Hello springtime

Spring has almost arrived – depending on which definition you use*  – and the weather is certainly reflecting this.

It is easy to be inspired by nature. When I was younger I used to take every opportunity to make something out of whatever I could find in the garden. Daisy chains, bouquets, weavings, dried flowers that just looked dead…couldn’t have anything nice in the garden with me around. Those lovely red roses would soon find themselves dangling from my bedroom door frame in a preserved state of shrivelled brown decay.

Christchurch City Libraries has a wealth of books that are full of ideas for the nature loving craftarians out there. Here are just a few:

Helen Ahpornsiri creates beautiful artwork out of pressed flowers. Her book, Helen Ahpornsiri’s A Year in the Wild, is a beautifully illustrated (with her pressed flower art – no paint in sight) account of the four seasons of the natural world. I will commission husband to make me a flower press at once. Or just use a heavy book.

For fans of both Shakespeare and the natural world, I introduce you to: Botanical Shakespeare, exquisitely illustrated with the flora and fauna cited in the works of the most famous playwright Shakespeare, alongside accompanying verses.

Though a British guide, Margaret Wilson’s Wild Flowers of Britain is so beautiful to look at that it really transports me to a scene straight out of English romance novel. The author was a keen botanist and documented, in watercolour, (over the course of a number of years!) a thousand British and Irish plants.

As a huge Tolkien fan, no way could I pass up on Flora of Middle-Earth. This book is a catalog of each and every plant found in Tolkien’s fictional world, Middle-Earth. Nerdy bliss.

The Great Library Seed and Plant Swap

Where & When: At a library near you

About: The seed swap has proved wildly successful over the years, just bring in your leftover seeds and we’ll put them out to share (though don’t worry if you don’t have any this year, you can always bring some next year 🙂 ). We welcome vegetable, herb, flower, native, and heritage seeds. You can also bring any spare potted-up seedlings. Yay gardening.

Check out our gardening page for gardening information and resources.

A Naturalist’s Bookshelf

Now about that spring cleaning…

*The astrological/solar beginning of spring takes place at the vernal equinox on Sunday, 23 September. The meteorological reckoning has the beginning of spring as 1 September.

Strengthen your reo with waiata Māori

Everyone loves and appreciates different forms of music;  whether it’s through singing, playing your favourite instruments and singing along, or by simply listening and feeling the heart of the music. The amazing thing about music is that you can hear it in any language and yet still feel the passion and story behind it.

Waiata, like other forms of music is a way to communicate. It serves a purpose, such as storytelling, to support, to teach, to warn, to urge others, or to mourn. It is beautiful and passionate, and its purpose only make these feelings stronger.

There are three main types of traditional waiata. These are waiata tangi (laments), waiata aroha (love songs) and oriori (lullabies). However, these are only some of the many forms of waiata; and it now spans across various music genres and themes from Alien Weaponry’s album ‘Tū ‘ ( a heavy metal band that sings completely in Te Reo,) to Maisey Rika‘s song ‘Tangaroa Whakamautai,’ from her album Whitiora, which is haunting and beautiful.

What is your favourite waiata? What does waiata mean to you?

Waiata is another way to help learn new words or a language. It helps build your memory by repeating lyrics and having a meaningful or catchy tune; and is a great tool for teaching tamariki.

Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga (Ministry of Education) has some awesome resources built on supporting te reo Māori by giving resources designed for learning and teaching in waiata. Hei waiata contains song sheets with the key, lyrics and tune, teaching suggestions and finally a free MP3 download of the waiata; and there is plenty to choose from!

Another way of getting to learn easy waiata is to listen to it; could be at home, in the shower, or in the car ride on the way to school. Anika Moa has two lovely albums with songs for children that are catchy, easy to sing to and are just plain fun!

You could also have a look at Māori Television’s “Waiata,” a showcase of original songs from Aotearoa’s contemporary artists.

Did you know we also have loads of resources of waiata right here in Christchurch City Libraries? There is various forms of enjoying waiata; could be as a CD, a lyric book, or a compilation of various formats e.g book and CD.

Check out some of these!

If you would like some more waiata inspiration give these a listen:

Find out more

Throughout Te Wiki o te Reo Māori we’ll be blogging about ways you can help strengthen the reo.

