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Did you know this? ‘The Foofoo valve has been an essential part of the Kiwi world since its invention in 1864 by Miles Foodini, a New Zealand entrepreneur. ‘

Without a doubt, being part of the tokotoko ceremony and the whole experience of Matahiwi marae, plus taking part in the glam poetry reading held in Hastings’ new and modern Town Hall, was a privilege – at times even a mite overwhelming. It was a lot to take in, but I managed not to break too many foofoo valves. (Jenny P’s rescue remedy of a late night cup of tea certainly helped.)

Ragged beauty – a result of Summer storms

~*~ When Everything was Still Normal ~*~

All looked marvellous in January a year ago. I met up with extended family in Oamaru Gardens where we sat on deck chairs among the roses and remembered a loved aunty and sister on the second anniversary of her death.

In February two nieces from Christchurch stayed the night with us so that they could go to the Elton John concert at the Stadium.

~*~ In The Gaps ~*~

Then Covid hit and a much-anticipated holiday in Taupo over Easter with my brother and sister in law, had to be abandoned.

Also abandoned, a planned end-of-year trip to Germany to have Christmas with our son and daughter-in-law and two grandchildren.

As the year unfolded, in gaps between the general lockdown and a couple of varying Covid levels, we did manage a few road trips. In September I went on a Southern roadie with my sister. And trips north to visit family in both Christchurch and Wellington also happened.

In pre-mobile days when we tried to phone our Mum and she wasn’t there, we’d say, “You’re never home!” Now I wonder if people are thinking / saying that about me.

My sister at Gemstone Beach, Orepuki

~*~ Gift ~*~

A surprise gift from John of the Tumblestone blog at the beginning of 2020, was a calendar (go HERE for pictures and info. about it) featuring beautiful polished gemstones from four beaches mainly – Orepuki’s gemstone beach, Riverton, Kakanui and Birdlings Flat – which saw me through and cheered me on through the Covid year. I was sad to see it come to an end in December.

~*~ House Buying ~*~

Our son and daughter in law who were living in our downstairs flat, spent a large part of the year looking to buy their first home – vainly, or so it appeared, as any affordable house of reasonable quality was (and still is I believe) usually delivered up to snapping investors / profiteers offering prices just over what our first-home buyer son and daughter in law were able to afford. In the end, they did manage to buy a home and once again another son* left the handy stop gap our flat provides. No more sounds of little running feet. Empty nest pangs again. But after a lot of experience in this area, I find it passes. At least they’re nearer than Germany.

*When another son and daughter in law and their two children moved to New Zealand from Japan in 2015, we indulged in a kind of Musical Homes game, moving downstairs for two years so that they could live upstairs a bit before moving to their own place.

~*~ Doing it ~*~

You’d think lockdowns and a general withdrawal of society into enclaves would be conducive to writing. That this mass withdrawal from communion would suit someone who only wants to be left alone to write; suit them down to the ground. But for me, things didn’t feel ‘normal’ enough. I couldn’t seem to relax into writing.

Even so, I did have a poetry book published by Cuba Press and launched on my birthday at the University Bookshop! If you so desire, you can read about that journey HERE.

In the middle of lockdown I thought, do it. Just do it. And so. I did it. In March I published my first novel Craggan Dhu online through Publishing Direct. Ten years of my life had been spent writing it (on and off between poetry books) and with Covid permanently altering landscapes, novel writing included, any pre-Covid setting in a novel – especially one that is edging towards maybe becoming the first part of a sequel – needed to be put out there faster than any more conventional publishing route would allow. Especially for a first novel. Craggan Dhu is available to buy from me or from Amazon.

Whanau

~*~ A Case of Watch This Space for J&K ~*~

The poetry duo J&K (myself and Jenny Powell) managed to keep swimming through the choppy waters of Covid, proving ourselves to be the bloody good outriders we always knew we were.

In March we read at Millers Flat Bakehouse. Go HERE to read about that venture. Then of course with the onset of the pandemic, things went a little quiet. But thanks to the wonders of Zoom, during lockdown, Jenny and I did experience our first ‘cloud coffee’ together in April.

~*~ The Year’s Highlight ~*~

Not surprisingly, Jenny’s and my highly-anticipated visit to Matahiwi Marae as Aotearoa’s Poet Laureate David Eggleton‘s invited support poets (along with Paekakariki poet Michael O’Leary) for the tokotoko ceremony, was postponed.

However, the event went ahead in October. What a marvellous 2020 highlight! I’ve written about it all HERE.

Without a doubt, being part of the tokotoko ceremony and the whole experience of Matahiwi marae, plus taking part in the glam poetry reading held in Hastings’ new and modern Town Hall, was a privilege – at times even a mite overwhelming. It was a lot to take in, but I managed not to break too many foofoo valves. (Jenny P’s rescue remedy of a late night cup of tea certainly helped.) The marae experience especially was inspiring for both Jenny and myself, both individually and as a poetry-reading duo. What we have taken away has sparked a strength and motivation that we will be drawing on through 2021 … and beyond.

Going into 2021, J&K have plans …

~*~ Still Can’t Hug Grandchildren ~*~

In early May I wrote in my diary: Still can’t hug grandchildren. In June, I got the hugs back again.

In May, my daughter delivered beautiful Mother’s Day flowers to the doorstep and we blew socially-distanced kisses to each other. My son sent me orchids from Christchurch. The family downstairs (they in their bubble and Robert and I in ours) gave me fudge and made a picture depicting our upstairs & downstairs bubbles.

~*~ Damn Busy ~*~

I call it the dam effect – when the different levels we went in and out of came to a stop and all of a sudden the floodgates were released and all of the postponed events (mostly poetry readings) were on again. But all at once! resulting in a very busy end to my year.

One of my favourite readings has to be the Southern Writers reading my publisher Mary organised to happen at the Te Awe library. So cool to be reading in Wellington, in the North, with other poets from the South. It was South Represent! all the way.

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There was also an invitation in September to help judge the poetry for the Dan Davin Literary Foundation’s poetry competition and to give this year’s lecture in Invercargill. There was something profoundly affecting about being down there among ‘my people’ yet knowing that in fact the province of Murihiku / Southland where I was born and brought up, is no longer my only home.

On trips back to Southland, once I reach the red tussock reserve and can see to my left that ruddy stretch of beautifully dancing tussocks, I get a sense of homecoming. Yet on any return trip back to Dunedin, once I reach Lookout Point with the city’s grey wash stretching out below me from green hill to blue ocean, I feel that same sense of homecoming.

~*~ Hospital Visit ~*~

I had the privilege of spending a night in hospital just before Christmas. I say privilege because in these days of Covid, it must surely be counted as that. Thankfully it was for a small procedure, but nevertheless from my hospital bed, I procured a glimpse into a fascinating microcosm I know I need to write about sometime. Unfortunately, this short piece on my overnight stay in hospital is going to have to wait its turn – turns out there’s quite a line-up already of things for me to write about. And (as I write this) I’m only nineteen days into the new year.

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