No coward soul…

I am the only being whose doom
No tongue would ask, no eye would mourn;
I never caused a thought of gloom,
A smile of joy, since I was born.

Oh Emily Brontë – how wrong you are! I don’t know if this poem of yours is autobiographical or not, but you really have caused many smiles of joy and thoughts of gloom, and all sorts of other feelings, since you were born 200 years ago on 30 July 1818 in West Yorkshire.

image_proxyThink how many people have swooned over Heathcliff – surely the ultimate Byronic hero – and been captivated by the passion and strangeness of Wuthering Heights, Emily’s only published novel. It is in many ways a brutal and nasty book, considered shocking when it was first published in 1847, but has stood the test of time to be considered one of the greatest novels in the English language.

Emily is also known for her intense, intellectual poetry, although reading ‘I am the only being whose doom‘ has made feel a tad bit gloomy. In her isolated, seemingly lonely life, did she really feel that she had to keep her emotions under control because they were corrupting her? Or has she created a narrator to explore her thoughts around emotions and the need to be loved? We’ll never know, for Emily Brontë is so very elusive, perhaps the most mysterious of her incredible family.

She is also a canvas on which other authors have speculated – both about her life and about some of the gaps in Wuthering Heights.

I don’t really know how comfortable Emily would be with all this continued attention, but I hope she knows that she’s appreciated the world over. We’ll certainly be remembering her on her birthday and her wonderful way with words. I’ll leave you with this quote I love from Chapter 9 of Wuthering Heights:

I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

Do you have any favourite Emily Brontë poems or quotes or Heathcliffs?

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What were we listening to in 1988? – A musical nostalgia trip!

Nothing is as quite as good as music for transporting you back to past times of love, loss, and the gaining of life’s experiences. I know that most of my childhood can be most effectively measured musically!

I was suitably shocked to learn that ‘Simply Irresistible’ by Robert Palmer featured prominently in the New Zealand charts waaaaayyyyy back in 1988! I still remember vividly that steady rock beat, the simple, punchy, and catchy tune, the stabby brass section, and those almost-very-nearly-identical dancing/band girls – an astonishing coming-together of style and substance built to last (complete with that awesomely syncopated drum fill that inspired the young drummer in myself!) – it’s in your head right now isn’t it!?

And that got me to thinking, “I wonder how many other standout classic tunes that, just like me, are maybe getting on a bit?” and “I wonder what other songs were around at the same time as ‘Simply Irresistible'”? Turns out that 1988 was a bumper year for iconic music!

So I made a list to share with you all – I’m referring to it among my colleagues as “A Musical Nostalgia Trip” to avoid having to feel too old myself! This is by no means an exhaustive list of the quality of music back in 1988, merely a list of tunes to hopefully trigger some nostalgic thoughts and memories, and maybe even prompt you into some nostalgic musical discoveries of your own!

There’s some big hitting songs in here so if you remember them from 1988, maybe go easy and have regular cups o’tea…

Enjoy:

What we were listening to in 1988!

List created by DevilStateDan

All of these songs listed here could be considered classics and, in some cases, so can the albums that featured them. And as always with music there are so many ways to experience the world of sound, so in this list I offer you CDs, artists’ biographies, live shows on DVD, music press articles, and printed music so you can play them yourself! Get borrowing and set off singing along your own musical nostalgia trip!

Bad – Yep, we were groovin’ to ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ 30 years ago this year. In fact, the first week of 1988 saw the great song at #6 on the NZ charts! Great tune, so cool, and still so good after three decades!

Cover of Michael Jackson The Making of Thriller : 4 Days/1983Michael Jackson – MJ sure did release some amazing music. This book looks behind the scenes during the making of ‘Thriller’, with exclusive photographs and insights.

The Very Best – INXS were big in Australia and New Zealand. ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ was, and still is, a massive hit, reaching #11 in Aus and #30 in NZ and still one of their very best – hard to believe it was 30 years ago though….

Cover of Best of INXSBest of INXS – Why not celebrate the 30th birthday of ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ by learning to play some of INXS’ other hits! This is music in P/V/G – that’s to say it has music for piano/vocals/guitar to play the tunes listed – get playing!

Rattle and Hum Songbook – We’re getting all kinds of opportunities to learn to play these songs that we were rockin’ to 30 years ago this year, including ‘Desire’ by U2! Hey, if the Edge can do it then so can you…

U2 – The latest telling of the U2 story, they gotta mention ‘Desire’ in there somewhere, right?!?

Faith – Has there ever been a more widely celebrated breakout solo album than ‘Faith’ by George Michael…!?!? The title track was the first #1 of NZ’s 1988 calendar year! Give it a spin to mark the occasion, and listen without prejudice!

