My Favourite Window

July 30, 2011

Holidays' End

As the school holidays draw to a close there was time for a trip into the City today to buy a winter jacket - for Christmas in England. 

That done, a wander in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens seemed like a nice idea...  There was trim totara topiary and broadleaf hedging to admire...

 And a reminder of winter pruning yet to be done at home in the Secret Garden.

There was a chance to test the new coat in snowy conditions:
surprising to find snow still lying in a great swathe amongst the rose beds...

So close to the tropical hot house...

Closed alas due to the Earthquakes...                          

Which continue to define the City.  The only structure in this photo, which is still sound is the great arch of The Bridge of Rememberance. Through it to the left can be seen the teetering Grand Chancellor hotel; to the right in the distance is the Westpac Bank building, which was visibly damaged in the September earthquake; and the foreground building used to be a multi-storey mirror-glazed office tower: it was being demolished as we watched today, it's foiled lining and furnishings nothing but shredded tatters blowing in the wind. 

Golden totara  Podocarpus totara 'Aurea'
Broadleaf, Kapuka, Papaumu  Griselinia littoralis

Winter Pruning, Hothouse and Snowy Rose Garden: Photos by Bryony Jamison

July 26, 2011

Snow White

Snow Pancakes
Snow pancakes are made in winter. Use an ordinary pancake batter, and, when just ready to fry, stir in a spoonful of fresh firm snow and fry quickly so that the batter firms, before the snow entirely melts, leaving holes in the pancake.

The Skudder House seen from within the Secret Garden during snow fall, and afterwards from the Sun's point of view.

The Garden's expanse has become a playground for playful villagers of all kinds.

And the Church of St Simon and St Jude is a quiet jewel in the village 140 years after its consecration.

"Did you make the snow pancakes?" asks Lady Mondegreen.
Snow is a rare occurrence in this part of Canterbury.  It frames our view of the Southern Alps; ski fields are an hour and a half's drive away, and those quake stricken Port Hills sport an icing sugar dusting most winters, but snow laying all around here is an occasion for revelry... an occasion to anticipate making snow pancakes.  Such a rare occurrence though, that I forgot to remember about them until after the clean snow had been well and truly ruffled.

July 23, 2011

Winter Wonderland

 `I wonder if I shall fall right through the earth? How funny it'll seem to come out among the people that walk with their heads downward! The Antipathies, I think...' (she was rather glad there was no one listening, this time, as it didn't sound at all the right word) '...but I shall have to ask them what the name of the country is, you know. Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand ... ?'

"Indeed it is my dear," Lady Mondegreen assures Alice,
releasing her gardener to guide Alice
through a busy week in Wonderland.
Dress rehearsals. A promotional street walk.

A television appearance on CTV.

A flash-mob dance routine in the local supermarket.
And the thrill of opening the show to an eager school holiday audience.

The Dale Hartley School of Speech and Drama challenges its Senior students with a musical extravaganza each year during the winter holidays.  Dale Hartley-Brown writes and directs most of these shows but draws on her students' to teach, and to form her production team: over time she has created a talented pool of directors, tutors, choreographers, lighting and sound technicians, and stage crew. Teamed with equally talented actors, dancers and singers and given a traditional 1920s theatre to work their magic in, the Senior school seems to become more creative, daring and notable every year.
Memorable in Wonderland was Antony Kamstra's choreography; his own dancing matched only by Sammi Harnett's saucy Cheshire Cat and the burlesque pussy cat dancers.  Add Logan Pocock's pantomime dame/Duchess to this mix and Rangiora has its own cabaret act! There were many other highlights of acting, singing, costume and set design but I cannot leave Alice out of the picture. How proud Elwin would have been of Bryony. How proud I am too, of her dedication, her professionalism, her powerful voice and her stamina...

Today a day of dreams achieved.  For Bryony - in her final year as a student with the drama school - a leading lady role accomplished.  For Dale the awareness that her dream to run a theatre school that would be dynamic and fun as well as profitable has come to pass.  And for me the poignant realisation that after a lifetime of loving this wonderland (that you, Dear Reader, know as Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden), I have now owned it for one year to the day!

July 18, 2011

On a Frosty Day

Look up.
Look at the butterflies.
See how they hang in the winter sun.
I sought them in Victoria Park
one sunny day recently,
thinking I'd find them in the totara or the English oaks
as I had in other years.
But this time I found the monarch butterflies 
 clustering in the boughs of the blue cedar:
some of them releasing from their group
to drift and float in the bright air.

During a spell of frost in the Secret Garden, my heart sings. 
There is a smell of frozen grass and twig and earth that belongs to this garden.  I only know that on a frosty morning, when the smell takes me back to childhood mornings of discovery, and I marvel that there is this continuity of place in my life.

