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October 31, 2011

Lady Mondegreen's Hagiography

(Enter Saint George)
In comes I St George,
A man of courage bold.
With my great sword and spear...
Hold on a mo,' what's this I hear?
A Feast - for me,
And all the others.
I haven't had once since April.
I've had enough of
Slaying dragons,
Saving maidens...
I never get the girl.
Ah here comes one now.

(Enter Saint Frideswide)
In comes I the Doctor,
Saint Frideswide.
Healing the blind
is all very Well,
but a party
Is just what I need.
A chance to dress-up
should do the Trick.

(Saint George)
You look a Treat,
In that little black dress.
But hark, who approaches?
(Enter Saint Simon and Saint Jude)
By George you two,
You had your Feast
Three days ago.
Isn't that a bit greedy?

Joan and David serve tea and cake at the Patronal Jumble Sale,
Church of St Simon and St Jude, Ashley

(Saint Simon and Saint Jude)
In comes I  - and Me too, 
St Simon and St Jude,
(-Thaddeus not Iscariot-
No traitor here you hear).
Don't ask why -
We are a pair.
We come that way,
We are hallowed
Just like you,
So let us in to Feast this day.
(Enter Saint Cecilia)
In comes I the Minstrel,
Cecilia is my name.
Don't be harsh on them
Georgie lad,
All the World wants our blood.
We saints should stick together.

(Enter Saint Rognvald)
Did someone mention blood?
On my hands
In other Lands.
In my land the meek tremble
At my very name. Rognvald!
They thank me for my largesse

(Saint Frideswide)
That sounds like fighting talk
and vanity to me.
You don't hear me
Vaunting my cathedral.

(Saint George)
There's nothing wrong
With a warrior saint,
But Saint Rognvald,
Your credentials lack
Shall we say... credibility.

(Saint Cecilia)
And the way
You remove
Your opposition
Seems extreme.

(Saint Rognvald)
Never mind my method,
Never mind my credibility.
I've come to toast
All Hallows' Eve.
Let's eat.

(Enter Lady Mondegreen's Secret Gardener)
In comes I the Blogger
Subverting Seasons,
And blending customs
Where Halloween
Ushers in the mayflower.
At the leading edge of Time.

The Sun is set,
The Feast begun
The Saints are met,
And now -
My Play is done.

St George's Day  23 April
St Rognvald's Day 20 August
St Frideswide's Day 19 October
St Simon's and St Jude's Day 28 October
All Saints' Day 1 November
St Cecilia's Day 22 November

Icon of St Simon and St Jude, Ashley Church: painted by Julia Witbrock
May Queen's Calavera make-up, by Bryony Jamison

October 28, 2011

Flowery Meads and Shepherd's Hay

How rich are my flowery meads this year. There has been so much rain, that regular mowing has been impossible, and a discreet floral carpet has bloomed across these three acres over the last month. My NZ reference books label many of these plants, weeds of poor soil.  We must have very poor soil indeed since there are so many weeds to a square foot, observes Lady Mondegreen.  
Abundant in the open sward this year, is mouse-eared chickweed, frosting great swathes of grass with its tiny white flowers. Common chickweed has also made a good showing in tilled soil.  In Millefiori last year, I wrote about other annual wildflowers that grow here: some of them have made a rich matrix in wooded glades. 

Shepherd's hay, clover too,
Ryegrass seed and turnips too. 
One can whistle, two can play,
three can dance the Shepherd's Hey.

How quickly the flowery mead turns to meadow hay.

Mouse-eared chickweed, Field mouse-ear  Cerastium arvense
Common chickweed  Stellaria media

Weeds of Crops and Gardens in NZ  by R.L. Taylor. Published by the author 1980
The Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe by Blamey, Fitter and Fitter. Published by Tiger Books International 1987

October 24, 2011

Labour Weekend

Time to plant your tomato plants outdoors... if you live in Rangiora. But if you live on the other side of the River, here in Ashley Bank, beware: the frosts can bite till Guy Fawkes date. Wait till then to plant hardy Moneymaker, Russian Red, and other cool-climate, short season varieties like Black Krim.

Time too for the Northern A and P Association Show, and what better photo to open the fair with, than a view from the Rangiora Showgrounds, across the Ashley River willow plantings to the Ashley Downs in the middle distance. On a clear day you can see Mt Grey, but today, it remained shrouded. You must imagine it - centre stage, filling the page.

