My Favourite Window

December 25, 2011

Snow in Summer

Maggie couldn’t wait to go camping. Tom couldn’t wait for the ice-cream half way there. Mum and Dad couldn’t wait till the end of the day.  At the half-way dairy everyone sat on a bench, and Mum’s and Maggie’s hair stuck to their ice-creams melting in the heat.
“Quick, lick the other side,” Mum kept telling Tom. Maggie gathered nuggets of hokey pokey into her cheek for later. Dad ate his ice-cream with his teeth and it was gone in no time.
There was still a lot of driving after that. The hot wind rocked the car and the road went straight ahead … Forever thought Maggie. At a crossroad in the wide brown plains a sign on a red post said Red Post Junction. At the next crossroads a sign said Mouse Point. Maggie read it out for Tom and thought there should at least be a picture of a mouse to look at.
The road got fed up with the straight and narrow and started to wind just a little bit, as well as climbing. Dad felt that in the gearbox. Everyone felt it in their ears. The brown plains became brown hills. 
“When will we get there? asked Tom, not for the first time.
 “Not long now Darling,” said Mum. Maggie felt hopeful. This was the first time Mum had said “Not long now” instead of “A wee while yet.”
“Mummy, I want to go to the toilet.” That was to be expected on a long journey.
“Malcolm, we’ll have to stop.” Mum sounded anxious. Dad sighed.
“I’ll stop at the Fairy Forest. There’s a toilet there. Why didn’t you go at the ice-cream shop Tom?”
“He did Dad, he did.” Maggie had taken Tom herself. But Dad wasn’t really mad; this was a good excuse to visit the Fairy Forest. The wind was cold up here.  They were in the mountains now. Mum made them put their jerseys on and when everyone - not just Tom - had been, Dad led an expedition into the forest.

December 15, 2011

The Journey So Far

Usually it takes me thirty minutes to drive to Oxford,
but on the wing it took thirty hours.  
A grounding place this English town for me,
and a stepping stone to others.

St Giles Christmas Fair, Oxford

Within the spire of St Mary's of All Angels, Oxford

Boarding the Eurostar, St Pancras Station, London

The Eiffel Tower from the Tuileries Gardens, Paris

Florist, Rue St Roch, Paris

Parc de Monceau, Paris

Everywhere, from the Place de la Madeleine...

to the Champs Elysees, there is a sense of Christmas spirit.

View from the Jardins des Tuileries
along the Champs Elysees

Strolling beside...

And above the Seine

Deciding not to join the queue for the Louvre,
because Northern Ireland beckoned.

The river Dun at Cushendun, County Antrim

The Wishing Chair at...

The Giant's Causeway, County Antrim

And now I have wicked bronchitis and am done with sight-seeing in cold and dramatic places while I try to recover.

December 4, 2011

Places of the Heart

Hera left home just as Bobbie James began to flower in the cabbage tree outside her bedroom:  white and yellow old-world blooms threading through creamy plumes of ti-kauka - a perfect marriage.  One night only, did she stand on the veranda breathing in their perfume before leaving them to the mercy of the Nor’wester.  That demon wind with its hot consuming breath would sweep through the garden sometime before Christmas; the cabbage trees only rattled their tough and bladed leaves in collusion, but all the lush perennial foliage, the early blooms and abundant old roses, would be beaten down and stripped to straw by mid-summer.  This year Hera wouldn’t be there to revive them.  She had planned no special schemes, no colour harmonies nor textural depths for the summer ahead.  Instead she’d pruned and weeded and mulched, and left the garden uncomplicated for the benefit of the incoming tenants.

November 27, 2011

Widow's Weeds

That's an unfashionable word these days - widow - isn't it, remarks Lady Mondegreen.
Yes, it is felt that it shows dependence by woman on man, which would have been a social truth for much of this word's history.


But its origins reaching back to Latin and Sanskrit imbue the elements of the word with universal feeling of loneliness and loss.


