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August 31, 2011

Annual Report


          How do I begin to describe a year in which all of our lives have been touched by the Pike River Mine disaster, turned upside down by the Canterbury Earthquakes, and for me, any truly useful contribution to the Church, feels mired in the lassitude that has followed Elwin’s death since last November.

          At our last AGM, we all realised that if David Ayers was elected Mayor, he would be distracted to some extent from the Ashley Community Church, but even he could not have anticipated the leadership role that awaited him after the devastation that the September 4th Earthquake caused in the eastern parts of the Waimakariri District.

          Yet the Church has come through this difficult time almost unscathed.  It has continued to serve as a place of worship and contemplation, and it is gratifying to know that one Ashley family used the Church to observe the national  two minutes silence during the Canterbury Earthquake Commemoration Day.

          After the September Earthquake it was still possible to forge ahead with plans for the Church’s Anniversary celebrations, although with the closure of the Rangiora Town Hall for repairs, we lost our major fund-raising opportunity (a charity film screening).  The Thanksgiving service taken on St Simon and St Jude’s Day by Victoria Matthews, Bishop of Christchurch, was a celebratory and uplifting occasion, marking 140 years since the laying of the foundation stone.  Descendents of Charles Solly Houghton, who had laid the stone, attended both of the anniversary events.  Although not a Committee member, Elwin’s help was invaluable in staging the successful variety concert the following evening, and that concert will hold special significance for our family since it was Elwin’s last public performance poignantly full of promise for our daughter Bryony.

          A fortnight later our family used the Church for Elwin’s final committal by Father Jack Witbrock (after a secular ceremony) and as overnight resting place before cremation.  Kitty and I slept that night beside Elwin in his coffin, and I felt strongly how important my own work in the preservation of this spiritual and historic place means to me.

          David, with his wife Marilyn and their Lead Worship Team, once again conducted a child-friendly Christmas Carol Service with compassion for the losses in our Community.  I especially appreciated Marilyn’s sensitive and thoughtful wisdom on this occasion.

          It seems to me that the Church’s spiritual energy has continued to carry it through this time when the Committee has been so distracted from its administration that meetings have been cancelled or held infrequently.  A detail of our retrieved windows featured on the cover of the 2011 Autumn edition of Heritage Magazine; the well-written article about them, being distributed across the country.

          Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti’s displaced North Canterbury “Hub” students have visited the Church on a field trip, and Rangiora High School students used it as a location for an entry in the national 48 Hour Film Project.

          Looking back it seems remarkable that we have managed to make any administrative progress at all, but we have.  David introduced Richard Heal as a prospective Secretary/Treasurer and he was duly elected.  It has been a difficult year to be inducted into the position, having to field for instance, Inland Revenue demands based on information lost in their red-zoned, earthquake stricken office. David’s persistence has also seen the approval of the Lotteries Board grant for the first stage of the proposed fire-sprinkler system.  The building has been checked twice now by both Historic Places and Council inspectors, with a plan of work provided for our attention.

          In spite of a lack of morale this year, we have maintained a steady flow of fund-raising.  With Anniversary income, sale of hay, donations from Elwin’s funeral, garage sale morning tea, and jam sales, as well as a generous donation from another Founder’s descendent, we have raised nearly $1200 towards the $3000 restoration cost of the returned windows.

          The grass continues to grow, and for mowing it thanks go to: Elwin Jamison, Gerald Stanbridge, Julia Witbrock, Richard Heal and Jeneane Hobby.  For other grounds maintenance thanks also to Graham Harris and Wayne Morrison.  For feeding the troops we are grateful to Joan Shivas, and for the use of this meeting room at no cost we thank the Ashley School PTA.

          With Father Jack feeling less able to conduct his daily offices and regular services, we have all been concerned that the vitality, with which his presence has imbued our little country church, will fade.  In an attempt to at least maintain the appearance of regular use I look forward to learning, from Father Jack, the art of changing the ‘colours’ for the different ecclesiastical seasons.  It seems too, that the Eastern Orthodox Church is still keen to worship at Ashley using visiting clergy.

          In these newly-written Canterbury days, it feels as though the Church of St Simon and St Jude at Ashley has fresh relevance as a heritage survivor. It is also heart-warming to see that a new and youthful generation is taking an interest in it.

          Hopefully this year of adversity, which has strengthened sense of Community so much, is a stepping stone to new potential and continued progress with the Church’s maintenance and restoration.

August 27, 2011

Morris On *

(Postscript added 13/2/12. This car is now sold.)
Time to maximise assets: time to prepare the Morris Minor for market.  Yes, for the international market - shipping can be arranged for the lucky buyer.  This is a 1934 composite model, no longer registered, in 'barn-find' condition. 
Brother Hugh took it away today for a bit of work. Will it go? Won't it? It's been a long time since it followed the road.
Even longer since Elwin and I drove it about - loving it, even as we loved each other.

