Thursday, 17 November 2016

Meeting Nicky


I want to thank Nicky Brankin, my newly discovered distant relative for a fantastic afternoon yesterday. People who have known me a very long time on the internet, will know that I once blogged, on Yahoo 360 and then on the Multiply site, stories of my NZ settler great great great grandparents Hannah and James Wright, and then their daughter, Sarah Ann Wright, and her husband John Glynan. Sarah and John Glynan had many children, one daughter was Mary Ann whom I am descended from, and Susannah, her elder sister, whom Nicky descends from.
Anyhow, unbeknownst to me, Nicky, who was nursing over in Aussie back then, was reading the Hannah and James Wright story on Multiply, and of course realised I was writing about her several times great grandparents also. She printed the story from the site and last week she rang me and let me know she was coming down to Christchurch and we arranged to meet.
But in between, and just before she was about to leave, Aotearoa/NZ clearly feeling a little uncomfortable, decided to have a big stretch and a 7.8 earthquake, felt over a huge part of New Zealand, happened at 2 minutes past midnight, 14/11/2016. 
And NZ is once more thrown into turmoil.
For Nicky, her first problem was, would the interisland ferry run, with docks broken. In the end the ferry did run, and she crossed over Cook Strait, and then stayed the night in Blenheim. And then she had to find her way to Christchurch now that the normal route through Kaikoura was completely destroyed.
Her only choice was state highway 63 which leads into the mountains via the Wairau Valley (where my brother and sister in law now live, unbeknownst to Nicky), deeper in past St Anaud, Murchison and finally to Springs Junction (I hope I have that right). Until Murchison Nicky thought she might have to travel all the way to Westport and down the West Coast to Arthur's Pass. But in Murchison, a couple of friendly bikies told her the Lewis Pass was now open again and so down she drove to Christchurch to the home of her Christchurch friends.
All that would have added at least another 3 hours to her trip which is going to be the reality now for everyone travelling to Picton from Christchurch until that Kaikoura link is restored and that may take months if not years.
I always use far too many words to tell a simple thing and it just goes to show how you can make a long story out of a simple thing if you are motivated enough. The real point here is to say thank you to Nicky for being so kind about my stories, for taking the trouble to make contact, for the lovely lunch and great conversation yesterday, and I hope we become friends.
Thank you.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Cup of Tea, Anyone?


Succulents in teacup, milk jug and teapot. I like to have a bit of fun in the garden.

I was having a discussion with Neil Hook (UK) this morning (NZ time) on whether some trees in his garden were Cabbage Trees (Māori name, Tī Kouka) (Botanical name, Cordyline Australis) because I said on his post something about, I like your cabbage trees, to which he replied, we call them yuccas. Hmmm, I thought. So I went out to take photos of my cabbage trees; I seem to be blessed with quite a few of them, and while I was out there, I thought I might as well take some other pictures as well. So I did. This is a bit of a random selection.

By the way, I cannot stand tea, only herbal teas at least.

My Pallet Garden which I built, now adorned with frogs


Newly planted in red oak lettuces, gold beetroot, pak choi, some Tumbling Tom tomatoes over on the far side, and self sown nasturtium, silver beet, and some spuds even

Lavender, fennel in behind

NZ Hebe

NZ Flax (phornium) flower stem, about to open

Granny Bonnets

Cabbage tree spring flower buds, just about to open. Could smell the very subtle scent.

Tī Kouka aka Cordyline Australis aka Cabbage Tree.

Our Cabbage Trees are endemic to Aotearoa/ New Zealand. They are not actually really trees, rather they are huge Lily plants, the biggest Lily plants in the world. They are very popular in the UK, I believe, I often see them on English TV Programmes. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Red Zone, September 2016




Flora (my bicycle) and I went for a ride through red zone today, down New Brighton Road and Locksley Ave. It is so quiet and peaceful, like riding through country roads, but in all these pictures there were once houses and whole suburbs, so somewhat sad too. All of this land had heaps of liquefaction, sinkholes and the land on this side of the river sank significantly, so now prone to serious flooding.Most of this area is blocked off from vehicles but you are able to walk or bike through. Although some people had snuck their vehicles in and were whitebaiting from the river, which is not really a good idea because these rivers are now badly polluted since the earthquakes.

