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July 12, 2016

Peter Pan

Holiday time. And a term of drama school rehearsals comes to conclusion when Peter Pan opens tomorrow.  Yesterday I caught Peter Pan and Wendy out and about in Rangiora!

Today - from the fly floor - I watched everything come together in the final rehearsal. That includes Peter Pan flying above the stage! 

Peter Pan - A Magical Musical 
from the Hartley School of Performing Arts. Rangiora Town Hall. July 13 -16 2016.

July 9, 2016

Fog and Fungus

Get up and photograph the fog, I thought to myself pulling the quilt closer around my neck... But because I left it till the fog was dispersing I was rewarded by sunlight seeping through mist. 

Once I was outside with the camera, the cold didn't matter. It was time to capture this fungus basket before it melted away.

Fungus basket, Tutae whatitiri  Ileodictyon cibarium

June 26, 2016

Midwinter Celebrations

Maybe, just maybe, mainstream New Zealand is beginning to dispense with the idea that Midwinter in the Southern Hemisphere needs the idea of 'Christmas' attached to it.

The celebration of Matariki the Maori new year, is becoming more common amongst the wider community with its seasonal relevance. Kitty's school, Ao Tawhiti, which has existed for over a year on the two pre-merger sites, came together on Friday night for an evening of activities and feasting at the junior school's, Discovery campus. 

The children, staff and parents there had worked hard to create a festive atmosphere, and Unlimited staff and students contributed too. Kitty enjoyed painting faces for her younger schoolfellows and Florian's telescopes were a hit. It was the wrong time of night to see Matariki (or the Pleiades) whose reappearance in the sky at the end of May signals the time for final gathering in of food stores before the true winter weather arrives later in June.  Jupiter, Mars and Saturn were all in our sights however.

The hangi-cooked food and pot luck meal was a Midwinter feast to rival roast turkey and its trimmings. Meat falling from the bone; vegetables melting in the mouth and everything infused with the distinctive earthy, smokiness of the hangi.

No need for me to feel regretful at being too busy to prepare a Midwinter dinner at home for the Solstice. Earlier, when summer and autumn fruit was so abundant, I'd intended to put away something of everything to make our Midwinter dinner with.

This has been a family custom for me, dating to my father's involvement with Antarctic research programmes and the observance of the shortest day, whether he was wintering over or celebrating at an Antarctic Society Dinner. One of my siblings is a direct result of one of those festive occasions! Later my parents continued the tradition at home, always raising a glass to the men enduring the endless polar night.

A Matariki feast then, to end a Midwinter week that began with dancing at Dawn.

Of course I celebrated the Winter Solstice - a few days early - with a spot of Morris dancing. Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen hosted the gathering at Paekakariki with their usual flair and attention to detail. 

They warm my heart whether they are masters of the kitchen or fancy footing.

But so too does everyone else!

It has occurred to me that if we got up even earlier on the morning that we dance to ensure the return of the Sun (and after all the sun gets up well after 7 o'clock at Midwinter) we might be able to see Matariki ... 

June 1, 2016

The Merry Month of May

All good intentions to blog frequently, came to naught in May, but now it's been and gone it's still worth mentioning.

It was merry in all manner of ways from greeting the month in 

at the top of Mt Eden in Auckland...

generally having a good time...

with gathered Morris dancing friends while celebrating Mayday...  
to serving on the fly floor for the North Canterbury Musical Society's three week season of Aida. This was the Elton John and Tim Rice rock musical rather than Verdi's opera.

Up and down this ladder the flyboys scuttled 

for some fairly lightweight action in this particular production 

(lots of down time for reading or just enjoying the show). 

While the stage manager's directions murmured between various production stations in my headset I marvelled at the quality of voice and instrumental music. Mainly this was due to ability and professionalism, but I noticed how all the intricate structural  woodwork created superb acoustics high above the stage - and close to me.

