R's got himself a couple of old telephotos recently and had set himself the unenviable task of trying to capture the local bellbirds seeking honey in one of the earliest spring blossoms around here- the wild currant, Ribes sanguineum. It's a feral species from North America. Bellbirds are native but they will exploit most exotic nectar sources.
These currants are certainly beautiful, glowing violet pink in the slanting light of afternoon and heralding the end of winter so we adore them too, but I have to say they smell like a hundred elderly tomcats and I shudder to think what sort of contribution they make to honey.
Bellbirds vacillate between being relatively confiding and flicking off at the slightest suspicion of your intrusion so they can be difficult to capture. These images are highly characteristic of their undisturbed behaviour; hats off to R for having the patience to observe them effectively.
Supermarkets sell out of bread. The reality is we still have soggy daisies on the shortest day.
And good blues. Luminous and saturated at the same time. I think we have some of the best blue on the planet.
Our daily walk alongside the harbour isn't the worst thing that can happen to someone. I'll trade getting rained on for these clouds and their reflections.
The big Larus Kelp/Blackbacked Gulls are starting to pair up again, loitering idly together, running through random phrases of their courting routines and ducking for crabs in the sea lettuce. You can see one floating in the lower third of the image below. A lot of people dislike them, reviling their intelligence, persistence, resourcefulness and courage. It's because Blackbacks refuse to go quietly. They are a totem and consolation, reminding us implicitly that axial tilt is a real thing and that this internal drab is in remission; I will take their word for it.
Sometimes bands of rain out of the south are split by the snaking length of the harbour and will cling to the line of the peninsula rather than dumping their shit indiscriminately. The sun rides low toward the north, so we end up with these freakish split-frame meteorological vistas. This is the first time I've caught one with a camera.
R is always impressed by the sight of these boats at Back Beach and insists that I take this shot when there is any sort of light. It might be a male thing. So blame him for this same frame as last time bullshit. Boats are just cars on water to me- sort of ugly, barely fit for purpose and vaguely transgressive. But then I can swim really well and don't fancy a propellor slicing into my backfat.
The clinker dinghy.
So here are a few pictures of our having drinks at the Union Cafe, Port Chalmers. Nice pastries, good hot chocolates and Rog says their coffees are decent (I refuse to drink such base stuff).
I've been reading about the worldwide promotion of feijoas lately, which have been a popular fruit here in NZ for ages. No one seems to know what they are, so here's a feijoa flower. We have a small tree in our yard. They're edible themselves and taste slightly honey-ish.
I will be posting this week, just not sure what.
I feel like I've taken most of these frames before.
But it's midwinter and not even the wind can be bothered.
There is a personal as well as meteorological lacuna involved. Novelty is unwelcome. Commentary suffers.
When you live near the ocean, you notice that the water is almost always hungry for the sky.
As though it is a younger sibling; vigilant and imitative.
Except when it is busy
rejoicing in its own turmoil.
I would usually crop people out of the shot and I've only just noticed that tendency.
We are such ugly animals, by and large. Grass is more beautiful than the average human unit.
Which is sad, really.
This lovely old boat and its shag-shedding burqa.
Looks so bridal. She is a
These geese survived the shabby, heartless cull that extirpated their more trusting compatriots.
We're far more in favour of a reduction of the demographic that demanded their deaths.
But no one listens to us.
A while ago someone made these chairs and put them in the picnic area at Back Beach.
I like them well enough. They're silly.
I keep expecting to find them busted or tagged or thrown into the sea, but neoliberal economic policy + gentrification banishes of the sort of people who didn't understand that they are worth less than things now to parts unknown. Or South Dunedin. It's not that people who can negotiate this kind of sociopathic capitalism in the midterm aren't responsible for social harm; they do it with their money rather than smashing public shit. In a housing crisis it must be very gratifying for a certain cohort to buy three properties and hike the rents by 20%.
But that's not considered vandalism.
These chairs have more friends and prospects than the people priced out of places like Port Chalmers, which used to be so ghetto it was actually called Dogtown. If we had rented instead of buying a little shitbox here, we'd be fucked and priced out too. I think about that every time we walk past this spot.
So don't be put off getting things started if you don't have some sort of grand baronial vision.
