A Dog’s Life

Lying in the sun, being served dinner in bed and mucking about with a posse of good friends… it sounds like a radio station’s tropical holiday prize package, but this is the life of our dog.

When we moved into our house, we could hear the pitter patter of puppy paws long before we were joined by a canine companion. It took some getting used to the idea that we did now have space for a pet, and the square of turf that passed for a lawn in Auckland paled in comparison to the quarter acre section now at our disposal. Suddenly we had room for a proper dog, not the handbag variety. Enter Mya.

With a pup in tow, a whole new world opened up. The anchor shaped structure protruding from the wall of the local supermarket identified itself as a hitching rail for four legged friends, and we became intimately acquainted with our local stretch of the RDR, which at times resembles a canine speed dating club. Then there was the social impact. In a place where just about everyone knows everyone else, they definitely know your dog. We thought we were being mistaken for Royals for a while because of the plethora of friendly waves whenever we went out for a walk. It turns out it wasn’t blue blood that attracted the attention, but brown and white fur.

Our first outing with pup was to the A&P Show. Most city dogs in Auckland do get to see the odd sheep or cow grazing on one of the many volcanoes, but the closest they get to them is when they chow down on a slice of dog roll. Having just been picked up from Christchurch, Mya got a crash course in the full range of prizewinning stock and a stern lesson on what not to chase. Stock proofing is one thing, but traffic training our pup has proved to be a bit of a challenge in Methven, largely because of the lack of cars. A visit to Auckland went some way towards rectifying this, although after waiting a good ten minutes to cross a four lane highway, we decided it was easier to go for a walk in the park instead.

On a recent trip to Europe I observed yet another different take on dogs, with the attitude being that it was fine to take them anywhere. Sure, there were disclaimers advising owners to lift them onto the escalator and carry them into the chemist, but whether you were heading to the local café or travelling interstate on the rail network, dogs were not far away. They were, however, on leads and lacking the free range element that makes Mya’s face light up every time we take her for a run. While living in Canterbury does mean that our pup is not likely to learn to operate an elevator anytime soon, in the bigger scheme of things I don’t think she’s missing out on much. Dogs around here have got it pretty sweet.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

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If articular cartilage were articulate

If articular cartilage were articulate
It would say
‘Hey, chill out, man. No need to grate
there’s room for two here in this groove’
Smooth as a used car salesman
Used as a go between
Constantly on call and ready to bounce back
To pounce in as peacemaker
forcetaker
Until Osteoathritis, that cuckoo child
Starts to bawl
Learns to crawl
Keeps him up all night,
The root cause of a receeding hairline
Frayed tempers
And the final diagnosis of ‘worn out’
No slumber can rejuvenate this peacemaker
When his time’s up he’s down and out,
No second chances.
It’s a hard knock
Inflaming the situation
Bones to bones, head to head
Until it’s all out war
Like never before
What a shame that
They never did learn
to articulate their concerns

South Wind I (Autumn)

The wind grows fat, fed by the polar ice
Forecasters predict a cold snap as she flexes her muscles
Prompting ripples that collect into swells
And parade their taughtness against the cliffs of the west
Boy, can she pull a punch!

She twists her lithe body through treetops and powerlines
Doing pull ups and resistance training
Until the branches and wires can resist her grasp no more

She tries out her lungs, howling like a newborn
Screaming like a teenager
Sighing like a mother with furrowed brow
Grumbling, groaning, whining, puffing,
growing

Until she is ready to step into the ring
Rattling the windows
In search of a worthy opponent:
Wake up!

Her hibernation is over.
As summer slinks out the back door
She comes in the front
With a BANG!

DJ Seal

Whales sing underwater symphonies,
but Weddell seals out-zane Led Zeppelin.

Electric guitars ricochet under ice,
strobing and zigzagging and bouncing
off your eardrums inside of your brain in ways
that the drab speckling of their blubber
and rock-pool shine of their eyes
would never have you believe.

