My Favourite Window

September 26, 2011

A Glimpse into Little Mondegreen's Theatre House

On a bright Saturday morning my daughter sews fancy dress.  She makes it out of her head, from scraps of velvet and gift ribbon and bells.
And as she and her friends prepare for the party later in the day, I notice that Tegan, is wearing another of Bryony's creations (this one from a pattern),

Bryony's 16th birthday dress.


"I want a Marie Antoinette party,"
She ordered; well ahead.

And so:
Mama planted a flower bed full of candy-striped petunias and decorated a garden bower:
Papa built the guillotine
and strung fairy lights through the orchard.
Big sister, Tina, decorated the cake - four tiers
draped with parti-coloured icing roses.
And everyone, including Uncle Hugh with his pair of pliers, helped with the dress!
As we sat and posed for Danielle to take this photo, I remembered birth and growing; her love of costume and play-acting; singing and dancing; the passing years and the miracle of modern medicine that brought Bryony back from her own brush with death - the ravaging onset of Type 1 Diabetes.  Now I look at this photo and see our remarkable family about to fracture, but am happy all the same, that Elwin lived to see the third of his four daughters enter womanhood.

But now, her latest costume finished, this young woman is off to her party as... Tinkerbell.

September 22, 2011

Handy Andy

Time for a little maintenance about the Secret Garden; time for some restoration of its ageing houses: time for Handy Andy to work his magic...

To undercoat my new picture railing before it replaces the old...

To remount broken and missing  fragments of iron lace...

To tackle the rampant cocksfoot...

And replace missing guttering around the tiara.

A man with an eye for finishing detail;
little improvements and necessities everywhere he worked over the past ten days.

But, lest all work and no play dulled the man, we celebrated Andy's birthday with a walk on Mt Grey, where we found a character building of different ilk to my collected houses. A tiny possum trappers' hut, rudimentary inside, but with a sophisticated shingle-like cladding of tin cans.  Andy traced
 the embossed lettering, since all traces of paint had disappeared, and made out the words Plume Motor Oil.


Refreshing for me to have had a man about the house; to get things done which otherwise daunt me, to jog my memory and challenge my habits, to open my eyes to new possibilities...
I hope he can return.

Cocksfoot  Dactylis glomerata

September 9, 2011

Pegasus Bay

No school today: the sun shining and spring blooming. "Let's show the children Pegasus Bay," says my sister.  She means the winery, not the great bight where the Pacific Ocean laps the coast between Kaikoura and Christchurch.

And really, it is the garden we are interested in today. The wine is memorable and the best Pinot Noir I've tasted came from here, but for a gardener with an interest in history and design, this is one of New Zealand's truly inspirational gardens. In spite of the Old World feel evoked by the use of traditional garden elements, and features such as the re-claimed village fountain and the chateau-esque winery the place feels grounded in the North Canterbury of my childhood. Before there were vineyards and olive groves there were sheep farms; the  homesteads sited out of the prevailing winds, or sheltered by
plantings of macropcarpa and pine.

And always there was water: a creek, a pond, and that special haunt of children The Gully.  It's all here, but not only have the cosmopolitan owners brought an international flavour to the garden, they are also ensuring that it honours the deep past, with indigenous plantings and inducements, such as the lizard motel, shown right, to encourage native wildlife; as well as reference to ancestral tangata whenua, the people of the land.

I asked the children what they thought of the garden:

Kitty liked all the mysterious paths

Rowan, whose early years were spent in Leamington Spa, and who was certainly exposed to some of Britain's great gardens,
marvelled through the eyes of a 13 year old, that you'd never see anything like this in England.  I could hear him exclaiming with delight as he made his way around the place, and he told me that he liked the archways and the way that paths were closed in on each side.  "It's so beautiful." Is how he summed up his feelings.

Bryony felt that it was uncontrived and in the language of a 17 year old, expressed her appreciation that it was not a try-hard garden.

But for all my own admiration of concept, and horticultural excellence and attention to detail, seeing signs of the actuality of gardening always gives me the greatest pleasure; and that actuality today, was watching the gardener at work...

