10.12.1 ISSN 2324-1136
TURBO SPEED – A&P SHOW
Stuart Moriarty-Patten http://101gisbornepeople.wordpress.com
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FEATURES Passionate for Dirt
Peggy Ericson can turn a lump of dirt into a beautiful object; the art of alchemy
Enjoy our piece on the spectacle that is the Grand National Beach Racing Champs
Tane Uehaa – Men Supporting Each Other
Read about a bunch of guys from Gisborne who took their love of paddling from ordinary to extraordinary
La belle Époque – “The beautiful era”
Find out about Amanda Laidlaw-May’s transformation of the previous residence of the Town and Country Women’s Club
The biggest event on Gisborne’s dance card is the A&P Spring Show
We speak to three youth delegates from our region about their experiences at the forum
Inside Out – A Strategy for Tourism OUT EAST
In this issue we find out more behind TE’s strategy in marketing us to the world
Life Education Trust – Fight for life Find out which local business people are in Gisborne’s inaugural Fight for Life Education
REGULAR COLUMNS Fat Lady on a Bike
Ditching the car
A Pom in Paradise
Itâ€™s the little things
Final Say Moons and Magnolias
CREDITS EDITOR Jen Egan email@example.com
Fiona Mitford Local writer Fiona Mitford ruminates on her place in the world. Stuart Morarity-Patten Ocassional photographer Stuart, shares his story about moving to the other side of the world. He shares his everyday observations with us, giving us a glimpse of our town from a different perspective. http://101gisbornepeople.wordpress.com
PROOFREADERS Rob O’Connor Kristina Louis DESIGNER Anna Taylor www.annataylor.co.nz
Jason Howe Jason Howe is British born photographer based in New Zealand, he enjoys documenting the New Zealand landscape, it’s people and culture. More of his work can be found here: Website - www.aperturepriority.co.nz Facebook - www.facebook.com/pages/AperturePriority/106735462760380
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR Genny Stevens ADVERTISING Ads@eastcapemagazine.co.nz SUBMISSIONS Editor@eastcapemagazine.co.nz
Kane Stirton “Legends in Tairawhiti series” Local illustrator Kane Stirton lends his talent to create Eastcapes very own “Legends in Tairawhiti series.”
PUBLISHER G2 Publications Limited PO Box 91032 Victoria Street West Auckland 1142 New Zealand SUBSCRIPTIONS www.eastcapemagazine.co.nz eastcape magazine (ISSN 2324-1136) is subject to copyright in its entirety. The contents may not be reproduced in any form, either in whole or in part, without written permission of the publisher. All rights reserved in material accepted for publication, unless initially specified otherwise. All letters and other material forwarded to the magazine will be assumed intended for publication unless clearly labelled “not for publication”. Opinions expressed in the magazine are not necessarily those of G2 Publications Ltd or of the editor.
Thanks to; Family, friends and enablers.
COVER Turbo Speed – A&P show
EDITOR’S LETTER What an experience that was! I had no idea that, come release day, I would only be able to peek at the magazine onscreen and found myself surprisingly nervous as someone dropped another “Oh hey, I read the magazine!” Who knew it would tie me up in so many knots to hear those words? I guess that’s the difference with a project done 100% from a passionate perspective, a creative need unleashed on the unsuspecting public! I can’t begin to thank you all enough for your kind words, constructive feedback, and enthusiasm for this project. It’s been a huge learning curve and I am now happy to announce I am fully addicted to getting this magazine out; who knows, maybe this month I’ll even read it! We are inundated with talent in this region and have a rich pool from which to source the content for the next story. As we progress through on this path, we are joined by people who share in our vision to make this a great publication for the East Coast and beyond. Enjoy our second issue; we want to hear from you, so please let us know what’s missing, what’s good, and what could be better! Jen Egan
We meet the face behind the faces.
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR Hello Congratulations on your first issue of your magazine. Itâ€™s an enjoyable read and you are to be very proud of what you have pulled off. Thank you so much for your magazine. I am an enthusiastic recipient and have circulated it among friends. Take care and kind regards Hayley Redpath -- -Hi there, Just checked out your website and magazine! What a wonderful job youâ€™re doing! Tracey Wisnewski -- -Hello Your new magazine looks great! Well done! Ro Darrall -- --
Hi Jen, Keep it coming, what a great read. I really enjoyed your inaugural Mag. Tino pai. I will definitely be plugging it within my work environment. Cheers, Wendy Ure -- -FROM FACEBOOK Congratulations on your 1st issue! Thane Houston-Stevens Really impressed, talked about it with my clients, spreading the good word as your doing the good work! Mia Valentine Congratulations on a lovely first issue! 98limes
Passionate for dirt
Being able to turn a lump of dirt into a fragile, useful, practical, beautiful object is an act of alchemy. And it appeals to all of us; remember as a kid squishing soil through your fingers? How wonderful it felt. Then creating dream worlds with dirt, sticks, and stones for the ants to live in. Creativity is spoken of as a gift; sometimes it is. But it can be just not forgetting the feeling of squishing dirt and persevering until you find the activity that makes your heart remember.
By Genny Stevens Images by Genny Stevens
For Peggy Ericson it took many attempts to find her true creative medium, only to find playing with lumps of dirt – well, clay – was still what made her heart sing.
The first medium for her creativity to take hold of was wool and fibre, learning to spin fibre into yarn. “I quite enjoyed spinning,” Ericson says, “but then I can’t knit, so I wove the yarn; just using those basic cardboard looms making wall hangings. They were all very rustic and funky back in the day – you know, the 70s.
However, it wasn’t immediately obvious that pottery would be “her thing”; she’d had a few attempts when young at the neighbours, then another go while at teacher training college, and as she says: “It didn’t really turn my crank.”
