Author Archives: Gallivanta

The Story of a New Zealand Garden

This is my summer garden imagining itself to be Mrs Brayton’s garden in ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’ by Jane Mander. My garden has a vivid imagination. In reality, it is nothing like Mrs Brayton’s, except in that there is “always something more to know”.

Star Jasmine
Hydrangea
Heuchera
My trees and street trees make for a mini forest
Under the Michaelia
Back Path
Under the cherry tree
View from the bedroom window
Star Jasmine Pergola
Feverfew

“Some gardens, like great masses of complex machinery, arrest and fascinate the intellect, and satisfy one’s sense of arrangement, of clockwork management. They have no mysteries, however, no nesting places, no dream-compelling nooks. But inside that phalanx of pines above the river there grew a wonderful garden with all these things; a garden of dreams, a garden riotous with life; a garden of brilliant sunlights and deep shades; a garden of trees that hid the stars and of shy flowers peeping from the ground; a whispering garden full of secrets and suggestion; a garden where there was always something more to know.” Chapter 3, ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’ by Jane Mander. Published 1920.  New York : John Lane company; London, John Lane.

‘The Story of a New Zealand River’ is regarded as a New Zealand classic~ “… this is the first New Zealand novel to confront convincingly many of the twentieth century’s major political, religious, moral and social issues – most significantly women’s rights. Daring for its time in its exploration of sexual, emotional and intellectual freedom, the New Zealand Herald found the ending ‘too early for good public morality’. It is believed by many to be the inspiration of Jane Campion’s film The Piano.” (https://www.penguin.co.nz/books/the-story-of-a-new-zealand-river-9781775531326)

My garden and I wish you dreams, mysteries, life and shade, and always more things to know, in 2022.

ps This post comes with special thanks to Liz Gaffreau https://lizgauffreau.com/ who encouraged me to start reading ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’.

pps For those interested in literary connections, in Chapter 2 of ‘The Story of a New Zealand River’, Mrs Brayton mentions ‘The Story of an African Farm’ by Olive Schreiner. The Story of an African Farm was an immediate success when it was first published in 1883 and is considered one of the earliest feminist novels. It dealt, amongst other issues, with individualism, the professional aspirations of women, and the elemental nature of life on the colonial frontier.

My “Leaves of Grass”

Opus Magnum in progress
Opus Magnum, first draft

Sometimes I tease myself that my bowls and jars of pot pourri are destined to be my Opus Magnum. I toy with titles for this great work of mine and wonder if I dare to call it, “My Leaves of Grass, with apologies to Walt Whitman.” That’s long winded but my creation is long in the making and, like the wind, changes its form frequently.

For 2 years and a bit I have been pressing and curating petals, flowers, pods, and seeds for my ever growing pot pourri collection.

Peony
Poppy

Most of these pieces I look upon as lines for my version of a “Song of Myself”. Carefully chosen petals, flowers, feathers, bark, and pods represent seasons and moments in my garden, and in my life. They represent my abiding love of nature, my love of family, and my love of friends. In my bowls, there are representative remnants of grief and sorrow. And as much as there is sorrow, there is also deep joy and sweet memories of places and special connections.

My pot pourri, it seems to me, holds the story of my life. Occasionally, when the bowls start to overflow, I scoop up a few lines ( aka a handful ) of my story to give to a friend, especially a friend who may need some comfort or solace. The act of taking a handful is a comfort to me, too. It puts me in touch again with the feelings and emotions that came at the time of the picking and the pressing of the leaf or the flower.

‘Petals in Time’, lovingly pressed between the leaves of an old calendar

Sometimes I tease myself about my Opus Magnum. And it makes me smile.

“Houses and rooms are full of perfumes, the shelves are crowded with perfumes, I breathe the fragrance myself and know it and like it, ” ( Song of Myself 1892 version )

Ps: Did you know that Walt Whitman’s title, Leaves of Grass, is a pun? Leaves are, of course, another name for pages. Grass is another word for works of minor value. I think my Opus Magnum project and this post qualify as “grass”.

pps Apologies for the quality of the photos. I am experimenting with posting from my mobile phone and my mobile phone photo gallery. Like the Opus, it’s a work in progress.

Ramble

Rural residence
Reserve
River
Roadway

Ramble: walk leisurely in the countryside.

This week’s ramble was at Stewarts Gully on the banks of the Waimakariri River, a short drive north of my home in Christchurch. There was some rain in the air, hence the overcast sky.

