Arrivals and departures

The Universe can count itself lucky that there were no cameramen on hand to record my New Zealand arrival 15 years ago. Months of wailing, breast beating and sad partings had taken their toll. Add to that a Harare detour, a missed connecting flight and a night spent in a Perth Airport Transit Lounge, and what emerged at Christchurch Airport Arrivals Hall umpteen hours later was not a pretty sight.

However, I am looking forward to Christchurch Photo Hunt Competition, with its theme: Arrivals and Departures – the journeys that have shaped us.

Christchurch Photo HuntKiwis are great travellers, and worldwide there is a growing trend for people to live away from the countries of their birth. According to an article in the Jul/Sep 2015 Destinations magazine, approximately 3% of the world’s population live outside of the countries in which they were born. Frankly I would have put that figure higher given the teeming masses at the airports I frequent on my annual trips back home (wherever that may be). Maybe I am just seeing the same tired old passengers again and again?

If you are looking for inspiration to get your photographic juices flowing, we have masses of beautiful photography books, and I have a fair smattering of  of recent reads on the topic of coming and going – and running on the spot:

On coming home: Kiwis often travel out and wing their way back at some stage in life. Paula Morris has written an excellently researched little book on this topic: On Coming Home. It is a tiny book of only 76 pages about the author’s return to Auckland to look after her ageing mother, herself an immigrant. Arriving and departing is inextricably linked to our concept of Home, and this book comes with an outstanding bibliography. Norris’s mother sums it up like this:

My mother: I’m not a New Zealander.

Me: You’ve lived in New Zealand for forty years.

My mother: If I lived in China, would it make me Chinese?

Cover of The Other side of the WorldOn the lure of the new: The Other Side of the World by Stephanie Bishop is the book I wish I had written. In this novel Charlotte uproots from Cambridge, England, to Perth, Australia, where her husband has landed a lecturing position. It is a book about people who just do not transplant well. People whose rope of yearning is so strong it starts to pull the corners of their mouths down. I have always known that I am not really a mover. Yet here I am. This book was written for me.

On to-ing and fro-ing: Justin Cartwright grew up in South Africa, but lives in England. Several of his books are about the pull that South Africa still exerts on him. Books like White Lightning, To Heaven by Water and more recently Up Against the Night. In Afrikaans (and indeed in the book White Lightning) he is disparagingly referred to as a “soutpiel”. This is a man who has one foot in England, one foot in South Africa – and I leave you to work out which part of his anatomy is in the salty Indian Ocean.

Cover of Island HomeOn staying put: My choice here is Tim Winton‘s latest book Island Home: A Landscape Memoir. This is a beautiful song of praise for how the land that we love makes us who we are – in this case the land is Australia. You get the distinct feeling from this book that Tim Winton would wither away if he had to live away from his beloved country.

But don’t think that you have to be the world’s greatest Frequent Flyer to enter the Christchurch Photo Hunt. Maybe you just went on a picnic from Sockburn to Spencer Park and you have a great photo of it. Maybe someone took your photo as you left on the bus from Worcester Boulevard (in the good old days) to take your place at Uni down south.

Help us flesh out the full panorama of all our arrivals and departures over the years. Every Picture Tells a Story!

Charles Reginald Shaw: Father, surveyor, farmer

We’ve digitised another gem from 19th century Canterbury in the form of a diary kept by Charles Reginald Shaw.

Potrait of Charles Reginald Shaw
Babington, Thomas A, fl 1860s. [Babington, Thomas A] fl 1860s Attributed works :[Portrait of Charles Reginald Shaw 186-?]. Ref: B-132-001. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23184652
Shaw was born in Cheshire, England in 1829 and spent some time on the Australian goldfields before coming to New Zealand in 1857. Shaw was Surveyor for the Canterbury Provincial Government carrying out surveys on Banks Peninsula.

