Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Red Zone, September 2016

Flora (my bicycle) and I went for a ride through red zone today, down New Brighton Road and Locksley Ave. It is so quiet and peaceful, like riding through country roads, but in all these pictures there were once houses and whole suburbs, so somewhat sad too. All of this land had heaps of liquefaction, sinkholes and the land on this side of the river sank significantly, so now prone to serious flooding.Most of this area is blocked off from vehicles but you are able to walk or bike through. Although some people had snuck their vehicles in and were whitebaiting from the river, which is not really a good idea because these rivers are now badly polluted since the earthquakes.


This used to be Wattle Drive, a nice street.

Someone once had a house right here.

Nothing is straight except the horizon.

This used to be someone's garden.

'All by myself, don't wanna be, all by myself, anymore

Over the other side - cone party!

I hope you can see the cone on the other side. I had a bit of a giggle, we have a famous song Pokarekare Ana, which is the story of a maiden swimming across the lake to her beloved. These two cones staring across the river at each other out the tune in my head :)

National Game or National Shame

I stopped following rugby years ago because I dislike the whole culture of hard men, booze, and aggression. As an aside, I was also pissed off when the game was no longer shown on free-to-air TV, or very rarely anyhow. A manipulation, I think, to force us all further into consumerism, or to head to a bar and consume alcohol while watching. More consumerism, more booze in the system, more family violence when the hard men lose.
I refuse to be so manipulated.
At this point the only thing I like about it now is the haka. The All Blacks perform that well.
Back in the day, rugby always seemed to me to be as much about the after game drinking as the game itself. And it got worse after an advertising review (in the nineties?) when it was decided that cigarettes would no longer be advertised on game hoardings or anywhere else, but medicines and alcohol (previously not allowed to be advertised in print, tv, or hoardings) would be advertising material. And so often the advertising is around hard men and rugby. The culture has got worse not better since then.
It is hard not to believe that some rugby & booze, executive lobbyists had a lot to do with that. In fact it is impossible. And nothing changes because that lobby has got stronger and anyway the current government seems to think its all cool. After all, market rules, eh boys.
So now we have scandal after scandal as Jo Mathers outlines in her article.
"Scarlette started it. The stripper hired for the Chiefs' "Mad Monday" celebration claimed to have had gravel thrown at her, to have been the object of obscene language and acts of lewdness." (Jo Mathers)
That night unfolded over a couple of days. First came a news item where some LGBT guys were angry about ignorant drunken abuse they copped from one of those Chiefs players in the bar they were all drinking at. All sorts of comments were flung around media, some not particularly nice, and so a young woman who works as a stripper stepped up in support of those LGBT people. She said yes it is true, and this is what happened to me; she was booked by the Chiefs players to strip at the bar, but when she got there they were all very drunk. The performance was taken outside to some kind of garden area, players, 3 or 4 other people and Scarlette (not her real name). Lets be clear. A stripper is not a prostitute. But these hard men seemed to think she was. Scarlette was very intimidated, wound up allowing things that were not within her job description, and was then jeered at, mocked and underpaid. Nasty, nasty stuff, and any apologies and remorse very slow in coming, none to Scarlette. In fact her agency took her off their books.
More from Jo Mathers, "This week, there's the issue of Losi Filipo, the Wellington Lions player who bashed up four young people - two men, two women - late one night last October. The 18-year-old punched one woman in the face, leaving her in a crumpled and bloody heap. He beat one man so badly it ended his rugby playing days and left him incapacitated and unable to work full-time. A second woman was punched in the throat. Filipo took turns with his brother to hold and beat up the other man in the group. But the judge discharged Filipo without conviction."
Why not a jail term? If they were just some gang of young brown guys using violence to steal ciggies etc from a dairy or a service station we all know damn well the sentences would be way stiffer, especially thanks to the so called Sensible Sentencing Trust. But being a rugby player appears to be literally a get out of jail free card, brown or white.

