My Favourite Window

May 31, 2011

Marseilles Tile

A visit to the reclamation yard:
Realisation that the stock has swelled since the Earthquakes: there are surely more corbels and cornices; architraves and mouldings; ceiling roses and newell posts than I have ever seen before.  There seems to be acres of roofing iron and crates and crates of tiles...  Many different ages and styles reflecting the different areas of afflicted housing around Christchurch.  And if I had an idea that the turtle-stamped tile in the Wellington Botanic Gardens, came from Marseilles, here is the stamped address: such elaborate detail hidden for the life of a building inside the roof.

I didn't find what I was looking for today, but I did enjoy exploring!

May 25, 2011

A Chip off the Old Blog

One hundred posts from Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden.
Things have changed, intentions have been re-directed, but the Secret Garden is much the same as it was, when I began recording a new journey in August 2010.  The Skudder House too, has not fallen down nor been demolished 'by order', and is even in a better state than it was when Elwin and I bought it in July last year.

To celebrate this notional milestone I would like to introduce a new Blog...

Little Mondgreen's Theatre House

This blog of Bryony's is a project she has chosen to work on specifically for her Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti 'Hub', time. The school, still based at Halswell Residential School, and settling in for the rest of the year at least, has established a Wednesday satellite class in Rangiora for approximately thirty of its North Canterbury Students.  I'm looking forward to seeing how Bryony develops her blog.

While I'm on the subject of other people's blogs, this seems like a good time to pay tribute to some of the blogs I follow.
There they are in My Blog List in the side-bar:

Vintage Hawke searches out fantastic images from the theatre and fashion worlds of the past - her current Thierry Mugler feature is stunning - and imbues her blog with her love of vintage style and clothing.  She sells too!

Grumpy Old Ken I have to say that if Ken was a dress he would be in the vintage categoryHis alternative news round-ups are sharp commentary on modern humanity, and his story-telling reveals the joy and heartache of simply being human.  He collects old stuff too!

But Hadriana's Treasures beats us all for writing about old things - she's got Hadrian's Wall on her doorstep.  I enjoy her guide-style updates on activities there, her matter-of -fact Latin tutorials and good nature.

The Camel Barn Library is a tantalising and - these days - infrequent blog about life in a Turkish town. The writing and photographs are lovely and all of her followers are waiting with bated breath for another chapter in her historical search for a reader's ancestral home. 

Welly Jewell  If Ken is Vintage, I think Dyk probably qualifies as Retro.  He writes of this and that, family, friends, wildlife, football, and includes extra detail - dates, events in history, (though he's not so hot on botanical names) - where appropriate, which suits me very well.

And a couple of others from young American bloggers that I enjoy dipping into:

Here's To Life from a contemplative young woman, who enjoys exercising her writing skills and finding ways to add physical experience to virtual reality.

Hello Friend is full of gorgeous visual treats, to buy, to make, all gathered together by a bouyant, creative soul.

"Very interesting," says Lady Mondegreen. "But don't forget you have a garden to attend to..."

May 20, 2011


The Rangiora Town Hall beckoned cinema-goers as the sun went down this evening.  The Regent Cinema - ensconced in the former Council Chamber - is restored after its Earthquake upheaval; the refurbishment evocative of a sumptuous 1930s salon. 
But  now the scene is set, in the main auditorium, for a two-week season of Guys and Dolls.              

And one of the dolls has been singing, dancing, dressing her company parts, around Mowbray and the Secret Garden for weeks now. . .

May 15, 2011


"You really ought to introduce Mowbray to them," muses Lady Mondegreen. 

"What do you mean?" I say, puzzled.

"Well, you are always showing aspects of it...
the veranda posts,
the French windows,
the wallpaper,
the front door...
but you have never distinguished it definitively from the Skudder House.

"Oh," I say, "Haven't I. Maybe I want to keep it's identity as secret as the Garden."

Lady Mondegreen snorts in spite of her gentilesse. "You have your house delivered on the back of a truck, position it grandly underneath the flight circuit of the local aero-club and expect to keep it secret?" 

"And now of course, all the neighbours are admiring the new paint work." 

"Thankyou Lady Mondegreen for introducing Mowbray; now I will have to find time to elaborate. Maybe when the painting and decorating is finished..."

May 11, 2011


At the end of a fruitful day the westering sun traced lace shadows onto newly painted walls.

And as an emblem of Hope and persistance the jonquils are already thrusting up their green spears amongst the complementary marsh marigold foliage. 

I hold the 18th May in my head as the last date for mowing bulb-strewn swards, but these bulbs have been up for some time, and judging by the blade-torn tips on some new shoots, they have been up since before my last mowing round; about a fortnight already...

"Do you realise that some of the stored bulbs are sprouting," Lady Mondegreen reminds me.
So they are, but first to plant must be the curiosities that I dug from the grass verge the day after Elwin died 
(in order to rescue them from a team of eager mowers).
I wrote about these plena-flowered daffodils in my very
first blog post

Here they are: there were six blooms last spring - there were hundreds when I was a child - and ready to plant are nine bulbs. I have planted them under polyanthus and pansies right beside my back step.  This space has been opened up after the bank of mock orange blossom was cut back for the house painting.

