Monthly Archives: July 2013

Even a child knows……

The other day I found an idyllic picnic spot and a commemorative plaque to Dr Neil Cherry at Ouruhia Domain.

Kaputone Water

Kaputone Water

Whilst contemplating my surroundings and my discoveries, I remembered some other tranquil, picnic places I have known; in particular, ones from my childhood. Almost always, we sat by the water, the wimpling water, because, there, one might find the teeniest respite from  the heat and humidity of the tropics.

By the wimpling water

By the wimpling water

Picnic by Sea Water

Picnic by Sea Water

My memories of that time are rich and full. I swam and played and read  to my heart’s content. On a macro-mini level, my childhood was idyllic; yes, it was – idyllic.

But, in my immediate environment, and in the larger world, there were tensions of which I was acutely aware, although I was so very young. For one, there was racism, (and social and economic inequality).  There were people who lived at the lines (at the bottom of the hill), and there were people who lived at the top of the hill. There were children who could go to my school and children who couldn’t. And some were allowed at the club and others weren’t. Colour and colonialism ruled how our society lived. I knew this, even as a child; and I knew it wasn’t right and it wasn’t just.

But, more sinister, and more unmanageable and unfathomable to a child, were the less than peaceful events happening in the Pacific. At the end of the Second World War, the administrators and colonial rulers of much of the Pacific; namely the US, Britain and France, turned regions of their territories  into what may have been  the largest nuclear testing laboratory in the world. For their former enemies, there were reconstruction and development initiatives; for their faithful friends and allies in the Pacific; for the communities who sacrificed their land and lives for the war effort, there were, yipdee doo, nuclear testing programmes.

I don’t know ,or understand, all the details of the nuclear testing, but there is a plethora of information on the internet; much of it confusing to a non-scientist like me. What I do know is that in November 1962, when I was six years old and a bit,  I saw the aurora created by this

Kingfish 1 November 1962 Johnston Atoll 410 kilotons Operation Fishbowl, high altitude nuclear explosion, 97 km altitude, Thor missile with W-50 warhead, dramatic aurora-like effects, extensive ionosphere disruption, radio communication over central Pacific disrupted for over three hours

It was extraordinary, eerie, fiery and awful, and, as I don’t think we really knew for sure what was causing the transformation of the sky, it created a feeling of apocalyptic doom. More especially because this probable nuclear explosion came so soon after the drama of the Cuban missile crisis, when we worried, for days, that nuclear war was about to engulf the world. Young as I was, I remember the fear of potential nuclear warfare. Young as I was, I knew that what I saw in November 1962 was as wrong as it was awful.

The American and British testing came to an end not long after, but that was not the end of the Pacific’s nuclear battering, for the  French then  took over the nuclear testing baton in the Pacific. Between 1966 and 1996, the French conducted 181 nuclear explosions, 45 of them in the atmosphere, the rest underground.

In all these nuclear testing exercises and experiments, there were accidents and disasters and fallout on innocent, peaceful Pacific Peoples. There was long lasting harm done to previously pristine environments…and for what reason… hubris, power, to make a safer world, because they could, so they did? I didn’t understand why as a child. I was implacably angry about it as a teenager and young adult, and, now, I am simply sad. Particularly sad because the testing has created a hardness in my heart; a small stony part of me that  struggles  to forgive a lengthy, nuclear invasion/abuse of my backyard.

Dr Neil Cherry tried  to help veterans/victims of radioactive fallout receive compensation. The struggle for recompense and recognition continue, as does the  impact of that nuclear testing  on the lives of ordinary citizens.

It’s also more than a little ironic that this whole nuclear scenario in the Pacific was only  possible because  our  most  famous, New Zealand scientist, Lord Rutherford of Nelson, discovered how to split the atom.

To finish on a positive note, here are a couple of photos of my happy days in the bosom of my precious nuclear family; NUCLEAR; what a word to use for a family. 🙂

© silkannthreades

One sandwich short of a picnic

In our rush to get out of the house today to enjoy the sunshine, I failed to throw even the most basic of picnic ingredients into the car. Which was a great shame because as we peregrinated (if one can in a car and in one’s own country), we came upon a beautiful picnic spot. Here it is; Ouruhia Domain, a few kilometres north of Christchurch, en route to Kaiapoi.

