My Favourite Window

December 31, 2016

Feeding My Soul

Shall I sum up the year with twelve photographs as I did last year? 

Won't it be difficult to choose just one from your overseas trip? asks Lady Mondegreen. I especially liked that one you posted on Instagram of the early morning sunshine slicing through the garden gate into the grounds of Christ Church College.

Yes, those early morning shots are one of the up sides of across-the-world jet lag. A stop-over in Dubai seems to ease the effects of jet lag for me. A cheap hotel by the airport made for an adventurous couple of days.   

I should have planned my cash needs better for Dubai but I got by; people-watching in the Mall of the Emirates.

In fact I should have planned my cash needs better for arrival in England! During the weekend of my arrival I had to stoke up on my B and B breakfast in the dining hall at University College 

and then survive on airline snacks, and wild blackberries from the canal towpath 

until my sister-in-law loaned me money enough for dinner. Once I could get to a bank on Monday morning I was back in the modern, touch button, digital world. 

Touch button? The middle of this year was when - in time for my overseas trip - I upgraded to a smartphone. Most of these photos including this one of The High on my first evening in Oxford, were taken on my touch screen Samsung Galaxy Note 5. 

One of the deep pleasures of being a visitor back in Oxford is that
I can indulge my senses and find intellectual stimulation at every turn without the distractions of household responsibility. The awful photo below reminds me of the Bodleian Treasures: 24 Pairs exhibition. I was carrying 'Frankenstein' in my bag (and had been reading it for quite a few months) when I came across a page from Mary Shelley's handwritten manuscript of the work. 

Although I couldn't capture detail it describes the moment when the monster first opens an eye...  Mary's husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley annotated Mary's text in darker ink, which is just visible. Without the published book in my bag this would have been just one of many remarkable exhibits but the serendipity of my own pairing made it my favourite item in this exhibition.

So many breathtaking experiences including the harpsichord concert I attended in Exeter College Chapel. From the stained glass windows illuminated by the setting sun to the gilded iconography and the harpsichord itself this was a sublime experience. Kha Ming Ng playing a programme of caprices and fantasias added his own impromptu introduction to one piece: when the college bell struck 9 o'clock just as he began to play a new piece, he allowed the bell space, using it to count himself in - superbly appropriate improvisation.

But I had a loose end to tidy up while I was in England and when I arrived in the country, three years after the event, these draft badges were waiting for me to select a final design 

With help from graphic designer, Wayne Batistic, and the craft of George Butterworth, badge maker, I finally got these out of my head and onto people's baldrics. Once I'd chosen one from the four offered, George mass-produced my order alongside the badges for this year's Saddleworth Rushcart event.

Before I joined other New Zealand Morris dancers for the latest English tour, I had more visiting and travelling to do. I even dabbled in a little creative writing. Another exhibition at the Bodleian - Shakespeare's Dead - gave the public an opportunity to write a sonnet. I didn't quite get it right, but inspired by the exhibition's theme of death and memorial, and also the difficulty I had seeing the artefacts in the dim light, I did produce my own memorial piece.

Dead is he who brought me first to this fair city
To wed where now the cranes swing and reach across the past.
Around the world I've come, eager for old ways underfoot,
But find my feet, my eyes, my breath are failing fast.

In 1989 the Oxford Registry Office - where Elwin and I were married - was in the Westgate Centre right on the edge of the current, massive re-development of the Oxpens area. 

Later, near Aylesbury, with my friend Claire of The Prodigal blog and Magical Journeyswe wrote together experimentally, using her tutoring format. Over the years we have written to each other, but never before with each other. Hopefully we can do it again sometime.

At Durham I stayed in another university college hostel - there it is in Durham Castle on top of its hill... and then I had to climb the ever ascending stairs in the Keep to reach my room! I loved being up there so close to the Cathedral and museums and not very far from the town and river below. Climbing the stairs? Not so much.

