Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Valerie's marmalade recipe ~

Valerie makes delectable marmalade but I found that after my first excellent success with her recipe I was unable to replicate it so have forumulated my own recipe which you can find here:
Valerie has been a wonderful friend and a major source of inspiration.  I have written a little about her in my article:

My articles about jam and preserves as well as other food articles can be found listed together via the link below:

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Out of the old and into the new ~ moving house and garden

After we'd seen the new place and decided that we liked it, the question wasn't whether we could afford it, but whether we could afford the move itself.  Moving is costly whichever way you do it: if you interminably drive back and forth you spend a fortune on petrol and take days doing it, whereas the truck comes and goes once and that's it.  We'll pass lightly over the number of extra trips made by car in relation to all my plants and especially fragile stuff...  Long ago I gave up attempting to do the main bit myself, and hand the job over to Conroy Removals, the same reputable movers who have done the job for us on other occasions.  They couldn't do it this time, but referred us to a firm with which they have had dealings for many years and could vouch for.  I went with that and was well pleased with the service of Best Removals.  Both are good value for money and really helpful. 

Moving is stressful no matter how well organised one is.  By the time we had packed over 70 cartons and emptied out cupboards, wardrobes, drawers and shelves I was glad I'd decided to clean carefully one room at a time as I packed.  And to have dug out, crated and removed my host of plants and assorted gear ahead of the main move.  It was all very worthwhile, and minimised the strain of getting the last chores done. 

We moved on one of the coldest days of the year, and since we'd carted most of our household goods into the garage to be handy for the truck my car was outside for the night.  It was covered in hoar frost:

I looked wistfully around my garden, sleeping beneath the frost, and hoped someone else would love it as much as I had, however unlikely that may be.  

I particularly loved these grasses, which I'd planted with such care and thought a couple of years earlier.  There was no way I could take them with me - I'd had to take out one by the gate some months earlier and ruined the blade of my spade in doing so.  I said to my landlord I hoped he liked them as much as I did.  He said he did.  I don't think that's possible, but it was nice of him to say so!  Here they are in the early morning light, something fairly-like about them:

All our things in the garage looked fine to begin with, before we brought out the remainder.  And then the combined efforts of the removals men and the two of us failed to be able to get the big couch out of either of the doors.  We took the front door off its hinges.  How did we get it in, I was asked.  I had no idea as the previous movers had done all that for us and had gone before we arrived!  Finally we got it out, minus some of the surface finish on the back corner of the couch.  Not to worry, we were on our way!

It had been a struggle to get everything into the truck, and with it loaded to maximum capacity the long extending ladder and a piece of exercise equipment remained.  I insisted that the ladder go with the truck.  The mover bruised himself wedging it diagonally in the very back, but got it in, for which I was grateful.  I couldn't possibly have taken it in the car!  So we ended up having to come back for the other, which gave me the opportunity to give the old place a once-over inspection and a dab here and there with a wet cloth, which felt right - and left the keys on the mantle.  Many thanks to Rachel and John for their patient assistance!

By the end of the day we were finished at the old place and stuffed into the new one, and I mean stuffed!

My good friend Penelope brought over a meal for us, and we had afternoon tea together wedged into the table by the bay window.  

However, within a few days things were far more ship-shape.  What a nice place to have breakfast, or any meal, for that matter, looking out over the ocean and idly watching the comings and goings on the street below: 

The cats aren't really allowed on the table, but you know how it is...

In the weeks that followed I rapidly dismissed most of the curtains in the house, replacing them with my own and did the same with all but one of the lampshades.  The light bulbs were upgraded to a decent strength, and a range of electrical and other matters attended to and got into running order.  I am pleased to have many of my own furnishing, picked up here and there and mostly second-hand, as they immediately make any place more familiar and attractive.  Boxes have been almost entirely relegated to the basement where they are neatly folded and stacked ready for the next time, and as many days as I can I make some small improvements to the place to make it function better and be more homely.  It's been hard work but fun.  

