My Favourite Window

December 31, 2014

Year's End

Watching this orb web spider spin her web on the Christmas tree, which had come in from the garden, reminded me of the challenges I've faced this year - how every step forward seems
followed by a set back. Of course the spider's web didn't last long. Once the morning sun had moved away the gossamer disappeared from view, we carried on placing presents for each other under the tree, and broke the threads.  I'm sure she had another go and that's all I can do for the time being. When the chronic tiredness that dictates how I organise my day, or the indifference of social welfare reformers, or Newspeak from the Earthquake Commission threaten to overwhelm me I count my blessings and take the next step. 

There are certainly plenty of blessings in my Life and December brings so many of these to the fore.

Early in the month Kitty and I visited friends in Wellington, fitting in a spot of Morris dancing with the Britannic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen at the Thorndon Fair. A spot was about it with the rain that day driving us into the nearest pub for a pint or two.

But leaving the Capital behind doesn't mean leaving behind a rich cultural life. We came home to a house full of thespians, rehearsing, sewing, tweaking their Christmas show due to open next day at a school near us. I went to bed as Bryony and her Black Peach Theatre Company friends were puzzling over a framework of wire and draped fabric. I got up in the morning to be greeted by...

a fully-fledged and personable penguin!  Teagan, Logan, Holly; they've all been part of Bryony's social circle for a few years now, but their place here is definitely one of my blessings. 

Thanks Peaches for the extended version that you performed for adults in the DHSSD studio theatre - all those improvising skills of yours came in handy!

This year I combined my Summer Solstice observance with decorating the Ashley Church Christmas tree.  The summery photo of Kitty and me capering under our willow tree was part of that day and I enjoyed dancing to sung music for a change.

My sister Ingrid worked her magic with flowers from her garden to decorate the church for the annual Christmas Eve Carol Service,

which reminds me how well roses grow around the Ashley village and how late the early roses have flowered this year. They are often over by Christmastime but are still budding and cascading here on New Year's Eve!

One blessing that cannot be forgotten in my December round-up is the progress on the new Ashley bridge. Those of us who live this side of the Ashley River watch with anticipation as we cross the old bridge, which has suffered badly from age in the last few years. I'm sure I'm not the only country dweller to count the new spans as they have been laid over the course of the year. Early in December the first beams of the tenth and final span were put in position. I toasted the bridge builders that night: they work in that exposed place through all the extremes of Canterbury weather and I understand that many of them work far from home. 

Here one of the beams for the final span is being moved into place.  Visible just left of centre is one of the big gates that were fixed at each end of the old bridge, to be shut when high water flows dictate that the bridge be closed.  Their presence is a constant reminder of the 25 minute detour we face when that happens.  Such is the flux of life - Earthquake recovery, bereavement recovery, bridge building... re-making your cobweb when it gets broken.

November 6, 2014

Four Years On

Time to take a break from an unbelievably busy week and remember Elwin.

He's been gone four years today (6th November). I miss him of course for all sorts of reasons, but having moved beyond the regret; the crippling tiredness; the brain fog of bereavement, I can remember him now with a smile, with appreciation for the life he chose to lead with me.

 I can remember his laugh, and his antics


his sense of adventure... 

And what a good family man he was.

If he was still alive, well maybe the roof wouldn't leak, I wouldn't be so tired, and Kitty would have a companion astronomer, but maybe Bryony would never have become the singer she has, and I wouldn't have learned how to use an electric screw driver.

Photos from various family sources.

September 30, 2014

Daffodil Diary

September is on its way out and I haven't mentioned daffodils.

Should I? you might ask, especially if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and don't realise that this blog is also my garden diary. The daffodils in this garden are earthquake survivors: strange but true. They have been well and truly shaken up and over the past two years have flowered very shyly. One group of bulbs that I had transplanted three years ago during the Earthquake cycle, didn't even surface last year. They are back this year but without flowers. It's hard to tell whether the profusion of leaf blades in all my daffodil groups, are new seedlings (the old bulbs having died) or are just the old bulbs recovering their vigour. The flower above was a rare treat this year. For the record these bulbs grow here in heavy silt loam, which becomes boggy in wet seasons and bakes hard in the dry.  The multi-headed, winter flowering daffodils, which I call jonquils, do not seem to have suffered at all.  What blooms there were are going over now, but there is no shortage of yellow in the Secret Garden as early spring fades into late... dandelions, yellow archangel, Forsythia and Kowhai all light up green and homely places.

Daffodils Narcissus spp
Kowhai Sophora tetraptera (also microphylla and garden varieties)

September 15, 2014

Getting Away

Time for a break, time for a night away in Kaikoura...

No prizes for guessing that it was to hang out with Morris dancing friends.

 Marlborough Fayre is a new and enthusiastic women's side with years of combined dancing experience, based in Blenheim. 

Nor' West Arch is one of two Morris sides in Christchurch.

Although Kitty and I arrived early on Saturday afternoon and the dancing finished roughly twenty four hours later, the gathering managed to cram a lot into the time, including a dance workshop, dinner together, and public displays in town, at Donegal House, the Whale Watch forecourt, and the always poignant and delightful, historic Fyffe House on its whalebone piles.