Chris Donaldson, not only the gardener but the owner of Pegasus Bay winery.

Macrocarpa, Monterey cypress  Cupressus macrocarpa
Pine, radiata pine, Monterey pine  Pinus radiata

September 7, 2011


The willows are bee-loud these days, their catkins thrusting out from amongst the new leaves, while honey bees busy.

But hazel catkins have been hanging around since before midwinter.  They featured in my recent snowy header photo, but I also captured them singing to the sun one bright July day.

Alder catkins display a little later than the hazel catkins,
those below, adorning trees planted along a drainage swale in a recent Halswell housing development. 

I'd forgotten to look for the Garrya catkins this year, but Jackie reminded me about them, and deep inside an overgrown scramble, I found these soft grey tassles.

Willow and garrya are both dioecious plants.  That means that they bear male and female flowers on seperate plants.  Hazel and Alder are monoecious; they have male and female parts on the same plant but as seperate flowers. Most of the garden plants that we are familiar with have both male and female parts in the one place - the common idea of a flower.

But what of those feline catkins?  One, a little stray is happy to bask on the bank, but Aelfwise, my curious Manx, is always interested in the water that appears in our ephemeral stream, tapping its leading edge as it fills and glides down the empty bed, or paddling and even sitting in the welling pond...

And when he has had enough, he shakes his paws and bounds up the steps for a nice lie down on my bed!

Alder  Alnus glutinosa
Garrya, silk-tassel bush  Garrya elliptica
Hazel  Corylus avellana
Weeping willow Salix babylonica

September 2, 2011

Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy

" It's time to announce the winner of your eponymous competition," Lady Mondegreen reminds me.

Ah, yes.  And the title mondegreen would be the winner - if anyone had sent it in. I think I'm beginning to notice a lack of kissing, which might be why it appeals. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the real line from Jimi Hendrix' Purple Haze is: Excuse me while I kiss the sky.

Fellow blogger, Kellogsville, was first in, with two mishearings of lines from prayers.  One of them  A Monk Swimming, is also the title of Malachy McCourt's autobiography, and comes from Hail Mary, Blessed Art Thou Amongst Women. The other, Harold be thy name, tickles a faint memory of my own from the opening line of the Lord's Prayer: Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Earlier this year Kellogsville wrote her own post about mishearings, which you can find at:

Molly-Kate enchanted me with her entryPoor Rudolph. If it wasn't  All of the other reindeer, it was Olive, the other reindeer calling him names. Molly-Kate has a blog too, all about her pony.

Ian, one of my Gentlemen friends from Wellington, supplied me with his schoolboy confusion, believing that Williamandmary were one person.  I'm not sure whether this constitutes a mondegreen, but Ian wasn't the only one confused by that equal opportunities reign.

Keith, another Brittanic Bedlam Morris Gentleman, used to be puzzled by the lyricism of Oh, a tree in motion, until he realised that the refrain was Poetry in motion: a more fitting line to accompany dancing close to me.

Nikki, lured to my blog by my occasional airing of vintage fabrics, has aired her childhood innocence surrounding  public hair and why wasn't it called private hair?

And although young Tom from Leamington Spa, didn't officially enter the competition, I have to mention his understanding that Daleks are garlic, as described by his pithy father, Steve, in a recent post:

However, there can be only one winner, and even though Ian may have brought me chocolates, Nikki given flowers and Keith sent a video of me as Poetry in Motion, Lady Mondegreen reminds me that I am above bribery...

So, it is fellow blogger, The Sagittarian, with her mis-hearing of the Cold Chisel line, Cheap wine and a three-day growth,
who wins the Trelise Cooper Ecobag!  The Sagittarian blogs on More Canterbury Tales from the stricken reaches of Christchurch, with humour, humanity and hauntingly beautiful photography.  And her winning mondegreen?  Cheap wine and a three-legged goat.  It feels like an allegory for my romantic state right now.

Congratulations Sag.