Tag Archives: university

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

© silkannthreades

The street where I lived; the seat where I sat

Yesterday, whilst I was at the site of my former university  hall of residence, I gave myself a mind’s eye tour of my small room in the hostel. I remembered my bed, with its bright yellow bedcover and, at the window, my red and yellow tartan style check curtains; my desk tucked in the corner of the room, where I laboured at my handwritten essays and painstakingly counted the required number of words, one by tedious one. There were dictionaries and books around me, and above me on the shelves, and not a computer in sight. Not a phone in immediate sight either, although there was a phone booth  at the end of the  corridor. At the other end of the corridor were the toilet and bathroom facilities. This was student luxury,almost, for my time.

I like to believe that I have near perfect recall of every room in the houses of my life but, as I write, I am suddenly perplexed as to whether my room was on the second floor, or the third floor of the building, and were the bathrooms really on my floor, or were they on the ground floor? If they were on my floor, why do I have memories of traipsing up and down the stairs in a dressing gown.  Unless I have written such details in my ancient letters, now stowed in the attic, I will probably never know for sure. With the building long  gone, there are no easy means to  physically verify my memories.  Does it matter? Not much, unless ,in future years,  people are moved to investigate  the hygiene habits of hostel students in the 20th Century with as much dedication as we currently study the bathing practices of Ancient Romans. Stranger things have happened. The point is not my tiny personal memories, but the memory process itself. It seems to me that as the building goes, so goes our memory. Fallen and fickle.

Still pondering on how  our already flighty, tenuous memories become increasingly loose and lost  without walls to secure them, I visited another site today, where once I rested my head, placed my desk and supped my student suppers, (bread porridge in desperate times!). And where the bathroom was on my floor, but the toilet was reached by going downstairs, through the living room, past the kitchen and out the back door to the outhouse. Now, that I remember clearly! Especially the trips in winter frost and chill.

Once again,however, the old building I lived in is no more.This is what remains. Gravel and a gate.Gone When my cousin and I lived here, our residence was owned by the Public Trust and we paid a next to nothing rent.  Later, many years later, the building was lovingly restored by others and became The Under the Red Verandah cafe. The well-loved old building was destroyed by the recent earthquakes. These days the cafe, Under the New Red Verandah, operates from transitional buildings at the back of the property. Hilariously to me, the toilet block, though new, seems to occupy the same position as our old outhouse and laundry did! Is that my imagination on overdrive, or an accurate  memory trapped in plumbing systems?Under the New Red Verandah.

As I was taking photos, I discovered, to my great delight, that the bench seat, where I used to sometimes sit, under the verandah,  whilst  waiting for the bus, was still in place. Oh, the memories of freezing and freezing, and waiting and waiting and waiting for that bus, early morning after early morning, so that I could travel to the wind whipped central Square and wait ,yet again, for another bus that would deliver me close to the university, hopefully, on time for my first lecture of the day.  I sat on the bench again, viewed it from every angle and smiled goofily for the joy of finding the seat where I sat, on the street where I lived.

The seat where I sat;

The Seat where I sat

The street where I lived;The Street where I lived

The garden, we never had The Garden

and the cafe which,unhappily, wasn’t on our doorstep to spare me the sadness of bread porridge.Where was it when I needed it?

By the way, in the house that is no more, I still had my yellow bedcover, but my bedroom curtains were blue, my study curtains beige  and my trendy desk was a lively green and was slotted together without nails or glue. I had a red, round transistor radio; a phone downstairs in my cousin’s smoke-filled den, and a fabulous desk chair made entirely from cardboard. And, once again, no computer.

Me, the Tree, and Helen

I have been to many places in recent months, engaging with a  number of our city’s beautiful  trees, all the while forgetting, until today, that there is a tree in Christchurch with which  I am closely connected. The tree is a Liriodendron tulipifera and it was planted by myself and a friend on 22 October 2000, in the grounds of the Cathedral Grammar School, on Chester Street West.

The Tulip Tree is now 12 years taller;

Tulip Tree The tree was planted to commemorate the site of Helen Connon Hall.Commemorative Plaque It was the first and, so far, only time I have planted a commemorative tree, and it was a special occasion in my life. For a moment, I felt almost royal.

The tree planting idea came from  a wonderful group of women who organised a  successful reunion of “old students” of Helen Connon Hall; the university hall of residence once occupied the ground on which these school playing grounds now stand. And the games go on My friend and I lived at Helen Connon for one academic year, 1974, and that was its final year as a hall of residence, and its only year as a men’s and women’s residence. So, we represented the youngest and the last of the Hall’s occupants. (Not often that I get to be the youngest at an event!) It was the final year, not because we trashed it, although the shenanigans created by the excitement of a mixed residence were plenty, but because the university had completed its move from the central city to its new site at Ilam. The town facilities were no longer required.

Helen Connon Hall was the first residential hall at Canterbury College (later to become the University of Canterbury). It was opened in 1918 and was for female students only, except for that one last year of its life as a residence.

So that is me and the tree. What about Helen?

Typically for me and, no doubt, most of the populace, I had no idea, when I lived in the hall named after her, who Helen Connon was. In fact, I still didn’t know much about her when I helped to plant the tree. It was only after the publication, in 2004, of Margaret Lovell-Smith’s excellent  book, “Easily the Best, the Life of Helen Connon  1857 -1903”, that I began to appreciate her magnificence, and her influence on women’s education. She was a carpenter’s daughter who became, in 1880, the second woman arts graduate in the British Empire.  In1881, she became the first woman in the British Empire to earn a degree with honours; MA with first-class honours in English and Latin. And she did that right here, in Christchurch, New Zealand. As well as being a fine academic, she was a leading figure in education, as a teacher and  Lady Principal of Christchurch Girls High School. For more information, link to  http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/biographies/2c28/1

 Helen Connon Helen ConnonI don’t know what Helen Connon would have made of me  and my ignorance of her but I think she would have been pleased that I was the first woman in my family to earn a degree. Nothing fancy, but I did it. And my daughter was the first person in our family to obtain an honours degree in Classics. So, we are slowly catching up with Helen Connon, the trail blazer, without whom my education, my mother’s and my daughter’s would most likely never have happened.

As for the tree; I think she would be happy with our choice. It was chosen for its longevity and its shade qualities and suitablility for its school playground home. Helen Connon believed that mental and physical education went hand in hand. Additionally, photos of her own garden show that she spent much of her life surrounded by beautiful trees.

Activate;

Physical Education

and contemplate.Contemplate

© silkannthreades

Floral notes at the close of day.

Keeping chipper today, in face of the continued machinations of bread and washing machines, has been an exercise in gritted teeth and grim determination. I have been for a walk and cleared my head, enough to laugh at the idea that the bread machine and the washing machine might do better if they swapped tasks …..and to remember that a couple of very beautiful scenes graced my day.

To dwell on the best of the day as it comes to an end here are…..

Daisy Fields at the University Gardens.Snow in Summer

Look a little closerDown

still closer Downer

And who lives here?Downest

Then, up I struggled  (creak, creak, go the knees) and off I went to look at the stars in my garden. The star jasmine with its delicate scent has been out for a while but the clematis only started to bloom a couple of days ago.Clematis and Star JasmineAnother view

© silkannthreades