Diamond Jubilee memories from our online newspapers

The Illustrated London News was the world’s first illustrated weekly newspaper. Its first issue appeared in May 1842 and continued publication until 2003. Due to this, it missed covering  Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. It did though manage to cover in great detail the Diamond Jubilee of another monarch – Queen Victoria.

Queen Victoria rightfully earned the nickname “the grandmother of Europe” with over 42 grandchildren.  Her descendants include Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh,  Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Sofia of Spain.  Her celebrations were no less impressive with her request to turn it into a festival of the British Empire! Through this online resource you can see in full colour the pageantry, ceremony and general gushing at Queen Victoria’s achievement.

For coverage of our current monarch’s celebrations and travels we have to look to Press Display which contains over 1200  fully scanned newspapers from around the world including many from England. We have the Daily Mail’s more sensational approach to the celebration and the more conservative approach of the Sunday Telegraph!

Newspapers continue to be our link to what is happening around the world – the format may change but our love for the printed word continues. Check out both these online resources for news of times past or present. All you need is your library card number, PIN and a visit to the Source.

My lucky red socks

Cover: The Team New Zealand Story, 1995-2003I have owned red socks for as long as I can remember, but it was Sir Peter Blake who made red socks lucky and fashionable.

It was 1995 and New Zealand was in the grip of America’s Cup fever.  I didn’t know my aft from my grinder. Black Magic had won the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge  Team Dennis Connor off the coast of San Diego.

Journalists soon noticed that every time Sir Peter Blake wore his red socks, Black Magic won a race.  Soon almost every one in New Zealand was wearing red socks and Black Magic made history, winning the America’s Cup 5-0. I remember hearing Peter Montgomery shouting, “The America’s Cup is now New Zealand’s Cup!”.

Cover:  The Last Great Adventure of Sir Peter BlakeIn 2000, I donned my new red socks and as summer turned to autumn, I knew the difference between a spinnaker and a gennaker and Peter Montgomery exclaimed “The America’s Cup is still New Zealand’s Cup!”

In 1997, Blake became the Cousteau Society’s head of expeditions and spent more time bringing marine conservation issues to our notice. Sadly, on 5 December  2001, pirates shot and killed Blake while he was on an environmental trip in South America.

His enthusiasm and love for the environment and his dedication to young people lives on in the Sir Peter Blake Trust and Red Socks Day. On Friday 29th June, I’ll be wearing my lucky socks; what about you?

Snow suit: Picturing Canterbury


1957: Banks of Avon River, facing the Christchurch Hospital. Early Spring day. Lynne in her snow suit.

Why I will never be a successful writer

Roddy Doyle
Roddy Doyle said: I’d like to have my bio say “He divides his time between Dublin and confusion”.
  • SO’F pursued a successful career in banking, and became Ireland’s first woman Chief Dealer, before deciding to become a full-time writer. She also plays competitive badminton.
  • ST is a high-flying attorney who has served on a number of public bodies (!), including an Illinois commission to study the death penalty.
  • MH has worked in private security and for the police.  He is a 4th Dan blackbelt and coach in ju-jitsu.
  • KM and her family divide their time between their home in Chichester, West Sussex and their home in Carcassonne – in the southwest of France.
  • PB lives in Washington State with her husband, children and a small herd of horses.
  • SG started her working life as a television script writer before becoming a best-selling novelist.
  • JB is a former lawyer who lived and practiced in Hong Kong for 12 years.  He now divides his time between Vietnam and France.

Whereas I have never lived in France, Hong Kong or Washington State; never owned a herd of anything (except cats); never divided anything except chocolate cake at birthday parties; don’t have a competitive bone in my body …

I do have a black belt, but I’m not sure where it is (possibly one of the cats borrowed it).  My career choices before librarianship have been limited by preschoolers, owning a B.A. (we all know what that stands for), and being paralysed by my inability to write the perfect opening line of my as yet unstarted unfinished masterwork.

Am I being unreasonable in my bitter mockery of those infuriating book cover bio summaries? Do you think they write their own? Do you think PB really owns a small herd of horses? Should I be more forgiving?  Should I regard them as an encouragement to aim for greater things? Should I just lie?

And here’s your challenge for the week: pretend you are a bestselling novelist, and leave a comment below with your own bio – remember, you have to base it as much as possible on actual truth.

Feeling the cool

There is nothing like music for a bit of atmosphere, so how about some  music with evocative winter lyrics?

Anne Murray – Snowbird

Beneath this snowy mantle cold and clean
The unborn grass lies waiting for its coat to turn to green
The snowbird sings the song he always sings
And speaks to me of flowers that will bloom again in spring

Lindisfarne  – Winter Song

When winter’s shadowy fingers
First pursue you down the street
And your boots no longer lie
About the cold around your feet

Little feat  – Six Feet of Snow

Six Feet of Snow Comin’ Through My Radio
It’s Rainin’ in Stilettos From Here Clear Down to Mexico
My Hands They’re Numb From Hangin’ On That
Steering Wheel
They’re Frozen Tight, Hope the Wind
Don’t Blow Me Off the Road Tonight

Simon & Garfunkel – A Hazy Shade of Winter

Hear the Salvation Army Band down by the riverside
It’s bound to be a better ride than you’ve got planned
Carry your cup in your hand and look around
Leaves are brown now and the sky is a hazy shade of winter

Queen – A Winters Tale

There’s a kind of magic in the air
What a truly magnificent view
A breathtaking scene

You can probably date me from this list. Any updates?

