My Favourite Window

March 27, 2011

Dark Moon

"I thought you had come home," says Lady Mondegreen in exasperation. "There are docks the size of silverbeet in the rose bed and the grass is no longer a lawn. I need you to be a country woman here, not playing the pagan all over the Country."

I wouldn't have missed this weekend of dance for any overgrown docks. Hosted by Nor' West Arch Morris Dancers from Christchurch, this is an annual event on my dancing calendar, held at Hanmer Springs every autumn.

Visitors, Nelson Morris, showed us their dark side this weekend: after a picturesque stint as their sunny Cotswold aspect, they appeared as Dark Moon Morris.

Energy, enthusiasm, a sense of theatre. Maybe I want to move to Nelson! No, no Lady Mondegreen, I didn't really mean it.

After all the excitement I needed to come down; I needed a serene space; and a cup of tea on the road home.

A garden, sculpture, a reedy pond:
But appearances can be deceiving.

Because to visit Sam is to walk into a Thinker's den.

And the serenity of space is also the stage for challenge and provocative ideas.  A piece is growing in our minds -  a memorial to fill the space where Elwin thought a bench should sit in the churchyard at Ashley. 

Bronze bust amongst rushes, by Alison Erickson

March 25, 2011

Return Home

Today, a handful of images: more reminders of my retreat from the Earthquake Zone.  A physical retreat; yes, but also a time to overcome the panic associated with city streets and high walls, (although I have not thrown caution to the wind).  A time to ponder whether I still want to make a garden; restore a house.  A time to recognise that loss of any kind is also an opportunity to follow new paths.

But when I visit Wellington, as I did last week, I have many favourite paths to re-visit.  This tortoise - or is it a turtle - always calls to me as I follow a particular route through the Botanic Gardens. He is stamped into a terracotta roof tile, a trademark. 
I cannot tell if he also marks each tile on these rooves close by in Kelburn.  Many of the pantiles, which grace 19th and early 20th century buildings in Australia and New Zealand, served as ballast in sailing ships. I have one, which is clearly marked with its Marseilles trademark. Houses, structures, human endeavours, may not stand up to Nature's Chaos, but an engine like the Foxton Windmill is worth celebrating while it lasts. After all, this Dutch-style mill has been resurrected with dedication and commitment by a band of local enthusiasts. Grain is milled here and can be bought in the mill shop.
And while the great millstones turn in Foxton a thousand hairy babies are hatching at Auckland Zoo.

An Arapawa ram shares his Hunua farm with busy wasps.

I know now, after visiting the familiar and the novel, after spending time in places of contemplation and of overcrowded intensity, that I still want to be here, keeping Lady Mondegreen company  - and making something of my cracked dreams.
Morris Dancers at Foxton: Photo by Glen Adams
Driftwood at Makara Beach: Photo by Andy Lawton

March 16, 2011

Welly Jewell

Gardens, secret and otherwise, are a constant source of solace to me in these  troubled months of death and destruction. While in Wellington over the weekend, I stayed with Dyk and his wife Noreen at their home in the cultivated wilderness of Kelburn.  This seemed like the perfect opportunity for Lady Mondegreen to meet Welly Jewell.  Dyk set up his Blog in July 2007 to keep his family and friends around NZ and across the world up to date with day to day activities.  It continues to play this role, but has evolved an extra layer, which I particularly like, of observing and describing the natural world around Wellington, seasoned with snippets of local history.  For me, one of Dyk's most memorable postings was his account of seeing a New Zealand falcon, karearea, (Falco noveaseelandiae)  with a tantalisingly blurred photo as proof, in the Wellington Botanic Gardens  (2 September 2007).  Maybe Dyk has a knack with photo-blurr, because his best-ever photo (in my opinion) is a superb action shot of our friend Andy playing Tarzan (27 December 2010).  The photo captures the tranquility of the woodland setting as well as Andy's boyish spirit.

