Tag Archives: heritage

Family matters

I have been busy, offline:

learning about a network of family in New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland that was previously unknown to me; reveling in the new-found solidarity of knowing where I come from; knowing where I stand in the world.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

David Millar, my great, great-uncle, born in Scotland, settled in Mangawhai.

I have been busy, offline:

celebrating the birthday of one our longest lived family members, my father; he turned 95 in early May.

I have been busy, in real life:

helping my sister put together a creative activity programme for our 92-year-old mother; it is already producing wonderful results,

Painted Lady inspired by Pauline King's art, painted by Mother

Painted  Collage Lady, inspired by Pauline King’s art,  by Mother

including an increase in my own desire to explore painting,

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

Playing with Paint by Gallivanta, inspired by Pauline King

and to play.

In moments of down time, I have played with Facebook and WordPress,  and the camera on my mobile phone.  Using the WordPress app was interesting, but not particularly satisfying. I am happy to be back on my laptop, where reading, commenting, and writing are all so much easier. I am happy to have access to my usual camera again.

These recent days, offline, have been enriching. But were mostly made so because of  the wonderful inspiration I gain from my WordPress family. In particular I would like to thank Ellen Grace Olinger for encouraging my interest in colouring and colouring pages, and Pauline King,  The Contented Crafter , for her artistic support and guidance.

Family matters, in real life, in digital life, in history, and in the here and now. Bless you all.

ps: Having written this post, I went to read the newspaper and found this in my horoscope ~”Family matters are favoured today.”  Indeed! For once the horoscope and I are in agreement. 🙂

© silkannthreades

 

Good citizens, past, present, and future.

For Halloween I treated myself to a simple beaker of flowers.

Eye candy for humans, real candy for bees:  borage and phacelia

Borage and phacelia, good citizens of the garden, giving treats to all.

But I also received another, unexpected, sweet treat for Halloween; a lesson in good citizenship.

Friday morning a stranger knocked on my door; a smiling, cheerful, young woman. She told me that she lived down the lane opposite me. She said she wanted to take her two children  trick or treating. Would it be okay  if she brought them to my door around 5pm? ( Bear in mind that Halloween is not widely celebrated in New Zealand).  She said she was consulting a half-dozen neighbours and that would be more than enough households for her children to visit, and to give them a taste of Halloween fun.  They are only little, she said, just 4 and 6, and they are very excited about their Halloween costumes. Of course I said, yes, that would be fine, but I would have to go and buy some sweets because I had nothing suitable in the house.  “Oh, please don’t worry about that,” the young mother replied, ” I have prepared sweets for you to give them if you would like to join in.” Whereupon she produced a small ziplock packet of mixed sweeties/candy.

At 5pm exactly, Mum and the littlies came down my driveway, full of chatter and high pitched glee. They knocked on the door and squealed delightedly when I opened it ( I guess I have authentic witchy-white hair!) . “Trick or treat, ” they said in giggly unison. Their mother introduced them to me. Pleasantries exchanged, I produced the sweet assortment, and their little eyes grew round and big with amazement.  Hands dipped in to the bag until it was emptied. Then, with a polite thank you or two, the pink-slippered, silver-hatted witch and her Dracula-draped brother skipped off to another happy reception at my neighbour’s.

It was a lovely moment. Possibly one of the best Halloweens I have had; a thoughtful mother, teaching her children that their community  is a good place, and that they can be  part of the good citizenry that makes it so.

I hope she will, one day, also introduce them to what comes after Halloween; All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Days (also not widely celebrated in New Zealand, as far as I know).

Tonight and tomorrow I will light candles and remember  the good citizens of my small world who have died during the past year. Some were old and ready to leave us,  whilst others seemed far too young. In particular I want to remember two of our blogging community,  Catherine Crout-Habel  of Seeking Susan and Christine of  Dadirridreaming .  Many of you will know other bloggers who have died in the past 12 months. Please feel free to remember them in the comments, if you would like to.  They were good citizens enriching, and lighting up, our lives.

Summer lights

Summer lights brightening the days.

© silkannthreades

Saturday Satisfaction

To end the week, as I began it:

Come sit awhile with me,

Come and sit at table

Come sit at table

and celebrate another birthday

Gift of Friendship

Gift of Friendship

for a special friend who lives nearby.

Let’s ” tak a cup o’ kindness yet”* and a tasty treat,

and feel satisfied that we have spent the week as best as we were able.

*Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?

CHORUS:
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!
and surely I’ll be mine!
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae run about the braes,
and pu’d the gowans fine;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,
frae morning sun till dine;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin auld lang syne.

CHORUS

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!
and gie’s a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,
for auld lang syne.

CHORUS

 With healing and love and many thanks for keeping me company during this week of daily posts,

Gallivanta

© silkannthreades

Thursday Threnody

Come sit awhile with me

Come sit awhile with me

Come sit awhile with me

on the porch of ages past,

and drift back in hazy time, to be with the ones of old,

How the old ones lived

How the old ones  may have lived

to hold them now, in how they lived and died.

