Murray Ball finds a Slice of Heaven

It is with great sadness that I write a tribute to one of New Zealand’s best cartoonists.

Murray Ball (26 January 1939 – 12 March 2017) was from my home town, Feilding. Stanway I’m pretty sure, or at least Halcombe. Proud as punch they are – because he also made the All Blacks.

Murray Ball with two characters from Footrot Flats. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-Portraits of New Zealanders-Ball, Murray-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23111673
Murray Ball with two characters from Footrot Flats. Dominion post (Newspaper) :Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP-Portraits of New Zealanders-Ball, Murray-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23111673

Murray Ball was someone who made us laugh, love, dream, and curse the Nor’ Wester. He brought great characters to life in Wal, The Dog, Horse, Cooch, Cheeky Hobson, and many others besides.

I’ve always been into comics. Footrot Flats is a love I share with my Dad. I remember collecting the annuals to add to our collection. We all went to the movie. A friend of mine walked down the aisle to “Slice of Heaven.” Lol.

Murray’s cartoons and characters addressed pivotal moments and issues in our history – the Springbok Tour coming to mind – rugby being very close to Ball’s heart. I still have the clipping from the Manawatu Evening Standard, when the Dog wrote in to say he was hanging up his All Black Jersey.

See ya mate. Love from Fee and The Dog.

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Canterbury – a hive of activity for 165 years

165 years ago this January, a ship called the Mary arrived in Lyttelton bringing two hives of honey bees from Nelson.

The history of introduced bees in New Zealand is unusually linked with women named Mary. Back in 1839, a woman called Mary Bumby first brought European bees to New Zealand. Miss Bumby, with her appropriately bee-ish name, was the sister of a missionary, and she was bee-autiful:

“A vision of delight. Soft brown hair, worn in ringlets after the fashion of that time, a complexion that entitled her to the name of the ‘Bonny English Rose’ and a smile that lighted up gentle hazel eyes, out of which beaned only loving thoughts.” ‘The Immigrant Bees‘ Peter Barrett (p77).

How she managed to keep a hive of bees alive on a ship for the seven month journey with only loving thoughts in her head, I can only wonder. Mary Bumby and her bees buzzed into Hokianga harbour in March 1839. Before then, we were not entirely bee-reft of bees – New Zealand has 28 species of native bees, but they weren’t great for making commercial honey. And kiwis are sweet on their honey – on average, we eat about 1.5kgs of honey a year – each!

Three years later in 1842, bees arrived the South Island. They were sent over from London by Mrs Mary Anne Allom and sailed into Nelson alive and well. Her reason for sending them over is remarkable:

“My son formed one of the ten cadets who sailed last year for Wellington. After he was gone, I began to reflect upon the many things he would feel at a loss for when he arrived, one among the many, butter; this, I thought might be remedied by substituting honey, when I found there was no bees, at least honeybees, in New Zealand, I accordingly determined that I would send some.” p95, The Immigrant Bees.

Some parents send money to their kids on their OE – Mary Ann Allom sent a colony of bees. You only hope her son (Albert James Allom, who was 16 when he left home and his mother in London) appreciated the effort. The Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Adelphi, London certainly did – and awarded her with the silver Isis medal in 1845 for her successful introduction of the bees.

It could well have been descendants of these bees that were sent down to Canterbury by yet another Mary – this time it was the ship Mary, a schooner from Nelson to Lyttelton that arrived on January the 10th 1852 with two bee hives on board. (See the newspaper article in the Lyttelton Times, 17th January 1852 on PapersPast.)

From there, bees have spread through the rest of New Zealand. Māori were the first commercial beekeepers; by the 1860s they were selling large quantities of honey from bee nests in the bush. William Charles Cotton, dubbed the Grand Beekeper in New Zealand, published many books about beekeeping including one entirely in te reo Māori ‘Ko Nga Pī’ (The bees).

For the buzz on bees:
Comb through our catalogue for books about bees or beekeeping.

Cover of 'Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand'Cover of 'In Praise of Bees' by Alizaeth BirchallCover of 'The Honey Spinner' On the Trail of Ancient Honey, Vanishing Bees, and the Politics of Liquid Gold

Search for local beekeeping clubs on CINCH.

