A ship might just as well strike a rock

View the whole Illustrated London News, April 20, 1912; Issue 3809 (‘Titanic’ Disaster (Special Number). As well as breaking news and related photographs of the Titanic, the issue also provides a fascinating insight into the worldview of a certain Great Britain in 1912. Including advertisements.


Cover: AsylumThere are images in this book that you may never forget. I promise you.

Asylum by Christopher Payne is a photographic essay “Inside the closed world of state mental hospitals” in America. It consists of an essay by Oliver Sacks  (author of The man who mistook his wife for a hat) and an overview of seventy American mental hospital buildings by the photographer Christopher Payne.

Then you are on your own, nothing but you and these incredibly powerful images.

From the 1950’s, the treatment of  mental illness in America changed. It went from patients living in independent, self-sufficient communities housed in spectacular purpose-built buildings, to a greater dependence on drug treatments and the integration of mentally ill patients into their communities.

This book is about those buildings. Unused, seemingly hastily abandoned and falling into a state of disrepair, you find yourself sucked through their impressive front foors and down their long sad corridors. Yet Payne claims: “I found no ghosts inhabiting the hallways” and one of the former patients Anna Agnew says of these places:

 “They were places where one could be both mad and safe.”

Which brings me to my only quibble: the cover. Have a look at this book: of all the images at his disposal, do you think this is the best cover that the author could have chosen?

Parenting – gooey, milky confusion

CoverThe discussion in the news at the moment about parental leave reminds me of all the issues you are bombarded with in the early months of your child’s life. Money worries and trying to make decisions about returning to work fight it out with what nappies to use, when to wean and how to get enough sleep. It all becomes a mass of gooey milky confusion.

The library does of course have a multitude of books and magazines to pounce upon and devour as you desperately try to find your way through the parenting mine field. I do however wish the library website had been around in those early days when I was desperate for information.

CoverThere are some fabulous links. I especially like Everybody – parenting. This site has everything you could possibly need, support groups, heaps of health information, parenting tips and recipes.

Another interesting site is Babyweb NZ which is run by a mum, midwife and child birth educator and includes links to Baby friendly locations in New Zealand, equipment hire, shopping and child birth education. The links in this guide are many and varied from local community groups to larger government based organisations such as Working for Families.  It’s a one stop shop for parents and anyone else who needs  information on parenting in New Zealand.

Lonely Planet e-books come to OverDrive

Now for all you exotic people out there with money to travel I have a wee gem of a tip for you … Lonely Planet e-Books on OverDrive.

We currently have 25 maximum access Lonely Planet travel guides for you to download onto your lap top and other  portable devices such as smartphones and e-book readers.

Maximum access means these titles are always available – they exist on a magical bookshelf where you never have to wait as there is always a copy for you to take out. They are all up to date editions too. Fancy eh!

A word to the wise – these are large files, what with their pictures and maps – so they may take a while to download, but what a way to save weight and space in your luggage and backpacks!

Access these travel guides and thousands of other e-Books and downloadable audio books from OverDrive from home with your library card number and PIN.

Learning is a CINCH at the library

There was a time when I would sit in the tea room with a cup of coffee and a biscuit perusing the continuing education course booklets. Times have changed and I have a more environmentally friendly option at my fingertips. CINCH is our database of community information in Christchurch. Not only does it list community groups and halls for hire, it also lists continuing education providers. Cinch is huge; it has more options than an MMP party list.

The list is wide ranging from “Academy New Zealand Christchurch” to “Youth Development and Opportunities Trust”, for example,  astronomy is being offered by the University of Canterbury this term

There is even a list of High Schools and I couldn’t help but notice that  Hillmorton High School offers Zumba.

The good thing about continuing education courses, is there is something for everyone. Ranging from half-day workshops through to eight week courses, some even run for a full year. As for me, I’ll make a cup of coffee, grab a chocolate biscuit and continue to peruse Cinch.

Comfort Crafts

The Principles of KnittingNights are longer, mornings are colder and rugby’s back on the telly. Yes, it’s autumn – the season I reach for the knitting needles and attempt to achieve something constructive while watching Tom Taylor kick up a storm for the Crusaders.