A frosty morning heralds sunshine and blue skies
encouraging star magnolias in street plantings, to unfurl their radiance...

Which brings me back to the butterflies.

Blue Atlas cedar  Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca'
Star magnolia  Magnolia stellata

July 15, 2011

Moving Forward

"You didn't just go to a funeral then?"  Asks Lady Mondegreen, watching me edit my latest crop of photographs.
Over the six day period, I spent time with friends: mourning of course, but also celebrating life.
I walked in favourite places,
like the Wellington Botanic Gardens, where I spotted these teasels glowing in the winter sunshine, high above Tinakori Road.

I explored the campus of Victoria University, on the way to viewing the current exhibition - Behind Closed Doors - at the Adam Art Gallery.

And what is a visit to Wellington without a walk on the wild side?  A group of us, including Peter and Andy, strolled the route along the coastline at Paekakariki stopping to chew the scenery quite often.

Wellyjewell has more detail and photos about our walk, in the post Wet and Wild Paekakariki. The eagle-eyed might even find Lady Mondegreen's Secret Gardener in one of Dyk's photos.

But Death after all was the reason for my visit, and I found that amidst the dancing and the nightly feasting, the fine art and indulgent shopping, Contemplation came unbidden. 
Elwin was toasted along with Debs, and our friends were attentive to my emotions .  Peter, in his new state of bereavement, remarks often that he feels surrounded by a great cushion of love and friendship, and I have shared that feeling too.  For him there is a long road ahead to move beyond the intensity of loss, but I know now that continuity is possible after the death of one's soul mate.

I walked quiet thoughts.
I dreamed healing dreams.
I accepted Life's guiding notes: A cherished single text message from Elwin slipped quietly from my phone's Inbox during  Debs' wake, pushed out by a happy Goodnight from our daughter Bryony. It was time.

And I handed Elwin's hurdy gurdy to a new guardian...

Teasel  Dipsacus fullonum

July 12, 2011

In Passing

We all knew Debs' days were numbered.  But at the Winter Solstice weekend, just over three weeks ago, none of us realised how few were left to her... to us.  There she was, overseeing that time of fun and frolic - and caught here captaining the Under the Sea Ale - with less than a fortnight left to live.   We had all noticed how tired and drawn Debs seemed, but none of us could anticipate that ten days later she would be dead, consumed by her cancer.

News from a friend, who arrived at
                             her bedside too late to say goodbye:
 "... forewords to explain and explore the absence of spirit in that shell of drumming body, heart out of it- features yellowed and mouth ajar: the door to breath and blown away."

Four months ago she was drumming and dancing at her own wedding, she and Peter celebrating Life and Love, and surely understanding that all their friends would be coming together again all too soon...

So a return to Wellington for me, a place so recently visited, to honour Debs' memory; to support her husband - she and Peter both so supportive at my own husband's funeral not so very long ago.
Family and friends gathered, overlooking Cook Strait, on a gale-blown day, to celebrate Debs' life.

Her Morris dancing companions including White Rose Ladies Morris, 

the Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen,

and massed pipe bands of Wellington.
 Braving a ferocious downpour with the massed Morris dancers of New Zealand, they provided a final dramatic funeral cortege as the hearse departed for the crematorium.

Time then to re-group at the Kelburn Pub with its diminutive, kilted landlord and warm hospitality

Time for some good natured competition between bandsmen and morris dancers; 

 and as the evening drew on, the discovery that what a Scotsman wears under his kilt is revealed when he takes to the Morris!

Let no-one say to me that only the Irish and the Maori know how to do a Wake or Tangi.

July 3, 2011

A Good Weekend

A fine weekend; a new market in Rangiora:
Sunday morning with frost on the ground and snow on the mountains.

Time to get out and support the new venture;
enjoy the vibe and be tempted by the delicious offerings.

Lady Mondegreen observes that emphasis on an old word has changed: Beestings through lack of understanding of its meaning, has become Bee Sting.
Delicious beestings pastries were traditionally a celebration of the cows' colostrum-rich milk at calving time.  These are a modern variation with a custardy cream filling and were proving very popular this morning.

In the Secret Garden, I found the first sprouting shoots of winter roses, so fragile and dainty at this stage.

And coming in yesterday,
at the end of a satisfying afternoon of mowing,
I found the lowering sun casting rainbows
around my bedroom.

In the process of Grief, I delight this weekend in not only feeling motivated but being able to act on that motivation.
Is it really eight months since I was last able to fill a day with profitable activity without it draining me. 
To make the most of this glorious drying sunshine, I have done the washing and mown more grass
than I believed possible at this time of year. 
I have written a letter to a friend and prepared
for another visit to Wellington.
How ironical, how sad, that I return to Wellington to mourn the death of Deb, the woman who organised
the Winter Solstice weekend.

Christmas rose Helleborus orientalis