A fair for a rural farming community: machinery for the farmers, fairground rides for the townsfolk.

There were displays of horse flesh,



                         and floral skill.
There was something for everyone:

and food of all descriptions.

And of course there was livestock:

and animal by-products...

There were also vehicles of every description:

(showing their true colours)

and wouldn't this one be nice to take us home at the end of the day.

You haven't mentioned the Rugby, remarks Lady Mondegreen, as I bring Labour Weekend to a close.

Oh, I never mention the Rugby, but I shall make an exception this once.
How could I not enjoy the Carnival atmosphere that has prevailed in this country for the last six weeks?  How could I not enjoy being employed to dance for England at the Christchurch Fanzone? How could I not enjoy meeting travelling fans from around the World? How could I not enjoy all the flags a-flying from cars (and jeeps) everywhere - admittedly with an All Black dominance? What a great way to learn your flags of the world!  And yes I understand that the final game was frustrating, but not understanding much else, I was entranced by the haunting karakia calling our men onto the field; by the tears on grown men's faces as their respective anthems were sung, by the veiled provocation of the haka.  Then the despair of injury and lost opportunity on both sides, and the exultation of the Whitebaiter, brought in from his nets, to kick the winning goal. I enjoyed very much, the voluptuous pronunciation by the commentator, of the French players' names, as well as his mellifluous ease with our Pacific Island names. I enjoyed the tenderness of Bernard Lapasset, IRB Chairman, towards both the injured Frenchmen and the New Zealanders, as he presented their medals. I enjoyed it all. My first rugby game and I was gripped.

October 20, 2011

Another Farewell

Pippa Anders
14 June 1953 - 14 October 2011

Too lovely, too young, but gone just the same.

With a hand-made funeral...

and a lifetime of family and friends gathered at St Aidan's-down-the-road, for a secular ceremony.

We celebrated Pippa's life with a party, which she had helped plan.  It was too easy to imagine her sitting, just along the row in this particular concert, smiling with delight at the easy joy that crested the sorrow:
at her husband, Geoff, fussing with the microphone;
at her son Sam's handiwork - her splendid hand-built coffin;
at her beautiful daughters, Anna and Emily, managing to calm adored grand-children, while giving heart-breaking speeches;
at her mother and brothers re-calling family life from Fontainebleau to Christchurch;
at the heady harmonies of various acapella singers and folk accustomed to singing together  -
Amazing Grace, Nights in White Satin, and negro spirituals accompanied by the New Brighton Ukelele group.

There was food of course, an astounding quantity of baking and sandwiches, whatever people could bring.

There was the opportunity to write on the coffin lid
(as we had done with Elwin's)

And eventually, time to close the coffin.
All the family had a hand at hammering it closed.

A strange time this for me, so close to the anniversary of Elwin's death - to loose a friend who came into my life, and was part of his set, at the same time as he did.  I realise I have reached that phase of life where the funerals I will attend now, will more and more often be the funerals of my friends and peers.

For the dancing, for the sharing, for being with me at Bryony's birth, for being Kitty's god-mother (we never quite came up with a secular name for that role did we), for all those festival cuppas, for your loveliness and support this past year, for everything thankyou Pippa.

