At the coming up of the sun

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The Ode of Remembrance” is the fourth stanza of Laurence Binyon‘s 1914 poem “For the Fallen.”

I woke before dawn this morning. I dressed quickly, attached my new head and taillights to my bicycle, and I rode down to the Greerton RSA Hall.

It’s the fourth Dawn Parade I have attended (in commemoration of those who have served New Zealand in the armed forces over the years). There is something especially moving about attending the Dawn service as opposed to Continue reading

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Tauranga week 3 (or Never Flat With Ross J Riley)

Last Saturday the flatmate from the new house I’d met the week before, AF, arrived from his hometown of Waihi with his girlfriend, E. I was so glad to not be alone in the house anymore! One of the other rooms is spoken for, by returning flattie LZ, who should arrive in mid-Feb, and the other room – the one I looked at first and wasn’t impressed with – is still waiting for a tenant.

It was so nice to have someone to talk to, and although E warned me that AF has moved from his parents’ place to his brother’s place and so is effectively a first-time flatter, I have been relieved to realise that he has plenty of common sense, knows how to cook his own meals and clean up after himself, and is easy to talk to. We don’t have a great deal in common, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get on, and at least there are a few tv programmes we can agree on.

He’s been working during the days, and E left on Monday, so I’ve been alone again during the days, but that’s been okay, too. Since he spends most of his time at home in front of the tv though, I’ve picked up the habit, even when he’s not around, and have subsequently ended up watching a lot of rubbishy day-time reality shows. A lot. Of rubbish!

But I haven’t been a complete couch potato. I collected Clara from the bike shop, working like new, and have been for a few rides. I went to the third session of boot camp, but missed the fourth, because I was busy at the campus library trying to apply for more jobs. I joined the campus gym, which has a heated outdoor swimming pool, too. It’s lovely! I drove to Katikati and walked the Haiku Pathway. There was only one haiku that I really liked, but just the fact that it’s poetry in public makes me happy! I went to the cousins’ place for dinner again, shopped at SaveMart (yay, new vests!), and today I cycled around the Waikareao (“sparkling waters of the new day”) path – a 9km loop around estuarine wetland. At one point I saw a cheeky white face in the mangrove, then, as I cycled along the boardwalk, a dozen white-faced herons took off, flying gracefully over the low mangrove forest and taking my breath away.

And of course, the last instalment of the Maitland Street adventure: I went back on Friday to use the internet and collect the few bits and pieces I’d left there. As I drove in, I was pleased to see that Ross’ car wasn’t there. Again, a key had been left in the lock on the inside of the door, but a bit of a wiggle with my own key dislodged it and I was in. As I walked in, I was hit with a sinking feeling – what if he had locked my bedroom door? I no longer had a key and wouldn’t be able to get in. I approached the door and breathed a sigh of relief as it opened.

He’d been in there, even after I asked him not to. There was no sign of any of my things. Even the bed had been stripped. I felt a mix of panic and anger. I pulled open the closet and thank goodness my washing basket was in there with my pillow and the few other bits and pieces I’d left behind. But no sheets. And no blanket. My Brownie blanket was gone! I checked the washing machine, the linen cupboard, Ross’s room (as weird as that felt), the empty room that used to be Bruce’s. My sheets and blanket were gone! I admit I raged around the house for about 30 seconds looking for something to destroy. Then, outside, I found my sheets and blanket in a box. I can’t think of any reason for that. Ross is such a weirdo! I didn’t stick around, just gathered my things and left. So glad to be out of there! Goodbye Maitland Street. Word to the wise: if you’re ever looking for a place to live, and it turns out Ross J Riley lives there, run!

Week three in Tauranga over, and I definitely love it! Just the fact that I’m sitting outside at 8 in the evening, and the concrete steps are warm from the sun, and the air is warm, and the sun is glowing gold behind the trees across the road, and 5 year-old Kanye from next door is showing off his scooter skills, and he clearly hasn’t worn shoes in months, because the weather’s just so nice, makes me happy.


