Tag Archives: Christchurch

O mein Papa, Happy Birthday

“Deep in my heart I miss him so today”  from the sentimental song ” O mein Papa” seems the perfect line to  hum on this 8th day of May; this day which would have been my father’s 98th birthday.

On May 8th someone in the family would have made him his favourite roast chicken dinner, just as he did for us  on so many special occasions. And we would have drunk to his health with cider and champagne.  My siblings and I may still do the latter, via Skype, but the family meal will have to wait until we gather again.

Dad preparing stuffing for a roast chicken dinner; in my kitchen about a decade ago. The cherries were for snacking not stuffing!

Although, today, my thoughts are  mainly focused on my father,  I am also thinking of other  important events  associated with 8 May, such as VE Day  and World Red Cross Red Crescent Day.

For my father’s birthday in 2014  I wrote about the Red Cross and its significance in our lives. Read on if you would like to know more of that story.

The Importance of May 8th

“Today, 8 May, is the birthday of  Henry Dunant , founder of the Red Cross and joint  recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

Today, also, marks World Red Cross Red Crescent Day, which since 1948 has been celebrated internationally on Henry Dunant’s birthday.

Another celebration that takes place every year on 8 May is my father’s birthday. 🙂

Although the idea for the Red Cross arose  in 1859 and was formalised in 1863, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies was only established in 1919, in the aftermath of World War 1.  So the IFRC  was almost as brand new as my father when he arrived into the world in 1920.

In the  Christchurch Press, for the day of my father’s birth, there is an item which mentions the Red Cross Society in the US, providing hostess houses for the 3709 war brides of the American Expeditionary Force. The newspaper also has articles about ongoing peace and treaty negotiations and on war graves decisions, as well as the influenza outbreaks which were, once again, causing concern in New Zealand.  In 1920 the world may have been nominally at peace but the First World War was still very much a presence in everyday lives.  Yet there would, undoubtedly, have been an expectation that babies born after ‘the war to end all wars’ would live their lives in peace.

I am sure, my grandmother, holding her new-born baby, that day in May, did not  imagine that a couple of decades hence her boy would be in uniform.

 

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb

In uniform; 1940s; my dad, closest to the kerb (Street Photography)

Nor would she imagine that, by the 1980s, her son would be working, in his post retirement years, for the Fiji Red Cross.

 

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

A favourite photo of my father at his Red Cross desk.

That’s the trouble with kids; you never know where they’ll end up or how they’ll turn out, but I think my grandmother would say she raised a good lad. 😉

Happy Birthday Dad. Happy Birthday Red Cross.

© silkannthreades "

Postscript

If you link to the original post you will find comments from two bloggers who have since passed away. I miss them, too: Christine

and Catherine from Seeking Susan.

And for those of you who are interested in the military connections in this post, you may like to visit our wonderful  New Zealand Online War Memorial  Cenotaph where I have been putting together my father’s online memorial.  My father served both in New Zealand and the Solomons.   He was with radar Unit 53, Cape Astrolabe, on Malaita, one of the most isolated RNZAF detachments in the Pacific.

 

Have I read you dry? Join me in a toast to mein Papa. Cheers!

Advertisements

The Colour of Spring

In my mind’s eye the colour of spring is tender:  pink and white and violet, and dimpled daffodil yellow; diaphanous blue; soft, lush green; all steeped in  warm, lemon honey sunshine.  But that is not often the reality of spring,  particularly  in Christchurch where, in September, the average sunshine hours per day number 5.5.

No, the colour of spring is more nuanced than my mind’s eye would have it. It is frequently overcast with grey,

Spring Grey

Spring Grey

and dim drizzle,  (skip to the end of the video if you  are interested in the cherry blossom)

and shaded skies.

Spring under shaded sky

Spring under shaded sky

But for all that  my spring is not mental picture-perfect, I still love it. And I will take it any way it comes.

I love spring however it is served.

I love spring however it is served;  but I don’t eat daffodils ~ they’re poisonous ~ just saying ;).

 

12.51 ~Holding On

12.51 pm ~

that dreadful moment, 4 years ago, today, that ripped apart what was left of our quaint, quiet world.

I am remembering it.

My heart doesn’t want to anymore, but my brain and my body  insist.  12.51, and all the other moments, beginning Sept 4, 2010, are imprinted on my being ~ indelibly. They have leached to my very core. Part of who I am and what I will be, forever.

Four years on and I still stiffen at any unexpected movement in the house, even if it’s only the wind, or a shake caused by a truck rumbling  on the road.   I startle easily. And, then, there are those moments that come, out of the blue, and screech through my head for an intense few seconds, saying, ” Is it going to happen again, NOW?  Is it, is it? What will I do? What will I do? Will I make it? How will I hold on? Can I hold on? ”  I am standing again in the bathroom doorway, holding on to frame and fear. Indescribable fear.

Then it’s over. I survive, and move on. Slowly. On shaky legs.