Ouruhia Domain

Ouruhia Domain

The Domain has playing fields, club rooms, playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic tables, old trees and superb macrocarpa shelter belts.  As well, there is  a serene area of native plantings. The native plants border the Kaputone Stream which is a tributary of the Styx River. I wrote about the Styx River here Source- to-sea.

Now, come wander the Domain with me; first across the bridge and in to the bush;

then back across the Kaputone stream to the fields and courts , so true to the style of the traditional country Domain.

As I was leaving the area of native plants, I noticed a plaque, nestled in the ground under a bush. It stopped me short. It was so unexpected. And it moved me to a small tear to see such a simple, modest tribute to one of New Zealand’s  world-renowned scientists. Here is the plaque. It honours Dr Neil Cherry.

Simple marker for a Scientist

Simple marker for a Scientist

A summary of his work and a little of his life story can be found on this website. 

In many ways, he was a traveller /pilgrim in his fields of interest and research; exploring new ideas and always working for a better world to the very end of his days. I particularly admire his work on behalf of veterans exposed to radioactive fallout from nuclear testing in the Pacific.

More of his life story can be found at

and the story of his work with Ouruhia is here.

I must say I was glad I only discovered the Ouruhia community’s concerns about electromagnetic radiation when I came home, or we might not have stopped at the picnic spot for so long.

Being without that picnic sandwich, or any sustenance at all, and beginning to feel hungry from our explorations in exciting, unfamiliar territory,  we left the pleasant fields of Ouruhia and continued on to Kaiapoi. There we stopped for a McDonald’s take away before heading homewards. I have a guilty feeling that the take away may have done us more damage than any passing exposure to residual electromagnetic radiation at Ouruhia. Oh well, we had lovely peregrinations. Did you?

© silkannthreades

“With Bold Needle and Thread” by Rosemary McLeod

In my post yesterday I mentioned ‘With Bold Needle and Thread” by Rosemary McLeod. This morning I read this wonderful review of the book by fellow New Zealand blogger Ordinary Good. Enjoy her good words and her blogs as well.

Koru knits and crafts

“With Bold needle and thread” by Rosemary McLeod.

I loved this large, beautiful book that I recently borrowed from the library.
I will borrow it again so I can once again enjoy the gorgeous visual presentation but also the immense amount of information, history, and projects to dream about.
While it is a book about stitching and creating clothes and useful household objects it is also a book about social history/herstory in New Zealand.
Rosemary McLeod is a collector of textiles and fabrics as well as owning a vast library of patterns, designs, and magazines relating to handcrafts of every kind. She also likes creating things from fabric and textiles without using a pattern.
There are plenty of projects and instructions to follow in this substantial book (495pp) dating back from the 1920’s to more recent times. Bags, aprons (I remember my Gran having an apron made from sacking but…

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In recent weeks, when I was feeling ‘under the weather’, on account of my cold/cough, my desire to eat and cook was as lacking as my tastebuds. Now that I am all better, my appetite and interest in cooking have returned and, yesterday, my meal seemed like a feast; it tasted so good!

First up, we had brown lentils and mushrooms in pasta sauce. This is a dish I  created using a combination of different ideas and recipes. It is an authentic mish mash rather than anything elegant with a specific and identifiable origin. Here is a small sample of the finished product.

As usual, my recipe  for this dish is fairly carefree and easy but, for those of you who are interested, here is an outline of the ingredients and cooking method:  Roughly chop one onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1 celery stick and 1 carrot and place in the blender and blitz. Place a little olive oil in a large pan and add blitzed mixture to the pan. Cover and let mixture sweat for about 10 minutes. Add a half teaspoon of dried oregano, and about a half teaspoon of salt and a cup of canned, chopped tomatoes in thick juice. Stir and cook covered for a couple of minutes. Add one tin/can of drained and rinsed brown lentils (about 400gm) and stir. Then add one bottle of thick pasta sauce. I use Bertolli Five Brothers Pasta Sauce, large size, in the summer tomato and basil flavour.  Stir again and cover and simmer gently for a few more minutes. Lastly add about 200 gm of quartered, button mushrooms and 3  Tablespoons of bulghur wheat.  Cover and cook on low heat for another 15 minutes, or until the bulghur wheat is tender. Before serving add freshly ground pepper and 2 or 3 Tablespoons of cream to the pan.

The textures of the ingredients and the smooth richness of the sauce are wonderfully hearty  on a winter’s night. I served the sauce on creamy mashed potatoes with steamed carrots and steamed broccoli stalks. And ,because the recipe makes a large amount, we will be having the sauce again tonight, but this time with polenta.

