Saturday, May 29, 2010
www.ashmolean.org has been reorganised –so much more interesting than when exhibits simply set in date order! Another feature of this exhibition is its focus on British quilting making and the way it reaches back to some of the first work of this type done in this country. I was reminded as I read the provenance of each item in this exhibition of the Amish quilts on show in the de Young Museum in San Francisco http://deyoung.famsf.org/deyoung/exhibitions/amish-abstractions-quilts-collection-faith-and-stephen-brown . I visited this during my recent visit in to America and there the choice was to display just 48 quilts from a narrow time slot 1880-1940. These were quilts not made for originally for public view, by people who lived rather isolated lives. In contrast many quilts at the V&A were for places in the home where visitors would be able to see it: in the 16C that was the bedroom and nowadays it is the museum or gallery that show contemporary quilts specifically commissioned as were some for this exhibition.
... and so to the exhibition ...
The Domestic Landscape rooms has quilts and quilted objects with long histories -bed hangings, cot quilts and a display of pincushions celebrating birth, mostly in silk and in very good condition. It’s amazing how well preserved these exhibits are –thank you to those all those people who knew the importance of storing such delicate items correctly. Personal diaries and keepsakes relating to the quilts and their makers are also on display. A silk and ribbon cot quilt made by the daughter of the governor of Deal Castle in the late 1600’s is on show for the first time and is accompanied by the maker's diary.
Next is the theme of Private Thoughts Political Debates with quilts that showed the extensive use of imported cotton and recycled materials. Printed panels were also available at the start of the 19thC and some of these linked a quilt or coverlet made at home with the politics of the day, for example, one from the past supporting Queen Caroline who was refused entry to her coronation. Nearby hangs Grayson Perry’s Right to Life quilt with tumbling blocks and foetus appliqué touching on one of today’s contested topics. The maker was quoted in The Independent as saying: ''We are born and we die and we make love under a quilt.''
Quilts by Victorians fill the Virtue and Virtuosity section, with work by women often for display purposes, by men done to keep them away from the temptations of alcohol and by those who joined quilting clubs. Particularly striking is a quilt of very small hexagons with a military theme –we all wondered just how long it had taken to complete and, one of my favourites, a modern quilt of fabrics that showed modern day women’s work. The squares were designed by a group of women and filled with tumble dryer fluff –a nice play on the misogynist phrase a nice bit of fluff.
The next set of quilts are all about Making A Living with some audio background material from a woman who had worked for the Government funded Rural Industries Board established to ensure that traditional crafts were not lost and to foster income generation in poor rural communities. These quilt makers met in women’s homes for this industrious work. On show here are quilts that once graced the beds of Claridges Hotel and a red and white striped wedding quilt showing mass produced quilting designs.
Meeting the Past is all about the role of the quilt as a memory maker as well as serving a purpose, with quilts made during World War 2 and some striking contemporary work, for example, Janey Forgan’s quilt using liberty fabric in a repetitive union jack pattern with its issue of multiculturalism in contemporary Britain. This section includes the quilt made by men in HMP Wansdworth with powerful messages in block design and embroidered text.It also has a paper quilt composed of one cm white squares that represent each civilian death in the Iraq War and the occasional darker square. Close up each darker square is a photograph of the first 100 service personnel dying in the same war. The commentary tells of how the maker had hand sewn the squares together with an awareness of the fragility of the paper they were made of ... the quilts unfinished edges are a reminder of the fragility of life for all of us and especially for those in the theatre of war.
With thanks to the National Gallery of Australia, the Rajah quilt is on display. This quilt was made in 1841 by women convicts transported to Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania), with materials donated by Elizabeth Fry's social reform initiative. It’s the only transportation quilt available to the public. The exhibitions closes with a Tracey Emin unmade bed entitled To Meet My Past which is crowded with fabric memories and appliquéd confessions. It uses floral material and the usual things that make the comfort of a bed and on one side tells us ''I cry in a world of sleep''.
Two and a half hours later, wowed by the width and creativity of the work we’d seen we needed to find somewhere to rest our feet and replenish our energy. We headed back to the cafe for lunch in those lovely surroundings and time to reflect on the exhibition. Mary said she would take home the thought that perhaps today we try for too much perfection in our quilting, Sue was impressed with the perseverance of the ordinary people who made quilts with anything they could lay their hands on. I will remember the place of preservation in our lives.
