Category Archives: Reflections-Awards

2150. Oh for a photo in focus

Recently I’ve been busy; busy busy busy; and I’ll tell you why. But first there’s some explaining to do.

A common bird in New Zealand is the fantail. It’s smaller than a sparrow but with a tail that fans out. In some places (such as where I live) there are dozens of them. They don’t behave like most birds. They flitter-flutter around your head when going for a walk. They’re catching insects that are disturbed. Picture a juggler going for a walk with three or four feathered friends being juggled in the air. If you twirl a tree leaf back and forth between thumb and forefinger, a fantail might sometimes land on your arm! They also come through your house cleaning up any spiders and bugs.

AND because they don’t keep still for any amount of time they are almost impossible to photograph. I have a reason for wanting to photograph one in particular which I shall tell you about shortly.

The usual colouring of a fantail is a dull brown back, yellow breast, and tail feathers that are white and brown. Here is a photos of one that kept almost still for long enough.

Recently in my nearby little town of Stratford, a pure white fantail appeared in a park. Dozens of would-be bird-watchers crowded the park each day in the hope of a glimpse. Only one onlooker managed a half decent photo. I haven’t seen the bird.

Now here’s my secret… About two minutes from my house, in a little glade of trees, is a pitch black fantail. Every day I take my camera on my walk. He/she is usually there flitting about, but seems a little shyer than some of the other fantails. Hence, after a month I have only two out-of-focus photos.

I don’t want to announce its where-about because who wants dozens of onlookers walking onto ones property? So that’s what I’ve been busy doing each afternoon after lunch. I shall post a further photo on this blog should a successful photo session occur. I thought a black fantail to go with the white fantail could be fun.

Tomorrow I shall post a piece of music called “Fantails” composed for oboe and piano. It doesn’t try to capture the fantail’s call which is a twitter-twitter to disturb insects. Rather the music tries to capture its flitter-flutter-all-over-the-place-flight. And who knows? Today’s walk might perhaps be my lucky in-focus day!

2118. Hills and codes

(Grateful thanks for the many likes and messages yesterday on the passing of one of my brothers. Your kindnesses were greatly appreciated and moving. Today’s story was “pre-posted” and life continues! Thanks. Bruce)

As I have said many times: when it comes to a significant number in this blog’s story numbering I like to deviate from story-telling a wee bit and chat about other things.

Today’s story number is significant because it’s the password I use to get into my bank account. I also use it as the password for my computer and WordPress and social media and everything else. These days it’s almost impossible to remember heaps of passwords so I stick to 2118 for everything. Also for the pin number for my phone.

To celebrate this number I thought I would simple show some photos of my environment around the house. It is very hilly, so I wandered around the outside of the house this past week and took photos willy-nilly. That way you can see where I live. Incidentally the code to turn off the house alarm is also 2118. Also to unlock the keypad on the door. As I said, I use the number for everything.

The number 2118 was the number of our car’s registration plate when I was a kid. It’s actually just the first four numbers of the plate because in those days there were six numbers: 2118-46.

Anyway, here are pictures taken from the paths around the house:

Fields of rape (I always think it’s an unfortunate name for this turnip-like crop).
Looking East
The water tank (to feed the troughs) on the highest hill
Making hay.
Devon cattle – one of the oldest breeds in the world
Water tank is next to the distant pines
The disused woolshed from when sheep roamed the farm (now cattle)
Some neighbour’s sheep and water tank
Volcano Mount Taranaki as seen from the gate.
Don’t you just hate it when the neighbours crowd you out? Almost 2118 legs to pull..

An Announcement

Hi Everyone. I shall be hovering rather erratically around this blog in the next few days. So I thought I would say why and prevent the thousands of you from going into a period of excited anticipation in the hope that some terrible thing had happened to me and would I ever recover etc etc. I’m fine!

Yesterday morning (3rd May) one of my brothers, Rick, had a sudden heart attack and died. So I shall be doing my best to get to his funeral on Friday which is a four-hour drive away.