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Tauranga week 2

I had two weeks to find a new place to live. That was the deal: two weeks’ notice. I wished I’d only paid Ross the rent in advance, rather than the rent and utilities combined. I had an appointment to see a place on Saturday morning, but first I was off to meet a distant relative I’d never even heard of before.

I’d spoken to my dad on the phone, and worked out that my great grandmother and this relative’s grandmother had been sisters. I had no idea what that made us. I decided I would be calling her my cousin. Much easier. I met her at the farmer’s market, where she was selling organic bread for the business she and her partner started one or two years ago. The sun was shining, the market was busy, the bread was popular and I felt like I loved Tauranga, despite the weird guy I happened to have moved in with (he’s actually an Aucklander, so it’s not a Tauranga thing). My cousin was lovely. We chatted easily and she gave me a croissant to munch on as she sold loaves and buns and greeted regular and new customers alike. When I left to go and look at the flat I’d arranged to see, she gave me two loaves of sourdough to take with me. Turned out the flat was just around the corner from her place, so we arranged to meet again afterwards.

I drove to the flat and wasn’t really impressed from the outside. Or with the bedroom. But the living room, the kitchen and dining room, and the back garden were lovely. Nowhere near the tastefully appointed rooms at Ross’ place, but spacious and comfortable and light. Then the landlady showed me the other room. They prefer to have couples there, as it’s so big, but they rent it to one person at a reduced rate if necessary. I love it. We chatted, and she and her husband, a friendly couple from New Plymouth, were surprised to hear I’ve only been in Tauranga a week, yet already have a flat that I want to move out of. They asked and I answered honestly, explaining briefly why I wanted to leave Maitland St. They encouraged me to ‘pot’ the landlord, and I left, feeling disappointed because the rent is more than I really wanted to pay, and I’ll probably have to keep looking.

At my cousin’s place, I met the whanau and felt embarrassed when 3 month old baby Ida cried when I said hello. I got a text from the landlady. She made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I said yes, as long as I could meet a flatmate first. So I met AF, a 19 year old electrician’s apprentice, and my new flatmate. He’s refreshingly laid back. I moved in that very afternoon, leaving a note for Ross at Maitland St that I was going away with some friends for a week and I’d be back on Thursday or Friday (I had paid for utilities, after all, and knew I would want to use the phone and internet again).

It was a lonely, but lovely week. I set up my room (again). I went to dinner at my cousin’s place. I met a friend of a friend, another contact to have in Tauranga. I went to the library and applied for jobs. I met the neighbour kids, Harmony and Kanye (really, Kanye!). I sunbathed, I went to the beach, I explored the campus where I’ll be studying. I joined a boot camp exercise group and attended the first two sessions. The cousin lent me her bike, Clara (a sister for Lulu!) and I took it to the bike shop to be serviced. I baked and iced cookies in the shape of dinosaurs, but added too much baking powder and they tasted more like scones than biscuits. I weeded the strawberry patch, picked strawberries, made plum crumble and lemon sorbet.

I went back to Maitland Street. Ross had left the key in the lock on the inside of the door so I couldn’t use my own key to unlock it. So I climbed in the kitchen window, feeling angry, knowing he must have done that on purpose. My room was unlocked (I’d left it locked, although I’d taken everything out of it). He’d made the bed and moved things so it looked as though I’d never been there. The house was a mess.

I put on some washing, used the phone and internet, made myself some dinner. Ross came home and asked me what I was doing there.

I asked him if he’d gotten my note (apparently not, though I don’t know how he missed it), explained that I’d ‘been away’ and was still looking for a new place. He said “Oh.” While I was hanging my washing on the line, he went into my room, stripped the bed of its sheets and pillows and also switched off the modem in the kitchen, implying I shouldn’t be using the wi-fi.

I switched it straight back on again, not feeling the need to explain myself, as he hadn’t explained taking everything (including the duvet, which he’d been happy to let me use the previous week) off my bed.