Very great care has been taken of the quilts displayed in this exhibition by people who knew about the importance of storing fabric in the correct conditions, in some cases for centuries, so that we can enjoy them in 2010. Preservation is also part of conservation and clearly great skill has been used to retain the beauty of many of the quilts and coverlets on show. The exhibition itself also demonstrates the importance of preserving the quilts while they are on show; displaying work under suitable lighting, on flat displays and behind glass covers, all there so we can enjoy these precious works of art with the minimum impact on their condition. Finally, the quilts themselves epitomise preservation. They keep safe our memories in pictures, words, fabric, design, shape, stitches ... in the unique craft of each quilt maker.
Later Sue, Arnold and I went to see Les Miserable http://www.lesmis.com/ –my first time and their second but others in the audience were multiple visitors in the musical’s 25th anniversary year. It is as wonderful as everyone says it is –memorable music that fits so well with the lyrics, a very packed storyline and nothing has been lost in the move to a smaller theatre with a smaller cast. Unsurprisingly, on our walk through theatre-land we met some baby elephants ….
Thursday, May 20, 2010
What a wonderful way to wake up –warm croissants, fresh fruit, fragrant coffee and according to the pilot, a hot and sunny day is forecast for England. Soon I can see those unmistakable London landmarks: Big Ben, the London Eye, St Pauls, Charing Cross station or is Waterloo and the Thames bending its way through the urban sprawl.
A smooth landing, my looking-rather-worse-for-wear suitcase with its pink notice me strap appears on the carousal for the last time and soon I am waiting in the morning sunshine for Julie to take me home. Everything is very familiar –the coolness of the ground floor office, a familiar scent upstairs and in the front garden the Cercus Covey Lavender Twist is dripping with purple. I ignore, for the time being, the nine week tower of post on my desk, make a cup of tea and enjoy the abundance of growth in the back garden. Its getting hotter –such good weather to come home to.
I tax my car, discover it has a flat battery –soon fixed by the man from Green Flag who is thankfully strong enough to pull the car backwards out of my small garage. Driving to Leatherhead is a joy –Horse chestnuts are wearing their special shade of pink, cow parsley and hawthorn give the lanes a white out and everywhere is so very greeeen … this is a beautiful country. As I wait for a new battery to be put in my car I become aware that in reality its the middle of night! I need to sleep …
Before the alarm can wake me Sue phones with an invitation to supper, the next thing I hear is the Archers intro … I just keep falling back to sleep. Tomorrow I’ll sort the post, the laundry, and there’s the small matter of buying some fresh food … I cannot have porridge for breakfast and lunch on more than one day, can I?
My travelling is over for the time being. On Monday Jen and I will be planning our 2011 South American trip but that’s some months away. I realise that I’ll miss blogging so watch this space, there maybe entries on some not so distant places during the summer.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Two good flights to Bangkok and reports say that southerly winds over Europe are keeping the ash cloud away.
My little hub seat on the upper deck was comfy enough for a nice sleep and then I watched A Single Man. I’m reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Walters –the last few pages will fill take off time from here … then I can go back to Wolf Hall which is harder work even though I find the e-reader a good device to read off. I’m hoping that there will be another good film as well.
Its hot here, I’ve just had a shower so feel like a new day has begun. I’m not really sure where I am time wise –I just put my watch back a few hours and start from the new time.
Both the BA and Qantas flights out of Bangkok are full –all is calm here but the NZ papers this morning reported a sniper on every rooftop and hotel guests being advised to keep their curtains shut.
Its very quiet here at Christchurch airport … Heathrow will come as a shock. I’m blogging from the lounge, reflecting on a wonderful few weeks, all the new and not so new places I’ve visited and, most importantly, all the friendly people I’ve met.
Its a cliché but travel does broaden the mind. we all have so much in common, the small things differ …
Light switches in NZ flick up for on, down is off, in some places orange traffic lights are redundant, wherever you are people prefer summer to winter. The US has yellow school buses, Tehran has yellow taxis, autumn leaves are yellow everywhere. We speak different languages even when the grammar and vocabulary seem the same –the kiwis make pavs, drink sav, take their togs to the beach. Learning one local word like salam in Shiraz means children giggle and mothers smile.