Cover of George Michael: The lifeGeorge Michael – The most recent account of the life of the iconic singer/songwriter penned by a writer who has all the skills in producing engaging biographies.

George Michael: The Lone Star State. By Adrian Deevoy, Q, Jun 1988. Part of Rock’s Backpages.

Access All Areas – Big hair, slow-mo dancing, oversized and off-the-shoulder cardies…and Belinda Carlisle – it must be 1988! ‘Heaven is a Place on Earth’ turns 30 in 2018.

Belinda Carlisle – Heaven Is A Place On Earth. Official video. Released in 1987, taken from Belinda’s album ‘Heaven On Earth’.

Cover of Guns n' Roses FAQGuns N’ Roses – What a debut album Appetite for Destruction was for the band Guns n’ Roses and the standout commercial track on that album was definitely ‘Sweet Child of Mine’! That iconic guitar riff, the snake-like dance moves of Axl Rose – all that hit up to #7 in the NZ charts, 30yrs ago!

Guns N’ Roses: Dancing with Mr Brownstone. By Paul Elliott, Sounds, 4 Nov 1989. From Rock’s Backpages.

Guns N’ Roses FAQ – Think you know everything there is to know about these rock legends and the music that hit the world rock n’ roll scene like a speeding night train?!? Try this new book out and see how much you missed!

Cover of The best of Bobby McFerrinThe Best Of Bobby McFerrin – This one is such a classic that I still hear folks whistling the tune to ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ at the shops or in the library! This guy is a huge talent so if ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ is the only tune you know of his then follow the link and stream some more! And YES, he’s still alive – there was never anything to the rumours of the 1990’s…

Bobby McFerrin. By Tim Page, Newsday, 30 Jul 1995. Part of Rock’s Backpages, The ultimate library of rock music writing and journalism.

Cover of Bon Jovi chord songbook collectionChord Songbook Collection – Learn to play ‘Bad Medicine’ to celebrate it’s 30th birthday this year! It got to #2 on the NZ charts and is there a bigger rock anthem..!?!?

Bon Jovi – The story of the rockers from Jersey. Get some background and context for their penning of ‘Bad Medicine’, 30yrs ago this year.

Def Leppard – Working class boys from northern England make it big with one of the biggest albums in rock history, but right now we’re talking about that iconic smash that entered the NZ charts mid-March, topped out at #40, then disappeared. We’re talking about ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ a song that had us rockin’ out in 1988! – wrecking ball at the ready!

Def Leppard: Loadsamoney!!. By Mat Snow, Q, May 1988. Part of Rock’s Backpages.

Cover of Easy acoustic songsEasy Acoustic Songs – ‘Fast Car’ by Tracy Chapman is one of those songs that instantly transport you back to where you were when you first heard it – what a beaut song! Give it a go on Piano, Vocal, Guitar in this easy acoustics songbook, where it’s jammed in with loads of other tunes you’ll want to try too!

She’s Gotta Ticket: Tracy Chapman. By Lucy O’Brien, City Limits, 5 May 1988. Part of Rock’s Backpages.

Pet Sounds – Has there ever been a song so divisive amongst its artists devout followers as was ‘Kokomo’…?!?! It got at least up to #11 in the NZ charts! Still not sure how I feel about it even after 30 years! Why don’t we have a listen to their best album instead…

The Very Best of – Gee these boys hit us hard in the late nineties, non bigger than their iconic hit ‘I’m Gonna Be’ which is still shouted as loud as a roaring soccer crowd at any Celtic-themed pub around the world today! It made it all the way to #3 on the NZ charts in 1988 but ran home to #1 in January of 1989, not 500 miles from our featured year by any extent! ….it’s stuck in your head now isn’t it. Go on, sing it!

Sunshine on Leith – The Proclaimers songs are so iconic that a musical movie was built around them a few years back. If you’re a fan of the music and you missed this film then you’re in luck as we have it in our collection!

View Full List

With lashings of ginger beer*

It is difficult not to reveal one’s age when discussing anything you may have read or watched in your childhood but I loved watching the Famous Five on TV.

I was an Enid Blyton reader during my childhood but my oeuvre during my younger years had been more along the lines of the Magic Faraway Tree and the dubiously titled “Mr Pink Whistle Interferes.” So whenever I picture the Famous Five they will always be the TV versions.

As I got older mystery and adventure books drew me in and I started reading the Five’s adventures plus I also discovered Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew…who doesn’t love a story with secret passageways, torches, penknives, trapdoors, panelling that moved to reveal hiding places, treasure maps, spooky castles and adults whose dastardly plans were foiled by children (and a dog) – clearly I was an Agatha Christie reader in development.

