Tag Archives: ducks

“Deep Peace of the Quiet Earth….”

I have a lot on my plate; most of it is unpalatable and indigestible which means I have very little energy to write my blog posts. This is unfortunate because a couple of weeks ago, in a moment of hubris ( hubris in the sense of excessive self-confidence), I agreed to accept  Sheri de Grom’s nomination for the Travel Blog series.  And this means that, today, I should be  answering 4 questions about my writing process and passing on nominations to 3 other bloggers, as well as linking back to Sheri.

Now the latter instruction requires minimal effort and can be easily done. Many of my followers/readers will already know Sheri who writes from the literary and legislative trenches with passion and compassion for so many issues and so many people. And you will also know that her plate is almost always more than full. But, no matter how heavy, or over flowing, her dish is, Sheri always finds time to encourage and support other bloggers. Thank you Sheri .  I am also wishing you a good, steady (no speedy, please!) recovery from your latest setback aka as an unexpected tumble on to a concrete floor.

Lacking Sheri’s fortitude, ( but taking on board some of her relaxed attitude to blogging ‘rules’) , I am going to leave my travel blog commitment at this point. When I regain some verve, I will return to follow-up on my participation.

In the meantime, here is a photo taken on Saturday, when we took time-out to enjoy the tranquility of the Groynes.  We were in an area where visitors are asked to be quiet, so there is a wonderful aura of deep peace which blankets all who enter that space.

The Quiet Life

The Quiet Life


Deep Peace…..of the quiet earth to you.

© silkannthreades


The Tendrils of the Sweet Pea

The other day, I wrote a post which featured some clip art from Dover Publications https://silkannthreades.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/from-oostburg-to-christchurch-we-are-connected/.  This beautiful painting of sweet peas was also included in my free clip art sampler. The painting is by the Belgian Painter and Botanist, Pierre-Joseph Redouté, (1759-1840) who was nick named the “Raphael of flowers”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Joseph_Redout%C3%A9

Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Sweet Peas by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

In floriography, or the language of flowers, the sweet pea represents ‘delicate pleasures’.  I am not sure what constitutes ‘delicate pleasures’, especially in Victorian terms when floriography was at its peak, but, as this interpretation comes from Kate Greenaway’s Language of Flowers, I shall assume it has an innocent and sweet meaning. Like a light kiss a mother might bestow on her child’s cheek, or a gentle, hand in hand, stroll with a loved one.

For me, the sweet peas are the sweetest of flowers. Some years I grow them in my garden.

Sweet Peas in my Garden

Sweet Peas in my Garden

They remind me of my grandfather, for the sweet pea was his favourite flower.

They remind me of my wedding day, when all I could find  for a bouquet, in the arid setting of Botswana, was a handful of sweet peas; surprisingly, and almost miraculously, brought forth, rich in colour and scent, from a monochrome, dry earth. On that day, they were, indeed, a delicate pleasure, and a precious connection to loved ones far away.

Whilst pleasing my eye with the delicate, sweet pea painting, I wondered if I could find a poem to accompany it. And, of course, I could, with some help from Mr Google.  Alfred Noyes wrote A Child’s Vision, which begins

“Under the sweet-peas I stood

And drew deep breaths, they smelt so good….”

The poem is a delightful view of sweet peas from a child’s perspective. It  takes me back to my own childhood  fascination with  sweet peas (and snapdragons, too 🙂

Alfred Noyes  was an English poet.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Noyes   Two of his better known poems are “The Highwayman” and “Daddy Fell into the Pond”. http://www.poemhunter.com/poem/daddy-fell-into-the-pond/ He was  born in 1880, on 16th September. Yes, that’s right, 16th September. Today is his birthday, or would be, if he were still alive.

Happy Birthday Alfred

Happy Birthday Alfred

Isn’t that a pleasurable and fortuitous discovery :)?  Alfred Noyes lived for some of his life, in Ventnor, Isle of Wight, and died there in 1958. His final resting place was Freshwater, Isle of Wight. And that little piece of information, that Alfred Noyes’s  home was on the Isle of Wight, afforded me a gentle, crinkle-cornered smile. Because, for some weeks, I have been on a voyage of discovery into my ancestry.  I  have been reaching out through the  past and  learning, little by little,  about my great, great, great grandparents  and their life on the Isle of Wight. It’s a fascinating journey, and, helping me to understand my ancestral  home in its modern context, is my lovely, full of spirit,  blogger friend, Bethan, at http://thehouseofbethan.com/.  We have  fun planning my imaginary trip “home”, and, now, thanks to my love of sweet peas, I can add Alfred Noyes’s home, Lisle Combe, to my list of places to visit.  And, since I will be near Ventnor, I will also consider taking  a peek at Keith Brewster’s prize-winning sweet peas,  http://www.iwcp.co.uk/news/gardening/sign-of-sweet-success-50269.aspx

All fun and fantasy aside, it has been a sweetly, delicate pleasure, today, to have one, sweet pea painting lead me, by its virtual tendrils, from my kitchen bench, in Christchurch, to the Isle of Wight;  in which place I know there is a spot, a portion of soil,  that is uniquely mine ; a piece of ground that knows my heart, and my footprint, because of those who have gone before me.

