Floral Friday

Crocuses are blooming in the tub by the front door. I chose these Fiesta bulbs, which are supposed to be mixed colours, but so far the flowers are all purple – not that I’m complaining as it’s my favourite colour.

I’ve planted anemones in the centre, but there’s no sign of them yet.

In Greek mythology Crocus, a mortal youth, was a beloved companion of the god Hermes. Unfortunately Hermes accidentally killed Crocus during a discus game. As Hermes mourned, he transformed Crocus’ body into a flower. The three drops of blood, that had fallen from the head of Crocus, became the stigmata of the flower. 

Many people associate the crocus with happiness, joy and cheerfulness. The purple variety imply success, pride and dignity. It is generally recognized as a symbol of hope that the dark days of winter are at an end and that life will return and flourish.

It seems that purple is the focus
within my tub of early crocus

Dawdling in Dallington

Christine and I set out this morning with some trepidation as the forecast was for rain. We bundled up warmly and drove to Dallington, north-east of the central city. We’d planned to start our walk from the newly opened Dallington Landing, which we understood was at the corner of Gayhurst and River Roads. However, that location was not easily found and we eventually parked by the recently rebuilt Medway Footbridge, the third bridge on that site.

Medway Footbridge

The previous Medway Bridge was completely destroyed in the 2011 earthquakes, and part of it now forms a memorial.

Munted Medway Bridge

We followed the river back to Gayhurst Road where we discovered the Dallington Landing. This area is attractively planted, and all funded by the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust.

Dallington Landing

We’d met only one brief shower of rain, and were pleased to sit in a dry shelter to have our morning snack. On the way back we saw several swans and a few traffic cones that had been dumped in the river.

Swans and cones

We popped in to check out the Dallington Craft Shop at the corner of McBratney’s Road, where they offer free books, magazines, and jigsaws. I couldn’t resist adopting a couple of jigsaws to add to my collection. Round the corner the Dallington op shop was also open, so we browsed there. For just one dollar I bought a hole punch to replace my old one which is inclined to leak small bits of paper. All in all, a satisfying expedition.

After a walk it’s good to stop
and browse an interesting shop

Engrossing Endemics

Terry Thomsen, author of “The Lonely Islands” led us through a closer look at Aotearoa’s deep endemics. After a career in IT Terry went back to university to further his interest in conservation, and is now a freelance tour guide.

He explained that if a species is native to a country, and found nowhere else then it is endemic. If it evolved a long time ago, it is a deep endemic, such as New Zealand’s Tuatara.

Much has changed scientifically in the last 50-60 years. Fossils have been found at St Bathans, and the use of DNA has helped our understanding of how species evolved. From the 1960s there has been an acceptance of the idea of continental drift, with the sea floor spreading. 250 million years ago most animals became extinct, and there was then a huge opportunity for diversification, with some becoming carnivores or herbivores. There was a great blossoming of vertebrate life, e.g. turtles, crocodiles, lizards. Some became furry primitive mammals who laid eggs and also suckled their young.

Zealandia broke from Gondwanaland about 80 million years ago and New Zealand became isolated. Our country is unusual because it has a direct chain of life from Pangaea (the supercontinent that incorporated all landmasses, including Gondwanaland) to the present day. 80 million years ago two new groups of mammals evolved, marsupials and placental mammals. These came via South America, through Antarctica, to Australia (60-70 million years ago). By this time New Zealand was already isolated and too remote for mammals to reach us, which is why we don’t have snakes. New Zealand is unique in the world because we have relics of Pangaea, but also have the traits of separate Oceanic Islands.

Our birds became flightless and larger because they had no predators and there was plenty of food. Some even became carnivores, eating small chicks of other species. Some semi-aquatic birds, e.g. takahe, became entirely land-based. Our tuatara is the only surviving member of the Sphenodontia species who lived during the age of the dinosaurs.

Frogs also began at the same time, and the NZ native frog is the only example of this primitive frog Leiopelma. It is very rare, very small, and well camouflaged. Although it now has a terrestrial lifestyle, the eggs need to develop in a damp place, such as a forest floor. The tadpole stage takes place inside the egg, and once they are born they are froglets, (not tadpoles).