Originally from Kenya, East Africa, Ericson was nine when her family migrated to Nelson and settled into the creative vibe of the area. Surrounded by art and craft from this early age, her mother’s artistic outlet was painting, pastels, and batik. As well as having several working artists, including several potters, as neighbours, art and craft has always been part of her landscape.
“But as much as I enjoyed it, it never really, truly gripped me. Then when I came to Gisborne and my kids were little, I really had this need to do something creative. The polytech advertised pottery classes, which for some reason appealed. So I went and got gripped by it!” The resonance for Ericson was so strong she gave up all other mediums – spinning, weaving, and painting – as she explains: “I thought: ‘Whoa, this is me! I’ve found it at last and this is what I want to do.’ Because I’d tried all sorts of things to find a niche and suddenly clay was the ‘pow’ medium!” When thinking of pottery it’s the process of throwing clay on to a wheel that first comes to mind, but Ericson learned hand building at class and it’s this method which got her hooked. She explains why: “I really like to work outside of the cylindrical shape and I just really like finger marks on my work. I’m a real texture freak!
“On the wheel you can throw all sorts of shapes, but they’re always round. Even if you alter them by cutting through, it’s just more limited. With hand building there’s pinch potting, coiling, slab work… lot’s of different ways of working with clay. And that’s really my thing.” While at night classes she was encouraged early on to enter the bi-annual artists’ and potters’ exhibition; it still runs but these days is annual. The ability for everyone from beginners to advanced potters to enter, so long as the work met the criteria, was very encouraging, especially as Ericson’s work sold from day one! It also meant encouragement came from established and respected artists, some even buying her work. “Jolene Douglas (curator at Tairawhiti museum) was particularly encouraging both in what she said to me and because she bought a piece of my work.” Ericson says: “I thought to myself, she knows what she’s talking about so maybe what I’m doing must be good!”
When thinking of pottery it’s the process of throwing clay on to a wheel that first comes to mind, but Ericson learned hand building at class and it’s this method which got her hooked.
It was this support which Ericson feels was a “nest or an incubator” for her creativity to flourish in and is firm in her belief this wouldn’t have happened to her in Nelson. Gisborne’s smaller community was more nurturing and less competitive, she felt. She continued to go to the night classes for about six years; as a mother of young children at the time, it was important to have that dedicated space and uninterrupted time. It was also a perfect way to hone her craft without outlaying money for kiln and glazes until she was sure. As time progressed though, Ericson felt it was time to get her own kiln and then was ready to practise her craft alone. These days you’ll find Ericson at Staple Gallery in the Poverty Bay Club building. It’s a working gallery where you can catch her hand-shaping her latest piece, or packing pieces of her work to be flown all around the world. Her pieces vary from large, smooth, and sculptural through to small, textured, and delicate. Influences from her time in Africa are as apparent as her connection to New Zealand. Many pieces which are vase shaped will be worked in porous material or have no bases; this is because Ericson wants them to be considered for aesthetics, not functionality. Being a working artist can put commercial limitations on the creative process and, while Ericson does have pieces she makes which are a commercial line, she equally creates enough work from her heart and finds that it always resonates with someone to find a new home. Commission work is also a big part of her work, although she says her customers know she doesn’t work to strict timelines! She recommends expect a three year wait!
Having her studio in a working gallery places a welcome limitation on her though. “At home I’m a bit messy and I like that, when working here, I have to be ordered and tidy!” she laughs. “Also it’s so stimulating here; there are beautiful objects all around!”
Many pieces which are vase shaped will be worked in porous material or have no bases; this is because Ericson wants them to be considered for aesthetics, not functionality.
In all pottery there is an element which is out of the potter’s hands – the firing. It requires an ability to “let go” of the outcome. Beginners can find it disheartening as unexpected cracks or explosions occur. Ericson has come to find opening the kiln as exciting as Christmas morning! “I love the anticipation of what’s in there and what it’s going to look like. Because each firing is different, quite often it’s an “ugh” of disappointment but sometimes it’s a “wow” of amazement!” she says, “but it pays to wait until everything is out, as things will always look better out of the kiln.” Although sometimes Ericson’s disappointment can become
someone else’s joy: “Many, many times I’ve had a piece I can’t stand and it’s a real disappointment. It will end up being pushed into a corner only for a customer to find it and really admire it!” she laughs. “Sometimes I give it to them on the proviso they don’t tell anyone it’s my work!” Pottery isn’t the only medium now for Ericson. You will find in her gallery there are beautiful felt cushions bearing her name. This new obsession for her started when teaching at a Raglan retreat in 2006. She’s not interested in creating bags or clothing from felt, but instead enjoys the ability to use her interest in graphic art in a textural manner. Whether it’s pottery or felting, they are both techniques which are very textural, require fully tactile processes, and yet the final outcome is surrendered to finishing techniques beyond the craftsperson’s control. It’s an interesting mix! Ericson is proud to be a craftsperson and is on a mission to ensure that craft, especially great craft, is valued as equally as art is. “Crafts are always put down; I’ve always asked, why isn’t craft valued as much as art?” She says: “A craft piece will often take longer to produce with more expensive materials than a piece of art might. So why are people reluctant to pay what it’s worth?” As I’m photographing her work I check out those price tags and wonder indeed why anyone would have a problem with them. If anything, I’d suggest, for the amount of work and sheer beauty there must be a zero missing somewhere.
There’s so much to see in Ericson’s work; she has diversity in her style that ensures your heart is captured at every turn. Look closer at a piece and see the subtle finger marks; put it down and see the glaze catch the sunlight. As much as I don’t delight anymore in squishing dirt through my fingers, I certainly take great delight in the result of Peggy Ericson having done so.
