetings. The people allowed it to happen.

The even more amazing thing is that Anna Funder is a young Australian writer. How can she be so clever- i am so envious!
How appalling it is then that 34% of the country do not bother voting.

pie chart

And as they say, the rest is history. At least 6 million people were killed under Hitler’s rule. I picture the whole of NZ and then another couple of million, gone. All the people at every rugby match, concert, every supermarket, mall, school and university. I imagine a ghost town NZ. And still it goes on. Nothing has been done about the missing girls in Nigeria, who are no doubt being raped and infected with HIV. And how can I be sanctimonious? What have I done? Nothing. Signed a petition for Amnesty International.
The thing I can’t get over in this book I’m reading is the amazing courage of the men and women. They took huge risks knowing that they could be tortured and murdered at any time. They were constantly being watched even if they were lucky enough to get out, which most weren’t. I’m scarcely brave enough to open the door to a Statistics gatherer.

But I can and will vote.

I’m grateful today for the freedom to publish what I like, read what I like, and as a woman pretty much do as I like. Nobody can tell me what I can and can’t wear, or what jobs I can or can’t do. I still feel resentful that I can’t walk about confidently in the dark or, like Blessie, walk home from my bus alone. I am still fed up that things like sport coverage is 95% male. I still feel resentful that in this day and age we don’t have equal pay. I remain very angry that we allowed Air New Zealand to play that stupid, sexist rubbish as their “safety” video. There is no place for complacency but I am lucky to have been born in New Zealand.
The poem below by Janet Frame helps me to put in context my unwillingness to really try to change big global issues and makes me feel how petty and trivial some of my concerns are. I remember when my husband died in a climbing accident, a young woman at the funeral asked me what brand of clothing my trousers were. I’d have to say it wasn’t uppermost in my mind at the time….

Comment – Janet Frame

Smell of sweat in armpits dismays more
than the distant smell of the dead in a jungle war.
Possible and important are the blind date and alley but not
the blind man and his plight.

Heaven is curls in place
guipure over fine embroidered lace, leather
simulated, not mind membrane, human
skin woven together on an unknown face.

A clanger dropped at afternoon tea
is more shocking than a plane-load of bombs on Hanoi.
The cancelling of a rugby match through rain
is more lamented than the cancelling of a thousand me.

So let us cheer for our strange worldly wisdom in knowing
how to pack into our life’s thrilling journey
such little happinesses that keep us determinedly going
to hell and back!

And now my not quite so proficient :)

Stranger at the Door

A stranger came to the door to gather my statistics.
He wore a pilled jumper and carried a plastic identity card.
I let him in and now he has my name, my age, my income,
And he has stored them in his computer and taken them away.

How will he use my information? Or was he just the messenger?
Will it keep the wolf from the door or has he now the scent of me?
He has my number, though he did not have the appearance of a murderer.
I might have been wearing a touch of red.

He went off-script, his old mother likes to write.
I kept my responses short and dishonest, blunt and abrupt.
I stood and opened the door. He knows where I live.
Perhaps I should have been kinder about his mother.
My aim is not sharp.

Have a good week. FG

Sue Heggie

 

Aging

The above has occupied my mind a lot recently, partly as a result of reading How To Age by Anne Karpf. Instead of being anti-aging she maps out a different approach and “recognises that ageing is part of the human condition, an important process that has to be acknowledged and accepted in order for us to live our lives as fully as possible, but should not be the prism through which we view ourselves or others.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtPwObOau0M

A friend of mine was fond of the saying, “Old age is better than the alternative”. I’d like to think aging can be great and interesting and creative not just better than being dead. I am not interested in botox, being unwilling to say how old I am (58) or spending huge sums of money on anti aging potions. I saw in big letters on the  beauty clinic  in Mairangi Bay, something along the lines of, “There’s nothing funny about my smile lines.” I find this sad and ridiculous.

I am more aligned to Cicero who said, “The great affairs of life are not performed by physical strength, or activity, or nimbleness of body, but  by deliberation, character, expression of opinion. Of these old age is not only not deprived but, as a rule, has them in greater degree.”

The British politician Denis Healey  found that,“I have lost all my interest in power and position and no longer worry about making money.”

I worry about not having enough money but I’m not yet sure what “enough” is. I now have lots of time and no money whereas before I had plenty of money but no time. I know that I want to go to loads of films in the film festival and at least they are cheaper during the day and I can now go to them. Only 2 more years and I get the old person’s rate :) I also know I want time over money.

I have no ambition or desire for power at all. I don’t want to be defined by my occupation. (not that I ever had that much!)

What about you? What are your views about aging?

I wrote the poem below when I saw this woman in the street:

“She’s 67 if she’s a day”

She wears a bright red coat

to match her lipstick.

Her new found love

has her glowing

coat-coloured.

 

Below is the link to a very interesting short film about dying.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2eUw0CUuMc&feature=kp

In “When I Die” Philip Gould shares his thoughts and insights as he confronts his impending death from oesophageal cancer. How do we approach death whilst embracing life? How can we change the conversation around death and palliative care for the terminally ill? Please share this film and join the conversation #WhenIDie. Philip believed that for the terminally ill and those close to them, there can be moments of joy, resolution and inspiration just as intense as those of fear, discomfort and sadness.

