My Favourite Window

March 16, 2014

Birthday Treat

It's been a while. I've spent no time at all in the blogosphere over the past five weeks. Something to do with uncertainty: the replacement of NZ's Widow's Benefit with the Job-Seekers Benefit, meaning my plans to move towards financial independence have to be replaced with making a pittance ... NOW or else. A long-suffering tooth broke down this week and something noisy happened inside my ride-on-mower; so what with that and a dental bill, it's not only oil that's leaking uncontrollably, but my funds and my sanity. After a recent Earthquake Recovery Authority inspection of the Skudder House, there is still no indication of when I might be able to use it profitably - or not. 
So a party in the Secret Garden offered light relief as well as a reminder of how much it is loved and valued by my children and their friends.

Preparations during the afternoon were done with a wary eye on the weather - a Cyclonic drift had been forecast to trail across Canterbury since Friday. 

Saturday was mild and overcast - surely, surely the rain would stay away. The decorations went up, the food was prepared and carried out...

There were a few brief moments of will it, won't it? light drizzle

before everyone, in one beautifully orchestrated operation, stripped fairies, masks, draperies and lights from the trees and trooped like a story book parade of footmen - with platters and occasional tables -across the grass, up the steps and into the house...

to reset the Masquerade scene.

Early in the evening I noticed that there was no background music playing but there was intense animation amongst the costumed guests. Later, I remembered: these kids make their own music when they are ready! And since Bryony had invited a layer of friends - from the North Canterbury Musical Society Chicago cast as well as her Black Peach Theatre Company friends there was a new energy to the singing, with a five piece, male voice choir gathering around the piano for powerful - and competitive - delivery of favourites from Les Miserables, Jesus Christ Superstar, Leonard Cohen and... well, with everyone joining in, it was everything they've ever done together; with all the parts, harmonies, solos, dance moves as well as crazy, cross-genre canons. There were at least two pianists at play, both of them overcoming our tuneless old piano's faults with ease.

And now after a night of heavy rain the stream is up. 
Before the overnight guests departed two daring souls have braved the weather for a splash! 

Bryony, by the way, turned twenty on Thursday.

February 22, 2014

Three Years On

Is it really three years since our world was torn apart?

Since Christchurch, our provincial city, was shaken and shattered on 22 February 2011? 

Three years it is.
If you follow this blog, and others, like More Canterbury Tales, you will know that as well as loss, despair, and bureaucratic struggle there has also been a shift in social values and a remarkable release of creative energy.

These days as I hang out in the Pallet Pavilion, getting a taste for transitional architecture and listening to the Unlimited School Jazz band, I can't believe that I can feel so happy about the city as it re-invents itself. 

There is lateral thinking and wit everywhere...

whether it's the suggestion that the deserted Town Hall 
might not be... quite,

or that there's a bargain to be had.

The Christchurch Art Gallery brings its art out onto the street with exhibitions like 
Faces from the Collection.

Gap Filler projects go from strength to strength with installations like Gap Golf. Gap Golf takes the player on a reflective tour of demolition sites. Fairway to Heaven recalls the 
Crown Plaza Hotel built in the 1980s as the Park Royal, distinctive for its stepped silhouette. 

This huge lounge suite on the corner of Colombo and Gloucester Streets is part 
of a Gap Filler/Greening the Rubble collaboration:
Sound Garden.

Greenery and flowers soften harsh reality.

And behind all this are individuals, groups and organisations, working together with innovative and unfamiliar models for business. Sustainability and a city for the people are strong themes in the recovery. Initiatives such as the All Right campaign and Healthy Christchurch are specifically aimed at building emotional resilience and encouraging people around greater Canterbury to take care of themselves and each other.

This collection of thoughts is posted in the Re:Start shopping precinct. 