Raised Bed, Spring 2016

the raised bed
When I came here last year, I was able to forage 4 good strong pallets, the kind that they use to carry concrete blocks. One advantage to living in a city in the midst of a rebuild is the marvellous scope for foraging. These pallets are quite big  and I had thought of sawing them down to a smaller size but when I stood them up I realised that gardening at this height is very comfortable, no bending required. So I dug a trench to stand them in, roughly nailed them together (carpentry is totally not my thing) and although everything seemed very stable, I did tie them together as well. Just to make sure, you know.
Then it was time to fill. I can't remember what I started out with but I think I threw in a lot of tree prunings, very rough uncomposted compost, (basically anything I could find really, and topped it off with bought compost from The Warehouse or Bunnings or somewhere.
So that was last year, and a complete experiment, and I grew peppers, lettuces (several times over) prostrate cherry tomatoes falling from the top, leeks, silver beet, spinach, and also ordinary sized tomatoes growing up the side. The curly parsley I planted beside the tomatoes has continued to grow as you can see. Sweet Pea and Nasturtium also tumbled down the side and there is also thyme still growing, prostate rosemary, and a flowering succulent I thought would look pretty. All these things grew really well and the cherry tomatoes actually kept producing heaps of tomatoes right into June!! (winter in NZ).
I found kale did not like the raised bed at all; it just sat in the soil refusing to grow. As soon as I moved the kale into my down-on-the-ground vegetable garden, the kale took off!
I have let the raised rest since last summer. Now it is spring and my own first "cooked" compost is looking awesomely rich (dare I say beautiful even). Ingredients, tree prunings, leftover kitchen scraps, grass clippings, comfrey, seaweed (so cool living next to the beach), coffee grinds, tea bags even, basically anything organic that will break down).
'cooked' compost in raised bed

Springing into Gardening Again

Over the past week or two we've been having a lot of grey days in Christchurch. Even a bit of rain. Amazing. But yesterday the cloud lifted for a while and I got out into the garden.
I haven't been very happy with the garden outside the back door for ages (it is still all a new garden after all) and I finally decided it needed widening. So I had a lot of fun moving the brick edge over, digging the garden wider, and re-laying a new brick edge, also various pavers. I like this result much better now. I also added some of my good maturing  compost from my own compost bin because this garden is practically pure sand, and then I visited the wee nursery down the road.
I am going for a beachy-cottagey, retro kind of look by the way.
Came home with primroses, pansies, campanella, stock, hollyhocks, a penstamon and a geranium, and two strawberry plants. I planted the strawberries in my raised garden.
Hosed gardens, came inside and, guess what, it started to rain.

The Ghost Children

The ghost children leave their garden at dusk to play on the swings at the playground next door to my house. I watch them from behind my drapes, careful not to move in case I frighten them away. Real children - by that I mean the children still living - impatiently queue.
'C'mon', complains Tom, 'we'd like a turn too'. 'You have had all day', says Angel swinging higher and faster. It looks odd the ethereal way that her unbody is swinging and yet still behind the swing, and also in front. Tom says, 'we don't have all day, we have been in school, and then doing homework, and chores. While you are swanning around in the clouds playing harps and stuff'.
Astral gives a peal of laughter that sounds like garden chimes tinkling in the breeze. 'When I was alive I thought death was like that,' she laughs. 'But it isn't really. At least it depends how you died'.
And how old you were', adds Angel softly. 'So many of us have been killed in wars, or we die of starvation or neglect. Those ones, they cry and cry and they don't always realise they are dead. They are in endless pain. It takes such a lot of our time trying to care for them and so much energy. No matter how much you feed them it is never enough. Never, never enough. And children who have been bombed, they scream endlessly and are forever looking for their limbs. Then there is this one', she says, and they all turn to look at the third swing where an angry black boy swings endlessly. He looks at them through angry eyes, tears running down his cheeks. 'You can wait till hell freezes', he shouts. 'This swing is mine, mine forever!'
'He was shot by a policeman on a swing', says Angel.
Today I had to carry a baby that had drowned,' Astral says. 'I couldn't get him dry and he was so cold.' She shivers. 'I felt like I was carrying his father too. So much grief'. 'What happened to heaven?' asks Tom. Astral rolls her eyes. 'Stupid stories for stupid people. Do you want to know if God exists? Maybe. But he's a lazy bastard if he does exist. Watching over us? Don't make me laugh. If God was a woman we might have some action. But too many men are filled with greed and they don't care about sharing with families and women and children. They take everything for themselves.'
Angel floats off her swing and offers it to Tom. But Tom lifts his school pack from his back and lifts out a little brown boy whose legs are black and blue. 'I found this one down the street' he says, 'he is too little to speak or perhaps too frightened. I didn't understand why he was there. But I couldn't leave him there on his own. Now I think maybe he was trying to find his way here to you. There is a label on his jersey, it says his name is Moko.'
Moko looks up at them with his huge brown eyes, shaded in purple. He smiles, a rather wobbly kind of smile. His teeth are broken. One of his arms is bent at a strange angle. Tom and Angel carefully lift him him onto the swing. They push it gently and the little boy chuckles in delight.
I can't watch anymore. As darkness falls I am closing my drapes.