The garden is another matter again, and having been rather too busy for comfort as of late, I've been pleased that it's still winter, and not clement enough to spend much time out of doors.  It's a large section, set on a fairly steep hillside, and I'm told it's never had a garden as such. The lawns have been kept mown, but everything else has a neglected air.  This is good in a way as I have carte blanche to do what I like with it.  

Both entrances to the house are somewhat awkward with flights of concrete steps doubling back above the path below.  This made for major difficulties getting things into the house on moving day.  We both fell on them: Rewi on the front steps and me on the back.  Rewi, who was carrying one end of a very heavy wardrobe, had to step into the garden to turn that corner as the turning area on the pathway was too short, and in doing so stumbled into an abandoned portable barbecue complete with charcoal.  While he managed to keep from dropping his load his feet got covered with soot which was trekked to the door.  Fortunately I saw all this in time to insist he take off his shoes...

I fell by missing my step on the unfamiliar risers while carrying a large pot plant.  Only minor damage done, and I can do little to improve that access-way, but I can do something about the front one where I'll extend the path into the garden paving it with loose bricks discarded after building work. This will make it wide enough for future loads to be carried in and out. It will also look very much nicer.  I'm beginning to see how, with a bit of proper forethought and effort, parts of the garden could look a whole lot better.

Three terraces climb the hill at the back.  Already I have designated one of these as a vege patch, and the top one for native plants and shrubs.  It's lovely up there.  Garden seats invite one to settle there and enjoy the view, which is really wonderful, and peaceful:

Five woolly sheep placidly munch their way around the two paddocks directly beyond the fence line.  I like to see them there.  They're companionable in their way.

Gradually I'll tidy the place up doing the most urgent bits as need be.  Already it's looking much better:

This border has become my nursery for the plants I've brought with me.  The day I did this was warm and sunny, and as I worked my way along it on my hands and knees the ground and I began to get acquainted.  By the time I'd finished it both looked and felt much improved.  I felt much improved too, and more at home.  For me, that's what it's all about: establishing myself in relation to the land in a good way - which feels like a mutual liking, care and respect.  Gardening is always a collaboration between gardener, the earth, and the plants we choose to put in and tend.  The earth and growing things require so little of us and work their own magic.  I do love to be a part of that. 

We're in the midst of a winter storm at the moment, but as soon as the weather clears and is a little milder I expect to begin work in the vegetable garden.  In the meantime the crates of silver beet and rocket that I dug up from the last place continue to provide us with fresh greens.  Before the storm broke I lugged them up onto the porch so that I am able to pluck leaves as needed.  The plants are patient in their crates and generous of themselves.  Meantime the winter gales blow, the unusual snow comes and goes, and I enjoy a little leisure while I can.

Christchurch Earthquakes ~ Sumner, a photo-journal from late July 2011

I was in Christchurch briefly at the end of July.  Since my previous visit the earthquake of the 13th June earthquake had occurred, and changes to Sumner, both along its cliffs and in the shopping centre had accelerated.  Barricades in the form of shipping containers had increased in height and length and more buildings had been razed.  The cliffs suffered colossal damage, and many houses in close proximity were disastrously affected.  

Heading towards Sumner and nearing the corner next to the remains of Shag Rock (now known as Shag Pile) this house clings to its bit of hillside:

Around the corner along Peacocks Gallop, the barricade of shipping containers has been increased two high all the way along including around the corner at the far end: at that point traffic is diverted through the car park. 

A number of houses perched at the edge of this cliff face have suffered complete disaster:

A peek behind the barriers revealed this scene:

Along at the other end rock rubble has rolled right to the backs of containers.

