Posted in Before the Rain


What the satirists said was true –
the civil service couldn’t function without tea breaks.
Each day :
10 a.m.
12 midday.
2:30 p.m. Sharp.
Everything stopped.
Everyone attended –
phone’s diverted to the staffroom.
There was even someone to make it.

Tea ladies – an extinct species now.
Women, always
warm and bighearted
making tea and coffee
dispensing cheer
and on special days,
making sure everyone got some cake.

New Zealand Tea Lady 1935 – 87.

Essential Competencies

· Endlessly patient
· Eternally cheerful
· Relentlessly willing.

Physical Attributes

· Some lifting involved
· Must be able to stand for long periods
· Large breasted (medium may apply).

Often they carried the name of a flower
Rose, Iris, Daphne
or something accessible and friendly
Annie, Betty, Jenny.
We had Shirley.

Shirley – tea Lady excelsis.
Ours was her last staff room –
four decades plus of brewing,
for men
shearers, farmers, shepherds –
tea like waste oil from a tractor.
It turned me into a coffee drinker.
I blame her for my addiction.



Most of my life has been spent on the bench, occasionally called into the game by extravagance or attenuation. Waiting has turned a loner into a recorder - nondescript and inconsequential, more not noticed than overlooked - the non-vantage point of children not yet considered old enough to understand. Orphaned Islands (Un)poetry is a lifetime of picking anecdotes up and not throwing them away. Stories collected like odds and ends placed in a box in the basement, the garage, the garden shed - uncertain as to what their use might be but knowing that one day there might be one.