Wednesday To Come

Kia ora koutou, aroha mai — this is the last Busk. My eyesight is getting
worse, my eyes get sore and tired so I have to be selective. I have a few other
things I want to write and work on so while I’m still going to be writing in the
mornings, reading/researching in the afternoons, making cheese scones (who
cares if they’re shaped a bit wonky?) and meeting some of you at readings
and workshops, I will not be producing the Busk.

Thanks to all my readers. Special thanks to Miriam. You are all stars.

Here is my poem Tiger Country.

Tiger Country

You plunge off the cliff into Tiger Country
sleek and smiling tigers play hide and seek
slope around abandoned chairs, sad tables
silk cushions call encouragement from the sofa
an old painting turns its face to the wall.

Tigers lurk in old cards, beneath yours forever
snooze under Christmas lights that never worked
lope ahead to a destination only they know
signposts are suspect; there is no tunnel, no light
nobody pins a tail on these tigers.

Some nights after the sun has flamed
and seabirds search the pastures of the sea
tigers come out and lean gentle over your chair —
wrap you in a striped shawl of sturdy warmth
fold their paws and purr soft in the silent room.

This is the danger time. Stand up. Walk slow.
Their eyes are on the game and you’re it.



Kia ora koutou, this Busk was originally a letter to two friends who liked it and said, ‘You should stick this on the Busk.’ So here it is.

Old age is not always fun and there’s a lot of education to do. I don’t know why I was never taught about the importance of the gut when I was at school and no-one has ever said, ‘Renée you need to know more about the gut.’ In fact I cannot remember anyone ever talking to me about what growing old means, except for one friend who said, ‘Its not for Sissies.’

Its not exactly a topic for discussion over coffee either although it should be. You can read books or watch a film but remember old age is not for the faint-hearted and I would add a PS — its not for those who don’t educate themselves about the gut either.
The gut rules, okay? 

Did I ever know how many miles (or kms) of intestine there were in my body? No.
Did I ever want to? No.

Was I aware of what could go wrong in that area?
Hadn’t a clue.

But old age came and took the matter out of my hands (metaphorically speaking) and now I think learning about the gut should be required for anyone over 70 and if they don’t do some education on the gut, then they will not become a happy old person.

Knowledge is all.

There are advantages to growing old. You can give up ironing completely. The pay–off is that your clothes then start to match your skin and as no-one notices anyone over 60 anyway, usually no-one comments although there is always one. S/he, a complete stranger,  calls you Sweetie or Dear or Love and says, “Sweetie, did you know there’s a big crease all over the back of your shirt?’
You say, ‘I’ve given up ironing.’
And s/he says, ‘Have you thought of getting Home Help?’ And you smile viciously and think, ‘You bloody crease-hater, you wait till you’re 92. Or 3’

You can also eat fried bacon sandwiches whenever you like. Just remember to turn the stove off AT THE WALL when you’ve finished frying them in the butter you know is bad for you. You can leave the pan of hot butter on the stove to cool, that’s perfectly acceptable, you can’t see it anyway, but you need to TURN OFF the power. Otherwise you might be canoeing down the River Styx a bit sooner than you anticipated.

You can lie on the bed and read and only feel slightly guilty and when that little well-known voice in your head starts to raise an admonitory word you can say, ‘I’m 92 or 93 or whatever so piss off.’

There are some good things though. Small things that make you smile. The big thing, the important thing, is we can all still laugh at our own jokes and sometimes people are kind enough to laugh at them too.

Did you hear about the farmer who called his dog Kris Kristoffersen? It was on RNZ a while ago so it must be true. Be good to hear him calling the dog though, especially if the dog didn’t come immediately. 

And remember — although we might sometimes feel we’re on our own — a lot of us have been down this road before and they’ve all managed in their own way and you will too. You are not alone.


Happy Ten Years WednesdayBusk

When Miriam, my trusty Web Host, told me that we’d passed the ten-year mark I was happy and slightly amazed.

‘I have the Domain name,’ I emailed to a son ten years ago – a slightly exaggerated statement because it was Miriam who’d organised that.

