Posts Tagged ‘Ruth Gardner’

Glad I’m a girl was the theme for this week’s poetry group, and it was not one that made me glad. I strongly dislike being called a girl, and consider it a belittling term for any woman who has menstruated. I like to watch The Chase, but I cringe whenever Bradley refers to female competitors as girls. The following was my effort for this topic:


Do not call me girl
I’m way past menarche
well past menopause
proud to be a Crone

Lady does not suit me
sounds too gentle
patient and passive
for someone who
has lived a life
engaged with earthquakes
come through Covid
three score years and ten

and creative
I am a Woman!

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I killed my much-loved Sony Walkman MP3 player. This was not intentional! I was listening to the radio while soaking my feet in a bowl and I accidentally dropped the Walkman into the water. Trying to dry it out had no result and I eventually had to accept it was gone for good. This happened back in January and I searched everywhere for a replacement, but my model was now obsolete and unavailable.

Admitting defeat I purchased a Phillips Pocket Radio for $37. This had a headphone socket which meant I could listen in the wee small hours, but I could no longer download radio programmes to listen at times that suit me. Batteries were required and didn’t seem to last long, plus the reception was often scratchy and the channel easily altered by mistake.

I kept an occasional eye on TradeMe, and last Sunday I was delighted to find someone offering the model of Sony Walkman I wanted, brand new, still in its original wrapping. The price was $145 + $8 for postage. My previous Walkman had cost $130 some years ago, so this seemed reasonable. I’m always wary of buying online, but the seller looked okay, so I took a deep breath and clicked on Buy Now. After transferring the required payment my new Walkman arrived yesterday morning, very well packaged.

Well packaged Walkman

Once I’d charged it I was able to listen to RNZ National with excellent quality. It was a huge relief to be able to carry the Walkman in my pocket while I worked in the garden, and I’ve downloaded a couple of programmes I’d missed. I note the vendor is still advertising the device on TradeMe, so he must have a stock of them. Do you have a device/toy you would miss if it disappeared?

I’m so relieved to have it back
because I’ve sorely felt its lack

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This book tells the stories of three women whose husbands were part of Robert Falcon Scott’s ill-fated journey to the South Pole. One was Kathleen Scott, one was Oriana Wilson, wife of the expedition’s chief scientist, and one was Lois Evans the Welsh working-class wife of a common sailor admired by Scott.

It was stimulating to read detailed backgrounds for each of these women. Oriana lived by the mantra: Is it kind? Is it true? is it necessary? Before marriage she signed a pre-nuptial agreement that the decision for her husband to join the Antarctic expedition had been a mutual one. Her husband wrote his will just nine days after they were married, and left on the Discovery three weeks after their wedding. Oriana waited for him in Christchurch, staying in a hut at the Kinsey’s home in Sumner. This hut survived the 2011 earthquakes, and has now been re-located to Godley Head.

Kathleen came from an aristocratic family, studied sculpture with Rodin, and was friends with George Bernard Shaw, Isodora Duncan, and JM Barrie. She later made statues of various famous men including her husband, but there was no mention in this book of her replica statue of her husband which stands beside the Avon/Ōtākaro River. Kathleen did not support the movement for Women’s suffrage in Britain because she felt it was unnecessary and in some cases damaging to let women vote.

There is less known about Lois, because unlike the others neither she nor her husband left a written record.

It was sad to read how each of these women received the news of their husband’s death and how they dealt with the ensuing publicity. The author dissects the idea of British imperial heroism in a matter-of-fact way, and discusses how any problems with the expedition were kept out of the public eye.

This is a meticulously researched book which provides enthralling information about an expedition which has become part of our folklore, and its aftermath. My interest was heightened because Antarctica is to be the subject of our next U3A course.

The women who were left behind
had lives forever intertwined

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Past Pupil

Today I had a date with a ten year old boy. Actually there were two of them and it was an unusual experience for me as I rarely have contact with children.