Photo of the Canterbury Bee-keepers’ Association, 1912
Canterbury Bee-keepers’ Association. The annual field day of the Canterbury Bee-keepers Association was held on February 27, at the apiary of Mr A. Ireland, the president, at Brookside. The situation is an ideal one for an apiary, being well sheltered by a belt of trees, while clover fields are within easy reach of the apiary. The President’s Apiary [bottom photo]. Members of the Association [top photo].
Swarm these eResources for more about bees:

  • NZ National Geographic Archive –  archive of New Zealand Geographic Magazine with all the articles and images.
  • NZGeo TV – contains hundreds of hours of natural history videos much of which is focused on New Zealand’s people, places, wildlife and environment.
  • Agricultural Collection – wide-ranging agricultural information, from practical aspects to scientific research.
  • Gardening, Landscape and Horticulture Collection – key issues in gardening, landscaping, and other areas of horticulture. Practical aspects as well as the scientific theory.
  • GreenFile – a collection of scholarly, governmental and general interest titles which examine the environmental effects of individuals, corporations and local/national governments, and what can be done to minimise these effects.

It’s the year of the Rooster, but I’m a Rat

I was aCoverbout 20 when I encountered Chinese New Year for the first time. We were holidaying in Hong Kong, which was British in those days and went across the border to The People’s Republic of China.

It was amazing. Bicycles were loaded up with decorations. Everyone was getting readily for New Year. I wished that I was going to be in China for a while longer. I would have loved to have seen it.

During New Year, red is everywhere. It is the colour of luck and happiness. Children receive money wrapped in red paper. Adult exchange poems written on red paper. The Chinese New Year is also an opportunity to remember ancestors, and to wish peace and happiness to friends and family. The lunar new year begins on Saturday 28 January. 2017 is the year of the Red Fire Rooster.

Are you a Rat, a Rooster or one of the other animals? Find out!

The holiday ends with the Festival of Lanterns. In Christchurch, The Lantern Festival will be held on 17-19 February. The best time to see the lanterns is after dark, but if you can’t get there at night, a day time visit is worth while. At night, the lanterns are bright colours in a dark park. During the day, the lanterns are not lit, but are colourful reds and yellows in a green park.

CoverIf you are interested in learning Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, We have a collection of books and language courses to suit all levels. We also have Mango Languages. This is an online learning system that will help you learn many languages. It also has lessons for learning English for speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Japanese speakers. Use at a library or enter your library card & password / PIN.

CINCH is our Community Information Christchurch database. It has a list of a range of religious, arts and cultural organizations that meet the needs of the Chinese community.

For more information about the Lunar New year:

The Diamond Horse ~ A cool read for summer!

Cover of the Diamond HorseD’you know what arrived at the library the other day? Brand new copies of Stacy Gregg‘s twenty-first pony book, that’s what! If there’s a horse-mad tweenage kid in your life, guaranteed, this is the perfect summer read. It’s exciting, gripping, full of exotic animals and horses (of course) , and – according to Miss Missy – it’s Stacy Gregg’s best ever book. Miss Missy’s got to be one of Stacy’s biggest fans, so I reckon she knows what she’s talking about.

We were lucky enough to get our hands on a copy of The Diamond Horse recently, and we both thoroughly enjoyed this story of two Russian girls linked across time by their love of horses and a mystical diamond necklace. Anna Orlov is the daughter of a Russian Count, but all the beautiful dresses, exotic pets, and royal banquets don’t make up for the fact that her father ignores and belittles her, and her brother bullies her relentlessly. Valentina is an orphan who rides a beautiful pink horse in a Russian Circus act, and dreams of a better life for herself and her beloved horse.

I loved the way Stacy mixed history and modern legend into this tale of two feisty girls who refused to let anyone crush their dreams. The story of Anna is inspired by the real Anna Orlov, whose father developed the Orlov Trotter horse breed, and was a courtier of Catherine the Great. The story of Valentina and her horse, Sasha, is inspired by the true story of Balagur, a modern day Orlov Trotter, who surprised the dressage world by winning competition after competition, all the way up to the Olympics. I also loved the descriptions of the snow-covered Russian landscape, which were so realistic I felt like I needed to wrap up in a blanket to keep warm.

Miss Missy said that she enjoyed learning about the origins of Orlov Trotters (of course, she knows the name of every breed of horse known to man, so the name Orlov rang a bell for her, while going completely over my head). She also enjoyed the family dynamics, which, she told me, is not the sort of thing Stacy Gregg usually writes about. I asked Miss Missy what one word she would use to describe this book; she said “Exquisite” and I can’t think of a better one!

The Diamond Horse
by Stacy Gregg
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9780008124410

Old friends, old friends, sat on a bench like bookends…

CoverWhile 2016 was taking its final victims, one smaller obituary caught my eye amidst the many articles on the passing of Carrie Fisher and George Michael. The obituary was for Richard Adams, author of Watership Down. At 96, we certainly could not say that Adam’s rich life was cut short, but to lose him at the same time as Carrie Fisher hit me a little hard.

