Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Precious Memories



Most of my school holidays from the age of 7yrs until we left the King Country when I was 13yrs old were spent with my Grandmother. (Nana)


Breakfast in bed, a luxury never allowed at home, singing together and hours spent pouring over old photo albums and reliving her childhood, these things I remember so clearly. This woman wrapped me up in a cocoon of love and safety. She taught me to look at the smallest things on our long walks, insects, leaves and stones gathered up and arranged neatly on the table, where we discussed and marvelled at the beauty. Sitting out on the front steps in the sun, brushing her long white hair, plaiting and re-plaiting, tying it up in all sorts of strange ways – she even used to let me pluck her eyebrows!


Every week day morning at precisely 10.00 am we sat down with a cup of tea and usually a large slice of deliciously light sponge cake, made with blue shelled duck eggs, baked in an old coal range, to listen to `Doctor Paul` and ` Portia faces Life`, both long running radio serials which my Nana never missed and I became enthralled with. For an hour we forgot where we were, the sound of dogs barking and my Grandfather's gruff voice bringing us back to reality.


The farm house was built at the end of a very long driveway which meandered up a steep clay hillside. Planted in large groups were many exotic trees including wonderful Liquidambars which glowed red, yellow and orange in autumn. I can never see these trees now without instantly being transported in my mind, back to my Grandmothers home. After the leaves had fallen the hillsides were smothered in huge yellow daffodils, another memory I treasure. Nana and I in our coats and gumboots early in the morning picking armfuls of sweet smelling daffodils for the house and to give to her elderly neighbours a mile or so down the valley.


Nana had a pet Paradise duck called Milly. This spoilt pet followed her everywhere, even inside if she could. Every May my Grandfather and 2 uncles, Paul and Ian, would go duck shooting on the dam at the back of the farm, one year they brought home this tiny duckling – an unusual thing for these men to do as they were not really into pets, except maybe for the fox terrier the boys had and even she had to earn her living by chasing rabbits out of burrows to be caught in a net. My Grandfathers working dogs were certainly not made a fuss of, they were never allowed inside the back gate.

Milly however, became Queen of the house and garden, the dogs were very wary of her , the cat never went near her after the first and only run-in they had – the duck won! Milly was so expressive, she had a large repertoire of calls and she was a very good watchdog. If she didn't recognise someone they ended up dancing from foot to foot trying to escape the peaking beak and strong flapping wings. She adored my Grandmother, they could often be found sitting together on the front porch in the late afternoon sun, Nana snoozing and Milly dreaming with tiny soft noises.

Paradise ducks mate for life, when Milly found her mate and eventually left, Nana missed her very much but I think the slugs and snails in the garden were happy she had gone.


My two youngest uncles are only 4 and 5 years older then me, my Mother being one of the oldest of the eight children my Grandparents had. These two boys used every opportunity they had to tease me unmercifully. If they weren't sitting on me and tickling me till I cried, they were frightening me with awful scary stories. I remember their outside bedroom with the walls covered in deer and pig heads and their guitars and mouth organs I was told never to touch – well, that proved an irresistible reason to sneak in while they were not there and touch these forbidden musical instruments. They were both crack shots with a 22 rifle and also deadly with slingshots, practising every day with tin cans lined up along the fence posts. Possum shooting was an experience with these two boys, being allowed out after midnight into the dark, thousands of stars and the sound of silence, a huge adventure. The foxy would bail a possum up high in the poplars or macrocarpa hedge with a lot of hysterical barking, a single shot and dull thud as the dead animal hit the ground – another skin to add to the pile that would be sold to the local buyer for one shilling each. For the mighty privilege of being there I had to carry the smelly, blood dripping carcase home, running to keep up with the boys but never complaining..


My Grandmother died in Sept 1982, I was heavily pregnant with my 2nd daughter.. I still feel her loss keenly, a week later Pip was born, my tiny daughter who has her Great Grandmothers name in hers, Phillippa Claire Gwendoline and who has inherited the same gentle nature and sweet smile.


I see the likeness of my Grandmother in my three daughters faces, I see the gentle smile and bright eyes and feel the loving nature. I know she watches over me, and often feel her presence. I remember the words she spoke and I am forever thankful she was in my life.



Saturday, January 22, 2011


Bee hives my daughter, Meg, painted in one of her latest paintings - she is not sure why !
Posted by Picasa

Friday, January 21, 2011

endless love . .

This beautiful card was made for me by my then 13yr old granddaughter, Lia, before she left to stay with her Dad for 6 months last year. I must admit, I didn`t notice the missing `e` for some time ! This, along with other cards made for me by my children and grandchildren are very precious to me, I have a journal in which I put bits and pieces that mean alot to me, including poetry, pressed plants, photos and other bits of my life ..
I was secretly very chuffed with the lovely message Lia wrote, it always brings tears to my eyes, it is amazing what an influence grandparents can have with their grandchildren, all it takes is time spent with them, endless love, which is not hard to give - in fact I am hopeless, I hate when they cry, I want to make it better and love them to pieces -  they know it to . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Garden Pretties ..