Although Kitty was on stage I have no photos of the production due to copyright reasons, so this is my personal experience of the show. I made a note of my position on the fly floor while I was working in the garden across the road. My task for the whole of May? Clearing the fallen leaves from the tree who's morning shadow graces the Rangiora Town Hall, reaching up to trace my corner, where on the other side of the ochre coloured wall, my chair and headset and hauling gloves await my return.

April 14, 2016

Heart Wood

The woodshed is all but empty.

Early in the day I tidied up the last of the small-wood I'd gathered to dry over summer. 

And I realised as I worked at my sawhorse, that today Elwin would have celebrated his 75th birthday. I remembered... because he made the sawhorse for one of my birthdays. He presented it with a hobby horse head, the children riding it into the bedroom dressed for chivalry with pruning saws for swords. I look back and think how his gifts like this one meant so much more to me than jewellery or lingerie or luxury holidays. A sawhorse is a perfect accessory for the forester in me!

Beechwood fires burn bright and clear
If the logs be kept a year
Oaken logs if dry and old
Keep away the winter cold
Chestnut's only good they say 
If for years 'tis laid away 
But ash-wood green or ash-wood brown
Are fit for a King with a golden crown.
Elm she burns like the churchyard mould
Even the very flames are cold
Birch and pine-wood burn too fast
Blaze too bright and do not last
But ash wet or dry 
A queen may warm her slippers by.

My stocks of various species are collected from my garden or the churchyard. I also buy to support fundraising efforts, as well as from local firewood merchants.  The rhyme above is an old English guide but here in New Zealand, I spurn poplar for its cold slow burn; I covet oak which does just as the rhyme says; I puzzle over gum, because the different varieties perform differently and I forget from year to year what burns how.  I accept pine gratefully; and would love to burn kanuka if it didn't mean clearing ancient stands to get good-sized logs. To my mind it is like oak - hot and long-burning once it's dry. Plum has similar qualities, and needs to season for a couple of years. There's plenty of that here, adding it's woodland magic to the Secret Garden.

By the end of the day I had taken delivery of twelve cubic metres of split macrocarpa or 'macro' as it is often marketed. I noticed that the firewood merchant wrote it as 'mack' when he made a note for me. It is in fact from Cupressus macrocarpa, introduced to NZ farmland because of its resistance to dry conditions, as Monterey cypress. The trees have an untidy but distinctive presence in the landscape. Here it is always called 'macrocarpa' never Monterey cypress.

Maybe there will be someone else to share my hearth and my heart with one day. I would like that: for today though my thoughts are for the richness Elwin added to my life.

Macrocarpa, Monterey cypress Cupressus marcrocarpa
Pine, radiata pine, Monterey pine Pinus radiata
Oak Quercus robur, and other species
Kanuka Kunzea ericoides
Gum Eucalyptus spp
Plum Prunus cerasifera
Poplar Populus spp

March 5, 2016

Autumn Tints

I haven't forgotten the garden, especially as Autumn brings cooler nights, mellow days... and another flush of roses. This one is 'Compassion.'

February 15, 2016

Shake A Leg

The Valentine's Day earthquake has put a new twist on this review of the annual New Zealand Morris Tour. Two year's ago I put my hand up to organise the 2016 gathering of Morris dancers. I was particularly keen to draw on the post- earthquake recovery vibe around Canterbury as my theme, before the Rebuild was complete and the creative energy had been replaced by a new steel and glass Christchurch.

A month ago, two years of planning and five days of tripping around Christchurch and the Waimakariri district came to a satisifying end. 

Visitors from around the country as well as from overseas, especially those who hadn't visited the area since the February 2011 earthquake, felt moved at seeing close-up, some of the sites - and sights - which played over and over again on news footage following that disaster five years ago. 

Some also expressed awe and dismay at the magnitude of land clearance, observing that they could only understand it once they were standing amongst it all.

But yesterday's 5.7 magnitude quake brings the safety fences, the barriers of shipping containers, and the fear back into sharp relief. These when will they be gone, features proved their worth yesterday, particularly around Sumner where cliffs and rock faces crumbled spectacularly.

A reminder of our frailty; a reminder to love well, to enjoy the life we lead; and not place too much value on tangible possessions.