Flora

This used to be Wattle Drive, a nice street.

Someone once had a house right here.

Nothing is straight except the horizon.

This used to be someone's garden.

'All by myself, don't wanna be, all by myself, anymore

Over the other side - cone party!

I hope you can see the cone on the other side. I had a bit of a giggle, we have a famous song Pokarekare Ana, which is the story of a maiden swimming across the lake to her beloved. These two cones staring across the river at each other out the tune in my head :)


National Game or National Shame


I stopped following rugby years ago because I dislike the whole culture of hard men, booze, and aggression. As an aside, I was also pissed off when the game was no longer shown on free-to-air TV, or very rarely anyhow. A manipulation, I think, to force us all further into consumerism, or to head to a bar and consume alcohol while watching. More consumerism, more booze in the system, more family violence when the hard men lose.
I refuse to be so manipulated.
At this point the only thing I like about it now is the haka. The All Blacks perform that well.
Back in the day, rugby always seemed to me to be as much about the after game drinking as the game itself. And it got worse after an advertising review (in the nineties?) when it was decided that cigarettes would no longer be advertised on game hoardings or anywhere else, but medicines and alcohol (previously not allowed to be advertised in print, tv, or hoardings) would be advertising material. And so often the advertising is around hard men and rugby. The culture has got worse not better since then.
It is hard not to believe that some rugby & booze, executive lobbyists had a lot to do with that. In fact it is impossible. And nothing changes because that lobby has got stronger and anyway the current government seems to think its all cool. After all, market rules, eh boys.
So now we have scandal after scandal as Jo Mathers outlines in her article.
"Scarlette started it. The stripper hired for the Chiefs' "Mad Monday" celebration claimed to have had gravel thrown at her, to have been the object of obscene language and acts of lewdness." (Jo Mathers)
That night unfolded over a couple of days. First came a news item where some LGBT guys were angry about ignorant drunken abuse they copped from one of those Chiefs players in the bar they were all drinking at. All sorts of comments were flung around media, some not particularly nice, and so a young woman who works as a stripper stepped up in support of those LGBT people. She said yes it is true, and this is what happened to me; she was booked by the Chiefs players to strip at the bar, but when she got there they were all very drunk. The performance was taken outside to some kind of garden area, players, 3 or 4 other people and Scarlette (not her real name). Lets be clear. A stripper is not a prostitute. But these hard men seemed to think she was. Scarlette was very intimidated, wound up allowing things that were not within her job description, and was then jeered at, mocked and underpaid. Nasty, nasty stuff, and any apologies and remorse very slow in coming, none to Scarlette. In fact her agency took her off their books.
More from Jo Mathers, "This week, there's the issue of Losi Filipo, the Wellington Lions player who bashed up four young people - two men, two women - late one night last October. The 18-year-old punched one woman in the face, leaving her in a crumpled and bloody heap. He beat one man so badly it ended his rugby playing days and left him incapacitated and unable to work full-time. A second woman was punched in the throat. Filipo took turns with his brother to hold and beat up the other man in the group. But the judge discharged Filipo without conviction."
Why not a jail term? If they were just some gang of young brown guys using violence to steal ciggies etc from a dairy or a service station we all know damn well the sentences would be way stiffer, especially thanks to the so called Sensible Sentencing Trust. But being a rugby player appears to be literally a get out of jail free card, brown or white.

Raised Bed, Spring 2016


the raised bed
When I came here last year, I was able to forage 4 good strong pallets, the kind that they use to carry concrete blocks. One advantage to living in a city in the midst of a rebuild is the marvellous scope for foraging. These pallets are quite big  and I had thought of sawing them down to a smaller size but when I stood them up I realised that gardening at this height is very comfortable, no bending required. So I dug a trench to stand them in, roughly nailed them together (carpentry is totally not my thing) and although everything seemed very stable, I did tie them together as well. Just to make sure, you know.
Then it was time to fill. I can't remember what I started out with but I think I threw in a lot of tree prunings, very rough uncomposted compost, (basically anything I could find really, and topped it off with bought compost from The Warehouse or Bunnings or somewhere.
So that was last year, and a complete experiment, and I grew peppers, lettuces (several times over) prostrate cherry tomatoes falling from the top, leeks, silver beet, spinach, and also ordinary sized tomatoes growing up the side. The curly parsley I planted beside the tomatoes has continued to grow as you can see. Sweet Pea and Nasturtium also tumbled down the side and there is also thyme still growing, prostate rosemary, and a flowering succulent I thought would look pretty. All these things grew really well and the cherry tomatoes actually kept producing heaps of tomatoes right into June!! (winter in NZ).
I found kale did not like the raised bed at all; it just sat in the soil refusing to grow. As soon as I moved the kale into my down-on-the-ground vegetable garden, the kale took off!
I have let the raised rest since last summer. Now it is spring and my own first "cooked" compost is looking awesomely rich (dare I say beautiful even). Ingredients, tree prunings, leftover kitchen scraps, grass clippings, comfrey, seaweed (so cool living next to the beach), coffee grinds, tea bags even, basically anything organic that will break down).
'cooked' compost in raised bed

