from Hyacinth to Hive

This bee was taking advantage of the warm spring day to extract nectar from a clump of grape hyacinths.  Bees don’t see color the same way humans do, and plants on the blue and yellow end of the colour spectrum attract bees because those are the colours they can easily perceive.  Darker colours such as red appear black to bees, and since black is the absence of colour bees are not naturally attracted to plants with red hues.  Apparently, some tubular flowers are not attractive to bees because the shape is not conducive to pollination, but this bee seems happy with the shape.

It’s good to see a busy bee
who’s pollinating merrily



Suffrage Day 2019

I like to take part in an annual Suffrage commemoration on 19 September, but this year I’d seen no hint of any celebration.  I checked with an organisation I’m a member of, and they forwarded me an invitation to an event this morning.  I sent an RSVP and duly turned up outside the Art Gallery at 9.30am.  I’d guessed the promised short bus ride meant we’d be going to the house at 83 Clyde Road where Kate Sheppard once lived, and the news this morning confirmed that likelihood.  It’s wonderful that the Government has bought the house to be a public educational space focussing on New Zealand women and social change.  We arrived at the house on a perfect spring day.

Kate Sheppard’s house

My photo shows the front of the villa which is almost as it was in Kate Sheppard’s day.  She would have entered through a central front door, but the owners after her disliked the cold wind that blew along the hall, and moved the door to the side.  We sat in two front rooms where a cello duo played before and after the speeches.

Minister Megan Woods spoke of the house being a celebration of women’s achievements in a domestic space.  The pages of the suffrage petitions were pasted together in Kate Sheppard’s kitchen, and her circle of women activists might be considered New Zealand’s original kitchen cabinet.

Kate Sheppard’s kitchen (which later owners used as a bedroom)

Here they worked for the social change which would eventually spread internationally.  This house would have been where Kate Sheppard celebrated the success of the suffrage petition which led to women in Aotearoa New Zealand being the first to vote in national elections.  My great-aunts Emily and Ida Gardner were both signatories.  Kate entertained many leading feminists in this house, especially those involved in setting up the National Council of Women.  Although there have been alterations to the building there are still parts that would be recognisable to those of Kate’s time.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel spoke of the house being an essential element in our nation’s history and Christchurch city’s story.  She talked about the tenacity of the suffragists who organised a third petition after the first two had failed, and the courage of the women who signed the petition.  The message for women of today is to never give up.

Sue McCormack, Chancellor of the University of Canterbury said that Christchurch has always been a place filled with agitators for change.  She quoted Kate Sheppard: Change doesn’t come for free.  You’ve got to give to get it.   The University will work with Christchurch City Council and Heritage New Zealand to develop the potential of the house, and Sue noted that Kate had studied art at the University in 1882.

Hon. Marian Hobbs, recently elected Chair of Heritage New Zealand, stated that more communists went to Christ’s College than any other school in New Zealand.  The suffragists struggled for woman’s voice to be heard in many areas and feminists are still doing that work.  Today we see many examples of women who can do it and who are an example for society.

We were served morning tea in elegant vintage cups, then had time to explore the house and grounds.  Many walls featured posters of notable New Zealand women, as well as banners that were created last year for the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage.

Suffrage 125 banners

Another banner

Hollyhocks and daisies push through the paving – as they do at my home

We chatted and admired the house before taking the bus back to the Art Gallery.  This was an inspiring and moving occasion to be part of, and I look forward to future events at Kate Sheppard’s house.

Kate Sheppard’s house was launched today
a special time in every way

Goldilox Gone?

Three bears were out walking in the CBD this morning.  I asked them what was the purpose of their costumes and they said they were “just for fun”.  I wondered whether they were actually seeking Goldilox, and didn’t want to say so.

Three bears out on the town alone 
do you think Goldilox had flown?

Signs of Spring

Spring in Christchurch is full of floral pleasures.  This week the cherry blossoms in Harper Avenue are a sheer delight, and they may well be gone by next week.

Cherry blossoms are called Sakura in Japanese, and this is the name of a popular Japanese folk song familiar to many of us.  Cherry trees and blossoms have a special significance in Shinto and Buddhist traditions.  Linked to the Buddhist themes of mortality, mindfulness and living in the present, Japanese cherry blossoms are a timeless metaphor for human existence.  Their blooming season is powerful, glorious and intoxicating, but tragically short-lived — a visual reminder that our lives, too, are fleeting.  The beauty of the flowers short and sweet, and there are contradictory meanings as well.  Cherry blossoms symbolize both birth and death, beauty and violence. They are a central motif in the Japanese worship of nature, but they have also historically signified the short but colorful life of the samurai.  Kamikaze pilots during World War II adorned their planes with cherry blossom images as they prepared to “die like beautiful falling cherry petals for the emperor.

These blossoms seen along the way
remind us we must seize the day



Downton Abbey


It always seems slightly immoral to go to a movie on a warm sunny afternoon.  However I’d made the decision a couple of days previously that I would see Downton Abbey, and 1.10pm was a suitable screening at Alice’s, which is my cinema of choice.  I love any historical romance and I’ve always enjoyed the Downton Abbey TV programme.  The film was in Alice’s Wonderland cinema which has a red and black decor with playing cards, white rabbits and Alice, and today there was only only one other patron.

The film had all the familiar characters, and beautiful shots of the English countryside, along with vintage vehicles and a royal parade.  It seems much more splendid and sumptuous on a wide screen (and of course there are no adverts).  The story tells of a visit to Downton by King George V and Queen Mary.  As usual, matriarch Maggie Smith has the best lines, there were many touching scenes, and some ends left dangling for a possible sequel.

If you loved the TV series and/or you enjoy period drama you couldn’t fail to be entranced by this movie.

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey
you’ll find this movie far from shabby


Spelling Judgement

To judge should mean that you are able
by laying evidence on table
to come to sensible conclusion
with clarity and no confusion
yet judgement is a word that can
confuse an educated man
who wonders if the central E
is meant to be or not to be.

Without might be the Yankee way
does English use that E today?
apparently in legalese
the British language expertise
has said to central E “no, no”
at least three hundred years ago
but judgement spelt without the E
just does not seem quite right to me
and searching Google I have found
that central E is gaining ground

Relishing Retirement

When paid work has finished it’s good to still have some structure and purpose in your life.  There’s the opportunity to try different things, make and develop friendships, and spend time an y way you choose.  My days can be taken up with voluntary work, classes, various appointments, activities with friends, and reading novels.  Sometimes it’s just lovely to have a day like today, with no commitments, nothing in my diary or on my task list.  The sun was shining and I could do whatever I wanted.

I started the day with my usual routine, ten minutes of stretching exercises, then a few Wordscraper moves, and checking of e-mails before breakfast.  I did some gardening, had lunch outside, completed the daily Press puzzles, and sat in my swing-seat to draft this post.

Ruth in swing-seat

Of course someone phoned to ask me to do an extra voluntary task.  It doesn’t have to be today, and I’ve added it to my task list for tomorrow.

It’s good to have a day that’s free
from all responsibility