This NZ bush scene is . . . . from the loo window in the very nice new toilets at the Hamilton Gardens - it must seem, to those that follow this blog, that I visit no where else in my lovely city or country - not true, but I do work at the Wintec Hort campus which is sited within the Gardens, hence many pics !!
After my friend Cally and I had lunch at the Garden cafe yesterday, we went for a walk through the Te Parapara Maori garden as Cally had not seen it completed. Her observant eyes saw these clever flax flowers woven by someone through the garden, all still connected to the leaves and plant - really cool idea we thought ! NZ flax Phormium tenax grows everywhere in this country, had many uses for Maori, including clothing,baskets, utensils, medicine,walls in the wharenui, roofing material and dried flower stems burn well. Before collecting the flax leaves or blades, always by women, there was a strict ritual to follow, never were the plants destroyed or damaged in any way while collecting, the old Maori knew their lives depended on this hardy plant. Many people learn how to weave with this plant even today - hence the flax flowers . .
The beautifully lobed bright green above, silver below leaves of the Paper Mulberry Broussonetia papyrifera known as Aute by Maori, was brought to Aotearoa by the first Polynesians. It was used to make cloth from the inner bark, known as Tapa in other Pacific islands, it didn`t grown well here as our winters were to cold. It is a glorious tropical plant with amazing textured leaves, some with lobes , others shaped quite differently. Not sure how it will do in our frosty winters.
In the walled vegetable garden at the H Gardens there are 4 large beds and gardens down each side, planted with many different veges, boarded with different annuals including these sunflowers. I managed to get this bumble bee to sit still for a moment. If you can get to the Hamilton Gardens you really should, they are looking incredible ! The gardeners work so very hard to keep this jewel in our city`s crown an absolute work of art - any time of the year it is a stunning picture . . .I am forever grateful that early city forefathers had the insight to carve this paradise out of what was amongst other things, the dump !

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Natural Beauty .. .

On my early morning walk through the Hamilton Gardens this morning, all the plants looked bright with water ( earlier irrigation!) and morning light. No one else around, not even the gardeners, just the birds and me . . . . really soul restoring for this woman. In the Te Parapara Maori garden, the gourd vines are flowering, with tiny gourds (above) starting to develop. The flower (below) is elegant and defined, the tendrils light green, clinging to the wooden palisades - I do hope the public leaves them alone to mature. 
Snow white papery petals with a lime green centre, gourd flowers are simply stunning, I had never taken much notice of them before, against the light green foliage and wood background, these flowers really stand out - nature so beautifully designed. 
A small fence surrounds different stones placed in certain positions at one corner of the Maori garden, with gourd vines trailing over and through the kanuka fence.    
The American Modernist garden has plants from the western area of the USA, including the stunning Romneya coulteri or Californian Tree Poppy, a tall stunning perennial which once established, can spread quickly. Above is the bud, below the brilliant white crepe like flower with a strong yellow centre. While checking out the flora I spied a baby hedgehog trying desperately to get out of the empty pond, it instantly curled into a ball while I picked it up gingerly, by one prickle, and put it into the bushes. The gardeners often find them drowned in the water features that abound through-out the gardens, hedgehogs are not native to NZ, brought in by early settlers in the 1800`s to eat the snails and slugs that were also imported !! Afew hedgies probably hitched a ride on sailing ships also. 
There were quite afew bumblebees on these great looking flowers this morning, it was to early for honeybees to be out, but the dear old bumbles were busy working the flowers, bright yellow pollen bags full and fuzzy pollen dusted bodies. I tried to get some decent pics, but I wasn`t quick enough.
Looking through to the Romulus and Reamus statue with the female wolf feeding the twins and her cave in behind. This area is attach to the Italian garden entered via the garden or through a beech covered tunnel effect, the high pagoda covered in a non-fruiting grape vine, beautiful autumn colour.Click on the pics to see detail, the lawns here have almond, fig and olive trees planted in them.It is always interesting speaking to people visiting the gardens, at how many don`t know the story behind the lost babies brought up by wolves, I must be getting old cause I learn`t it at school !

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Love to Last . . .

I just love old gravestones - don`t you ? I found this beautiful heart-shaped gravestone in the old Hamilton East cemetery recently and even though I can`t read the inscription, I spent ages sitting next to it imagining . . .  Was it a devastated husband`s last symbol of love for his young wife, or a child`s grave ?
I often walk through this early Hamilton resting place and think about the people lying here - many deaths by drowning in the Waikato river, falls from horses and diseases now obliterated, not that many from old age. One that always makes me feel very sad has 4 children, aged from 6 to newborn, all lost from some unimaginable illness.

Cemeteries are excellent social barometers, if you take the time to walk through, taking notice of dates, the centuries unfold. There have been no recent burials, so much of Hamilton`s early history rest on the hillside, it is worth a visit to reflect . . .

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Reflections not Resolutions . . .

Today has been a quiet day, a day to reflect over the past year, to be honest, over the past few years really. The weather has been beautiful, not hot, just nice with a breeze that dried the washing and kept the cats warm in its rays.

Being home alone, meant National Radio playing all day, soothing, interesting music and a very funny American play, the NZ songwriter, Anika Moa with her new album. The news every hour spoken in a perfect radio voice, so many memories of listening to the radio as a child, hearing the BBC voices !

Being home alone meant coffee and the garden mag, sitting outside in the morning sun, watching the blackbirds flicking through the mulch and screaming at the cats ( birds that is) with that awful alarm call - I swear the cats smile . .

Being home alone meant snoozing on the sofa after trying to read the Hamilton Garden Festival programme - so many fantastic plays, music and other things to go to in Feb.

Being home alone meant time to reflect . . . think about happenings in my life, mainly, grown children leaving to live further away for a new start, another daughter who needs time and space to sort her life out - I feel I need to draw back, somehow trying not to worry, my baby`s 2nd year at Uni and living away from home - my first time really alone last year since I left home at 17 . My beautiful grandchildren who are my delight. But mainly, I would like to think I could make some inroads into dealing with a major family relationship, one that should play a huge part in my life, but one I have had to distance myself from to survive . .

Being home alone gives me time and energy to think about new ways of dealing with stress and unhappiness and JOY - something I know I deserve !

Bring on 2011