A good morning

Coffee, croissant and homemade jam served from my grandmother's silver jar. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Coffee, croissant and homemade jam served from my grandmother’s silver jar holder. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Since the boy-child moved out, my mornings have generally become more leisurely. I can wake according to my body-clock rather than the dictates of Auckland traffic.

Freed from cooking teenager-sized breakfasts, packing lunches and constantly, constantly reminding the boy to HURRY UP, breakfast has become a time for planning and contemplation; a little oasis of calm where I prepare for the day.

I have my grandmother’s silver jam jar holder, and while once I would have thought it ridiculous to use something like that just to hold jam (which, let’s face it, comes in its own jar) I now appreciate not only the simple beauty of the object, but the connection it gives me to the woman whose name I bear, and whom I know only from photographs and my father’s memories.

This post was written for the Daily Post Photo Challenge. This week’s theme is morning.



Friday flip through the archive

Carefree to care-managed: the art of growing up

Su Leslie, 2002.

I wrote this three years ago, yet think it is as appropriate now as then. The challenges facing my son as an 18 year old are different, but no less real. He continues to rise to them and to be a human being worth knowing.


Carefree: without worries or responsibilities.

We often think of childhood days as carefree; and it is true that watching young children at play evokes a sense of their freedom from concern or constraint.

When the boy-child was younger, fantasy games formed a huge part of his everyday play. Like many children, he loved to create forts out of chairs and blankets, turn cardboard boxes into spaceships, dress up and invent imaginary friends. In his case they were imaginary older siblings, which, for a mother struggling with infertility, was pretty tough to deal with at times.

Incredibly inventive, he was constantly making things. Lego and building blocks were indispensable in building props for his, often quite complex, games. Cardboard sheets were sellotaped and stapled into cars, aeroplanes and once, a huge aircraft carrier (and I mean huge).

Items he wanted but didn’t have were improvised. As a two year old, he…

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On narrow streets and the life to come

Looking up a cobbled wynd in the Scottish town of Falkland, Fife. Image: Su Leslie, 2013. Edited with Snapseed.

Cobbled wynd. Sharp’s Close, Falkland, Scotland. Image: Su Leslie, 2013.

In Scotland and northern England, a narrow street or alley is called a wynd or a close (/ˈkls/ pronounced with a soft ‘s’ rather than a ‘z’ at the end).

A few years ago, I stood at the entry to this wee street with its old cobbles worn slick, and saw, in the creamy stone and whitewashed houses, my family’s past.

My ancestors — overwhelmingly working class Fife men and women — lived not in Falkland but in Dysart, Auchtermuchty, Wemyss, Kinglassie, Abbotshall and Gallatown. In streets with names like Pittesdown Close and Watery Wynd; Coal Wynd and Dobie’s Close.

For some, their whole lives were lived in those narrow streets, moving from one rented dwelling to another in the same village or town. Others left Scotland altogether; sensing a wider future for themselves in Canada, the United States, Australia, southern Africa and, in my parents’ case, New Zealand.

I love the way this poem —Wynd, by fellow Fifer Andrew Greig — gives tangible, geographical form to the almost universal condition of being young and caught between the seemingly narrow world that is known, and the vaguely suspected vastness of a future to come.


It’s back again, the how of rain
pleating off leaky roans, binding
strands that curve down stanks, curl
by high-walled wynds and dreels,
past sweetie shops with one faint bulb,
bell faltering as the pinnied widow
shuffles through from her back room –
What can I do for you the day?
She hands me now
no Galaxy or Bounty Bar
but a kindly, weary face, smear
of lipstick for her public, the groove
tartan slippers wore in linoleum
from sitting-room to counter, over thirty years:
the lost fact of her existence.

Currents ravel past the draper’s
where Mr Duncan and his unspeaking sister
sort shirts by collar size, set out
Mason’s cuff links and next season’s vests;
on stiff white cards their flowing pens
price elastic, Brylcreem, dark tartan braces.

Floods tangle, splice, uncoil
down Rodger Street, past bank and tearoom,
the dodgy garage where they sold airguns to anyone,
the steamed-up window of the ‘Royal’
where fires warms the bums of men who like
to drink standing, bunnets jammed down tight.
At Shore Street the rain-river
leaps the pavement, scours a channel
through pongy weed behind the sea wall
where damp frocks shiver under umbrellas
by the market cross, waiting for their lucky day
or at least the bus to Leven –
which won’t come for ages, because it’s Sunday.

In the hours between Stingray and the evening meal,
when the strings of family, place and history
working us, are all too bleeding visible,
as gutters burst the adolescent wonders
whether to have a quick one or read French poetry.
Smouldering with solitude, the prince of boredom
stands at the window, watching rain,
wondering when life ends, or will finally begin.

Fall, flow ache.
By those cramped streets, the kenned wynds,
loans, closes, byways, dreels,
the dying shops, fishermen’s damp houses
with empty sail lofts, broken pantiles,
wash-houses not ready for witty conversion;
by the constricting, cherished dreichness of our town
whose high tide had ebbed before ours began;
by the draper with its yellow blinds pulled down,
the angle of a bent streetlamp,
the budgie cage in old Jeanie’s window;
by the secret path behind the allotment,
the steep slalom of Burial Brae,
the short-cuts, the dank kirks and graveyards –
by these details we did not know we loved,
we grew up provincial, in the heart of the world.

You are standing at the bedroom window
watching rain, homework abandoned on the desk.
The parents are somewhere unimportant,
wee brother plays keepie-uppie in the gloom –
time to belt the shorty raincoat, go
in search of nothing but the life to come.

Andrew Greig

— from the Scottish Poetry Library

A contribution to the Daily Post Photo Challenge, on the theme of narrow.

A change in the weather

Narrow path in the sand between dunes leading to the beach at Mangawhai Heads, NZ.. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

“A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.”  — Marcel Proust.  Heading to the beach at Mangawhai Heads. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

It didn’t rain much on Saturday. In fact, for most of the day there was a cold sunshine and relatively light winds. The Big T and I celebrated by going to Mangawhai Heads for lunch and a walk on the beach.

Sand dune at Mangawhai Heads, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

Sand dunes at Mangawhai Heads, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016. Edited with Snapseed.

Weathered rocks form a breakwater at the harbour entrance. Mangawhai Heads, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

Weathered rocks form a breakwater at the harbour entrance. Mangawhai Heads, NZ. Image: Su Leslie, 2016

I find myself talking about the weather a lot these days. I can’t decide if this is a sign of aging, or just another unfortunate effect of climate change.

Don’t knock the weather; nine-tenths of the people couldn’t start a conversation if it didn’t change once in a while.  —  Kin Hubbard

This post was written for Sally D’s Mobile Photography Challenge at Lens and Pens by Sally.