Archive for the ‘Travel in Australasia’ Category

The Zonta Ashburton Female Art Award was the reason I’d been keen for a trip to Ashburton. This award supports emerging and mid-career female artists in Canterbury, and the exhibition of the finalists is on display at the Ashburton Art Gallery until April 24th.

The array of works was impressive. Here are some that particularly struck me:

Art Chemist

Art Chemist by Audrey Baldwin is an interactive installation and performance which connects people in a playful yet earnest therapeutic environment. Audrey is a Christchurch artist, whose performances I’ve enjoyed in the past . Art Chemist was installed in Cathedral Junction last year, but I didn’t manage to see it then. I’m delighted to report that Audrey won the Premier Award at this exhibition, which means she will have a solo exhibition at the Gallery next year.

Veil of Invisibility

Veil of Invisibility by Coral Broughton speaks of how older women tend to be overlooked. Coral says “The process of aging can be seen as an opportunity for re-definition where aging is seen as a desirable condition which allows freedom to live outside the gaze.”

Boys Will be Boys

Boys Will be Boys by Alice Jones makes a strong statement about women’s experience of intimate partner violence.


Monobloc is by Jorja Shadbolt, one of the young generation finalists. It is a disturbing image which portrays her feelings of worthlessness after the end of a relationship.

COVID ashes

COVID ashes by Jenny Wilson was the piece that most appealed to me and I gave it my vote in the People’s Choice ballot. The ceramic moths are Jenny’s response to COVID-19 TV images of rows of bodies, funeral pyres, and suffering beyond our comprehension.

Jenny says: “I make the moths from soft white clay printed with vintage lace, and fire them first in an electric kiln. Each one is then carefully wrapped in a paper parcel with copper wire, seaweed, sawdust, and eggshells. I fire one moth at a time in my home log-burner, cocooned within a tin-can saggar (protective box). Each night I light a fire, and each morning I uncover a moth from the ashes. It is a meditation of sorts.


We also went to the Ashburton Salvation Army Family Store, where a large mass-produced picture of a flamingo caught my eye. Stephen offered to buy it for me, so it came home with us, and is now hanging on the lounge wall. It may look a little tacky, but it’s pink, and fun, and that’s what I need in this time of Pandemic, War in Ukraine, and Climate Crisis.

Flamboyant Flamingo

So many artworks to be seen
including this Flamingo Queen

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We were pleasantly surprised to find how much there is to do and see in Ashburton. In the centre there’s a clock tower, which chimes every quarter hour. I’ve always loved a chiming clock, although I imagine it might be annoying for those who live or work nearby. Close to the clock tower is a statue of John Grigg, who was an early Pakeha settler in the area and a pioneer exporter of refrigerated meat. He and his wife Martha had ten children.

John Grigg statue

What interested me about this statue was the plaque added at the bottom which said that in 2014 his (and her!) descendants had gathered to celebrate his vision and lasting achievements. I felt some genealogical envy when I read this.

The town of Ashburton is named after Lord Ashburton, who was one of the members of the Canterbury Association, which had purchased a large tract of land in the South Island, lying between the Waipara and the Ashburton rivers, from the New Zealand Land Company, at ten shillings per acre.

In the middle of the retail area we found this antique postbox, still in daily use.

Vintage postbox

There are many attractive items on East Street, including a water feature.

Ashburton water feature

On Saturday morning there’s a Farmers’ Market in the West Street parking area, with craft stalls as well. We saw items for sale that we haven’t seen elsewhere – always the sign of a good market. To walk from West Street to East Street you need to cross the railway line where the signs say “Look out for trains”. I assure you we did look carefully before crossing.

In 2006 I spent three days at a Conference in Ashburton, but had no free time for sightseeing. This is the only other time I’ve stayed there. I’m sure there are more areas we could have explored, and maybe we’ll go again some time.

We liked our visit to Ashburton
there’s lots to see there that’s for certain

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There’s lots to see and do in Ashburton. At the 24 hour service station I bought two copies of the “Press” – to have one each to read and do puzzles was a holiday treat. After breakfast at Somerset Grocery we visited Trott’s Community Garden, a N.Z. Garden of International Significance.

Breakfast @ Somerset Grocery

The weather was perfect for this with autumn sun and no wind. There were pigeons and fantails flying free, and an aviary with pheasants and budgies. The garden was established in 1984 by the Trott family, taken over by a charitable trust in 2017, and is now maintained by volunteers. Many of the vistas were superb, even if there were few flowers at this time of year.

Long perennial border
Garden Chapel
Knot garden

I wanted to visit the N.Z. Sock Company in Ashburton, but this wasn’t easy to find (lacking a GPS). The street it’s in is divided by a square and later by the railway line. We were pleased to buy NZ made merino socks, and as there was a Warehouse next door I also replaced my printer cartridges, which now cost far more than I originally paid for the printer.