Four years ago Rick caught a viral infection in his eyes and went blind in one eye and largely blind in the other. Two years ago he had both legs amputated and was just now learning again to walk on his artificial limbs. He was having a race with his youngest grandson as to which one of them would learn to walk first! His passing, despite these setbacks, has naturally come as a big shock.

So all in all I shall only spasmodically attend to comments and the like – if at all. There are stories waiting in line to be posted so these will still appear, but the numbering will be a bit messed up!

With Covid doing its thing, income here has been a little tight, so this year Rick had been paying my rent – so I owe him one.

A little bit about him can be found HERE.

Thanks

Bruce

Cynthia Jobin reads her poetry

Many of you are followers and admirers of the poetry of American Cynthia Jobin. Cynthia died over two years ago and there are recordings on her website of her reading many of the poems.

I was a little concerned that these recordings might eventually disappear, and so with the support of John Looker (who edited the second printed volume of her poetry) and Deborah Bennison of Bennison Books (who published the second volume) I have downloaded all of Cynthia’s readings and organized them on three webpages.

The first webpage follows the order of poems in Song of Paper.

The second webpage follows the order of poems in A Certain Age.

The third has her reading a number of poems that are not in either published volume. The written version of these unprinted poems can be found on her website.

There are links on each webpage to the other two pages, as well as to her website and to Bennison Books. The address to the first page is HERE.

2100. My fishpond

(As some of you know, for a significant Story Number, I sometimes lapse into reality. Here then is Story 2100 to celebrate Story 2100!)

I thought I would tell you about the time I set out to make a fishpond. It was the first time I had downloaded plans for anything from the internet – and in this case it was how to make a fishpond. It was at a boarding high school in Christchurch where I taught and lived as a house master. I asked the principal of the school if I might make a path through the lawn that was next to the Administration Block. He was more than surprised when I turned up with a tractor with a frontend loader!

The plan was to make the work of art over several weekends. I had multitudinous helpers as every boarding student and his dog wanted to help. The first thing was to dig a hole – no deeper than the Christchurch City Council stipulated before it required safety fencing.

The next thing was to gather rocks to create a tumbling waterfall. Then it was a question of installing an underwater pump and hoses with a secret hole drilled through the bricks into the Administration Block to plug the pump into an electric system! After that it was a question of mixing concrete and creating the tumbling waterfall and pond itself.

The final thing was to landscape the piles of dirt and make a higgledy-piggledy path through the area.

Volunteers arrived with shrubs and pond plants from goodness knows where. One parent donated a little garden statue. Another parent arrived with three goldfish even before there was water in the pond! Oh! I forgot to mention that along with the pump I had installed a water fountain and under water and garden lighting, all on an automatic time switch.

When all was done, things were turned on. I have memories of two comments. One from the headmaster who stood looking at it in wonder and said: “I thought you said you were just making a path.” The other comment was from a neighbouring high school. A team had come to play rugby. After the match the visiting team members were standing looking at the pond. One boy said: “Why can’t our school have one of these?”

Tragically, 14 years later the Christchurch earthquake struck killing 185 people. It also unfortunately destroyed the fishpond.

2085. Like a pig in muck

Wow! I’ve just been awarded the “I’m the Only One in the World to Get this Award” Award! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you to the anonymous benefactor. It didn’t come via email or via any social media. It didn’t come via a blog. It came via traditional mail post; or if it didn’t it could well have.

There are a whole lot of responsibilities that come with this Award – like nominating ten more bloggers but not telling any of them who you are. In fact it should be so secret that it’s recommended that you don’t even tell the people you have nominated. If you’re reading this, you know who you are.

I also have to answer heaps of questions, like “How does one do that?” and “What are those things made of?” and “Tell us something you don’t know”. They’re the type of questions that Oprah would ask.

One of my favourite questions is: “How on earth do you think of something sensible to say every day on your blog?” It’s not easy, I can tell you. Some people post absolute claptrap. Pure hokum! Hooey! They seem to revel in wasting people’s time. Not so I. And so say all of us, and so say all of us, for he’s a jolly good fellow. Hip Hip Hooray!

