Soaping Fabulously 4

Yet another from the back of the wardrobe (still not my wardrobe, honest) is “luxury English soap” Bronnley Merry Christmas which comes in a box with a holly pattern on it, reminiscent of a Victorian Christmas card. At the time the box was made the company had warrants from HM Queen Elizabeth and HRH the Prince of Wales, but its website now displays only the former.

From a little bit of surmising I would say the soap was purchased in 2008 (the website has different Christmas soaps now available) but it had lost none of its soapiness or its scent – apple and cinnamon, which yes, did remind me of Christmas, a bit. A pleasant soap to use, a decent-sized bar and it lasted for a good length of time.

Although this particular soap is no longer available, on the basis of how much I enjoyed it, I would try a Bronnley soap again.

Cost: $9.90 for 100g. Rating 4 stars.

Also coming in a box (actually, there’s something a bit special about soap in a box) is Linden Leaves aromatherapy synergy in love again. My first recommendation is to this New Zealand company is to come up with a snappier name! The soap is branded as “vegetable soap” (large print on the front) and is certified organic (small print on the back), while the box itself is printed with “vegetable inks” and is “attractively packaged in a paper-based wrap”. Okay, I added the hyphen, I couldn’t help it. What’s “paper-based” mean, do you think? Some paper and some other yukky stuff we don’t want to mention? What’s wrong with using 100% recycled paper?

Back to the small print on the back – besides the rosehip oil and avocado oil there are  things with numbers and chemical names on the list of ingredients. I guess we have to figure that if it’s certified organic (why isn’t that on the front in big letters?) it’s all good.

The soap itself was pleasant enough, but it is one of the pricier ones I’ve used and that extra cost didn’t really stand out in terms of scent or skin feel. In fact, it was probably a bit less fabulous than the six-year-old Bronnley soap. This soap is tagged as having a scent of neroli, vanilla and sandalwood (although the box shows an orange and orange blossom, which is just plain confusing). You all know how I am about vanilla and, once again, I have been disappointed. Pleasant but not nearly what I wanted or was expecting. See the full range of Linden Leaves soap.

At the same time I bought the soap I also purchased a bottle of Linden Leaves ginseng and orange blossom bath salts, which smell divine. Oddly, there is no soap to match.

Cost: $14.99 for 100g. Rating 3 stars.

Haiku Husband has been gallivanting and one of my proceeds from a recent trip was a bar of Honey I Washed Teh Kids (sic) from a Lush outlet in Dubai. Here’s a link to the New Zealand branch of Lush, which is a UK-based company.

The soap is advertised as “toffee and honey” and the bar comes with a honeycomb effect on top of the slice. It does have a scent, but I clock it as something spicier than either toffee or honey. I’ve always wanted to love Lush products but often feel let down when I use them. The fun names and the unique look of the stores usually don’t translate into the same fun at home (website slogan: “magic is something we make”).

The soap lathers okay, but being brown the soap isn’t so pretty to look at and the “honeycomb” on the end is sharpish and/or falls off … and this stuff isn’t cheap! Not one I’d try again.

Cost: Dhr410/kg or $NZ140/kg (Dhr42.65 for my block/ $NZ14.61). Rating 2 stars.

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kakurega wa yuami sugi keri matsu no semi

secluded house –
a hot bath
and cicadas in the pines

- Kobayashi Issa, written in 1804.

This haiku (both Japanese and English) is from David Lanoue’s amazing site, Haiku of Kobayashi Issa.

Katikati Haiku Contest results – a judge reflects

They came in a box – all shapes and sizes of paper and card, most typewritten but one or two brave souls relying on their hand-writing. The judging for the Katikati Haiku Contest is done blind – that is each haiku entered is numbered, I see no names.

I sat down, armed with a pair of scissors, and began to read (the scissors were to cut  stand-out poems from a sheet of entries).

I sorted them, sorted them again and then re-read the whole lot for a third time.

I made piles – definite, definite maybes, maybes and, well you get the picture. The piles got shuffled. The piles got shuffled again.

The coffee table, couch and floor were decorated with strips of paper. The strips of paper got moved from one site to another. Well, several of the strips of paper … some of them stayed right where they were for the entire judging process.

