Friday, January 31, 2014

Hobbits in Wellington

Hobbits are flavour of the month in New Zealand and Air New Zealand's safety video is watched with interest by passengers because it is funny and clever and features hobbit characters (and Peter Jackson).
Golem, in Wellington Airport
In Wellington Airport a giant Golem creeps from the rafters, reaching out for swimming fish.

I photographed him last Monday. My flight left Wellington 20 minutes before the most recent earthquake that shook the giant eagle from the ceiling. Golem must be more securely fastened as he stayed put.

Monday, January 27, 2014

History of gardens

Glimpses through gaps, arches and other apertures make gardens special and in the Hamilton Gardens on the Waikato River there are many such glimpses.The gardens are large and there are wide expanses of lawn and old trees for walking and playing, but the parts that astonish are the culturally specific gardens leading off a central courtyard near the coffee shop.

These gardens are designed to exhibit and explain garden design from different cultures and through the centuries and for garden enthusiasts they are worth a trip to New Zealand to see.

From a central Romanesque courtyard with a fountain different pathways lead to a Maori garden, an Indian Garden, an English garden, an Italian renaissance garden, a modernist American garden, an Italian Renaissance garden, a Chinese scholars garden and a Japanese garden.
American modernist garden

Indian Mogul garden

Bamboo path

Italian Renaissance garden
Maori garden

Japanese garden

Then there is the herb garden, a huge season-tracking sundial ... and I am sure other delights which I didn't quite get to see.

I shall have to return. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

James Morris as Wotan

Fox and chickens

On the night I arrived back in Sydney a fox got into the hen-house and killed the black speckled hen Pepper. Henrietta, was wounded and hangs onto life. Four year old Sophia loved those chickens and carried them around the garden, one under each arm. She was heartbroken at the loss. She wept and wept in her mother's arms and we felt like weeping with her.
Pepper (left) and Henrietta
'Henrietta laid some eggs'

Friday, January 24, 2014


I can show you the lavender growing in the garden (in Taihape, where lavender grows so well), I can show you the painting of the vase of lavender sitting on the table, but unfortunately I cannot send you the wonderful perfume that emanates from these flowers. That you will have to imagine.

Beautiful, fragrant lavender.
Vase of Lavender
Lavender in the garden

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Hamilton Ghost

Top of the charts: Sol3 Mio
I had arranged to stay at my recently-deceased Mother's house for a month, sort out her things and get her house ready for sale. I was also saying goodbye the Taihape, the village I grew up in and had re-visited often as my mother lived there until she was ninety  four.

As I drove out of Taihape I felt the weight of the goodbye sitting with me so I slipped Sol3 Mio into the CD player. It features three New Zealand Samoan singers, two tenors and a Baritone, and is currently top of the charts in New Zealand. They have wonderful voices and they sang me across the desert road. 

My last days in Taihape had been hard ones but I had expected my feeling of oppression to lift as drove north. That didn't happen although the weather was beautiful and as I looked over at Mt Ruapehu rising gracefully from the tussocked hills, I felt sorry to feel so oppressed while in such a beautiful place. Beauty doesn't always help and suddenly I was reminded of the oppression I had felt when driving through the beautiful Bavarian countryside, past the signpost to Dachau.

I drove on past beautiful Lake Taupo, remembering all the holidays we had spent there as children. The waters are crystal clear but it has been a cold summer in New Zealand and the children in the water were hugging their arms about themselves and shivering.

I expected a drab experience in Hamilton where I had booked a bed but it didn't turn out that way.

My accommodation was in a charming old house called Forty Winks in River Road, on the Waikato River. Across the bridge in town the eating houses were buzzing and as I ate my excellent antipasto I realised I would have to  revise my opinion of Hamilton. 

Jim Cooper's ceramics
Opposite the restaurant was the Waikato Museum, with a display of work by Jim Cooper in the Foyer. 