For almost exactly a year, I have felt widowhood.
And then with the passing of that year,

Aluminium plant and oxalis

And possibly due to creating Elwin's memorial letter,
I feel that the veil has lifted and my brain understands what it is to function properly again.

Hawthorn and broom

This doesn't mean I forget the place Elwin had in my life, but it does mean that I can begin to find Me again.


Because I cannot make the future happen while I cannot learn new things: how to operate my camera, how to maintain garden machines, or direct building work effectively.


I am also learning my limitations, and that I still miss a man about the house, especially when I am sitting writing my blog late at night, and the toilet cistern blows a valve, hissing mischief all over the laundry. 

Don't forget to mop the floor before you go to bed, calls Lady Mondegreen from her room.

Hemlock  Conium maculatum
Buttercups, meadow buttercups  Ranunculus acris
Aluminium plant, yellow archangel  Lamium galeobdolon 'Variegatum'
Oxalis, pink oxalis  Oxalis articulata
Hawthorn, may, quickthorn  Crataegus monogyna
Broom  Cytisus scoparius
Foxglove  Digitalis purpurea
Mallow, common mallow  Malva sylvestris

November 23, 2011

Unlimited Schooling

The school year draws to a close.
Bryony's class-mates from the Rangiora Hub,
(of displaced city school, Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti)
gathered at Ashley today for an end of year party, even though there is another three weeks of school left for the junior students.

There were photos taken on Elwin's Christmas steps
(that's another story).

There was hide and seek in Secret places I never venture into!

There was music-making and chilling-out,

while Father Christmas discussed policy with the Outdoor Education officer.

There was even some real work done:
transferring my hard drive!

Family cherubs know their place and it is one of belonging.

There were Secret Santa gifts - preferably home-made,
value no more than $2.

So much thought and care went into so many of them.
Bryony made the little doll above,

and Zea hand-tooled the binding for this traveller's journal for me.

And of course there was food!

As the students and their teachers and parents
gathered up their plates and presents to leave,
it began to rain... gently.

And I am touched by the softness of their presence.
These children with their inclusiveness of one another,
their care and attention to detail,
their understanding of how to make an occasion memorable,
their respect and appreciation for others - and for the efforts of others.

I had not expected this to be more than a busy chatter
of a morning,
with cheap, joke gift-giving a bit early for Christmas
and food gobbled and gone.

Instead I feel that I have just had Christmas Day.

November 20, 2011

Ohoka Garden Tour

This morning I set out, camera in hand, to join three other gardeners on the Ohoka School Garden Tour, but from the moment I turned into the drive of the appointed meeting place it became a more personal day, not adhering strictly to the programme. I longed to explore the park-like grounds of Liz's garden, but it wasn't on today's schedule and Sue, who as a professional gardener to many of Ohoka's fine gardens, was eager to show us next door before we began the official tour.

By now I was aware just how strongly the morning light was influencing my garden viewing.  It struck strong shadows and back-lit peonies; it glanced off foliage and sharpened bright greens.
It dazzled. 

And then as heat suffused the light, the scents began to release.

We saw immaculate topiary...

And pergolas too.

We saw sculpture...

And kitchen gardens...

And follies a-few.

There were Classical references...

As well as home-grown.

And then it was time for lunch
(I had enjoyed a cup of elderflower cordial along the way).
Returning to Liz's garden, past her hay meadow, ripe for cutting,

We unpacked our picnic for four.

At leisure then we toured the garden, with its superb setting of old established trees, and I came away feeling that this was my favourite garden today: because of the trees and the grand design making space as important as the plantings, allowing the farmland to be part of the whole  - and because I was a guest in it, at ease there with gardener and owner and friend to show me around.

The Ohoka School Garden Tour is a biennial event and one of Canterbury's premium garden tours.  It is a major fund-raising project for the rural primary school.