Kōrerorero mai – Join the conversation

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year

Jewish New Year, or Rosh Hashanah (literally translated as ‘the head of the year’) is one of the most important dates on the Jewish calendar. It is a time for seeking forgiveness and in effect, beginning the year with a clean slate. Celebrated over two days, Rosh Hashanah is marked through traditions such as blowing a shofar (a hollowed out rams horn), casting off sins into a river, and dipping apples in honey (a symbolic hope for a sweet new year). It is a celebration filled with hauntingly beautiful ancient customs and symbolism, and even for those who are not of the jewish faith, Rosh Hashanah and jewish tradition in general, is fascinating to learn about.

Judaism has hugely informed western ethics and law, making awareness around this faith important. The library has some fantastic books on Judaism both for children and adults. as well as great resources on jewish history.

Cover of The story of the Jews by Simon SchamaOne of these gems is Simon Schamas epic ‘The Story of the Jews which details the suffering and accomplishments of the Jewish race from 1000 BC to the Holocaust, to modern day. Schama tells the Jewish story with empathy, insight, and even humour.

More locally the library also holds Jewish Lives in New Zealand a beautifully produced book which records the achievements of over 8000 New Zealanders who identify as Jewish.

If you are really wanting to go the extra mile and are keen to attempt some Hebrew, our free online learning resource ‘Mango Languages’ has a course you can try on both biblical and modern Hebrew. Again, there are also some great books in our collection you can use to supplement your learning, both for children and adults.

Wanting some Jewish themed movies? The library has a fantastic selection of these too, including these five great picks:

  • Chariots of Fire, a classic movie which tells the story of two runners in the 1924 Olympics- one a Scottish Christian, the other Harold Abrahams, a Jewish man seeking to overcome the world’s prejudice.
  • Fiddler on the Roof A musical with universal appeal, Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a poor jewish milkman living in Tsarist Russia as he and his wife seek to find husbands for their three daughters. With touching themes of family, tradition, and human tragedy, Fiddler on The Roof is also packed with excellent music and timeless jewish humour.
  • A Place to Call Home: Set in post war Australia, and featuring a seriously fantastic Jewish heroine, this binge-worthy TV series is the ever addictive saga of Australian royalty – the Blighs. Happily the library holds all four parts to this series, because once you start, you really won’t stop.
  • Daniel Deronda: This beautifully filmed adaptation of George Elliott’s classic novel, tells the parallel stories of Gwendolyn Harloth, a beautiful but spoilt gambler, and Daniel Deronda, a sensitive and brilliant young man. Unique for its time, Daniel Deronda explores the theme of Jewish identity in the nineteenth century with a beautiful sympathy and understanding.
  • Gentleman’s Agreement When a journalist decides to research anti-semitism as empathetically as he can by telling people he is Jewish, he witnesses first hand the bigotry that is rife in 1930s America. A classic movie which remains as relevant and effective as when it was first released in 1947.

There are so many amazing Jewish authors it is hard to recommend just a few you could try, but here is my attempt with five very different writers:

  •  I Will Bear Witness ‘I Will Bear Witness’ is the incredible diary of Jewish scholar Victor Klemperer. Written in Germany during the second world war, these powerful and mesmerising diaries describe day to day life under the Nazi regime with important detail, candour, and courage.
  • Foundation: Asimov’s classic Foundation series is the forerunner to other space age Science fiction. The first book in this trilogy begins the tale of the death and reestablishment of the Galatic empire. While brilliant Mathematician Hari Seldon attempts to gather the Galaxy’s finest thinkers in order to preserve knowledge and ideas for the next generation, corrupt warlords threaten to destroy their ‘Foundation’ and potentially, any hope for the future of mankind.
  • The Catcher in the Rye: This unforgettable classic is sixteen year old Holden Cauldfield’s simultaneously hilarious and tragic story (narrated directly from a Sanatorium) of the events that happened to him just before Christmas. In Holden/Salinger’s own words “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it”. This is exactly how you feel after reading this.
  • Cover of The Finkler QuestionThe Finkler Question: This Man Booker Prize Winning novel explores what it means to be Jewish and the dark theme of anti semitism. ‘The Finker Question’ tells the story of two friends- Sam Finkler a Jewish author and philosopher, and Julian Treslove, a less successful BBC worker. When Treslove is attacked as he walks home that night, there follows his exploration of who he is, opening up a story of identity, old age, justice, and love. A wonderful story told with compassion, humour, and intelligence.
  • Exodus This gripping epic tells the story of the birth of Israel through the eyes of Karen, a German Jewish teenager orphaned by the Holocaust; Kitty a glamorous American looking to make a new start in life, and Ari, an Israeli freedom fighter raised on a kibbutz and determined to see the survival of this new nation. ‘Exodus’ is a fast paced novel written with passion and insight, one of those reads that really is impossible to put down.

