Tag Archives: azaleas

Heavenly Again

We visited the University of Canterbury Staff Club and University Gardens this afternoon. The Staff Club, Ilam Homestead, was damaged in our recent earthquakes but, happily,  it is now  repaired and in use again. We have lost so many  heritage buildings in our city that it is heavenly to see this one, once more complete and seemingly unchanged, in its beautiful garden setting.

Fine and upstanding

Fine and upstanding

The gardens are at their finest in late October, when the rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom. But, today, we were scouting for daffodils…and found a few…

and also wanting to see the Staff Club, free of the containers and scaffolding that have supported it during months of repairs.

Revived and unencumbered

Revived and unencumbered

And, besides, it was our 31st wedding anniversary and our 35th year of friendship, and, being in these lovely University surroundings, was a reminder of another special and cherished time and place; Oxford University.

That is where we met. When we had free time we strolled in the beautiful University Parks which were walking distance from our base at Queen Elizabeth House. http://www.parks.ox.ac.uk/gallery/index.htm

The University Parks are young by Oxford standards. Interestingly, their development began at much the same time as that of Ilam Homestead, that is, in the early 1850s.  The University of Canterbury bought Ilam Homestead in 1950 after it had been owned for many years by Edgar Stead. It was Edgar Stead who established the beautiful, surrounding gardens and filled them with his world famous rhododendron and  azalea collection.

World famous rhododendrons and azaleas

World famous rhododendrons and azaleas

Stead was also a renowned ornithologist  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/4s41/stead-edgar-fraser  When the University of Canterbury bought the Homestead, it agreed to maintain the Gardens in perpetuity, and its commitment to that agreement means joy and delight for thousands of visitors and passing students each year. And, of course, it is a delight to birds, too, Today, I am sure I heard and saw several of our large, native wood pigeons (kereru). I was hoping to also see ducklings, but I was disappointed in that regard.

Now, as every connoisseur of Oxford knows, a good University must have intrigue and mystery as well as perfect scenery and splendid buildings. Remember Lewis here and Inspector Morse, here ? Our small University, and our University Staff Club (Ilam Homestead) do not disappoint.

For Ilam Homestead was, in one of its lifetimes, home to the Rector of the University, or Canterbury College as it was once known. In 1954 the Rector was Dr Hulme, and his daughter was young Juliet.  At the age of 15,  Juliet was best friends with young Pauline , and, together, they conspired and carried out the murder of Pauline’s mother at a place in Christchurch called Victoria Park. Their reasons were…complicated, perhaps, incomprehensible ; their trial, sensational or should that be scandalous?  Whatever, it was or wasn’t, the infamous Parker-Hulme case became a film, in 1994, called ‘Heavenly Creatures’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heavenly_Creatures much of which was filmed at the Homestead and in the gardens. And, from that film and that place and  those times, 1954 and 1994,  we now have some  rich, new traditions and stories; for those events became building blocks and landmarks for Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Kate Winslet and Melanie  Lynskey and Anne Perry;  most particularly Anne Perry, Anne Perry the writer

And, thus are our lives (and marriages/partnerships), like buildings and fine gardens,  constructed, and deconstructed and restructured, and, occasionally, in the process, that which is heavenly appears and sits with us for a time.

A few more photos:

That which is constructed and restructured and gives us foundations and rooms and cornerstones and secret spaces for our memories;

That which is heavenly, if but briefly.

For more history http://www.staffclub.canterbury.ac.nz/history.shtml

http://www.ilamhomestead.co.nz/heavenly-creatures.htm

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