I took the chance to download the latest episode of Glee, which I had missed while travelling, watched his DVDs (he’d offered the week before) and made a bunch of phone calls. None of this cost him anything, but he was clearly upset. In the morning, I told him I was going camping, would be back on Friday, and was moving out on Saturday. I left my bed made with my own sheets and pillow and blanket, a pair of pyjamas on the bed, some dirty washing in my washing basket, and left. He asked me for the key to the bedroom back. I gave it to him and asked him not to go in my room while I was gone unless it was an emergency.

I took everything else and left. Back at my new place, I felt lonely, but glad that I was nowhere near Ross, and that he had no idea where I was.

Week 2 in Tauranga was over.


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Tauranga week 1

I drove into Tauranga on the 29th of December with a hitchhiker in the passenger seat. We cruised along The Strand, which was packed with cars and people revelling in the stunning weather. After dropping off the hitchhiker at a backpackers in the centre of town, I drove to Maitland Street to see if I could spy my new home for the year.

I had sent a message and tried to call the guy who advertised it on TradeMe, but had had no reply, so I didn’t know which number it was. I drove down the quiet cul-de-sac street, trying to spy anything I recognised from the pictures on the flatmates wanted listing. I guessed it was number 12, with the wooden fence enclosing the front garden.

I waited and waited, but still no response from the owner/landlord/flatmate, so checked my map to find a camping ground. The only one I could find was packed full of teenagers steadily drinking. It was after 8pm, but felt much earlier because of the gorgeous summer weather, so driving away from there, I felt confident I’d find somewhere else. No such luck.

About 9.30, after driving around aimlessly and watching the fuel indicator on my car sinking lower and lower, I pulled into a Countdown carpark and tried to settle in for the evening. I’d been driving all day in the heat, and all I wanted was to take off my clothes and have a shower, but ever since Outward Bound, I’ve been sharply aware that discomfort is fleeting (as much as comfort is, though discomfort tends to be more rewarding). Sleeping in my car wouldn’t do me any harm. I wriggled my bra out from under my top so I could sleep more comfortably, wound my windows down, let back the driver’s seat, curled up and closed my eyes. I got about 50 minutes sleep, then after tossing and turning, decided to drive and see if I couldn’t find somewhere more comfortable.

It was a Saturday night, and town was full of drunken youths being intimidating. I tried to go into the backpackers, but even though there was a guy sitting at reception, he wouldn’t open the door for me, just sat there looking at me. I stopped a police officer, who was patrolling the streets, to ask if there were any other backpackers nearby. He sent me to the other side of town, but that one was locked up for the night, too. Fair enough: it was after midnight.

By 2am I was grumpy and decided I’d spend all my money on a motel or even a hotel if I could find one open, but all over town the “No Vacancy” signs were up. Eventually I drove back to Maitland Street to wait it out, reasoning that at least it would be quiet there. It was. So quiet I felt comfortable peeing on the side of the road (I’d tried all the public toilets I could find in town, but they were locked). As the sky started to lighten, I felt suddenly weird about camping out in my car on the street that was home to my future neighbours, so I drove around the corner and discovered a swimming pool and park within easy walking distance of my new home. This made me pretty happy, and I parked by the park, dozing and watching the neighbourhood cats stalking the morning birds as the sun came up.

I had received a text from the other flatmate the night before. The owner, Ross, had given him my number, as he was out of town (he tells me this late on Saturday night, after I had told him on Friday that I was driving up to arrive on Saturday afternoon). Bruce said I was free to go to the flat and have a look. He was at work, but his partner was there looking after his two girls, who were up visiting for Christmas and New Year. Ross hadn’t told me anything about this partner or the girls, so I was a little confused as to who I would actually be living with, but I called Kim, the partner, and she said to come on over. I gladly did.

The place was gorgeous. The room I was looking at was large and bright, with cheery yellow wallpaper. The front garden, enclosed, was lovely and peaceful, with hammocks, a nice deck and plenty of palms and broad leaved plants. The living areas were beautiful, the kitchen large and light. Kim said only good things about Ross and said I’d get on well with Bruce. Bruce’s girls, 8 and 9 years old, were incredibly well-behaved and cute to boot. I decided I wanted to live there, even though I hadn’t actually met Ross or Bruce, the two men in their 40s I’d actually be living with.

