A Slight Obsession

My mother read us books by the fire after our baths and before bed.  We had no television.  I remember “Masterman Ready” by Captain Marryat and “Anne of Green Gables” by L. M. Montgomery.

We went to the Invercargill Library regularly, where the children’s librarian, Miss Miller, helped us to choose.  I became an avid reader and because I had read all my books before it was time to return them, I was allowed to go to the library by myself on the bus at the age of eight.

I still have some books from my childhood. Each year, I saved up 12/6 to buy the School Friend Annual.


I still enjoy children’s books, including pop-ups. The pile, top left, is mainly Tintin  – the full set.


Limited shelf space means things get a little mixed up, but here is my crime fiction collection (in the living room with a rope).  There are also some DVDs of film or television versions of books.  Gardening books are on the bottom shelf.


There’s a shelf of books about books, next to my book journals and book bags, book cards, book pencils, book marks…


There are classics – and poetry:


And just old books.  The one on the far left is a Bobbsey Twins, The Greek Hat Mystery.  Intriguing.  I have read only one of these (the poetry) but have read Little Women and The Girl of the Limberlost by Alcott and Porter respectively.  I just like the age and look.


The Girl Crusoes was a childhood book of my mother’s.  I loved it as a child, but cringe reading it now.  It’s more or less a girls’ version of The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne, which William Golding satirised in Lord of the Flies.  Enid Blyton, however, was not approved of at home, so a teacher used to lend me the books, beginning with The Secret Seven.  I try to pass on the reading bug to my students too.  Colourful bunting across the room says: READ LOTS.  Many of my books, suitable for young adults, are on flat-pack shelves in my classroom and can be borrowed freely.  Often they don’t get returned, I don’t keep a record, and I hope they are out there somewhere circulating.  Sometimes I give them to a student who clearly loves a particular book.  And anyway, there’s not room for them all at home!  I have even resorted to reading books on the Kindle app, particularly when travelling, or when it isn’t a book I would particularly like to keep.


General fiction and non fiction, are overflowing in this bookcase:


Mixtures, including Little Grey Rabbit’s house (Alison Uttley) on the top shelf:


Bed-side books, most of them waiting to be read:


P. G. Wodehouse is “balm for the troubled soul” according to Stephen Fry.  I agree.  To keep us calm, Mum and I watched the full box set of Jeeves and Wooster after the February earthquake.  Here’s a favourite piece from The Inimitable Jeeves. Bertie is saying how he doesn’t get dragged into family rows, “the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps”.

I made this bookcase at night-class in the 80s.  It’s ugly but it holds books!


All of Shonagh Koea’s books, which I wrote a thesis on in the late 90s, are on the bottom shelf.   My father made the bookcase when he was at school.  I painted it blue in the 80s.


More New Zealand books:


There are cook-books, of course.  More often looked at than used.



In addition to books, I have a compulsion to collect book-related things.  Here are Hunca Munca from The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Rupert.  I always found the Rupert books a bit strange, but it’s the only book I remember of the huge pile of books that a boy from down the road staggered into the house with (despite mum protesting that we were all infectious) and deposited on my bed to cheer me up when I had chicken pox or mumps or measles as a child.

That looks like a home-made bookcase too; probably made by one of my brothers.


Bookends which spell BOOK (if you look closely) bought at Trade Aid.  Note Mr Pecksniff, a Dickens character from Martin Chuzzlewit, top left.


A lamp which looks like a book when it is open:


And when it is closed:


My key ring features a dog reading a book:


This painting by Dunedin artist, Pauline Bellamy, interprets the annual book sale:


And, even though I’m not a fan of garden statuary on the whole, I couldn’t resist this one of a child reading.  The staff at the garden centre, where I found him, had already called him Hamish.  I added a little plaster bookworm.


So, a slight obsession…don’t you think?

Still Life and Shelf Life

My eye was caught by this accidental arrangement of objects yesterday.  A still life, I thought.


The iris was accidentally broken as it was hanging over the path, and had been rescued.  It was a bud when broken, and yesterday it opened in the vase, as did the other irises in the garden, perfectly synchronised.

