Posts Tagged ‘Ruth Gardner’

Festive Formalities

I wonder how many people still send real cards at Christmas time? Do you remember the days when we decorated the house with strings of cards? These came from businesses as well as friends, and decisions had to be made as to whose calendar we would choose to use in the coming year. Even the bank sent a desk calendar until very recently. Promotional calendars have now ceased (except for one from the local garage). This may be partly because of cost and partly because so many people use only online calendars these days. I still like to have one on the wall behind my desk, and am grateful to the Australian niece who provided this year’s one.

Many years ago I stopped sending seasonal cards to people in the same city, but I’ve kept doing it for family and selected friends overseas, usually including a letter outlining our activities during the year. This year I hesitated, partly because it seems that all we’ve done is avoid Covid. In previous years I’ve often had cards printed with our message and photo, but this year I decided to send pre-printed cards. At Ballantyne’s I was delighted to find some with festive cats, sold in aid of Women’s Refuge.

NZ Post has indicated that mail for the U.K. needs to be sent by 19 November to ensure a pre-Xmas delivery, so today I’ve organised cards for people there. (Gifts for U.K. daughters went several days ago.) Next week I need to do the Australian ones as their deadline is 24 November. For some of these distant relatives this is the only contact we have all year, but I think it’s important to maintain. What do you think?

A festive greeting’s good to get
although it’s years since we last met

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This is a complex book with several layers. It’s the story of a privileged media family, somewhat similar to Rupert Murdoch’s, but the characters all have parallels in Tudor times. A cast list at the beginning explains who they all are, which is useful. The sisters of the title are the equivalents of Elizabeth I and her half-sister Queen Mary.

The fact I’ve read plenty of historical novels helped me appreciate the nuances and guess what might happen. Literary quotations give the story extra resonance. This was certainly a very different novel, more of a romance than my usual choices, but thoroughly enjoyable. There is a prequel, Wife after Wife, primarily about the modern Henry VIII, and I rather wish I’d read that first.

Some characters are truly devils
and this resounds on several levels

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This year’s WORD Christchurch festival is very different from previous ones. I bought my tickets way back before Covid Delta colonised Aotearoa. It must have been a nightmare for the organisers when they had to first cancel, and the re-schedule the festival. The poetry workshop I’d originally registered for was cancelled completely, with the fee fully refunded.

The other session I’d booked was Fifty Years a Feminist, with author Sue Kedgley interviewed by Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel. Sue, who lives in Wellington, couldn’t attend in person, but came via a video link, and it seemed strange that there was only one chair on the stage.

Sue online and Lianne on stage

I arrived early at The Piano, and was shown to a socially distanced seat, with every second row left empty, and two vacant seats between each bubble. I estimate the Carter Hall would have been only about 20% filled for a session that would usually be a sellout. The audience was all masked of course.

I haven’t yet read Sue’s book, and hardly felt I needed to after reading Phillida Bunkle’s very thorough review. The fact I’d lived in Auckland through many of the incidents portrayed made me keen to hear Sue talk about them.

Sue emphasised the fact that the slogan The personal is political which was prevalent in the 1970s still applies today, and gave the example of the harassment of students at Christchurch Girls’ High School by boys from Christchurch Boys’ High School, where collective action by the girls had been effective.

Sue and Lianne both spoke of the bullying that goes on in our parliament and how that male culture needs to change, preferably with the assistance of a Code of Conduct. It’s heartening to see signs of more co-operation between parties. Empathy, compassion, and the ability to listen are often hallmarks of women leaders.

When asked how we can help women in public roles Sue mentioned that the National Council of Women is setting up a Misogyny Watch group. We need to show our support for each other. Change often comes through collective protest action.

Sue pointed out that the gains of feminism are fragile and some young women have no idea of how hard won they were. Our new history curriculum needs to incorporate the history of feminism and the importance of protests.

There was discussion of how people could be rallied, and Sue acknowledged we are all exhausted, especially with Covid. Earlier this year a group of young women in Wellington rallied against harassment in bars, and were successful in putting responsibility on the hospitality industry.

What an energising boost it was to hear these two women discussing the history and current state of feminism in Aotearoa.

A boost to feminism’s strength
to hear these women talk at length

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Christine and I chose this walk from the Christchurch City Council’s Walk Christchurch book. This has 60 short walks, and was published in 1998. Despite earthquake disruption the instructions are still good.

We started at Redwood Park and walked past Northcote School where one of the buildings definitely needs to have its spouting cleaned.

Green spouting

The walk took us all around the area, and through several small reserves, many with lovely trees.

Relaxed cat at Sisson Park

Many of the houses we passed obviously were state houses, and the gardens had varying amounts of attention. Some were beautifully planted and tended, while others looked sadly neglected. Further on, the homes were newer. One even had an owl, symbol of Athena, on the gatepost.

Owl on gatepost

We wondered why this pine cone was hanging from a tree, and Christine suggested it may serve as a bird feeder.

Bird feeder?

It was good to visit unfamiliar streets and see a different suburb.