In September this year St Albans Primary School will celebrate its 150th anniversary and a call went out for past pupils who were willing to be interviewed by Year Six (Standard Four) students. I attended this school from 1954 to late 1959 and was happy to oblige. As it was over 60 years ago I don’t have many specific memories, partly because I moved to Auckland in late 1959 and sadly soon lost contact with old school friends.

I did have one class photo, three school reports, and a certificate for my Standard Three home garden, which I was happy to donate to the school archives.

Items for the archives

The two boys used their iPads to video my responses to their questions, then gave me a tour of the school. None of the classrooms I remember has survived. The only familiar features were the oak tree, the school pool, and the playing field. The gate to the lane I used to approach the school from Cranford Street is now permanently closed.

I attended the 125th anniversary in 1998 and was disappointed to meet no-one from my year. I shall probably go to the 150th and hope this time an old classmate may be there.

There’s little left of my old school
just one oak tree and swimming pool

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Professor Anita Wreford is an applied economist at Lincoln University who specialises in adaptation to climate change with a particular focus on agriculture and the primary sector. She pointed out that scientists have been saying for decades that climate change is a problem, and time has been wasted when we could have been taking action.

We’ve all seen changes in weather patterns, and extreme weather events can now definitely be attributed to climate change. In 2021 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Control (IPCC) finally said it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the planet”, having previously used less strong language. The Paris Agreement was an international commitment to reduce emissions and keep global temperature rises below 2° above pre-industrial levels. Every degree of change matters!

Our agricultural systems in Aotearoa have evolved around a stable climate. Land is a critical resource which we rely on for food, and it is already under pressure. We are seeing changes in seasonality and average conditions, and the future impacts of climate change are complex and uncertain. Different pathways are possible and we need to be informed and flexible in our decision-making. Aotearoa is different from other countries because 50% of our emissions come from agriculture. We have great aspirations, but no policies or actions to achieve them. Policy is changing rapidly with alternatives to the Emissions Trading Scheme suggested by He Waka Eke Noa.

There are effective adaptation and mitigation options, and early action is likely to be more effective and cheaper. What is needed is long term decisions, which are difficult within the short term political cycle. One action we can all take is to talk to our local M.P. and let them know that climate change is important.

There’s so much more needs to be done
and we have barely just begun

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People usually erect a small tent when they’re working on the fibre box outside our house in the rain. Yesterday was different. Two men huddled under a large umbrella which fitted conveniently into a road cone.

Brolly for workmen

An excellent idea to avoid the drizzle, yet leave space on the footpath.

If you’re obliged to work in wet
a brolly may remove the threat

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Last week’s walk was cancelled because of rain, so Christine and I were determined to get out this week even though light rain was forecast. We chose the Opawa River Loop and Hansen Park Walk which I last did 23 years ago. A pā site nearby was once a resting place for Kai Tahu travelling between Kaiapoi and Banks Peninsula. The pā was known as Ōpāwaho which refers to its function as an outpost (waho).

We started at Hansen Park which was originally a flax wetland, and in the early 1900s used as a gravel pit and rubbish dump. From here we went past Rudolf Steiner School, then along to Risingholme Park, home to a thriving Community Centre. A bridge across the stream, with a magnificent fern, led us towards Opawa Road.

Fern beside the bridge

As we are both keen op shoppers we were delighted to discover there is an op shop at the Opawa Community Church, and it was open.

Opawa Community Church

We browsed the well-stocked shop, but neither of us found anything we wanted to buy. One of the staff complimented me on my purple hair.

A seat by the river was an ideal spot for our morning tea. The weather was mild with no wind, and we enjoyed the autumn colours reflected in the river.

River reflections

Back towards Hansen Park we saw a lovely old homestead with a good stack of firewood ready for winter.

Old Opawa homestead

This was a picturesque walk around the river loop with many large older homes, and we met several other walkers, most of whom had canine companions.

This was a tranquil place to walk
and have a pleasant catch-up talk

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Players Punished

It was cold outside so we four friends unlawfully decided to stay in the classroom at lunchtime and play a card game, not expecting a teacher to come by. Of course one did and told us we should be out in the fresh air no matter what the weather.