Final resting place for my great grandparents

Final resting place for my great grandparents; hope it’s a good sermon. 🙂

“Comforts were few in eighteen-fifty-five,
They got up at dawn and they had to strive
With element and enemy to keep alive
And were lucky if they lived to woo and wive
In the early, early days. ….
History tells us they were hard and bold;
They carved out forests and they dug for gold,
But many died young and some died old…

from The Early Days by Basil Dowling

With healing and love,

Gallivanta

© silkannthreades

It’s a fortunate day when you come to a good home

 

Nau mai, haere mai ki te whare o Silkannthreades! 

Welcome, welcome to the home of Silkannthreades, in the South Island of Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud, New Zealand . ~

When the early pioneers arrived in my part of the South Island*, they saw a landscape similar to this,

Norman, Edmund 1820-1875 :Canterbury Plains,- New Zealand. / Drawn by E. Norman. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=8818

Norman, Edmund 1820-1875 :Canterbury Plains,- New Zealand. / Drawn by E. Norman. Maclure, Macdonald & Macgregor, Lith, London. Lyttelton, Published by Martin G. Heywood, [ca 1855]. http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=8818

 which had been surveyed, and made user-friendly for colonial settlement, by criss-crossing it with names like Canterbury, Christchurch, Avon, Armagh, Lincoln…..

 Lincoln, NZ, named for  the Earl of Lincoln, UK.

Lincoln, NZ, named for the Earl of Lincoln, UK.

….. whether any of the sites thus labelled bore any resemblance to their namesakes in the old world, I do not know.

The Liffey at Lincoln

The Liffey at Lincoln.  The Liffey?!!!  perhaps it looked like this somewhere  in Ireland in the 1850s.

I suspect not. Most likely, the nomenclature came about via  some wishful thinking, some lazy thinking, and some self-important thinking, coupled with a desire to impose current theories of civilization on the perceived wilderness.  And whether these familiar names plonked upon the unfamiliar lands helped the settlers adjust to their colonial lives more quickly, or merely made them homesick for the real thing, I also do not know. I imagine it could have been almost as disorientating as our current practice of giving names like Pitcairn ( the Island) to a street  in the middle of an inland suburb in Christchurch!

So, as much I do not know, this I do know:

that, 4th September is a fortunate, white-stone day

because, on that date, fifteen years ago, my family and I stepped off the plane,

and began our life in Aotearoa New Zealand; a country which, to me, needs no reference points other than its own.

We had been globe-trotting for 18 years and it was time to settle down. Not in a place masquerading as a new, improved version of another land, or a place oddly correlated to  memories of distant countries, but in a place uniquely and unmistakably itself. A place we could simply know as home; and a good one, at that.

Rakaia Gorge

Rakaia Gorge (with thanks to my brother for his photo)

Home Thoughts
…..
But if I sing of anything
I much prefer to sing of where
The tram-cars clang across the square,
Or where above the little bay
John Robert Godley passed his day,
Or where the brooding hills reveal
The sunset as a living weal.

I think, too, of the bridle track
Where first they saw the plains curve back
To Alps, of how that little band
Of pilgrims viewed their Promised Land.
…..

I do not dream of Sussex downs
Or quaint old England’s quaint old towns:
I think of what will yet be seen
In Johnsonville and Geraldine.

Denis Glover (1936)

To mark, yet again, the fortunate, fourth day of September, I substituted the traditional white stone with the white pages of a book; the book being  A Good Home . It is written by the witty and wonderful blogger,  Cynthia Reyes, who knows a great deal about good homes (and good gardens).  She would be the first to agree that it is, indeed, a fortunate day when we come to a good home.

Map Legend:

* The South Island of New Zealand was  known as  New Munster from 1840 to 1853. Wikipedia   says that Governor William Hobson named it so, in honour of his birthplace in Ireland. Happily, the South Island now (since 2013!) has official recognition for its original name Te Waipounamu (Greenstone waters).

© silkannthreades

 

In the lay of the land

Serious questions ~

Who was the bright spark in ancient geekdom who decided that family history should be defined by lines and begats?

Who were the brighter sparks who devised the rigid wheels and stylised trees to chart and constrain the abundant, multi-dimensional landscape of ancestry?

For a landscape it is, our ancestry; a landscape of wide open spaces,

Wide open spaces

Wide open spaces

crisscrossed with highways and byways, one way roads and slender bridges, little lanes, and streets that go nowhere, signposted for all directions.

A landscape of well-defined boundaries, as well as soft, slippery edges, fluidity and possibility.

A landscape that reveals both the neat and the orderly, the tidy rows of heritage,

Orderly family trees

Orderly family trees

and the more common, impenetrable thickets of entwined limbs and leaves.

Impenetrable thickets

Impenetrable thickets

 

A landscape replete with the swathes and layerings of old growth and new.