In the shopping centre the road has been freed up by the demolition of the historic two storey community centre:

Beyond the empty section is the Marine Backpackers and Bar which is still operating.  There is quite a bit of room behind those buildings to the foot of the cliff face.  There needs to be!  To the right is the community library, still closed, which is flanked on its other side by another unstable building:

Just beyond the intersection of Wakefield Avenue with Nayland Street the barricade of shipping containers has been increased to two high right along to the bend in the road:

Although some businesses are still open the shopping centre itself has a somewhat desolate air, overshadowed as it is by shipping containers, abandoned shops and ongoing demolitions:

The pharmacy moved quite some time ago:

I walked to the far end of the Wakefield Avenue line of shipping containers.  It was quite a distance.  I looked back the other way towards the shops:

And decided I should get off the road:

My curiosity was piqued by the barricades. I took a look behind them:

It's hard to see the scale of things in that image, so I've enlarged part of it, the part which shows the shelter and the up-turned garden seat which can now be seen at the left:

It might look as if there is a lot of room between me and the cliff face, but the magnitude of flying dust, and no doubt debris also, that was thick in the air immediately following the quake of 13th June, makes this a prudent measure.  Those of you who doubt me and who have not seen my article about that event may wish to view the video below.  The scene is across Wakefield Avenue just beyond the end of Stoke Street:

This is what that intersection looked like when I saw it - rather more serene!

Just metres away that same day, one of the earliest houses built in Sumner gave way to the strain and has since been pulled down.  This is what remains: a neat fence, hedge and carefully maintained letterbox:

And around the corner the garage can be seen:

Years ago I watched Bill change the guttering on that place, all carefully done with a view to keeping the place in tip-top order.

Back behind the barricade at the end nearest the shops I had this view:

And a little closer to it I had this view of the side of the library, now freed of encroachment of the collapsing community centre:

My sister has to be one of the keenest users this library has ever had, and noted with concern that the holes in the wall were next to the non-fiction section.  Oh dear!  Weather getting into the books is not good.  The damage and loss resulting from the earthquakes is all so personal to those who live there.

My mother remarked that following the earthquakes of the 13th June a couple she knew of came over from the largely undamaged western suburbs to see what had happened.  Decidedly shocked they repaired to one of the cafes to gain what comfort they could, and found they were eating off paper plates.  All the crockery had been broken, probably for the second or even the third time.

In the midst of it all rattled citizens are coping as best they can.  Many show a wry sense of humour, as does the artist of this neatly painted graffiti:

I'll let them have the last word: yes indeed, Sumner does rock! Let's hear it for them folks!

Postscript 24th September: The Sumner library is now free of the encumbrance of the remaining unstable building as can be seen in these photographs kindly provided by Grace Dalley, which were taken on the 17th:

Postscript (2): Thanks also to brother-in-law John, who contributed some of the images included above.

All my articles about the Christchurch earthquakes and aftermath can be found via the page linked to below, or at the upper right of this screen:

Christchurch earthquakes ~ photo journal of central Christchurch, 23rd July 2011

Photographs shown here were taken on the 23rd of July when I was briefly in Christchurch to spend time with family.  They were taken in an hour or so of wandering around a part of the central city open to the public, looking, looking, looking.  Many others do the same.  Looking, taking photographs.  So many photographs. 

Why do we gaze on and wish to record what has been so painful?  To witness it, to help our brains map the changes; to keep in touch with the changing reality of our city.  What massive changes there are, and so many more still to come.  

I wanted to look but didn't want to do so alone.  Moral support seemed necessary, as indeed it turned out to be.  My sister came with me.  We started our walk in Durham Street by the Provincial Council Chambers, a historic building of considerable renown.  Here is what is left of the Stone Hall:

We peered into the window of the abandoned cafe opposite:

A yellowing copy of a newspaper dated the 22nd February 2011, that fateful day, lay on the window counter where it had been left; crockery lay on the floor:

A milk crate complete with empty containers and a note for the milkman stood outside the door:

The next people on the premises are likely to be demolition men.

My mother's solicitor had her offices in this building, or was it the one next to it?  I remembered that we had been told that all legal documents were held in a disaster-proof strong room.  I wondered what happened to all those staff that momentous day, several floors up, their offices accessed by lift.  (See postscript below.)  They're working from a different office now, out of town.  I wondered if the strong room stood up to the force of the earthquakes; how long it was before staff were assisted to retrieve all the vital documents from it; and, and, and...  Retrieval of business records has been a major problem throughout the city. 

We walked on taking a backward glance at the Provincial Council Buildings:

Ah, the ever-present portaloos - and thank goodness for them!