Pohutukawa Rina & Evelyn Page

I feel so lucky. I was browsing through Trade Me when I came across an auction for a print of this painting. Starting bid $8NZ. Just a small photo of a print of a painting but I fell in love with it.
I love the naturalness of the models. They've just been for a swim in the sea and they are drying out in the warmth of the day. You can tell it is a very hot day because they have sought shade under the pohutukawa tree. You can practically feel the warmth of the sun on their skin. And they are naturally naked but not sexual. This is not a picture aimed for the gaze of men. This is a picture about women being women. In a natural way.
And this picture has a familiar feel. I think I have seen it somewhere before but I cannot remember where. The memory eludes me.
Some hours out from the auction finish time someone else places a bid. Until then the auction seems to have been ignored. Now I am tense. I wait. The auction will not conclude until around 10.30pm. I check the auction hourly, no other bids have been placed. I hold my fire until the very last minute of the auction. I bid. $8.50. It is a long minute but finally, I have won. Oh wow, it is mine.
When I go to collect the picture it turns out to be bigger than I thought it was. Luckily I always travel with bunjy cords. The seller, a very nice man, helps me to to tie the picture firmly onto Flora (my bicycle). He wraps her in firm cardboard, I cover her with my high-vis vest. I tell him, thank you, I love this picture. He says, google it when you get home. Pohutukawa Rina is the real name of the picture. She was painted by someone famous. I googled it a couple of years ago myself, but I have forgotten the name.
Flora and I ride carefully home. We are gentle over the bumps. At home I unwrap her. She looks perfect in my house. She seems to sing. Where will I hang her?
But first I google Pohutukawa Rina. And I find her story. I also find her for sale on line price $74.95! Chur!
Then I check a book I happen to own. And here is her story again, this time on pages 118 - 121 of New Zealand Women Artists by Anne Kirker, published 1986 (Reed Methuen).
The painter was Evelyn Page, nee Polson. She was born here in Christchurch in 1899 (just two years after my grandmother, she is of that generation, both of them born after NZ women won the right to vote in 1893). She was the youngest of seven children. She attended Sydenham school. Her parents encouraged their children in art and music., and Evelyn followed her two sisters into the then Canterbury School of Art which she attended between 1915 - 1922. We are told by Priscilla Potts that the art classes included drawing from the antique, still life  and landscape classes with Cecil Kelly and drawing and painting from the life with Roger Wallwork and later by Archibald Nicholl.
A group of friends from art school shared her art and literary interests. Ngaio Marsh, Ceridwen Thornton, Margaret Anderson, Viola MacMillan Brown, James Courage, Rhona Haszard, and Alfred and James Cook comprised the nucleus of painters who formed The Group, sharing clubrooms and exhibitions in Christchurch. In 1933 Evelyn Polson was a foundation member of the New Zealand Society of Artists.
By 1926 Evelyn Polson was exhibiting at the art societies of both Auckland and Canterbury. Three of the works on show were nudes: Sunlight and ShadowThe Green Slipper and Figure out of Doors. In a time when many NZ artists were mostly painting landscapes and figures were clothed, there was some comment. Anne Kirker shares this excerpt from the Auckland Star, 22nd June 1926: "'Surely there are enough doubtful and suggestive pictures to be seen at the theatres without the Society of Arts having to cater to a class of support they would be better without,'complained Purity". Argument raged for several weeks in the newspaper. Such was the backwardness of NZ art and the rarity of nude painting at the time. One wonders if she attracted more comment because she was a woman.
My friend Denise visits while I am hunting out this information and it is she who finds the right place to hang Pohutukawa Rina. I will think about it, I tell her. Later I decide she is right, and Pohutukawa Rina is hung on the east wall of my living room.
It turns out that Pohutukawa Rina was painted circa 1930, but where it was painted in New Zealand I cannot discover. Because of the pohutukawa tree I would guess the North Island, Te Ika a Maui. Pohutukawa Rina was exhibited in several exhibitions in 1935. Eventually the original painting was acquired by the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch which had first opened in 1932, funded by a gift of twenty-five thousand pounds from Mr Robert E. McDougall. The collection was predominately works from the Canterbury Society of Arts and something called the Jamieson Bequest. It is closed on the 16th of June, 2002 in advance of the new Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna O Waiwhetu opening in May of 2003. This gallery is closed for some time following the 7.3 earthquake of September 2010, and then closed again following the 6.3 earthquake and aftershocks of 22nd  of February 2011, where 185 people were killed and more were injured. The building remained closed as a gallery , instead becoming Christchurch's Civil Defence Headquarters. It was only reopened as a gallery on the 19th December, 2015, following repairs and refurbishment.
Another friend, Zeta, visits. I know something about this artist, she says, my mother told about a famous artist coming and painting nude pictures at Karamea. Evelyn Polson went to Karamea in 1927. The most known painting she painted there was December Morn, shown below.