Lorin Ford’s winning haiku was in the top four from the start – it’s a complex, profound and mysterious poem.

a last year’s lambskin where mushrooms gather dusk

It’s funny how sometimes there is more than one poem on the same unexpected subject in the same contest. I gave this haiku by Scott Mason a Commended:

rolling fields
    the vocabulary
           of sheep

I was equally enchanted by the Second-place haiku by Beverley George:

train journey …
the young student next to me
reduces stars to graphs

and by this Highly Commended haiku by Gary Hotham:

   floating in calm air
      too much light
for the engineer’s math

Third was Simon Hanson (an interesting statistic – all the top three haiku, three of the four Highly Commendeds and two of the six Commendeds were by Australians):

holding cover
the hare waits
for eye contact

Catherine Bullock of Waihi won the Best Local Haiku award with this great poem:

evening calm -
duck’s wake
the width of the estuary

I also want to mention this Highly Commended haiku by Beverley George – while judging the entries I went out one morning to find the snail bait around the parsley had claimed five (five!) snails overnight. I could really envisage those “stretched necks” during the dark hours:

parsley bed
the stretched necks
of snails

To read the full list of winners, and my judge’s report, go here.

Unfortunately, we had one disqualification due to haiku being entered that had previously been published. It saves red faces all round if poets keep good records and a track of what’s gone where, when and what happened to those poems (ie, while they may not have been prize winners, were they included in a contest anthology?).

Orchid daze


From my Chinese brush-painting classes I learned that “orchid” – which is one of the first four plants we were taught to paint – signifies spring among the “four gentlemen”.

Artwork: Sandra Simpson

The popular Cymbidiums (I assume we were taught to paint a species type) start coming into bloom here in late winter and, thanks to the variety of plants and hybrid breeding, can produce an ongoing display into summer. We have such a fortunate climate here that we can grow our Cymbidiums outside, in pots or in the ground as they are one of the few terrestrial orchids. A tip I heard from a good grower the other day was to fill the planting hole with bark so good drainage is guaranteed.

The orchid family is the largest plant family in the world – and more are being discovered in the wild all the time. If you so wish you could have some type of orchid in flower for each season – I’ve had Laelia gouldiana (native to the highlands of Mexico), for example, out this winter – while some of them, like my two little Restrepias, flower on and off all year.

The effect of seeing an orchid in flower can be tremendous.

Laelia gouldiana. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Haiyan debris –
a search team spots
an orchid

- Alegria Imperial, A Hundred Gourds 3.2 (2014)

Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines in 2013, one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded.

rain chill
the orchids’ uplifted

- Nathalie Buckland, paper wasp 18.1 (2012)

A Cymbidium blooming among the rocks at Te Puna Quarry Park. Photo: Sandra Simpson

morning prayer …
an orchid absorbs
the sound of bees

- Hansha Teki, Multiverses 1.1

transit of venus –
looking straight
into the orchid’s eye

- Sandra Simpson, A Hundred Gourds, 1.4 (2012)

A Phalaenopsis, or moth, orchid. Photo: Sandra Simpson

earthquake season –
the moth orchid
begins to flutter

- Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest VI: 9

Haiku Calendar praise

Lovely comments from Alan Summers (and his wife Karen Hoy) after receiving a copy of my new calendar.

“It blew me away and mightily impressed my wife, a poet, and haiku writer, and writer for television, so she doesn’t impress easily.

“Very impressive, which I knew already, but still delightfully even more impressed.  High production values, incredible photographs, and fine haiku.

“Honestly, don’t delay, as I don’t know how many copies Sandra has left.  I love mine!   It’s going on the wall as soon as it’s 2015, but will be read many times through the rest of 2014 for pleasure alone.”

Yes, says Sandra, don’t delay! Love to hear from you if you’d like to know more. If you click on the link above, it takes you to an older posting that includes another image and prices.


Spring has brought a number of publications to my letterbox and inbox …

A Hundred Gourds features a loving tribute to Martin Lucas by Matthew Paul, and two of my haiku.

summer solstice -
the flock passes into darkness
one by one

- Sandra Simpson, A Hundred Gourds 3:4

The Heron’s Nest also features two of my haiku, which means I’m in reasonably select company as few have been accorded that honour this time. I’m humbled, as always, to have anything accepted anywhere so to get two each into these fine journals is exciting.

pioneer cemetery -
here and there a name
faces heavenward

- Sandra Simpson, The Heron’s Nest XVI.3

Two of my haiku are to appear in the New Zealand Poetry Society anthology (editor Nola Borrell, launched in November), and Kokako 21 includes four of my haiku.

another lotto loss -
the sparkle of my mother’s
costume jewellery

- Sandra Simpson, Kokako 21

The latest paper wasp arrived by post from Australia today, the penultimate issue of the 20th anniversary series, this one dedicated to senryu and edited by Jacqui Murray, Vuong Pham and Katherine Samuelowicz. Individual issues are $A6 each. (I would link to the website but it appears out of date.)