I chose the title because Wednesday is my favourite day of the week and Busk because it seemed a more theatrical term than blog. I always admire buskers. I remember seeing and listening to them on Cuba Mall and down Courtney Place, sometimes on Main Street Otaki or at the side of the library in Waikanae and like to stop and listen for a while, sometimes request a particular song while I slip some coins into the hat.

Back in the day I shouted on corners and sang while we marched and quite often ended with a song on the lawn outside parliament but the purpose was different. Someone who busks does it alone, lays themself on the line – their purpose might be to entertain or present a certain view, to get some money for food, sometimes a mixture of all. They stand or sit on their own. Its their voice, their singing ability, their skills on a guitar perhaps or a Guzheng (skiffle), their voice that might make people stop, listen, contribute, smile, walk on. Busking has an expectation of short term interest, you need to pare the words down to the most important, repeat them, be ready to answer back if someone shouts a critical comment at you or give a smile and a nod to those who agree or even, sometimes, clap. There’s always the chance that someone will totally disagree and that’s their right so you just have to put that down to experience, smile and walk away. The Busk however is different. Readers know who I am so there’s no walking away when they disagree. Being online means that you get a percentage of idiots too and I quickly send them off into the ether.

A weekly Busk should amuse or inform (hopefully both), make someone think about a subject they might not have thought about before perhaps? Readers come and go but often stay probably because I stick it up on my FB page. There’s an expectation from me, Miriam and possibly you, the reader, that it will keep going.

WednesdayBusk has appeared in the same place each Wednesday. It has an annual holiday then resumes in March. Its covered all sorts of topics, some general, some personal, some political, some just for fun.

Ten years, a decade, is not really a very long time and looking back it has gone in a whisk. I was 83 and now I’m 93. In these ten years I ‘ve had a major op and some minor and one major setback. I was diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, told that I would never go completely blind, I would be able to see large shapes. No-one said anything about not being able to properly see people’s faces, go up steps, walk into a hall. Thankfully I have good friends who see me through these obstacles. I decided to hell with being 92 and bought a brand new computer with a 29inch screen. Miriam set it up with large black print. It works beautifully but that verdict on my eyesight is a constant grief and a daily reminder that one day I will have to swap from print to audible. Rose taught me to read when I was four and I have been a voracious reader ever since. Listening to a book being read is a totally different experience but one I will have to get used to. Losing my sight is a major.

However, I’ve kept working, a memoir published by Makaro Press and two crime novels published by The Cuba Press, a few essays, one or two short stories, and WednesdayBusk has marched on.

I’m aware that still having a working brain is a great piece of luck and if I have a few aches, pains and other bodily annoyances then that’s just balancing things out. ‘Old age is not for sissies’ a good friend said to me some years ago and she was/is right.

WednesdayBusk, judging from feedback, has amused, entertained, irritated and informed readers. I have never looked up the number of readers because if its only one then that’s fine.

To Miriam, who, when I couldn’t see well enough any more to do the weekly online set up, offered to do it for me. So now I write the Busk, email it to Miriam and she does the rest. A huge thank you, Miriam.

To you who have come along for the long haui, thank you. Thanks for your interest, your messages on FB or occasionally by email, thanks for being there. Nga mihi mahana koutou.


The first busk for 2023

Kia ora koutou,
the first Busk for 2003. Its been a summer filled with surprises, some good, some not. The weather around Otaki has been a little variable, I would have liked more sun, but when I think of the areas which have been subject to floods, cyclones, ruined houses and orchards, farms and businesses, I know I am very lucky. 

Its amazing how we all find the courage, the resilience, to deal with disaster. We pack furniture up high, grab some clothes, calm the kids, and we’re taken to a safe place. We curse the rubber-neckers driving around making waves that slosh more water inside our house. A day or two later we come back to clean up and there’s the smell. That damp muddy stink hanging over everything. We open all windows and doors, stick a lot of stuff outside to dry or air in the now sunny conditions and the kids are pleased to find the budgie, safe in its cage, bowls still filled with seed or water, chirping. I think it would chirp for anyone but the klds think its chirping with pleasure at seeing them. 

The clean-up takes longer than we thought and the memories never go. They come back when we hear/read of others enduring the same sense of helplessness in the face of natural disasters. 

