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June 23, 2017

Capital Culture and Craft - NZ Morris Dancing Tour 2017

What's happened to this blog of mine? Instagram: that's what. It's a quick and easy way to blog while its limitations call for tight editing.



















But I never intended to neglect Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden. And I never intended not to record New Zealand's National Morris Dancing Tour this year. Since Morris dancers will be gathering for Midwinter celebrations this coming weekend, now seems like a good time to recall our summer holiday together.

Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen hosted the Capital Craft and Culture Tour this year in the first week of January, programming it around Wellington's craft breweries and cultural hot spots. We stayed in the boarding facility at St Patrick's College, Silverstream.



On the first evening a bunch of crafty women subverted the theme to suit themselves... using a pool of eager hands to unravel a hoard of yarn and thread as well as get a project under way.



Monday morning saw everyone out in the carpark work-shopping three tour dances. I’d only had my new orthotic inserts for two weeks, but that was enough to get me up for Ring o’ Bells when the cry went out for ‘one more here'.I enjoyed dancing, but restricted myself to one dance a day throughout the week. I've learned the hard way how to ruin a holiday by dancing like there was no tomorrow.



In the afternoon we gathered en masse for some Culture at the Dowse Gallery in Lower Hutt. I enjoyed seeing a nearly full side of Perth Morris Men—great to have them and all the other Australian guests on Tour. 



Then we moved on for some Craft— ale of course. How did we all fit into the Sprig and Fern at Petone? But we were tolerated, appreciated even, judging by the number of busy phone cameras snapping the dancing.



Tuesday was wet, wet, wet. Dancing in the rain outside The Museum of New Zealand - Te Papa Tongarewa - made for some pretty spectacular photos.



Later, to dry out, some of us joined the crowds and very long queues to see Peter Jackson's exhibition - Gallipoli: The Scale of our War. Worth the queuing with its attention to detail and the sobering human story. This exhibition runs for the four centenary years of the Great War.


After lunch the dancing migrated to Mac’s Brew Bar where a narrow covered way provided shelter. 


My new orthotics were causing aches and pains in unexpected places and I’m afraid I was just feeling elderly and damp by this stage of the day. 


Heart of the Sun cheer me up. These three women from Hastings always show their pleasure in the dance and each of them is also a natural performer. Every move they make not only expresses their own personalities but their understanding of the flow of the dance too. Not usually something that you see across every dancer in a side.


Wednesday's programme was just kidding about The Garage Project and Tuatara Third Eye in Te Aro - right? All along this was going to be a mystery tour. The double decker bus and its driver was fantastic and it did take us to Te Aro Street, where we could see into the top windows of all those gorgeous gingerbread houses.

The breweries might have been closed till midday but worth doing all the same was: 


Dancing in delightfully wooded Te Aro Park; 


Enjoying coffee and cake in one of Te Aro Street’s quaint cafes;



and strolling down to the Rogue and Vagabond like a bunch of raggle taggle gypsies O.

Then the Craft-as-in-ale rejoined the programme. What a great spot with Glover Park to hand to drink, dance, sun ourselves in the surprising sunshine and linger longer in. 



Kitty and I did sneak off for a bit of lunch and gratuitous shopping in Cuba St. Then maybe things could be seen to turn to custard when the group gathered at a free house - which will remain anonymous - and not withstanding our average age being over 50 and morris dancers' reputation for liking good beer, we were made to feel unwelcome. We chose to leave rather than weather the barman's attitude. To be fair this was more due to some mis-communication, as well as a generational and cultural misfit on both sides, but this particular bar lost a lot of business that midweek afternoon.

Weather. Yes it had been a lovely day till the storm clouds gathered. The Hotel Bristol on Cuba St welcomed us with open arms, or at least they didn’t bat an eyelid when we set up camp in their bar/dining room. Just in time too as the Southerly storm slashed horizontal rain along Cuba St. Not too long after that our friendly double decker bus came to rescue us and take us home. 

Not much Windy Wellington on show by Thursday but plenty of sunshine after the storm made for some great photos outside Parliament.




Moving on then… to an engrossing tour of Parliament with a witty, young Chinese-Kiwi guide. Though he kept it light, the sense of our country’s parliamentary process - as well as its multiculturalism - came across nicely. Over at the National Library we heard about three documents that define our country including Kate Shepherd’s third and successful Women’s Suffrage petition. Although I am a first generation New Zealander the survey to collect descendants of the signatories showed a fascinating way to view ancestral legacy. 