When Friends Meet

When friends meet to discuss The Brothers Karamazov Readalong , the conversation goes like this: https://teatoasttrivia.com/2021/12/06/season-3-episode-49-liz-humphreys-elisabeth-van-der-meer-and-mandy-henderson-on-farewell-to-the-karamazovreadalong-and-welcome-warandpeace2022/

This was my debut as a podcast participant. It was a wonderful experience thanks to the gentle guidance of podcaster/host, Rebecca, and her chief engineer/techie, Don. Liz and Elisabeth were excellent conversationalists. I am looking forward to joining in the next ReadAlong adventure, #WarAndPeace2022.

Please enjoy our podcast conversation. And to quote Rebecca, “Until next time, dear friends, keep safe, keep reading, and be well.”

May 2022 be good to you.

ps This is also my debut on the new WP editor. I may be making a hash of things! I am wishing myself luck as I press Publish.

Coming up daffodils

Two months and two days after my mother’s funeral, we buried my dear canine companion, Jack.   We wrapped him up in my muslin skirt and his old towel, and placed him carefully in the hole we dug for him in a raised garden bed. We covered him with sweet, soft soil, and wept,  before giving him a makeshift headstone, a remnant of the many earthquakes we had been through together.  That was 6 months ago, on March 6th.  Today Jack is coming up daffodils ( soon to be followed by tulips, plus unavoidable weeds! ), thanks to a friend’s gift of miniature bulbs. We planted them in Jack’s grave a few weeks after his death.

daffodils in raised garden bed

Coming up daffodils

I miss my small friend.  We loved each other for 13 years. I love him still.

My parents loved Jack, too. I like to imagine he is keeping them company wherever they are. And that they are giving Jack treats, as they once did, subversively, at the table;  behaviour utterly discouraged by me; completely encouraged by my mother and father. Jack’s particular favourite was toasted crumpet crusts from my father’s hand, but vegemite toast crusts were almost as good. It was the hand that mattered more than the food, sometimes.

Vegemite crusts, treats
Jack anticipates the drop
Gran, Pop, dog  collude

Puppy by chair leg

A treat or pat always welcome

When the bulbs start to die away, I will scatter wildflower seeds on  Jack’s grave. They will bring joy in their flowering.

Schnauzer on lawn

Remembering Jack in Summer.

ps Jack died at home, on his bean bag, after being particularly unwell for about a week. His heart failed, and he was gone.  I was with him.

pps The ornamental duck was a Christmas gift from my children many years ago. It has led a hard life in the garden!

The dishes in the sink

Dishes in a sink

Dirty dishes sit
Unrepentant in the sink
Always messy, sigh!

This is not a haiku. It’s just a verse. It could be worse!  As could the post-midnight mess in the sink.  But as the dishes and I glare at each other, I find myself moving from complaint to contemplation. Dirty dishes, I decide, are inevitable, a necessary part of life. Much like the inevitable death of my beloved mother who, unlike me, would never have left dishes to sit in the sink for half the night.

My mother, Kathleen Alice,  passed away on 14th December, 2019, in Cairns, Australia. She was in her comfortable recliner chair, holding my sister’s hand, listening to one of her favourite songs, Isa Lei.   She was 97. Until the last few weeks of her life, my mother seemed to derive purpose and joy from  drying (not washing!) dishes. I need to up my game, take a tea towel out of my mother’s book of life.

The First Time Ever ….. or a folkloric tale with a fantasy leitmotif

I know! I know! I told you last month that I was one step closer to  a special occasion involving  a little someone and her new friend. But here I am in September, still not ready, and still not properly dressed in purple, for our get together.  My friends and family will tell you that’s typical of me. These days I take forever to get ready for anything,  because I am easily distracted, as per my previous post where Mrs Cockalarum suddenly waylaid my attention.

And, now, thanks to a couple of queries from my lovely commenters, concerning the whereabouts of Mrs Cockalarum’s other half,  I am skipping jauntily down memory lane in search of Mr Cockalarum, almost entirely forgetful of present and future social engagements.

I can’t be sure where Mr Cockalarum is today, but I have encountered him ( or possibly his relatives) in numerous locations.  But  the first time ever I   heard him I would have been about this size i.e. pint-sized.

Mother and Child, Lautoka 1956. Churchill Park in the background.

The first time ever I remember hearing Mr Cockalarum I would have been about this size and revelling in a fantasy world  (what’s new!); that of Toad of Toad Hall.

Badger

And the first time ever I tried to record those remembrances I was in my late thirties, and living in Cairo. I typed them into our smart, new computer, and later read them as a bedtime story for my two children.