Beach Racing Where the fear of death is overcome by the thrill of speed.
By Jen Egan
The noise is deafening as we arrive at Makarori beach â€“ itâ€™s the sound of high speed engines roaring combined with an excited crowd. The sun is shining and we are all there to enjoy the spectacle that is the Grand National Beach Racing Champs.
I’m here to watch Warren Martin tear it up on the beach. His enthusiasm doesn’t dampen even as he tells me his first race didn’t go so well… I note the half empty wine bottle on the ground next to the bike at its resting place between races and he assures me: “No, that’s not mine; it’s not that bad.” The next race becomes the focus, removing the regrets of previous races. The pace is fast and the excitement in the air is palpable. I’m almost convinced I want a turn! Almost. Warren is a speed junkie. His first taste of beach racing was back in ’98; he needed a focus, a sport, and this was something that interested him. “My legs are too skinny for soccer and I can’t run very fast; I’ve got a dickey ticker.” The irony that he chose an extremely adrenaline fuelled medium for his sport fix escapes him! “Part of the passion for this sport is you’ve got to be able to fix your own machine; that’s part of the fun, making things for the bike.” Warren’s bike is number 8, his national championships placing the previous year. “You just don’t know what you are going to get on the day – it’s anyone’s game out there.” When asked if he practices for this in the off season, he tells me: “It’s really hard to practise as you don���t feel like going that fast alone for safety reasons and the like.” It sounds like it’s very much on the spot as far as the decision for him to take part goes. “It’s definitely an addiction; I’ll walk out of here saying: ‘No more; that’s it,’ but a week out from the start of the season, I’ll get my bike out and think: ‘I better fix it!’”
Warren is a speed junkie. His first taste of beach racing was back in ’98; he needed a focus, a sport, and this was something that interested him.
Suddenly it’s all on again; Warren’s next race is up. We wait patiently for the race to start as the engines roar on the start line and then, in the blink of an eye, they’re off! A spray of sand in their wake – it’s fast, loud, and exhilarating. Suddenly Warren comes to a standstill and makes his way carefully to the side of the track; I don’t even notice that I’m holding my breath on his behalf until I gasp for air. His support crew are wondering what has prematurely ended this last race for Warren and wander off to find out. Dejected, he slowly wheels the bike over – it’s his kick peddle, now hanging loosely from his bike. Warren is philosophical: “You don’t know how it’s going to happen on the day.”
The beach racing season starts in May each year and runs through to September with five meetings annually and three club rounds. The first is a season starter followed by the East Coast Challenge and the Grand National Championships. Rocky Elmer is the man behind the Gisborne beach races and, judging by the crowd at the event, he organises a great event! There’s a fair few followers and racers alike, with riders ranging from five years old through to teens and the more senior racers, with all manner of bikes. It’s a lot of fun even just as a spectator. “Anyone can join in, on any bike; just turn up on the day!”
Warren has a bigger vision; he would love to see a Gisborne speed week with speed racing, jet sprints, road racing – akin to the battle of the streets of old – and, of course, the incorporation of some good old beach racing. He believes Gisborne is a good venue for it and as it’s a great trip to get here, it would attract lots of people.
Luckily there have been no casualties today, but it does happen. As with any sport, there are risks; so long as the rider manages them, there’s a lot of fun to be had. Beach racing is also a great winter sport – winter has the best sand conditions. Normally it rains at these events, but it doesn’t matter to the riders; there are no cancellations, with people travelling from all over NZ to get here.
Warren might be disappointed with how the day’s racing turned out, but that doesn’t last long. There’s news of another meet; perhaps this isn’t his last chance to get the bike out this year after all. Until as recently as an announcement on the day, Gisborne’s were the only beach races left in the country. “But there’s been an announcement that there’s going to be a race in Peka Peka in October.” I can tell by the grin that this is good news. Warren will be heading there with some of the local crew, no doubt.
Whilst it’s every man for himself out there on the track, “we are all mates at the end of the day, having fun,” Warren says.
It’s prize giving time now; great prizes too for the bike enthusiasts – tools, gear, and the like – all donated by local businesses and sponsors. It’s well organised, this beach racing business; credit to Rocky Elmer for making it happen. Whilst it’s every man for himself out there on the track, “we are all mates at the end of the day, having fun,” Warren says. I quickly ask Warren, before he heads over to the gathered crowd awaiting the announcements, what’s going on in his head out there, waiting for the flag that signals the race has begun. “Winning,” he tells me; “that, and beach racing is when the fear of death is overcome by the thrill of speed.” –– www.gmsc.co.nz
â€“ Men Supporting Each Other
Read about a bunch of guys from Gisborne who took their love of paddling from ordinary to extraordinary and made it to the top of their league, wearing black for New Zealand on the world stage.
By Jen Egan
The scene is set: a rich, colourful, culturally diverse world stage; the Calgary World National Va’a Outrigger Championships in Canada (that’s waka ama to me and you), with 24 countries participating, including the Pacific Islands, Australia, the Americas, Hawaii, Japan, France, and the current world champs, Canada. Every region in NZ is represented. There are 7 divisions – the under 16 open, 19 seniors, 23 masters, gold master, men’s and women’s. The competition ground is the water reservoir in Calgary, also the city’s water supply. The opening ceremony, at the heritage park across from the reservoir, comes complete with welcoming rituals and blessings from the First Nation Indian chiefs. All of this, and a bunch of guys from Gisborne. Team Tane Uehaa, now elite athletes, worked hard in their goal to wear black for their country and the opportunity of a lifetime, the chance to bring back gold for New Zealand.