I had to smile when I saw it. You can't help but have your spirits lifted by Jim's work, with its brightly coloured figures and flowers. This display featured a birthday cake and the accompanying text read Unlike other birthday parties this one wont end. It's joy is unceasing

Jim had been my ceramics teacher at Dunedin Art School and I have seldom met a more generous person.  

The Waikato River from the bridge in the center of Hamilton.
 The Waikato Museum is open and fresh and has a magnificent Maori canoe on display in pride of place. It is a replica of one used by Maori on the Waikato River but hidden from the destroying settlers during their wars with the Maori in the 19th century.

 As I wandered back over the bridge I nodded to a small rotund Maori woman sitting on a seat nearby.  Ten meters on I stopped to take a picture of the Waikato river, imagining the canoes that would have plied their trade up and down it's banks. 

Then I heard a voice from behind me call, 'Aren't you from here then?'
I turned around to see that the woman had risen and was walking towards me.
 'No,' I said, 'I'm from Sydney.'
'Oh right. Well its a nice view. I grew up here.'
She told me that there were local problems but that all the street kids now had shelters to sleep in so you didn't see them on the streets at night. It had changed since she had lived here as a teenager and had been a street kid herself. Later she had become a mum to lots of other street kids, twenty nine of them in all who still called her mum. She was on a spiritual journey now, she said. She was finding herself, had come down from Ngauruwahia for the night and had slept rough for old times sake. That explained the bits of bush stuck to her cardigan.

I told her I had grown up in Taihape, that my Mother had died two months ago and that I had been back to prepare her place for sale.
'Oh,' she said, 'now I know why our paths crossed. I didn't know before, but now I do.'
She gave me the sweetest of smiles. She was a small woman with a round brown face and she beamed up at me showing a set of perfect white teeth.
'It was hard in Taihape,' I told her.
She nodded and said, 'I want you to know your Mother is fine. I have a gift you see. That is something I can do and I am here to tell you that she wants you to know she is fine.'
The tears rolled down my cheeks and she smiled and patted my arm. I suffer from dry eye syndrome and had wondered if I had lost the ability to weep, but now I knew the tears were still there.
'Yes,' I said. 'I know she is fine where she is. She wouldn't want to be still here. But it is not so easy.'
 My companion asked me which way I was walking and I pointed along the road in the direction of Forty Winks. She said she was going that way too and on we walked.
'Don't be too hard on yourself,' she said, 'you are strong.'

Her own Mother had died at 44 when she was only fourteen and then her Dad had died and she had developed into a teenager with attitude.
'Oh I swore and was bad and I thought I knew everything in those days,' she laughed. 'I was just a pup, was all. But now I am on a spiritual journey myself.'
She asked me if she could use my name, Elizabeth, in her diary and I said of course she may.

Ring made by Mike Ward
She saw the ring on my finger and asked, 'What's that ring then? What is the story there?'
'It came from Nelson,' I told her. 'I found it in an artist's studio. Mike Ward was the name of the artist.'
'Oh Mike Ward,' she said. 'Yes I know him.'
Mike is a New Zealand identity and politician as well as an artist so I was not surprised she knew of him. He was MP for the Greens Party and is now a City Councillor in Nelson. I told her I had bought the ring but that Mike had given me back some of the money and told me he was giving me the pounamu and I was just buying the setting.
'Well,' she said,' pounamu just comes to you. That's right. You should keep wearing that ring. Let it remind you that your Mother is fine where she is.'
We got to Forty Winks and I told her that this was the place I had stayed the night.
'How much is a bed?' she asked.
'Twenty five dollars,' I replied, wondering if she might decide to stay there instead of sleeping rough. I wondered briefly if I should give her the money, but the thought seemed out of place. Then her phone rang and I made to go as she answered it. She smiled as she nodded and turned away.