I called Ross and said “Yes.” He seemed pretty happy, and I went for a swim at the local pool so I could get a shower and brush my teeth and feel normal before going back to move in.

I was so happy those first few days.

I loved the house, I loved the weather, I loved Bruce’s girls and I really liked Bruce, except for one moment when he told me I was getting old and needed to start having kids now if I wanted to have kids at all. Whenever I asked him about Ross, he said nothing negative, just saying he liked to have things about the house a certain way. That didn’t sound too bad; it was his house after all.

On Wednesday Ross came home while Bruce was taking his girls back to their mother’s place in a different city a few hours away. I was sitting in the refreshingly cool living room, eating strawberries and yoghurt, enjoying the pleasant quiet.

“What the f#@% has he done to my lawns?” I hear from outside after a car pulls up. I figure this is Ross, as he makes his way around the property, obviously having keys to get in. There is plenty of swearing and exclamations of wonder. I figure he’ll come in and introduce himself to me when he’s calmed down. It takes him about half an hour, but he eventually comes inside, and I go to introduce myself. He apologises for being in a bad mood, welcomes me and takes me around the house explaining the way he likes everything done. I’m a little shocked when he swears in the kitchen, “Why the f#@% would he put that there? Put things back where you f#@%ing found them!” and he moved a bowl from one shelf to another. That’s a little over the top, I think. It’s just a bowl. But as we go around the house, and he talks and talks (he’s a talker, I already knew that from speaking to him on the phone), I think, “Ok, he likes things just so, and he gets angry when things aren’t done right, but he’s actually listed everything, there will be no surprises, I can live with his preferences. They’re not unreasonable.”

Ross goes back outside to inspect the ‘mess’ Bruce has made of the lawns (he thought he was helping out by mowing them. Turns out Ross is nuts about his lawns – he’s one of those people who waters his lawn before his plants, and the mower has to be on the right setting, so as not to ‘shave’ the grass). There is more swearing. I take myself off for a walk as all the swearing is making me uncomfortable. I figure he’ll calm down soon enough.

Two days go by and Ross is calmer, but still very critical of everything Bruce and all past flatmates have ever said or done. I see how some people couldn’t stand to live with the guy. I am probably the most tolerant and patient person I know, so I convince myself I’m not bothered. I also think Ross likes me and respects me because he says he’s impressed with my attitude to recycling and common sense. We seem to be getting along. I’ve finally settled into my new room. Everything is unpacked, I’ve bought some kitset shelving units and set them up, I’m thinking about how I’m going to spend my days. I can’t wait for Monday and businesses to start opening again so I can start my job hunt seriously.

Late on Friday afternoon, I go for a drive, deciding it’s time to explore the Mount, now that I know my way around my neighbourhood, Greerton, and the city of Tauranga. I’ve been out about 20 minutes when I get a text.

Hi Bruce and Emma. Guys I don’t do locked doors in my house. If you dont want people in your rooms thats your call, yet just say. If you want to lock your doors find some other place to live. It’s a bit strange for me, considering you hav my stuff in the room yet also a safety issue. Cheers. Ross. (all lack of apostrophes his errors)

I am upset that he has tried to go into my room while I’m out. I understand I’m using his furniture, but that’s normal when you rent a furnished flat. I text him saying I need to lock my door for my insurance (a white lie, as I hadn’t set myself up with insurance yet, but it would be true as soon as I got a policy).

No. Thats not happening. Sorry. You may hav to find somewhere else. Ross.

I say:

I’d like to talk about this face to face. I’ll be home in about half an hour.

I’m confused. Why would he want me out? I’m about the best flatmate he’s ever had, if his stories are anything to go by. I’m willing to live with his eccentricities. I don’t mind being careful about putting bowls back where I found them. I thought he liked me. This sounds like a lame excuse to get me to move out.