Tane Uehaa, meaning “men supporting each other”, is a mixed crew of old mates and senior masters. It took discipline, determination, and some sacrifice for the team, who would train up to 120kms a week over a 14 week build up training on and off the river to make it to Calgary. The team, equipped with a host of medals in national competitions under their belts, made a promise before the Worlds qualifier, that without a placing of fourth or better, they would give up on their goal to get to the Calgary World Championships. They beat that with silver and bronze medals – the trip was on! With the help of internationally famed coach, Ben Hutchings, and his quality programme, the boys were finally on the path to realise their dreams of competing on the world stage.
On arrival in Calgary the team had to adjust to the increased altitude of 1300m, acclimatise to temperatures akin to our Gisborne summers, and get a feel for the courses they would compete on.
Among the men is Brent Mitchell. His love of paddling began after the Christchurch earthquakes, when one of his work colleagues, whose husband was an avid paddler, suggested they submit a company team for a corporate fundraiser event for Christchurch. “That was me, I caught the bug.” Sure enough, Brent started turning up to the inter-club paddles; now, he must have been keen, because we are talking 7.30am on a Sunday in winter! Brent is currently the fittest he’s ever been in his life. An avid surfer for 30 years, his love of the waves and surfing is one of the reasons Gisborne is home. After years of active jobs, he suddenly found himself working in a sedentary environment. He didn’t have a physical job and resting on his “I’m a surfer, therefore I am fit” laurels was no longer an option. The reality was, as a new business owner, father, husband, and hitting past the 40 mark, there often wasn’t enough time to get out into the surf, and not maintaining your fitness for surfing is a downward spiral – surf less, less fit, surf worse. Paddling in training compensates for surfing less, as it utilises the same muscles; it was a good fit for Brent.
Team Tane Uehaa’s first race saw some controversy. It was too close to call, so Maori TV had a closer look for the boys. “There was nothing in it; it was called as 4/100ths of a second, which would’ve equated to 17cm.” So they put a protest in and in the end it came down to one pixel. It took 40 long minutes to get the verdict. Canada had taken this one. They were gutted; their facebook status read: “it’s like a funeral here.” The boys were encouraged by friends and loved ones to “pull their heads in”. They had done a really good job winning second at the World Champs. Put in context, with these encouraging words from home, it struck them that a silver medal was a huge achievement. The trip wasn’t all training and racing; they got to explore the greater area, experiences shaping memories that will last a lifetime. “Unexpected, strange things happen on a trip like this; cool adventures. On a hike up the Rockies, we decided to run back down from the summit on a different path. It ended badly for me; I had cuts and bruises for 2 days. We were all sore, but staunching it out, no one would admit to it.”
They felt at home too with a hangi at the Indian reservation and kapa haka practice. On their explorations they encountered a giant shopping mall with a wave pool and a pirate ship. “We even tried our hands at bob sledding at the Olympic Sky Park.” The team stayed at university apartments. It was 30 degrees daytime and night with no air conditioning; great accommodation for a sports team on the other side of the world. However, their stay was not without incident. “We were cooking a feed – pretty hungry group of guys – so we had two pans on at once. We left the smoke stop door open and set off smoke alarms; next thing, the fire trucks arrived!”
The trip wasnâ€™t all training and racing; they got to explore the greater area, experiences shaping memories that will last a lifetime.
A sense of camaraderie saw competitors of all nations swapping their wares on the last few days. “I came home with Hawaiian, Canadian, and Easter Island gear. New Zealand gear was pretty popular as we have a massive contingent there.” No Tahitians, famed for their paddling prowess, made the event due to a cabin crew strike on Air Tahiti Nui, effectively leaving them stranded at home. “We’re talking the All Blacks not making the World Cup.” By the time the strike ended it was too late for them. “A highlight for me was a paddle in Vancouver with the Canadian team, training in the harbour. It was just incredible, turning around to see the skyline in the evening; the light orange glint was absolutely spectacular.” “There was sadness on the last day of the finals. One of the Hawaiian guys’ “Kapunas” over 70s division died as they crossed the finish line. He’d had a heart attack. The racing was stopped; it was so sad. When they left with the hearse, the road down to the club was lined with paddlers from all over the world, giving the paddle salute.” The professional implications of this required the boat to be blessed by the ko matua’s of the First Nation, Easter Islands, Rapanui, New Zealand, and Hawaii, much in the same way the First Nation blessed all the boats to open the event.
“Coming home left a bit of a void. We’d trained religiously six or seven days a week; it felt a bit like stepping off a cliff.” Brent is determined to keep up his fitness; after all, the nationals are coming up in January. “Moving forward now, we are in a different class. Some of the crew will have a break; there’ll be a need to rebuild the team and it’s important that we attract those willing and able to compete at an elite level.” Having reached the pinnacle in racing for their sport, the boys want to continue on, and who knows, maybe they’ll make the next World Championships in Brazil, 2014. Brent credits the support of his family and all the team’s families, without which the trip would not have been possible. “Our facebook followers kept us inspired, the communication being immediate; our status update followings gave us a huge lift and the feeling that we were not alone out there. People were streaming the races and watching them live; that was a thrill for us. This was such a great experience for all involved – the colour, diversity, and all the different cultures in one place. I will look back on this time fondly; I am stoked to be involved in this sport, and I really want to go back in 2014 and wear black again on the world stage.” Brent is definitely a paddler for life. –– http://checkyourboat.blogspot.ca
Maui and the Town Clock. First in the legends of Tairawhiti series.
La belle Époque “The beautiful era”
By Jen Egan
Gisborne abounds with gracious old homes; one which caught the opportune eye of local business woman, Amanda Laidlaw-May, was previously occupied by the Town and Country Women’s Club.