For everyone who ever donates to disaster relief and wonders whether it does any good, I can vouch that Red Cross funds have directly found their way to our family. Thank you! I understand that the Red Cross fund, which so many people around the world donated to, has been managed for long term re-settlement aid and building community resilience. Within months of the February 2011 earthquake a one-off travel grant was offered to all families who incurred extra travel costs when their children's schools were moved to different sites. Last year a Red Cross grant also allowed Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti to set up a Breakfast Club. The school decided to run it with the intention of fostering self-reliance, co-operation and emotional resilience. 

Here's Kitty with her drama teacher, Marlene, at the last Breakfast Club of 2013

And in case you were wondering... the work still goes on. This house in the suburbs is being re-piled. It is only a single level building but raised for work to progress underneath. This method for raising domestic dwellings has been developed since the earthquakes.

I've collected together some of the groups and organisations that have sprung up or adjusted their roles in the last few years, and given their links below. They have certainly contributed to the vibe and exhilaration that makes me happy to visit Christchurch.

Jeneane in the Pallet Pavilion: Photo by Kitty Jamison
Handy Andy and Jeneane on the astro turf sofa: Photo by Kitty Jamison
The Crown Plaza YouTube link is to a time lapse demolition video by Julian Vares.

February 13, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere

Maybe that title is a bit insensitive considering the flooding in England. Still it was a thought that crossed my mind last night driving through a torrential downpour in Rangiora, where the gutters were having trouble draining away the deluge. Many street corners were awash - though not needing boats to navigate them ...

I couldn't help thinking of the last few days of my extended summer holiday last year, spent by the sea...

Where tradition and modernity get on with their watery business;

Where reflections may or may not be of the watery kind;

And where boats ply watery streets as a matter of course.

Venice of course.

Wherever water is causing hardship and heartache, may there be relief and a safe haven not too far away.

February 6, 2014

A Birthday Picnic

Nearly a month since I last blogged; a national holiday to relax on; friends to catch up with... surely I can make time to post some snaps of a day at the beach?

Noreen had a birthday with a zero in it yesterday. She lives in Wellington but today she and her husband Dyk who is also my blog friend at Welly Jewell

were picnicking with Canterbury friends at Taylor's Mistake

 where quirky little holiday baches line the shore.

After dipping our toes in the tepid and very clear water, and watching a helicopter rescue operation on nearby clifftops

 it was time for birthday cake before boarding Gary's and Jane's house bus for the ride back to Christchurch.

And since today - Waitangi Day - commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, I should use the full bi-lingual name for the lovely bay we visited today Te Onepoto / Taylors Mistake.

January 7, 2014

Gardening Girls

I like to think that visiting some of the great gardens of England has had an effect...

Here's Bryony on the Lutyens bench at Sissinghurst

and Kitty at Tintinhull.

Maybe insight from a National Trust gardener, proved inspirational. 

Our friend Maddie oversees the Japanese Tea Garden at Kingston Lacy.

But maybe they are just discovering the joy of gardening.

Either way it's nice to have them helping me in the garden.

January 1, 2014

Reading Recovery

Reading for pleasure - one of those things that I lost... 

I've just finished reading The House Guest by New Zealand writer, Barbara Anderson. A good literary detective story with a sure sense of character and place, as well as a theme of bereavement. For my taste the style is a bit too narrative, evoking the long, drawling - and rambling - speech of an older generation of New Zealanders.  It is effective in veiling tension with mundanity, but I found the style distracting.  However this is only the second novel I have read in three years, and the first that I have actively wanted to return to, even staying in bed to read on. It feels like a minor triumph.