The Famous Five were brothers Julian and Dick, their sister Anne, cousin George (Georgina) and Timmy her dog. They seemed to never age – which was sort of true as Blyton hadn’t planned on writing so many (she planned 6 but wrote 21) – and so Five seem to go into a time vortex and remain perpetually pre-teens! Either that or they never went to school and are on never-ending school holidays!

I imagine everyone had a favourite in the group. Julian was the self-assured older brother, while Dick was the more laid-back and famished second child, and the youngest sibling was Anne (who always seemed to be turning her ankle). But it was cousin George that I think most readers probably wanted to be – mainly because Timmy was her dog!

This year in September the Famous Five are turning 75 – hoorah! – as ‘Five on a Treasure Island’ was first published in 1942.

Cover of Five on a treasure island  Cover of Five on a treasure island  Cover of Five on a treasure island  Cover of Five on a treasure island  cover of Five on a treasure island

As a grown-up you realise that all was not well in Blyton land – she had a troubled personal life – and her books can seem anachronistic and politically incorrect in 21st century terms. But her books still endure today and are still heavily read by children (and adults). She was extraordinarily prolific and wrote hundreds of books for children of all ages – including Noddy, The Secret Seven, Mallory Towers and St Clare’s school stories, and the aforementioned Magic Faraway Tree books.

But it is the Five that are perennial favourites with lots of readers.

I suspect it has a lot to do with children getting the upper hand on adults, and the endless eating – ice cream, scones, sticky buns and cakes, hard bolied eggs, apple pies, etc.

In fact I’m off to have a cup of tea and a slice of ginger cake now…

Cheerio!

Five forget mother's day

*Note: With lashings of ginger beer never appeared in an EB book but rather was coined by the writers of the Comic Strip Presents in their parody Five Go Mad in Dorset.

Happy birthday, Christchurch City Libraries!

Canterbury Public Library building, Circa 1903-1907, CCL Flickr

My family and I moved to Christchurch at the beginning of 2009, and one of the first things we did – as you do – was go to the library and sign up for a membership. The staff probably cringed when they saw the five of us arrive, but they were so nice and helpful and friendly, it was amazing.

We had gone into Central Library because the concept of more than one library in a town was a bit unknown to us, and after we collected our cards we set off exploring…

Storytelling pit, Children's Library
Storytelling pit, Children’s Library, Ground Floor. 1995. Flickr File Reference: Arch52-BWN-0026

Did you know there was a WHOLE ROOM just for children? An aisle of science fiction? (Our favourite) young adults had it’s own space! There were heaps of CDs and DVDs. And magazines. There was even an upstairs with a whole floor of non-fiction… It was bliss.

And when we went to the beach we found a library.  Then another one when we did grocery  shopping at Bishopdale Mall, then another one out at Diamond Harbour (where we got the best ice creams this side of Pleasant Point). After 20 years of living in small towns in New Zealand, Christchurch City Libraries was a revelation.

New Central Library
New Central Library, Flickr File reference: 2015-03-26-Plaza-Day-new

Well, we all know that the Central library built in 1982, is no more. And like a phoenix rising  from the ashes, a new library will be built on Cathedral Square. Hey, that could be a good name for it: The Christchurch Phoenix, what do you think?

So what other milestones has the library seen in it’s 157 years:

  • 26 May 1859 opens as the Mechanics Institute library, based in the Town Hall. Membership was for paying members only, and the subscription was set at one guinea per annum or seven shillings and sixpence per quarter
  • In 1863, the library moved to a new wooden building on the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Hereford Street.
  • Canterbury College took over the running of then named Canterbury Public Library in February 1874.
  • In 1920 a travelling library service to country areas was begun: boxes of books, which were changed quarterly,  were sent to places like Darfield, Mayfield, Culverden and Hinds
  • Uncle Jack (Librarian Ernest Bell) and Aunt Edna (Edna Pearce) created a children’s radio show on 3YA in the 1920s, broadcasting stories, plays, poems and songs
  • In 1948 ownership of the Library was handed over to the Christchurch City Council (after decades of wrangling, in true Christchurch fashion!)
  • 1952 – finally – free borrowing introduced
  • 1975 first computerised lending system introduced
  • 2 February 1982 the Governor-General, Hon. Sir David Beattie officially opened the new Public Library building on the corner of Gloucester Street and Oxford Terrace. Warren and Mahoney were the architects and C. S. Luney Ltd was the principal contractor for the building
  • 1989 Christchurch City Libraries starts Australasia’s first public library online catalogue
  • 1996  last card catalogue unit taken away
  • 2001 Ngā Pounamu Māori centre opened
  • 2009 150th Anniversary celebrated in many ways, including the provision of free wifi
  • 2014 Central Library demolished
  • 2017 New Sumner library due to open
  • 2018 Opening of the New Central Library

Happy birthday Christchurch City Libraries – may you have many more!