Ignoring our pleas she ushered us all outside and ordered us to spend the wintry hour pulling up weeds from the school garden. The smell of onion weed was overwhelming and lingers with me still, a powerful reminder of a day in my mis-spent youth. Do you remember any early punishments?

Onion weed

Obliged to pull up onion weed
the punishment for our misdeed

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Bill Martin is the Manager of the Biological Husbandry Unit (BHU), run by the BHU Organics Trust, and hosted by Lincoln University. He gave a clear and thorough talk about the development of organic farming in Aotearoa and worldwide. The unit was set up to manage the organic farm started by Bob Crowder in the 1970s, and has been certified organic since 1976, making it one of the oldest certified organic farms in Australasia. I have fond memories of attending a Values Party Conference at Lincoln University in 1981, when Bob Crowder brought his Morris Dancing group to teach us all to do Morris Dancing – something the media never let us forget.

The mission of the BHU is to provide Education, Research, and Community Extension. They offer zero fees certificate courses, through the Southern Institute of Technology, as well as internships in organic market gardening. They are the only place in Aotearoa where this face-to-face training is available as others closed when there were changes to Ministry of Education funding.

Their research has recently included producing crop covers for tomatoes and potatoes to provide a physical barrier against tomato-potato psyllid. This crop cover mesh is an alternative to spraying and can be purchased through their website.

Community Extension projects include providing raised beds for low income families in Richmond, as well as the Climate Action Campus which has taken over the previous site of Avonside Girls’ High School, and is a satellite school for neighbouring primary schools. They produce a Kit for primary aged children called How Does Your Garden Grow, which gives practical ways to measure bio-diversity in soil, and would make an excellent gift for children.

Between 1920 and 1950 Soil and Health Associations were formed, and the use of compost began to be understood. Rudolf Steiner’s agricultural lectures were given in 1924, and the term organic was coined in the 1940s. During the 1940s and 1950s pesticides were discovered and used, along with nitrogen and phosphate. Food shortages during and after World War Two meant that the organic movement almost ceased to exist because increased production was paramount. In 1962 Rachel Carson published her work Silent Spring, which showed the dark side of agricultural chemicals, and is now regarded as one of the most important scientific books ever published. This signalled the rebirth of the organic movement, and in the 1970s the first organic standards were written. IFOAM, an organisation that works to bring true sustainability to agriculture across the globe, was founded in 1972, on four principles: Health, Ecology, Fairness, and Care. In the 1980s organics started to take off, and by the 1990’s they were becoming mainstream. Two local examples are Untamed Earth Organic Farm and Streamside Organics both of whom deliver veggie boxes around Christchurch. I was reminded of how lucky I am to have organic food available at PIKO close to home.

In recent years sustainable has become regenerative, and Regenerative Agriculture is gaining ground in Aotearoa, especially in Canterbury. Its three key outcomes are improved soil health, fostering biodiversity, and promotion of economic resilience in farming communities.

So what has changed in Organics? There is now much more overlap between organic and conventional agriculture, especially in soil health as people move from double digging to no dig. Organic sales are growing steadily worldwide. In Aotearoa our domestic and global organic markets are growing, led by organic dairy products, then organic fruit and vegetables, followed by organic wine. The big driver for this increase is concern for animal welfare, especially among young people, who are tending to be vegetarian or vegan. It’s good to know so many are making this decision due to a growing understanding of environmental issues.

If you are gripped by climate panic
one action is to eat organic

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Memories of Measles

Aged eight I was isolated in my bedroom and forbidden to leave. Meals were brought to me and a chamber pot under the bed was essential. Three weeks in bed was what the doctor ordered, and that included Christmas. Luckily my room was large enough that it was possible for the Christmas tree to be set up just inside the door. The spots were itchy and my mother soothed them with cool water and calamine lotion. None of your common German measles for me. Oh no, mine were the more patriotic English ones. I had books and my crystal set radio, and it was possible to open the window, but I remember my indignation when my mother abandoned me at New Year to go to a long-planned conference. I was left in the tender care of my brother and the housekeeper. Do you remember having measles?

I felt a strong resentment – lots
left all alone with just my spots

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