It certainly feels surreal to get this Award. I keep pinching myself. It’s very hard to think straight when one is so excited.

To add to the excitement I’m expecting today (ordered online) some Yorkshire Tea bags (Yorkshire tea – a brand – being the only tea we drink – morning, noon, and night).

My life is filled with happiness and this Award is the icing on the cake. I’m as happy as a pig in muck.

Old Monk’s Habits Die Hard

Today’s scheduled tale – Story 2039 “A Newsworthy Photograph” – shall appear out of sequence on February 6th 2021, as I want to say some stuff for today’s posting!

Thing One – A Passing Shower

I am delighted to report that Iseult has reviewed my novel – A Passing Shower – and given it 4 out of 5 stars! Thank you Iseult! The review can be read HERE – and from there to Iseult’s many other book reviews.

I presume everyone’s mother at some stage – at least in Western European Civilization – created some coconut ice. It’s usually half pink and half white. Well, once upon a time there were 5 pieces of coconut ice and I got 4 of them! To want all 5 would have been greedy, and I would have got smacked by Mother, and 5 probably would have made me sick anyway. So I am thrilled to bits with getting 4 stars! If you haven’t read my novel then you don’t know what you’re missing out on. It can be accessed HERE for free.

All sorts of important (and intelligent) people have reviewed my novel apart from Iseult, such as Uma, Yvonne, the late Cynthia, the late Pauline, Lisa, Ian, Andrea, Bianca, Chris. The high percentage of reviewers who have since passed on could well be a hint to you to get cracking before lateness catches up!

I realize that the novel is post-modern and not to everyone’s taste. The narrator is unreliable – in fact she’s a total chaotic mess (try writing a narrator like that! – in fact try reading a narrator like that!) As I said in a comment to Iseult, I once sent the first 50 pages to an agent asking if he would be interested to which he kindly replied with something like, ‘’I think after the first 50 pages I’d get totally pissed off.” The choice is yours!

Thing Two – No More Can Fit Into the Evening

I had said to an editor (THE Editor of Editors – ahem – in fact there are two of them) that I would do something I’m no good at and write a review. Well, here we are although I don’t have any social media network connections to flay about in except for this!

The book is called No More Can Fit Into the Evening: An Anthology of Diverse Voices. This volume of 369 pages by 39 poets from all over is edited by Thomas Davis and Standing Feather for Four Windows Press based in Wisconsin.

There are a number of poets featured you would possibly know from the blogging world. There is Bruce Goodman (who appears far too often on my blog and has six poems), the late Cynthia Jobin (who has 8 poems), John Looker (who has 10 poems), Ethel Mortenson Davis (who has 11 poems), and Thomas Davis (who has 9 poems). Other poets within the volume probably frequent the blogs but I’m not that good at spotting mountain lions in long grass. Having a decent lot of poems from each writer is a brilliant way of getting the flavour of each poet. Rather than simply sip a single martini one gets to hog the whole bar.

My personal poetry-writing voyage is a little chequered. When I was a kid at school – around about aged 15 in 1965 – a “famous” (still famous in New Zealand although dead) poet – James K. Baxter came and spoke to us. He said “Practise writing poetic forms for twenty years and then write your poem.” I attacked poetic forms with a vengeance. And then a couple of years later I showed a poem to another “famous” poet (who shall remain nameless) who pronounced that the poem was a load of crap. I didn’t write another poem for fifty or so years, and then my blogging friend, Cynthia Jobin said “Why not?” So I started writing poems again, and again resorted often to traditional poetic forms.

I am not too good at always comprehending contemporary poetry – and as the title of this volume says, it is “An Anthology of Diverse Voices”. So what I am doing is taking a poem a day – in no particular order – and reading and pondering it each morning. That way I think I am learning to see what each poet is doing and also coming to some understanding of how some contemporary poetry works. It is rather rewarding! A bit like a monk doing half an hour’s meditation each morning.