After lunch everyone re-grouped at the National War Memorial Museum to see the Great War Exhibition. Kitty and I had seen it before and were keen to spend more time in the Gallipoli section. It was a good compliment to the exhibition we’d seen earlier in the week at Te Papa but also, at the end of the day, I felt how much it fitted with today's theme of what it is to be a New Zealander. Particularly moving were some small watercolours painted by Captain Malone’s great granddaughter after a visit with Peter Jackson to Gallipoli in 2015. On 8 August 2015, I had watched a production of Maurice Shadbolt’s ‘Once on Chunuk Bair’ and seen his (fictional) Malone character die on stage. I hadn't appreciated that Malone was struck by New Zealand shell fire. What it is to be a New Zealander? Wednesday may have been my favourite day of the Tour, but Thursday was the most thoughtful for me.



Full Steam Ahead Friday started with our national AGM. There was some good debate about presenting ourselves in public, 



but I know this: those who dance footloose and fancy free are unlikely to become sticklers for order and precision, and the precise traditionalists are never going to understand the joy of anarchy. 



People do join the Morris in New Zealand after being attracted by the friendly playfulness on display just as others join it for the intricacy of stepping and smart uniform. Some of us manage the middle ground but we will never please everyone watching us perform because the public is just as diverse in character as we are ourselves.



I always like steam trains and vintage railways, which are usually operated by enthusiastic volunteers with a lifetime of experience. 



The Silverstream Railway is one of those wonderful work-in-progress heritage projects. Its limited track length meant we rode back and forth over the same route with the L509 locomotive, our trips interspersed with vigorous dance spots on the station platform. Great fun and the dancing looked good too. 




Later in the afternoon while everyone was dancing in Upper Hutt, we were approached by the owners of a brewery not on our programme! They wanted us to visit: Kereru Brewing was a nice surprise, set up in the old Dunlop Tyre factory with room to dance!



Back at base while we were dancing our final Saturday Night On of the Tour Chris and Natasha from Kereru Brewing walked in with their arms full of beer, and then joined the procession through Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen’s touching guard of honour to join us at our Feast and Ale and participate in some dancing later. 



So the Capital Craft and Culture Tour ended—this week not just of dancing, but tuis fluting in pohutukawa blossom, of night-time quake-waking, and massed sky-gazings to watch the International Space Station pass overhead. Great memories Gentlemen. 

In 2018 the tour will be hosted by the City of Auckland Morris Dancers.

If you would like to read the more detailed, personal and uncensored account that I have based this post on you can find it beginning on page 16 and running through to page 29, Issue 178 of the NZ Morris Sphere with lots of other people's photos and contributions interspersed throughout.

Pohutukawa, NZ Christmas tree Metrosideros excelsa

January 28, 2017

A Gentle Stroll

This was going to be the weekend Kitty and I checked out post-earthquake Kaikoura. I had the car serviced in anticipation of the not-very-long road trip but a seriously flat battery put an end to our journey. 



Let's have a holiday around home we decided (and we do need to buy some milk). Since new orthotics have increased my mobility, I have been eager to walk to Rangiora along a recently created footpath by the river. 



The road from Ashley to Rangiora has never been pedestrian friendly but this bosky walk, recently upgraded as the Tarapiroe Trail, takes a shorter if more rugged route along the river bank to the road bridge.


Coming out from this dappled trail onto the busy road bridge marked a change in the mood of our walk, and by the time we had reached the picnic area on the Rangiora bank we were ready for a rest out of the sun with some quick refreshments. 


If we thought the traffic on the bridge was busy we were in for a surprise at the showgrounds where it seemed the rest of New Zealand had come to colour our holiday.


Muscle Car Madness had returned as it does each January. Cars in unfamiliar places; queues of people on the road; traffic controllers in normally quiet spots...



And oh those cars! Of course I never quite had my camera handy when the longest or lowest, ugliest, or loveliest machines passed by but I managed to capture some of the madness all the same...



both heading into Rangiora, and back again, when everyone was leaving the show.


In Rangiora we made a point of exploring some of the shops we don't usually shop in, but for lunch still headed to one of our favourite cafes, Continental Bakery. With a mind to our walk home, Kitty and I both succumbed to these delicious little cottage pies.


Then it was time for a lie down in Victoria Park. When would I ever make time to relax in a park except when I am far from home? But today I needed a nap and I also needed to rest my feet for at least an hour. When I am travelling this is something I factor into my day if I have been walking a lot.



And after my rest we did a little supermarket shopping, bought cooling gelato cones from the new Vietnamese yoghurt parlour and felt that our day had matched anything we could do around heartland New Zealand.

Jeneane on Cones Road Ashley Bridge: Photo by Kitty Jamison
Photos taken with both Canon SX30IS and Samsung Galaxy S Note 5



December 31, 2016

Feeding My Soul

Shall I sum up the year with twelve photographs as I did last year? 