As I drove the car out of the drive I looked down the road to watch her disappear, but there was no one there. Had she been a ghost I wondered turning to look the other way. No, she hadn't been a ghost; there she was walking back in the direction we had come, a small round figure talking on her phone. Continuing her own journey.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Taihape sunset

Taihape Sunset
Aerial cables are a feature of New Zealand. Cables are buried for aesthetic reasons but I have become fond of aerial cables as I think they add an old fashioned charm to rural towns. They also remind me of seeing deep holes dug for the poles near our farmhouse when I was a child. 

Did we not have power before the early 50s? I read that Nelson was the last region to join the NZ national grid in 1955, so I suppose isolated farms might have been connected in the early 1950s. It is hard to believe now that we are all so dependent on electricity.

This power pole is in Taihape just along from the garden planted by my mother. 
Rose from mother's garden

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ferry trip extraordinaire

Tip of the South Island, New Zealand
They say it is the most spectacular ferry trip in the world and they might be right.

The ferry leaves Picton, travels along Queen Charlotte Sound to Cook Strait, then turns north east and on into Wellington Harbour. Beautiful from one end to the other.
Ferry in Picton

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Queen Charlotte Sound paradise

Queen Charlotte Sound, NZ
Queen Charlotte Drive winds from Picton (where the ferry from Wellington lands) to Havelock (on the way to Nelson) along the picturesque Queen Charlotte Sound. If you are ever in the area it is a 'must do' drive (but easy to miss if you don't know it is there). The speed limit is 50kph but you would be hard pressed to travel faster than 40 kph as the road is narrow and windy, snaking along the hillsides or along the bays. You wouldn't want to drive any faster anyway as it is such a feast for the eyes. A village clings to the hillside part way along and regular signs point the way to artist's studios, jewellers and other artisans.
Flax plants, Queens Charlotte Sound
Picton, NZ
Looking south to snow capped mountains in the distance
(too distant for my phone-camera )

Monday, January 06, 2014

Nelson Jazz Sketches

Lambretta at Lambretta's
The sketches and paintings I did at the Nelson Jazz Festival are now online here.

The motor scooter (left) is high on the wall at Lambretta's Cafe/Restaurant which hosted  some performances... I drew it while I waited.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Wearable bears

Mike's Ward's Bear Jacket
 Nelson, well known for its arts scene, is the home of the wearable arts festival which eventually got so big and famous that it was moved to Wellington.

One of the entrants is Mike Ward: artist, city councillor,  former MP and local identity. His latest entry (you can see it at his art studio in the city) is a treat - a wearable bears jacket - all the bears made by Mike from sackcloth and demin. I liked the sleepy bear on the sleeve.
Small bear hangs on

Friday, January 03, 2014

La Petite Manouche

La Petite Manouche (Burke Goffe and Robbie Averille)

Jazz Guitar duo La Petite Manouche* in action at the Berlin Bar in Nelson.

As the evening wore on the space filled with dancers.

*Jazz Manouche is the French name for Gypsy jazz also known as gypsy swing or hot club jazz (its origins are largely in France. (Wikipedia.)

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Famous in Nelson

Painting Miho Wada (Image: Martin de Ruyter, Nelson Mail)
The Jazz Festival has taken over Nelson with jazz in bars and cafes all over town. The planned jazz in the park was washed out yesterday and reconvened in a local church. I was there painting when one of the organisers spied me painting a funky Japanese jazz artist called Miho Wada.. He wrote me a long note asking to show Miho and the crowd the painting, with a big PLEASE! at the end.

The photo is from todays's Nelson Mail newspaper.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Picturesque crossing: Wellington to Picton

Sunshine at Wellington ferry wharf
Cook Strait between Wellington and Picton is notoriously fickle-weathered but on 30th December it was as flat as a millpond. I was pleased to have decided to spend a night in Picton instead of driving straight on to Nelson (Jazz Festival), as Picton is picturesque and the Jugglers Rest backpackers wonderfully quirky.
Picton marina, in Queen Charlotte Sound
Rainbow in Picton
Light rain alternated with sunny spells as the afternoon passed resultign in spectacular rainbows over the hills.