Why? Because I think I can safely say that if Star Wars was the major film influence of my childhood (why yes, I am of an age that I saw Episode Four at the movies) Watership Down was my literary guiding star.

Like a perhaps-not-surprising number of librarians, I have a literary tattoo. Two rabbits make a small circle on the inside of my right wrist. Those familiar with the beautiful and terrifying movie adaptation of Watership Down might recognise them as the Black Rabbit of Inlé and El-ahrairah, the dominant figures of the amazing mythology Adams created for his rabbits.

I first read Watership Down when I was seven – it was the first “grown-up” novel I read. My Mum was reading it to me chapter by chapter at bedtime and I got impatient, wanting to know what happened next – one chapter each night just wasn’t enough! Therein started a lifelong love affair (and a tendency to read under the blankets by torchlight).

I became passionate about all things rabbit. I suspect this actually began earlier (I had a family of soft-toy rabbits), but this was about real rabbits, with real rabbit behaviours, and sometimes brutal realities.

I soaked up information about rabbits like a sponge, reading every book on the subject my local library had to offer. My poor parents also became the subjects of an intense campaign for pet rabbits. They managed to hold out for five years (pretty impressive as I was using every emotionally manipulative, devious and ceaseless tactic in my young arsenal). I’ve had pet rabbits pretty much ever since, save for a couple of gaps of a few years.

One of my most treasured childhood birthday presents was an illustrated hardcover edition of the book, full of beautiful watercolours and pen-and-ink sketches. It still has pride of place on my bookshelf, not least because I think my parents went to some trouble to acquire it. I also still have a cassette tape of the movie soundtrack – no videos in those days, let alone DVDs – though it’s a little stretched and wobbly now from endless hours of playing.

When I lost count sometime in my early teens, I had read Watership Down well over one hundred times. I could quote large sections by heart. I can still pretty much tell the wonderful rabbit creation story off the top of my head.

All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.

But when I look back over all the years of reading this book, what really stands out to me is the different things I learned at the various ages I dipped into it.

At seven I learned not only about rabbits, the English countryside, and its flora and fauna; I also gained – at a rather young age – an introduction to some quite complex philosophical ideas about the cyclical, amoral (as opposed to moral or immoral) nature of life and death: that there are no “goodies” and “badies” in the natural world of predators and prey.

In my early teens I became fascinated by the way the warrens represented different political systems, from the complaisant, bloated monarchy of Sandleford and the fatalistic puppet-state of Cowslip’s warren, to the brutal dictatorship of Efrafa and the idealistic Utopian society of the new warren on the Downs. What Adams portrays so well through his rabbits is how the human spirit reacts in each of these situations.

In my late teens I discovered Joseph Campbell and Karl Jung – and the hero-myths of El-ahrairah, scattered though the book, took on new meaning. Adams took Jungian ideas of the hero-myth and turned them on their head to suit his rabbits. El-ahrairah is not the young battling hero so common in human mythology, but is instead the Trickster figure (as is of course Br’er Rabbit) – often distrusted in our myths but who else would a prey animal look to, than a hero who always manages to fool his nemesis and live to run another day?

Since then I have visited Watership Down every year or so like an old friend, each time being drawn in and delighted anew by the sheer level of detail in Adams’ descriptions and his slightly old-fashioned, thoughtful style of conversing with his readers.

And yes, I still can’t listen to Bright Eyes, or read the end of the book, without sniffling a little.

Goodbye Mr Adams. Thank you for lightening a long car journey for your daughters by telling them a story about an adventuring band of rabbits, and going on to discover your writer’s voice at 55. You crafted a story that has shaped my life.

It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses. “You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be alright – and thousands like them.”

Jo D, Lyttelton Library

Cup and Show Day Reading : Give a Man a Horse by Dianne Haworth

Give a Man a Horse CoverHere’s a book to whet your appetite for Christchurch Cup and Show Week!

Give a Man a Horse is the biography of celebrated Cambridge Stud bloodstock breeder Sir Patrick Hogan, owner of the famous Sir Tristram.

This is an entertaining and often poignant tale of farming, family and horse breeding in early New Zealand. Author Dianne Haworth eloquently traces the roots of this famous New Zealander from the mists of seventeenth century Ireland to the modern world of horse racing.

Beginning with an Irish family myth of a rebel Hogan horseman, the book follows Patrick’s father Tom’s emigration to New Zealand in the early 1900s to his establishment of the family’s first Clydesdale breeding stock farm in the Waikato in the early 1930s.

His father’s canny anticipation in the 1950s of the end of working draft horses on farms changed the course of Patrick’s life. Sharing his father’s natural ability in spotting and presenting a good horse, Patrick learned first to show calves at Calf and Show day, then followed his father into breeding thoroughbred horses for the high paced racing world.