So I am nowhere near finishing the volume and feel a bit rude recommending it before I’ve finished reading it. However, I can’t wait a year. I should really chat about some of the poems I have pondered, but won’t because you can do it yourself! The voices/styles/concepts/methods in this anthology are so varied and wonderful that I think it’s an ideal book to take a poem regularly and ponder. After all, of course, it’s not a novel! It is a meditation book of modern poetry – even for those who are not too much into poetry. I can really give it no better recommendation than that. As the poet Robin Chapman says in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, 1946 (p.102):

It’s the morning of the world
I want to tell you about…

Available at Amazon and all sorts of other places. Four Windows Press is HERE.

Finally, by inference, a story: As one of my students years ago said – he was the captain of the school’s top cricket team and a fairly solid sort of bloke – “Thanks for making us read Wuthering Heights. It was bloody good.”

Our world has lots of lovely people

In recent times – after 60 or so years of getting nowhere (some people never learn) – some kindly things have happened in my life through the care of others. Recently, in my writing there have been three Yipee! moments, which is possibly three more Yipee! moments than have occurred over a lifespan.

Yipee! Moment One

Iseult Murphy of Iseult Murphy named my autobiographical reflections – Bits of a Boyhood, growing up in rural New Zealand – as one of the better books she had read during the course of the year. She gave it the maximum five stars. Thank you, Iseult! She must surely be one of the most prolific readers on the Net, and each week sees piles of books reviewed by her. How she reads so much I have no idea – I barely have time to read all the titles. It was a great thrill to be mentioned and I gave a wondrous Yipee!

Yipee! Moment Two

Ian of Dumbest Blogger Ever named my novel – A Passing Shower – as one of the ten best books he had read during 2020. It was a thrill – especially to be placed in the list along side Homer and Sophocles! I didn’t hear either of them complain about my keeping them company. The Dumbest Blogger Ever is one of the more erudite personages inhabiting the blogging world, so it was a great thrill to be mentioned and I gave a wondrous Yipee!

Yipee! Moment Three

Thomas Davis and Standing Feather edited an anthology of contemporary poetry published by Four Windows Press in Wisconsin. The anthology contains a collection of poems by 39 poets from all over the world. Each was invited to submit poems. Six of mine were selected! Thank you! The volume is called No More Can Fit into the Evening. I find a lot of the poems stunning, and it is indeed a privilege to find myself in such company. Every office needs a janitor I guess! You can read about this anthology of diverse voices HERE, and find how to order it if so desired. One shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, so they say, but in this case it might not be unwise. The cover to me sums up the universality and diversity of human experience contained in the pages. It was a great thrill to be included and I gave a wondrous Yipee! The collection also includes poems by the late Cynthia Jobin. Many of you knew her. Also John Looker who is well-known in these blogging circles and beyond.

An Addendum Yipee!

HERE is a link to a poem (unpublished and I read it aloud as well). It is titled Thank God I’m Not Famous.

Thanks again to all these lovely people mentioned above!

1986. Pulling a few strings

Today is the Feast of All Hallows or All Saints; hence yesterday’s Halloween (All Hallows’ Evening). It is my favourite day of the year to remember the dead. It is the feast day of all who have gone before us. It’s a pity that the first two days of November, which used to be reserved to recall everyone who has died, has been smothered in candy and reduced to a previous evening of pretend ghouls. I want to commemorate the real first of November by telling you a personal story – simply because it’s a coincidence that happened in my life that I’ve always marvelled at. Perhaps it’s not a coincidence at all. I hope you don’t find it too long and boring!

I’m not sure how most university systems work overseas, but in New Zealand it goes Bachelor’s degree, Bachelor’s Honours, Master’s, Master’s Honours, Doctorate. I had long finished my Bachelor’s degree in English and Music. As many of you know, I was a monk at the time and after ten years of teaching I was sent back to university in Wellington, New Zealand, to get an Honours degree in Music. That went very well, and not simply because the mother of the Professor of Music had been my piano teacher when I was a kid at school!

