Monthly Archives: April 2013

Happy Birthday to a Special Friend.

Oh shame on me! My mother has just reminded me that it is my dog’s birthday today. I had forgotten. I blame the stress of having a flu jab ūüėȬ† Never my poor memory, of course!

With sincere apologies and much love, I wish you, my dear friend, Jack, a very Happy 6th Birthday. You have been with me through thick and thin and I love every day in your company.  Yes, you were that littleAdorationTiring puppy days

The joy of being a puppyPuppy in Bluebells

Jack was born on 11 April 2007 in Nelson, New Zealand. He is a miniature schnauzer. His birth weight was 227 grams (half a pound of butter ūüôā ) He was number 3 of a litter of 3 and he has two fur sisters, Jill and Bailey.¬† His dog parents are Luci and Bo, both of Nelson.¬† His grandmother was Bailey and his great-grandmother was Rose.

When Jack came to us, we agreed to love him and care for him throughout his life. I think we are doing okay so far. He says the bone we gave him this afternoon was very tasty, thank you.¬† And the vet says that Jack has a fine physique, and an excellent waistline, and is the perfect weight at 9.5kg. Pity we can’t say the same about his human mother ūüėÄ

‚ô™ Happy Birthday, dear Jack! ‚ô™

Stitching Memories

In my much younger days, I was very interested in sewing and needlework. My mother, who believed she was not skilled with needle and thread, arranged for me to have sewing lessons with some of her more skilled friends. As a result, by the age of about ten or eleven, I became quite the little seamstress, cheerily making clothes for myself, my little sister and my mother.  My enthusiasm for sewing was at its peak in those years and, although I continued to sew in to adulthood, it was never with the same exuberance and excitement. Finally, at the ripe old age of 26, I stopped sewing.

I may have stopped sewing, ( anything more than a button on a shirt, that is ), but I remained in love with the idea of sewing; the wondrous process of turning one form of cloth into another shape and size ; the different stitches and seams, the cuts and darts and frills and facings. Not to mention the lovely ribbons and laces and trimmings, and the beautiful hand-made button holes with equally beautiful buttons, usually recycled from that ultimate household treasure trove; the button jar.

When we lived in New Delhi, I was privileged to be part of a group of women who employed a tailor, named Mr Singh. Not just any tailor. As far as I was concerned, he was the most skilled tailor ….EVER. As per our group agreement, each of us booked Mr Singh’s sewing service for a couple of weeks at a time, and, at the appointed hour, he would arrive on his bicycle, with lunch container secure on the handle bar, and his hand-operated sewing machine carefully strapped to the carrier. Then, quietly and efficiently, he would settle in his chosen corner…..and sew and sew;¬† everything and anything¬† I asked for. Everything and AnythingFor me it was magic; for him, I suppose, it was merely another day at the office.

Here is a little piece I wrote about Mr Singh in February 2003.

“Mr Singh. Bearded, turbaned, thin as a pin. There he sits, cross-legged, at his sewing machine, in the dim, back room. A silent figure, stitching his magic; making my dreams. I can see him still in the dim back room of my mind.

Why do I see him now? Because today, his stitches, and my dreams, are displayed brightly on the washing line. The duvet cover we created together, from dress scraps and my grandmother’s sheets, is blowing in the Christchurch breeze; glistening white in the glare of¬† a Christchurch sun. I look at the vibrant colours on white Colour on Whiteand remember the muted tones of Mr Singh; blue and grey,¬† grey on white, grey on grey, almost a shadow in the shaded back room.¬†Muted Ah, yes, quiet, gentle Mr Singh; a master of many stitches.¬† I miss his serenity, his dignity, his creativity.”

The photos in this post are all of the duvet cover. I took them this morning in our bright autumnal sunshine. The colours are no longer bright; they have softened with age. Twenty three years have gone by since Mr Singh pieced all the different fabrics together.Marking Time

Sheet notes: the white cotton sheets used for the duvet are at least 50 years old now, and the coloured scraps range in age from  25 to 35 years old. The buttons on the cover would be close to  30 years old . I think they  were salvaged from a dress of mine, made in Zimbabwe!  The duvet cover spends most of its present life in the linen cupboard, snuggled in lavender, in refined retirement. It is no longer subjected to harsh wear and tear and the rigours of washing machine and sunlight.

© silkannthreades

Is it good news or bad news?

The good news is that a friend came to stay with us for a few days last week.

The bad news, for me, is that she has now gone home.

The good news is that she is coming back again for another visit in June.

The even better news is that I have good friends who walk beside me in good times and bad, and the times in between.

A long time ago, when my friend (the one who has just been and gone) and I were students in Christchurch, we were desperately looking for accommodation we could afford. Then, as now, reasonably priced rental accommodation was hard to find.  In pre-Internet days, finding a place to stay sometimes meant physically exploring the streets for vacancy/rental signs.  We had almost given up hope when my friend came across an abandoned and neglected  cottage in an area of the city which is now called the Avon Loop.  She thought it looked habitable so she set about tracking down the owner of the property.  Again a lot of footwork  was required but, finally, an agent for the owner was located and negotiations began.  We proposed that, if he let us live in the house for a small rent of $20 a week, we would tidy the property and be responsible tenants. We would protect the property from vandals and vagrants, we said!  The owner was dubious (we were students, after all) but he agreed that we could live there until he received  planning permission to build on the property, at which time the old cottage would be demolished.