Rosh Hashanah began on Sunday evening 9 September, and ends on the evening of Tuesday 11 September. Whichever way you decide to celebrate, shanah tovah everyone!

Find out more

Interview with Laurence Fearnley – WORD Christchurch Festival 2018

During the chaos of dashing between WORD sessions, writer and co-editor Laurence Fearnley kindly agreed to sit down with me and answer a few questions about her new anthology To the Mountains and other works.

What brought you to writing about mountaineering?

My parents used to do a lot of climbing in Scotland and Wales after the war [before moving to Christchurch]. We spent a lot of weekends tramping — dad went on a couple of expeditions to the Himalayas, my brother was a keen climber… When I was doing research for my novel The Hut Builder I read a lot of Alpine Club articles and ended up with boxes and boxes of material, so I thought it would be quite nice to do something with that. There hadn’t been an anthology of mountain writing since Ray Knox’s A Thousand Mountains Shining in the 80s, so it seemed a good time. I hadn’t really kept up to date with modern mountaineering writing but [co-editor] Paul Hersey edited the Alpine Journal and is a climber, so he had that sort of knowledge.

You researched a lot in the Hocken Collection. What was that like?

They have full archives from the Alpine Club, which was established in 1891. It’s interesting because they allowed women to join as members right from the start, compared to others like the Canterbury Mountaineering Club which didn’t allow women in until the 1980s. I got material from those archives and also from notebooks, journals, and letters that individuals have donated to the collection. It’s an amazing archival record, it’s incredible. It does taper off from the 1970s/80s onwards so it would be great if people continued to donate to the collection, if this could be our central repository of mountain writing.

A lot of voices chosen for this anthology aren’t those most people would associate with alpine writing — usually we only hear from those at the cutting edge of mountaineering.

That’s the sad thing because that’s how you get the same old voices coming through, if they’re not disrupted by allowing different voices. Mountains are a big part of our sporting identity, it would be nice if it was seen as something families do, not just rugged individuals. There are so many reasons why people go into the mountains — photography, art, for somewhere quiet and restful, to admire the beauty… The public perception of conquest [of the Alps] doesn’t really hold true, it’s not necessarily a motivation for most people.

At the same time a lot of the 1930s Canterbury Mountaineering Club articles are of trips in the Port Hills because it was difficult to get good transport to the Alps — they might only be able to get into the mountains once or twice a year but they were very fit. It was a class orientated sport, particularly in the early days. It’s interesting when the boundaries start breaking down between the upper middle class mountaineers and the working class mountain guides. Guides weren’t allowed in the Alpine Club because they were professionals.

Laurence Fearnley. Image supplied.
Laurence Fearnley. Image supplied.

Which doesn’t give credit to the fact that the guides were doing a lot of the work putting up tents, cutting steps, carrying the equipment…

Yes, you get someone like Dora De Beer on an expedition overseas in China, they walked 400 miles before they even got to the mountain, it was a real Victorian expedition. They would expect shelter from whatever was available, from monasteries to embassies, just take over their house. She was an amazing woman — during the 30s just before the war she would drive from London through Holland, Germany and Switzerland to get to Italy, on her own a lot of the time. Her diaries are from 1936-37, a lot of her entries are things like “Very inconvenienced getting across the border,” such a sense of imperious entitlement with no mention of the political climate. People like her were so curious and enthusiastic, in New Zealand they’d set off on horseback across Otira to the West Coast, just loving the absolute freedom of being out of that rigid society. They thought it was a great hoot.

Some of my favourite parts of the book are letters from the 1800s, there were some really funny excerpts. You must have had a lot of fun finding these in the Hocken collection. Do you have any favourites?

