Ghost Signs Wellington

I am currently doing a free online course on heritage and someone posted a link to an Australian website called Ghost Signs Australia. In a comment another person added a post about ‘ghosts signs of Bermondsey’ (London).

I had never heard of the phrase Ghost Signs, but I have quite often taken photos of them. The Australian website says: “Ghost Signs are the marvellous hand-painted signs we see on old brick walls.  The brick walls can be fences, the sides of buildings, above awnings and verandahs, almost any space considered to be prime ‘advertising space’ way back when. Over the years, the vast majority of signs have vanished, either fading away with the weather, or when the buildings were demolished, but thankfully, some have survived the march of time.”

Here in Wellington, New Zealand, where many of our buildings are wooden, I would have to disagree with limiting the definition to only ‘old brick walls’.  Continue reading


Giorgio Morandi, Bologna artist

Morandi book “One can travel this world and see nothing. To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see.” Giorgio Morandi. [1]

Giorgio Morandi (1890–1964) is one of my favourite artists. I was pleased to read that the artists he listed as his influences are also in my pantheon (Giotto, Piero della Francesca, Chardin, Cezanne and Seurat).[2] Trying to come up with something that encapsulates the work of all these artists, I thought of solidity and stillness (generalisations, of course). When we were in Bologna last September we saw many of Morandi’s works. Since late 2012 the Morandi collection that used to be in a separate museum has been temporarily located at MAMbo (the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna or Modern Art Museum of Bologna). Continue reading

Jerusalem, Whanganui and maps

 I have just returned from a brief trip to Jerusalem (not the one in Israel! This one is a very small village next to the Whanganui River in New Zealand). I have written about it before (see this post). So here I will just add some photos.

I also stayed a night in Whanganui and bought the book called ‘Maps’ (UK Five Leaves Publications, 2011) at the local Saturday market. This is mainly a book of short essays about places. I haven’t finished it all yet, but it made me think of my trip in terms of maps. I have also written a post about maps before (see this post).

Continue reading

Bulls (the town in NZ)

A few weeks ago I went on a Friends of Te Papa bus trip to Bulls in the North Island (about 150 kilometres north of Wellington). Recent marketing makes puns with the name, for example “Bulls: a town like no udder”; Bulls: unforget-a-bull;  or the sign for the local police station “Const-a-bull”. As some of us were walking the short distance from a morning tea welcome at the local RSA club to the Bulls Museum, we passed a sign for the local physiotherapist. I thought of “bend-a-bull”; a better suggestion was “flex-a-bull”. But as they hadn’t invented any pun, they probably thought the whole idea regret-a-bull.

At Bulls Museum we were divided into two groups – one looked at the displays in the main building, while the other was given an informative talk in the ‘stables’ – a building housing various horse-drawn forms of transport and accessories (like a ladies side-saddle).


One of the interesting displays was about the four horses that were transported back to New Zealand at the end of World War One. Yes, of the thousands that went, probably only four made it back home – including ‘Bess’ who has her own monument near Bulls, which we saw from the road – a Category 1 listed historic monument: “Of the 3817 New Zealand horses that served during the war, Bess was one of a very small number of horses to return home. On her death in 1934, Powles erected the small stone memorial over her grave. A unique and important memorial, the structure is the only one in the country to commemorate the horses that served New Zealand during the First World War. It is also one of the very few to commemorate the role of horses in war in the world.” [From the Heritage NZ listing.]


From the museum we continued in our two groups to visit two historic houses – Lethenty and Beccles. Lethenty is a Category 2 listed building, built in 1915 following a fire in the earlier house.  (Its water tower is also a listed historic feature).


Beccles appears not to be listed with Heritage NZ, but the remains of a redoubt (from the 1860s wars) at the back of the property are.  At each house we had an informative talk from the owner or family member. Beccles was begun in the 1880s and later a large room was added by the then owner as a church meeting room. It has been altered over time by various owners. (You can see some more photos and information at this link.)

Beccles (1880s)



After lunch we drove along Parewanui Road to the coast. The first stop was the 1862-built Te Wheriko Church. It was moved in 1897 to its current location due to flood risk from the Rangitikei river.


On the way back to Wellington we stopped at Sanson to see the 1877-built church, designed by Wellington architect Charles Tringham, St Thomas Church, a Category 2 listed historic building.


It was a well organised and enjoy-a-bull trip!

St Mary of the Angels, Wellington

20170824_130635Since the devastating Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 there has been more awareness of the need to seismically strengthen some New Zealand buildings. Further earthquakes in 2013 (known as the Seddon earthquakes due to their proximity to Seddon at the top of the South Island) brought this home in Wellington. The modern BP building was damaged in those quakes and has since been demolished. St Mary of the Angels is a historic Catholic church in central Wellington and two of the Seddon earthquakes occurred during masses – one in the morning and one in the early evening. The building visibly moved, including the columns. Although no damage occurred, the decision was taken to close the church and hasten the plans for earthquake strengthening.

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Landmarks and word-hoards

20170717_090621“This book is about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. … Landmarks has been years in the making. For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to the work of writers who use words exactly and exactingly when describing landscape and natural life.” (Robert MacFarlane, Landmarks, Penguin Books, 2016, p. 1).

MacFarlane’s book is in the genre of ‘nature writing’ that seems to be enjoying a renaissance now – or perhaps it has been there but has recently become more mainstream. Gilbert White’s The Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne is an early exponent of the genre (originally published 1788, my Folio Society edition is from 1994 – it was an unbound copy which I bound myself. However I haven’t read it!). Continue reading