From this distance I can only bless those who helped everyone in trouble, who saved lives and were kind and who worked -cooking, baking, shovelling, driving, scrambling down banks, up on roofs, through windows, under houses, made beds, looked after kids, helped the old and disabled, all  the hundred and one other things we do in this kind of hellish situation. We can donate money and we can remember. Remember that it takes a lot longer to fix this kind of damage than it does to cause it. What was it? Three days? A day more or less? It will take twenty or more times than that to make things right and of course some will never be. It’s a long haul but we’ve done it before, we can do it again.


Late Spring Early Summer

Kia ora Koutou,

Here we are, November, and the last Busk for the year 2022.

Mask wearing is a choice and we can go anywhere. Covid is still here and still infecting people but we seem to have lost our fear of it, or at least we have if it hasn’t happened to us. I guess this is what happened with influenza once that first terrible swathe had ebbed and vaccines arrived.

Spring in Otaki is beautiful. Blossoms everywhere, knobby little fruits starting to appear if you have early peaches or plums, early tomatoes are planted and plans for the main crop in a week or so, underway. Asparagus has had its first flush, you are picking broad beans, indeed everything green is shiny with rich growth. Looks like a good season coming up. My strawberry plants are lush green in their bins of new potting mix.

Walking, though not as easy as it was, is much better in the morning sun than under a grey sky. The security guy standing at the door of the bank still smiles good morning. I see the Council (or someone) has put an extra seat on the footpath so if needed, you can have a rest or just a pause while you look around.

So a lot of good things are happening and one of them is that my second crime novel, Blood Matters has been published. Questions are being asked based around age and how we reach that age and I suppose how well (or not) we function at such an age.

I have no secret diet or exercise routine, no mysterious gift or even a special sign. I have had a serious illness or two and recovered, I have Macular Degeneration which is a grief but hardly new and not confined to old people anyway.

I could say my old age is due to clean living and constant prayer but you probably wouldn’t believe me. However, you will be happy to know that there is an idea bubbling away for another novel. I’ll let that happen and see whether it takes me anywhere.

In the meantime I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a great 2023 with lots of fun and singing (we have to keep singing) coming your way.


If You Can’t Beat ‘em, have a party …

Kia ora Koutou,
I have rediscovered the delight of hot cocoa.

At some stage during the night I always have to get up and go to the bathroom so after washing my hands, instead of being irritated that I’ve had to wake up, its much easier to make cocoa, maybe grab a couple of biscuits while you’re at it, go back to the bedroom, sip and munch.

I turn the lights out early at the end of the day partly because my eyes are sore but partly because all my life (that I can remember) I’ve liked to lie awake in the dark for a little while before going to sleep — time to mull over the day’s events, think about some of them, plan others … nowadays think about my progress (or not) with an idea for writing … go over various scenarios, possibilities, whether to introduce a new character or to save them for another time, whether to get rid of a character entirely. If I have health or other anxieties I use other times to think about them.

I never actually planned this pattern, it just happened and it works.

After this review of my life at that time, unless I was sick or worried or unhappy, I used to sleep right through the night and always got irritated when that didn’t happen but now I more or less expect it so if I add a little treat into the mix it becomes enjoyable. If you can’t beat ‘em, have a party is a good rule and the irritations of having to get up in the middle of the night vanish immediately. It becomes more of a lead into a treat rather than a nuisance.

So now, when I go to sleep and then wake up because nature calls, the thought of a nice hot cup of cocoa is very appealing. A treat in fact — a little party for me and whoever else I want to join me in my head, fictional or real. It’s a time for changing things too. If you haven’t liked the outcome of a story in someone else’s book you can just change it, they will never know and besides, nothing is set in stone, you can play around with ‘what if?’ as much as you like. You can plan a treat, you can go shopping and the assistant will be pleased to see you even though he has to move from his position and show you something over in the far corner.

You can be anyone you like, slip into anyone’s story, change it, make them happy. You can turn the radio on and know someone else in the world is awake and working to inform, interest, amuse or please you.

When you return the empty mug to the sink, run some water in it, visit the bathroom again, wash your hands, go back to bed, you’ve had your bedtime story so you put the light out and go back to sleep smiling.