To follow the main meal, I made a scrumptious fruit crumble, using an absolutely excellent crumble recipe from blogger Valerie Davies; excellent because it is  both delicious and makes a large amount (which means at least enough for two fruit crumbles in my house). For the fruit component of the dish, I used freshly sliced cooking apples and a good handful of less than perfect grapes which I blanched and peeled and sprinkled with lemon juice.  The results were so good that I had to restrain myself from taking a third helping. Thanks Valerie 🙂

If you would like the recipe take a look Here.

While you are there, check out her other delicious recipe for Convent Eggs. 

I am sure it was the Convent Eggs that finally set my tastebuds on the road to recovery. Food has been tasting superb, since the day I made those delicious eggs.

Finally, what’s a feast without something for the eyes as well. I am so thrilled to have these three lovely books on my table today. The two Virago books arrived by post this morning, via Amazon.  The  third  book, With Bold Needle and Thread by Rosemary Mcleod  is on loan from the library. It is subtitled Adventures in Vintage Needlecraft, and so it is, so it is; a very lovely adventure.

Books of a Vintage

Books of a Vintage

A Visual Feast

A Visual Feast

© silkannthreades

Is it all clear, SOFIA?

This post is a little off topic from my previous post, but only a little. It still concerns the collection of data and the keeping of records.   These records are on an astronomical scale. And they are gathered and analysed by beautiful, sophisticated SOFIA and friends.

We went to visit SOFIA today because the sun was shining, and it was a perfect day for visiting and gallivanting. Here she is. Isn’t she stunning?



SOFIA is stationed at Christchurch International Airport for a couple of weeks. She  is on a surveillance exercise. Of the skies. This is an excerpt from Nasa’s website on SOFIA.

‘NASA’s SOFIA airborne observatory will be based in New Zealand for the next two weeks, taking advantage of the Southern Hemisphere’s orientation to study celestial objects that are difficult or impossible to see in the northern sky.

SOFIA, formally known as the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, deployed to the United States Antarctic Program’s facilities at Christchurch International Airport last week and completed its first science flight at 4 a.m. local time July 18 (noon EDT July 17). A team of scientists, engineers, pilots and technicians from the United States and Germany are deployed with SOFIA to support as many as nine research flights through Aug. 1.

SOFIA is a modified Boeing 747SP aircraft that carries a telescope with an effective diameter of 100 inches (250 centimeters). It provides astronomers access to the visible, infrared and submillimeter spectrum.’ You can access the full text Here

Now I can’t say I understand all that technical stuff , but I can say that I enjoyed admiring  SOFIA and imagining what it would be like to fly so high in the sky with a telescope.

If you want to have a small experience,  flying with SOFIA, check out the SOFIA movie gallery  Here.

Apparently, the people who know these things, say we have very clear skies in our part of the world. Which makes our skies an excellent research area for SOFIA. Our skies are so good  that we are home to one of the best dark sky reserves in the world.  It’s too far from Christchurch for me to take you there, today, so this link will have to do. (

I can, however, show you the luminous, light blue sky over us, and SOFIA, this afternoon.

Clear and Blue

Clear and Blue

It surprises me that the sky does look so fresh and pure because the air pollution levels  have exceeded  health guidelines levels  at least 11 times  in Christchurch this winter. Perhaps the blue of the  sky today is an optical illusion.

Writing of smog and lenses and illusion reminds me that some wits in the media have been questioning the timing of the SOFIA project in Christchurch. It coincides very neatly with the Government’s attempts to expand the  Government Communications Security Bureau ‘s  legal powers to spy on us, its own New Zealand citizens. At the moment the GCSB  may spy on  non New Zealanders.  The amendment under debate will legalise the GCSB’s spying on New Zealand citizens and permanent residents.

I am 99% sure SOFIA is an innocent star-gazer but that is a mighty big telescope scoping our southern skies.  However, as long as she  is gazing upwards and outwards, little ol’ me  and the rest of my fellow Kiwis,  can rest easy, at least as far as SOFIA is concerned 🙂

© silkannthreades

Out ‘there’ forever

Whenever I prepare to write a post, a pint-sized, shadowy, but very vocal, bogey man appears over my right shoulder.  A bogey man; well, more a creature of unspecified gender who repeats ad nauseam and ‘whiningly’,”Remember,  remember, whatever you put out on the internet stays there forever; be careful, you may live to regret what you let loose in public….blah, blah, blah…out ‘there’ lives evil….”. And I cower and hesitate and write ever so cautiously, and recheck and rewrite, and waste a great deal of precious time pandering to this scaremongering spectre of  certain doom and ruin.