Sharing stories at Rehua Marae

Monday 25 June was the first day of our Story blanket Exhibition at Rehua Marae, part of our programme of events this year at Christchurch City Libraries to celebrate Matariki. It was well attended with nearly 100 people from tamariki to kaumātua coming down to visit on the first day. Reactions so far have been wonderful – exclamations of wonder, up-close and personal examinations by little eyes and fingers with oohhs and ahhs, to tears of appreciation. If you haven’t seen it yet you should come down and check it out for yourself.

“What is a storyblanket?” I hear you thinking … well, our storyblankets are visual retellings of six well-known New Zealand stories depicted on a blanket. The way the storyblanket exhibition works is that you can come down to the Marae, look at the blankets which are made up on mattresses in the wharenui and read the stories that have inspired them while you’re here.
Story blanket display at Rehua Story blanket display at Rehua

Story blanket display at Rehua Story blanket display at Rehua

Story blanket display at Rehua Story blanket display at Rehua

The storyblankets themselves have been several months in the making. The whakaaro behind the project was this: traditionally, Matariki was a time for wānanga (learning). With this in mind we decided to explore the idea of wānanga from a library perspective – in a sense libraries are giant storehouses of stories. We thought we could do this by looking at the idea of sharing kōrero or story across generations at Matariki, with a focus on pakiwaitara and pūrākau. The idea of the storyblankets exhibition was to express the essence of a story in a visual format.

We approached six authors with our idea, who graciously granted us permission to use their works as a source of inspiration for these taonga. The books we chose were:

Library teams from across the city then swung into action, retelling the story they had chosen on their blanket. Some teams used this as an opportunity to work alongside customers and local groups in their communities to collaborate on the artworks. Once completed they were then gathered up and brought out to Rehua. You can see some photos on our Flickr site.

Conceptually, in Te Ao Māori (if you can think outside the square a little), the wharenui is similar in some ways to a library. The whare represents the body of an ancestor, a shelter and gathering place for their descendants and is a living repository of kōrero. The whakairo (carvings), tukutuku (woven lattice workpanels) kōwhaiwhai and their placement inside the whare record and tell the stories, history and whakapapa (genealogy) of the local hapū/people who belong to a particular marae- connecting the past and the present. For us, having the opportunity to share this exhibition with the community in partnership with Rehua Marae is wonderful –  in a sense we are taking the library to the library – and it’s awesome being out there in the community. Ka rawe!

The Storyblankets will be at Rehua for the rest of this week between 10am -4pm. If you can’t make it weekdays there is a whānau fun day this Saturday, again from 10am-4pm with a lot of free fun activities planned, including weaving workshops, waiata session, storytime, readings by local authors Ben Brown and Gavin Bishop (of their books that feature in the exhibition), Random Acts of Music are coming down, and there will also be stalls and kapahaka performances.

How are you celebrating Matariki this year? We’d love to hear what others are doing. If you’re in Christchurch, think about coming down to Rehua and celebrate Matariki 2012 by sharing some stories with us? We’d love to see you!


But do they read as good as they look? Anyone …?

Dust off your spacesuit – it’s time for Armageddon (expo)

Armageddon Expo 2010Ah, winter.  Time for bowls of hearty soup, nights by the fireside, warm scarves, and zombie make-up.  Also chainmail, cat-ears, Death Star command posts, pizza eating competitions, and all things nerdily glorious at this weekend’s Armageddon Expo.

Every year at the beginning of July, Christchurch is over-run by hordes of Doctor Who devotees, Star Wars Storm Troopers, anime kids, and all sorts of assorted science fiction, fantasy, comic-reading, game-playing fans. And every year we send intrepid (if slightly fearful) library reporters to cover the weekend.  You can read up on previous years’ visits here, and here; we will be covering the event again this year, with blogging, pics on Flickr, and even hopefully an interview with one of this year’s star visitors, best-selling author Christopher Paolini.

Visit the Armageddon website for more information, and don’t forget that the library has a great selection of graphic novels, DVDs, and all things fan-related (including cosplay and costume books if you fancy a last-minute spot of dress-ups, for you or the kids …).

However you choose to dress, we’ll see you Saturday at the icecream-eating competition.  Or the anime screening. Or maybe next to the time-machine display. Or stocking up on comics and replica swords …

Secret stories

The secret lives of Somerset MaughamOn a jag of thinking about who owns stories about real people’s lives, I’ve moved from fiction to biography. “Biography appeals to the base part of human nature” said Hermione Lee. I’m probably more base than most, because I love a good biography but I’ve never given much thought to how the subject might feel.

It seems while you’re alive you might think you own your story, but once you’re dead you know you don’t. You’d know it if you weren’t dead, that is.

Somerset Maugham fell into the trap of thinking he could control who knew what about his private life after his death as he had in his life, asking his friends to destroy any letters he had written to them. According to his biographer Selina Hastings, this guaranteed they sold for large amounts.

He made a huge bonfire of his personal papers and had a clause in his will embargoing those that survived, but the Royal Literary Fund rescinded the clause and gave Hastings access to his papers.

Maugham might have wanted his secret lives to stay secret, but the book called The secret lives of Somerset Maugham came out anyway.

Do your wishes count after you’re dead?

Biography and Memoir: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our latest Biography and Memoir newsletter:

Cover: For Kaiser and HitlerCover: I got thisCover: A little girl's warCover: Steve JobsCover: ParanormlaCover: Giant GeorgeCover: Five foot and fearlessCover: After Cleo: came JonahCover: All fired up

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