Dyk has created his own woodland walk - although it is more of a scramble - on reserve land behind his house. He is gradually clearing invasive weeds and re-establishing native plants.  I noted matipo, karamu, kawakawa, rangiora, karaka, ti-kauka and ngaio to name a few. But in his own back garden he plays the tidy gardener.

As well as Dyk's hospitality over the weekend I am also greatful to him for a new addition to my library:

Nature Guide to the New Zealand Forest by Rob Dawson and Rob Lucas published by Godwit

Karamu  Coprosma robusta
Karaka  Corynocarpus laevigatus
Kawakawa  Macropiper excelsum
Kohuhu  Pittosporum tenuifolium
Ngaio Myoporum laetum
Rangiora  Brachyglottis repanda
Ti-kauka  Cordyline australis

March 15, 2011

Escapism cont.

The scene is set;
The guests are met;
the bride-
groom's doors are open wide ... metaphorically speaking. 
Time for a wedding:
in a beautiful garden somewhere above Plimmerton; time for friends to gather from across the country and around the world, to celebrate the union of Lovers.

Refreshments are served:

Mussels steamed in a bush bath over an open fire; iced-tea, fruit punch and sorbet.  Not to mention champagne delivered on trays by dashing waiters in white and burgundy.

The Britannic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen, always versatile, bear in on a litter, their fellow Gent: Peter the Groom, 

To wed fair Debs: the Bride.

Wedding vows, sealed with a kiss.

Let the entertainment begin!

He, a Britannic Bedlam Morris Gentleman; She, a White Rose Morris Lady and both, members of Red Hackle Pipe Band.

And something a little different - Maypole dancing.

Further demonstrations of skill...                                                              

The garden itself is a place to explore. 

But what would a wedding be without a cake?

With just a little link to the Skudder House, some light hearted frivolities - also known as Morris Presents - flanking Peter 's and Deb's wedding cake, which is topped with the Caravan of Love. 

March 6, 2011


A fair somewhere; out in the country, beyond havoc under a Max Parrish sky.
Things to see, to do, to buy. For a gold coin here and another there I could enter the gate, support a heritage group, buy a plate...  some books.  I could listen to
my daughter singing; her hair blowing
in the wind.  I could marvel at heavenly meccano and shelter from the icy blast with a cuppa and a friend.

And somehow the escapism was catching, because back home I was co-erced into joining Kitty's Masquerade.

Just to bring me back to Earth,

I felt the call of the potato patch.  This is no carefully constructed garden bed, but a wasteland of twitch and buttercup and my unruly tipping place for kitchen and garden waste.  Here I can tease the potatoes from the underthatch with my fingers - I barely need a fork - and a pumpkin rolics over my fine mown edge.  Feral food!
My new jumble sale books need a mention because they are gardening books and desirable.

Garden Design Workbook by John Brookes published by Lothian.  I find John Brooks approach to garden planning - proportions, scale, surveying - easy to understand and well presented.

Creating a Garden by Mary Keen published by Conran Octopus.  With its lush photography by Andrew Lawson, this is a lovely - and inspiring - record of the making of an English garden.  This book is the Yin to John Brookes Yang: emphasising the understanding of place in making a garden personal. 

Potatoes  Solanum tuberosum

March 2, 2011

Not Christ Church

There is some irony in fleeing Christchurch for Oxford, since Oxford, NZ, was intended to be the University town for Canterbury when it was named in the 19th Century.
But with school indefinitely closed, Unlimited families gathered today at the Oxford Town Hall for a time of connection, reflection and anticipation.  Bryony and Dexter went for a walk and indulged Lady Mondegreen's secret photographer, for the benefit of her readers, particularly those in the eponymous English city.

This evening Bryony and Kitty danced and sang in a relief concert, produced by the Dale Hartley School of Speech and Drama at the Civil Defence Welfare Centre in Rangiora.