October 19, 2011

St Frideswide's Day

Extract from Beansetting
a novel in progress
Frida cradled Aelfgar’s head in her lap, nursing her burden of guilt at this course of events. It began with a night of love: she’d done it before.  It was easy enough when the visitors had been entertained in her father’s great hall at Beamdune, where the mead had flowed and she, the princess royal, had joined with some honoured guest in leading the dance; easy to follow desire into a byre or out into the Bush.  The envoys knew their place, and the edlings and their warriors knew her destiny.  Some of them came again, but nobody pressed her for marriage. Frida used mistletoe to guard against pregnancy, even as she oversaw the building of her priory and prepared for a life of chastity. Then Aelfgar came out of the West, full of hope:  hope of gaining time for Briton - territory even - with a Mercian-Saxon marriage. Aelfgar was small and dark and adamant… desirable: easy to love for a night in the flush of early summer.  But he had returned, in love with Frida and the idea of peace; bearing gifts for his new queen and promises for her father.  She, loving his smile at least, had weakened in her resolve not to receive him.  In the early morning though, Frida had touched her lips to his sleeping brow, caressed his black locks as they spread across her pillow and gone from Beamdune before he woke.  She had gone, regardless of the dangers beyond the Bush, towards her priory at Oxenaforda where two rivers provided some protection from attack, but the low marshy reaches that curved around the great sweep of the Temis gave access to the site.  Aelfgar, hampered by diplomacy as well as uncertainty about the route to Oxenaforda, left as soon as he could in pursuit of his princess.  She was resting, late in the afternoon and towards the end of her journey, in a swineherd’s cote, when the herdsman called from his vantage point amongst the pigs, to announce a horseman approaching.  Frida gathered up her cloak and staff and leaving a gift of beeswax candles with the swine wife, she slipped away under the eaves of the oak wood, hoping to evade her suitor. Withdrawing into leaf dapple and a tangle of undergrowth she watched Aelfgar blunder by on horseback; heard him urge his steed on as he reached clearer ground; heard a deer startle and Aelfgar scream with agony; heard his horse bolt… Dear God, let him be alright, she prayed.  He was lying curled on his side with his knees drawn up and his hands clutching his face sobbing her name. 
“Hush, I’m here,” she soothed, as she knelt and eased his hands away from his face. 
“Ah Frida, forgive me, forgive me. This is my punishment.” He searched for her face with unseeing eyes, both of them closed and already puffing up from the lash of a bough.
“I’m sorry too, I’ve led you a merry chase, and now I must care for you.  But” she added, “I will not marry you. Come” and she raised him up and placed her staff in his hand.  “Lean on me.  There is a place we can be while I tend your wounds.”
             And she led him to the hovel that had been the nun, Margaretha’s; she who had lived out her earthly life tending the chapel at Thornbyrig, and administering the healing waters of her holy well to pilgrims.  When Aelfgar was lying comfortably - grimacing from the fall from his horse now as much as the smarting blow to his eyes - Frida took her staff and began searching the undergrowth around the chapel with it. Aelfgar could not see her clearing away the brambles and snowberry but he did hear the splash and her cry of satisfaction, as she plunged her staff into the uncovered spring. He gasped at the cold as she bathed his eyes with a strip of her shift dipped in the spring water. 
“I think that you are just bruised. You will see again. You have not been struck blind for my sins,” she soothed.

October 15, 2011

Seeing Red

Holiday time,
and another of Dale Hartley-Brown's productions
hits the stage.
She has built up, over the years a pool of talent,
that she now draws on to produce
both her senior and junior shows.
Dale's graduate and current senior students
enjoy working across the board in stage-production,
directing and choreography, sound, lighting, crewing,
set-design, wardrobe and make-up.
Oh yes; they sing, dance and act too!
And now a rising crop is putting on a musical version of
Little Red Riding Hood...

Like her big sister, in the last production
Kitty indulges in shameless self-promotion:
during the costumed Street-Walk;

during a radio interview with Madeleine Wesselingh,
- the show's director -
at local radio station, Compass FM;
and also in a CTV interview in Christchurch.

Then after a final dress rehearsal under the watchful eyes
of the production team,
which includes big sister Bryony Jamison as joint vocal coach
(with Tess Stephen), Tegan Patrick, Madeleine,

and Ciaran Searle at the sound desk,
(able technician he, but even more able
Shakespearean actor,
surely destined for the Royal Shakespeare Company).

the season begins,

the musical numbers roll...

And Kitty sings her heart out.

Then today, after six shows, it's all over.
Hard to let go: of the buzz of it all, the children's excitement,
the teenagers' easy competence,
the social buzz of friends and neighbours filling the theatre
with generosity and delight in one another's children.
And Kitty, yes I am proud of her performance.
On stage for most of the show, she managed to maintain her character with conviction: bubbly, cheerful, dreamy...
I am full of admiration for her acting and singing ability.
But - she has walked on the fly walk
and high above the auditorium,
and I can see already,
that the technical side of theatre production has her in it's thrall.

October 11, 2011


... Of a new Day,

And day lilies to come...

... Of tulip time

and broad beans, like them or not.

Of apples - summer crisp

with their perfect pairing


Of  scented quince and stained glass jelly to brighten Winter days.
All this promise - and more - revealed over the last fortnight.