We also have invertebrates which are relics of Gondwanaland, e.g. the tree weta, the giant snail, and petal-tailed dragonflies. Birds evolved after the mass extinction of 250 million years ago which gave them the opportunity to diversify. Parrots and penguins arrived here 50-60 years ago. We have three parrots /strigopoidea which are found only in New Zealand, the kaka, kea, and kakapo. The kakapo is flightless and larger than the others, and considered the most unparrot-like parrot in the world. Other endemic birds are passerines, the Rifleman (less than 1/4 the weight of a sparrow) and the Rock Wren. Some of our birds came more recently from Australia, e.g. the bellbird, tui, and fantail.

My adopted kakapo

Ratite birds in New Zealand split into moa and kiwi. In the 1990s DNA showed that these two species came at different times (the moa first) and although they later became flightless they could only have got here by flying. DNA has shown that their ancestors flew.

We have very few plants from before the split with Gondwanaland. The only genuine plant relic is a small liverwort which is as old as the tuatara. Our short-tailed bat came 25-30 million years ago from Australia, and is the only bat that forages on the ground as well as flying.

Some people have suggested that New Zealand slumped completely under the sea about 25 million years ago, but geologists now agree that some islands must have remained above water.

All of this information provides us with motivation for ensuring that New Zealand’s unique fauna is preserved.

Our fauna’s certainly antique
and much of it is quite unique

Kidd’s Kitchen

Stephen now has a mobility parking permit which makes everything much easier when we are out and about. This morning we needed to do a couple of errands at Papanui, and decided to have lunch at Kidd’s Bakery Café on the way home. We hadn’t been there since well before the pandemic.

The cafe was not busy and had a sign up warning they were short-staffed because of Covid, but the service was fine. On a day when heavy rain and possible snow were forecast it seemed amazing to be comfortable to sit outside in their garden courtyard. It also made good sense for social distancing.

Lunch at Kidd’s

Stephen had a chicken filo, and I had a Quesadilla with sesame chicken, which was flavourful and filling. Both of these were warmed in a small oven (not microwave) which gave them a good toasted finish.

The other group in the garden area included young children who were supplied with colouring pencils. After they left the sparrows swooped in to clear away any crumbs.

We sat outside at Kidd’s Café
surprising on a wintry day

We heard three speakers from the Ngāi Tahu Regional Investment Fund. Wayne Vargis spoke of the history, how Ngāi Tahu for seven generations sought reparation for past injustices. He showed a video of endeavours the tribe has invested in since the settlement of $170 million in 1998. If anyone queries the fact that Ngāi Tahu don’t pay income tax, it’s good to point out that they have made a contribution of more than $650 million to the Government in social and health services. Ngāi Tahu have proved to be a first nations economic powerhouse, but much is generated centrally, and hasn’t always been shared with the 18 Papatipu Rūnanga.

The funds have grown through investment in farming, property, seafood, and tourism. The area of Ngāi Tahu covers 91.6% of the South Island, and their kaupapa/philosophy is based on ultra long term thinking. In their property portfolio they have an emphasis on sustainable regeneration. In forestry they advocate moving away from exotic forests, and will transition to purely native forest within 50 years (by which time current exotic trees will have been harvested).

The Regional Investment Fund is intended to accelerate economic endeavours within the 18 Rūnanga: Supporting the home fires to burn brighter and sooner.

Ben Matheson spoke of how they are working to grow wealth in the regions, looking for blended returns that incorporate profit, planet, and people. I was interested to note when he gave his mihimihi that he spoke in Kāi Tahu dialect. The others may have done so too, but I didn’t catch enough to pick that up.

The fund encourages the regions to be self-sustaining, and the fund listens, supports, and works alongside the 18 Rūnanga. The aims are to:

*create jobs and career paths
*increase social inclusion and participation
*enable economic multipliers to foster a tribal economy
*sustainability and productive use of resources
*improve resiliency and strength of the Rūnanga

Samantha Sellars described Te Ara Pounamu a new tourism experience to be built in Greymouth, near the Railway Station. It will bring employment during its construction and operation and will be a way to share local stories.

Wayne said the Ngāi Tahu vision is slowly becoming better understood, but has not been widely communicated. He pointed out (re co-governance) that issues often have to be treated inequitably to bring about eventual equity.