Sir Patrick’s is a story of calculated risks, exciting wins and impressive bloodlines. Close associates speak of him as someone who would always give a little guy a go, while never mincing words when it came to horse business. I’ve enjoyed reading this book, for its relaxed style and history of a fixture of New Zealand life. I even found myself reading the statistics!

Give a man a horse: The remarkable story of Sir Patrick Hogan
by Diane Haworth
Published by HarperCollins New Zealand
ISBN: 9781775540960

More reading:

Horses parading in the ring at Riccarton Racecourse [ca. 1960] Flickr CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0030
Horses parading in the ring at Riccarton Racecourse [ca. 1960] CCL PhotoCD 11, IMG0030

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Children’s and adult fiction

CoverWild animals of the North by Dieter Braun
A children’s book about the animals who live across the 3 regions of North America, Europe and Asia. This book has been getting a lot of good reviews. The illustrations are stars. They are bright, stunning and show the animals as full of life and personality. This is the first in a series that will cover the animals of the world.

The Guardian has great examples of the illustrations.

CoverAnother animal book, this time from the always superb husband and wife team of Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. (They have produced 16 books together): Flying Frogs and Walking Fish : Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-propelled Jellyfish, and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move. 46 creatures in the typical paper collages against crisp white background style, showing  how they might march, stroll, tiptoe or perhaps glide soar or coast.

Fiction

On the fiction front there are promising titles such Days Without End by the Irish writer Sebastian Barry, which is a kind of literary western along the lines of that terrific novel The Sisters Brothers. Barry’s earlier novel  The Secret Scripture has been filmed (with Rooney Mara, Vanessa Redgrave and Eric Bana) and is expected to bring more publicity to this very talented writer.

Other titles coming up from first rate novelists include Michael Chabon Moonglow, Alice Hoffman Faithful,  Alan Moore Jerusalem,  Ron Rash The Risen,  Zadie Smith Swing Time Stephenie Meyer The Chemist.

So … something for everyone

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Photo Hunt October: Halswell Quarry Dog Park

 Halswell Quarry Dog Park.
Entry in the 2012 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt, 2012-PH-113.JPG CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ

“Taken at the Halswell Quarry Dog Park in October 2012 where the dogs were fetching the ball from the water.”

Christchurch City Libraries has been running an annual Photo Hunt in conjunction with the city’s Heritage Week since 2008.  The 2016 Photo Hunt is running again from 1 – 31 October. During the month of October we will be posting a series of images from earlier Photo Hunts.

Enter the 2016 hunt online or at your local library.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Orana Park: Picturing Canterbury

Giraffe at Orana Park
Giraffe at Orana Park. Kete Christchurch, Orana_Park.JPG. Entry in the 2012 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt, CC-BY-NA-SA-3.0 NZ.

This lovely close-up of a giraffe being fed at Orana Park reminds us of the pleasure that the park has given Canterbury since its opening in September 1976.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch & Canterbury, past and present.   Anyone can join and contribute.

Hedgehog Blog

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Harold/Henrietta?

So last summer I was walking home minding my own business when I spotted a hedgehog looking rather still in the gutter. It was looking rather unhappy so I sprang into action and wrapped it up in my coat and took it home. Now what? Luckily for me there are a number of websites telling you how to look after a hedgehog so I wrapped my wee hog up warm and fed it crushed cat biscuits (they also like tinned cat and dog food as long as it is not fish based!) The cat was horrified but the hedgehog was stoked with its narrow and long tongue shooting out to pick up the biscuits and lap the water. While it ate, I had to marvel at how exceedingly cute it was despite the spikes designed to repel.

According to a fantastic New Zealand Geographic article For the love of Hedgehogs by Bob Brockie we can thank a Mr Cunningham from Merivale for our Christchurch hedgehog population as he imported 12 hedgehogs in exchange for 12 weka. The wee dears escaped from his pigeon house and the rest you could say is history. This article is just one of many in our New Zealand Geographic Archive which entertains as well as educates. I mean did you know that during hibernation lines form along the hedgehog’s jaw which enables the calculation of the hedgehog’s age, much like rings on a tree? Who knew!

So what happened to Harold the Hedgehog (you have to name them don’t you) in the end? Well I waited until it was dark and took Harold back to the area I found him and released him into the section of a house that has always irritated me as it looks like it is surrounded by jungle. This time its lack of proper gardening was very useful as the hedgehog now warmed, fed and watered scurried away. Good luck Harold (or Henrietta). I hope you are happy somewhere shuffling and snuffling around our gardens eating slugs.