Old and New in Kaiapoi Domain

Old and New in Kaiapoi Domain

And let’s not forget the twists and turns which lead to small surprises and unexpected delights.

 

Yes, family history is embedded in the lay of the land,

The landscape of ancestry

The landscape of ancestry

entrenched, without doubt, in terra firma;

or so it seems, until the land falls away, alters and shifts and, suddenly, one is all at sea.

Amelia Sims, the scow built and named for my great great grandmother, formerly of the Isle of Wight

Amelia Sims, the scow built and named for my great great grandmother, Amelia Sims, housekeeper Kaiapoi, formerly of the Isle of Wight

Topsail schooner, “Amelia Sims,” (120 ft., 98 tons) at old wharf, Motueka, about 1903. Built in Australia it reached the home port—Kaiapoi—in 1901 and though having an auxiliary screw for berthing purposes sail was its chief means of propulsion. In moderate weather “Amelia Sims” would carry ten or twelve sails and be a worthy sight in deep water.
—Photo by courtesy of Miss Nina Moffatt, Motueka.http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-NHSJ02_06-t1-body1-d4.html

Gallivanting Note

This post came about following a little jaunt in the countryside at the weekend. I traced some family history, found more questions than answers, and discovered, to my great surprise, that my great great grandmother’s second husband built her a ship, the Amelia Sims which was one of the fleet of sturdy  scows which played an important role in New Zealand’s early transport industry.

© silkannthreades

One of the Many

This is my great-uncle.

My great-uncle

My great-uncle

This is where he lived with his mother and father, brothers and sisters.

Family Home

Family Home

This is the ship that took him to war.

Troopship MaunganuiDeck scene on the troopship Maunganui. Atkinson, J :Photographs taken in the Middle East during World War I, and postcards of New Zealand. Ref: PAColl-0095-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23169854

Troopship Maunganui Deck scene on the troopship Maunganui. Atkinson, J :Photographs taken in the Middle East during World War I, and postcards of New Zealand. Ref: PAColl-0095-002. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23169854

This is where he was wounded. In the guts.

Poppies, Gallipoli

Poppies, Gallipoli

This is where he died; on a hospital ship.

Place of Death     At Sea, HMHS Neuralia ex Gallipoli Date of Death     15 August 1915 Year of Death     1915 Cause of Death     Died of wounds

Place of Death At Sea, HMHS Neuralia ex Gallipoli
Date of Death 15 August 1915
Year of Death 1915
Cause of Death Died of wounds

Buried at sea, 1915, August 15, somewhere between Gallipoli and Alexandria.

But remembered here

Lone Pine Memorial, Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey

Lone Pine Memorial, Lone Pine Cemetery, Anzac, Turkey

and here.

One of Otago's 1900

One of Otago’s 1900

He was one of the many;  one of the 1,900 young ones, of Otago, killed during World War One; one of the 18,000 New Zealanders who died between 1914-1918; one of the 888,246 British and Commonwealth fatalities. One of…….. the list that never ends.

 

Does he rest in peace?  I can’t.

 

Acknowledgement: with thanks to my brother for his photos of the Poppies and the Lone Pine Memorial, at Gallipoli.

© silkannthreades

Happiness in a Bag

By my bed, I keep a little bag of happiness, tied up with a faded, frayed ribbon of palest blue.

Happiness in a Bag

Happiness in a Bag

It was given to me, many years back, by a special member of our extended family. Her name was Barbara. I am not sure if she made it or if she bought it, in aid of one of the many good causes she supported. It matters not; it is a lovely hand-made gift of home-spun wisdom, which always makes me smile and remember the giver.

So of what does Happiness consist?

Happiness Kit

Happiness Kit

Very little, it seems; an eraser, some cents, a marble, a rubber band, a piece of string,

Makers of Happiness

Makers of Happiness

 

and a kiss,

A Happiness Kiss

A Happiness Kiss

to remind us that someone always cares about us.

The kiss in the kit bag was originally a Hershey’s Kiss but it disintegrated long ago. ( I didn’t eat it, truly I didn’t.)  The little kissing rabbits belonged to my mother, and, before that, to her three maiden great-aunts. They have been loved for generations but not yet  been loved quite as much as  the Velveteen Rabbit, it would seem.

And that is all there is to it; my little bag of happiness. Simple, isn’t it?

© 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

 

 

Living on the ‘plains’.

Occasionally, I revel in the ‘plains’ of life.

Plain cake

Plain Cake

Plain Cake

plain yogurt in a plain pot

plain words

Canterbury

On this great plain the eye
Sees less of land than sky,
And men seem to inhabit here
As much the cloud-crossed hemisphere
As the flat earth.  ……..

Basil Dowling

‘plains’ that sustain us;

Canterbury Plains

Canterbury Plains

that form the staff of life.

Plain yogurt bread

Plain yogurt bread

How good are the ‘plains’.  🙂

Plain song
<

 

© silkannthreades