Springing into Gardening Again


Over the past week or two we've been having a lot of grey days in Christchurch. Even a bit of rain. Amazing. But yesterday the cloud lifted for a while and I got out into the garden.
I haven't been very happy with the garden outside the back door for ages (it is still all a new garden after all) and I finally decided it needed widening. So I had a lot of fun moving the brick edge over, digging the garden wider, and re-laying a new brick edge, also various pavers. I like this result much better now. I also added some of my good maturing  compost from my own compost bin because this garden is practically pure sand, and then I visited the wee nursery down the road.
I am going for a beachy-cottagey, retro kind of look by the way.
Came home with primroses, pansies, campanella, stock, hollyhocks, a penstamon and a geranium, and two strawberry plants. I planted the strawberries in my raised garden.
Hosed gardens, came inside and, guess what, it started to rain.

The Ghost Children



The ghost children leave their garden at dusk to play on the swings at the playground next door to my house. I watch them from behind my drapes, careful not to move in case I frighten them away. Real children - by that I mean the children still living - impatiently queue.
'C'mon', complains Tom, 'we'd like a turn too'. 'You have had all day', says Angel swinging higher and faster. It looks odd the ethereal way that her unbody is swinging and yet still behind the swing, and also in front. Tom says, 'we don't have all day, we have been in school, and then doing homework, and chores. While you are swanning around in the clouds playing harps and stuff'.
Astral gives a peal of laughter that sounds like garden chimes tinkling in the breeze. 'When I was alive I thought death was like that,' she laughs. 'But it isn't really. At least it depends how you died'.
And how old you were', adds Angel softly. 'So many of us have been killed in wars, or we die of starvation or neglect. Those ones, they cry and cry and they don't always realise they are dead. They are in endless pain. It takes such a lot of our time trying to care for them and so much energy. No matter how much you feed them it is never enough. Never, never enough. And children who have been bombed, they scream endlessly and are forever looking for their limbs. Then there is this one', she says, and they all turn to look at the third swing where an angry black boy swings endlessly. He looks at them through angry eyes, tears running down his cheeks. 'You can wait till hell freezes', he shouts. 'This swing is mine, mine forever!'
'He was shot by a policeman on a swing', says Angel.
Today I had to carry a baby that had drowned,' Astral says. 'I couldn't get him dry and he was so cold.' She shivers. 'I felt like I was carrying his father too. So much grief'. 'What happened to heaven?' asks Tom. Astral rolls her eyes. 'Stupid stories for stupid people. Do you want to know if God exists? Maybe. But he's a lazy bastard if he does exist. Watching over us? Don't make me laugh. If God was a woman we might have some action. But too many men are filled with greed and they don't care about sharing with families and women and children. They take everything for themselves.'
Angel floats off her swing and offers it to Tom. But Tom lifts his school pack from his back and lifts out a little brown boy whose legs are black and blue. 'I found this one down the street' he says, 'he is too little to speak or perhaps too frightened. I didn't understand why he was there. But I couldn't leave him there on his own. Now I think maybe he was trying to find his way here to you. There is a label on his jersey, it says his name is Moko.'
Moko looks up at them with his huge brown eyes, shaded in purple. He smiles, a rather wobbly kind of smile. His teeth are broken. One of his arms is bent at a strange angle. Tom and Angel carefully lift him him onto the swing. They push it gently and the little boy chuckles in delight.
I can't watch anymore. As darkness falls I am closing my drapes.