Just let what's there remain and add some more stuff as you go. This is the best way to
maintain a love relationship with a large bit of ground and not come to resent the slavish
efforts that whack notions of perfection will require from you.
That's not to say that our garden is a disgusting place to be; on the contrary, it has the sort of faineant, deshabille charm that can only come from a genuine lack of consideration, experience and forethought. I am never as bonelessly relaxed in a neat, deliberate garden as I am in our own shambolic tract of half-arsed wilderness. Hopefully the other inhabitants are similarly contented.
The only horticultural talents I can claim are the ability to spot the half-priced gold buried
amongst the shrivelled dross at nursery sales (an acquired skill) and to instinctively know which shit's worth getting out of bed for as far as species and variety are concerned.
But we don't have a lot of undue concern for vistas or harmonies. My rose collection looks
like it was sharted out of a My Little Pony- if it's vulgar or stripy or pink and stinky you'll
probably find it clashing violently with a neighbour at our place. It's safe to say that
Winchester Cathedral, posing so demurely directly below, is not completely representative.
If you're starting your own garden with few to no clues under your belt, or if, like me, you have been blessed with vulgar sensibilities but would like to present a more cultivated face to the world, my first and most important advice would be to stick with the older plant varieties.
I wish someone had told me that twenty bloody years ago.
I was going to start a rose review series this summer but the weather was so foul we barely
had any bloody material. Hopefully I'll have time over winter to cook up some notes with
the few decent shots we did manage and kick that shit off, because I've personally had it up to
my tits with being duped by shady breeder and nursery descriptions.
Thanks again to the Lovely R for his lovely pics.
Young New Zealand Fur Seal Arctocephalus forsteri chillaxing by the 30 sign around Back Beach.
She was a wee bit skinny and this isn't a regular haul out spot so we called DOC in case she was harassed by dogs etc. They said she seemed okay and we didn't see her again. NZ Fur Seal populations are recovering which is fantastic and it's great to know they are returning to old haunts like Otago Harbour.
The best way to tell the difference between a Fur Seal and the local Sea Lion is the former's pointy dog face as opposed to the latter's stouter bear schnoz.
Mushroom season. These are Parasol Ink caps, I think.
Unidentified Amanita shrooms, possibly.
The sort of stranger who will gratuitously knee-check your fleeing arse and then stomp your hands into the concrete if I catch you ganking my spray-free business because the justice system is just a hostile farrago of flatulent, exiguous platitudes to me. Furthermore I will absolutely exploit the highly ironic misogyny of its attitude toward feminal violence and totes get away with that shit. You will lose your crap retail gig because a lack of viable phalangeal cartilage means you can no longer fold clothing and you'll be forced to move back in with that guy who gave you herpes and sniffs your friends' bike seats when he thinks no one's looking. He'll sell your painkillers to people you hate for half their reasonable value and spend the proceeds on ratchet MILF cam porn.
So buy your own fucking garlic next time.
The Tuis visit the Banksia but seem more enthusiastic about the Pohutukawas (Metrosideros) coming into flower in our upper garden, along with every bee and wing'd insect for a mile in all directions. On a warm, still day during its luminous scarlet declamation the whole tree hums and shivers with a host of nectar-seeking visitants. Pohutukawa honey is bloody delicious- pale, thickly gloopy and almost salty, loathsome in its deliciousness. Try it if you ever come across it.
* More Photoessays * Port Chalmers, New Zealand * R's Blog *
Ha ha! Juuust kidding. I could punt it out over the drop from my bedroom window, no problem.
We're going with a a passive house concept made from SIP panels which are fabbed down the road from us in Cromwell. The company is Climate House and no, I'm not getting any kickbacks because begging comps and discounts from everyone you blog about is tacky as shit. Goodwill and word of mouth need to be liberated from the stinky taint of paid-for praise; that's one small thing we can all do to make shit better. I think so, anyway.
We've been enjoying the details of the munted trump (doesn't warrant shift key) inauguration. Cake appropriation. Logistical tantrums. Melania K-holes. CIA rage fumes (sometimes karma smells like bubbling hairpiece glue and sweaty pubes): it had it all, really. A cursory if somewhat jaundiced armchair diagnosis of his behaviour, with all that limited vocab, paranoia, acting out, disordered circadian stuff and cheese-holed memory etc certainly looks like early-stage dementia, doesn't it? Fun times ahead. My only black-hearted comfort is that at least his stunted, oinking family will wear some of the fallout. Wait til he starts spitefully shitting his pants whenever someone tries to take his phone away.
