Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year.

It was also the eve of St Alban’s Day (22 June).  Alban was a citizen of the Roman city of Verulamium in Britain.  He became a Christian after sheltering a priest who was fleeing from persecution.  Put to death in the 3rd century AD for refusing to renounce his new faith, Alban was buried on the hillside at St Albans, where he is honoured as the first Christian Martyr of Britain.

We to a commemorative dinner at Bailies Bar in the Christchurch suburb of St Albans, where the meal was based on what people in Britain ate in the 3rd century AD.  In keeping with the times of St Alban food was served on shared platters.  We were welcomed with mulled wine, and the soup was barley broth.  The platters had roast vegetables, green and herb salad, meats, and flatbreads.  There were also pots of mussels.  It’s years since I’ve eaten mussels, so I tried a couple, but was not impressed.  Dessert was baked winter fruits with cream, and quite delicious.

Stephen was guest speaker and talked about St Alban (Roman history being his special interest).  The meal was delicious, the company good, and all credit to the St Albans Residents’ Association who organised this event.

“St Alban was a special bloke,
rebelled against the Roman yoke.”





Floral Friday

Colourful anemones are popping up in Council flower beds all round town.

I love these flowers with their bright red and blue shades but have never had success growing them.  Luckily bunches are usually cheap to buy a little later in the year.

In the language of flowers anemones represent anticipation.  When they close their petals, it’s believed to be a sign that rain’s approaching.

“Once we have had a shower of rain
the petals open up again.”

Natal Narratives

Many mothers, like me, must have been feeling empathy for our Prime Minister over recent days and weeks.  My first child was born three days after her due date, and I recall several highlights of that time more than fifty years ago.

  • Being told by the hospital not to come in until my contractions were regular. If I’d obeyed she’d have been born at home.
  • Birth happened barely an hour after I’d been admitted – so different from friends’ stories of 20-30 hours labour
  • A concerned nurse saying ‘you’re not pushing, are you?’.  I couldn’t help it!
  • A nurse who offered to ‘turn on the taps’ when she wanted a urine sample.  Being young and naive I imagined this was some invasive procedure and firmly declined
  • Ten days in a single room to enjoy my new daughter.  Hard to imagine what it must be like to be sent home after just a few hours.

Our first baby at two months

I hope Jacinda’s time goes well.  What are your memories of childbirth experiences?

“The times may change but birth is still
a wonderful and special thrill.”

Distinctive Diagonal

Manchester Street now has two new Barnes Dance crossings, at Gloucester and Worcester Streets.

These allow pedestrians to cross in every direction, with all vehicles stopped while they do.  I remember the very first N.Z. Barnes Dance crossing in Auckland in the late 1950s.

The crossings are named for an American traffic engineer, Henry Barnes, and the system was first used in North America in the 1940s.  Barnes didn’t invent it, but as traffic commissioner in Denver, Baltimore, and later New York, he promoted its use in the centre of these cities.  According to Barnes the name was coined when a reporter wrote that ‘Barnes has made the people so happy they’re dancing in the streets’.

The Barnes Dance became less popular when streets became clogged with vehicles and traffic engineers regarded cars as more important than pedestrians.  It’s good to see more of the dances being constructed in central Christchurch and their benefits for pedestrian safety recognised.

“To walk diagon’ly across
just shows the drivers who is boss.”


Newspaper Nostalgia

The mural in Press Lane is now complete, and includes signs alluding to what was there before.

Along the lane is printed the ‘Press’ motto  Nihil utile quod non honestum.  It was impossible for me to get a photo of the whole thing because the lane is narrow.

“I like the way the lane can be
an aid to people’s memory.”

These 26 ‘Short Stories by and about Women’ are good.  I rarely read short stories, but I liked most of this collection.  I skipped the introduction, and was grateful for the short piece about each author that preceded her story.  There were many old favourites: Willa Cather, Katherine Mansfield, Edith Wharton, through to Alice Walker.  This was a truly satisfying way to taste the extraordinary talents of so many women writing about what it means to be a woman.  It needs to be savoured in small doses.

Many of the stories were splendid, especially the first few, but I did not like Gertrude Stein’s “Miss Furr and Miss Skeene”, which I found tediously repetitive.  This prose poem is about sexuality and is the first time ‘gay’ appeared in print to describe same sex relationships.  I may have simply missed the point.

I found this 1975 edition in the Book Fridge, and was surprised to find that later editions are promoted as having 25 stories.  Who got left out in later editions, I wonder?

“These women’s stories in one book
are definitely worth a look.”

Avebury House was the place to be today, as we celebrate the season of Matariki, a time to farewell the old and welcome in the new.  There were lots of displays and many activities for children.

Giant snakes and ladders

The Richmond Community Garden behind the house has been revived and expanded since the earthquakes, and even at the beginning of winter it’s looking good.



I was impressed that plates and cutlery for the community hangi were all going to be composted.

It was great that so many people made the detour around the roadworks to join in this community event.

“Although the roads around are creaky
there was a crowd for Matariki.”