Of course I keep my gardener's eye open especially with spring enlivening the landscape. I spotted this odd pairing of cold climate flowering cherry harmonising with the bold spires of pride of Madeira, which thrives in frost free conditions all along the Canterbury coastline.

Before setting off for home, Kitty and I discovered this viewing wall protecting an information panel in South Bay. The whole structure, which included a toilet block, was very stylish and pleasing to the eye.

Rather than taking the two hour route home along State Highway 1, we made a longer detour inland via Mt Lyford, new territory for Kitty and me. When I was child, droves of sheep on the road were a common sight around North Canterbury, but as lowland farming has turned to wine, venison, and dairy production, it's rare for us to see a sight like this. The sheep were only one of the spectacles along this route, which is threaded with mountain streams, wide shingle river flats, and dramatic gorges carved out of loess and rock. The kind of country that you feel needs another visit... 

Flowering cherry Prunus sp
Pride of Madeira Echium candicans

Photo of sheep near Mt Lyford: Kitty Jamison

August 20, 2014

Another Year Older

Growing older is not without benefits... The house has been full of whispering and secretiveness and closed doors for days now.

But this morning all was revealed as Bryony and Kitty indulged me with a light-breakfast tray and their gifts, which included Turkish delight, and handmade jewellery. 

Then there was an outing with Ingrid to a new country garden and shop The Old Meadery, which sells old French country wares - all sorts of oddities and desirables. I desired an old iron day bed but instead we bought some desirable little soaps. The highlight here was the guided tour of the old garden that Anette and her husband Graeme, are making their own. I didn't get any photos there, not even of the charming little hen house, but when it was time for morning coffee I snapped Ingrid and Kitty at the counter of Soda. This cafe was set up in the countryside near Rangiora, after the February 2011 earthquake had driven its owners away from their high profile city bar and cafe. 

Definitely Rangiora's gain with excellent food and coffee and a line in imported Italian delicacies. It's always a pleasure to eat here. My sister Ingrid, treated me and Kitty to coffee and cake (I'm wearing the lacy hand-made scarf that Kitty knitted for me).

Back home I found a mysterious posy of sumptuous anemones on the door

And Ingrid gave me a beautiful box full of more indulgence.

My girls and me, thought we'd brave the nip in the spring sunshine

And lunch outdoors. 

Lovely to be able to eat in the garden again.

To finish off the day Bryony took us out for dinner

to our family's favourite restaurant in Amberley: Nor' Wester Cafe.
The cafe has recently changed hands and maybe didn't quite meet our expectations, but maybe the something that was missing was Elwin. As an end to a lovely family - and food - focussed day it was the icing on the cake (my de-constructed birthday cake is bread pudding!). 

August 16, 2014

The Trelawnyd Flower Show and More

With the success of this year's Trelawnyd Flower Show I can't help remembering our visit to North Wales last year.

The flower show was the draw card. Since I'd entered the Trelawnyd Flower Show from afar in 2012 with a home made greeting card, I felt that my trip to Britain last summer just had to include a real-life visit. 

The route that Kitty and I took to Trelawnyd after a family visit in Stourbridge just happened to pass the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Elwin and I always meant to visit it in our narrow boat but there were so many canal features that we never did get to see, travelling at 4 miles an hour. A group of our fellow Morris dancers had a trip booked on the Shropshire Union Canal and I didn't quite hear that there was a spare place on the boat until it was too late! Apparently they navigated the aqueduct within a day of our visit. My first glimpse of the 208 year old bridge was from our tea table 

in the delightful Fron House Tea Room and Garden

Fortified with tea and cake we made the crossing on foot and no... I don't like heights. 

Kitty and I spent ages moseying around the wharfs at each end of the aqueduct driving down into the valley for more photographs, which meant we didn't arrive at Trelawnyd and our accommodation until late evening. 

John had recommended Golden Grove Bed and Breakfast and it really made our stay in Wales complete. Homely and historic with tranquil formal gardens and a productive kitchen garden. I particularly appreciated the effort this family goes to in order to make a living from their home, maintaining the gardens and supplying breakfast needs from their garden and hens. 

One of my non-Morris focussed aims during last year's trip was to visit as many of the great gardens of Britain as I could, and here we were, a short drive from Bodnant Garden. We popped into Conwy, intending to stroll around, but after being caught in a claustrophobic traffic jam under one of the town walls, which brought back latent Earthquake panic, we left the crowded town for the calm of Bodnant. Interesting to find a house from the same period as New Zealand's colonial settlement, similar in style to a lot of older Christchurch homes, just much bigger.

My favourite feature was the terraced rose gardens overlooked by the little Pin Mill.

But other garden feats were beckoning... Trelawnyd and its Flower Show called. An intense little, afternoon event abuzz with the colour and personality and endeavour of local people... there's John chatting across the baking table (and well done with that boiled fruit cake this year John).

Later in the evening after we'd eaten at the pub in Llanasa, we visited John at home and had a little tour of his allotment where the poultry and animals were settling down for the night - a perfect end to a perfect stay. 

 So many elements of this couple of days came together to make a harmonious and memorable whole.