“In the half-dark of early morning I heard a rooster crow.  Dear Daughter, you said you heard a rooster crow in the summer, but I don’t remember hearing him. A rooster crow is not a normal sound for our part of Maadi. It made me wonder if one of our neighbours were fattening poultry for a special dinner.

When I was little I often heard a rooster crow in the early morning. It was a sound which belonged to my waking. In the summer, or the rainy season, a rooster would crow about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. I remember that time as the half-light of early morning. In the colder season, or the dry season, the crowing started at about 6 o’clock, just before the sun rose. That time always comes to my mind as the half-dark of early morning.

The other sounds, which were in my waking, for a few months of the year during the cane crushing  season, were those of the sugar cane trains.  The sugar cane trains clanged and made a ch-ch-ch chuddering sound as they prepared for work each morning. Photo by C R Auckland, August 2008 Loco no 11 entering Lautoka with a long train of approximately 45 loaded wagons.  

I hear the sound of the trains here in Maadi, too, but it is not the gentle, warming-up sound of slow, old trains which I knew as a child. Rather, it is the high speed whistle and whine of a fast, modern train. ( In fact, they are so fast we haven’t seen them, have we? Perhaps the sound we hear floats all the way from the Metro Line next to Road 9, and not from the tracks next to Kimo Market.)

Another sound of my morning, more regular than the trains or the rooster, was the call to prayer from the mosque.

Although we seem to be surrounded by mosques in Maadi, I have yet to hear an early morning call to prayer. I hear all the other calls, but not the first one. In Lautoka, I often heard the first call, and, sometimes, the evening call, but I don’t remember any of the others. Perhaps I was busy at school or swimming at the club, or playing with friends during the day. I liked the first call of the day. The mosque was on the other side of Churchill Park, catty- corner to  our house.

Home, Verona Street, Lautoka

The call floated clearly over our neighborhood. I didn’t know what was being said, but I liked the song of it; the way it wove through and over the early morning air and out to an endless beyond. Later, when I was slightly older, the call changed in tone because it was delivered through loud speakers. The sublime purity of the call was masked as it struggled with the crackles and harshness of the new technology of speakers. The change made me sad for a while.

In Maadi, the mosques have loud speakers, too. Sometimes, I wish I could hear the solitary, unaided call of the muezzin again. I miss its beauty; its resonance.
What do you hear as you wake in the morning? ” Maadi, Cairo, November, 1994.

There was no YouTube in 1994  to give my children an opportunity to hear a call to prayer similar to  the one I knew as a child. Today I found this clip.

This  took me home again to a time of great happiness and love; a time when, by and large, my small world was a friendly, welcoming place, rich in experience, and a delight to play in.

As for the elusive Mr Cockalarum; perhaps you hear him, or have heard him, in your neighborhood.

 

One step forward, one step back

It’s   ‘best foot forward’ and  one step closer to  the special occasion mentioned in my previous blog post , but before  we get there,

One step closer, best foot forward

I want to take one step (plus several hundred more) back to a  dear character who entered my life in 2012.  If you are a long time follower of my blog you will have met her before but I am sure you will agree that renewing acquaintances is often as much fun as making new ones.

So, let me introduce you to ~~~~~~~~

Mrs Cockalarum

who arrived  on  Christmas Day , complete with name.  She is, in her regular domestic life, a decorative paper weight, only, most of the time, she decorates a chest of drawers and no paper comes near her. A dull life

She has a few animals to keep her company, including some of her own kind. However, every now and again, even a paperweight can do with a change of scenery and a new point of view, so I decided to take Mrs Cockalarum on an autumnal excursion.

Starting indoors, we tried out the floor,How's it down there?

then a higher  peachy perch, At the High Table

but her view was obscured so we went outside, where she dusted her feathers with the light scent of alyssum andSweet Alyssum

pecked at the sweetest red berries. Berry Good

After which she looked at the world from a seat made of corn and silken tasselsA sweet corn spot

and took a swing in a hanging basket.Swinging along

Today, the world was full of surprises for me and Mrs Cockalarum, not the least of which was finding this in the tree outside my house!How surprising!

Footnote: The berries are called New Zealand cranberries. They are delicious but are not much like any  cranberries that  I have ever tasted. Their real name is Chilean Guava ( Ugni molinae (Mrytus ugni)). Apparently the berries were a favourite with Queen Victoria. Mrs Cockalarum and I have given our unroyal seal of approval, too.Chilean Guavas

© silkannthreades

Another footnote:  Are you wondering about the word, Cockalarum, like I was?  I am not sure I would like Mr Cockalarum (wherever he is), yet Google tells me that cockalarum heroes were popular in their day. I have seen  Seba Smith’s Major Jack Downing  referred to as a cockalarum hero. Whether or not that is true, he is certainly an interesting character, a  “beloved American hero, whose name was synonymous with Yankee Doodle…”.

