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November 27, 2011

Widow's Weeds

That's an unfashionable word these days - widow - isn't it, remarks Lady Mondegreen.
Yes, it is felt that it shows dependence by woman on man, which would have been a social truth for much of this word's history.


But its origins reaching back to Latin and Sanskrit imbue the elements of the word with universal feeling of loneliness and loss.


For almost exactly a year, I have felt widowhood.
And then with the passing of that year,

Aluminium plant and oxalis

And possibly due to creating Elwin's memorial letter,
I feel that the veil has lifted and my brain understands what it is to function properly again.

Hawthorn and broom

This doesn't mean I forget the place Elwin had in my life, but it does mean that I can begin to find Me again.


Because I cannot make the future happen while I cannot learn new things: how to operate my camera, how to maintain garden machines, or direct building work effectively.


I am also learning my limitations, and that I still miss a man about the house, especially when I am sitting writing my blog late at night, and the toilet cistern blows a valve, hissing mischief all over the laundry. 

Don't forget to mop the floor before you go to bed, calls Lady Mondegreen from her room.

Hemlock  Conium maculatum
Buttercups, meadow buttercups  Ranunculus acris
Aluminium plant, yellow archangel  Lamium galeobdolon 'Variegatum'
Oxalis, pink oxalis  Oxalis articulata
Hawthorn, may, quickthorn  Crataegus monogyna
Broom  Cytisus scoparius
Foxglove  Digitalis purpurea
Mallow, common mallow  Malva sylvestris

November 23, 2011

Unlimited Schooling

The school year draws to a close.
Bryony's class-mates from the Rangiora Hub,
(of displaced city school, Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti)
gathered at Ashley today for an end of year party, even though there is another three weeks of school left for the junior students.

There were photos taken on Elwin's Christmas steps
(that's another story).

There was hide and seek in Secret places I never venture into!

There was music-making and chilling-out,

while Father Christmas discussed policy with the Outdoor Education officer.

There was even some real work done:
transferring my hard drive!

Family cherubs know their place and it is one of belonging.

There were Secret Santa gifts - preferably home-made,
value no more than $2.

So much thought and care went into so many of them.
Bryony made the little doll above,

and Zea hand-tooled the binding for this traveller's journal for me.

And of course there was food!

As the students and their teachers and parents
gathered up their plates and presents to leave,
it began to rain... gently.

And I am touched by the softness of their presence.
These children with their inclusiveness of one another,
their care and attention to detail,
their understanding of how to make an occasion memorable,
their respect and appreciation for others - and for the efforts of others.

I had not expected this to be more than a busy chatter
of a morning,
with cheap, joke gift-giving a bit early for Christmas
and food gobbled and gone.

Instead I feel that I have just had Christmas Day.

November 20, 2011

Ohoka Garden Tour

This morning I set out, camera in hand, to join three other gardeners on the Ohoka School Garden Tour, but from the moment I turned into the drive of the appointed meeting place it became a more personal day, not adhering strictly to the programme. I longed to explore the park-like grounds of Liz's garden, but it wasn't on today's schedule and Sue, who as a professional gardener to many of Ohoka's fine gardens, was eager to show us next door before we began the official tour.

By now I was aware just how strongly the morning light was influencing my garden viewing.  It struck strong shadows and back-lit peonies; it glanced off foliage and sharpened bright greens.
It dazzled. 

And then as heat suffused the light, the scents began to release.

We saw immaculate topiary...

And pergolas too.

We saw sculpture...

And kitchen gardens...

And follies a-few.

There were Classical references...

As well as home-grown.

And then it was time for lunch
(I had enjoyed a cup of elderflower cordial along the way).
Returning to Liz's garden, past her hay meadow, ripe for cutting,

We unpacked our picnic for four.

At leisure then we toured the garden, with its superb setting of old established trees, and I came away feeling that this was my favourite garden today: because of the trees and the grand design making space as important as the plantings, allowing the farmland to be part of the whole  - and because I was a guest in it, at ease there with gardener and owner and friend to show me around.

The Ohoka School Garden Tour is a biennial event and one of Canterbury's premium garden tours.  It is a major fund-raising project for the rural primary school. 

November 15, 2011

Faster than Fairies,

Faster than witches...

Can you see it?
The steam train?
A shot in the dark. Well no, a shot in the early morning schoolyard.
Early to be out, but a morning to say goodbye to eager campers with my camera to hand.  Capture them gathering in excitement; capture the stowing of bags and provisions; capture the crates of food and the glow of friendship, and hark!  While the teacher briefs her class, the morning train leaves the bridge, gathers the village in its embrace, and whistles for the High St crossing. Whistles?  This is a modern service - the Coastal Pacific, with its brand new, luxury viewing carriages - yet... look hard at the photo, today the train to the Picton Ferry is being hauled by a steam engine and I can find no mention of it on the Trans Scenic website.

So , the train whistles and one parent with her camera around her neck, runs to the single vantage point, can't get close, snaps anyway, no time to compose... and captures (centre stage) the flag pole, a passing police car, and oh joy, the engine itself! And is aware that Elwin would have completed his steam certificate at Te Wai Poutini Polytech by now, fitting him for work in the tourist sector.