During that year my father had died and in between assignments and the like I had an hour’s drive every day to visit him at home. My father had been an Anglican and was from a very VERY anti-Catholic family. He was also a plumber and among his plumbing clients was the local convent of nuns (known as the Leper Sisters for their work throughout the Pacific). Dad got on especially well with the Mother Superior, Mother Camilla, who was an American. This is long before I was even thought of. Anyway, Dad died and I did the funeral.

At the end of the academic year I was visited by “the head monk” who asked if I had anything to say. I said two things: The community’s fridge is broken and we need another one, and secondly if I got an extra year at university I could complete a Master’s degree. The next day a new fridge arrived! I thought, Aha! he did listen after all. Some weeks later I got a message: we think you should go ahead and complete your Masters, BUT you should do it in Boston, USA!!!! Boston America!!!! Me? In Boston America!!! Little me from the backblocks of New Zealand?!!

The first thing to do after being accepted at the university was to find somewhere to live. I wrote to a number of catholic parishes in Boston asking if I could live there in exchange for weekend services. St Joseph’s Parish in Waltham in Boston answered. They were a French-speaking parish but that didn’t matter. I was very welcome to stay and help out! Off I went!

After a couple of weeks there was a phone call one evening. It was the local convent. The visiting priest’s car had broken down and could someone come around and take the church service. I said I would go. When I walked into the room an old nun said “Goodman from New Zealand? Do you know a Frank Goodman?” I said he was my father. The nun, called Sister Basil, had been in charge of the convent buildings in New Zealand. She said, “I have spent more time in the toilet with your father than I have with any other man!” Mother Camilla (Dad’s friend) had died around the same time as Dad. She had donated her body to Harvard Medical School. When the bones come back, could I do the burial?

A few weeks later I did the burial. Her name before becoming a nun had been Mary Borke. I told the pastor of St Joseph’s. He said that the rectory was the old Borke Family homestead. Mother Camilla would have been born in this house, possibly in the very room I was sleeping in.

Anyway, on this Feast Day of All Saints, I cannot help but think that perhaps Dad and Mother Camilla had been pulling a few strings.

1936. A lovely award, and a story “Chop! Chop the head off!”

Herb of Prudentia Sit has given me the loveliest of awards! It is the Herb Thinks I’m Special Award. The award simply means that Herb “would like to have a cup of coffee with this blogger sometime”.

It does not require any questions to be answered or anything special to be done. It is simply an honor bestowed! Thank you, Herb. It is greatly greatly appreciated. Make sure you visit Herb’s blog. As a blogger he’s long in the tooth! I don’t mean he’s old – I simply mean he’s practised his blogging skills for many a year!

By way of thanks, I dedicate today’s story to Herb. Thanks Herb!

Battleaxe handed her stepson, Douglas, a machete and said “It’s all yours”.

“I’ve put up for long enough with your three pet turkeys,” said Battleaxe. “They make a terrible gobbling noise all the time, they poo everywhere, they eat too much, and worst of all you spend too much time with them when you should be doing extra school work – especially studying the History of Systemic Racism which you’re bad at. Chop off the turkeys’ heads.”

Douglas loved his turkeys. He had found the baby turkeys wandering around in the long grass on their own after their mother had been killed by a farmer’s dog. He took them home and cared for them. He called each one Gobble, Gobble, and Gobble because he couldn’t tell the difference one from the other.

How does a wicked stepmother expect an eight year old boy to chop off the heads of his three pet turkeys when they were his only friends? His father had died suddenly not long after he had rescued the baby turkeys and now he was looked after by his stepmother who was nasty and cruel and had featured in many a story by the Brothers Grimm.

“When you’ve chopped off their heads,” said spitefully foul stepmother Battleaxe, “you can cut up the firewood and sweep the yard. Then come back for more things to do on my list.”

Douglas went out and called the three turkeys. They recognized his voice. They came running. His stepmother appeared on the scene to make sure he did the job properly and didn’t cave in with scruples. Douglas raised the machete.

“One! Two! Three! Chop! Chop the head off!” screamed the wicked stepmother.

So he did.