A rusty Morris belle

All secure and ready to leave...

After a glance from my customary seat through the passenger's window to the Secret Garden.

*With apologies to The Albion Band

August 24, 2011

Random Reminder

What could be better on a sunny, snow-capped day than
the drive from Rangiora to Oxford - half an hour and then a little bit further, further even than Woodstock Road.  Out along shingle roads into flat pasture lands hedged with trim shelter belts or shaggy broom and gorse.  Cattle graze, and occasionally we pass a farmhouse or a barn.  Appearances can be deceiving.  Such a fine big barn, that one in the paddock over there behind the pine hedge...  In reality, it's a warehouse, a national book distributor's premises this barn, brimming with books, with an office for my sister to sit and discuss her partner's book: ISBN number, spine details, print runs, page numbers and is it in time for Christmas?  Utterly enthralling for me, who hasn't moved beyond entering writing competitions.

Darling Your Nose is Burning
A selection of cartoons from Doug's collection of his father's drawings: Charles Milne's work was a memorable aspect of The Christchurch Press during my growing years, possibly because it is the cartoons that children are drawn to, whether they understand the humour or not. The astute social commentary on a past era, is a revelation to me, reading the cartoons now.

From The Christchurch Press, Saturday 11 June 1966

From The Christchurch Press, Monday 3 February 1964

Gender roles and realities, sport and world events were all grist to Milne's satire mill.  The Tally Ho Random Reminder above, is based on reports of sabotage of an English Hunt meeting.  And where else would I find the original publication of Milne cartoons but in a tantalising pile of newspapers dating back to my family's earliest years in New Zealand!

After hard work at the Book Distributors,
Ingrid and I naturally stopped for refreshments.  At Seagars at Oxford the cappucinos come with a reminder of the district's farming charachter - a wheatsheaf.

A not-so-random-reminder: Don't forget to enter my competition for the best mondegreen, posted on 17 August.

August 20, 2011

Happy Birthday

Some of my early birthday cards

Thanks to my mother's hoarding habits, and my father's neat archiving, I have all sorts of insights into every facet of their lives.  I was enchanted to discover letters to my mother from my father's employers (the Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition) not only congratulating her on my birth but also arranging for our care in a nursing home, while her husband was stationed at the Australian 
Antarctic base, Davis.

Amongst the mementos that surround my birth, is my father's entry in his desk calendar, showing my expected arrival date and revealing manly insecurity;
I expect to become a dad
 although 33
 now know am a man and have got what it takes.

While for my mother there was cooing sentiment from friends and relatives, like the message in the card above;
Aren't you a lucky girl Joan getting a baby girl.


An intriguing find that relates to my birth is the little pill box dispensed by the Queen Victoria Hospital pharmacy and directing O Hobby (my mother rarely uses her first name Olive but it always appears on documentation) to take one tablet two times a day after meals.  The tablets may have been for pain relief, but it is the little hand made paper box that intrigues me; quite empty and still whole after all these years.

"How many years?" prompts Lady Mondegreen.

And indeed it was a wonderful day: the sun came out at last,
the children plied me with beautifully chosen and wrapped presents, as well as banana and bacon pancakes, we went to see a play with many of Bryony's friends acting, and finished the day with a pot-luck dinner for family and friends.
Very satisfying.

August 17, 2011

They've Slain the Earl of Murray...

And since Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden is one year old, one lucky reader will win a birthday treat.  Read on.

When I look at the journey so far I cannot believe that I am part of the story I am telling.  What began as a gentle journal to chart the making of a garden and the restoration of a house, has become something else entirely.  How could I not be charting my bereavement as well as the effect of Mother Nature's vengeance, on my comfortable existence?  These influences feel too interwoven with the personal discoveries I have been making about my past and any choices I may make about the future.

At the same time I have learned a lot about internetting.  Confusion reigns but I understand more about how to think and how to seek answers.  I just wish I understood programming.  And Commenting!  For all the blogs I
can Comment on there seem to be
 a dozen that I can't.  Help lines are
 vaguely helpful if you read them for long enough. The most helpful Comment tip I can contribute is to make sure that you have checked Full Page in this progression:
Comment Form Placement>Full Page>Save.  This gives prospective commenters more flexibility with their identities.  The Embedded Below Post option is impossible to use for some, taking us around in an endless loop of signing-in and word verification.

Right from the beginning, I knew how I wanted my blog to 'feel' to readers, and judging by the feedback I get from both
friends and strangers I have achieved the impression of a beautiful album (and since the word album has long ceased to mean a book of white pages, maybe a web album is as real as anything tangible).  At least one of my readers has trouble reading the white text over the silvery arabesque, but I feel this is part of the illusion and ask readers to indulge my choice for the time being.