And then it was time to join the Great Yorkshire Morris Tour, which took our New Zealand group through a whirlwind week of Yorkshire highlights. I observed my birthday at the Saddleworth Rushcart day - one of England's revived festivals that celebrate traditional seasonal activities with arcane customs and ceremonial pomp. John, this year's 'Jockey' on the rushcart enjoys the best of two worlds.

From his home in Hanmer Springs, he travels back to his Saddleworth roots for this festival every year.

The Great Yorkshire Morris Tour brought together some of the group which had formed the Lammas Tour as well as new tourists, and looking at this photo I'm reminded there was a good following of Australians and English groupies too.

All too soon it was over, and so was my holiday. Sitting killing time in my hotel room at Manchester Airport, I played around with the concept of the mirror selfie. At home I would never have time to dabble in self-portraiture but here is what I discovered I could do with my stylus and S-note application.

Sixteen photos and one digital drawing! 
Well this ceased to be a yearly round-up the moment I began. Instead it's just a tiny bit of my August 2016 travelogue!

November 15, 2016

Getting Up Again

Today this arrived in the post. 

I can't quite believe I got to the end of this course and am now entitled to put the letters Dip Edit after my name. A one year course of study dragged out into three, and I am extremely grateful for the patience and understanding of the staff at the New Zealand Institute of Business Studies. I am now a trained proofreader happy to accept work and with the added advantage that, from New Zealand, I can work through the Northern Hemisphere night to have copy ready for your morning. 

Certainly my mail this morning was the silver lining to the earthquake state our country has returned to. While I was planning this post around my new bookshelves I had thought of calling it Earthquake Recovery on account of the time it has taken me to start re-establishing order in my living spaces. That was before the latest earthquakes. Surprisingly none of these books fell and I suffered no breakages. It does seem that the deep piles this house stand on, and the silty clay takes a lot of the shock, though experiencing that midnight quake two nights ago was easily as shocking to me as the Canterbury earthquakes of six years ago. I lay tucked down beside my bed, for between one and a half and two minutes while the house shook violently but evenly, with a noticeable clonking sound. That sound continued after the shaking and I think that it was a combination of the curved roofing iron over the veranda buckling, and the heavy weights inside the sash windows swinging.

Bryony had been to stay over the weekend and got on with sorting and shelving books that had been out of sight and out of mind for far too long.  There's not enough room for them all and I have an embarrassment of riches in the gardening and plant lore department. I have decided that the copper sheathed corner wot-not is to be my sorting shelf for china sales, rather than having them cluttering any available surface.

Once again I am aware of the positive fatalism that I felt after the February 2011 earthquake. Death and destruction hover, and as I lay through the shaking the other night, I was quite prepared for my house to collapse around me. The thought of losing precious 'stuff' including my beautiful home seems quite acceptable now. I know the costs to mental health; I know that I can start a again; I know that I can recover. 

November 6, 2016

Silver Lining

Late spring into early summer. How lush and vivid and beautiful the season is this year, with frequent rain and not too many nor'west gales... yet.

The flowering cherries and orchard fruit blossom is fading a little now, making way for weedy may and broom with the promise of roses in full bloom in a week or two.

This rather wild garden of mine stills needs heavy physical work to keep some equilibrium. Faced with tasks like clearing the shelter belt trimmings, makes me especially grateful for Elwin's company in our years together. This season, this memorial day, are especially poignant with the promise of growth and new life all around me.

Apple Malus domestica 'Egremont Russet'
Wisteria Wisteria 'Caroline'
Quince Cydonia oblonga 'Giant of Gascony'
May, hawthorn Crataegus monogyna
Broom, Scotch broom Cytisus scoparius
Macrocarpa, Monterey cypress Cupressus macrocarpa

July 12, 2016

Peter Pan

Holiday time. And a term of drama school rehearsals comes to conclusion when Peter Pan opens tomorrow.  Yesterday I caught Peter Pan and Wendy out and about in Rangiora!

Today - from the fly floor - I watched everything come together in the final rehearsal. That includes Peter Pan flying above the stage! 

