Get spooky this Halloween

Halloween is great fun for adults and kids alike. It’s not far away so it’s time to make crafts and decorations and think about some spooky food and costumes for your celebration.

Other cool stuff:

See if your local library has their decorations up.

Look at moi! Gorgeous fashion photography books

I am a big fan of fashion photographer Tim Walker. He does stellar work in British Vogue, creating scenes that send bubbles of delight rushing through my head. We’ve got three of his books, and check out his website.

Vogue turned 120 last month. This delectable tome brings together the fashion editors, photographers and models. Scott Schuman ‘The Sartorialist’ has a new book out Closer – he is one of the great detectives of street style.

If you like the arty and saucy side of fashion photography, you can’t go past Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton.

Search the catalogue for more fashion photography eye-pleasers.

The Severed Hand of Taylor’s Mistake

Auckland War Memorial Museum Tamaki Paenga Hira
Reference: The severed hand, or, the Howard mystery: with portraits of Mr and Mrs Howard, the Messrs. Godfrey and the mysterious hand. Christchurch: Whitcombe & Tombs, 1886

There are all sorts of fascinating Christchurch stories to be found on our website. This one has a definite touch of Christchurch Gothic. The Howard Mystery, or The Severed Hand, features on our page about Taylor’s Mistake:

On 16 December 1885, at Taylor’s Mistake, a bay already clouded in mystery and maritime drama, a hand was found by two men fishing off the rocks. Identified by a ring still on it, the hand was claimed by a Mrs Sarah Howard as being that of her husband. Mr Arthur Howard’s clothing had been found on Sumner beach on 11 October the same year. Mr Howard, who was a mechanic had life insurance to the value of ₤2,400 – a considerable amount of money for this time. The sum Mrs Howard stood to gain from her husband’s demise, as well as several other aspects of the case, raised police suspicions. This led to the two fishermen and Mrs Howard being arrested for conspiracy to defraud an insurance company. Mr Howard was later tracked down in Petone, at a YMCA picnic (both hands intact) and was arrested. The hand was later identified as that of a woman but despite the exhumation of several graves in an attempt to discover the hand’s owner, to this day the identity of the woman is not known.

“Ballantynes are genuine ladies’ tailors”, 1902

The history of Ballantynes is explored on their website:

Ballantynes was established in 1854 and was originally named Dunstable House by its founders David Clarkson, his wife Esther, and sister Elizabeth Clarkson. They lived in a cottage in Cashel Street. Esther came from Dunstable in Bedfordshire, England and had been trained as a milliner. She imported 2 cases of straw hats which she sold, with sundry other items of clothing, from the front room. Seeing how well she was doing, David built a small gabled shop for her, which extended out to the Street frontage. In 1854, a partnership with David’s cousin, Thomas Atkinson, was established and the “New Drapery Establishment” in Cashel Street was first advertised in the Lyttelton Times on 23rd September 1854.

— — — — —

We have digitised a rather splendid 1902 publication Tourists’ guide to Canterbury.

I will share some of the interesting ads and pictures from it in a series of posts – there’s lots of information about local businesses and places in 1902.

Things that go burp in the night

Ah, Halloween: the celebration I love to hate. When I’ve finished locking the doors and closing all the curtains so the wee kiddies can’t peer in the windows and make unreasonable demands, I love to sit down with a great book. A scary book, filled with tension, drama, heart-stopping horror and dismembered body parts. Also Vom the Hungering, who lives in Diana’s closet, a small dachshund called Boswell, and the Bride of Frankenstein, currently running a B&B in Whitby.

I’ve written before about horror – good horror – and how truly wonderful it can be.  I could also go on for days about just how bad horror can be when written badly. This week’s collection of titles, however, is all about the burps.  There’s a small but fab group of writers who make me laugh. Out loud. In public. And interestingly many of these clever people choose to write in a genre that is more often linked to pants-wetting terror.

A Lee Martinez consistently produces clever, funny, heart-warming stories about monsters, zombies, robot detectives, and the end of the world – Chasing the Moon was one of my top reads last year, and even now I’m sitting here thinking I might go find it and read it again.  Who wouldn’t want a collection of odd monsters living in their apartment, devouring everything they can find, and bickering with each other?

When he’s not writing Doctor Who books, Paul Magrs takes familiar stories and characters and turns them upside down, adding extra crunchy bits on the way. 666 Charing Cross Road is (obviously) about two people living on different continents who swap letters and books back and forth.  The difference with this version is that one of the books turns out to be a manual to bring back the greatest vampire spirits of the world, who then set out to invade New York and London, in an impeccably dressed, tres chic sort of way. Magrs is also well-known for his series featuring Brenda, the Bride of Frankenstein, and her best friend Effie.

In Tom Holt’s Barking, the scariest creatures in existence turn out to be … lawyers. Opposing firms of lawyers who are either werewolves or vampires. Poor old Duncan is caught up in their rivalries when he is asked to join the law firm founded by an old school friend, and finds himself running around London under a full moon, being chased by a snow-white unicorn who seems to have less-than-good intentions.

And finally, one of my favourite grown-up writers has recently turned his hand to writing for teens, and is in the middle of producing a delicious wee series about Samuel Johnson, whose neighbour Mrs Abernathy seems to be doing very odd things in her basement, and who smells suspiciously like sulphur. Samuel and his faithful companion Boswell the dachshund must overcome all manner of evils in order to save the world and stop the gates of Hell from opening next door.  Chock-full of REAL science, the Hadron Collider, and stuff about QUANTUM, this is an absolutely adorable series, and makes me love John Connolly even more (although be warned – his grown-up books are written in a much darker vein).

