Raging at road cones

When a letter from SCIRT arrived in our mailbox earlier in the year, detailing the works to be done to the underground pipes on our street and those on surrounding roads, it was greeted with pleasure. The prospect of being able to ‘flush without fear’ after days (or even merely hours) of rain looked to be close at hand with the remediation of the nearby earthquake damaged storm-water and sewer pipes.

The ever-present symbols of... progress?
The ever-present symbols of… progress?
Photo by F. Allison.

The road cones, signs, trucks and workmen arrived, did their job and departed. Or at least 3 out of the 4 of the traffic management crowd did. The little orange cones stuck around. Some of their whānau disappear for a bit, but still visit regularly for a party in the middle of our street or the neighbouring ones, for no apparent purpose.

Some days it seems my travel to and from work is book-ended by roadworks and the cones, and they appear on every second road in between. When I find myself faced with yet another un-notified unexpected detour, down a street going in completely the opposite direction to which I need to head (and of course I have allowed no time for in the morning rush of school and preschool drop offs), part of me thinks ‘suck it up, princess, the east side of town has been dealing with this for YEARS not just months!’ and yet I often still have the urge to scream and swear. I manage to resist, if the children are in the car. Usually.

Cover of JamI suppose I should be grateful I’m not in the traffic jam on the M25 in England, as depicted in the novel Jam. Or perhaps I should borrow some soothing, calming music from the library, and play it in the car during my travels…

By Cecilia Freire de Mance, Creative Clay Studio
Art by Cecilia Freire de Mance, Creative Clay Studio.
Photo by F. Allison.

Of course the primary purpose of the orange wonders has been subverted on numerous occasions in post-quake Christchurch: the annual floral tributes in individual cones on each anniversary of the February 2011 earthquake, which local artist Cecilia Freire de Mance has captured beautifully in clay ornaments; en masse as unusual artworks at Festa 2014. They even morphed into a giraffe during the Christchurch Stands Tall trail last summer.

Some residents in the city have even been sufficiently moved to write letters to the Press to express their feelings about the humble items.

What is your experience of road works? Have you found road cones to be little orange triangles sent by Satan to torment you at every turn, or are they bright happy indicators of important progress happening across our city?

CityUps - FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture. Flickr, 2014-10-25-IMG_3044
CityUps – FESTA Festival of Transitional Architecture. Flickr, 2014-10-25-IMG_3044
Cone-raff, photo by Claire Levy
Cone-raff.
Photo by Claire Levy, published in SCIRT’s Road cone giraffe steps in for vandalised model St Albans – RoadConology 101.

‘Art’ is in the eye of the beholder?

Is it art or graffiti? If you’ve been meaning to check out the record breaking Rise street art exhibition, that is showing at Canterbury Museum, you’ve only got a little while before it wraps up on March 23rd.

Cover of Subway ArtI expect the huge colourful murals created by local and international artists currently adorning walls around the central city, will be with us a lot longer and may continue the discussion that’s been sparked over what constitutes art as opposed to graffiti.

Vigorous debate has played out in Christchurch newspapers over the past few weeks, but you can make your own mind up!   For more on the world of street art, there are plenty of books available, and an excellent starting point would be the seminal work Subway Art by Martha Cooper & Henry Chalfont.

The exhibition features a private collection of works by Banksy, who is no stranger to public comment and curiosity. More on this mystery man can be found at our libraries.  I’ve just finished Banksy: The man behind the wall which, while it could have benefited from some judicious editing in my humble opinion, does give an insight into the secretive artist and his street art/graffiti origins in Bristol.

Cover of Banksy: The Man Behind the WallOne of my Banksy favourites of the exhibition, was ‘Kids on Guns’, but ‘Kids on Gins’ by the artist known as Milton Springsteen is a brilliant take on the original.  As are his subversions of iconic New Zealand art works.  His series of ‘Corrupt Classics’ was one of the exhibition delights for me.

On the flip side, if it’s graffiti and tagging that’s an issue for your own property or neighbourhood, the Christchurch City Council wants to know.  If you’d like to take an active role in helping remove graffiti from around the city then the team at the Graffiti Programme would love to hear from you!

Two of my favourite large street art works are these ones on a couple of walls in Sydenham.

Street ArtStreet Art

What’s your take on this style of art? Love it or loathe it?

Straying into fantasy

HCover of The Bone seasonave you ever had a book turn up as a hold and you have no memory of why you might have requested it? After getting an email telling me The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon was waiting for me at my local library, I was puzzled as to why on earth I might have requested it, since it’s a book in the fantasy genre. As a rule I am a hard core mystery and thriller fan – give me a Louise Penny, Michael Connelly or Michael Robotham and I’ll be happily content.

Cover of Club DeadBut fantasy? With characters and things in the story that don’t exist in real life? Not my thing, thanks. My only exposure to the adult novel world of fantasy is limited to the occasional foray into the weird and wonderful happenings in the Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. After all, who can resist a sexy vampire or werewolf every now and then for a bit of escapism?

However, as The Bone Season was there, and I was short on things to read so I decided to give it a go, on the assumption that some time in the forgotten past I must have read a review of the book and been sufficiently intrigued.