Champagne is best drunk with friends on the Sydney Opera House Terrace, Pohara Beach is my idea of paradise, I’m still dreaming about white herons & pied stilts and, oh dear, I’ve just had to pay to leave NZ.
Christchurch in the rain: willows that weep in more ways than one, splashes from the tram tracks and people shivering because its 10C. Given that I have been travelling in the southern hemispheres autumn/winter months most times the weather has been very kind. My waterproofs and umbrella made it out of the suitcase today and I soon acclimatised.
With my first task of rebooking my flight from Bangkok to London completed I walked into the city to visit the museum and other galleries. The Botanic Gardens were unappealing …
I also found the Medical School bookshop in Christchurch Hospital and bought a book of poetry called Playing God. Dale had let me see her copy last night and it is a book worth paying the high cost of books in NZ. I think books here, and in Australia, are at least 1.5x UK prices whether they are imported or not. The bookshop was an ideal place to add to my list of future must reads and to note down more titles to suggest to my book group. I hope some in the long list I’ve been collecting over the last 8 weeks will appeal to them for future meetings –certainly many of the authors are new to me and I doubt we would have come across them in the UK.
Lunch was a very good fish chowder in Dux de Lux –with some good music and a chance to write thank you notes to Dale and Marianne for their hospitality this weekend. I’ve had lots of very good company in the last 8 weeks, some planned and some unplanned. There’s a welcome in England and France for all of you at any time.
I’ve just made sure my ITouch and e-reader are fully charged for the long journey ahead. Three flights, very reasonable transit times between then in Sydney and Bangkok and I arrive home 7 am Weds. Fortunately I am travelling with Qantas so, once again, I will avoid the BA strike. Fancy me thinking in March that the dispute would all be settled by the time I returned in May! Now there’s only that volcano to possibly delay me …
Sunday16th 8am -I've cancelled my Bangkok hotel reservation –hard decision but the unrest seems to be worsening. UK foreign office advice is not to travel which invalidates my insurance and other websites are telling people already there to stay indoors. There seems little point in being there if I can’t go anywhere. I seem to remember that last time the political situation was very bad the airport was closed –no fun being stuck either in the hotel or worse still at the airport!!! Now all I have to do is change my flight home which means the interminable wait listening to dreadful music to speak to a BA agent tomorrow
Sunday 16th 9pm
Just blogged on-line on the B&B computer so here’s some pics from yesterday and today in and around Ch-Ch –the Kate Sheppard memorial, a Maori flax weaving in the Cathedral, the foyer sculpture at the Art Gallery, fishing at the end of the wharf and Harry.
Not sure when I’ll be able to post this … perhaps I’ll be at home.
Monday, May 17, 2010
I've enough reading on the e-reader to last several flight delays, my Itouch is fully charged and, if all else fails, there's always the work that has acculumated in the last 8 weeks to fill in between films.
Maybe I'll be able to update this en route but if not my next post will be from home.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Then Dale became my tour guide to Akeroa, over Summit Road where usually there are great views of the place where the French tried to claim NZ as theirs. We settled for afternoon tea and a walk out to the end of the wharf to watch some local boys fishing. I'm just back from supper with Dale (and Harry the dog) -I'm so glad I met her in Sydney, its been great to have a local friend in Ch-Ch. I had supper last night with four of her friends -good conversation, a home cooked meal, some very good wine and more insights into the NZ way of life.
My first task tomorrow is to rearrange my flights so that I travel home from Sydney avoiding the planned 2 days in Bangkok -the worst thing will be listening to BA's recorded message and awful on-hold music during the long wait I know I'll have to speak to a real person in Auckland. The Bangkok hotel have just confirmed my cancellation and I'm told that NZ are withdrawing their embassy staff ...
Friday, May 14, 2010
I left Hokitika just after eight and soon said goodbye to the Tasman Sea. It was angry today, with waves throwing spray out any which way. I’m so glad I was also on the West Coast when it was in a good mood.