Hidden treasures # 4: Creative Canterbury 1965

One of the things I am loving about our ANZC resources is the sheer breadth of what is collected there.  From the 1850’s almanack that I talked about last time, to the most recently published books from contemporary NZ writers, there’s something for everyone.

I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes flicking through a book that’s only a year older than me.  It’s been vastly entertaining, although possibly not in the way the publishers intended.  Page 9, for example, contains one of the most amusingly badly written articles about our region that I’ve ever read.  There are an overabundance of exclamation marks!, several sprinklings of unlikely “speech marks, and a series of rather mysterious utterances:

From the Hurunui River in the north to the Waitaki, where it marches with North Otago in the south, [Canterbury] is expendable and expandable.

Whatever that means, this wee magazine was surely meant to inspire and inform.  A joint publication between Breckell & Nicholls Ltd, and the Canterbury Manufacturers’ Association, Creative Canterbury 1965 features a series of mini-articles showcasing everything from the Extremely Bouyant (sp.!) Building Industry to Skellerup’s brand new rotocure machine, opening a new field for rubber flooring.

Those who are drawn to old machinery will love the black-and-white illustrations (see p. 98-99 for Mace Engineering and more toolroom slotters, universal grinders and horizontal borers than you can shake a stick at), while history buffs and all of us who have watched our city disappearing in front of us will feel quite surprisingly moved at the articles about brand new buildings like the BNZ on Colombo Street, and features on the Christchurch Railway Station and the Lyttelton Tunnel.

I’ll leave you with a summary of what Canterbury can offer that’s surely better than anything I could have come up with myself:

There is a habit of saying, “There’s room to move in Canterbury”. Perhaps that is the true secret of its appeal. There is room for initiative and enterprise, there is room for recreation and relaxation, there is room to build a home, not alone from bricks and mortar but from those ingredients which in fact make life.

Be you newcomer or tourist, there’s room for you in Canterbury – and a welcome on the mat!  Come on in!

Christchurch meat company, 1902

We have digitised a rather splendid 1902 publication Tourists’ guide to Canterbury.

I will share some of the interesting ads and pictures from it in a series of posts – there’s lots of information about local businesses and places in 1902.

This advert is for The Christchurch Meat Company. There is a history of this company in The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District], and the following extract from the Australasian 10 June 1899 talks about how The Company treated their workers (very apt for Labour Day):

Workmen are provided with comfortable homes, which they may rent or purchase from the company. There is a recreation hall for the use of themselves and their families, and a lending library, with a good stock of standard works. If all this were done by the Government, it would be blazoned from one end of the world to the other, but as a mere matter of ordinary business it passes unnoticed. It is an object lesson which gives us at a glance, the whole secret of New Zealand’s prosperity.

Christchurch – this week in history (22 – 28 October)

22 October 1985
“Elizabeth” the one tonne sea elephant dies of a viral infection on Sumner Beach. She had lived for 5 years on the City’s beaches, estuary and rivers and was often found crawling up suburban streets.

22 October 1988
Announcement of the appointment of Patricia Costigan as Christchurch’s first female District Court Judge.

23 October 1874
Canterbury Club building (designed by Frederick Strouts) inaugurated.

25 October 1986
“Qin Shihuang” (Chinese Buried Army) exhibition opens at the McDougall Art Gallery. 71,145 people visited the exhibition over a seven week period.

26 October 1796
Whaling ship “Mermaid” sights Kaikoura Mountains.

28 October 1985
110 vehicles stolen over Labour Weekend in the Canterbury district. Police claim it as a record.

More October events in our Christchurch chronology.

Finding interesting and important dead people

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography includes people who left their mark on the British Isles from the 4th century BC to the 21st century. They range from the godly to the mad, from the great to the downright naughty. What they all do have in common is that the details of their lives are here for all to see (and that they are all dead!). For example there is:

Richard Doll (1912-2005) Endocrinologist and discoverer of the link between smoking and lung cancer who was not allowed to adopt children as he and wife were atheists. At that time adoption agencies required evidence of the Christian commitment of prospective adoptive parents. Eventually he overcome this hurdle by setting up his own adoption agency.

Lita Roza (1926-2008) The first female performer to top the UK charts in 1953 with ‘How much is that doggie in the window?’ Although proud of the fact she wished it had been with another song!

Mary Anne Clarke (1776?–1852) The royal mistress to Frederick, Duke of York was paid more than  £7,000 to suppress her letters and memoirs in the 1810s! (That is 238,000 pounds/NZ$470,000 in today’s money) She had used her influence with him for the acquisition of commissions and preferments. This she had achieved by adding names to the duke’s lists, which he would sign without reading.

Josiah Henson(1789–1883)  The escaped slave and sole black exhibitor at the 1851 Great Exhibition.  There, he displayed four huge planks of black walnut which he planed and polished until they shone like mirrors for the exhibition’s six million visitors.

You can access this rather interesting resource through the Source using your library card number and PIN. Let these people serve as inspiration for your own life or as a warning!!

Biography and Memoir: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our October Biography and Memoir newsletter:

Cover: Most TalkativeCover: The Broken RoadCover: Making a DifferenceCover: Along The WayCover: In My Father's CountryCover: Urban LegendCover: The Woman Who Wasn't ThereCover: Fire in the BellyCover: January First

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Have you read any of these books? If so, we’d love your feedback!