And I’m glad I did! Although the four pages of the ‘seven orders of clairvoyance’ at the start of the book, did make me pause and reconsider my decision momentarily. Set in London in 2059 under control of a security force called Scion, nineteen year old Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld as a dreamwalker, whose developing skill is breaking into the minds of other people. Clairvoyants or ‘unnaturals’ are a hunted species in this world and when Paige is captured she finds herself held prisoner by The Rephaim, an otherworldly powerful group of beings in Oxford, the city that has been kept secret for two centuries. Life is grim in Sheol 1 and Paige finds herself with little option but to try and work with her enigmatic master Warden Arcturus.

Shannon writes well enough to hold a non-fan of fantasy in thrall of the developing story – and the ending satisfies while clearly setting the scene for the second of what will be seven books in the series. Film rights have already been sold, so no doubt Bone Season the movie will appear on screens in due course.

If you want to keep up to date with the fantasy publishing world, you can subscribe to the monthly newsletter or you can get your fill of your preferred genre by checking out more of the same from Christchurch City Libraries If you Like suggestions.

I suspect I’ll be on the waiting list for when the next book in The Bone Season series comes out, have you strayed outside your reading comfort zone lately?

The world of dinosaurs

Cover of DinosaursI have a dinosaur hatching at my house. You know your five year old son’s obsession has rubbed off when you find yourself debating with your spouse as to the proper name of a toy – “It’s an ankylosaurus” – “No it’s not, it doesn’t have the club tail!” Never mind the fact that you only learned of the existence of larger dinosaurs when the five year old introduced them to you via the BBC series Planet Dinosaur. Spinosaurus and Carcharodontosaurus are so much cooler than the comparatively little but much more well known T-Rex. Oh how our world and vocabulary has expanded.

I don’t know that I’ll manage to get as creative with plastic dinosaurs as the American parents, who must surely blow their childrens’ minds during their yearly Dinovember, but I do admire their inventiveness.

Cover of Planet DinosaurTo satisfy any level of curiosity the library has loads of items to borrow about dinosaurs including the fabulously big, bold and pictorially beautiful Dinosaurs. There’s also lots of information to be found in online resources like National Geographic: KidsNational Geographic Virtual Library and World Book Online available from The Source.

Right, I need to go and check on the development of the hatching parasaurolophus which is bound to be my son’s favourite dinosaur for the next five minutes.

Do you have a budding paleontologist at home or a favourite dinosaur?

Confessions of a reluctant runner

Search the catalogue for RunningI’m still finding it hard to believe, but a month ago I took part in the relay in the Buller Marathon, running 10.55k. 10.55 kilometres!

It was about a year ago I started this running caper. At the time a neighbour asked if I would like to run the 6k in the City to Surf with her. ‘Like’ wasn’t quite the word I’d have chosen but it was time to try and shift some post preggy weight and get out and do some exercise.

But running? Not really my thing. Or so I thought. At the start different parts of my body certainly took turns in telling me how much it disliked this new activity I was subjecting it to. Initially, running with friends helped a lot as it was good motivation to A) show up in the first place and B) keep going when you really want to lie down and gasp. The secret saving grace of a beginner runner is the fact that no one can tell by your sweaty red faced state, how far (or little) you have actually run…

After awhile, going for a run every two or three days became a pattern or dare I say it, a habit. As with a lot of things, it’s all about your attitude and managing trick your brain into going along with this exercise nonsense.

In the process I’ve run in all sorts of weather, up hills, taken part in a duathlon and now, been part of a successful relay team. I won’t ever be in the league of “Running with the Kenyans” but running is a free form of exercise that’s strangely habit forming and even at times enjoyable! So, if you’ve got one of those new year’s resolutions that’s yet to be started, or you’ve thought about running but never got around to putting on the appropriate footwear, there’s lots of help out there if you need it. The library has loads of resources and links to community groups to get you started.

In the words of that huge multinational “just do it!”

What’s in a name?

coverBeing in an advanced stage of pregnancy, the issue of an appropriate name for the unborn child is becoming pressing.

The selection of a name for offspring is fraught with pitfalls and necessitates vigorous negotiating between the parents-to-be over individual favourites. The shooting down of each other’s top picks without a qualm can leave the list of suitable names somewhat depleted. Then there is the issue of whether the name can be shortened, lengthened, nicknamed … not to mention what unintended recognition the initials might provide. During discussions before our first child was born, I was keen on Ingrid Ruby as an option as a girl’s name – however the full initials resulted in I.R.A … hmmm, perhaps not.

As you know, the rich and famous often label their children with weird and wonderful handles – Daisy Boo, Bronx Mowgli and Princess Tiaamii to name but a few – and of course Harper Seven is the latest progeny named by famous parents to create worldwide comment and speculation.

The weight of this task can not be underestimated – as the appellation will be laden on the small person for years to come. I’m sure you can all think of a most unusual or downright weird name you’ve mocked in the past. I can still remember the full four names of an unfortunate at my high school – she featured in the yearly magazine in categories such as ‘person with the longest name’ or ‘oddest name’ for the full five years.

Fortunately, to help with this momentous task the library has baby name books aplenty to pore through and hopefully be inspired by. Though maybe I should begin by reading What not to name your baby first…

Do you have a favourite name of all time or one you particularly despise?