Painter’s Protest

Ātete/To Resist is the title of an exhibition of Ralph Hotere’s work currently at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū, until 25 July.

The exhibition is stunning and I was glad to have my first viewing with a volunteer Gallery Guide. I always appreciate the guides’ knowledge, and their introduction is an excellent way to meet a new exhibition. Hotere is immensely political. His work reflects his Catholic upbringing as one of a family of fourteen, and his concern for the environment. The precision of his drawing is amazing and it is often partnered with texts from various poets. Many painting are dark, and not easy for me to photograph. The most striking is Black Phoenix, made from the burnt bow and timbers of the fishing boat Poitrel.

Black Phoenix

Godwit/Kuaka is eighteen metres wide, with a theme of strength in unity. It featured at Auckland International Airport from 1977 until 1995.


The Sangro group of works reference Hotere’s visit to the grave of his brother Jack, who fought in the Māori Battalion and is burned in Italy. Numbers allude to the ages of men buried in the Sangro River Cemetery. The work below is accompanied by a poem by Cilla McQueen.

Sangro Litany

I was very taken by Hotere’s Black Union Jack, an anti-apartheid message aimed at the NZ Rugby Football Union. There’s just so much to see in this exhibition.

In many paintings he expressed
a strong political protest

The Amberley Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday morning and made a good focus for our drive north in fine weather.

Amberley Farmers’ Market

The market is in two halves, one side has crafts (see photo above), with an abundance of children’s and babies’ wear. The other side has food. We were pleased to buy sausages from The Sausage Shed as we’ve enjoyed their goods previously. I was a little surprised to find someone selling walnuts in shells at $15 for 1.5 kg. We have kilos of these hanging in our shed and I currently collect more every day. Those we don’t use ourselves are happily given away to friends.

Walnuts for sale

Down the road there was solid furniture for sale, all made by members of the Amberley Menzshed.

Furniture by Menzshed

We’re in the process of establishing a Menzshed in the Avon Loop, and I hadn’t thought about the possibilities of it eventually becoming a fundraiser.

There were no plants on offer at the Farmers’ Market, so we went to Hammer Hardware and bought Sweet Williams to fill in a gap in our front garden. Next we visited the NEST Arts Collective, where attractive artworks were displayed.

“Lesser of two weevils” by Nigel Wilson
Ostriches by Sue Kemp

Sue Kemp also had paintings of chooks which attracted me. Alas, no cards available for my chook-loving friend who has a birthday looming.

A couple of second-hand shops were fascinating to browse – these always entice me. Richard’s shop is a treasure trove of all kinds of items, and he supports rescued racehorses. I was tempted to buy a wooden giraffe for $18, but was unsure whether it might be too tall for the shelf I planned it for. When we got home and checked we thought probably it would have fitted in, but I’m unlikely to be going back to Amberley in the near future. It just goes to show the importance of following one’s instincts! At Mollies’ recycling shop across the road I could have had a picture of a green flamingo for $3, but restrained myself. Pink flamingoes are best (and I have a few of those).

The Amberley Pub has closed, so we lunched at the Nor-wester Cafe, always a pleasant spot, then headed home to plant Sweet Williams.

If you head north I guarantee
there’s lots to see in Amberley

Weather Forecast

For days no rain has come in sight
surrounding hills are seared and brown
our farming folk bemoan their plight
it seems the climate’s upside-down

The autumn seems more summer like
with temperatures above the norm
perhaps our winter’s gone on strike
refusing to be true to form

Ripe fruit and nuts show harvest’s here
and trees are coloured red and gold
each day I’ve drifts of leaves to clear
and break down into compost mould

While we enjoy a warmer day
in England weather has got bleaker
some spring delights have gone astray
because the Gulf Stream now is weaker

Consumption of the earth’s great store
has led to fatal climate change
we simply must stop using more
is it too late to re-arrange?

An intriguing sight in the Supermarket car park this morning. I’ve never seen damage to a car stitched up like this before, have you?

The stitches must be meant to fix
but would their consequence be nix?

Antique Artworks

The Teece Museum at the Arts Centre currently has an exhibition titled “Myths and Mortals”. We parked in Hereford Street and managed to use one of the card-operated parking meters for the first time. It twice rejected my Visa card, possibly because I had it the wrong way round, but Stephen’s worked. On our way we walked through the South Quad where there are modern artworks. I liked both of these, but couldn’t see anything describing who the artists are:

Stone piece on South Quad
Woven piece on South Quad

The breadth of artifacts to be seen at the Teece Museum is truly amazing. Various depictions of Goddesses appealed to me:

Medusa on an askos/funerary vase, guarding the dead, with three mourning women round the back
Cybele, the Great Earth Mother, here in mourning as a protector of the dead
(1st or 2nd century CE)
Kore/Maiden – cast of a statue at the Acropolis c. 490 BCE
Roman marble head of an Amazon (c. 180-190 CE)

There are always interactive exhibits to interest a wide range of people, including this replica chariot.

