Caselberg Writer’s Residency, Broad Bay, Dunedin.

Late February 2015, I was unexpectedly offered a two week writer’s residency at the Caselberg Trust house in Broad Bay, Dunedin. The invitation came out of the blue, and as I had been in low spirits for some time, an entirely welcome one. It meant I could concentrate on writing without interruptions or distractions. Having no idea what to expect, I was overwhelmed – not only by the physical beauty of the site, but by the comfort and delightful atmosphere of the cottage with its glorious views, its light, its art and books, but more importantly the stunningly welcoming reception on arrival. One of the trustees, Lesley Hirst, met me at the airport and drove me to Broad Bay, stopping on the way to buy provisions, and offering rides for further such necessities. On the table, as we entered the cottage, a huge box of freshly dug vegetables and ‘a welcome to this place’ card from Robert West. He is the secretary of the Trust, as well as a painter and a keen gardener. The large vase of sweet peas also on the table, delicately scenting the room, grown ‘among the vegetables, as they won’t grow anywhere else’. The next day, Lesley Hirst and Janet Downs ( another member of the Trust) treated me to a delectable lunch which included a dish of slow roasted tomatoes grown in their astonishingly large and splendidly maintained, organized garden. We sat outside as the weather was brilliant and remained so during my whole stay. Not once during those days between 20 February and 6 March was it not bright, dry and sunny. The sky full of energy. In the house, overlooking the waters of the Otago Harbour and across to the hills and islands near Port Chalmers, and next to the crib that used to belong to Charles Brasch, everything was spotless and ordered and arranged to make my stay as congenial, easy and comfortable as possible. Wood had been chopped in case a fire was needed. Delicious home-made jams suddenly arrived on the doorstep. It was a bit like travelling back to the country I had first been introduced to in the very early 50’s. The brochure advertising the cottage, describes it as a ‘Power House of Creativity’ and it certainly was that – not only in terms of visiting writers, artists and musicians, but through the very work of the members of the Trust themselves, both in transforming the original house and garden into the haven it is today, as well as their ceaseless activities to raise funds to support and encourage creative endeavours. The boat house at the bottom of the section is without question an extra bonus. How stunning to sit on the water, as if in a boat, on this magnificent harbour that constantly changes its colours and personality. Initially the steps down to the boat shed were almost inaccessibly steep for me ( and maybe some others as well) and I had some considerable difficulty going both down and up as my arthritic knees and ankles need replacing. In no time at all, Lesley was at work, with the willing labour of her holidaying English guests Rachel and Cherry, adding to and widening steps, and generally making the track more manageable. Loads of metal from the quarry in Dunedin were collected in Lesley’s pick-up truck and shoveled into buckets at the top of the steep incline and then carried to fill in the new steps. After days of this Herculean activity ( what is the feminine equivalent of Hercules I ask? ‘Hercula – funiculi, funicula’ instantly replies Lesley, and we all laugh) I was able to walk down comfortably. It is like going into another world. You don’t want to leave.