Won't it be difficult to choose just one from your overseas trip? asks Lady Mondegreen. I especially liked that one you posted on Instagram of the early morning sunshine slicing through the garden gate into the grounds of Christ Church College.

Yes, those early morning shots are one of the up sides of across-the-world jet lag. A stop-over in Dubai seems to ease the effects of jet lag for me. A cheap hotel by the airport made for an adventurous couple of days.   



I should have planned my cash needs better for Dubai but I got by; people-watching in the Mall of the Emirates.




In fact I should have planned my cash needs better for arrival in England! During the weekend of my arrival I had to stoke up on my B and B breakfast in the dining hall at University College 



and then survive on airline snacks, and wild blackberries from the canal towpath 



until my sister-in-law loaned me money enough for dinner. Once I could get to a bank on Monday morning I was back in the modern, touch button, digital world. 



Touch button? The middle of this year was when - in time for my overseas trip - I upgraded to a smartphone. Most of these photos including this one of The High on my first evening in Oxford, were taken on my touch screen Samsung Galaxy Note 5. 

One of the deep pleasures of being a visitor back in Oxford is that
I can indulge my senses and find intellectual stimulation at every turn without the distractions of household responsibility. The awful photo below reminds me of the Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs exhibition. I was carrying 'Frankenstein' in my bag (and had been reading it for quite a few months) when I came across a page from Mary Shelley's handwritten manuscript of the work. 






Although I couldn't capture detail it describes the moment when the monster first opens an eye...  Mary's husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley annotated Mary's text in darker ink, which is just visible. Without the published book in my bag this would have been just one of many remarkable exhibits but the serendipity of my own pairing made it my favourite item in this exhibition.



So many breathtaking experiences including the harpsichord concert I attended in Exeter College Chapel. From the stained glass windows illuminated by the setting sun to the gilded iconography and the harpsichord itself this was a sublime experience. Kha Ming Ng playing a programme of caprices and fantasias added his own impromptu introduction to one piece: when the college bell struck 9 o'clock just as he began to play a new piece, he allowed the bell space, using it to count himself in - superbly appropriate improvisation.

But I had a loose end to tidy up while I was in England and when I arrived in the country, three years after the event, these draft badges were waiting for me to select a final design 



With help from graphic designer, Wayne Batistic, and the craft of George Butterworth, badge maker, I finally got these out of my head and onto people's baldrics. Once I'd chosen one from the four offered, George mass-produced my order alongside the badges for this year's Saddleworth Rushcart event.



Before I joined other New Zealand Morris dancers for the latest English tour, I had more visiting and travelling to do. I even dabbled in a little creative writing. Another exhibition at the Bodleian - Shakespeare's Dead - gave the public an opportunity to write a sonnet. I didn't quite get it right, but inspired by the exhibition's theme of death and memorial, and also the difficulty I had seeing the artefacts in the dim light, I did produce my own memorial piece.



Dead is he who brought me first to this fair city
To wed where now the cranes swing and reach across the past.
Around the world I've come, eager for old ways underfoot,
But find my feet, my eyes, my breath are failing fast.

In 1989 the Oxford Registry Office - where Elwin and I were married - was in the Westgate Centre right on the edge of the current, massive re-development of the Oxpens area. 


Later, near Aylesbury, with my friend Claire of The Prodigal blog and Magical Journeyswe wrote together experimentally, using her tutoring format. Over the years we have written to each other, but never before with each other. Hopefully we can do it again sometime.

At Durham I stayed in another university college hostel - there it is in Durham Castle on top of its hill... and then I had to climb the ever ascending stairs in the Keep to reach my room! I loved being up there so close to the Cathedral and museums and not very far from the town and river below. Climbing the stairs? Not so much.




And then it was time to join the Great Yorkshire Morris Tour, which took our New Zealand group through a whirlwind week of Yorkshire highlights. I observed my birthday at the Saddleworth Rushcart day - one of England's revived festivals that celebrate traditional seasonal activities with arcane customs and ceremonial pomp. John, this year's 'Jockey' on the rushcart enjoys the best of two worlds.


From his home in Hanmer Springs, he travels back to his Saddleworth roots for this festival every year.


The Great Yorkshire Morris Tour brought together some of the group which had formed the Lammas Tour as well as new tourists, and looking at this photo I'm reminded there was a good following of Australians and English groupies too.

All too soon it was over, and so was my holiday. Sitting killing time in my hotel room at Manchester Airport, I played around with the concept of the mirror selfie. At home I would never have time to dabble in self-portraiture but here is what I discovered I could do with my stylus and S-note application.

Sixteen photos and one digital drawing! 
Well this ceased to be a yearly round-up the moment I began. Instead it's just a tiny bit of my August 2016 travelogue!