In 1861 he moved to Timaru and was District Surveyor there until 1877. His diary has daily entries and covers a period during this time, 10 December 1866 – 5 August 1872. It gives details of the sections he surveyed, how much money he paid people for various things (milk, butter, a horse!) as well as comments on social affairs, and family matters. Local tradespeople are mentioned as well as places and events like the opening of a new church.

The diary is full of industry and activity; building fences, laying out roads, plotting out land, and digging up carrots.

Though there are interesting insights into colonial life in Canterbury (the Canterbury anniversary holiday in 1866 is celebrated with, of course, a game of cricket) the most poignant story from the diary details the loss of Shaw’s daughter.

She may have been a sickly baby as there is more than one reference to her being ill in the diary and on Wednesday 20th of February 1867 Shaw reports that his wife Louise (often referred to as “Lou”) and the baby are both “very poorly” with colds and coughs. He stays at home rather than going to work but digs potatoes “most of the day”.

By Friday his wife has improved but the baby is worse. A Dr McLean is sent for. Again Shaw stays home. Over the weekend Shaw is “up all night nursing” the infant.

After a week of sickness the baby fails to rally prompting Shaw to consider administering a rather inadvisable “tonic”.

Thursday 28th: “Up all night again last night with the baby…slept in all morning and sent to the Royal for a bottle of sherry for the poor little baby – but it was all no use for the poor little thing died – about 1/2 past seven in the evening on Mrs Butler’s lap.”

Over the next few days Shaw makes funeral arrangements, registering the death, showing the grave digger which plot in the cemetery will be used and eventually putting “the little Bertha in her coffin”. On the Sunday baby Bertha is laid to rest.

March 3rd: “Buried my little daughter in the cemetery…”

Not everything in the diary is this poignant but the reality of 19th century life was that childhood illnesses did sometimes prove fatal.

After his tenure as Surveyor was over Shaw stayed in the area, farming 500 acres at Totara Valley, to the west of Pleasant Point until 1898. He was married twice and had a large family (five sons and nine daughters). He was active in the local community even in his older years and died in 1906.

He is buried at Timaru Cemetery in a plot he shares with Bertha, his wife Louise, and another of his daughters.

Further reading

“A Politically sensitive interiors book”

Estates: An intimte HistoryWhen I was younger, a trip to London brought me face to face with social housing and tower block living.  My aunty lived 15 floors up. It was a spacious place with big windows that let in the sun. I remember being surprised that she was allowed to have four dogs and pondered their toilet habits (let’s just say if wasn’t always good),  but she lived there until her block was deemed unsafe and she was once again at the mercy of the private landlord.

Coming from New Zealand with my memories of backyard cricket, I was secretly horrified that she could live without a garden and surrounded by so many people. However she loved it, social housing was after all “social”, her friends were nearby and she had support and company. Those days are gone, and when I came across this book Style Council: Inspirational interiors of ex-council homes I was interested to see what gentrification of these once important estates would actually signify.  I imaged pared back neutral interiors, a few choice pieces scattered artfully with owners declaring the building had ‘good bones’.

Style councilI was pleased to find that this book although containing a bit of fancy interior talk, it is by and large a celebration how social housing bettered people’s lives and how a dedicated bunch of admittedly often arty types are bringing these buildings back to life, some of whom work in association with Poplar Harca (Housing and Regeneration Community Association) a housing association in the East End of London which is revitalising estates and working on community regeneration. The author – mindful of the fact that many would find this book idea to be gentrification gone mad – states she may have created “a publishing first – a politically sensitive interiors book”

The buildings vary as much as the people who live in them. I particularly enjoyed the large brutalist Tower blocks,  (which I’m sure must have ‘good bones’), and perhaps this gave me a fondness for the old Government Life building in Cathedral Square. I always liked to think it would have made great apartments.

This is a lovely book to pick up and read a chapter, look at the interesting photography and enjoy a glimpse into both the past and the present of these iconic buildings.