This villa, a great Edwardian beauty with elements of spectacular Italianate design, was an easy decision to purchase for local business woman, Amanda Laidlaw-May.
75b Fitzherbert Street, “a landmark of community significance” according to the Historic Places Trust, is located on the banks of the Waimata River and is most recognised as the Town and Country Women’s Club building.
The land where the house stands was acquired by the New Zealand Native Land Settlement in 1883 and subsequently purchased in 1900 by Henry Mason, who built a one storey house. In 1903 Dr. John William Williams purchased the property adding two rooms to the ground floor and an upper storey. The next owners were Dr. Cedric Walter Isaac and his wife Kathleen. When Dr. Isaac passed away in the 1950s, Kathleen, an inaugural member of the Town and Country Women’s club, offered the house to the Town and Country Women’s Club. Originally set up as the female version of the Poverty Bay Club, the club offered its members a place in town to socialise, relax, and refresh. Kathleen rented the first storey, which was converted into a self-contained flat for her, back from the club. Alterations were made over the years, the least of which saw building repairs in 2003 to celebrate the club’s 50th jubilee. Whilst the club is still active, one of the only surviving clubs of its kind in the region, it was decided in 2011 to sell the building and move elsewhere. This villa, a great Edwardian beauty with elements of spectacular Italianate design, was an easy decision to purchase for local business woman, Amanda Laidlaw-May, as the new home for the growth of her creative vision, aptly named “La Belle Époque”. From Wikipedia: La belle époque is French for “Beautiful Era” a period in French history that is conventionally dated as starting in 1890 and ending when World War I began in 1914, a period characterized by optimism, peace at home and in Europe, new technology and scientific discoveries. The peace and prosperity in Paris allowed the arts to flourish, and many masterpieces of literature, music, theatre, and visual art gained recognition. The Belle Époque was named, in retrospect, when it began to be considered a contrast to the horrors of World War I.
La Belle Époque began with the relocation of Laidlaw-May’s own businesses, Bird of Prey, an iconic Gisborne shop selling antique collectables and a jewellery range, and her own range of locally grown Mayflower Lavender products. All this in addition to her sister, Sheryl May’s, designer clothing range. The original dining room has been transformed into C.A.K.E. (an acronym for “collect and keep everything”) tea rooms, reflecting the days as a women’s club. It’s not hard to imagine the women relaxing, socialising, and refreshing themselves after a long journey to town, in the same manner as today’s customers. The large kitchen, previously providing luncheons and functions for the club, now turns out treats for C.A.K.E. customers.
Laidlaw-May’s own farm provides produce and lavender for both the tea room and her organic Mayflower range. She envisages expansion into her own line of preserves, the project taking a more food orientated approach, the possibilities only hindered by hours in the day. There is also an idea to run boutique businesses out of the four upstairs office spaces, ideally with likeminded individuals, creating the potential for a collaborative co-operative business hub. The potential growth for this project, like many, is limited by finances. With that in mind, and the building consent now in place, renovation is happening slowly. Even so, Laidlaw-May finds the potential, vibrancy, and diversity of the project to be an exciting prospect. She also places importance on reflecting the traditions of the building’s era, such as the decision for C.A.K.E. to be predominantly a tea room more than a modern cafe. There’s no doubt if the walls of 75b Fitzherbert Street could talk, books could be filled with the stories and, I’m sure, they would also tell us how happy they are to have this new life breathed into them.
FIBRE CRAFT INSPIRATION
Intelligent design for obessed crafters www.entangledmagazine.com
It’s Showtime! The biggest event on Gisborne’s dance card is the A&P Spring Show, held in October every year, and it’s the one event that brings the whole community together.
By Genny Stevens
Earlier in October was the 137th Annual Gisborne A&P Spring Show. The show is a big highlight on the calendar for so many people – all people – it’s one of the few events in our area where everyone comes together. Young or old, urban or rural, gumboots or glam-boots, there’s something for everyone. It was roughly 30 years since I last attended the Gisborne show and I was nearly as excited as my 14 year old self would have been – for different reasons. I wasn’t so keen on the heart stopping fairground rides she was, and I don’t think she would have spent 20 minutes taking photos of a big tractor! And, unlike most things from childhood, the show was even bigger and better than I remembered.
It was great to see many events had withstood the test of time – highland dancing, wood chopping, dog trials, and shearing. This isn’t the case with all A&P shows countrywide. The diversity and depth of our region definitely is reflected at the show.
The diversity of traders was an interesting mix between farm equipment, luxury cars, clothes, jewellery, and a blacksmith. In this time of “big red sheds” and shopping malls, the show gives us a market atmosphere of another time. It can be quite heady and I now understand why any new car or equipment my father bought often arrived not long after the show!
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However, the competitive craft section has definitely reduced in size over the years; it’s only the enthusiasm of the participants that keeps it alive. The Poverty Bay chapter of Creative Fibre (NZ) Ltd, who supplied most of the entries for the woolcraft, mentioned how space was at a premium and allocation for the next year was based on how much was used in the current year. Some other regions’ shows have long lost the space for the “home industries” competition and the resultant show has a more commercial feel to it than the Gisborne one does. The possibility of losing space to display winning home preserves to another potato peeler demonstrator is unthinkable!
It might be a slightly different show to the one I remembered, but not by much â€“ the atmosphere and spirit of the event still has the atmosphere of old. I had so much fun, I went back for day two!
My day ended, as did many othersâ€™, at the Food and Wine area. Wineries, cideries, and breweries, all offering their products for tasting and purchase, as well as different food options. Live music and Zumba demonstrations were on stage all day to keep everyone entertained.