The ones I liked were the quieter, reflective pieces, people going back later in life and just enjoying being in the outdoors with their friends. I guess Jill Tremain had a big impact on me as a kid when she did the [1971 traverse of the Southern Alps] with Graeme Dingle — I can remember it being on the radio, there was a lot of controversy about them sharing a tent as she wasn’t married. From her letters she seemed to have such a generous outlook on life.

Voices I like least would be the 1970s slightly macho hard men stuff, that’s not a voice that appeals to me but quite a big part of the literature of the time. When you compare those writers with Aat Vervoorn, so reflective and spiritual, learning from the landscape… The ones who enjoy being in the space rather than needing to prove themselves or get a reputation, those would be the voices I like.

To the Mountains. Image supplied.
To the Mountains. Image supplied.

What are you currently working on?

I’m two-thirds of the way through a novel looking at landscape through scent and identity, under the umbrella narrative of a woman who loses her job when the university Humanities department is done away with. That one will be coming out next year. I’m also looking at doing an anthology of New Zealand women mountaineers. This will be more historical, it will be worthwhile to have a chronology of women mountaineers as there are so many of them.

What are you reading at the moment?

Just read a couple of books that I reviewed for Landfall, one called Oxygen by [New Zealand freediver) William Trubridge — not a book I’d necessarily be drawn to but interesting to see just how determined and focussed he has to be. The other is a beautiful book about hunting called Dark Forest Deep Water by Richard Fall, which would normally be something that turns me off but hearing him reflecting on why he hunts and the emotional journeys of hunting… It’s a great book, I’d really recommend it.

Thanks Laurence for a lovely interview, and I look forward to reading your next books!

A Very Big Deal – Charles Kingsford-Smith’s flight to Wigram, 11 September 1928

When it’s so easy to cross the Tasman, many people do – a winter holiday on the Gold Coast, a show in Melbourne, shopping in Sydney, family in Perth …thousands of Kiwis travel to Australia every year, and its easy to forget that the very first trans-Tasman flight was less than 100 years ago and was A Very Big Deal.

The Southern Cross. [10 September 1928] CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0015
The Southern Cross. [10 September 1928] CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0015
The flight time was 14 hours and 25 minutes, with the three-engineed Fokker plane Southern Cross flown by Australians Charles Kingsford-Smith and Charles Ulm along with navigator Harold Litchfield, and radio operator Thomas H. McWilliams. This flight was only the latest in a series of ‘firsts’ for Kingsford Smith and Ulm: in June 1927 they completed a round-Australia circuit in 10 days, 5 hours; then on 31 May 1928 they  made the first eastward trans-Pacific flight, leaving from Oakland (California) to Brisbane, via Hawaii and Suva, in 83 hours, 38 minutes of flying time. In August 1928 came the first non-stop trans-Australia flight from Victoria to Perth.

An unsuccessful attempt to fly the Tasman had been made by two New Zealand Air Force pilots – Captain George Hood and Lieutenant John Moncrieff in January 1928. The crew of Southern Cross dropped a wreath to their memories approximate 240 km off the coast of New Zealand.

Initially Kingsford-Smith and Ulm planned to depart Australia on 2nd September, but were forced to delay departure due to poor weather, departing Richmond (near Sydney) on the evening of 10th September. The flight was made in stormy – at times icy – conditions, with landfall near Cook Strait.

The crowd that greeted them in Christchurch was estimated at between 30 and 40,000, and the whole country celebrated the achievement – finally we were connected to the rest of the world.

Charles Edward Kingsford Smith, and others, upon the arrival of the aeroplane Southern Cross at Wigram, Christchurch. Evening post (Newspaper. 1865-2002) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: 1/2-084047-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/23012759

While the New Zealand Air Force overhauled their plane, Kingsford-Smith and crew were taken on a triumphant nationwide tour. Their return flight from Blenheim to Richmond took 23 hours due to severe weather, fog and a navigational error. On landing they had 10 minutes of fuel left.

It was another twelve years before a regular air service by flying boat began in April 1940, and flight time was 9 hours.  Thank goodness it doesn’t take so long now!

Kingsford-Smith went on to make further record-breaking flights and was knighted for services to aviation in 1932.

Kingsford Smith & Sumner school. Kete Christchurch PH13-058.jpg
Kingsford Smith & Sumner school. Kete Christchurch PH13-058.jpg

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