The left turn to the trans-island highway through Arthur's Pass meant steep gradients, more hairpins and very soon a different landscape. Death’s corner is now a scenic lookout point and has been replaced by a viaduct. Presumably it was once appropriately named for the toll it took on
I remember going over Arthur’s Pass with my Mum and Dad but not that we eve reached Christchurch which is rather strange. Bev and I always called it Urthur’s Pass, but why we did is something else I can’t remember! I do recall we used to sing I love to go a wandering across a mountain track and when I go, I love to sing … etc etc. on those long trips to remote places. Those were the days before car radios or music systems –we had quite a repertoire of car songs …
Through the pass, a stop for coffee by a log fire in Arthur’s Pass Lodge and I’d reached the Canterbury Plains. Once again I made several photo stops; at one chatting with some people travelling from Christchurch to the glaciers who wanted to know what I thought of the Dave and Nick show back home –as they put it. They knew more than me so clearly I’ve some catching up with the news to do at some point.
This is alpine country, with ski slopes and sheep farming as the plains stretch to the east. The vegetation changes –bare outcrops of rock and tussock grass as far as I could see in some places.
I was in Christchurch much sooner than I expected so I called in at the airport hoping to speak to a BA agent … no such luck so I drove south east to the port of Lyttleton and found an ocean viewpoint to eat a late lunch.
Further on are the hills of the Banks Peninsula formed by 2 volcanic eruptions …. then driver-fatigue set in so I turned back towards the city. The GPS I hired now had its use guiding me to Bealey Street and the last B&B. I’m now here for 4 nights so I was given an upgrade –this is a lovely room and the bathroom has a roll top bath but internet access is pricey. Swings and roundabouts …
Ann pointed me in the direction of an Italian restaurant tonight –I had the fish of the day -local sole. baked whole and absolutely delicious. Keeping to my routine of drinking as local as possible I had a glass of Christchurch Pinot Gris -and needed the walk back from the city centre to help my digestion. I return the car tomorrow, it will be good to be doing more walking again. It was great having the independence it gave me but the last few days have been a little sedentary.
I know now that my onward journey is unaffected by the BA strike –that means both ends of my 9 week trip will have been linked to the same industrial action. I have until Monday to decide whether to go to Bangkok and hope the political situation there will be outside of the tourist areas or travel straight home from Sydney on Tuesday. Watch this space …
Baby Cow was enjoying the rain soaked meadow as I left Fox for Hokitika and, this time, an unplanned B&B stop organised by Karen.
Franz Josef was deserted so my errands at the stationers, post shop and garage were soon done. The route took me past the turn for Okarito where the weather changed for the better and, although there was the occasional heavy shower, most of my journey was in sunshine, with the fronts passing over quickly.
Waterfalls at the road’s edge and tree debris were evidence of last night’s storms –and the rivers and creeks, including Duffers, Rocky, Stinky, Flowery, Purcell and Paganini were churning with lots of fresh water. I stopped for a picnic lunch at Lake Ianthe –no reflections today and had a short walk around Lake Mahinapua –just one other car in both places.
The key to Heritage Lodge cottage was in post box 21 –this is a lovely place, too big for one person but I’m enjoying the space and facilities tonight. The breakfast that’s been left for me has just provided supper and there’s still enough for the morning. I’m now booked into the Christchurch B&B for tomorrow as well so now I can enjoy the drive over Arthur's Pass without wondering if I’ll make the deadline to return the car.
There’s no internet or phone here so sorting out my onward journey from Christchurch will have to wait until Saturday morning. Still can’t decide whether to go to Bangkok as planned or strigh home –maybe I’ll won’t have the choice. Heavy rain now so I think I’ll find out where they keep the torch ….
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The glow–worms were right –rain was on its way. Storms hit the West Coast last evening, first heavy rain,then very windy so no power this morning. The stunning mountains are well hidden and Mrs Cow and her baby look very wet.
And, of course, its not a worm but the larva of a gnat that generates light to attract flying insects into its threads to feed on. It spends 2 months suspended, making light and feeding then emerges, flies for 2 days and dies …
I think today will be a very slow –maybe the glacier pools and hopefully some internet access to sort out my home bound journey. Not only is BA on strike (again) but Foreign Office advice is not to go to Bangkok. Where else could I spend my last two days?