This happy arrangement sent me around the house looking for other potential “art work”.  I made a rule that nothing was to be moved, just photographed as found.  The framing is the only editing.

The shopping list:


The printer:


This is were it all becomes more shelf life than still life.

Mum’s tea cups on the piano:


The kitchen mantelpiece:


Games and a witch with pumpkin on top of a bookcase:


The top shelves of the dresser:


Pangur Ban on the picture rail, next to “Senior Moment”:


A book shelf (note Dad with a considerable cauliflower):


Cats are great commentators on events.  Here’s a case in point on the picture rail:


Picture rails are useful places.




Such clutter, and all is vanity, as we know.


Forget-me-nots are everywhere, as they love to be, forming blue clouds under shrubs and along paths and fences.


I know I will have to pull them out soon.  They are already beginning to go to seed and the fuzzy seeds will stick to everything, socks and sleeves especially.


But I want to enjoy them as long as I can.

The banksia is about to pop into bloom.


The strawberry pot has been replanted.


I’ve a new felicia to replace the one which failed to thrive in a new spot.  This time, it’s in a pot.


What I call a regenerating forest of kowhai (i.e. I didn’t plant them) is in full flower and is full of birds, particularly wax-eyes, and bees.


All jobs done

I can look at my back garden and see jobs done.

The lemon tree has had each leaf individually scrubbed with detergent to remove sooty mould.  Once the sun had gone off the tree, I could spray it with organic oil on both sides of each leaf to deter or smother the insects which caused the mould.


I hate to spray, and organic oil seemed a compromise worth making.  It didn’t require the protective clothing I needed to spray the deck for the green organic matter visible when it is wet – or dry, looking at this photo.  Not sure if it was worth the trouble.  Time may tell.

The garden furniture has been washed, left to dry for a day, and re-oiled.

The paving stones are regularly weeded – but the violas are left to do their magic.

Lettuces are coming up.  Sweet peas, in ground prepared with rich home-made compost, are on their way to climbing the bamboo stakes (which were also home-grown but now this invasive variety is banned from the garden).

The daphne was ailing and has been moved in its pot from the front garden, thanks to borrowed muscle power.  Apparently, daphne prefers morning sun and afternoon shade.  I hope to see it perking up again before long.

Other progress is down to work prior to these two weeks of holiday.  Broad beans are growing higher each day as are cauliflowers and kale.  Peas are flowering  – “volunteers” which grew from the pea straw mulch.

The geraniums, which I’ve had for years and years, are doing well in their new hanging baskets.  The raspberry canes and blackcurrants are in leaf, as is the grapevine. The hose is on one of the gooseberry plants and some silver beet plants.  There is also self-sown parsley over there and it is abundant in various other parts of the garden.  The apple tree is in full flower.  The rhubarb plants are as generous as ever.

Blackbirds are nesting in the tree behind the lemon, so they’ve been busy too.

Now, there’s just the grass to mow again – with a family heirloom push-mower, a Masport Meteor.  What a pity it’s raining!

A Dog’s Day

Being elderly is no fun sometimes.

It’s hard to keep up when we go for a walk.


I need to drink a lot – sometimes sitting down is best.


And then I need to pee a lot…wherever I am…so now there’s a pottle-potty.


And I seem to get stuck in the furniture.


Or I have to lean against a wall.


But there’s nothing like a good old knee rub to cheer a chap up.



The past is a foreign country…

It is time to clean out a bulging file.  Years ago I’d sent away for my personal file and this is now headed for the shredder.

Here’s a last look at my career on file from application to mid-point:


The top document looks like something out of an old film from a time when things were very different. I could photoshop it to look noir.

My mug shots over the years are like something foreign and long-forgotten too.  At least the red ticks seem to indicate that I have written my name, birth date and years at high school accurately:


The hand-written references from my high school headmistress and the principal of teacher’s college both use that rather damning, or at least ambiguous, phrase: “has potential” and the old-fashioned: “a rising sense of humour”.  Perhaps, after nearly 40 years of teaching the “potential” has been borne out, while the humour, like a share-market graph, has risen and dipped, and even plummeted at times.

I will keep some pre-digital cards and notes from students and colleagues, such as these delights to revive my sorry sense of humour: