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Perplexing Pictures

Two mysterious drawings appeared in our letter box this morning. They weren’t wrapped in any way, just slightly bent to fit in the newspaper slot, with no clue as to who left them or who the artist is. They’re on quarto-size card (slightly smaller than A4) and glossily etched on a black background.

The subjects are fantastical – fairies, plants, insects, an owl, and a mouse. Does anyone recognise them? It’s all a mystery!

The more I look at them the more intrigued I am, and I’d love to have an explanation. The next assignment for my poetry group is to write an ekphrastic poem, i.e. one that addresses a work of art. Perhaps one of these drawings can be my inspiration?

Perhaps these pictures strangely sent
may be ekphrastically meant

It’s now fifteen years since I started this blog. Over that time I’ve written 4,197 posts. That’s an average of three posts every four days, which seems remarkable to me. On the blog’s third birthday I noted that I’d posted four days out of five, so I’ve kept it up pretty well. THANK YOU to all those who keep reading.

My mihi, written in June 2006 has always been the most popular of my posts. Last year when we were in lockdown and it was hard to find new things to write about I started to publish pieces of memoir. There have now been forty of these memoir posts and they’ve been well received.

Blogs seem to be less fashionable these days. So many people have moved on to Instagram or TikTok, but I’m happy to stick with a format that suits me.

I’m always grateful to my regular readers, especially those who leave comments. I hope to be writing and posting for at least another fifteen years.

I never fifteen years ago
imagined how my blog would grow

The names Hamnet and Hamlet were interchangeable in Stratford records in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Hamnet was the name of William Shakespeare’s only son, who died in 1596, aged eleven. Hamlet is the title of a famous play.

This novel is the imagined story of Shakespeare’s wife Agnes, who was a wise woman and clairvoyant. Her story is is almost mythic, and the descriptions are superb. It’s beautifully written and totally enthralling. The account of the mother preparing her son’s body for burial is heart-rending, as is the continuing grief of the whole family. Shakespeare himself is a minor character in this story which concentrates intensely on the domestic life of the women. This is a book not to be missed.

Although this boy had shortened days
his name lives on among the plays

I found this book required concentration and I needed to take it in small doses, but it is full of useful information.  The author links spirituality with ethics rather than with religion, and explains that for him the word secular implies an inclusive and impartial attitude towards all religions as well as non-believers.  He stresses the need for a sustainable universal approach to ethics, inner values, and personal integrity, and points out that the practice of these brings rewards in terms of our own spiritual wellbeing and that of those around us.

His Holiness writes about our basic human spirituality and how global media have given us a deeper awareness of the interconnectedness of people everywhere.  He points out that when law is tied to narrow interests it fails to uphold the fundamental concept of justice as a principle of fairness based on human equality.  We all have a responsibility to care about others, and in His Holiness’s view apathy is a form of selfishness.  When teaching about ethical awareness and inner values it is vital to model these ethics and teach by example.

This book affirmed good ideas that I’ve come across before, but don’t always manage to put into practice. The Dalai Lama gives practical guidance on how meditation can help us to cultivate inner values such as patience and compassion and points out that contentment is an absence of greed.  I appreciated his quote from 8th century Indian thinker Shantideva:

If there is a solution
Then what need is there for dejection?
If there is no solution
Then what point is there in dejection?

Missing Memories

The librarian helped me to look for a book which the catalogue said was on the shelf, but which had mysteriously gone AWOL. When she saw my name she told me we’d been in the same Feminist Studies class more than thirty years ago. Her memory is much better than mine (library training?) as I couldn’t remember her at all.

She asked whether I was still living in the same cottage and told me she’d come to a party we had in 1990 to celebrate our Silver Wedding anniversary. There was a crowd at that party, including Alf’s Imperial Army Choir who sang Rule Britannia -for Stephen, and Sisters in Jazz (Lynley Caldwell and Marg Buchanan) who sang I am Woman – for me. I wore a silver dress and Stephen had a silver cummerbund.