Filmed during the last 2 weeks of Philip’s life, this intimate portrait reveals his quest to find purpose and meaning in what he called “The Death Zone”. He had been diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in 2008 and was given three months to live in the summer of 2011.

Hey ho, cheerful subject-would like to hear from others. FG

Domesti City here…

Yesterday was a full on knitting day as it is the OH’s birthday today and of course I had to do it in secret. Here is the finished product.

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Birthday boy scarf

Then I made parmesan crispy angels to have with the artichoke dip when my friends came for dinner. They are only angel shaped because I could’t find a little round cookie cutter.

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Today my son Sam had all four wisdom teeth out so broccoli soup, vegetarian curry and TLC were on the menu. He is remarkably stoic and is enjoying a day on the couch in the rain with a good book.

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No wisdom left

The demanding OH wants a Christmas birthday cake so it is in the oven as we speak. I forgot the essences but I think there is enough brandy in there to make up for the vanilla.

I am a little nervous as I have booked myself in to the St Helier’s Library poetry/prose reading tonight at 6:30 but hey nothing much to lose apart from credibility and dignity.

Where does the time go? I had plans to write up chapter 4 of the Pyrenees adventure and put on another poem but am going to help a friend and her mother shortly before the library thing. I guess the great thing is that tomorrow is another day. Hope all is well in your world.

Found another 25 minutes so am putting this poem up for Bruce on his birthday. I wrote it nine long years ago after a trip to Akaroa. On the way we stopped because I thought I saw either a heron or a white fence post. It’s the closest I have got to writing a love poem :)

Like Love- for Bruce

From a distance
It looked like a brilliant
White heron
Poised and elegant in the lagoon.

How magnificent then,
That on closer inspection
It was a brilliant white heron
The alps a backdrop to its timely appearance
On this, the clearest of days.

 Sue Heggie

 

I also put it on a tile as an experiment to see if poems would print and preserve on tiles. The print is a little small but otherwise it seems fine.

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Blessing counting

At the risk of sounding hideously Pollyannerish I would like to write about the good things in life. More so because a friend of my partner’s has just discovered that cancer has re-invaded her body in the spleen and liver.

It is so easy to focus on the trivia, the irritations, the stupid stuff in one’s day. So here I go on counting the weekend’s blessings.

Friday night-mad movie What We Do In The Shadows – a crazy NZ vampire comedy which is like a cross between The Young Ones, Monty Python and Bottom…. I think Rik Mayall would have loved it. Favourite moment, Rhys Derby as chief werewolf reprimanding one of the gang  for swearing, “We’re werewolves not swear wolves…” (You had to be there…)

Saturday morning- a walk with a friend to our local cafe and back and then a trip to the Pitch and Putt with a friend and my OH (other half). We have decided to have a go at golf so he came along to give us some tips. I can see the course opens up a whole lot of opportunities for divorce…I think it is like your partner teaching you to drive.We girls have decided 9 holes is probably a good number to begin with, especially as we seemed to be thinking about the coffee at the end most of the time. Still, it was fun and we followed up with a trip to Ugly Bagels by Al Brown in the city.

http://www.heartofthecity.co.nz/dining/auckland-cafes/best-ugly-bagels

In the evening the rugby was on so OH went out with mates and I snuggled up in my new hand-knitted rug and flicked channels and finished another dish cloth. It’s a birdhouse in case you can’t see it, and also a short scarf from the rug left overs. A friend took my advice about knitting as her friend’s mother had died so we went shopping and I cast on the stitches and did a few rows and off she went to stay with her friend. Apparently her friend spent the weekend knitting :)

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Tile ready to fly to the UK

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Short scarf from left overs

Bird house dish cloth

Bird House dish cloth

On Sunday morning I decided to go through the Julie Le Clerc cook book and plan the meals for the week. I think doing this does allow for better budgeting and not so much waste. Although quite a bit more waist on me unfortunately. I have vowed not to go on about weight though as it seems we women make it our cause and it is very boring! especially if we don’t really intend to do too much about it.

So the menus for the next few days are:

Sunday night: Seared Tuna and roasted veg salad with fennel bulbs. As I think I can be described as a hoover when eating I am making the effort to slow down…so I added a bit of ceremony to the meal with candles, cloth napkins etc.

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Monday night: Szechuan spiced duck (friends coming over)

Tuesday night: Fragrant Vegetarian curry -vego son coming over

Lunches: Chicken thingy. My BFF (what does the other F stand for??) gave me this recipe and I do it often (too often according to the OH) but it is so easy.

Put a bit of oil in  a baking dish then layer the bottom in chicken thighs and throw in slices of lemon, bits of garlic, cubed potatoes, thyme, onions, tomatoes, olives, seasonings, bit more olive oil etc. and bake for an hour at around 180. Take out and eat. Or keep for lunches as we are doing. It beats buying lunches as the chicken was free range and on special for 9 dollars.