I wonder how Karen is doing making breakfast without power? At least its not cold.
And later …power restored but it could go again and its still very stormy. Changes of plans, I’m leaving for Hokitita or perhaps further north -so lucky yesterday, the other guests here have left without seeing the mountains or glaciers.
With heavy rain forecast for tomorrow I decided not to miss the opportunity to see the glacier terminal in the dry even if it was cloudy. My first stop was Sentinel Rock with great views of the Franz Josef glacier and the path all the way to the present end of this mighty structure.
It was busy but hardly crowded, lots of people returning from guided climbs, of all nationalities and one or two with umbrellas! Walking towards the face of ice the colour is mainly blue, with the grubbiness I saw this morning at the top of Fox.
My Mum and Dad bought us here when I was 11 on a family Christmas holiday. We travelled in a rather rattley green estate car, stayed in motels and walked in much the same place as I did today except that as glaciers move (and this one is relatively quick) it might have been several metres down the way!
What a wonderful day –I stood at the top and beside a glacier, saw white herons and royal spoonbills, and had fresh coffee in a rain forest all in the space of six hours. Time for bed .. what will win the dream competition?
Swade pushed out from the landing stage, read me the safety instructions –the lifejacket was a good windshield, and my personal guided tour began.
There are a few white herons resident here throughout the winter and several of these fairly rare birds were out fishing today, as well as white faced herons, black shags, pied shags, black and white fronted terns, black-billed gulls, royal spoonbills and my favourite, the pied stilt. All feeding on the shallow waters of the estuary and lagoon.
Not so many birds as we turned into the rain forest but plenty of trees and plants including Rata flowers and dead Tutu’s.
After an hour Swade pulled into a green jetty, brewed fresh coffee and offered me a home baked cookie –how wonderful is that!
More birds were out and about on our return journey –the rain was starting but nothing could have spoilt a perfect two hours. On land once more I wandered around the village that was once a thriving gold rush town; now its a sleepy haven of a few houses, holiday accommodation and a campsite, and no shop. By then the rain had stopped so I hastened back to FJ for a walk to the glacier terminal .. continues
Breakfast at 8 am, a call from Franz Joseph Glacier Flights to say they were flying but the weather could close in and ground them by midday so I headed north to FJ for a two glacier flight. Sadly no-one was doing the heli-hike but at least there were others like me wanting to fly –the minimum they take is 2 so I needed those 4 other tourists.
I sat next to the pilot with a perfect view of both glaciers from above, going up and then down. Its difficult to grasp the scale of the ice mass, small red huts for climbers are like pins and my eyes played tricks with the distance to the snow as we landed at the top of Fox. I seem to be in permanent photo overload, and the whole scene called for another movie –thank you, James, for suggesting I buy the Panasonic with its great zoom.
The colours are unexpected –more blue than white and a certain grubbiness here and there. Walking on the snow was easy as long as you kept to the fresh fall, the air was sharp and the bright light made it tricky to judge walking distances. It was over in no time but I had been up there –no flights this afternoon and tonight its raining very hard.
Back again in Franz Joseph I bought a warm hat ready for a boat trip on Okarito Lagoon arranged by Karen. This time I was the only passenger with Swade, who knows all there is to know about the flora and fauna of the West Coast, at the helm … lots more to add and the connection is slow so I’ll post this entry and start another …
One or two more stopping places en route to Fox. First Whataroa with its wonderful Maori art gallery -some historic pieces and lots of carvings for sale (too big and too heavy) and then Okarito where The Piano was filmed (I think) and Keri Hulme, author of The Bone People, lives. So peaceful by the estuary …
By now the journey to Fox was taking me rather longer then planned so I resolved not to stop anymore. I drove through Franz Joseph’s touristy main street, wound up and down the hairpins of another mountain to my next B&B which sits at the feet of Mount’s Cook and Tasman.