Ruth in replica chariot

We thought we’d avoid a longer walk by taking the lift down to Hereford Street. This took a while to respond and a University staff member came out to tactfully tell us that another time we should walk back around the quad. We planned to have lunch at the Robert Harris Cafè at the YMCA , and discovered this has now morphed into Bean at the Y. I suspect there wasn’t enough business to keep Robert Harris viable.

The Greek and Roman artworks there
are really quite beyond compare

Rambling on the Ridge

Today Christine and I climbed the Dry Ridge Track in Mt Vernon Park. This is promoted as being short and enjoyable, and involves quite a bit of scrambling over rocks. I would find it challenging in wet weather, and was glad I’d taken a stick. There are lovely views:

Part way up the track

and a cave:

Ruth in Mt Vernon cave

Further up we stopped at the plane table for a snack, and were accosted by an excited dog who obviously hadn’t read the sign about needing to be on a leash. We saw walkers on other tracks in the distance but met only two on the Dry Ridge. There were a few sheep who seemed friendly and were finding something to eat although the hills were brown and dry.

Sheep on the ridge
Christchurch from the ridge

We planned to descend via the Mt Vernon Farm Track. This was not signposted, but we found a rutted track heading in the right direction and thought we’d take a chance. (The idea of scrambling back down the Dry Ridge Track was not appealing.) We soon found our way back to the car park, feeling well-exercised.

We’re pleased we did the Dry Ridge Track
and followed an easy way back

This novel’s unusual theme held me totally engrossed. It’s set in the future, but it’s never stated how far in the future, and it could be very near. It tells of the effects of climate change, together with one woman’s quest to understand her background, and is also a poignant love story for a person and for the planet.

Birds are undoubtedly the most successful creatures on earth because they have courageously learned to live anywhere, but in this story birdsong has disappeared from most places. 80% of all wild animal life has died. Deer, bears, and wolves have all gone. Fanny, the Irish/Australian narrator is an Extinction Rebel, determined to follow the path of the few remaining Arctic Terns. These birds have the longest migration of any creature, travelling from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back again within the year. (I did wonder how they compare with the Godwits.) Fishing by humans is no longer considered acceptable, and Franny’s time aboard a purse seine fishing boat is graphically related.

This powerful story is exquisitely written and incredibly touching.

She follows the migrating tern
where there is so much more to learn

Change of Characters

I remember them
the girls I grew up with
St Albans schoolgirls
secure in blue gingham
they had fathers
I was different
being half an orphan.
Aged ten I flew north
life disrupted
with bare goodbyes

Auckland was alien
a potpourri of races
playing strange games
books gave comfort while
my circle slowly widened
Grammar School friends
a tight clique of four
in navy gym slips
with hats and gloves
becoming adults
tampons and pantyhose
sharing secrets
and support
until one day . . .

Early memories beckoned
return to Te Wai Pounamu
leaving friends behind
“abandoned” some said
starting again
a new circle
of spiritual sisters
ageing disgracefully

Where are they now
those girls I grew up with?

EGGS 4th form, Ruth top row, third from right

This unusual memoir tells of the seventeen times the author has been close to death. It seems astounding that the Grim Reaper could have been so near at so many stages of her life. I had trouble recalling just two comparable experiences.

Some of the incidents she relates seemed a little forced to this reader, but the final chapter about her daughter’s health challenges was heart-rending. The strategy of relating each story to a body part works well, and Maggie’s determination to live her life fully shines through. Amazing to think she could survive all of this and still write excellent novels.

So many times she’s close to death
the reader needs to hold their breath

Ships Suspended

Today has been perfectly warm and autumnal. In fact I might have called it an Indian Summer day, except that feels a little unkind as today is the start of a temporary ban on travellers from India, even those who are N.Z. citizens or residents, due to the prevalence of Covid there.

It was also the day of the Christchurch Marathon, which means roads around our cottage were all closed, and I needed to walk up to Bealey Avenue to meet my friend for our weekly beach outing.

At the beach we were surprised to see five container ships lined up and waiting to enter Lyttelton Harbour.

Five ships a-waiting

We’ve never seen so many before, and it gave us a tiny taste of what it must have been like recently at the Suez Canal. Perhaps some of the crews come from India and aren’t allowed to land?

The sea was sparkling in the sun, and there was a distinctive nor-west arch.

Nor-west arch

25 degrees today, and similar weather is forecast for tomorrow. We paddled through the waves, and watched dogs and families enjoying a last taste of summer.

It was a lovely autumn day
for marathons and seaside play