Saturday, 19 November 2016

Postcards From Queenstown - Uncut

"MUM! you're on The Spinoff. Impressive. 

The captions could be longer though."**

Otago ranks fourth in total numbers of writers in New Zealand. Auckland 700, Wellington 300, Canterbury 150, Otago 100. Approximately. Where the hell are we? Writing alone in sheds? This centum of scribes definitely ain’t spilling out of cafes near me sharing woodbines and thought. But I do not seek them out. I stay inside my head and wander down to this bench on the boundary of our property, lie back and soak up some rays.

I never tire of this vista. Even on horseback. There’s a restorative aspect to being with horses. The grooming, the saddling up. I talk to my horse. He grinds his teeth and flips his muzzle preparing for the cool bit of his bridle. Lashes his long pink tongue. He’ll be 26 this Halloween. I blow breaths into his nose. That’s horse-hello. His muzzle’s a red-brown velvet. I kiss it. And tell him, be good. Then off we go.


Hi ho Star. This secret track drops down to the Shotover river. Seams of ancient bullock trails, pricky briars and blackberries and small stony tailings are scattered about. In high summer, when I’m feeling brave I let Star take me across to the other side. We cross back lower down, I pump the air and whoop. Then we gallop back home up another even more secret track.


In winter, I long for colour. Like a yellow jacket. On the wall. On the waterfront. Of Queenstown Bay. Where funnily enough, poetry is inscribed in soft stone. 

Around the bay, Pokemon might lead you to polyanthuses in the park. Late July.

Once you’ve spied a splash of buttercup – it’s pops up in curious places. On a swing over Lake Hayes, looking up towards the Remarkables Ski field. A track circumnavigates the lake. It’s a brisk 1 hour 55 minute walk. With okay views. You’ll pass blue teals and young patches of heavily netted kowhai battling against generations of Euro rabbits. In a future spring it may blaze gold.

Talking of walks - Queenstown Hill is a popular climb. Where you’ll find a basket-of-dreams and a lake on top of a mountain. With another mountain bathing in it. Plus chocolate box views down over Queenstown township and south towards Kingston, home of the Kingston Flyer. Once hired for a The H’s 40th. $200 for the entire steam powered locomotive. An extra $150 for five bandits on horseback. Best night eva. True story. Someone should save that great train; find it on TradeMe for two mil.

--> Thinking of a roadie? Traffic is never a problem on the road from Gore to Mandeville. Everywhere else, watch for dicks driving way-worser than this. 

--> Maybe off-roading is your thing. Take a trip into Skipper’s canyon. You can self-drive all 22kms of it. If you know the right people they might throw you off a 75 metre bridge, with a thick elastic band attached to your feet. On a special day.    (That's Margaux waving)


Further up the road, past this tree, you get to Skipper’s settlement. You’ll find the Mount Aurum homestead, a restored school house, mowed lawns, poisoned pine forests and cottages. A nearby cemetery tells many a sad tale of lives perished young from the hardship of it all back in the mid-1800s.

Queenstown is a seasonal photographer’s dream. Autumn winds and warmths throw some crazy big sky wallpapers. One day they turned the tennis court blue.

UFO’s in my own backyard. Middle Shotover. Hadn’t seen them since I was a kid in the seventies. There were loads about then.

--> There can be freak snowstorms in spring. The farmers call them ‘lamb killers’. I’ve always wondered where the birds go when it snows. Like the (almost) pet tui I call Tui-tui, who dips and dives and follows me about the minute I walk outside. I’m trying to teach him to say, Jane. So far he is without song.

But spring snow melts quickly. It’s a good time to do an arty bookshop-ready-cover-shoot with innovative biscuits,  before it sinks back to green.

And remind the world.

Yellow is everywhere.

**In light of that comment, by daughter No.1, and for any writers or readers interested in the editing process, this is my original uncut version as presented to the Literary Editor of The Spinoff (and also my publisher) Steve Braunias. FYI - I like both versions!

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