He’d been going on and on about how his house was a home for us all. How he doesn’t want someone who’s just after a ‘room’ but someone to have a drink or meal with in the evenings, someone who will look after his house with him. He admitted he was very house-proud, but said he was open if we wanted to make changes or add our own little touches. Every little touch I tried to add – hanging a mirror in my room, not having a phone or tv in my room, putting a peel-off decal on my door – he was suspicious of and seemed annoyed, though never actually said anything. I loved my room, I loved the house, I got on really well with Bruce. I was willing to accommodate his oddities.

I got home and he wasn’t there. I started looking on TradeMe for a new place, thinking I won’t really have to leave, he’ll see sense. Bruce called me and said Ross was at the pub and he’d be pissed when he got home. He offered me the couch at Kim’s place around the corner if I feel uncomfortable. I said no thanks, I wanted to stand my ground.

Ross wasn’t pissed when he gets home hours later. We had a brief discussion in the kitchen. By discussion, I mean, I asked him “So what’s the deal with no locked doors?” I was genuinely curious, not accusing him of being psycho. He shut me down. I told him I was moving out. He said okay.

I went to look at a few places that very evening. Nothing is nice. One place has a sign on the shower door saying “Please do not use soap in the shower, to avoid soap scum forming on the tiles.” I shook my head in bemusement.

My first week in Tauranga was over.


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Attack of the Bayfield alumni

It started when good friends A+R were in Dunedin briefly from London. We went into Great Wall Takeaways to get a can of L&P, and who was serving but Jenny G from my high school soccer team!

I had been pleasantly surprised to not see too many ex-Bayfielders in 2012. In 2010 or 2011 (I can no longer remember), I was walking along near the Greenwich Observatory in London with old high school friend Jenny S, when we saw someone with a familiar gait walking towards us. Todd F! I’ve known him since kindy! It was strange to see him, and Ryan O, and others from my childhood in London – on the other side of the world –  and yet no-one in Dunedin. Clearly they’d mostly gotten some sense into them and left the hometown. It was definitely time for me to leave again, too. But not before running into Andy B.

At first I didn’t recognise him. It took a while to register who it actually was – I had no reason to believe he would be in Dunedin… ever again. But it was awesome to catch up with him. His tales of New York City filled me with envy (though all that hard work to get a Masters in Astrophysics from Columbia University didn’t). It was just so unexpected, and I really enjoyed talking to him again after so many years. I had been a little hurt when contact with him petered out to nothing in our first few years of university, but turns out we’re just both crap at keeping in touch.

I was also glad to catch up with Harley M again before leaving Dunedin, though he was never a Bayfielder. Turns out there are things about Dunedin I will miss. I didn’t get a chance to sit down with Josh K, but did see Neil A and Fiona G and Tris. Oh, and at the morning tea with the mayor I was invited to in my last week (just casually), I saw Mrs F, Todd’s mum!

My first stop outside of Dunedin was Ranfurly, to see BM, the first boy I’ve properly liked in a long time. Unfortunately we only met about a month before I moved away, but it was great to spend the weekend with him and see some of Central Otago’s quieter spots before heading north.

In Christchurch, I went to see my cousins and the babies, and stayed with uncle Pete. I feel a bit guilty about not seeing uncle Tony and Julia, but there have been so many times when seeing them meant I didn’t get to see Pete and the girls, so fair’s fair. I hate family rifts. I also got to see Trinyberry, another ex-Bayfielder, and our friend Sonia R-B. Triny shared the news that Wee Chicken from high school is now engaged (!) and that she herself is considering buying a house with her man! Big moves! I only spent one night in Chch because I wanted to make it to Takaka before my ferry on the 18th of December.

Why Takaka? It’s a bit out of the way, even if it is a great wee township. But my reason was to see Anah! We hadn’t seen each other in maybe 7 or 8 years, and I was pleased to have thought of looking up her parents in the phone book at home to find out where she was. It was so good to reconnect with another old friend, and although she talked it down, saying she’d taken the ‘boring’ path of study-career-house, I was very envious of her great house and amazing pets (cat, dog, horse and cow, although I didn’t get to meet the latter two). I love the path I took, of mixed up study and travel and work and drifting, but there are definitely things I would have liked that I gave up for it. Everyone needs to take their own path. I wish I’d had Anah’s drive and certainty about her future when we were at high school, but then I’d be a very different person today! And Anah, you will never be boring.