I set the table, in some trepidation, with my great-grandmother’s china. (Please no shakes, please no shakes.) I remind myself it has survived more than a 100 years. It is chipped, cracked and crazed, but its beauty and value remains.

A friend brings apples.

What would my Bramley ancestors make of these apples http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravenstein in her serving dish?

What would my Bramley ancestor make of these  apples in her serving dish?

 

She has gathered them from an abandoned, earthquake-damaged property in her neighborhood. She calls them gravestone apples. I like that. They are, in a way. The property on which they grow is like a forlorn graveyard.

I eat the apples. I bake them. They are given new life, new form.

Crostatahttp://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/apple-crostata-recipe.html meets Chintz, Felicity, Vermont and Williamsburg

Crostata meets Chintz, Felicity, Vermont and Williamsburg at my table.

 

I bake bread, to share.

Bread to share

Bread to share

I want to feast on life, not fear.

Join me. Take a slice,

Take a slice

Take a slice

a spoon, a fork, “dig in”.

For keeps from Kerry. :) featuring Community Plate (Coronation) from my mother's cutlery set.http://www.rubylane.com/item/362270-1936CO-set-modgrille/Oneida-Community-Plate-CORONATION-Art-Deco

For keeps from Kerry. :), featuring Community Plate (Coronation) from my mother’s cutlery set. The tiny teaspoons belonged to my paternal great-grandmother Alice. http://www.rubylane.com/item/362270-1936CO-set-modgrille/Oneida-Community-Plate-CORONATION-Art-Deco

Something to ponder as you digest :

The china used in this post is a metaphor for continuity. The  Flow Blue  semi porcelain plates which belonged to my maternal great-grandmother were produced about 1912. The pattern is Vermont. They were made in England by Burgess and Leigh. The small blue plates, which I purchased just prior to the earthquakes, are also Burgess and Leigh. They are made in the same way and in the same factory as the Vermont china was all those years ago. One pattern is Felicity, the other is Chintz. Felicity is a small, delicate flower pattern reminiscent of elder flowers in a gentle pale blue originating from the 1930s. Burgess Chintz is a delicate blue chintz  pattern dating from the early 1900s, derived from the wild geranium. How any of this china survived the shaking, I will never know.

 

© silkannthreades

Speechless, almost

This morning there were two emails in my Inbox which left me speechless, (almost).  The first one left me speechless with sorrow at the darkness in people’s lives;  the second left me speechless with joy (and  tears). It reaffirmed my faith in the goodness that resides in our hearts. It reminded me that we do not need to be overcome by evil;  there is goodness  aplenty in this world, and there is more than enough for all of us, if we dare to share it around.

So, come share some of the goodness of this day, with me.

First the email, bringing good news from dear Lucy at Visual Fling

I have been working on another picture, just for you. This painting, “Memories of Before her Time”, is a commemorative based on your posts about the earthquake on September 4th.
 
I meant for this painting to recall your ‘white stones’ clematis pictures, and the white flowers in your hair, but also the little girl symbolizes new life after the loss and teaching the young to honor the past.
I hope you like it.
Blessings,
Lucy

 

The painting; the gift of healing goodness.

Little one with Clematis; a gift of goodness from Lucy at Visual Fling http://visualfling.com/2014/09/04/memories-from-before-her-time/#comments

Little one with Clematis; a gift of goodness from Lucy at Visual Fling http://visualfling.com/2014/09/04/memories-from-before-her-time/#comments

 The Clematis, the powerful goodness of a flower that inspired us.

Clematis inspiration

Clematis inspiration

I am blessed.

Thank you, Lucy, from the bottom of the heart of one who is now,

Power of the flower

Power of the flower

and will always be that little girl with a flower in her hair, and a belief that goodness is nine-tenths of the world.

Looking forward; Gallivanta circa 1958-59

Looking forward; Gallivanta circa 1958-59

The copyright of the painting belongs to LucyJartz.  Please  help me thank Lucy for her  kindness and generosity by visiting her blog  Visual Fling for a clearer view of the commemorative painting.

© silkannthreades

Special for Steve

Steve Schwartzman showed us a bluebell gentian bud, in north-east Austin, Texas, which prompted me to check out our bluebells in Little Hagley Park, today, September 9th. Our bluebells, hyacinthoides non-scripta, or English bluebells, are completely different from Steve’s, but it is fun to compare not only the bluebells but the quality of the photos. Steve’s photos  are, of course, the ones that are infinitely superior to mine. 🙂  But I try, and I did get down on my knees to take some of these photos, so I guess I can say I am attempting to follow in Steve’s kneesteps.

