Skin in the game

It’s been a quiet week. I have a new nickname-Crash. Thanks Patsy. Yes I was in a hurry and no there was no alcohol involved. I “bounded”, sylph-like off a low concrete wall in my car park and did a flying leap into the concrete. I was wearing my glasses and they have graduated lenses so I’m using that as an excuse. Unfortunately I broke them as well as my watch.


I looked a bit of a wreck but I am amazed at the properties of skin. I suppose that sounds really naive but horrible grazes and bruises have pretty much healed up over a week. Pride of course takes a little longer.

I have enjoyed painting a cabinet, hosting book club and have started knitting more frequently again. I have just finished The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George. It was an easy, fun read and it got me all fired up about taking a canal trip in France. Anyone keen?

Friday is National Poetry Day so there are lots of events on around Auckland. I’m going to hear some readers at Point Chevalier Library on Saturday.

It got me browsing my poetry books and I came upon a book belonging to my late husband, Brett Gracie. He was an English teacher like me and loved poetry. The book was by Hone Tuwhare  and in 1998, by chance Hone was coming to Christchurch to do a reading and I was responsible for hosting him at home. Sam was 6 years old at the time and Hone signed Brett’s book for Sam. Finding that tonight and seeing Brett’s familiar signature and then the little inscription to Sam was quite poignant.

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As it seems to be raining so much I picked this short one to include in this post. His other poem Rain is probably his most read poem but I like this one, especially the line, “can bring a mountain weeping to its knees”

Reign Rain
Neither juggernaut
nor crawling thing
with saintliness and ease

can bring
a mountain weeping
to its knees
quicker than rain:

that demure leveller
maker of plains

Hone Tuwhare

I remember hearing Hone say how magical it was as a little boy discovering the library . He couldn’t believe that he could just go in and choose books for free. Recently, a young teen living with her family in a van in South Auckland was on national radio saying she really wanted to get out library books but didn’t have an address.

Every now and then the ugly head of charging for library books raises its head. May it never happen. As a child in a family of 8 there would have been no way that I would have been able to read as a child without a library. To this day I can tell you exactly what the covers of the books I loved looked like: My Friend Flicker, The Yellow Fairy Book, Cammie Rides Again, Quarrelsome Queenie and on it goes. There was nothing tame about these stories. I would weep and snivel and fear the dark forests and the evil just around the corner. there was nothing tame about the faraway tree.  Apparently I cried when my mother was reading Noddy. It was probably those naughty goblins.

Mind you I was never keen on that monkey or the skittles. They might have been the precursors to my terror of clowns.


I remember walking down the hill to the library in a funny old Dunedin building with my pink library card and then lugging the books home again. I can only assume that some of my siblings were supervising but I don’t really remember that part. I loved that little machine that clicked and stamped the card with the date. There was always a slight anxiety that I might not get the book back on time and get fined. FG

I do remember being smacked for not listening to my father as I was completely lost in a book. I did it again recently on the ferry. The lovely young steward came up to me and quietly asked me if I was going back in to town. I looked up and everyone else had disembarked and I was still there reading my book. I felt a bit of a twit.

The joy of escaping into a book when all else is crumbling around you is fantastic. Long live libraries and poetry.


Finding a routine

I feel as though today is the first kind of “normal” day I have had in a long while. I want to get back in to a routine of some exercise, some writing, some knitting, some reading and some meditating.

However, I have spent the first 20 minutes gazing out the window. I like to watch the building progress and I have a good view of some from my kitchen window. (All men wearing shirts in this weather…)


People often complain about the noise from the trucks but it really doesn’t bother me. I like to think people are out and about doing stuff even though I am totally blissed not doing that. I never get tired of waking on a Monday and knowing I don’t have to go to work. It’s not that work isn’t rewarding it’s just that I like to do my own stuff. Last night I knitted a little Alpaca hat for a friend at work who is pregnant.


I also got out the Moosewood Cookbook. There might be a few nostalgic sighs of recognition out there. I made my favourite Gypsy Soup, perfect for a cold and rainy day. I had bought some quinoa and sprout sourdough from the Hobsonville Point Market market to go with it.

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I also went along to The Carer at the weekend. It was the perfect kind of film for a winter afternoon, satisfying, no violence or grimness and great acting on the whole. It is a fairly familiar story, think Me Before You or the The Untouchables but I liked it better than both of these. Maybe because I am a fan of King Lear. Brian Cox as Sir Michael Gifford is great and

Coco Konig as his carer is also compelling. It is all fairly predictable but  well, I like a happy ending.

My latest read was a good one too. Different, funny and interesting. I can’t tell you about it without revealing a critical plot twist so I’ll just leave it at that. Suffice to say it is weird but ultimately believable.

How can it be August? I seemed to have skipped June and July. I’m at the stage where I find myself looking at options in the sun. However, they involve long flights, snakes and spiders, terrorists or tsunamis. I think I’m becoming a bit feeble.

I think I’ll just comfort myself with a nice cup of tea.

Unfortunately so far the Olympics have passed me by. I struggle with golf as an Olympic sport, bring back the synchronised swimmers I say. Is it odd to you as well that you only ever see synchronised swimming at the Olympics?