Books for babies 20th anniversary
Books for babies 20th anniversary, 2011, Flickr File reference CCL-2011-02-07-Books-For-Babies-20-P1040243

The Battle for Crete

This May sees another 75th anniversary from the Second World War with great significance for New Zealand.

From 20 May to 1 June 1941 Allied Forces, including the 2nd New Zealand Division, took part in the ultimately unsuccessful but fiercely fought battle for Crete. That April the Germans had invaded Yugoslavia and Greece and as they had quickly occupied these countries, the Allies evacuated to the island of Crete.

On 20 May German paratroopers invaded the island and over the next 12 days a tightly contested battle raged. The Allies were forced to retreat again, with many being evacuated to Egypt and several thousand becoming prisoners of war.

Cover of Men of valourThe 2nd New Zealand Division regrouped and went on to take part in successful campaigns in North Africa and Italy.

The sailor of Victoria Square: Captain James Cook

83 years ago today on 10 August 1932 the Captain Cook statue in Victoria Square created by local sculptor William Trethewey was unveiled by the Governor-General of the time, Lord Bledisloe.

Unveiling of the Captain Cook statue in Victoria Square by the Governor-General

It is a marble figure on a granite base, the inscription upon which reads –

James Cook, Captain, Royal Navy, circumnavigator who first hoisted the British flag in New Zealand and explored her seas and coasts, 1769–70, 1773–4, 1777

Although the statue survived Christchurch’s quakes undamaged, his dignity has taken something of a blow recently as he currently sports a jaunty, distinctly Cantabrian hat.Captain Cook with traffic cone hat

Though his environs and view may have changed a bit in recent years, still he stands, looking always towards the sea…

For more about Captain Cook

WW100: Anniversaries, Antarctica and aviation

Cover of On a wing and a prayerA couple of interesting 100th anniversaries are coming up in the next few days, both of which have connections to the First World War and which have made me think about other related topics. The centenary of the First World War is an ideal time to discover war stories and make connections between them.

On the 30th July 1914 Tryggve Gran became the first person to fly the North Sea, crossing from Scotland to Norway. Not surprisingly this event was overshadowed by the start of the First World War – Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia two days before. Gran had been Captain Scott‘s ski expert on the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition. Although he was Norwegian he wangled his way into the Royal Flying Corps and flew with distinction during the war, seeing service over the UK, the Western Front and in North Russia.

It was in 1909 that Louis Blériot became the first person to fly the English Channel, five years later that the Royal Flying Corps – some using Blériot type aircraft – crossed the channel to go to war. Aerial warfare was then very much in its infancy – in 1914 aeroplanes were mainly seen as being useful for reconnaissance – but the next four years saw enormous innovation and development. One of those making the crossing was the future ace James McCudden, then an Air Mechanic.

On 1st August 1914 Ernest Shackleton’s Endurance expedition set sail from London, hoping to become the first explorers to traverse the Antarctic continent. Still in British waters 3 days later when Great Britain declared war on Germany, Shackleton volunteered his ship and men to the war effort. However, the Admiralty told the expedition to proceed. Apart from a few ports of call on their way south, they were not to hear news of the war again until the middle of 1916.

Have you discovered any First World War stories recently? What connections can you make?

 

Happy birthday Pride and Prejudice!

book cover28 January 2013 marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice. In those 200 years it has earned all kinds of tags – greatest novel in the English language, most loved, most popular. On my first reading of it I loved it but thought how much it had provided a template for many romance novels. You know – haughty bloke and stroppy gal go head to head before realising the error of their ways and falling into each other’s arms at the end.

This is certainly played out in the many film and television adaptations. When you read the book you can go beyond the romance novel machinations. Jane Austen actually says a lot about the condition of  women in her society – a future secured only by marriage, power only through titled status, intelligent women like Elizabeth and her friend Charlotte Lucas trapped in their situations with marriage the only way out, the risk of predatory men like George Wickham, and how easily a woman (and her sisters) can be ruined.

I think it is her humour, her portrayal of society in the country and places like London, Bath and Portsmouth, of families, of women helping women, of women undermining women and the sharp eyed detail for character make her books so attractive to us and the film makers. The quality of her writing is such that you can read her again and again and not be disappointed.

Some frivolous bits:

And finally thanks to the magic of Wikipedia, here is W.H. Auden (from his poem Letter to Lord Byron):

You could not shock her more than she shocks me,
Beside her Joyce seems innocent as grass.
It makes me most uncomfortable to see
An English spinster of the middle class
Describe the amorous effects of ‘brass’,
Reveal so frankly and with such sobriety,
The economic basis of society.

Windsor Knot

Eighty-eight years ago this week, the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII) visited Christchurch. At the time of his visit, Edward was still the popular and charismatic future king, yet to meet the infamous Mrs Simpson. Continue reading