Thus began one of the most interesting years of my life. With some help from friends and relations, and a teeny, tiny budget, we scrubbed and cleaned and painted that old house into a lovely  home.

At the end of the student year, my friend and I had different paths to travel, so we arranged for some friends to take over the tenancy of the cottage. The landlord was only too happy to agree as his building plans seemed to have fallen through and he had seen how his derelict cottage had been transformed from disastrous to desirable at no cost to himself. Lucky man.

Over the years, we  kept an eye on the cottage and, to our absolute delight, it seemed to find more care and loving hands  with each passing decade.

Then along came the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. And the Avon Loop area was hit hard. We feared for our cottage but, on a visit to the Loop last year, we found the cottage, a little tilted, but still standing.

Here it is in 2012, once again uninhabited, as far as we could tell. The residents had probably been forced to move because of  earthquake damage to the property.

Our Cottage

My friend and I¬† have since discovered that the property is on land that is considered safe for rebuilding but we don’t know if demolition once more hangs over this little house that has such a special place in our memories . Maybe we will investigate next time my friend visits, but, in many ways, if it is gone I would rather not know.¬† Too much of what we once knew has gone already. And as the buildings go, so, too, go the anchors that keep our memories secure in time and place.

Friendly notes or why our friends are more important than ever:

The bad news:¬† almost 12 percent of our district’s populace is depressed.¬† 209,000 anti-depressant prescriptions were handed out in 2012; pre quake mental health referrals of 90 per week have soared to 150 referrals¬† per week in the past 3 months; 80 community support workers are helping 1100 people daily….. and on it goes……

The good news:  66,000 people are seeking help. I would like to say that 88% of the population is doing well but, judging by levels of road rage, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly behaviour  and general short temperedness, more people could do with help from friends, medical or otherwise.

© silkannthreades

Camellias and Kate and Rare Breeds

Since the flowering of the sasanqua camellias on my birthday, Camelia In CameraI have noticed references to camellias blooming all over my field of vision. Well, by all over, I mostly mean the internet. It’s as if a silent, floral force of camellias has stealthily invaded my cyberspace whilst I have had my eyes temporarily distracted by its earthly representatives. I feel as though I am being camellia-stalked….yes, really, stalked! But that is an unkind thought so I will attribute a purer motive; here it is.¬† Camellias are simply experimenting with ways to communicate with our increasingly de-naturalised societies.

Who knows? Not me. But, what I do know, is that in the past week I have encountered abundant camellias on the bush in RL.  And, in my internet life, I have met them in books,  blogs, movies, opera, history, (thanks to this wonderful post by blogger Valerie Davies ( ), and in politics.  Today, I also realised, back in real life, that I often carry camellias in my pocket, for these natural beauties have infiltrated the financial realm. They are  part of our currency.

Three white camellia blooms appear on the New Zealand $10 note.¬†Kate and Camellia They sit in the company of Kate Sheppard; the woman who is credited with leading the fight for women’s suffrage in New Zealand. Thanks to Kate and her campaigners, New Zealand became, in 1893, the first self-governing nation in the world to grant the vote to all women over the age of 21.( ) When the Electoral Bill¬† was before Parliament,¬† women suffragettes handed out white camellias to those Members of Parliament who supported the Bill.

Why camellias were chosen to represent women’s right to vote, I have not yet discovered.¬† It may be that the choice was made under the influence of a popular Victorian interest in¬† floriology and tussie-mussies.¬† But it’s most likely that the reason for their choice was more prosaic than that; the camellias would have been one of the few flowers¬† in plentiful supply in September.¬† Whatever the reason, the white camellia became, and remains, the symbol of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

Kate Sheppard was born in Liverpool in March 1847. She arrived in  Christchurch in 1869 and here she stayed.  Kate at home in Christchurch( ) She was a founding member of the New Zealand Women’s Christian Temperance Union which soon realised that, if women had the right to vote, it would be easier to achieve reforms concerning temperance and the welfare of women and children.

Much as I love our ten-dollar bank-note, I wonder how Kate, as a pillar of the temperance movement, would feel about her face gracing a bill that provides a means to  buy  alcohol. She might disapprove, or she might see some irony in the  possibility of a drinker   confronting  her in the eye before making a purchase.

Overall, I think she would probably see the bigger picture too.¬† As a excellent strategist she would understand that, by having her features constantly in the public arena, the importance of¬† women’s suffrage for the general good of humankind would never be forgotten. But enough of Kate. Let’s return to the camellia, who, it seems to me, is every inch as skilled a strategist as¬† Kate and her suffragettes.¬† How clever was the camellia to make itself irresistible to a winning campaign; to ensure a lasting place alongside the legacy of one of the most influential women in the world. It guaranteed not only its survival, but its proliferation.¬† Nice work from a little flower that let’s us believe that¬† all it does is pose languidly in our gardens.

The question?

Can Kate and the camellia’s winning ways rub off on our precious and vulnerable¬† blue whio featured on the reverse of the ten-dollar note?Help us Survive

A Tussie-mussie: In Kate Greenaway’s book The Language of Flowers, the white camellia japonica symbolises Perfected Loveliness.

© silkannthreades