We browsed all five of the Ashburton op shops, where we bought a couple of jigsaws for me, and a cookbook for Stephen. I realised we hadn’t seen any postcards, and eventually found a postcard stand at Paper Plus, where there were cards of Timaru, Mt Hutt, and Methven, but none of Ashburton. The shop assistant said they hadn’t seen the postcard rep for a long time, and I presume there’s less demand with no international tourists.

Dinner was at Kelly’s Irish Café and Bar, the first time I’ve been in a pub for many months. Stephen was pleased to be able to have a Guinness, and we were intrigued to see the tap had a harp attachment.

Kelly’s Irish Café & Bar

They had a digital jukebox, on the wall beside Stephen’s chair, something we’ve not seen before. He couldn’t find anything familiar on it and we wouldn’t have been able to hear it anyway as there was so much laughing and talking going on. Sky Sports was showing on the TV and we realised it was Dan Carter doing his Kickathon.

When we left trees along the main street were lit with fairy lights, and a mural was also illuminated.

Ashburton mural at night

To see the garden made by Trotts
one can’t help but admire the plots

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A number of daily routines help me to maintain my health, home, and relationships and give me a sense of security. Since the start of the pandemic we’ve stayed close to home and not had a night away for more than two years. Part of the reason for this is wanting to be near home if we did catch the virus, and part is being nervous about making bookings that might have to be cancelled if we went into lockdown.

Last week I mentioned to Stephen there was something I wanted to see at the Ashburton Art Gallery and suggested we might take a day trip there. He responded with the suggestion we have a couple of nights in Ashburton. It’s not far to drive (takes just over an hour) and if one of us got sick we could quickly return home.

The evening before we left there was a thunderstorm with more than 300 lightning strikes, and it was still raining in the morning. As we were going on holiday I didn’t do my usual morning exercises, thinking that it’s good to have a break from routine. As we drove across Christchurch the sun started to shine, and the weather was fine all the time we were away. On the way south we saw three separate trains, an encouraging sign that they may be being used more for freight.

We stopped at the Salmon Tales Café in Rakaia where I had an excellent salmon frittata. At the café by an adjacent pool, I saw a staff member scattering food there, and went to observe. They have one pet eel (does he get lonely?) who is given meat scraps, and two rainbow trout who get bread.

We’d booked into the Hotel Ashburton which was very quiet. At dinner time there were just three other diners. We enjoyed our roast lamb and felt we were helping the local economy. Outside in the car park were three stone women, presumably once part of the garden area.

Languishing Ladies at Hotel Ashburton

Stephen had taken his laptop and I expected to use this to access my emails, but Google wouldn’t let me login unless I had another device to verify it was me. The security procedures have changed since I last used his laptop over two years ago. Usually I would have used my tablet, but hadn’t bothered to take it as we were going to be away only two nights. I did have my not-so-smart cellphone, but couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of connecting it to WiFi. Two days of digital detoxification might not be a bad thing, I decided, but I did use the laptop to do my daily Wordle. Since we came home I’ve linked my Google verification to my cellphone texts. Two days’ emails had piled up, but there was nothing urgent.

There were a few things missing at the hotel, showing how much has changed since we last went away. They no longer provide a daily newspaper, presumably because “everyone” gets their news on their phones these days. There was no telephone in the room presumably because everyone carries a cellphone. There was also no clock-radio, presumably ditto. It seems inevitable that I will eventually move to having a smarter cellphone, possibly before our next trip away. We used a hard copy map to navigate our way around Ashburton, and there were several times when I thought someone else would simply use the GPS on their phone.

It’s good to have a break away
and leave behind the routine day

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This red dress is one I bought in Parnell, Auckland in the mid 1980s. The photo was taken in December 1989 in the office of Mrs Pope Ltd, and the occasion was that the office staff had bought me Big Feet slippers for Christmas.

I’m appalled to see that I’m sitting on my desk – something I would never do these days,

I remember wearing the dress one time when I was in Wellington for a meeting. My memory is of walking along The Terrace where everyone else, women and men, was wearing a dark suit, and being aware that I was brightening their day while rebelling against conformity. Have you had an occasion where what you were wearing was different to everyone else?

This dress was really not so loud
but it stood out against the crowd

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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

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The Farmers’ Market at Oxford was small, but it had alpacas. We were pleased to purchase some meat from The Sausage Shed, as well as courgettes and garlic.

Alpacas at Oxford Market

Oxford shops all seemed to be open on Sunday and we enjoyed browsing. At Time After Time I couldn’t resist a large blue glass bowl priced at 50 cents. When I asked the man why it was so cheap he said “We like to keep our prices low”. I hesitated because I already have plenty of large bowls, and wasn’t sure where I could store it, then I thought maybe I could put it somewhere in the garden – perhaps planted with bulbs?

