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Spent a lovely weekend in Foxton (many thanks to the Beatsons) with the poetry group I belong to.   The only downside was the early morning duck-shooters, but the spoonbills made up for it.

Shopping is part of my DNA

The modern hunter-gatherer. Shopping trolley sculpture in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Scottish Poetry Library

A highlight of our recent trip to Edinburgh was the Scottish Poetry Library – a lovely tranquil space where you can while away the hours browsing the shelves, checking out the poetry magazines, buying the odd book, writing your own poetry or being impressed by the lovely little sculptures made out of books that have been anonymously appearing there.  There were more to be found at the Writers Museum.  Well worth a visits if you’re in Edinburgh and you like poetry (or little paper sculptures made out of books).  Best to check the opening times first, if you’re planning to drop by.    I gather there are other poetry libraries in London (South Bank Centre) and Morpeth, Northumberland (the Northern Poetry Library).  Something else to look forward to exploring.

Peter and I have just returned from a lovely holiday in the UK.  We were mostly based in South Shields (where I was born) but made several trips to nearby areas such as Newcastle and Ebchester, and spent several days in Scotland (Edinburgh & Dundee).

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We were lucky to hit surprisingly mild weather – one or two frosty mornings, but mostly crisp and sunny.  Perfect for walking about in if you’re well rugged up.




Last weekend, we were in Auckland for the Wire concert (originally a  seventies UK punk band that has kept on playing and kept on making the albums – they were great).  After a trip to the Auckland Art Gallery and an excellent brunch there, we took a ferry trip and spent Saturday afternoon strolling around sunny Devonport, exploring the bookshops and eating fish burgers and nachos at the Masonic Hotel.  Perfect day.  I was quite taken with the plaque above (in case you can’t read it, it says ‘On this site in 1897 nothing happened’) and the knitted hearts that someone has been sewing around the seats.

Just thought I would get in early to wish everyone all the best for a wonderful 2011.

Peter & I had a lovely time in Nelson over Christmas, visiting his family, catching the exhibitions at the Suter, hearing some very good blues by Storehouse at the Freehouse and hanging out at the McCashin’s Brewery in Stoke (winner of the ‘Keep New Zealand Beautiful Peoples Choice Best Place in New Zealand’ in 2010 – Stoke, not the brewery, although the brewery is a fine place offering comfy couches & decent coffee as well as a beer garden, shop & tasting place – Rochdale cider, Stoke beers and vodka made from a 26,000 year-old spring).  We also took a day trip to the beautiful Nelson Lakes.


Rotoiti - peninsular walk

Janis & Peter at Rotoroa


And in other news, the latest version of Auckland-based online journal Trout came out recently and I have 4 poems in it (The Tide Rises at Christchurch Art Gallery, Museum Piece, Hermit & Zot and the Axolotls).  The last three will be coming out in my new book, Kingdom Animalia: the Escapades of Linnaeus, due out from Auckland University Press in May 2011.  Trout 16 also features Anna Jackson, Vivienne Plumb, Helen Rickerby, Richard von Sturmer, Sonia Yelich and many other great poets – well worth a browse.

Rainbow trout

Image via Wikipedia

We’ve just got back from a trip to Greymouth and Christchurch (booked well before the earthquake). We took the Tranz-scenic over the southern alps with a small group of friends and had a great time.  On the way over, everything was frosted with snow

that strange halo effect is my camera lens reflected in the train window

and on the way back the next day, much of it had melted


Magic.  Greymouth has some great little cafes, like dp one (by the river) with its retro Formica tables and Frank’s (on the main drag), which often has live music (just not on the night we were there).

It was fun being snowed on on the way back, when they let us out for 5 minutes at Arthur’s Pass.

Arthur's Pass

Then it was back to Christchurch.  The centre of the city seemed in better shape than we had feared – the occasional pile of rubble, closed-off street or taped-off building, but overall, Christchurch is open for business and no doubt the retailers would be happy to see you.  But some of the outer suburbs are apparently in far worse shape, with thousands of homes expected to be demolished.  Clearly, the after-effects will ripple on for a long time to come.


No-one can accuse me of not getting to my fair share of book launches, but the one Peter and I went to last weekend was really special.  The book was Jeffrey Paparoa Holman’s Best of Both Worlds – the story of Elsdon Best and Tutakangahau, and it was launched on the marae at Maungapōhatu in the Ureweras.

It was a stunning day for the pohiri and the mountain was in the mood for showing itself.  I think all of us manuhiri (visitors) knew how lucky we were.

‘Best of Both Worlds’ is published by Penguin and is the story of the interaction between Elsdon Best (a Pakeha scholar from the late 1800s who wanted to record Maori stories) and Tutakangahau, a Tuhoe chief.  We were lucky enough to meet some of the descendants of both men, as well as descendants of Rua Kenana, the Ringatu prophet.

It occurred to me that the wharenui is like a history book itself – with photos of ancestors around the walls and no doubt many stories written into the patterns painted on the walls and beams (for those with the ability to understand them). And of course histories are  kept and told by the people who live there, who keep the stories alive and pass them on.

The night before we went to Maungapōhatu, we stayed at Ōpūtao marae at Ruatāhuna, a family marae which offers noho marae (marae stay) accommodation.  If you’re looking for a friendly marae to stay at, with great home-cooked food and an opportunity to practise your reo, here’s where to book:

The day we left, we stopped in at Ruatahuna again where a local gala was under way, with horse riding competitions, food stalls and digger competitions.

We met some wonderful people during our vist and came away grateful to the tangata whenua who looked after us so well.

road through the Ureweras 

 Peter & Waikaremoana (on the way home)

Janis in Iceland

Everyone should go to Iceland. I’m trying to think of a synonym for cool. But, you know. That’s just how it is.

ice lagoon & mountainsPrikiddrying shark meat

Left to right: an ice lagoon (glacier melting because of underground magma), a cafe we really liked in Reykjavik, shark meat drying at the shark museum



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November 2020

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