Monday, 17 February 2020

Birds of a feather

Today's writing was inspired by an event listed in the upcoming Dunedin Fringe Festival (19-29 March). Local artist Manu Berry has a bird themed exhibition and is asking people to provide stories about birds based on their personal experience. Birds are a wonderful theme as everyone is bound to have multiple stories to share. The trick, from a literary perspective, is to not just say what happened but to wrap it up in a story that is compelling and interesting to read.


Streams of golden sunlight pierces native bush. I hear the distant trickling of a far off stream, A rustle behind me. Silently and slowly I turn and before me a cheeky curious kea scooping up its lunch. A foot away from me, it follows brazenly, footsteps to hops. I approach the rest of my hiking party. It flys off with a flash. I am left in awe of nature's wonders.

- Sarah Williams


The bell rings for lunch. I gather my jam sandwiches and venture forth towards the playground. I take a bite when I hear the distinctive squawks of the seagulls as they come swooping into the lunch area, chasing each other away for the chance of a meal. I gobble my lunch and rush inside as the flock of gulls dive bomb for the chance of a snack.

- Sarah Williams


"Rats", he said. "They were eaten alive by rats."
Leaving the bedroom, I walked out into the lounge. From the fireplace I heard a thumping.
"Oh my God", I thought. "The rats are here to eat us alive."
Following that thought came a scream. Inside myself I felt my stomach twist and turn. as the screaming subsided I looked at the logburner.
"Oh my God," I thought. "It's a bird."
Fluttering, thumping against the door of the logburner was a sparrow. It had flown into the chimney and got stuck. I opened the logburner door and out it flew. It was flying into the windows but not the one I had opened to let it fly free.
Something had to be done.
Grabbing a ruler. I pushed it out the window, thinking of it as my good deed for the day. That ruffled up sparrow was my ticket to a better hereafter.

- M.F.


    Suddenly it was upon us; that supposed night of stillness, when the Christmas star shone brightly overhead... But the cold despairing ebb of day, presented anything but!
   Wild winds of torrential velocity had swept the country and pounded our shorelines for three solid days, with no let up. The sky was obscured to an impenetrable dimness; at an even earlier hour, by the unpredictable elemental onslaught.
   I had arrived home without hope in my heart and my body desperately wanted sleep.
   But my eyes were drawn to the window in the half light, to a shape which I almost convinced myself was imagined. However, in keeping with the nature of curiosity, I found myself drawn to the back door which kept appearing to recede within the enveloping darkness and the rude onslaught of the vicious blast.
   Experimentally edging my way out of the long forgotten sun room, around the side of the rear decking, now only visible to the soles of my feet, I realised at first; only by my tenuous sense, that there was indeed a shape which perceptibly took the form of a bird in trouble.
   My heart appeared to provoke the simultaneous weakness I began to experience in my legs, as the thump of its sinus rhythm pervaded my being atypically. Edging closer to the delicate creature increased the intensity of the delayed moment, as I began to virtually sense its breathing; under duress. A palpable fear gripped me; both for the desperate plight of my visitor and beyond that; whether I could maintain the presence of mind to attempt to assist it on such an occasion.
  Another face drenching of dark rain later, swirled into my whipped and ever tangling hair; artistically modified by the increasingly treacherous gusts, (in disagreement about abating), practically rendering me vision-less for the interminable next minute.
 ...There came a warmth towards me by way of my arms, which knew their purpose independently; unlike the trajectory of my thoughts, but embodying a deep emerging joy, as the life in its shallowness, nestled in my breast.
   Reaching the house was forgotten, as the contrast of comfort, warmth and dryness, by way of a box and mild warm hot water bottle sufficed, to carry my little feathered friend through the long uncaring night ahead.
  By morning, my heart smiled on hearing promising movement from the sleep nurturing confines of the box.
  Recovery had been a near miss, but sometimes in life there is an epiphany.
  I knew that it was what was in my heart that really mattered.
  That day I saw the hope of Christmas.
  I was rescued by a beautiful white dove.

- AH-B



Wednesday, 12 February 2020


Odes are fun to play with as they are generally about something we love or are passionate about. So we sing its praises far and wide. What better subject to start us off than Baldwin Street, the world's steepest street, according to Dunedin at least. And then onto any subject dear to our hearts. These are perhaps irregular odes in that they do not follow any prescriptive formula though most rhyme. All however are praiseworthy contributions you will hopefully enjoy. 


O what delicious small divine,
worthy of the finest wine,
as the bread from oven comes;
crispy crust and squishy crumbs.
The pundits say that you should wait
24 hours from bake to plate.
But, ah, who is there can resist
a slice with melted butter kissed.
Hail to the breadmaker's craft;
if you don't like it you must be daft.

- Helen Ledger


Oh wondrous street, I look at thee
And think you are too steep for me.
How will I get to the top
Without having to stop, and stop?

The houses hang off the edge
I wonder if they make a pledge
To hang on tight, with all their might
Or do they simply slide off at night?

The tourists come by car and bus
To see why there is all this fuss
While those who live there are outspoken
As once again, a fence is broken.

Oh wondrous street
Oh steepest street
What will we do to solve the clash
Between locals and the tourist cash?

- Christine Philp


This wondrous vessel I see before me
Made to carry coffee or even tea
Or hot chocolate if you desire
Particularly if you're beginning to tire.

You can be coloured, or just plain white
To lift and carry, heavy or light
Two handles when young, one when older
Or maybe none if we get bolder.

Such a simple shape and yet so complex
The last thing we want is for it to flex
As we carry our drinks, usually hot
To that extra special spot.

But let us not restrict its use
It's size and shape can give us clues
Breakfast cereals are a fave
Or scrambled eggs in the microwave.

A simple vessel with so much potential
It can become a decorative jewel
Yet a plain white one will suffice
When using it to shake game dice.

- Christine Philp


Twisting, twirling, a column of steam
A distinctive odour pushes its way up my nose
You are the object from which I rise from my bedclothes
Dragging myself out of bed to taste and smell your rich aroma

I prefer you sustainably harvested and Fair Trade
But sometimes my wallet confines me to a cheaper brew
My favourite is a round rich full-bodied beverage from a cafe
A treat I can only afford monthly

I like those posh Moccona and Golden Roast Nestle
But can only afford one vice, alas not coffee
I love the cinnamon sprinkle in my latte
The delicate heart-shaped swirl on my coffee's froth

Tactile, with an odor, warm and visually appealing
It just about stimulates all the senses
Sitting on and incubating my cup of coffee
I wish I could make a cup last for ever.

- M.F.


Well I have at least once dragged my legs
up your sloping pavement

Also at least once, I have been driven
up your incline and lazily meandered my way down

Does the wind blow colder at the top?

Walking, hiking, limping
to the pinnacle of Baldwin Street

I can view from the top and see the world

a wonderful view
an awesome view
a steep view

No one can equal this
at least I think not

I'll be "high as a kite by then"
In the words of Elton John

It's been a long time - eh Baldwin Street
But still you remain in my memory

I push and pull myself along your sloping pavement
There is nothing in the world that beats your jaffa roll

The street coming to life with thousands of rolling jaffas
(not from Auckland)

Enjoying the dizzying heights at your pinnacle

I will always love you, but
probably won't walk you again

- M.F.

Today we feature one of our regular writers who has diligently written up the poems she has developed at the Artsenta Writer's Group ove...