Silver Wedding Party

None of the party-goers had been at our Auckland wedding but old Auckland friends sent cards and telegrams, and one turned up unexpectedly. Because it was 1990, the sesquicentennial of the signing of Te Tiriti, I had a clever reference to this on the party invitations, but I can’t now remember what it was. Maybe I could ask the librarian.

There’s so much info in my brain
some facts just can’t be found again.

Appreciating Art

Te Puna o Waiwhetu Christchurch Art Gallery generously offers free guided tours at 11am and 2pm every day, and this morning I was the only customer. I was delighted to have Teresa exclusively show me around.

First we looked at some stunning photographs by Larence Shustak who came to Christchurch in the 1970s to lead the new photography department at the University’s School of Art. This exhibition is open until 7 June. Larence often photographed graffiti and I loved this one of a sheep.

Christchurch Sheep by Larence Shustak

Later we looked at “As Time Unfolds” an exhibition of many different types of folds. These items all come from the gallery’s collection, and the show finishes on 28 February

Shadows 4 by Rosemary Johnson
Cérembault’s Dream by Jude Rae
On the Takaka Hill by Leo Bensemann

I found Pauline Rhodes’ Blue Mind installation rather overwhelming. It takes over the whole room (until 7 March), and I felt that less could have been more.

Pieces from Blue Mind by Pauline Rhodes

Leaving the gallery I went to the Arts Centre to meet a friend for lunch and found another artwork depicting folds. This piece by Kazu Nakagawa is called Ka mua Ka muri which is a Maori whakatauki that talks of walking backwards into the future.

Ka mua Ka muri by Kazu Nakagawa

For introduction to new art
a guided tour makes good start

Ten Years After

Today, the tenth anniversary of The Christchurch Quake, I again led a small ceremony of remembrance on the riverbank as part of the River of Flowers commemoration. We were supplied with flowers by Moffats, and also with three floral artworks. I went over early to install these artworks which was not easy. Although they are on iron poles the ground was hard and dry and I couldn’t push them in very far. I went home to get a hammer to assist me, and as I walked back across the road I was conscious of the fact that someone was murdered with a hammer last night, just a couple of blocks away. Even with the hammer I couldn’t get the artworks far into the ground, but I hope they’ll stay upright for the rest of the day.

Flowers and artworks

This year there’s a new seat beside the Bricks cairn and new planting on the riverbank which all seems to symbolise the fact that we are moving forward. The river was tranquil with a few ducks floating by and the summer sound of cicadas. I sat there at 12.15pm wondering who and how many would come to this ten year commemoration. Over 40 people turned up, and I felt emotional as we observed our two minutes’ silence.

Over recent days media have been focussed on the earthquake and its anniversary, and I’ve seen, heard, and read more than I want to. My experience of the earthquake and its aftermath is available on my blog archive for anyone who’s interested, and over 500 of my post-earthquake posts are permanently stored in the University of Canterbury’s Quake Studies archive.

I’ve been honoured to take part in our local annual commemoration, but I’m pleased that this will be the last year I take responsibility for it. Ten years is enough for me. In future people may continue to put a flower in the river, but it will be an individual action rather than anything co-ordinated.

We’ve done it for ten years and so
the time seems right to let it go

Staycation Expedition

Our usual February holiday is off the plan this year for various reasons. Instead we thought we’d take regular trips afield, to enticing lunch venues.

Today we went 20 km to Tai Tapu to visit the Gatewood Market. This is held on the third Sunday of every month during spring and summer, and we were surprised to find how popular it is.

Gatewood Market

There were dozens of stalls, along with entertainment and the possibility of a horse ride. The stalls sell mainly crafts as well as plants and specialty foods. It occurs to me that now city shops tend to be boring, it’s in this kind of place that you find interesting goods. This is a dog-friendly market and we saw two stalls selling dog accessories, plus another that had Wild Bird Tweets.