Back to the Tour then!

Kitty made me proud - and  wistful because Elwin wasn't here  - to see her play melodeon for the Morris for the first time in public.

When she could get a break from work Bryony joined us

 - as a groupie - delighted to see old friends from our years in Wellington.

We did indeed take an ex-London bus - for a night out at The Twisted Hop. The route the driver took from Kaiapoi to Woolston was an unexpected treat in itself. The sun was low and bathing the familiar countryside of pasture, market gardens, and Red Zoned riverside, with an evening glow. Even the sewerage ponds and estuary with all the water birds settling for the night looked beautiful with the back drop of the Port Hills sculpted by the light. I drive this route regularly but had never seen it from the top of double decker bus before! 

Earlier in the day the group danced in Rangiora, meeting the maker of our badges, Caroline Travella of Bizzart, in Good St.

I was a bit disappointed that our dance spots in Rangiora did not reflect the Rebuild. I'd watched Conway Lane being developed over the last eight months and thought it would be very celebratory to dance there. It is a new and well thought out collaboration between Council and business owners, but I couldn't get approval to perform there.  

Dancing in Victoria Park had very little to do with the Rebuild but everything to do with showing off a place dear to me. From my earliest childhood visits to the playground, through my time as a gardener learning my craft there and any number of fairs, markets and picnics, this park is part of my being. But showing visitors around always opens up new awareness. People commented on the huge size of the two oak trees, something I take for granted. We were certainly grateful for their shade.

On our day in Christchurch we managed to see and dance at some of the best known features, not all of them at Rebuild stage...

Cathedral Square 

Re:Start Mall

The Dance o Mat

The Margaret Mahy Family Playground

Along with the evening bus ride I think the morning tea hosted by the Pines and Kairaki Beach Association was one of my personal favourites on the Tour programme.

So much of these two beach settlements were made uninhabitable by the September 2010 earthquake, yet the residents maintain a strong and unified community. Members spoke to us about the Residents' Association history and also how lessons learned from the Canterbury quakes were used to inform Wellington's earthquake readiness. 

It seemed strange that with the land cleared and all the homely back gardens gone, the Pines Beach Hall actually had a lovely treed one to host us in. The hall itself is damaged and we could only venture in a few at a time to view the history display of the area.

Later that day we danced at the Brick Mill Cafe which is part of a larger historic twine mill at Waikuku. The building is an ongoing labour of love for its owners, Paul and Jeni Sanderson. They have managed to strengthen it using ingenuity and their own labour, running it as a cafe, gift shop, art gallery and antiques shopping destination.

For a sobering end to the week's outings we joined Joseph Hullen of Ngai Tahu for a fascinating tour of the local Kaiapoi Pa site. Joseph coloured his talk with, botany, archaeology, and New Zealand history, but tempered that with his own familial links to the site. Everyone agreed that his humble and non judgemental approach brought the site to life. 

Being in that place, where poor governance and betrayal lead to a horrific massacre, was also a reminder to me that no matter how distressing the Canterbury earthquakes have been, they are an act of Nature, not mankind against mankind. 

The seismologists tell us that there are still another 25 years or so of after shocks - like yesterday's - ahead of us. They will be part of the rest of my life. I hope that even though I feel my dancing days are over, Morris dancers will continue to be family of mine for the rest of my life. As 13 year old Myles said in his television interview "Everyone's nice". 

9 year old Ewan had this to say about his dancing holiday: Tour this year was AMAZING!!! The best parts were riding on the double decker bus, having lots of fun at the Ale and playing at the Margaret Mahy playground. I absolutely loved dancing and riding on the tram. The food was delicious, I had pizza, Chinese and Indian. The trip to Sumner was AWESOME, especially climbing the rocks. Thank you to the organisers and I’m looking forward to next Tour.

The youngsters attending this tour showed that a new generation is moving up, with Myles, Kitty, 11 year old Hamish, and Ewan, all having grown up around Morris dancing. It's too early to tell whether 4 month old Rowan who was also on Tour is going to follow in his father's footsteps.