. Across the road in Little Hagley, carpets of bluebells ( Hyacinthoides non-scripta ) bloom where Māori traders camped in the early days of the settlemehttp://resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/CityLeisure/parkswalkways/christchurchbotanicgardens/BotanicGardensWalkingGuide.pdf

‘Across the road in Little Hagley, carpets of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) bloom
where Māori traders camped in the early days of the settlement.’ http://resources.ccc.govt.nz/files/CityLeisure/parkswalkways/christchurchbotanicgardens/BotanicGardensWalkingGuide.pdf

 

© silkannthreades

O bright day, marked with a still whiter stone!*

My daughter, who rivals Wikipedia in the breadth of her encyclopedic knowledge of random facts, tells me that ye olde Romans would mark fortunate days on a calendar with a white stone.  I like that.

Today, 4th September, is the anniversary of a fortunate day in my life. I have no white stones. I am not Roman ( in case you are wondering 😉 ). But I do have some lovely white markers to place on this day.

This is what is going on my calendar:

a marker to represent my land;

Up the Gorge

Up the Gorge

a marker for my neighbourhood;

In my street

In my street: a clematis paniculata; possibly a hybrid.

 

a marker to celebrate my garden;

Michelia in my garden

Michelia in my garden

and a marker to honour my home.

My home; the centre of my life.

My home; the centre of my life.

Can you guess why this date is a white-stone one for me? If not, tune in to my next post. 🙂

Whilst I am remembering a fortunate day, I must also pause and remember another  4th September, four years ago. It dawned an impossibly beautiful, blue-sky, spring day, but but it was black, black, black, and the Romans would, quite rightly, have suggested a black stone for the calendar.

Pebbles:

A big thank you to my brother for the first photo taken in the Rakaia Gorge.

An equally big thank you to my daughter for her translation of Catullus*

 

© silkannthreades

The land that claims us

I’ve been gallivanting; travelling across the Plains, from north to south and back again. I went to Timaru, a port city about 162km from Christchurch. I haven’t been that way in more than 3 years. It’s not very far, in terms of time or distance, but the earthquakes and their aftermath had somehow imprisoned me within the confines of my own city.

Last Thursday I broke free, and, in my trusty little Toyota Echo, I traced the old, familiar route across the wide open spaces; the fields to left and right, the snow topped mountains ever westward, the endless blue of sky above; the rivers big and little and, all along the wayside, the litany of names, the signs of our settlement, our marks upon the land….Templeton, Rolleston, Burnham, Northwood, Bankside, Rakaia, Chertsey, Ashburton, Tinwald, Hinds, Rangitata, Orari, Temuka and so many more…until I met the rolling hills that end the Plains, and the city that sits upon their folds; my destination,  Timaru.

View from Timaru

View from Timaru

Timaru is one of my homes away from home,

Home away from Home

Home away from Home; a place of shelter

mainly because my uncle and his family have lived there for  many years and are always ready to offer generous hospitality to me and my loved ones. Recently I  discovered another reason to feel bonded to Timaru. It was the initial place of residence for the Scottish side of my family when they came to New Zealand in the mid 1870s. It was also the site of our first birthing in New Zealand; from the paternal side  of the family tree, that is. A momentous occasion, perhaps, that first birthing, or, more realistically, just another fact of life for a busy settler-wife to contend with.  Whatever the case, young James arrived in the land of his parents’ choice, on 26 June 1877, followed, not long after, by his twin brother, Joseph.

Years later, a cemetery entry, which is probably that of my great-uncle, records James as a native of Scotland, despite being born and having spent most of his  life in New Zealand.

And, therein, lies the rub; which land claims us? The one we are born to, the one we live in, the one we die in, the one we feel is home, that we feel in our heart, the one we left behind, the one we long for, the one we choose, or don’t choose, the one that loves and protects us, or the one that legally bind us? Or the one that refuses to let us go?

My son, through circumstances entirely outside his control, was born in the US. His birthplace was happenstance; his first landfall, like that of his great great uncle, was an accident of birth. For the greater part of his life he has lived in New Zealand; considers himself a New Zealander and holds, and chooses to hold, New Zealand citizenship. Yet, like a dog unwilling to relinquish its bone, America, the land of his birth, holds on to him, and millions of others like him, whose only wish is to live freely, quietly and privately in the country of their own choice. America  does this via the appalling effrontery of  FATCA, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act which compels governments worldwide to hand over, to the IRS, the personal financial information of anyone (or institution) with  Born in America  next to their name. Supposedly this measure is aimed at  preventing losses to the US economy  through tax evasion.  Perhaps it will,  but does catching the tax cheats really require the Government of America to force minion foreign Governments  to trawl the electronic trail of the US diaspora for wicked tax evaders and, in the  dragnet-process,  mangle  the innocents abroad and the accidental Americans?

My ancestors  traversed thousands of miles of unruly ocean to reach New Zealand. They wanted to escape the restrictions of old societies and economies. They came looking for newer, better ways to live. Most people who settled in the US travelled long, arduous routes to get there, too.  They wanted to be free of old ways, old tyrannies, old politics.  When I look at power-mongering acts like FATCA, I wonder if any of us have travelled very far at all.

Which land claims you?

Which land claims you?

© silkannthreades