Karen greeted me with the weather forecast –not good apparently and set about trying to arrange to get you up there while the sun is shining today, there being the mountains and glaciers. Sadly, the last flights had left so she’s booked me in tomorrow morning before the predicted rain and I am not to worry! Meanwhile I was dispatched to the other side of her garden pond to take photos of the mountains in reflection (including Mrs Cow and 2 day old calf) and then down the road to see the top of the Fox Glacier in the last of the sun. Well, if the clouds hide everything in the next two days I will have seen plenty. Not only Mount Cook and Mount Tasman lit by the sunset but also the glacier top at the end of day. I went into photo overload and then just ogled the wonderful sight.
Supper in Fox was unexciting but, as instructed by Karen, I did go looking for glow-worms along the Minnehaha bush track. I found the entrance about one km south of Fox and armed with a flashlight ventured into the unknown and the dark. I carried on until I’d turned several corners to hide any road light and at one point did question my sanity. The path was just about clear but the surrounding bush was dark and damp -sadly no glow-worms were out and about. I’m told they often hide if it feels like rain …
Tomorrow its breakfast at eight because they will be ringing early to get me up there …
After lots of tips from Jan about where to stop and what to see I set of south this morning. Breakers B&B is certainly the place for a relaxing stay in this part of the West Coast …
Spotting a quilt shop was an unexpected treat just after Greymouth –my fabric purchase was well within my rules being light, flat, local and a useful addition to my stash. With more time I might have stayed for the experiential learning about label making that was offered –lets hope I can remember the instructions when I get home.
Next I came to Glow-Worm Dell where, naturally, all the glow-worms were invisible in the bright sunshine and then a song about glow-worms rang out from the dreadful cd –glow little glow-worm, glitter, glitter, glow little glow-worm- someone sang! Rather eerie …
The roads are easy driving but there are an amazing amount of road repairs in progress, lots of rail crossings –not that I’ve seen a single train, and one way bridges are a regularity. At one place today a one way bridge in need of repair was shared with the railway line. I followed the car in front (thank you driver) that straddled one track which meant keeping very close to one edge!
So much sightseeing meant I left lunch rather late but a kind person in Harihari opened the cafe’s kitchen and made me a whitebait sandwich. I could taste the whitebait filling – so much better that the whitebait omelette I had in Greymouth and healthier than continuing to eat the cranberry chilli chocolate bar that’s lived in the glove locker since Nelson. Soon I had my first glimpses of the mountains and then, on this perfectly still and cloudless day, a mirror lake. Continues …
Monday, May 10, 2010
I ended a wonderful day walking along the beach below the B&B, accessed via the garden, creating some beach art for the seagulls and then watching the best sunset I can ever remember seeing.
One more night in this very comfy place with the Tasman sea as lullaby. I wish I could capture that sound to play during my travels in place of the dreaded reminiscing cd I bought. Today’s selection included Matt Monro, The Seekers, Shirley Bassey, Patsy Cline and Whispering Grass by ??? –the most worrying thing is that I know some of the tunes and some of the words!!! I am going to listen once to all four discs but guess what I won’t be bringing home.
Today was a rest day from driving –I went a few kms north to Punakaiki and just beyond, driving one of the best coast roads in the world.
The 3 blow holes were relatively calm. Patience was needed (that’s shadowy me waiting) to see the spray that bursts forth when the crashing waves hit the pillars of limestone pancakes that formed 24 million years ago.
Unsurprisingly I encountered species tourist at the Rocks; not so at Truman Track, a short walk through the bush to the sea. Informative labels indicate the native hardwoods and plants –it felt quite tropical with rimu, ferns and a damp undergrowth on what was by now another warm day.
The forest soon gave way to salt tolerant plants such as flax and then there was more sea to enjoy. I had a picnic lunch overlooking the churning, bubbling sea with waves that rose, curled, lipped white and then spewed over into a mass not unlike beaten egg white just before its ready for the sugar. So watchable and so difficult to convey with a still photo but here’s one or two of the hundreds I took. I am now deleting from the huge memory stick having backed up my pics more then once. Later walking along a beach I tried the movie facility but I can’t seem to transfer that file to the blog!
With each wave mountains of froth and foam roll out, its made of natural detergent like substance that gets beaten up by the power of the waves and is loaded with fine silt. It makes for an amazing sight on beaches which are otherwise pebbles and driftwood of all shapes and sizes.
…to be continued