Dogs at the market
Wild Bird Tweets

I succumbed to the temptation to buy a flamingo patch although I’m not sure where I’ll put it – maybe on my pink jacket?

There wasn’t much produce on offer, but we did buy some new potatoes, along with a jar of Blackcurrant Honey from Bee My Honey.

In a nearby field there were rather patchy looking sheep, apparently the kind that are self-shedding.

Shaggy sheep

We lunched at the nearby Tai Tapu Hotel, which was doing a roaring trade on such a lovely summer day. Most tables in the large garden that had umbrellas were either taken or reserved, but we managed to find a spot with shade near the children’s playground.

Tai Tapu Hotel

It’s a treat for us to watch small children running around and dancing to the live music which started at 1pm. I chose a whitebait fritter, which was more like an omelette, crammed with delicious whitebait, and accompanied by a salad.

On our way back we stopped at a sign that said Free Range Eggs, thinking that where there are eggs there are probably free range hens, and sure enough we were delighted to be able to peer through the fence at these fine red shavers. (Yes, they had grass to forage in – maybe there were grubs in the shingle?)

Free Range Hens

Our journey was well worth the drive
to see how country life can thrive

Soaring over the Sands

A flying object appeared above the beach. In the distance it looked like a kite, then we thought it was a paraglider. As it got nearer we realised the person hanging below was operating a two-stroke motor. I’ve since learned it’s called a paramotor.

It flew over us, then way down the beach. Eventually it turned and flew back. It was hard to get a photo as the sun was glaring on the camera.

Above the dunes was another flying object – a drone:

The man operating it looked as though he might be just learning how to do this. Angry gulls kept swooping down to investigate. They didn’t approve of this intruder in their territory.

We saw unusual things that fly
above the beach, up in the sky

Vanishing View

In 1987 when we bought our cottage there was an unattractive tavern just across the road, the Star and Garter. This didn’t put us off. We were delighted to have found a character cottage in the area we wanted, and the tavern had a convenient car park area where you could drive through from Kilmore Street to Nova Place – a handy alternative to the one-way system. Later this car park was replaced by four residential units.

The tavern eventually closed down and was completely demolished in 1996. Since then we’ve enjoyed a view of the river, across a green field which was regularly mowed. Occasionally a large mobile billboard would appear, but I soon learned these were illegal and the Council would have them removed.

At one stage Philip Carter, whose Carter Group owns the site, had plans to build retail outlets with residential buildings above, and locals participated in workshops facilitated by the City Council, where these were discussed. Luckily for us, the plans fell through and we continued to enjoy our river view.

Yesterday a large mechanical digger moved it with a couple of men marking the turf.

Marking where it’s safe to dig

I went over to investigate and was told they were doing a geotech survey to find out the condition of the ground. The men were marking where it was safe to dig, avoiding underground services. The digger excavated large holes and later filled them in again.

Digging holes for geotech survey

I emailed the Resource Consents Manager at the City Council to ask whether any building permit had been applied for, and this morning I received his reply with a copy of the 55 page application for which they are awaiting further information. Novo Group plan to build 38 two-bedroom residential units on the site, the smallest of which will be 60.5 square metres. I haven’t studied the whole application but have seen enough to know that at least there will be onsite parking for 37 cars. The seven units facing Nova Place (and our cottage) will be three storeys high with garages at ground level, and setback less than two metres from the road.

We had previously understood that a green corridor of 30 metres either side of the river was to be maintained, but this proposal includes structures within that area. Public notification is apparently not required under the Resource Management Act.

The applications reference to car parking mentions the low-volume, cul-de-sac and local road characteristics of Nova Place. It was apparently not written by anyone familiar with the heavy traffic associated with busy nights at the Bridge Club. Many of their members currently park on the edge of the Star and Garter site.

Our river view will definitely vanish, although we will still see the trees on the other side of the bridge. We hope the three storeys opposite won’t take our sun too.

Our river view may disappear
Let’s hope we have good neighbours here