A smooth sailing between the two major islands of New Zealand landed me in our capital city the following day, and I met the amazing Anna, my host for the week. First thing she told me (after explaining how she had lost my phone number so wasn’t actually sure who I was, and had said I could stay at her place simply based on the fact that I seemed to know her due to friendly texts, but was secretly worried I might kill her in the middle of the night) was that she has a new boy! Now, if you know Anna, you know this is nothing new, but then she says she’s been seeing him for four months! That’s MUCH longer than her usual 2 week max, at which point she generally freaks out and pushes the boy away. THEN, it turns out I’ve known the guy since we were 11! Another ex-Bayfielder enters the picture (ex-Tahuna, too). Mike (who I’d always known as Michael) was one of the many twins in my year.

Then I got to see one of my favourites. We go waaaay back. Like, pre-kindy way back. So yes, another Bayfielder. Bex A Billion was one of my two female friends in Dunedin in 2012, until she moved to Wellington in May. Then my last female friend, Ellen, moved to Wellington as well, later in the year. Sadface. But I got to see her before she skipped back to Dunedin for Christmas, too, so I can’t really complain.

The next day, after reminiscing with Michael about Bayfield days, I was at Sweet Mother’s (Mmmm, Sweet Mother’s!) with Bex and Beautiful and Iain and Marky (yay, amazing catch up with uni friends), John Kerr just casually walked past. Bizarre string of coincidences!

I absolutely loved Wellington and all the good people there (including my sister and nephew in Upper Hutt), and was sad to leave, but excited to make the next trip to Palmerston North, to see my cousins and uncle and aunt, the latter being my Mum’s only sister, who is always an amazing host and makes everyone around her feel good all the time. The next week was a blur of Christmas and too much food and lazing in the pool and playing with two-year-old Max and more food and DVDs and swimming and more food. I will never get sick of visiting the Gunnings.

But again, it was time to move on. I had a lead on an amazing house to flat in in Tauranga, and I wanted to get there before someone else did.


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Of no fixed abode

I’m homeless again.

I moved into a great house last Sunday. Yes, only five days ago. I have just given my two weeks notice, and am frantically looking for somewhere else to live.

Why? The owner is nuts. He’s all talk about how he wants this to be a home for whoever is living here, but then he gets angry and swears the house down if you put a bowl back in the wrong place after washing it. Seriously. The F-word for a bowl in the wrong place. At first I thought, “Oh no, what have I gotten myself into?” Then I waited until he’d calmed down, and we chatted, and he showed me around the house, and I thought, “Yes, he’s a control freak, but he’s nice enough if you don’t do anything wrong. I can put bowls in the right places, and do everything else his way, because he’s actually led me through the house and explained it all step-by-step. There will be no surprises.”

I got a text when I was out this evening. “Hi Bruce and Emma. Guys I don’t do locked doors in my house. If you don’t want people in your room thats your call, yet just say. If you want to lock your doors find some other place to live. Its a bit strange for me, considering you hav my stuff in the room yet also a safety issue.”

Okay, yes, I’m using a bed and a desk and a small set of drawers provided by him. That doesn’t give him the right to enter my room whenever he wants (I’d been gone about 20 minutes. He must have tried to go in my room to know I had locked it).

I told him I needed to lock my room for insurance. His response? “No. Thats not happening.” I said I’d like to talk to him about it face-to-face. I’d be home in half an hour.

Two hours later, he arrived home, I asked him what reason he would have to need to go into my room while I was away without telling me. “Not negotiable.”

So I’m looking for somewhere else to live. It’s not easy. All the places I’ve seen so far are either

  • over $130 a week. I simply can’t afford that.
  • smoking flatmates. Gross.
  • flatmates with babies. If I was in a position to deal with living with a baby, I’d have my own.
  • family homes where I would feel like I was an outsider all year – the weird renter.