The Oxford Jail, originally built in 1876 of local native timbers, has an Historic Places C classification. I had to have a photo, but I think the cutout is meant for children as I had to crouch down to get my head in the right place.

Oxford Jail

The short story I’m attempting to write has a scene in the Lyttelton Jail, so this visit was useful research.

‘Prisoner’ inside Oxford Jail

The Art Gallery has a mural by Thomas Ross, made of seventeen different woods, and representing all facets of Oxford.

Mural of Oxford

Their current exhibition features works by Henry Turner, which draw from classical philosophy and mythology. Several of them were partly collages which reminded me I’ve enjoyed this art form in the past, and could well look at doing more.

The granite wheel outside the Oxford Museum was used to grind flour at Gammons Creek.

Granite wheel from flour mill

The stones were originally used as ballast on a ship that sailed from England in the late 19th century. This marks the starting point for several walks around Oxford.

The Oxford Museum is an absolute treasure trove of all kinds of interesting artifacts, and is completely staffed and administered by volunteers. The clock at the front came from the old Oxford Post Office.

Oxford Museum

There’s just so much to see, with many items donated by local families. An elaborate dinner set had been brought out from Scotland in the 1860s – just imagine packing all that china and having it arrive intact. We saw a couple of silver items similar to some we have at home, but ours are not so well polished. Stephen kept seeing tools which he has examples of somewhere in our shed (but he’s not sure just where). I pointed out to him that I would never recognise some of these and perhaps they should be donated to Ferrymead while he’s still around to say what they are.

There were several wedding dresses, all kinds of farm implements, and a 1926 Briscoe Tourer, all polished and hooked up to a battery charger. We imagined it was being prepared for the Oxford A & P show next weekend.

The volunteer staff were all keen to talk about the exhibits and answer questions. One custodian proudly told us he had made and painted the teeth for the artificial horse attached to one buggy. The whole place is a labour of love, as well as a gold mine of local history.

Lunch was a Mt Oxford pizza at the Black Beech Bar, where we sat outside and watched the passers by. These included a Ferrari and a 1967 Cadillac.

We drove home along Harewood and South Eyre roads – a contrast to the very straight Tram Road we’d approached by. Twice we crossed the Eyre River, which had not one drop of water in it. Today was the first time we’d taken the new Northern Arterial any further than Papanui, and the adjacent cycle track with attractive planting and sign boards is most impressive.

This town is a good destination
for people planning a staycation

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Everyone drank tea when I was a child. My earliest memory of coffee was Bushells Coffee and Chicory Essence served at a milk bar in Manukau Road when I was a teenager, but I don’t recall ever actually drinking it. I would probably have chosen a soft drink in preference.

Aged fourteen I took my first trip to Australia and had my first cappuccino, a luscious milky treat, in a coffee bar in Melbourne. Home in Aotearoa powdered instant coffee became available and we all drank it. I had it with milk, the same as I had tea in those days, but later learned to drink it black, at first with two spoons of sugar. After Stephen and I met we often went to coffee bars. I remember the Piccolo at Greenwoods Corner, the Picasso, and places in Queen Street, especially one downstairs opposite Wyndham Street whose name now escapes me.

I can’t remember when I stopped drinking coffee, maybe around the turn of the century. It simple stopped appealing to me, but I still enjoy the smell of coffee brewing. My drink of preference for many years now has been weak black Earl Grey tea. For a long time I drank it with a slice of lemon, but that embellishment is no longer vital. Very occasionally when I was somewhere the tea was far too strong for me and there was no sign of hot water being offered I chose coffee instead, but didn’t enjoy it. Thankfully these days there is more understanding of individual preferences, and in most instances it’s possible to get just a splash of gumboot tea and a lot of hot water.

The last cup of coffee I remember was in Paris in September 2007. We were at an outdoor cafè in that city and it seemed obligatory for me to order a black coffee. It was bitter but palatable once sugar was added. Where/when did you have a memorable cup of coffee?

Cafè in Paris

Through years my taste has slowly changed
with preferences re-arranged

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When my brother died unexpectedly I’d packed hurriedly in a highly stressed state in a cold Christchurch April and was not prepared for the warm Australian weather.  It was a couple of days before I surfaced sufficiently to realise that when I went outside the temperature was 28 degrees.  The nights were a little chilly but during the day the sun shone, and I was sweltering in woollen clothes and boots.  Luckily, I had remembered to pack some deodorant.  It was amazing how cheering the warmth was.  At a time of bleak wintry emotions, it was as though mother nature was wrapping her arms around me and offering the comfort of her warmth.  My grief was, in a small way, being compensated for by these unexpected summer days.