I've always read. Before I started school I was reading grocery cartons and cereal packets. My voracious reading defined me in childhood. "Bookworm," everyone called me and I concurred. There were plenty of books at home, but the ones I remember and which lead me on, were the library books my father brought home like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in their early, hard cover, colour-plated and richly-mapped editions. The bookcase of a Library at Ashley School was my favourite corner of the classroom. Small it may have been, but there was always anticipation when a new supply of books arrived from the National Library - what a remarkable service - only really appreciated when I look back on my tiny country-school education. I know I had read Jules Verne by the time I was eight, because I rewrote Journey to the Centre of the Earth in Standard One (I hadn't heard of plagiarism then). Just as children now crave every next sequel in a series, I read all Helen Clare's Five Dolls in a House books, delved into British history with Geoffrey Trease and ticked off every single Willard Price Adventure I could lay hands on. My favourite childhood author, William Mayne, introduced me to writing beyond narrative, capturing acutely the business of being a child, as well as the indiscriminate beauty of the natural world. 

His books still rank amongst my all time favourites but have been withdrawn in disgrace from libraries and bookshops around the world. In my teens I was gripped by Science Fiction, moving from my father's interest in Wells, Clarke and Asimov to the worlds of Larry Niven, Terry Brooks, Anne McCaffrey, and Ursula Le Guin.

Secondary school introduced me to literary fiction and critical analysis, but didn't dampen enthusiasm and I remember particularly the mentoring - rather than teaching - by one of my sixth form English teachers over books such as Mrs Dalloway and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. 

As I studied and moved around, books have more and more become attached to places and events in time.  Jeanette Winterson's The Passion was an absorption, read while ensconced in our curtained narrow-boat bed, and followed by three days of weeping over the ending.  I read The Seven Pillars of Wisdom as we travelled on an overland adventure tour into the territory T.E. Lawrence describes in his book.  More weeping as I read Fiona Kidman's Book of Secrets, while I lay feeding my new baby. And later, high on a cloud-wreathed hill, surrounded by suburban anonymity, I read everything I could lay my hands on to keep the Black Dog at bay - William Mayne, Mary Wesley, Geraldine McCaughrean, Lady Barker on settler life in Canterbury, NZ...  But, because the black dog did get a grip, I could read Markus Zusak's The Bookthief, while a friend's marriage fell apart around me. 

And then reading books for pleasure stopped for me. How odd that Depression fed the need for it, but bereavement and earthquakes quelled my appetite. I didn't stop reading altogether. School newsletters, Earthquake Commission correspondence, and anything to do with Earthquake recovery, all these were necessary to carry on functioning. More indulgently I discovered the blogosphere and how to research on the Net.  But I didn't completely give up on books. Somehow that pleasure in the tangible book has proved a bridge, a way of keeping in touch with the printed word (of course I don't have an e-reader!). 

Exquisite endpapers;

 tantalising title pages;

frontispieces, faithful or not;

and gripping graphics.

have all kept me engaged in books. 

The business of choosing, preparing and listing books for my Etsy shop, Dunedin Street, means fossicking in junk shop boxes for likely stock, studying a book from cover to cover, photographing its faults - and its delights - and then setting up a listing. Fellow Etsy seller Josiah Booknoodle and his accompanying blog Adventures of Professor Booknoodle have been an entertainment and a help, but I have to resist the temptation to write a review for every old favourite I come across in my research.

I'm drawn to the quirky and the classic, 

childrens' books, 

educational theory of the past, 

and almost anything with a New Zealand flavour. 

Visual design is something I especially look for as a complement to content. 

But when it comes down to it I am a woman of words - thanks for the reminder Lady Mondegreen - and I am relieved and grateful  that my synapses are re-connecting. The other novel that I struggled through but certainly enjoyed, probably more than The House Guest, was Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees. But another writer has kept me nourished and reading fiction over the last couple of years: Claire Steele has an advantage because she is both friend and blogger. Over at The Prodigal, where she posts the lyrical back story to her novel-in-progress, I read her brief passages more like morsels of poetry, absorbing her delicious imagery without having to commit to completion any time soon. 

But complete I must, especially as some of the books below are required reading for the Diploma in Editing course I have embarked upon.

I feel that before this lot though, I ought to follow Claire's recommendation and read Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries. 
I guess that's a New Year's resolution!