Now, if only I had been a Victorian, with an abundant supply of sweet peas, I could have reduced all these  words in to a small posy . How much easier and sweeter for all of you, my kind, patient readers 🙂

© silkannthreades

Spring things

My dwarf nectarine tree is loving the arrival of spring. It is about five years old and usually produces good fruit. However, this is the first year it has been so smothered in blossom. It looks so beautiful.  It even attracted the attention of a duck; briefly 🙂

Bountiful Blossom

Bountiful Blossom

With so much blossom this year, I decided I could bring some inside.  Such a sweet fragrant vision.

Sweet fragrant nectarine

Sweet fragrant nectarine

© silkannthreades

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


© silkannthreades

I’m not the only bird

Recently, a few people have asked me if I collect anything, and I have answered, ” Not really.”  Which is true. I don’t have collections in a proper, formal sense, as, say, a stamp collector would. However, after my chocolate exorcism en plein air, Spring Equilibrium I came home with a mind full of fresh air, and  fresh thoughts, and realised that I am not the only “bird” in my home. I live with a flock of them. For, unwittingly, I have been collecting birds for years; birds in all forms, except live. In fact, if my birds were living ones, I would be obliged to apply for a licence to operate an aviary.  That’s how many I own.

Take a peek at some of many feathered friends.

Birds of a Feather

Birds of a Feather

I don’t know when I started collecting birds but one of my first bird purchases was a book, Birds of Fiji in Colour by W.J. Belcher. It was published in 1972, but the bird studies were painted between 1924 and 1935.( And, yes, our amazing  friends at Amazon still have the book http://www.amazon.com/Birds-Fiji-Colour-W-J-Belcher/dp/B000RH91NS)

Birds by Belcher

Birds by Belcher

William Belcher was born in England in 1883. He came to New Zealand at the age of three and spent the earlier part of his life here before moving to Fiji. He was mostly a self-taught artist  and he painted orchids as well as birds. And, he was not only a painter but a hotel licensee, money-lender, shooting gallery owner and a mechanic, as well. He died, and was buried, in Suva, Fiji in 1949. His collected works are owned by the Fiji Museum.

Birds of Fiji features 25 of Belcher’s paintings. I have selected two for my collage because they represent  very precious memories I have from  my amateurish, youthful bird watching. The illustrations are of the White Collared Kingfisher, Halcyon chloris, and the Blue Reef Heron , Demigretta sacra, or in Fijian, Belo. The White Collared Kingfisher was painted in 1931.There is no date for the Reef Heron.

Kingfisher and Heron

Kingfisher and Heron

I will finish with an observation attributed to William Belcher which is recorded in the Introduction to  Birds of Fiji ” He believed that most people saw only what they wanted to avoid bumping into, whereas only the odd person discovered form and shape.”  Rather apt considering how long it has taken me to realise that I collect birds 🙂 and not just ‘things’ to dust.

My special Penguin

My special Penguin

© silkannthreades

Spring equilibrium

So, what does one do on the day after a night of reckless over indulgence on cake and cookies and chocolate,  in my night kitchen?

Why , one ventures outdoors, of course, because Mother (Nature, that is) knows best how to return equilibrium to body and soul. So, that is what we did on this beautiful spring day. We sat by the water side, at Northwood, and watched the world and its wonders. We were in good company.

There were ducks, both on and off the water.

Come on in; the water's cool.

Come on in; the water’s cool.

And there was a family of ducks, with Mother and Father Duck being kept very busy with the activity of their one, little, early bird duckling.

Up on the rise, a pair of ducks was resting and, perhaps, contemplating, as they watched the dizzy whizzing of the ducks below, if they were ready for parenthood.

Contemplating duckling antics

Contemplating duckling antics

By the water’s edge, we saw two, sweetly serene seagulls, blissfully unaware of the raucous behaviour coming from the other seagulls perched on nearby rooftops.

And, then ,there was the lone Pukeko who came close enough to greet us but  decided that searching for food was a much more profitable way to spend the day. And, would we mind our own business, please!

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Lastly, before leaving for home, we communed with  pretty things, particularly pretty, spring things.

© silkannthreades

Designed to make me smile

Our city is in the process of a major rebuilding programme.  Travelling around the city requires great patience and perseverance  because of the rebuild.

At the weekend, we went to look for a new shopping development and, although we found the complex, in the process of the search, we also became hopelessly entangled in detours and blocked roads and had to venture into areas that we hadn’t visited in a very long time.