So much to learn about their plan
which has a wide inclusive span

This is a monumental work of fiction, that is totally believable. It often reads like a biography, and includes many interwoven stories. The main one is about Marian Graves, who triumphed over all kinds of obstacles to become a woman flyer in the first half of the 20th century. Another story is about a Hollywood starlet who is to play the part of Marian in a film 50 years later. At first I found the movement between the two stories disconcerting, but they slowly drew me in and eventually melded together into a satisfying whole – a great circle, perhaps.

The Great Circle of the title is a flight around the earth, encompassing both north and south poles, which Marian plans to take. All the characters drew me in, especially Marian’s brother, and those involved in World War Two. There are loves lost and found throughout, and I came to feel resentful when the story returned to the present day.

At 589 pages this is a substantial book, and towards the end I had to read it sitting up because it was too lopsidedly heavy to read lying in bed as I usually do.

The detail is meticulously researched, to the extent that I began to wonder whether in fact Marian was an actual person. If you enjoy historical books about strong woman characters, you will like this one.

Beginning from a shipwrecked berth
she planned to fly all round the earth

Select Sunday

Rain was pelting down early on Sunday morning and the weather was definitely not suitable for beach walking. By 10am the rain was clearing so we decided to walk through the Botanic Gardens. The river had overflowed, and ducks were enjoying new places to swim.

Ducks on the river overflow

At the Central Art Gallery in the Arts Centre we found an exhibition by Hannah Kidd. I’ve enjoyed her work before, and was keen to see these new pieces. Seven of them are sculptures of dogs, made from steel and corrugated iron, all extremely lifelike and very attractive.

Hannah has also painted and glazed a number of pots on different themes. An attendant kindly lifted the lids on these to demonstrate how each has an appropriate aroma inside. I had to take a photo of the one which showed a flamingo:

Friday Night Drinks

Another depicting Putin did not appeal:

Putin is Hot Pot

The delicate one with cats is inspired by a blog the artist follows called 12catslady. One of the paw-traits looked like Ziggy:

12catslady Pot

Bunsen Cafe was handy for a morning snack, with sparrows perched inside waiting for crumbs.

Expectant sparrows

A large raspberry and chocolate muffin meant I didn’t need lunch when I got home.

A stimulating way to spend
a dull day on a wet weekend

Marking the Matches

This week’s theme for our poetry group was Matches.

This brought me no inspiration, so I settled for a quick rhyme:


I want to write a rhyming verse  
   but nothing seems to match
the words that I put down at first
   I later had to scratch
my muse has gone on holiday
   I’m in a barren patch
ideas fly by but they are all
   too slippery to catch
there are some tiny little seeds
   not ready yet to hatch
I long for just one good idea
   a line that I could catch
to send out on the interweb
   a lyrical dispatch

Kai at Kaiapoi

After rainy days we needed an outing, and drove to Kaiapoi. They have an excellent Salvation Army op shop which is always fun to browse. I prefer op shops to ones with brand new merchandise. If I see something I fancy there I know I can afford it, and if it turns out to be unsuitable I can always donate it back. This time I bought a jigsaw, and Stephen bought a Greek cook book.

We then went over the road to the café in the old station building, which is called Paris for the Weekend.

Paris for the Weekend Café

We last went there for breakfast two years ago, and liked it. This time they were offering orange-flavoured hot chocolate, which was delicious, and ideal for this jaffa-loving person, although I would have preferred it slightly hotter. We enjoyed a light lunch sitting in the turret area which is definitely the prime spot.

Turret table

There’s a new kinetic sculpture on the riverbank behind the café:

Karo by Andrew Drummond

and it’s always good to see the Kaiapoi River Queen:

We hope to have a trip on this when the weather is warmer.

A pleasant drive to Kaiapoi
with light lunch that we did enjoy

This book took me straight into the heart of Nigeria, at least the part of Nigeria that is in London. I’m always attracted to books set in that city, but this is a very different London, where a group of three Nigerian women share friendship, food, and fun. When a fourth woman joins their group strange things start to happen.

The book moves at a fast pace, and I finished it in a couple of evenings. There were interesting insights into the lives of part-Nigerian women, but I got annoyed with the way they interacted with each other, and with their men. A Guardian review recommended that this was one of the best recent crime thrillers, but it was a bit light for me. While there was a mystery it was well smothered. Still, it’s interesting to read about another culture, and there was enough to keep me engaged.

Wahala translates in to trouble
when someone new enters their bubble