This week, marking six months since Elwin's death, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted from me. Not until I felt motivation: to garden, to clean the house, to sort family keepsakes, to enjoy my children - to be able to do a dozen different things in the day - did I realise how crippled I had become.  So many older women have mentioned to me the tiredness of grief and even though I'm not even sure what my grief is attached to anymore: a husband, a city, friends' lost children, a future aborted...
I feel that winter will be a time of contentment for me.

A time for instance to be inventive with the fat of the land.
To close, I'll share tonight's dinner dish and the discovery that our cat, Aelfwise, will eat any amount of sweet chestnuts!

Sweet Meat
I skinned and roughly chopped about
40 boiled sweet chestnuts (this year's entire harvest).
I added them to a diced onion frying.
When this mixture was browning nicely,
I added about 150 grams of minced meat
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon,
and after a few moments about 2 cups of water.
Then covered on a medium heat, stirring occasionally so that the chestnut flesh broke down and thickened the sauce.
About 25 minutes later, when the meat was cooked I added
the flesh of one ripe quince chopped into small pieces.
And another cup of water with 1 tablespoon of tamari.
Quince cooks quickly and after about 5 minutes ,
I served this Tudor-style mixture over corn chips with a shredded lettuce salad.

The children liked it !

Daffodils, jonquils  Narcissus spp
Marsh marigold, Kingcup  Caltha palustris
Sweet chestnut  Castanea sativa
Quince  Cydonia oblonga

May 8, 2011

Mothers' Day

For those of you who observe Mothers' Day today, a bouquet of Bourjois of Paris toiletries.  I found this advertisement aimed at Christmas-gift buyers, in the December 1963 edition of Woman and Home.

Our family prefers to avoid the rampant commercialism associated with Mothers' and Fathers' Days,
but Kitty couldn't resist buying me this mug,
bringing it to me this morning, filled with tea and topped off with an apple from the orchard.

Later in the day I enjoyed sitting with my own mother - pencil in hand - and asking her about old photos.
She was an active photographer in her youth, but not a very good labeller of her prints.  I have always felt daunted by this task, but her memories seem immediate. 
So many sea-side holiday snaps taken on watery expanses of sand, and she can name every beach by some peripheral outcrop of rock or the companion of the moment.
I shall certainly have some stories of hers to share with you!

Joan at Torquay

May 7, 2011

Autumn Colour

Autumn passes with not enough comment from me.
Its vivid hues and mellow days always feel like my favourite time of year when they are here. 

There has been so much fruit and no time available to me to harvest and process it.

So I have enjoyed receiving a couple of jars of jam
or preserves from friends and neighbours,
 who have taken as much fruit as they need
for themselves.

A garden surprise through the rain today,
was the loveliness of a new flush of roses against
the golden hazel foliage, seen from my freshly painted veranda.  The garden borders around the house have been cluttered with painters' trestles and ladders; all the plants so compromised that I had to stop seeing them.
But although the painting is not quite finished, the Garden and I are finding each other again.

May 3, 2011


I didn't intend to write today.  Life feels like a full time job right now what with preparing the Skudder House for temporary tenants, and my own house for the Earthquake Commission decorators to move in, as well as the ordinary day to day business of property and family management. All sorts of priorities have been re-arranged in the last few months and in order not to drown, I need to keep on seeing today's actions as next year's - decade's even - results.  This evening, in an effort to clear a backlog of treasures from my mother's hoard (towards emptying my bedroom for my new Sanderson wallpaper) I ironed.  This was one of my solaces after Elwin died, and tonight I returned to it out of necessity, finding that same peace in a labour of love.   Ironing at the best of times requires attention, and with all these old fabrics my attention must be completely focused: this is when I can best read the fibre, the condition, value...  I have collected some of the finest items together for an improptu blog post, laying the elegant stole, flattering underslip and baby dress on a dynamic floral curtain.  The curtain is especially for Max, one of my regular readers, who opened my eyes to its qualities.

May 2, 2011

Nuts in May

Here we go gathering
nuts in May,
nuts in May.
Here we go gathering
nuts in May,
on a cold and frosty

It all makes sense here in New Zealand.  The paradox of course is that the song originated in the Northern Hemisphere, where nuts ripen from September onwards.  Is this a mondegreen that arose from childhood garbling of the words Here we go gathering knots of may?  A celebration of Maytime with its profusion of may blossom?

My baby-hood squirrel is a reflection of my parents' English background, at a time when most Antipodean toys and books
where Anglocentric.  This squirrel has, like so many artefacts I share with you, come out of the Skudder House:  in the early stages when I was working, covered from-head-to toe and gloved agains the dust and grime of decades.  My little bath toy was as dirty as anything else I was finding, but my immediate reaction on finding him was to want to put him in my mouth, to feel that walnut.  I experienced this feeling with my feeder-cup when I found it too: an intense pre-rational sensation. But having sensed this once, there has been no return.  The window to my baby desire was a fleeting one.
Yet maybe when all other sense has deserted me such feelings will still be accessible given the right triggers.