We crossed Gloucester Street:

The city library from the intersection of Gloucester and Durham Streets

The city's central library lies trapped by the proximity of unsafe neighbouring buildings.  Heavy machinery for digging and grading lines the street on the right.  It was Saturday, so all work within the central city had ceased.  Numbers of other on-lookers were also about, doing as we were doing - looking... 

Across the Avon we could see this historic brick building enmeshed in scaffolding and bracing, waiting for restoration:

The hotel which stands close by looked at least superficially okay, until viewed more closely: boarding and barricades at street level close off entry:

Along with other on-lookers we come to Worcester Street and looked along it to see what we could of Cathedral Square and the Cathedral two blocks away:

Worcester St from the Avon bridge looking towards Cathedral Square

Standing at the fence pictured above I held my camera high above my head to get a clearer image of whatever was further along.  

The double row of fencing made it very clear that authorities were serious about keeping us out.  It's too dangerous.  However, it should be noted that the lean of the two high-rises pictured here is due to my wide angle lens, not a lean in the buildings themselves. 

From there we set off towards the Arts Centre, the site of the old university, which in the last couple of decades has become a centre for art and craft businesses, shops, cafes, the Court Theatre and a cinema.

These beautiful old stone buildings have been damaged badly, and a great deal of painstaking work has been done to make them safe and to buttress them while restoration is carried out:

Looking down Worcester Boulevard towards the Museum

The Arts Centre bell tower

The north corner of the Great Hall

Note the reinforcing rods.  This building, the Great Hall, is on the corner of Worcester Street and Rolleston Avenue. The disordered signpost in the right of the image should be disregarded!

Around the corner on Rolleston Avenue more of the Great Hall could be seen.  Note the missing turret:

The September earthquake dislodged the turret by an inch or two.  It had been carefully removed and placed in front of the neighbouring building.  If this had not been done then it would have fallen in the February quake and been destroyed.

Faced with all this damage and destruction it was a relief to see some buildings whole and handsome.

This brick building at the corner of Worcester and Montreal Streets is one of them:

Here again the apparent lean of the building at the right is due to the wide angle of the camera lens, not the building itself.

The fa├žade of the City's new art gallery is a different case in point: it's many-angled complex glass frontage with its multiple panes of glass suffered no loss whatsoever.  Indeed, the only damage to the gallery that I've heard of is inside where a small number of ceiling tiles were dislodged. 

By this time we reached this point I was beginning to feel shattered, rather like this imagery reflected in the Art Gallery windows:

The imagery was largely a reflection of the remarkable artwork opposite:

The only reason the art gallery cannot re-open to the public is due to the neighbouring apartment blocks which are deemed to be unstable.  They are scheduled for demolition but no one knows when that will be.  You can see them behind it here.

We headed back to the car, but took one further excursion on the way: I wanted to visit the Durham Street Methodist Church where my dear optometrist, Paul Dunlop, died - to honour his memory, and also to see for myself.  This is what remained:

That beautiful door: not so many years ago our family paused in front of it to take group photographs after our sister's graduation ceremony, all smiling. 

Turning back on our tracks we passed the ornate brickwork of the old land court buildings which looked remarkably intact, as the law courts beyond them also seemed to be, not that anyone was allowed in either of them...

And we were back at the Provincial Council Chambers, seen here across the intersection of Durham and Armagh Streets:

Taking one last look at the crumbling remains of the Stone Hall we got back into the car:

Exhausted by the sheer scale of what we had seen we headed out to Sumner to be with family.

Had we been permitted to enter the closed-off central city we could have seen some of these sites filmed when Scribe was making this video as a tribute to the hard-hit city and its people.  It features his hit song "not many cities".

The video was sponsored by the BNZ which wanted to send a message of support.  Here is the video about the making of it:

Postscript regarding what happened to staff in the solicitors offices that day:
  • Law firm TaylorShaw happy to be back in the CBD - published in The Press, 30th Dec 2011.

All my articles about the Christchurch earthquakes and aftermath can be found via the page linked to below, or at the upper right of this screen: