Piping in the New Year

Piping in the new year

New Year’s Eve 1960

John William Bettridge (1899-1960) and his son Llewallyn (Allyn) Bettridge about to go visiting local pubs to collect donations for the Christchurch Metropolitan Pipe Band. This photograph was taken at the home of John and Minnie Bettridge at 91 Burwood Road (the house has since been demolished and the section redeveloped). The two little girls in front are John’s grand-daughters Alyson and Leonie Miller who had come down from Auckland to spend the summer holidays with their grandparents.

From Christchurch City Libraries collection.

Collated for Heritage Week 2010. See other Heritage Week 2010 photos

Trim down this Summer

Summer’s here. It’s time to get out and enjoy the good weather. Maybe you’re a little worried how you’ll look in your lighter clothes or still feel sluggish after winter.

Try eating better to lose weight and get fit.

Join a dance class.

Get stuck into the garden.

Whatever you do this Summer, get out in it. Every little bit of exercise helps even just playing with the kids or the dog, but most of all – enjoy!

Christchurch – this week in history (31 December – 6 January)

1 January 1908
Shackleton expedition sails for Antarctica in “Nimrod”. A crowd estimated as high as 50,000 watched the departure – probably the largest in Lyttelton’s history.

4 January 1876
First meeting of the Christchurch Drainage Board.

Members of the Christchurch Drainage Board and visitors present at the opening of the septic tank, Bromley sewage farm [4 Sept. 1905]
5 January 1940
First echelon of Canterbury troops for World War II leave Lyttelton on “Dunera” and “Sobieski”.

More December and January events in our Christchurch chronology.

Kids’ Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our December Kids’ Books newsletter:

Cover: a Dog is a DogCover: Lulu and the Duck in the ParkCover: Who Could That Be at This Hour?Cover: SpaceheadzCover: The Ghost TeacherCover: Ivy + Bean Doomed to DanceCover: Iron Hearted VioletCover: DinosaursCover: Pinocchio

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

I’m a bit in love with Stag and his book

I’ve just been reading (and looking at) a book which I feel like recommending to everyone. It’s the story of a hunting, shooting, fishing Kiwi bloke called Stag which might not sound like it has appeal to many women. But… this book, Stag Spooner; wild man from the bush by Chris Maclean, has everything.

First its a great story – as well as being a hunter, Stag was a talented artist who created what could be New Zealand’s first graphic novel. This is included in the book and will seem immediately familiar to people today. Stag went off to fight in World War II and made a bit of money designing envelopes and Christmas cards for his fellow soldiers to send home to their families. Examples of these also fill the book. Check the family archives – there might be one of these among your grandparent’s World War II memorabilia. Stag’s story also harks back to a time when hunting and fishing opportunities were far richer and many families supplemented their diet and their income by what they could shoot in the hills or catch in rivers and the sea.

Stag was very much an individual as photographs in the book show and also a man for whom his family was very important. The rest of his life story makes compelling reading, as does the story of how this book came to be.

Stag Spooner is also a beautifully produced book.  All the elements – the cover, the layout, the quality of illustrations and paper are just as a good book should be.

Picture Books: picks from our latest newsletter

Some picks from our December Picture Books newsletter:

Cover: What Can a Crane Pick Up?Cover: UndergroundCover: JanglesCover: Colour the StarsCover: Little ElephantsCover: HippospotamusCover: Each KIndnessCover: Far, Far From Home

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


The lucky library crew who get to select the big books on the important things in life like clothes and  jewellery have been excelling themselves lately. Some true beauties have come through and I have been having a good guzzle of their gorgeousness. I hope there will always be books like this; books that you are excited to see, to hold  in your hands and feel their satisfying heft, to turn their pages looking at them really, really closely.

So you didn’t get to see the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute – Schiaparelli and Prada: Imposssible Conversations is almost as good as being there.  Judith Thurman’s introductory essay is everything we expect after reading her in The New Yorker; really good writing about clothes, the people who make them and the people who wear them.  Then there are the photographs and the cunning little postcard-sized inserts of the imaginary conversations between these two Italian designers.

The New Jewelers has 800 illustrations of  “desirable, collectable, contemporary”  jewelery – enough to set off tragic dreams of winning Lotto or giving up coffee for the next twenty years to afford one of these pieces.

Coming into fashion: A Century of Photography at Conde Nast is a book of photographs of some of the most beautiful clothes from the last hundred years worn by some of the most beautiful women in some of the most preposterous poses. My standout is a model in a maillot standing on a beach holding a kangaroo by the paw.

Vogue:The editor’s eye gives an insight into the women who came up with these mad ideas. The women who said “let’s take Richard Avedon   and a bunch of models to Japan for five weeks for one photo shoot”.

The budgets may have shrunk since 1947 but the creativity hasn’t – just look at the Grace Coddington chapter.

Hollywood Costume is a celebration of 100 years of clothes in film and how they help create the identity of the characters who wear them. All the familiar images are here; Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Vivien Leigh swathed in “Miz Ellen’s poteers” in Gone With the Wind and Elizabeth Taylor spectacularly historically incorrect in Cleopatra. Sometimes the words in books like this seem to be merely space fillers between the photographs but the essays here are really interesting – Meryl Streep describes herself as “a real pain in the ass for every costume designer” because she took her degree in costume design and wrote her thesis on it.

What’s your favourite big beautiful book?

Santa and us: Picturing Canterbury

Colleen and Gavin Stevens with Santa at Beaths

Colleen and Gavin Stevens with Santa at Beaths, 1952

We’re all going on a summer holiday

Actually, that’s not true.  I’m not going on a summer holiday.  I’m just staying home, here in the gappy city, going to work, coming home, going to work …

And I’m sure there are others of you out there who are doing the same, so this post’s for you.  (You lot who’ve been reserving copies of travel guides to Spain and Croatia and other exotic places can just go polish up your passports or something).

Because I don’t get to go away this summer, I am having to travel vicariously, and in the spirit of the old ad campaign Don’t leave town ’til you’ve seen the country I thought I would have a go at listing some of the great New Zealand books I’ve read recently.  I’m talking here about the ones that have that amazing sense of place about them.  Ones that really make you feel like you could actually BE in Nelson, or Cape Reinga, or Central Otago.  Interestingly, many of them are young adult titles, but don’t (ever) let that put you off.

Rachael King’s books always make me feel like I’m right there with the characters, and her latest, Red Rocks, is one of the best at doing this.  Red Rocks actually lives in the children’s area of the library, but the story is a great read for all ages.  I grew up in Wellington, and the way Rachael describes the area brings those childhood memories back so vividly I can almost smell the sea and feel those jagged rocks on my bare feet.

Karen Healey has written two books recently that, for me, have a really strong sense of place.  Somewhat disconcertingly, her first book Guardian of the Dead is set mainly in Christchurch, but was written before the quakes, so many of the places she describes are not there any more, or are currently inaccessible.  This can make for a bit of an emotional read, in ways that I’m sure Karen didn’t intend, but even without this extra layer Guardian of the Dead is and will always be a top pick.  Her second book, The Shattering, is set in and around Nelson and the bays, and once again has the power to really make you feel like you can see those beaches and the countryside around you.

Like Karen Healey, David Hair weaves modern European and traditional Maori strands together in an action/fantasy story that makes for a great and gripping read. In book 1 The Bone Tiki, Napier teen Matiu Douglas finds he has power to travel between modern-day New Zealand and the alternate land of historical Aotearoa.  Pursued by a powerful tohunga makutu, and aided by spirit warrior Wiri and Pania of the Reef, he must embrace both his cultural backgrounds in order to save himself and his family.  In book 2 Mat has travelled to Gisbourne, and faces more danger.  Again, I love the way that David Hair can write about places that I know and recognise, and really bring them to life.

And finally, a wee treasure that I’m sure I’ve written about before.  How to Stop a Heart From Beating tells the tale of young Solly, who lives in Central Otago.  Set in the early 1960’s, and with such a young protagonist, this tale makes me feel not only like I am right there, but am also 9 years old again myself, and living through those long hot summers we used to have back in the olden days.

If you’re looking for a way to travel without leaving home, try one of these top reads, or check out one of our lists on Bibliocommons: we’ve got The Great Kiwi Novel, books with a Christchurch or Canterbury link,  and heaps of other EnZed-related booklists.

For later (much later)

For years I have noted the titles of books and authors I come across. Funnily enough, librarians come across a lot of books, and obsessives who cannot let a single interesting looking title escape them end up with a lot of scrappy bits of paper.

Number 224 on my For Later list

Sad attempts to be more organised  (Warwick 5B1 notebook indexed), more methodical (hardback with Andy Warhol shoes on the cover – so pretty I’d be sure to use it), more organised and methodical (basic black Moleskine indexed – essential to use it to justify the expense)  resulted in a proliferation of notebooks listing books to be read, books that had been read,  monthly issues of magazines so one wouldn’t be missed – on and on, spinning ever more out of control.

I tried on-line options but none of them were ideal, until I discovered the For Later option  in Bibliocommons, the library catalogue. Come across a book or an author, check the library catalogue, click Add to My Shelves – For Later and there it stays. My Account handily lets you know what books on your For Later list are available, so you can check the shelves at your local library, or put a reserve on knowing you won’t have to wait long.

The problem is that it’s just a little bit too easy. I currently have 224 items on my For Later list. “You won’t live that long,” said a book club friend. She is now a former friend. Some of them are of an idle flick through on a Friday night nature, so they will be easily transferred to my Completed shelf (an intensely satisfying feature of My Account in Bibliocommons), but others will require actual reading.

And I can’t stop adding to it. Now I have a list of books I took home in 2012 but didn’t read. In two weeks’ time, I will have to start a list of books I took home in 2013 but didn’t read.  And they just keep coming; calling to me from the new books shelf, thrusting themselves off the review pages of newspapers, magazines and web sites, inserting themselves into conversations with colleagues.  Please tell me there are longer For Later lists. Please.