Every year I pick some crazy project to brighten up the cold months. I’m not a skilled knitter. Sadly, I lack the concentration to create a Fair Isle masterpiece and my tension is variable to put it mildly. I once knitted my husband a jersey that had one short arm and one very long one.  He did try to wear it, bless him, but the comments he got were so derogatory it ended up as the dog’s favourite cuddly. However, given all this, I still love knitting. There’s something about the warmth of wool, the fallen leaf colours of the skein and the quiet repetition of the task that attracts me time and time again.  I pick simple projects and do a lot of them. In 2010 I made a dozen scarves, last year I filled the couches with cushion covers and this year I’ve discovered mittens.

I haven’t got the hang of circular needles yet, and I know the thumbs are going to be a bit of a challenge but I should be a master by the time spring rolls round again. What’s more I’ll have lots of funky presents to give my nieces and nephews as they hit the ski slopes. Knitting – it’s a great way to warm up winter.

Haere ra to the Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery

On Saturday while a goodly crowd watched the demolition of the Crowne Plaza, just a step down Durham Street another historically significant building was going down.

The Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery is a rather lovely red brick building that has long had an earthquake connection – that heavy duty strapping stood out against its striking brick facade.

Canterbury Society of Arts GalleryCanterbury Society of Arts GalleryCanterbury Society of Arts Gallery

Charlies Gates reported on the fate of these buildings in The Press on 17 March 2012: Repair cost dooms old building.

Asa a heritage listed building, Rarangi Taonga: the Register of Historic Places has detailed information on its history Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery (Former) – 282-286 Durham Street:

The Canterbury Society of Arts Gallery consists of two buildings – the first designed by Benjamin Woolfield Mountfort (1825-1898) in 1890. The second, erected next to the first, was designed by Richard Dacre Harman and completed in 1894.

I hadn’t realised this was two buildings, but in the 1921 photo below, you can see the stark windowless facade of the Benjamin Mountfort at right, and the more ornate Venetian Gothicism of the Richard Dacre Harman building.


Other significant points about this building:

  • The CSA’s first purpose-built premise designed by Mountfort in 1890 was the first art gallery to be built in Canterbury.
  • The CSA played a very significant role in the Canterbury art scene, with ‘The Group’, a circle of artists exhibiting there during the 1930s. Rita Angus, Evelyn Page and Doris Lusk were amongst the New Zealand painters associated with ‘The Group’.

Find out more:

That’s not scary

CoverI’m a Children’s Librarian and I read a lot of Children’s books, but I’m also an adult. An adult who isn’t actually that surprised if it turns out at the end of the book that the creepy boy that no-one else ever sees is actually a ghost <gasp>! I don’t shriek in horror at the thought of a slightly sad ghost horse hanging around a pony club or recoil in dread if a ghost only has one arm (but no bloody stump). BUT there have been a couple of ghost stories for kids that have genuinely freaked me out –

 A woman stood in the kitchen with her back to Coraline. She looked a little like Coraline’s mother only…Only her skin was as white as paper. Only she was taller and thinner. Only her fingers were too long, and they never stopped moving, and her dark-red fingernails were curved and sharp. “Coraline?” the woman said. “Is that you?” And then she turned round. Her eyes were big black buttons.

Buttons! I dare you not to feel a bit of a chill at the thought of your Mum being replaced by a stand-in with buttons for eyes.  That was from Coraline by Neil Gaiman. If you’ve only seen the movie or played the (awful) game, you should definitely check out the book, but this post isn’t about Coraline, it’s about a series of books by Chris Priestley called Tales of Terror… .

It started out with Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, then Tales of Terror From The Black Ship and I’ve just finished  Tales of Terror From The Tunnel’s Mouth.

“Don’t worry,” gurgled Peter. “I’m here, brother. I’ll always be here.” His mouth widened into a dimpled grin and mud oozed horribly between his teeth and down over his chin. He opened his mouth further and the mud flooded out, pouring down his chest in an unending glutinous stream.”

What books got your hiding under the covers when you were a kid, and still might as an adult?

Steamer Titanic Collides With Iceberg


Read more in the Press April 1912  …

Corsets: Picturing Canterbury


An advertisement for corsets sold by J. Ballantyne & Co., Christchurch and Timaru