Cultural Diversity The 2012 New Zealand Diversity Forum was held in August at the Aotea Centre in Auckland. The theme of the conference was “Aotearoa, A Fair Go for All”. The purpose was to celebrate diversity, share best practice, discuss practical action on race relations, review the past and plan the future, acknowledge positive contributions, network, and be inspired. The Forum is hosted by the New Zealand Human Rights Commission in association with the Auckand Migrant Services Trust, The Auckland Council, The New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO, the Settling In Programme of the Ministry of Social Development, the NZ Police, the Office of Ethnic Affairs, and other partner organisations. Every year a National Youth Diversity Forum is held concurrently, with youth delegates both meeting separately and participating in the wider Forum. We spoke to three youth delegates from our region about their experiences at the forum.
The National Youth Diversity Forum By Tira Nikora A glorious melting pot of differing ethnicity, religion, sexuality, disability, culture. As it was once quoted: “Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences; our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them,” I found myself in disbelief as this diverse group certainly celebrated each other’s differences. Each moment, I found, was a chance to learn something new, whether it is a few movements in sign language or why followers of the Islamic and Sikh religions wear such modest clothing. I was constantly learning. Whilst at the forum we visited four religious temples – Sikh, Buddist, Muslim, and Hindu. What a truly humbling and eye opening experience.
Another day we watched an inspirational documentary on hermaphrodites, created by Maani Bruce Mitchell, an intersex person who was also our guest speaker and sharing her truly moving and painful story. We were told by Naomi and Bex, our coordinators, that we were to perform our view on diversity through spoken word at the National Diversity Forum. This was nerve wracking and we had to learn how to accept that, as we are all so diverse, we might not always agree. From this experience I am able to take away a new understanding and appreciation of diversity. I am also able to use my knowledge to help my school, society, and local community. This forum was amazing. at the National Diversity Forum
Being nominated for one of two possible applicants for the Annual Cultural Diversity Forum in Auckland was a huge honour and a great opportunity to learn about different cultures, how different people deal with their problems, and about the diversity between humans. During our four day trip, we visited the historical buildings of many different cultures and religion, found right there in Auckland. We discovered secrets and practices of other ethnicities; we were shown their sort of worship and who they pray to. We stayed at the “airport marae” which, while wasn’t new for some of us, was a huge thing for others who had never stayed at a marae, or even been away from home, and it was great to be able to show them a little of our Maori tikanga as well. There were just under 60 of us attending the forum, and in this group were people from all over New Zealand, and from all around the world, but everyone treated each other like whanau from the first night. It was amazing to see the amount of immediate bonding going on, regardless of age, sex, orientation, social status, or ethnicity. We learned some great exercises and icebreakers we could use in the future and some of the ideas and workshops that were discussed will stay with us forever, such as the spoken word workshop, where we all got to comfortably express how we feel without feeling like we would be judged. One of my favourite parts would be sharing my poem with everyone else, as it was based around something I think about a lot, and which I was proud to share. Hearing everyone’s opinion on it, and hearing everyone else’s, was extremely inspirational. Overall, it was a great experience to have shared with others; I had an amazing time and would love to attend the conference again, whether to represent TYV or on my own accord – one of the best trips I’ve been on to date.
By Rachel Mclean-Dewes I feel so privileged to have been given the opportunity to take part in the 2012 Youth/Cultural Diversity Forum. Some of the things that I learnt whilst attending this Forum will remain with me for the rest of my life. Not only did I make new friends that hopefully will last a lifetime, but I was also introduced to a wide, diverse range of people, cultures, religions, and new ways of thinking. Before I went to the Youth/Cultural Diversity Forum I had always seen myself as a very culturally diverse person, but this experience opened my eyes even further to what other cultures have to offer me. For instance, on the trip we visited heaps of different churches, mosques, and temples that were just so amazing; just meeting all the different people alone was cool. Another reason why I think I learnt so much from everyone else was because everyone that was there had such strong opinions and ideas about life in general, so some of their ideas really hit me because of how strongly they felt about things. Just from going to the forum, I think it has really empowered me to try and make our community a better place for not only the youth that live here now, but for many generations to come. I don’t really know how we can achieve this goal but I’m now so determined to try. The food was also amazing, except for the really hot Indian food we had. Last, but not least, I think the forum made me a better person by teaching me to be more open minded. The experience further developed my leadership skills and gave me new ideas to try and make a difference in our world. So overall, it was awesome.
By Mike Andrews
NZ Youth Forum On Cultural Diversity Friday 17th Sept – Monday 20th Sept 2012, Auckland
Auckland Cultural Diversity Forum Trip
Jason Howe www.aperturepriority.co.nz
End of the Road
Jason Howe www.aperturepriority.co.nz
â€“ A Strategy for Tourism OUT EAST The premier issue of Eastcape magazine told the story of how the OUT EAST brand of Tourism Eastland was conceived. In this issue we find out more behind their strategy in marketing us to the world.
