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

Morrell family in Wellington – 2

20170612_120300 I am reading David Johnson’s book Wellington Harbour (Wellington Maritime Museum, 1996) for my evening course on Wellington’s architectural history. In a post of – almost exactly – two years ago I wrote about my great-grandparents in Wellington – this was some research I also did for my evening class so it’s not surprising it is the same time of the year.  Johnson includes a painting and some information on the ship they arrived in Wellington on – the St Leonards, and some background information on 1880, the year they arrived.  Continue reading

Visiting artists’ studios

DSC02102Following World War Two, Alexander Liberman (an artist, but also art director of Vogue) photographed many artists’ studios in France. The book blurb says he “feared that many traces of a heroic epoch might vanish”. He was fascinated by the relationship between the artists’ surroundings and their work… and said: “I have tried to show the creative process itself”. I have a copy of Liberman’s book (revised in 1988) and despite the title of “The artist in his studio” he includes at least two women – Sonia Delaunay and Natalia Gontcharova.

Nearly two years ago I wrote this post on Art and Literature ‘pilgrimages’ and briefly mentioned my visits to Cezanne’s studio at the edge of Aix-en-Provence and Monet’s studio, house and garden at Giverny north of Paris. I have also visited Delacroix’s and Moreau’s studios in Paris and Renoir’s in the south of France. These are all museums now, of course, as the artists are long dead. Continue reading

Jones family of Masterton – journeys

This past weekend I went to a family reunion of the Jones family (my mother’s surname) – it was the 175th anniversary of their arrival in New Zealand aboard the ship ‘London’ – leaving England on 1 January 1842 and arriving in Wellington on 1 May 1842 – with no stops along the way. Perhaps I should have called this post ‘keeping up with the Joneses’!

I have already written something about this family here. And about my mother who grew up on the Jones family farm in Masterton and helped with the family milk delivery business at times.

Apart from meeting up with first, second and third cousins – most of the latter two groups I hadn’t met before – I also found interesting photos and memorabilia. This, for example, in an album belonging to one of my cousins, Keith Jones, (with a detail)

Continue reading

Forgotten Memorials

DSC01711I’m going to lead a ‘Secret art walk’ of Wellington for a group in a few weeks’ time. “Secret Art Walk” was the subject of a brochure issued in 2012 – an initiative of “the Property Council of New Zealand proudly sponsored by Beca”. It was updated a year or two later but is – I think – now considered ‘out of print’ or out of date as it isn’t available at the Wellington info centre. It is mainly about art works located in the foyers of commercial buildings – some in the brochure can no longer be seen, but I have found others too that aren’t in the brochure. Quite a number are labelled, but also quite a number aren’t. As I was doing research for this walk, I came across a website of Stephen Gibbs who did the walk in 2015 and blogged about it over a couple of months. Continue reading

Otorohanga: Kiwiana town

kiwiana town Otorohanga

Recently we stayed a couple of nights in Otorohanga (in the Waikato district, sort of middle-north in the North Island). As we travel about in various places (New Zealand, Australia, America come to mind) we like to see what towns and cities call themselves. I don’t mean their actual names, I mean the little epithets they give themselves (is epithet the right word?: “an adjective or phrase expressing a quality or attribute regarded as characteristic of the person or thing mentioned”). Perhaps they are just slogans thought up by someone on the local council or tourism board!

Wellington, where I live, is sometimes called Wellywood, a pastiche of Hollywood in homage to the Sir Peter Jackson-led film industry we have here. More often it’s called Windy Wellington, but that isn’t a positive image for tourism so the label “absolutely positively Wellington” was invented. You want positive? Absolutely! Actually, I see it wasn’t meant to be anything big, but caught the imagination and stuck. (click the link to see its origins.)

The silliest one I think I ever saw was “Foxton, the Fox Town”. Continue reading

Riding the rails to Whangamomona

20170227_141113Last week we did a day trip with Forgotten World Adventures using golf carts converted to run on the disused rail line from Okahukura (near Taumaranui in the North Island of New Zealand) to Whangamomona.

This rail line was closed in 2010; which seems a shame as it took more than 30 years to build in the early 20th century and includes 24 tunnels and 91 bridges. However, Ian Balme saw an opportunity and negotiated a lease with KiwiRail and started the business in 2012. There are high maintenance costs – especially clearing the line after each winter, which helps explain why the rides aren’t particularly cheap. But with lunch and morning and afternoon teas provided and a return ride, we thought it was worth it. Continue reading