Sunday, April 17, 2011


Here is another Irish blessing - there seems to be many of them.
This is a particularly beautiful contemporary one by the poet
John O'Donohue

On the day when
the weight deadens
on your shoulders
and you stumble,
may the clay dance
to balance you.

And when your eyes
freeze behind
the grey window
and the ghost of loss
gets in to you,
may a flock of colours,
indigo, red, green,
and azure blue
come to awaken in you
a meadow of delight.

When the canvas frays
in the currach of thought
and a stain of ocean
blackens beneath you,
may there come across the waters
a path of yellow moonlight
to bring you safely home.

May the nourishment of the earth be yours,
may the clarity of light be yours,
may the fluency of the ocean be yours,
may the protection of the ancestors be yours.
And so may a slow
wind work these words
of love around you,
an invisible cloak
to mind your life.


This was written on the back of the order of service at my mothers funeral. It was the first time I had seen this, and is as I found out latter a well known and loved Irish blessing.


ay the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Friday, April 15, 2011



They laid you in an open coffin
Said its good to view the body
Helps you with your grief
Maori brother in law said it was unusual
To find Maori custom in a Pakeha way

As if seeing a ghost my son recoiled
When first he saw his Grandma lying there
New customs can take some time
To colonise the brain

Watching you from afar expecting you to rise
Like Lazarus from the dead
Once more you were the matriarchal centre
Holding those willingly within your orbit one
Last time but in no fit state
To take up your bed and walk

Moving closer I held your cold hands and kissed
Your forehead, but you were not there
This cast off shell, this husk,
This silent hollow bell was not you
Friend, you had gone: a voyage I could not follow

Tears, pain and loss do scar the grieving heart
But this witness brings a certainty
And leaving is a compass needle pointing to
Arrival on a new and different shore.

Later outside in the soft dark embrace of night
Under high stars I heard far off a Morepork call
Amongst the singing cicadas and waves lapping
On a beach so far away.

- Alden

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Vinegar Hill Road

The newly named Aquaplane Corner on Vinegar Hill Road

Vinegar Hill Road is a back road to my place of work that avoids the stop and start centre of town with its traffic lights. It is also shorter and has a lot less traffic driving on it. Last week while driving briskly to work I hit the brakes a bit too hard coming into this corner in wet weather and found the tail of the car lurching to the right (we drive on the left in New Zealand - our steering wheels are on the right hand side of the car) - I over corrected and the tail then lurched left; another correction and I was straddling the road with the front of the car almost in the hedge to the left of the picture. I am sure the brief quick pressure on the brakes got the car aquaplaning. The road has plenty of good coarse surface and the tyres on my car have good tread. Scary stuff indeed! Luckily nothing was coming the other way.

On Monday night of this week while driving home from school I nearly bowled a black cow that was standing in the middle of the road not far from where this photo was taken - Another teacher was right behind me and as I stopped I put my Hazard lights on to warn her. She told me the next day that she had an uneasy feeling when she left school and decided to follow me rather than go ahead of me in her car - she reckons she would have hit the silly black cow - but that's a questionable conclusion considering that she drives a lot slower than I do.

The next morning, Tuesday, as I turned into Vinegar Hill road I was stopped at a police road block and given a breathe test (good job I wasn't drinking before school!!! ). Of course I was in the clear, but I got to thinking how this road was becoming such an interesting part of my early morning drive.

Maybe next week I will be abducted by aliens who will investigate all my orifices and poke me with sharp implements and I will henceforth roam the world attending UFO conferences enduring endless recovered memory hypnosis sessions and ranting somewhat.

Maybe I will crash through a hedge into the living room of a remote country cottage and find that Elvis is still alive and living in Hikurangi - Elvis will come out of retirement and we will make an album together called "Al and Elvis - Road Songs From Vinegar Hill", of course I will let him have a few solo spots on the album, that's only fair dos eh.

Maybe I will aquaplane again on this corner as I try to avoid a possum on the road just as the CEO of Porsche Italia comes driving towards me - he will of course be amazed at the skill of this aging Honda driver and I will be given a job testing cars at the Porsche factory in Italy (between driving formula one cars for them). It will of course be hard to leave New Zealand for an international career but the salary I will demand will be an offer I cannot refuse.

Anyway, today as I headed home listening to 'Coast Radio' which plays all the classic hits endlessly "without ever playing two advertisements in a row" I was thinking about Elvis when a large dog lept onto the road at the exact moment as Elvis's song "Ain't Nothing But A Hound Dog" began playing --- and do you know, out of the corner of my eye I was sure I saw a dark haired man in a white sequined suit disappear through the trees towards an old cottage.

I know its hard to believe, but that last paragraph didn't actually happen - but it gives the story a nice symmetry don't you think?