There was a psychological warmth too, for despite my grief at my brother’s sudden death there was compensation in the fact that I was now meeting his small grandchildren for the first time.  Up until then the only people I had a close blood relationship to, apart from my own daughters, had been my brother and elderly mother.  I’d met my nephews and niece at intervals over the years, but the fact that they lived in a different country meant there’d been no real opportunity to get to know them.  Now we were thrown together at a time when emotions were running extremely high.  I was the only member of my generation there, and they welcomed me with open arms and open hearts.  As well as meeting two nephews’ partners for the first time there was the overwhelming joy of also meeting two small babies who were my brother’s grandchildren, and my own link to immortality.

Ruth with Bruce’s granddaughter April 1993

This joy, combined with the despair and anger I felt at the loss of my brother served to keep my mind in a state of confusion, which was not helped by the fact that I was constantly feeling overheated.

I soon realised that it was stupid to keep suffering in my unseasonal clothes, and I determined to buy something lighter, but that was not easy.  There were a thousand and one tasks and discussions that I was needed for, and with no transport of my own, and no knowledge of local shops, buying clothing in a hurry was not simple.  On a brief trip to the Town Centre to buy food for the funeral I explained to my nephew’s partner the kind of clothes I preferred – hippy-type was the easiest way to explain my taste – and I promised to choose something quickly if she would just point me in the right direction.  Thank goodness she understood and directed me to an Indian emporium – very suitable for buying clothes for an Indian summer – and I purchased a light shirt to wear to the funeral.  Footwear was not so easy as three shoe shops I asked for sandals had no summer stock at all, and I couldn’t quite bring myself to spend money on a pair of thongs I knew I would never wear again.  So, I sighed for my sandals far away in New Zealand and continued in my socks and boots.

It was two days after the funeral, when I finally found a shoe shop that still had summer stock and bought myself some sandals.  What bliss to let my toes wriggle free after being encased in boots for so long. 

I later heard on the radio that the temperatures for that week were the highest that had been experienced in Ballarat in April since recording began.  It seemed appropriate that in a week when I had experienced incredible highs and lows of emotion the very weather itself should reflect the fact that this was a special season.

The reason for my trip – a bummer
and I was not prepared for summer

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I’ve written before about my father’s death in 1954.  In the 1990s family deaths followed each other in quick succession.  First my father-in-law in 1991, then my much-loved sister-in-law in 1992.  I saw her death from cervical cancer as a casualty of The Unfortunate Experiment at National Women’s Hospital.  A G.P. trained in the era of Professor Green failed to follow up on symptoms.

After her funeral I wrote a long letter to my brother Bruce in Australia sharing my feelings about her death and funeral, and the need to be prepared for such an occasion.  He responded that he didn’t care what kind of a funeral service he had as long as the hearse was capable of reaching 7,000 revs per minute from a standing start.  (My brother, a physics lecturer, was a keen amateur racing driver).

Bruce in his 1951 Singer 1500, racing at Rakaia 1957

One evening in April 1993 I received a fateful phone call.  It was my eldest nephew ringing to tell me my brother had died suddenly of a heart attack on Boronia Peak in Victoria’s Grampian Mountains.  Bruce had paid regular visits to Christchurch in the preceding few years and our relationship had become closer than ever before.  This news was a severe blow and hard to comprehend.  My immediate need was to go to Australia and be with his loved ones.  I booked a standby flight, arranged leave from work, and the next morning went to break the new to my aged mother – one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. 

After the tension of waiting at the airport for a standby flight I was on a plane headed for Melbourne.  Bruce’s partner (a close friend of mine from Christchurch) and his eldest son were at the airport to greet me and drive me to his home town of Ballarat, where I arrived just 24 hours after hearing the news of his death.  My nephews and niece were almost strangers, but in the emotionally charged situation we quickly got to know each other.  Plus, there were three members of the next generation, two of them only six months old.  Because the death was unexpected there needed to be a postmortem and while we waited for the body to be released, we planned the funeral.  As a ritual-maker this was a task I could assist with.  To my surprise his eldest son (aged 32) had never been to a funeral before.  His brother (30) had been to three during the previous year, all friends who had committed suicide.

Bruce’s archives yielded a copy of his letter to me outlining his instructions about the hearse.  When we read Bruce’s words the eldest son immediately said: “He means the Alfa” – Bruce’s treasured 1974 Alfa Romeo Spider 2000 sports car.  This son spent most of his waking hours for the next three days in a friend’s panel beating shop carefully building a frame to hold the coffin on top of the sports car.

All through this time I was getting up early in the morning to phone home and talk with Stephen and another close friend who both gave much-needed support.  Stephen offered to fly over to be with me but I declined, knowing his presence would disrupt the family dynamics even more.

He died quite unexpectedly
a bombshell for our family

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