Thursday, August 25, 2011


When I decided to transform my 'musical landscape', I had not expected there would be two amazing spin-offs.

At the house concert, Anthony himself played the piano, Cathy the violin and Elizabeth was the soprano.A couple of months after the concert, Elizabeth visited me. In the course of her visit she asked whether she could bring one of her pupils to rehearse for a big singing exam. It was a lovely occasion; the singing was beautiful and included songs in Italian, German, French and English. The singer brought, as well as her accompanist, her husband bearing a gift of flowers, her sister-in-law and niece. When he was introduced, her husband asked how I was, a question I try to avoid. I said I was fine, and because I had just been listening to the weather forecast on the radio I mentioned the fearsome snow warning. Immediately he pounced on the word 'snow', informed me that he belonged to a Jeep club and gave me his phone numbers in case any of my carers were prevented from reaching me because of snow. That was Saturday afternoon and by Monday morning the sky had dumped 6-8 inches on us and we were very grateful to take him up on his offer. Without his help, my morning carer would not have been able to reach me Monday or Tuesday.

The second spin-off is more long-winded: the Otago M.S. Society has a Wobbly Art exhibition every year to which I have submitted entries. They are auctioned so I've been able to share a little bit of money with the carer who has helped me. The first two years, I submitted photographs with snippets of poetry, such as ' I measure time by raindrops”, which required one carer to direct the hose on to the birdbath and another to photograph the phenomenon.

This year, I submitted just three earthquake poems. One aspect of the exhibition is that a practising artist donates some works and also chooses any outstanding entry for an encouragement award.

This year there were four awards, and one of them was me. I received a certificate and a $50 cheque. But as I had already requested that any money obtained from auctioning my work should go to the Christchurch earthquake fund, I didn't want to pocket the $50. As a result, I emailed Cathy, and asked for suggestions as to how to encourage music in Christchurch.

She came up with a lovely suggestion of taking a version of Goldilocks to a couple of kindies in the eastern suburbs, those most affected by the earthquakes. She played the violin, her daughter Carolyn on the clarinet and a young man, Thomas, on the trumpet. Instead of 'who's been sleeping in my bed?' it became ' who's been playing my clarinet?'. From the accompanying photo you will see that the children were rapt, and I am now nourishing a dream.

The song cycle always was for me in the nature of a talisman into the future as I will have no grandchildren. The dream is that 10-15 years down the track a young musician will be interviewed, asked how he/she became devoted to an instrument, and the answer will be 'from a kindy visit when I was four'.

Thursday, August 18, 2011



I never thought i'd come to see death

as a cock-teaser, tantalising me

with “maybe tomorrow”,

maybe next month”,

maybe just before christmas”.

It's a full-time commitment:

cycles of anticipation

followed by complete collapse.

Six years ago, my doctor

pronounced the dread sentence;

If...” he said, “then...” he said.

Since then, I inhabit

a subjunctive world.


I share a toddlers view of death;

how many sleeps in “forever”?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


With my poetry self silenced

my dreams have turned peremptory.

My outer garden might be peaceful,

enclosed by trees and bird song

but my garden exists in an earthquake

ravaged city, frozen into silence

by last week's winter storm;

I am losing time-honoured carers

and many friends are reaching critical

transitions. I am bandying about

words like carotid artery,

pneumonia and dementia.

My dreams have returned me

to a house of grief, more spacious

and airy but requiring further attention;

I stumble when I walk, if 'walk'

is the right word, I lack

necessary information.

If the inner world mirrors the outer,

I am unfinished and ungainly.