I’m starting to look further and further away from the campus, which will put up my transport costs. Plus there’s the fact that I JUST got myself fully moved in and sorted. Now I have to pack up my life again.

Not feeling great right now, but I’m going to have a shower and sleep on it, and meet a distant relative in the morning (My great grandmother was her grandmother’s sister – not sure what that makes us). Knowing someone (anyone) in the city will help. A good friend has put me in touch with another friend of hers, too, which will be good, and I have the other flatmate, Bruce, who is in total agreement with me on the issue and is also moving out. So I know three people in Tauranga now, besides the psycho owner of the house I currently live in.

I knew it was wrong when there was no written agreement. I thought, “It’ll be okay, common sense will prevail.” No. Never moving in anywhere without a tenancy agreement again.

Okay, I really need to relax and get some sleep now. I will not let this stress me out.



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Patricia Grace’s “Potiki” – Book Review

Potiki (Talanoa : Contemporary Pacific Literature)Potiki by Patricia Grace
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book I’ve been meaning to read since it was an assigned reading for some of my friends in other English classes in high school. Once I started reading, I realised I had read the beginning before, though I don’t remember when.

It is written beautifully, with poetry woven intricately throughout. It makes great use of New Zealand as a character, and the symbols, traditions and natural surroundings that can be found in our small country. Many people feel, and sometimes I am among them, that Maori culture is too readily used as a cheap substitute for real symbolism and emotion, and for authentic cultural and spiritual settings. Potiki does not give me this feeling. It reads as authentic, real. It is not trying to be spiritual, it just is.

I have given this book 5 stars, even though I don’t think it necessarily deserves them all. I love the way it is written, but I do find the Christian references somewhat disturbing (mystic, prophetic son of Mary and Joseph conceived without Mary’s loss of innocence performs miracles, feeds the people and dies but is reborn). However, I enjoyed reading magic realism in a New Zealand novel and as I continue to explore New Zealand literature, I hope to find more like this.

View all my reviews

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I finally read this Kiwi classic: Gee’s “The Halfmen of O”

The Halfmen of OThe Halfmen of O by Maurice Gee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I remember everyone raving about this book when I was in form 1 and 2, and thinking, “I should read that.” Well, I finally made it, 16 years later. Aged 27, I can now say I have read another of New Zealand’s classic children’s novels, and I can see why everyone liked it so much.

It was published in 1982, so it was old even when my peers were reading in the mid 90s, but despite a few details that date it, it is a timeless story (as most fantasy should be).

The balance of good and evil is at stake when Susan is tricked and forced into entering the world of O Continue reading

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Maurice Gee’s ‘Plumb’

PlumbPlumb by Maurice Gee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book offers a fascinating insight into the mind of a thinking man. Continue reading

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Poems from Transit

Rough ideas, not fully formed poems.


Yesterday, London was cool
with sharp sunlight slanting through bare branches
Misty mornings
Air chilled to a crisp
Greyness filled with grey days
Here the air is warm and close
It smells like a greenhouse
Emerald leaves curtsey in the rain
Vertical tracks bend the light at the window pane
Miniature waterfalls
Outside an aeroplane reverses and
Lightning splashes across the scene
What’s above the clouds? I wonder
Thunder grows from somewhere
Deep inside the low, thick sky
To my right is a large circle of friends
One of them sobs. No-one meets his eye
Tomorrow it will be summer
Tomorrow I will still be fighting
And chips will fall away
Landing like rubble
And on the beach the waves will beat
Washing up surprises from afar
Tomorrow it will be summer.

Changi, Singapore


A flash of lightning
The porthole window
flowing between rivers
Among films
     and songs sung to myself
When you blink and the light shifts
Foreshadowing the clash
The changes coming
A breath before diving
New air. Washed in rain.
With a splash, and let the wake of it rise around you, like a parade heralding the return of a hero. Or a plane touching down in a puddle
After flying so high for so long
The delicious tummy roll  you feel when thunder tumbles around you
A flash of lightning
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