By Jen Egan
One of the aims in creating OUT EAST was to foster unity, and to present both the brand and the region in an innovative way. It was also important for TE to share the concept with interested parties ensuring “buy in”, which wasn’t always a smooth process! Kerry recalls earlier presentations to get the message out; occasionally she received a staunch reception, a perception enhanced with the tyranny of distance. “I said: ‘Can I just show you these images and tell you more?’, because I totally understand where you are coming from; we want to achieve unity. Once the presentation was finished there was a marked change in the body language around the room. Most people related to the message and felt a part of it. Generally speaking, they understood the values behind it. We’ve now made a commitment to go around the region every three months to keep in touch with our tourism communities.” The focus of the strategy for TE is “Inside Out”. “It talks to our operators, inspiring them to believe in all the values of OUT EAST that we really think represent this region. What they are doing is, when they are engaging in experiences with their friends, whanau, their visitors, and international tourists, they pass on
OUT EAST Values SIMPLICITY UNITY HONESTY REALNESS
those values, sharing the stories and that’s how it goes out, with social media playing a role too.” According to their statistics, 50% of our visitors to this region are friends or families of locals so it’s important the locals are just as informed about what’s going on in our region as it is for the tourism industry. The OUT EAST brand is getting stronger and gaining momentum. Kerry had a clear vision of the direction she wanted to take when she took on the marketing manager role. “It’s all about managing expectations; if you tell people you’re something you’re not, then they’re going to feel let down when they get here. We are inspiring visitors with our brand and messaging and the people of our region are delivering it. The people who come here want a genuine experience, a local experience, a real experience.” A genuine, local, and real experience when you’re visiting a region; what more could anyone want? –– To read the Tourism Eastland Strategy document visit: http://gisbornenz.com
Developed by Broker Brothers for Tourism Eastland, the brand continues to grow, with our photo comp OUT EAST helping to generate awareness and photos that showcase our region in a real, honest, and local way. The brand is used across business tourism advertising and in conjunction with the i-site brand. There was a small amount of resistance in some cases to the focus Tourism Eastland place on the brand. As Kerry says: “There would be a bit of ‘what are you wasting your time on branding for?’ But then you look to Tourism NZ and the work they do on their brand; would you say the same thing to them about 100% Pure?”
50% of our visitors to this region are friends or families of locals so it’s important the locals are just as informed about what’s going on in our region as it is for the tourism industry.
ourism Eastland (TE) has now been developing the OUT EAST brand for two years. Last year they took it one step further and did joint branding with Rhythm and Vines (R&V). Now there are other local organisations who also want to partner with the OUT EAST brand; achieving this amount of buy in into the brand is a great result. Kerry Taggart, marketing manager of Tourism Eastland, explains: “The brand was developed in a low risk way; now it’s time to execute it within a brand guidelines framework to ensure the correct usage of the look, feel, and messaging.” It was developed initially across a couple of campaigns and it was well received. “Rebranding is expensive and risky, so this was a safer way forward, a softer approach, and it paid off.” Like most businesses, cash flow is Tourism Eastland’s biggest hurdle so it’s important to make every dollar spent on promoting the region count.
Fighters Rip into Training Phase After a month-long selection process, the boxers in the inaugural Fight for Life Ed Gisborne have been named. Life Education Trust trustee Andrew Willock, who has been instrumental in putting the event together, has been to a few training sessions and is excited about seeing these boxers in the ring. “As soon as we put the word out for boxers we were inundated with registrations of interest. These fighters have been through a tough selection process and are ripping into their training programmes. “In just eight short weeks these people, who have had no boxing experience, will go from boxing beginners to pros. To say they’re excited is an understatement,” he said. In selecting the fighters, organisers worked with boxing coaches Snow Holmes and Kerry Bennett, and head trainer Alan Hogarth, to ensure the match ups were fair. This meant matching as evenly as possible age, height, weight and skills.
Mr Willock said this made the selection process very tough and difficult to find suitable partners for everyone. However, fighters have been named and matched and over the next eight weeks, through the guidance of Alan, Snow, Kerry, Crossfit 4010’s Shane Hooks and Taha Fitness, will become fighting fit.
“As soon as we put the word out for boxers we were inundated with registrations of interest. These fighters have been through a tough selection process and are ripping into their training programmes.”
Fighters have been split into two teams – Taha Fitness Blue Team and Crossfit 4010 Red Team. Teams will train together and on the odd occasion train together as a group. The teams are:
TAHA FITNESS BLUE TEAM
CROSSFIT 4010 RED TEAM
Taha Fitness owner and instructor Trudie Houkamu
Mother and competition body sculpter Dianne Akurangi
Police sergeant and former Poverty Bay Rugby Player Greg Lexmond
Toihoukura artist and Pirates Rugby Club stalwart Steve Smith.
Mayfair dentist Calum Wilson
Police sergeant David Springgay
Police sergeant Dedrie Hemingway
TDH domestic violence coordinator Kay Symes
NZ Home Loans’ Brent Mitchell
Woodward-Chrisp solicitor Adam Simpringham
Firefighter and former primary school teacher Leon Kahn
Lytton High School caretaker Darryn White
TDH alcohol and other drugs counsellor Jonathan Rush
Gisborne District Council’s Gary McKenzie
Tickets for the November 23 event go on sale next week. To find out more or to book a space contact ExpressPR on 06 867 7444 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Life Education Trust Gisborne trustee Andrew Willock with his gloves on about to spar with Fight for Life Ed Gisborne head trainer Alan Hogarth, under the watchful eye of Life Education’s Harold the Giraffe and Crossfit 4010 gym owner and team trainer Shane Hooks.
Any questions for Andrew Willock call 027 227 6174.