I recently made a booking for the Eurostar, between London and Paris. Now I want to travel by steam between Rangiora and Picton!
Travel by steam to the close of this day. It has been lovely - with time to do things for pleasure, just because...  I drank coffee in pretty Victoria Park with my sister and chatted with friendly teenagers, admired the butterflied flower beds and strolled around the Secret Garden with my cats (stray Catkin has joined the fold).

Then it was time to try out The Sagittarian's Tuesday Tipple in honour of Owen's first ever exhibition.

With an extra glass for Saj and Owen's other blog-sister Louciao.


And then, with no-one but myself to cook for, it's time to eat the way I want to eat.

November 12, 2011

Technical Report

It's raining in the Secret Garden - filling the ephemeral stream, making the grass grow... I am only just recovering from editing my last post.  Of course it was an emotionally draining exercise. I think everyone who has read it would appreciate that (many thanks for all the lovely comments and emails over the course of this week); but the business of sourcing material and making it sit on the page is both exhilerating and tedious.

So, as I slowly brought photos and text together, I was ready for this family gathering; this memorial picnic on Elwin's mortal anniversary. Here we are enjoying being together on that sunny Sunday afternoon last week - Elwin's curiously blended New Zealand family: both of his wives, his four daughters and his four grandchildren. 

I am acutely aware that the grandchildren did not make it into my micro-biography of Elwin.  I am also aware that one of the drawbacks of second-time-round fathering for him, was not being a truly active grandfather to Paul, Kelly, James and Nathan. However they all seem to delight in deferring to their young aunties - Bryony and Kitty - and have shown both of us love and support always.

One of the many memorable things that happened in Elwin's last living week, was Kelly's 21st birthday, celebrated on 1st November with a family dinner and just a few milestone photos taken, including this one of Kelly with her maternal grandparents.  Looking at this photo of Elwin now, I see that his tiredness and poor circulation is due, not so much to a good night out, but to a very worn out heart.

One of the last photos of Elwin then.  What a trip down memory lane it was for me searching through albums, 

photo packets,


and family records  as well as computer files.

Often I knew exactly which photo I wanted, but there were surprises too that made it hard to choose. 

For long-time followers of Lady Mondegreen's Secret Garden, you will know that I have used old photographs to tell stories before now.  Handling them is a treat in itself,  while reading the hand written notes on the back (not enough of those), and wondering about the context of that moment-in-time is tantalising. On the back of the leading baby photo of Elwin is a written indication, maybe, that he had not yet been named after a favourite brother: the caption reads simply Harold's boy. And although I was familiar with little Elwin and his push-along elephant, it wasn't till I set it alongside text referring to Bridge St, Buckingham, that I realised that the eponymous bridge is there in the background, and that Elwin is playing outside his grandparents' front door.

How to get old photographs into my computer?  I realise that I should use my scanner, but the scanner so far has only given me black and white images looking exactly like early photo-copied photographs.

So I photograph the prints (and for Elwin's and Barbara's wedding shot, a slide projected onto a screen) with my digital camera for transfer to my computer.  For best results I need to capture them with diffuse daylight, and take a number of shots to be sure of a sharp image since my eyesight can't tell on the camera's screen. 

Someone like Owen of The Magic Lantern Show who sometimes posts print-photographs from his film camera days, will readily spot the cast of light and shadow, and ripple of paper in my photographed photos.  This process takes time, as I then edit the photos for use in my blog, but I enjoy doing it - working with the prints, handling with care, observing the way the light falls...
I do not enjoy placing photos and text on my blog.*@&!
I am not a computer programmer: I cannot "use HTML if you like."
I am a woman who grew up with pride in her copybook,

where I wrote and arranged illustrations with an eye to pleasing balance, placing elements of a story just as I wanted them - with pen and paper, and sometimes with the use of scissors and a pot of paste.

For the layout of In Memoriam I had intended to follow the form of my Blog anniversary post, where the photos sat more or less where I wanted them when I put the cursor at the point in the line where I wanted to insert the photo.  How is it that this no longer works?  The photos resolutely jump to the top of the page or some nearby gap.  Aaargh.  Is it silly to think that Blogger is neglecting me because they are developing their Dynamic Views format, and no longer maintain old-style formatting? 

Having managed to insert photos between lines, I could not then backspace the text that had moved itself down the depth of the photo without losing the photo.  I spent quite a lot of time stabbing in the dark over this, and for any eagle-eyed, repeat visitors to the post you may have noticed that some photos have indeed disappeared. It was just too chancy to try replacing them and losing others after I had added the early wedding photo retrospectively. I am not happy with the final look of Elwin's memorial post, and there are still a couple of photos that I want to add.  I would like to even out the text too.  Does it matter?  Probably not to my readers, but I would like to feel the satisfaction that I usually get after working on one of my complex posts - especially for the perfectionist in my life.

But since today is the anniversary of Elwin's holiday funeral I will close this post with another photograph of a photograph - from Elwin's sister Lizzie in England - of the coffin lid; a work in progress.

And for a reminder of a day that felt more like an intimate folk-festival than a funeral you can visit The Not-So-Secret- Garden