Rock-stars in disguise, they party to the underwater trace,
enticing those more accustomed to the whales’ sigh
to change the channel,
dare to experiment,
live a little.

Banquets and Baked Beans

Many people from England, Ireland and Scotland seem to wash up around these parts, and come winter the collective longing for a celebration to break up the cold, dark months is satisfied by ‘Mid Winter Christmas’. While we tend to associate the festive season with barbecues and beaches, apparently our northern cousins seem to think chill blains are a necessary precursor to carols.

So it was that flights were arranged, rental cars booked and place settings prepared for a South Island solstice soiree. Then came the forecast, predicting the worst storm in two decades. It seemed that Antarctica was to be the unexpected guest of honour.

For someone who considers anything below double digit temperatures to be well and truly winter, the prospect of a snow storm was both exciting and slightly scary. I diligently listened to the news and the storm advice and after picking up a shovel and gumboots I headed on down to the store to stock up on essentials. Unfortunately, it seemed like everyone else in town had the same idea, and if Old Mother Hubbard had stumbled across the bakery section that afternoon she would’ve felt quite at home. I have never seen so many posters advertising the time of the next bread deliveries, but they were quite justified as the signs imploring customers to return later seemed to be all that was keeping anarchy at bay.

Everyone had rushed for the baked goods, so bread and butter pudding was off the menu, but luckily there were still plenty of chocolate biscuits and cream for our yuletide desserts. As a bonus, Plan B was totally snow proof as it required no electricity to create. With drifts getting steadily higher outside and storm suggestions getting ever more ominous, this seemed prudent.

As it was, any worries of a power outage were energy wasted. It snowed alright, but the end result was more of a snow globe dusting than the hunker down and resort to eating rats kind of a dumping. Our guests’ planes landed, Antarctica was toasted, and everyone had a double helping of Christmas cake.

The northern hemisphere contingent felt quite at home, while those of us who hail from down under had a cultural lesson in mulled wine, Yorkshire pudding, and a festive season where the snow was not limited to the Farmers window display. As a bonus, our stocks of emergency baked beans and cabin biscuits have remained intact for next time, and judging from the look of our fridge on Sunday morning, the leftover trifle and stuffing should see us through until the next snow falls.

Originally Published in The Ashburton Guardian

Departmental Party

By the time we start making the third round of Caipariñas
The glaciologists have gathered in the kitchen
And started showing interest in the ice we crush
Grinding it glass by glass to smithereens like stones on a shore.

“Tell us,” we tease “What is the history of this cube?”
They rub their chins in consideration
and lament the absence of their machines that go ‘ping’
“The blue core,” says one “indicates a quick freezing.”
PhD students are summoned to provide further commentary
and an argument ensues over dominant chemical isotopes
Before it is agreed that, given all visible indicators
and the taste of the cubes when added to the South American concoction
– We’d better try another, just to be sure –
the likely source is the petrol station on the corner.

(They swear this educated guess
is reached by powers of deduction
and has nothing to do with the labeled bag of ice in the chilly bin by the door.)

“Impressive” we say, as we fill our glasses and slide the crusher over in their direction.
“You sure know your ice. We’ll leave things in your capable hands.”
Needless to say, the fourth round’s on them.

Winfly

Winfly dawns like any other
For those of us who are accustomed
To the gentle rhythm of day and night
That rocks us through the months and years.
We eat our breakfast, we put on our coats, we go to work
And strangers in the street slip past unnoticed.

Planes come and go.

Down South the breakfast, coats and work
Are joined by trepidation, anticipation, and the spectre
of strangers not yet in their midst
but taking up space all the same.

Peter Pan

McMurdo Station
Is a pile of Lego
Discarded in the dirt
Beneath a playground swing

Tracked vehicles
From a meccano box set
Have sprung to life
Here at the end of the world

They trundle back and forth
Ferrying food scraps and fuel,
Feeding the cycle of
Eat, work, sleep.
The longest day passes.

Meanwhile,
Discarded dreams lie dormant
In primary coloured crates
And perfection is located on the outskirts
Neatly encased in timber