We do enjoy our monthly walk
a time for exercise and talk

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Fishing Fiasco

I remember the first time I caught a fish – probably the only time. I was staying at Orewa, north of Auckland, at a Theosophical Society lodge there, which had a river running through the grounds. I was about twelve, and my friend Dianne was staying with us. We enjoyed canoeing on the river, but on this day we were sitting on the jetty with some kind of fishing line. I don’t think there was a rod, possibly just string and a hook.

I was excited when I caught a small fish – probably so small it should have been thrown back, but I pulled it in and it lay gasping on the ground. I knew I had to kill it, and tried hitting it with a large stone, but it took a long time to expire. We certainly didn’t eat it, it was much too small. While I enjoy eating fish, in fact we have chowder for dinner tonight, I’ve never wanted to go fishing again.

I never want to catch a fish
but I enjoy them in a dish

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Floral Friday

Cecile Brunner are the perfect miniature roses, and it’s a sign that summer’s almost here when they start to flower. I was delighted this week when there were enough for me to be able to pick a bunch and bring them inside.

Cecile Brunner bunch
Cecile Brunner bush

A friend who died had her birthday at Beltane, the beginning of November, and I always gave her a bunch of these roses, because that’s what her mother used to do.

When my brother died his former wife brought a bunch of these tiny roses to the funeral for me, because she remembered that they had grown at our childhood home. I have no memory of them there, but I love having them in our garden today. Ours were planted in 1995 and have flowered profusely ever since. With Covid now detected in Christchurch such signs of hope are even more precious.

These roses hold a memory
and promises of what will be

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This morning we’ve had the news that there are two Covid positive people in Christchurch. Some of us may soon be in a similar situation to that described in my poem. I’m just relieved that we are both double vaccinated, and I had a haircut yesterday.

A poem inspired by an artwork is called ekphrastic. We were each given an illustration from a magazine, and invited to imagine what might have been happening at the time the photo was taken. This is the picture I was given, and the poem I wrote.

Inspiration for an ekphrastic poem

Alone in Auckland

He waits beside the window

it’s been four long weeks

trapped in this high-rise apartment

not allowed to leave

he’d been to a location of interest

meant he was a close contact

obliged to self-isolate

first tests were negative

then a weak positive.

Stay where you are, they said

contactless deliveries will come

there’s television and Zoom

space to move around

air conditioning.

But the windows don’t open

he’s languishing, and longing

for the freedom of fresh air

and the touch of a lover

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Tribute to Tennyson

Who is the first artist you can remember engaging with? This is a question we were asked in our writing class. I remember an old 78 record of Doris Day singing The Black Hills of Dakota which I loved, but the artist I chose to write about was Alfred, Lord Tennyson. His The Lady of Shalott has been a lifelong favourite, and I love his rhythm and rhymes. We later had an L.P. record of Richard Burton reading Tennyson’s poetry which introduced me to The Lotus-eaters and others.

Some years ago I was browsing at Shand’s Emporium in Hereford Street. They had a box of books in front of the shop and I found a short illustrated biography of Tennyson, published in 1909, which I bought for five dollars.

Biography of Tennyson

Today is exactly sixteen years since my mother died. During her last hours I sat and read Tennyson’s poetry to her, knowing that she loved it too, and being aware that hearing is the last of the senses to fail.

I liked to think his rhythmic word
could be the last one that she heard

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Reading to Relax

Reading books, in hard copy, has been a preferred form of relaxation all my life. Since childhood I’ve been an avid patron of the local library. When I was ten my mother paid for my subscription to the St Albans Library in the old Carnegie building, so I could access the adult books not permitted to me at the public library.

I have a collection of non-fiction and reference books, plus some well-loved fiction. Each week we have the Listener and the Guardian Weekly delivered and I enjoy these, reading some articles more thoroughly than others.

Some years ago I joined a book group where we received a monthly volume from the Book Discussion Scheme to read and discuss. These were often not books I would have chosen but I appreciated being introduced to new authors. After a few years this group changed and finally faded out at the end of 2020.

Early this year I joined the WEA book group. The chosen books are ones that align to WEA philosophy, i.e. themes of social and environmental justice, stories of community and compassion, and tales of hope and transformation. Of the ten books offered so far this year, fewer than half have been ones I enjoyed reading.

This month’s book selection

This month’s selection is the story of a Syrian musician, told to two ghost writers, and then translated. This makes the writing seem remote to me. It’s a worthy tale, but the first 100 pages have failed to engage me and reading it seems like a chore. I don’t want to finish it and am considering resigning from the group. I want my reading to be a pleasure, not a duty, and I’d rather stick to mysteries, historical stories, and engaging biographies.

These books have not been to my taste
I see no need more time to waste

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I was hooked by the Introduction to this book because I could relate to much of it. The first chapter has a great opening line: “On the day I killed my mother I sewed a dress.”

The book goes on to give details of Wendyl’s life and her mother’s. Her family research is impressive, and the tale is written in an approachable and matter-of-fact way. The book is full of compelling family stories told with humour and love. The author is honest about the complicated relationship she had with her mother, and there is useful information about dealing with someone with dementia. Included are practical snippets about how we can prepare for the final stages of life. I felt pleased that I have completed an Advanced Care Plan, and lodged it with the local Health Board.

There was so much she did not know
about events of long ago

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