Don't feel bad for not wanting to understand his supporters. They say everything they're thinking so there's nothing to discover. It's not like we haven't spent the last fifty years trying to bring them up to speed on some very simple concepts, many of which we grasped in our first years in primary school, for fuck's sake. Come on now. No one alive and cognisant today in the western world can reject social and environmental justice informed by intellectual endeavour out of ignorance.
They just don't care. As R just observed, they've been tricked into publicly wearing the uniform. Now we can see who they are.
It's just that I'm bored with my own faineant xmas blobiness, and mired in that peculiarly tractionless stage of building planning whereby one draws and explains essentially the same shit over and over again to no discernable effect. Nothing is happening, nobody can tell you anything for certain and no structures are even close to being erected.
I'm all about the erecting.
We begin the year without George Michael. Still can't quite believe it.
Décor-wise, we generally hack a bit off a feral Pinus radiata, stick it in a bucket and asphyxiate it in daggy 20 year old tinsel. Monterey pines suck as xmas trees because of their droopiness and sparse branch arrangement but they're free, so whatever. No presents this year. We are having a stuffed turkey and a profuse selection of minor numminess because fupas don't grow themselves.
If you've never tasted the skin-licking liberty of small-hour rambling, do yourself the favour soon. All the people who annoy you are at home, drinking mediocre wine and watching the sort of shit that made give your television away in disgust a few years ago. Nothing's open, so you don't need money. You can can let your tiresome presentational standards lapse and go full shitbird because no one can really see you.
We have a enormous Art Deco police station in excellent order complete with cells. West Harbour is a strange place, crime-wise; there is your usual ambient casserole of petty theft, unreported contretemps, feud overflows, basic-bitch vandalism and occasional catastrophic violence. There is virtually no police presence. We have never felt safer. Make of that what you will.
In my capacity as a lifelong pedestrian I never really tire of watching the varying species of rage developing in drivers checked by train crossings. Sullen, fulminant, mute, expectorating; the number of people driven to psychological extremis by a 40 second delay behind the wheel is simultaneously fascinating and deeply repugnant.
At night the trains roll by with no one to pound the steering wheel or spray their windscreen with saliva. Their subterranean rumble passes through the tarmac to become a pleasant sensation in the bones of your feet.
I was standing on the steps halfway up to the top garden the other day when something large and dark swished by my head. It was a Magpie, Cracticus tibicen, unrelated to the Old World Corvidae version you might be familiar with.
We don't often see them here. They are denizens of open farmland and only occasionally vagrant to our adjoining township. This one landed on the hillside next to us and stalked beneath the trees, looking for foundling chicks and treating R's attempt to photograph it with frosty contempt.
There is something deeply and inexplicably sinister about these birds, far more so than the crows and ravens I met in Australia. They are accomplished mimics and soon master anyone afforded the dubious privilege of their adoptive company, bending them to their inscrutable avian will. I have tremendous respect, if not too much affection for them.
Watching this one stride between the pools of shade beneath the trees was like spying on a shapeshifter satisfying its appetites in an alternate form.
A native fruit pigeon or Kereru is frequenting the lower garden at the moment. It is an enormous bird, at least half a metre long, although it was chilling in a small kowhai tree the other day just a metre or so above R who was busy weeding and we didn't notice until it shat voluminously and went to sit in the adjoining paper birch.
From there it lumbered into the rowan next door and commenced stripping all the new leaves, consigning them to its capacious gullet. I thought it would prefer the flowers, but apparently not.
When it has crammed as much of the rowan as it can fit into its crop, the pigeon retires to the shelter of the alder to sleep for the rest of the afternoon, where it would snore like a fat drunk after a lunch bender, if birds could snore.
Trees are reward in themselves, but when you can stand in your own garden and photograph beleaguered native species enjoying the amenities, you know you've gone a small way towards making amends for your presence on this overcrowded planet. If you don't have a yard to plant, consider joining a local conservation org. The rewards go far beyond personal gratification.