I’ll leave you with my favourite Leunig’s Olympic comment. (Well they did it in cycling) Happy Monday FG



Home sweet home number two

It’s been a busy few weeks. I managed to shift and put all the paintings and everything up in four day  before my visitor arrived for the film festival. I feel great being here as the size is more manageable. Things I’ve learnt:

I am never going to be a gardener– I love herbs for cooking though so the pots are perfect.


I love wooden floors and they are much easier to clean than tiles


I still have too much stuff even though I ditched a lot.

I dithered over my grandfather’s roll top desk as it was left to Sam in my father’s will. Sam showed nil interest in it and I just couldn’t store it so I ended up selling it to a local trader and giving the cash to Sam. I ditched some more stuff at the hospice including all my funny little books and teddy bears etc. I abandoned the lovely Beatrix Potter baby mugs and dishes as I never actually used them for fear of them being broken. Plastic rules with small children.  I still couldn’t abandon the Beatrix Potters though.


That one open plan space is all I need. At my previous place I had two living rooms and one me. It wasn’t necessary and I love just heating this space and even better it has a void so the bedrooms upstairs are deliciously warm by bed time.

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I understood the advice to buy something that suits what you do most of the time.

I have a guest bedroom but no separate bathroom. Horror of horrors! ( A spare loo though). My guest and I managed perfectly well for her 5 day visit and now I don’t have another bathroom sitting there 90% of the time empty and needing dusting.

I like technology – my new appliances that came with the house are quite cool. Although I did have to replace some of my pots for the induction cook top. A lot to learn but I am actually reading the manual. Despite watching the video and programming the heated tiles I have had no luck so far though. So much for living simply.


All in all, happily ensconced. It was a mission shifting again so soon and I feel a bit jaded but it is all done now.

I didn’t’ go to as many as films as I usually do as I was busy shifting but here are my one liners:


Obit. – – eccentric New York Times’ writers of the obituary column. Great doco.

Weirdest film 

Author: The JT LeRoy Story

So odd I couldn’t help watching. Truth really is stranger than fiction.

Film I went to sleep in –might have been good but I just couldn’t tell you. Neruda.

My latest Fluffy George poetry post was a bit of a mission as i decided the content warranted it being printed on cotton material. Here is the newsletter that went with it.

July 2016 Newsletter Fluffy George Postal Poems


I wrote this month’s poem when I was thinking about all the women who were made to give up work when they got married, all the voices silenced by drudgery, all the poems and artworks and ideas and inventiveness lost in the day to day work that women have always done. I think of the kitchen drawers with string and cotton and safety pins and snatches of stories and poems among them.

I love Lauris Edmonds’ work. She died at the age of 75 and was the mother of six children, five of them daughters. I am also a huge admirer of Patricia Grace’s writing. While teaching and raising her seven children, Grace joined a writing club and began to publish her stories. How did they do that??

My own mother had six children and made all our clothes and washed, ironed and cooked endlessly. I can recall, in a heartbeat, the smell of the wooden stick that sloshed the clothes around in the grey water of the old washing machine. Her creativity was expressed through sewing as in the three lovely spotted dresses above. I suspect I wore handed-down spotted dresses for some time.  My mother had no ambitions, as far as I am aware, to write or paint.  I wonder how any of the women who had these ambitions ever had any time to themselves, to write, to think, to read?

I think of Sylvia Plath, on a day described by her mother as one darker than the rest, when she left her two toddlers in the other room and gassed herself in the oven. I wonder how things might have been different if some kind neighbour had popped in and taken the children to the park on that dreary London day.

Mary Wesley is my shining light. She published her first novel at 70 in 1983. Her family did not approve of her books. Her brother called what she wrote “filth” and her sister, with whom she was no longer on speaking terms, strongly objected to The Camomile Lawn, claiming that some of the characters were based on their parents.

Mary Wesley
Lauris Edmond


I have plenty of time but still manage to make excuses continually for just not getting on with writing; I have nothing but admiration for these women juggling all these things in their lives.

So this month’s poem is paying homage to all those women who wrote and dreamed and finally were published, or not. I think of all the work that may have simply gone up in smoke, or was trivialised or ignored, and never saw the light of day because of the time they lived and the society of men who decided what would or would not be allowed.

Poem on cotton

All looks easy but my first print run meant the poem was in mirror image when ironed on… thanks to a friend and her Apple Mac she finally got it sorted for me.

Many years ago my late husband gave me a book entitled, A Book of Women Poets from Antiquity to Now, edited by Aliki Barnstone and Willis Barnstone.

In the section called Anonymous Songs from the 15th and 16th century there is a poem that has always made me smile, albeit still tinged with a little anguish. This young woman’s lyrics are surely the precursor to the modern song, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, by Cyndi Lauper.

Since I’m a girl

I want fun.

It won’t help God

For me to be a nun.

Since I’m a girl

With long hair

They want to dump me

In a convent.

It won’t help God

For me to be a nun.

Since I’m a girl

I want fun.

It won’t help God

For me to be a nun.

I don’t want to be a nun.


I am a girl waking to love.

Leave me happy and daring

With my love.

I am a girl in pain.


Possibly not as angelic and serenely content as it seems.

I really hope she didn’t have to become a nun and I hope she had a chance to be daring and happy.

Have a daring and happy week. FG