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As we have friends coming over tonight I am also going to have a go at making parmesan shortbread. I’ll post the results if they work out. I know I am a bit of a fraud saying I am paring down but still managing to eat duck, good cheese, wine etc. Still believe it or not by cooking and not going out so much, just stopping to think before buying, making lunches as often as possible, and using cash rather than cards it does seem to be working at least a bit. We have a joint account for food and entertainment and I opened another one called “Leftovers”  so if there is money leftover in the JA at the end of the fortnight I put it in there. Normally we would look at the account and go “oh good, some money left in there, where shall we go…”

I also had a friend here for lunch rather than go out on Friday and I think we saved ourselves a good 25 dollars each including the meal we had here which was yum.  She also bought me flowers that I am still enjoying.

In the afternoon, nearly dusk really I went for a walk down to Mairangi bay. And following my How To Stay Sane read, I tried to take more notice of my surroundings and do a bit of mindful breathing. It was a gorgeous evening and I admit I indulged again…by buying three bluff oysters and taking them to a bench by the sea to eat. This was the scene before me.

I have such a lot to be grateful for. I am smiling widely as I am writing this as it is Monday and I am not at work!!!! Yay. I am looking forward even to doing the ironing, making Parmesan short bread, reading my latest novel All That I Am by Anna Funder, preparing dinner for my friends and just being at home. We have set up a bit of a routine now with friends where we cook alternate Mondays. It is so nice to both cook for others and be cooked for on a regular basis.

Have a great week. FG

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New Zealand films

New Zealand films… I went to see Fantail the other day. Why do we make such bleak, depressing films! It is a beautifully shot and acted film but finishes with such a hopeless future. My friend was commenting that she wonders how the world stage views New Zealand? I wonder if it is Hobbiton and Hovelton – think Vigil, Once Were Warriors, Fantail, Boy

Well http://www.nzonscreen.com/title/fantail-2013

SYNOPSIS of Fantail

Service station worker Tania (Sophie Henderson) is a blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman who identifies as Māori, working to take her little bro Pi to Surfer’s to find their Dad. But flitting Pi causes plans to go awry. Directed by Curtis Vowell (his debut) the script was adapted by Henderson from her theatre monologue, and shot in 20 days via the NZFC’s low budget Escalator scheme. The twist on the Hine-nui-te-po myth was a breakout hit of the 2013 NZ Film Festival. NZ Herald critic Dominic Corry raved: “one of the freshest New Zealand films to come along in years”.

Tonight I am going to Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement’s new vampire comedy What We Do in The Shadows. As it is billed as a comedy I’m looking forward to some vampire fun. will keep you posted….have a good weekend, FG

 

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MOOCS!

Hi everyone, I am very excited to have signed up for a Massive Online Open Course from Iowa University. It is for six weeks starting June 28 and it’s free. I hope some of you might be interested in doing the same. Here is the link:

http://courses.writinguniversity.org/node/215/takecourse

This week i have been very social with lunches out, walks, movies etc. so the housework details I was going to concentrate on went out the window. Still, I finished my little quilt and it s sooo warm.

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As I had some wool left over I have started on a basic garter stitch scarf to finish it all up.

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Also I have made some more tiles and will do the final coat this weekend. Looks like there is a bit of a cat theme developing…

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My friend Bev drew these cats for my son when he was a little boy

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From top left: cartoon cats by Jeffrey Brown,Cat with broken leg by Peter Hammer-Verlag www.peter-hammer-verlag.de, cat from British museum postcard, postcard from The Netherlands

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Keeping a diary -lots of pros and no cons

Morning all, I’m still ploughing my way through the School of Life series and have just started How To Stay Sane by Philippa Perry. Below is a mind map done by Sarah McIntyre after a live session with Philippa Perry and her link is below.

http://jabberworks.livejournal.com/487365.html

The idea that has caught my eye so far is Perry’s comments about diary-keeping and in summary:

a study in which half the participants kept a diary and half did not demonstrated the positive effects of writing something down about yourself each day

Diarists reported better moods and fewer moments of distress than non-diarists.

Those, in the same study, who kept a journal following trauma or bereavement also reported fewer flashbacks, nightmares and unexpected difficult memories.

Writing can itself be an act of emotional processing so it can help in many situations of danger,extremity and loss of control.

People who keep diaries are admitted o hospital less often and spend fewer days there than those who do not.

Research shows that liver function and blood pressure are improved in diarists.

Diary-keeping has shown to positively affect several aspects of the immune system-including T cell growth and certain anti body responses.

Studies have shown that people who regularly keep daily “gratitude ” diaries, in which they list things for which they are grateful, report increased satisfaction with their lives and relationships. 

Perry however, is keen on diary-keeping because it is a useful tool for developing self-observation (as distinct from navel-gazing…). Her tips are as follows:

  • keep it simple and honest
  • what you write is up to you
  • random memories, thoughts and feelings, dreams
  • If you can’t think what to write just keep writing to see what emerges
  • write in longhand and record anything that comes into your head.

Good luck, I hope you let me know if you keep a diary or whether you are going to start one now. FG

http://www.theschooloflife.com/shop/how-to-stay-sane/