Peter Pan - A Magical Musical 
from the Hartley School of Performing Arts. Rangiora Town Hall. July 13 -16 2016.

July 9, 2016

Fog and Fungus

Get up and photograph the fog, I thought to myself pulling the quilt closer around my neck... But because I left it till the fog was dispersing I was rewarded by sunlight seeping through mist. 

Once I was outside with the camera, the cold didn't matter. It was time to capture this fungus basket before it melted away.

Fungus basket, Tutae whatitiri  Ileodictyon cibarium

June 26, 2016

Midwinter Celebrations

Maybe, just maybe, mainstream New Zealand is beginning to dispense with the idea that Midwinter in the Southern Hemisphere needs the idea of 'Christmas' attached to it.

The celebration of Matariki the Maori new year, is becoming more common amongst the wider community with its seasonal relevance. Kitty's school, Ao Tawhiti, which has existed for over a year on the two pre-merger sites, came together on Friday night for an evening of activities and feasting at the junior school's, Discovery campus. 

The children, staff and parents there had worked hard to create a festive atmosphere, and Unlimited staff and students contributed too. Kitty enjoyed painting faces for her younger schoolfellows and Florian's telescopes were a hit. It was the wrong time of night to see Matariki (or the Pleiades) whose reappearance in the sky at the end of May signals the time for final gathering in of food stores before the true winter weather arrives later in June.  Jupiter, Mars and Saturn were all in our sights however.

The hangi-cooked food and pot luck meal was a Midwinter feast to rival roast turkey and its trimmings. Meat falling from the bone; vegetables melting in the mouth and everything infused with the distinctive earthy, smokiness of the hangi.

No need for me to feel regretful at being too busy to prepare a Midwinter dinner at home for the Solstice. Earlier, when summer and autumn fruit was so abundant, I'd intended to put away something of everything to make our Midwinter dinner with.

This has been a family custom for me, dating to my father's involvement with Antarctic research programmes and the observance of the shortest day, whether he was wintering over or celebrating at an Antarctic Society Dinner. One of my siblings is a direct result of one of those festive occasions! Later my parents continued the tradition at home, always raising a glass to the men enduring the endless polar night.

A Matariki feast then, to end a Midwinter week that began with dancing at Dawn.

Of course I celebrated the Winter Solstice - a few days early - with a spot of Morris dancing. Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentlemen hosted the gathering at Paekakariki with their usual flair and attention to detail. 

They warm my heart whether they are masters of the kitchen or fancy footing.

But so too does everyone else!

It has occurred to me that if we got up even earlier on the morning that we dance to ensure the return of the Sun (and after all the sun gets up well after 7 o'clock at Midwinter) we might be able to see Matariki ... 

June 1, 2016

The Merry Month of May

All good intentions to blog frequently, came to naught in May, but now it's been and gone it's still worth mentioning.

It was merry in all manner of ways from greeting the month in 

at the top of Mt Eden in Auckland...

generally having a good time...

with gathered Morris dancing friends while celebrating Mayday...  
to serving on the fly floor for the North Canterbury Musical Society's three week season of Aida. This was the Elton John and Tim Rice rock musical rather than Verdi's opera.

Up and down this ladder the flyboys scuttled 

for some fairly lightweight action in this particular production 

(lots of down time for reading or just enjoying the show). 

While the stage manager's directions murmured between various production stations in my headset I marvelled at the quality of voice and instrumental music. Mainly this was due to ability and professionalism, but I noticed how all the intricate structural  woodwork created superb acoustics high above the stage - and close to me.

Although Kitty was on stage I have no photos of the production due to copyright reasons, so this is my personal experience of the show. I made a note of my position on the fly floor while I was working in the garden across the road. My task for the whole of May? Clearing the fallen leaves from the tree who's morning shadow graces the Rangiora Town Hall, reaching up to trace my corner, where on the other side of the ochre coloured wall, my chair and headset and hauling gloves await my return.