But, having asked that of people, I also realise that many people are skim reading, especially if they chance across my blog on their way to somewhere else.  When I am sizing photos, I keep in mind that many people are using
laptops, and even cellphones, with smaller screens than the one I compose on, so I choose my photos taking ease of viewing into consideration.  These small photos are a review of the year's header
photographs, which disappear from the blog - as far as I can tell - when I renew
them.  Placing photos by the way, is always done on a wing and a prayer; sometimes they sit exactly where I want them but most often they defy control!
I have discovered that I enjoy
very much the editorial process: this is the closest I will get to running my own magazine!  I first realised the potential for drafting ideas onto the Edit Posts list when I wanted to have one of my stories (cut
and pasted from Word), and some
photos ready to post while I was away
from my home computer.  Now I
have two or three draft ideas on the go at a time.  This post is one of those, but I don't want to lose spontaneity and yesterday's Snow Pancakes was an example of immediate experience shared.

Why Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden? 
The Secret Garden is a realisation that what has evolved here has a unique charachter, but I have needed the insight of others to show me this and I am grateful to have Lady Mondegreen to remind me not to be too heavy handed with my ideas of progress ... or my chainsaw. 

Lady Mondegreen is also my companion in language.  The word mondegreen was coined by Sylvia Wright in 1954 to describe the mis-hearing of words, particularly lyrics; her inspiration being her own mis-hearing of They've slain the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green from the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray. Sylvia had heard this in childhood as They've slain the Earl of Murray and Lady Mondegreen.  An example gleaned from another Ashley resident is Christ, the royal duster, Leans against the phone.
The words from the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers are really Christ the royal master, Leads against the foe.

And so to that Birthday treat... the pictured eco bag, designed by Trelise Cooper .  Made in durable hessian, it has a design of flower seed packets and dancers on one side, and butterflies on the other.  Yes, there is only one.  Send me your very own mondegreen and with Lady Mondegreen's help I will select a winner - from anywhere in the World. Family Friends and close neighbours - men - don't be shy; you all qualify.  Please use to email me by 1st September and include your postal address.  I hope to share some of the best mondegreens on a later post.

August 16, 2011

Snow Pancakes

This time, I remembered! 
Snow pancakes for breakfast:
while the snow was deep and fresh and undisturbed.

But maybe we didn't fry
them quickly enough.  The snow did not melt out, but
steamed within the batter,
making it slow to cook and sloppy.
"Just a romantic notion,"
decides Lady Mondegreen.

Still, once cooked, they were
pancakes worth eating: with
a choice of toppings - butter, sugar, lime juice, jam and cream - mmm.

August 14, 2011

Snow Forecast

Out of necessity I must push aside fear of machines.  The firewood has run out, and with snow forecast I need to cut more: our logburner is our primary heat source when the weather gets truly cold.  This fear of mechanical equipment has been a crippling side-effect of bereavement.  Although as a professional gardener I have used mowers from reel to tractor-driven, weed-eaters, scrub-cutters and chainsaws the new fleet that Elwin and I equipped ourselves with last year has daunted me since his death.  Weeks passed before I could bring myself to use our new mower - but the grass was getting long.  Although my father was  a diesel engineer, and motor mechanic, and the mystique of old machinery holds me in thrall, I would rather be help-mate to the machinist than operater.  But yesterday I managed to cut a supply of wood, and then whip around and prune a few fruit trees lest confidence dissipate. 

Time to notice the first plum blossom - about a week ahead of last year.  Wild hedgerow dweller, this specimen.

A Southerly Behind.  The Front came, as they do, like a wild thing, pushing a restless wind before it, and then thrashing twigs and leaves from trees in its path.  But this was an early foretaste of what was to come, and the band of cloud travelled quickly overhead, thundering ahead of this clear trailing edge.  A fine cold afternoon eventually gave way to snow showers this evening.

Wild cherry plum  Prunus cerasifera

August 11, 2011

Made in New Zealand

The Skudder House 
My children.
Domestic wares.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile, will be familiar with me airing some of the everyday treasures I have found over the past year as I cleared my mother's house... the Skudder House.  Because both of my parents were well travelled by the time they settled in New Zealand, there is a rich palette of global objects to sort through.  But I am also fascinated by the diversity of mass-produced clothing and household items that were made right here in New Zealand before the lifting of import restrictions in the 1980s.

During the recent snowy spell of weather, when sub-zero (celsius) temperatures prevailed, and the log-burner struggled to warm the whole house, I was very grateful for extra blankets and my father's woollen underwear.  I had found this in his Antarctic-ready kitbag, and was surprised at how free of moth holes the garments were after 30 years of storage.  The moth-proofing agent has certainly proven itself.  The labels shown above, represent three of New Zealand's many woollen mills - Kaiapoi, Roslyn and Petone - household names in my childhood.