That is why we happened upon this delightful spot on the Heathcote River, on its way to the sea. (This is the view down river.)Christchurch Quay

In the very beginning, when Christchurch, the city, was more a plan on a piece of paper than a reality, this spot was known as Christchurch Quay or Radley Wharf. In the beginning

The new settlers from England, after months in cramped quarters at sea, arrived in the port of Lyttelton. The next part of the journey involved climbing  over the Port Hills via the Bridle Path, crossing the Heathcote River, at a place called Ferrymead, and proceeding to town along a muddy pot holed road. Their belongings, the ones they couldn’t carry, came the long way round, by sea from Lyttelton to Sumner and thence to Christchurch Quay.  From here their goods were taken by horse ,or dray, to Christchurch. Travelling to, and through, the city was a difficult and arduous process.

My great great grandparents, James and Amelia,  arrived in Lyttelton on 16 August 1855 aboard the Caroline Agnes.  They came with their three small children; Caroline, George and Fanny.  My great-grandmother, Fanny, was a year old. It is possible that where I stood, to take my photos of the old Christchurch Quay, was the very place where my forbears once stood. Perhaps it was here they paused, took a deep, weary and determined breath, and negotiated their way to a new and different life.  Not in Christchurch, as it turned out, because by 1856 the family was settled further north in the small settlement of Kaiapoi.

This is the view, up river, following the towpath. The Port Hills can be seen in the distance.

The towpath to the city

As I reflected on days past, Heathcote River Reflectionsthe path we are on today seemed not so hard; our ancestors trod it once before.  We can take courage from their successes and failures.  They travel with us as our companion  guides and let us know that we can tackle  present and future roads. That’s enough to make me smile.

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 (http://valeriedavies.com/2012/05/ ), 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.( http://www.christchurch.org.nz/Women/ ) 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 Christchurchhttp://christchurchcitylibraries.com/Society/People/S/Sheppard-Kate/ ) 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 Survivehttp://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-animals/birds/wetland-birds/blue-duck-whio/facts/about-whio/

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

© silkannthreades

Which way does the path take us?

Remember the best bus stop in Christchurch that I mentioned in my previous post. Here it is again from a different view point.Still no bus?

I am looking at it from across the road in Erica Reserve. The Reserve is a continuation of the restored natural habitat we visited yesterday. It includes a playground and picnic tables and room to run and jump and squeal, none of which we did because it was such a languid afternoon.

Instead we watched ducks being ducky and listened to water gliding by with a little ripple and chortle here and there. Ducks on Water

And we let the warm breeze float over and around us and rustle off  over the stream and through the trees.The rustles of the breezeWe sat on the park bench and wondered if we could hear the grass grow. I can't hear you. But we couldn’t. We listened so very closely and carefully  yet  our ears were too dull to catch a single sound.

So we sat in silence on the park bench and absorbed the sunshine in the gentle company of another seeker of sun.Let the sunshine in

At the end, or may be it is the beginning, of the Erica Reserve pathway there is a bridge Bridge to start, end or journey on through across the stream and some wetland ponds. To the right of the water pools is a retirement home, or village as the owners like to call such places. It looked very tranquil in its restored wetland setting.  Thinking of all the work and repairs awaiting at home, I was almost tempted to knock on the door and ask “May I come in?”Where to from here?But, then, I remembered the elderly gentlemen we talked to, yesterday, on the pathway across the road on the other side of the bus shelter. He lived in another retirement village close by.  He said “It’s a fine place. It’s really the best place for me but, you know, it’s not like home.”

So we stretched and eased ourselves slowly off the park bench and went home for a fine supper of chicken, followed by apple sponge pudding.

© silkannthreades

Waiting for you

PurpleStill on the theme of Waiting, this post is dedicated to my New Zealand born parents who, once upon a time, spent many happy hours at Mona Vale. They would have enjoyed being with us yesterday afternoon, were it not for the fact that they now live thousands of miles away in Queensland. Even though they live in Australia, they consider themselves more” Kiwi” than ever because, like New Zealand’s national bird, the Kiwi, they no longer fly.

Let’s start our stroll at the herbaceous border, near the car park.The Blues

More BlueStill blueWeird and white

Next we cross the bridge and look towards the railway line View to the railway and, then turn the other way, to follow the flow of the river.View to the walk bridge no longer walkable

Here is a seat waiting for youA seat for you

with blue flowers  like little satellite dishes, tuned towards you and the sun.Blue to you

And, if you get too hot, you can move to Hilda’s seat and test drive the perspective of a hundred year old lady.Another seat for you A bird in hand

As soon as you are seated, the birds will seek your company and your ducks will come looking for bread.Ducks will come to callThey are as eager as ever to be fed. There were a few white ducks today. I wonder if they are ever confused by their reflections. Their reflections confused me.Which side is up?

That’s all for now except for a brief stop to smell the roses. They are not at their best but the onesWish you were blue

that remain are harvesting the sunshine.

© silkannthreades