This original of this painting is/was also held by the Robert McDougall Art Gallery.
Evelyn Polson became Evelyn Page, marrying New Zealander Frederick Page in 1938, whom she met while in London. They went to live at Governors Bay on Banks Peninsula and had two children. Evelyn Page continued to paint, going from strength to strength. A television documentary was made about Frederick and Evelyn Page in 1982. and one on Evelyn in 1987, neither of which I recall seeing but they were busy years for me back then.
In 1986 the Robert McDougall Art Gallery showed "Evelyn Page: Seven Decades, an exhibition to share her achievements and to make her work accessible to audiences throughout New Zealand. And, no, I did not see that either, I was busy in Lyttelton with three children, and  half-renovated cottage. I wish I had. But a friend, Zorma tells me that she did attend this exhibition and actually met the artist. How cool. It brings Evelyn closer again somehow.
But this wonderful print of Pohutukawa Rina hangs on my wall and I feel lucky.

The End

I wrote this first around 2001, 2002. I dreamed it in the night. I woke up feeling utterly desolated. It was my first post on the Multiply , I think, certainly one of the first. Sadly it is still relevant. Perhaps even more so.

The context was already known to us down here, the world had already been told that the end was coming, we had heard it on the news via the radio, via the tv, via the internet. But we did not know if it was really true or maybe just more lies created to further someone’s obscure political ends, we did not want to believe, and in any case, we could not comprehend the enormity of what we had been told. We knew that "up there" somewhere in the northern hemisphere the bombs had been thrown, so many that the fallout would engulf us all, that there was no chance of our survival. We knew the fallout was expected to arrive here in Christchurch at about 9:30am. But this was an intellectual knowledge, it was not real to us, we did not know how to believe it, we did not know what to do.
Because this had never happened before, we had no idea of how to act.
So we did our normal things. It was a weekday so we went to work, because if it was not true, and how could it be, then we could not afford to take the day from work when we had bills to pay. We could not risk losing our jobs by taking this day off work. So here we were, in the factory and our children were at their schools.
A peculiar atmosphere pervaded the factory, feelings of uncertainty and tension. Some people worked as normal, fast and hard, making their bonuses, and becoming annoyed at those people who were working more desultorily, clearly uncertain as to whether they should be here in the factory at all, wondering if they should have stayed at home with their families. I remember I started to work at my normal speed, then slowed, and stopped altogether, listening instead to the factory radio.
At 9:15am the factory hooter blew. Over the intercom, a disembodied voice told us to go and spend our last fifteen minutes of life outside. We filed out.
It was a beautiful spring day outside in the factory garden. The sky was blue and cloudless, the sun still shone. We all stood around, on the green grass, in small groups, wondering what to do now. Some of the women wanted to go back inside and thoroughly clean the factory. They wanted to leave all in order for the next people who would come to the factory, in case we really did die. They were unable to comprehend that there would be no next people, that what was imminent was the finish, the death of all human life on this planet forever.
I lit a cigarette and wandered down beside the river, choosing to be on my own. I stood under a tree, near a bridge, and listened to the birds in the trees, suddenly realising that they were unlikely to survive the fallout either. I could hear the sound of vehicles travelling down the nearby road just as they always did. And I thought about my children in the playground at school, probably playing in separate areas. I thought about the three of us all dying in separate places and afraid. I thought about their fear. We should have been together.
But also, I knew that if I left to go to the school, and then the world did not end and life did not finish and the fallout did not arrive, then I would lose my job when the hooter called us back in to the factory.
Another woman had walked down to the river, and I asked her what the time was. She checked her watch and told me the time was now 9:25am, and I knew the school was ten minutes away by car, and of course, I do not own a car, so I knew I could not get there in time anyway.
So I thought about my children who would have to die on their own, and I knew my own incompetence and failure, and suddenly I knew it was all true, and we really were all going to die, and the birds and the animals were going to die, and maybe the trees and the plants as well. I tried to visualise what kind of barren wasteland would be left, and tried to imagine if any form of life would ever exist here again on this planet, and how many millions of years it would be before any kind of life could evolve. And then I could no longer bear my thoughts and I walked back up to the gardens and away from the river, back to where the other people were all still standing around, some talking together in nervous whispers, others just standing silent.
And then I turned and I looked behind me, and I saw the end arrive. I saw an impenetrable metallic grayish-white mist,  like fluffy steel wool, come rolling in, a mist with so much sound, hissing and crackling and fizzing as it seemed to slide along the grass, and as it rolled thickly along its implacable path towards us, it blotted out all the landscape behind it. I saw it growing ever thicker, larger, and higher, blotting out the sun and the sky too, so they could no longer be seen. I felt my own horror, heard the gasps of horror from the people around me, found myself foolishly starting to back away when there was absolutely no escape, no possible retreat, nowhere to go. And then a woman behind me seized my arm, and pulled me into a small hollow on the side of the hill with her, as though to gain a few more pointless seconds of life, and I saw the mist rolling around at the entrance of the hollow. I smelt its foul stink, I felt the burning moistness of the chemicals as the mist swirled onto my skin and entered my burning eyes.
And I wanted to be holding my children.