Pine dinner plate, design by Mark Cleverley for the Dorothy Thorpe Range, commissioned by Crown Lynn.

Luxury and decorative goods were also produced; having passed through their passe phase, they have now become collectable and, like the long johns, remain serviceable.

Allegro coffee cup and saucer by Crown Lynn

Riverstone Tankards by Temuka Pottery

Tumblers bearing a stylised pattern incorporating the Maori mangotipi motif, by Crown Crystal

NZ-made mug without a maker's stamp, impressed with the very English motif of briar roses.

Lustroware melamine stacking picnic mugs by Optoplast.

So many of these household items have been purchased in end-of-season sales: as part sets, ends of lines, seconds or mismatches.
The Pine dinner plate is a solitary one - we never used anything like this at the table - but it is accompanied by ten cups... without saucers.  The pretty picnic mugs are three, and unwashable: the white print rubs off.  I wonder if this is due to age or was, right from the beginning, an attractive but cheap finish. There were four neat Allegro cups and saucers, but these were almost certainly handed on by a friend ridding herself of an outdated and incomplete coffee set.
"Your  mother; she's not the only collector is she?"  Observes Lady Mondegreen.  I have to confess that some of these curios are my own op-shop or garage sale bargains.

If you are wondering what was produced in Antigua St, Christchurch, by Acme Wood & Metal Products Ltd, this lamp is an example of their work...

August 7, 2011

... Speaking of Concrete

        “I’ve got a surprise for you. Want to come for a drive tomorrow?”
Scott’s invitation.
“Er, where to?”
Anna’s caution.  She doesn’t think she has a lot in common with Scott.
“Moorpark Station. I’m cleaning out their garages”
Scott runs a wrecking yard and offers a collection service to the rural community. Anna is intrigued by his proposition; she remembers an outing to Moorpark Station as a child; remembers decayed grandeur, a tale of tragedy, and love against the odds.  Of course she says “Yes.”

August 3, 2011

The House of Skudder

"Anyone would think that you have lost interest in the Skudder House," says Lady Mondegreen reflecting on progress. "The occasional picturesque photograph will not a restoration make."

Let's say that since the EQC assessment that followed the February Earthquake, I am in a state of limbo: nothing as demoralising as the uncertainty surrounding the Orange and White zone declarations, and some of the Red zoning, but still a need to wait and see... what repair work the Earthquake Commission is prepared to pay for.  Earlier in the year Gordon painted the main living area for me, and arranged for some crucial repair work, an upgrade for which I am immensely grateful. But to embark on major structural work at this stage might confound the insurance process.

So when someone like Simone comes to visit and, with new eyes, sees what could be with the old house, I feel a renewed enthusiasm for this dream of mine.  But for now let's begin at the beginning.

With someone else's dream. Was it Hannah or Thomas (photograph above) who saw the possibility of a new life on the other side of the world?  She, Hannah Inwood of Thames Ditton had married Thomas Skudder, stone mason of Kingston-on-Thames in 1857.  Did they become disenchanted with the changing face of their town which surely happened with the population explosion that occurred in Kingston-on-Thames during the middle of the 19th Century.  Like many modern-day English immigrants they may have sought to remove their growing family from over-crowding and urbanisation, or maybe they were simply starry-eyed romantics? Whatever the reason, they left England in 1874 with seven children and expecting another, sailing from London on 18th April in the iron sailing ship, Hereford, and arriving in Lyttelton after a voyage of 87 days. The Skudders lived at Ashley Forest before buying an acre of land in 1881 - newly subdivided by John MacFarlane - in Ashley Bank.  And here they built their family home,
not only on the banks of the Ashley River, but of the very river shingle itself: the stone-mason exploring concrete as it became a newly viable building material.  This piece of unpainted wall, high in the stairwell, shows not only the raw material but also the method of construction with shuttering and layers of varying mixtures tamped into roughly 15 inch deep bands.

And here the Skudders raised their family, planting an orchard, the remants of which have inspired Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden.  The original print of this photograph is marked Scudder [sic] Family??  The children's ages and genders do not quite tally with the written record and the eldest daughter Sarah had probably begun a family of her own by the time this photo was taken. Other named children in order of birth are William, Thomas, Emily, Harriet, James, Annie, Frances, Helen (who died in infancy) and Alfred.

Hannah died in 1900 and Thomas survived her by nine years, dying suddenly of heart failure, one morning while breakfasting at the Ashley Hotel after milking the publican's cow.

He left a legacy of distinctive culverts and bridges across this rural area.  Some quietly decaying but many well maintained, their distinctive coping and faux-stone engravings taken for granted.
This modest culvert greets visitors entering the village along High Street.

I am indebted to the descendants of Thomas and Hannah Skudder, who visit and readily share family notes and memories with me. Elaine Downes has provided me with the family record, while Colleen Young has supplied photocopied photos and identified individuals in them.