Where this creature comes from, I am not sure, but, yesterday, I determined to give it a little tap on the shoulder; tip it off-balance a bit, and maybe, if I am lucky,  see it tumble to my feet with profuse apologies for being such a wretched nuisance.

So, here I go with my attempt to dislodge the harbinger of the awful doom awaiting  me (and you) on the big world-wide web.

NEWSFLASH! bogey creature……. on the day we are  born, our lives enter the public sphere, and there is no going back. We become a matter of public record from our first breath. And, as any genealogist, archaeologist, historian, or little Rumpelstiltskin, will tell you, we are, from that beginning moment, out ‘there’ forever, our lives always trackable and traceable and scrutinisible.  Perhaps, not in every fine detail, but certainly enough detail to be able to  leave our mark on history somewhere, somehow. Thus it has ever been, and ever will be, internet or no internet.

Case in point. Here is a photo which I found the other day. I hesitated, thanks to bogey creature, about showing it to you. Then, in an epiphanous moment, I realised, that it is an official photo which has probably been readily available in  public archives  for about 36 years.

For all to see

For all to see

What am I doing? Well, I am not sleeping! I am listening  intently to a debate. I will leave you to ponder, until my next post, where and why, and the story behind this photo. In the meantime, I am travelling back in time to listen to the ancient prophets/creatures of doom as they watch our cave dwelling forbear raise his/her hand to paint that very first stroke on the cave wall. I hear the critters say, in tones of eerie menace, “Be Ware, Be Very Ware…..once you mark that wall, your life will be out ‘there’ forever, for all to know where you have been and what you have been doing; you are open season; prey to all….muahahahaha”  And the cave person turns to face the menace, and paints the wall anyway. Thank goodness he/she did.

Note to self: the creature hasn’t tumbled yet but it is looking disconcerted 🙂

© silkannthreades


Such is life; shadows and sunbeams

I have been very weary and a little down-hearted these past few weeks; mainly on account of my lingering cold/cough, the cold grip of winter weather and a general lack of sunshine. And let’s not forget the ever lasting wait for builders to appear. But just when I  feel that the daily shadows are becoming far too long for comfort, life suddenly throws  out a wondrous ray of sunshine that makes me beam with joy. Such was life today.

I was looking for some photos to illustrate a post I had in mind when I came upon this  gentle gem from my distant, distant past.This is my brother caring for me when I was about four and a half weeks old.   He has been doing it ever since; and he hasn’t dropped me yet :).

And the caring love begins

And the caring love begins

I also happened upon these sweet photos. I have certainly seen them before but, until today, I hadn’t truly noticed them, or absorbed the information they contain. They are photos taken on my christening day, which, I learn from the writing on the reverse of the pictures, was on 11 July. Which means that last Thursday was the anniversary of my christening.  They also show me that my maternal grandparents were present at my christening. I am surprised to learn this. It is not  unusual for grandparents to be at a christening but these grandparents had to travel by ship from Christchurch, New Zealand to Lautoka, Fiji for my christening. Quite a journey, in those days.  I also see that Janie, my dear Janie, was with me from the very start of my life. Even though I remember her well, I didn’t realise that she was with me from the beginning. No wonder, I was deeply sad when she left us to marry. I couldn’t understand why being married should require her to leave me. I don’t think she did either but it seems her husband  insisted. How I missed her warmth and her cuddles and her gentleness. They are with me still.

The one photo that holds few surprises is that of the christening cake. It is set on a table in our garden because my christening took place in our  home garden; there being no Presbyterian church in our town; and only the occasional visit from  an itinerant Presbyterian minister.  I think the cake  was iced by my father, who had considerable skill in the art of cake decorating. ( He always made us the most wonderful birthday cakes.)  I expect the cake itself was made by my parents. The only real surprise is the travel rug under the cake? Was that a christening gift? It doesn’t seem a very elegant table covering for a christening. And the cake looks as though it is close to falling off the edge of the table! Was the cake tipsy? Surely not at a Presbyterian christening.

Those were my smiles for today; my little taste of sunshine. Dear parents, I enjoyed being at my christening; thank you!

© silkannthreades