The editors have shoe-horned the senryu into the 20 pages, no doubt about that. To be fair I should point out that production values are one of my (many) hobby-horses. I’m not sure how successful all the senryu are or why one by Vuong Pham is in twice (not the only proof-reading error). The journal is published four times a year … but is only 16 or 20 pages so I find the proof-reading and layout issues surprising.

I have on my shelf a copy of paper wasp from spring 1996, edited by Janice Bostok and Jacqui Murray which is 16 pages with, generally, five or six poems per page, compared to, generally, 13 or 15 per page for spring 2014.

Okay, that all sounds a bit negative and I’m sorry for that. Every person who edits a haiku journal should receive an award – Knight Companion of the Order of Basho, or somesuch. But, on the other hand, readers of haiku, tanka and haibun journals should be able to expect a minimum standard, evidence of some care.

Too much information?

Did my reading at the Malady Poetry Night at Tauranga Art Gallery last week – hard to know how the haiku went over in amongst all the other wordy poetry that was flying about. Image piling up upon image, countless adjectives and adverbs … and some haiku, stripped back and simple. Glittering ornaments and sea glass.

Did the audience know how to listen to haiku? I did a wee intro but didn’t want to seem like the demanding madam – pin your ears back! – when everyone else had just got up and spouted their wordy poetry, sometimes with wordy introductions. I did consider introducing each haiku, but that seemed like a hiding to nothing, given that most of the introductions would be longer than the poem!

Maybe, by way of introduction, I should have read Introduction to Poetry by the fabulous Billy Collins, but I would have avoided his hilarious The Introduction as it would have been so much better than anything I might have uttered.

I did however, heed the advice of Michelle of the Resistance and read the haiku only once. I came across this, to me, bold move at Haiku North America last year – it makes the listeners, well, listen. Better than twice? Not sure.

Dave Robertson, who was on before me, read some haiku too, sprinkling them in among his lovely poems, one dedicated to each of his three daughters. He read his twice each “as is the tradition”. Huh, I’m not often a non-conformist, but hey!

I tried to read them as slowly as I could and asking for critical feedback from Haiku Husband later, got the comment that maybe I could have paused more between each one. Fair comment and something I will try and remember.

I gave this one a big pause between the end of the second line and the third line and got a murmur from the audience. Yes!

spring morning –
my face breaks into
a cobweb

- Sandra Simpson, Kokako 16, 2012

Soaping Fabulously 3

My year of beautiful soaps continues …

Mailelani Mango Fragrance with Papaya soap was bought while on holiday in Samoa in 2006 and was found recently in the back of a wardrobe (not mine!). I am thrilled the company is still going strong and intrigued to read on the website that because the soaps are made using (organic) coconut oil, they lather in salt water so are useful for boaties, etc. The soap was attractively presented in cellophane with a pandanus tie but the website shows new packaging. What I hope hasn’t changed is the lovely stylised frangipani flower pressed into the top of the soap, took me straight back to the islands and made the bar something decorative to have in the bathroom. The fragrance was pleasant, the soap did leave my skin feeling nice (as per the label) and the bar, considering its size, lasted well. If you can’t get to Samoa, the website offers shopping sites in New Zealand, Australia and Switzerland. Note that the soap is now labelled Fresh Papaya with Mango.

Cost: $7 for 110g. Rating 3.5 stars.

Another one from the back of the wardrobe is The Body Shop’s Spiced Vanilla Soap described on the packet as “a soap sensation, scented with vanilla and a hint of spice”. If you know me then you know that I am a vanilla fiend – I’ve made my feelings known when The Body Shop has twice (twice!) in the past done away with its vanilla range – and if something says it smells of vanilla, it jolly well better smell of vanilla. This didn’t smell of vanilla and had only a vague aroma of spice. Now, that might be because the soap is older (there’s a 2011 copyright notice on the package and it appears to have been a Christmas line for that year) but it’s been stored in a cool, dark environment and its opaque packaging was intact. There was no great whiff of the promised scents when it was opened. The ingredients are what you’d expect from The Body Shop and some include the “Fair Trade” appellation. Completely underwhelming.

Cost: Unavailable for 100g. Rating 1 star (pleasant enough soap but not what it said on the packet).

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