My Favourite Window

January 1, 2020

Are You Still Here?

I wrote the following as an exercise in January 2019, when I started on a new Computer Studies module...

I'm onto this I thought at the time. Well maybe I understand a bit more about computer 'stuff' but it's not helping me - nearly a year on - as I try to choose photos from my phone to use here. I still prefer to write blog posts on a Qwerty keyboard.

I opened my phone's gallery a couple of minutes ago to share a few pre-selected photos with myself and it emptied in front of my eyes. Okay. Choose a different path. Find my Google photos. There they are, but... they won't stop loading, scrolling, jiggling so that I can work with any one of them. Hey, I've only just seen that I can directly access my phone from here. That makes things easier.

I think I'm better off with nuts and bolts problems all the same. 

I've been planning this New Year post for a few days now. Since an Instagram friend commented that she had toyed with the idea of getting back to her blog lately I've remembered how Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden fed me so much in the years after my husband's death. The link with the wider world was escapism I'm sure, but it satisfied a need. It also helped me hone my writing. 

Escapism and writing! In 2018 escapism was Morocco  - a week in Essaouira with my friend Claire Steele, on one of her Magical Journeys writing retreats. Out of that came a short story, Live Music Tonight, which was published in 2019 in this volume of work from twelve Magical Journeys' writers. If you are interested in supporting this venture - Me even - the book is available from Amazon via the Mardibooks website.

One of the main reasons I eased up on blogging and Internet use in general, was to free up time to work on my land, develop the garden I'd always dreamed about, and maybe make some progress with the Skudder House. I was also feeling stymied by changes to blog rules which meant I could no longer comment and engage on favourite sites. Everything is solvable but I didn't feel that was the best use of my time and energy. 

What I didn't realise until last year was that I have almost certainly been suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It explains a lot. Probably from before Elwin died but heavily masked by bereavement and Earthquake PTSD it has meant I can't work full time. Remarkably, I can still work as a gardener but only if I break my day into roughly one hour and twenty minute slots with substantial rests or sleep in between. 

More than 3 1/2 hours and I risk crashing. A 'crash' can extend into the following day. Brain work - like writing this - is equally tiring. 
It is ironic that early on after Elwin's death I set things in place to allow for different income streams (I still sell vintage wares on Etsy) so that I could fit work on my property around those. 
This has proved useful but also time consuming and emotionally exhausting!

But Life isn't bad. In fact every single day I am grateful for so many joys, opportunities, people, and health improvements.

No promises then of more frequent blog posts but maybe, I'm prepared now to give blogging on my phone a go. 

J D Hobby 2020 Copyright

August 17, 2019

Anniversary Surprise!

It's been awhile since I posted - exactly a year in fact - and quite awhile since I set up Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden.

Nine years! I'm not sure if nine years really counts when I haven't blogged here reliably for such a long time.

Still, today is the anniversary of my first blog post and that post featured these daffodils. Judging by the buds they were about 7-10 days behind this stage on 17 August in 2010.

These daffs are quite a useful indication of some kind of progress in the garden. I did dig them up and they have increased in number. 

Should I keep going with this blog I sometimes ask myself as I post almost daily on Instagram @hobbyography. I'm surprised at how many people still mention Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden with interest and appreciation in face to face conversation. And I guess that's enough to keep me interested. Now all I need is more time to compose posts! 

Narcissus var. Daffodil

August 17, 2018

Now, Where Was I?

I can hardly claim to have been blogging for eight years when I haven't posted anything for ten months...

It's springtime again - though this year everyone is noticing how much earlier so many things are flowering. Eight years ago today I used a photo of these daffodils just pushing through the frosty earth. This year they were so far ahead that they opened their blooms on 12 August.

Back in 2010 when I first began blogging I had grand ideas about charting the restoration of the Skudder House and the making of a garden around it. What with one thing and another I haven't got very far with either of those projects, but I have recorded seasonal shift in a changing world.

October 27, 2017

Spring Into Summer

What a season of floral extravagance this spring has been. Everything that could bloom has - and to its peak. The mild wet winter meant many trees and shrubs blossomed around three weeks earlier than normal here in North Canterbury. 

The spiraea hedge at the Ashley Church had been trimmed late so there hasn't been a profusion of its snowy white flowers but this is an exception.

Where does Spring end and Summer begin? With the first roses maybe. This was the first 'Delicata' bloom encouraged by gentle warm days but unfurling into a rainy period.

And just this week this clematis opened its first flower. In typical secret garden fashion 'Niobe' is rambling through a patch of overgrown raspberry canes, its crinkled petals echoing the creased berry leaves.

I'm enjoying the double pink may trees which frame the view towards the river bank from my kitchen window. They've come into flower a little later than the white hedgerow species which, within itself, has staggered flowering on different trees. This is a floribunda year - gorgeous to look at and good for the soul. 

Wisteria 'Caroline'
Spiraea trilobata [uncertain]
Rosa rugosa 'Delicata'
Clematis 'Niobe'
Double pink may, Double pink hawthorn - Crataegus laevigata 'Rosea Flore Pleno'

All photos taken on my Samsung Galaxy 5

August 20, 2017

... Another Anniversary With A Seven In It

A parcel with my morning coffee?

Hand-made by Kitty: one of her speciality bracelets!

Brunch at Artisan - the long languid kind - with sister and daughter.

Preparing dinner: with more languishing - in front of the fire as the evening drew on...

And a birthday memento from our afternoon out:  What began as a driving lesson for Kitty turned into a prowl around 'Twine' and the other shops at Sandersons' Mill at Waikuku.

A quiet birthday this one, with nice connections with family and friends to brighten a cold grey day.

Camera used - Samsung Galaxy 5

August 17, 2017

Seven Years On

I imagined writing all sorts of interesting essays for this 7th anniversary post. But for the same reason that I don't post often that wasn't going to happen. I am posting almost daily on Instagram however. Surely I can do something similar for my blog?  All these photos taken on my phone have appeared @hobbyography over the past fortnight. The silver ball didn't quite float away this time though the water did come up around it. I like it being a dynamic part of the garden - floating, or blustering around in strong winds. 

This little patch of woodland garden, is where the ephemeral stream originally found its way down to the river (before human intervention channelled it into a different course), and when the water is very high, as it was in the previous photo, it still comes close to running through here. I get quite a thrill when I dig down and find river sand because the rise we live on is deep silty loess dropping down to the river flats. We literally live at the edge of the old river bank!

Using a phone camera makes it easy to photograph the down-turned flowers of winter hellebores. There are so many varieties bred now to show their centres but I like the mystique; the sense of beauty hidden from casual view of the old varieties. These and some deep burgundy-flowered plants are naturalising in this woodland patch, which was once my father's vegetable garden. I'm looking forward to extending their sweep down towards the stream bed - and closer to my house.

Between flood conditions I've managed - with help - to clear some space under the willow closest to the house. Its veil looked very beautiful but had completely overwhelmed our al fresco dining area. The longer the branches become the more likely they are to collapse as well: not a risk worth bearing where people spend time.  As well as providing firewood for next year, this pruning also opens up the area where I want to extend the hellebore planting. Progress in the garden!

Variegated Iris Iris 'Variegata'. Species uncertain
Primula sp
Winter Roses, winter hellebores Helleborus niger
Weeping willow Salix babylonica

Camera used - Samsung Galaxy 5 

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