 

Return of the prodigal blogger

Yes! the prodigal blogger has returned. Did you notice that I  had been away, flirting with Instagram and loafing about on tropical beaches? Probably not. In any case, no need to rush to greet me with the fatted calf et al.   What I would appreciate, dear readers, if you are willing to indulge me, is some ‘sartorial’  advice, on the ring and  robe side of things. Good Lord, how I need it.

Fashion Failure or Fashion Follower?  Foto failure for sure.

Though, lest I judge my fashion sense too harshly, in some elevated circles  my attire, in this pose, would easily qualify me as a  dedicated follower of fashion.

Yes, well, moving on from odd assortments and mix and unmatch couture….

Very soon, I  will be meeting a little someone’s new friend. It will be a special occasion and I would like to honour it by wearing some purple accessories. ( Purple is such a perfect colour for important occasions. 🙂 ) Please give me your opinions on  which jewellery I should wear for our meeting.

 

As a thank you for your indulgence today, and  your patience with my absence,  I  give you the first, small posy of  spring flowers from my garden.

The first floral offering from my spring garden 2019

If you are curious  to know who the little someone and her new friend are, stay tuned to my blog. In the meantime, here is a  BIG hint.

Meeting Myrtle 2017

 

TTFN.  Hopefully,  I will have a few holiday shots to show you soon, too.

Celebrating Courage, Creativity and Grit.

One of the most satisfying aspects of blogging is accompanying (and hopefully supporting) fellow bloggers as they discover, pursue, and, eventually, achieve their dreams.

As writer, architect, traveller, and dreamer, Virginia Duran, explains in this video clip,  achieving dreams requires  persistence, strength, skill, creativity, and a great team of supporters. To her list I would add courage.

Virginia has courage as well as  all it takes to be an achiever of dreams.   I was thrilled to see her latest post announcing the publication of  her London  Architectour Guide , which has been  described as an “exquisite travel book for anyone passionate about architecture”.

Other blogging friends with oodles of courage and talent, namely Cynthia Reyes and Marisa Alvarsson, have delighted me and many others recently with their latest achievements.

Much admired and loved blogger, Cynthia, and her  lovely daughter, Lauren Reyes-Grange, have just  written and published the second book in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series. As Cynthia recalls in this guest post  bringing Myrtle’s Game to us, the readers, was no easy task,  and getting it off the harvest table into our hands became a full-on family affair.  They had to adopt Myrtle-like persistence and determination to achieve their dreams. In ‘Myrtle’s Game’, ” Myrtle and her friends are turned away when they try to join in a game with others. The friends walk away, feeling hurt, but that’s just the start of the story.” With persistence, patience, and practice, Myrtle and her friends prove that even a  slow turtle can play the game as well as anyone else. And, more than that, Myrtle  shows us that the best team is the one which is inclusive and allows you to believe in yourself.  

Marisa, who has been a dear blogging friend almost from the beginning of my blogging days in 2012, began her social media life unwilling, like so many of us, to even mention her real name.  We knew her only  as Miss Marzipan, mother to a toddler, and confined to bed rest with a difficult pregnancy.   Today, thanks to Marisa’s creativity and courage, and  the support of her loving family, she has given herself permission to  embrace the dream of being the author of a fabulous cook book ‘Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats“. She is also a wonderful, kind (almost magical 🙂 ) presence on Instagram, with 146K followers.

Another achiever and  blogger, whom I have come to know in recent months is A Voice from Iran, Laleh Chini.  Like Cynthia she lives in Canada, and, like Cynthia, Laleh and  her daughter  Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi worked together as co-authors to produce ‘ Climbing over Grit’. “The story follows the journey of Najma as she is forced into a marriage at the age of eleven and faces the challenges of motherhood with an abusive husband, all while the eight-year war with Iraq is taking place.”  The story  is a tribute to Laleh’s mother.  And a tribute to Laleh’s determination to write stories important to her and her family, and which, she believes,  are important for the rest of the world to know.

Now, if, like me, you have places to go and things to do, and if, unlike me, you have your own dreams to pursue, you may not have time to buy or read the books I mention here, but I would urge you to take a closer look at, at least, one of these strong, creative women and their achievements.

I celebrate them all.  And I thank them  for letting me  be a small part  of their dream journeys.

Special note: the photos in this post are not mine. They belong to the authors and illustrators of the books featured.

ps  I may not be on WordPress very much for a few months, but I will do my best to check your posts whenever I can.