FAT LADY ON A BIKE By Genny Stevens Illustration by Alana Garmonsway
When I was planning the move back to Gisborne, I started creating a list of things I could do with my new life. The top item was to ditch the car. Moving to a new city is a great time to reassess what is important to you and to implement new habits. Years of living in Auckland meant spending a lot of time in the car; it’s not a big deal, to be honest – it’s just what you do. But here’s the thing; as much as I enjoy driving and driving nice cars, I hate car ownership. I resent putting petrol in the car, taking the car for its warrant, and having to find a mechanic who isn’t dismissive of female customers. Oh god, don’t mention topping up oil.… Even before I’d booked the removal truck, I was looking at my cycle options; even went as far as to buy a cheap bike off Trade Me, brand new from China. Only hitch was, it needed assembling. Great, I thought; I need to be a bit more self-reliant and what better way to do that than assemble my own bike. My first doubts came when I started to unpack the bike on a Friday night; it didn’t seem very… sturdy. My patience lasted until Sunday afternoon when the swearing, tears, and throwing things convinced my partner to stage an intervention and finish the damned thing off. Sunday evening was the inaugural ride down the driveway. Hmm, let’s just say I didn’t get past the garage door. Blasted thing was flimsy, the pedals felt as if they were almost on the rear wheel, and, well, I didn’t feel safe or free wheelingly fabulous on it. Luckily it had a return option.
I arrived in Gisborne bike-less. I rented a cruiser bike for a weekend just to make sure I wasn’t completely mad and I could still bike. I loved it. But it took a few months of asking friends and family if they had any unloved bike. I knew what I wanted – an old school ladies’ bike with a sensible saddle and the options for panniers and baskets. But there were no easy options.
I arrived in Gisborne bike-less. I rented a cruiser bike for a weekend just to make sure I wasn’t completely mad and I could still bike.
Finally I’d had enough of walking and borrowing cars and decided to leg it into Bikey’s. I’d found their website before moving and had already pegged this shop as where I’d go to. I’m not sure what the owner, Freddy Saldago, thought about my very forthright manner, but he didn’t even blink when I requested “a bike sturdy enough for my weight and easy enough for me to use.” Freddy was great; he ran through what I’ll be mainly using the bike for – commuting and just general getting from A to B – and showed me an affordable retro looking bike; we fitted it with panniers and a basket. He talked me into a helmet and assured me I didn’t look “like a dork”. And that was it – I was off!
My inaugural ride was to a hospital appointment. When I got home I plotted the route and found I’d just done a 10km ride! Ok, I had to stop a few times (under the guise of checking my phone) but not bad! Since then I’ve managed that route non-stop both ways and am mighty pleased. When I got my first flat tyre, though, I realised there was more to being a commuter cyclist than I first thought. In the upcoming issues of Eastcape magazine, I’ll be taking us through the basics of owning a bike and the challenges and thrills that can await anyone wishing to embrace good old-fashioned commuter cycling.
About the Fat Bit… Hey! Don’t put yourself down – you’re not fat! Erm… have you seen me? Oh, I see what you’re saying – you think fat is an insult, right? That there is something wrong and shameful about being fat? Well, no; being fat is OK. It’s all right to be fat. And yes, I’m fat. Fat is both a nutrient and a body shape. Fat is the opposite of thin, and I’m definitely the opposite of thin. Again, nothing wrong with it, perfectly acceptable. But fat is an epidemic and diabetes and heart disease and stuff!!! I thought an epidemic was when a monkey released a virus and we all dropped dead in the street. At the very least, I thought it had to be a transmissible disease to qualify for an epidemic. Let’s also stop and think for a moment; according to all the headlines, people are the fattest they’ve ever been, right? In the last 30 years? Isn’t it interesting that in the last 30 years there has been more focus on diets than ever before and the diet industry has boomed, yet we’re getting bigger. Also in those 30 years our life expectancy has increased. Hmm, something doesn’t add up. With regards to diabetes and heart disease, yes, some fat people have those, as do some thin people. That’s the thing; you can’t tell how healthy someone is just by looking. Also, it’s really only the person’s and their healthcare provider’s business. I don’t get it; isn’t it bad and unhealthy being fat? Fat is just a body shape; you cannot tell about someone’s health based on their shape. Thin people also have health issues, some also caused by “lifestyle choices”. Smoking and drinking have a greater impact on the nation’s health; where is the moral panic there? Why are people more inclined to judge a fat person as being “unhealthy” without knowing anything about them, than a thin person who smokes and drinks? So you’re biking to lose weight? That’s good. What diet are you on? Gosh no! I’ve lost and gained enough weight over the years I could have formed a boy band out of it. There is enough research out there to support what I already know – dieting (or any other euphemism like “healthy lifestyle”) doesn’t work long term and repeated weight loss and gain can cause more harm than staying healthy at a fixed weight. Most importantly, what I eat, or anyone else eats, isn’t really anyone else’s business. Or actually very interesting. Anything more boring than a calorie? I think not.
So what’s your point? The point of the column is to show my journey learning all about bike maintenance and body maintenance, while I incorporate biking into my daily routine. I’ll be setting some distance goals along the way, as well as seeing how I cope in all weathers. Gisborne is perfect for cycling and hopefully I will encourage you to pull the old bike out and save the car for a rainy day!
However, what is important for ALL bodies is movement and, for me, commuting is the best time to include regular movement into my daily routine. Cycling is also beneficial to the community and the environment.
POM IN PARADISE
Itâ€™s the little things By Stuart Moriarty-Patten
About ten years ago I was living fairly happily in London with vague ideas that, after being there for 20 years, it might be nice to escape the rat race and traffic congestion, but the thought of New Zealand as an option had never crossed my mind. However, events took fate in hand and brought me here. I met, fell in love with, and married a Kiwi, Rhonda, and so here I am, via a brief stopover in Auckland for a couple of years, no longer English, but a Pom. Living in Auckland was not so great for either of us even though Rhonda is originally from there. Too spread out, too much traffic, too little public transport, too much rain, not enough money; so when Rhonda got offered a job in Gisborne we were intrigued. We came to scout the area on a winterâ€™s day in July that was simply stunning. The sky was a brilliant blue and the sun was up, burning off the frost and the chill in the air. Walking down Gladstone Road, with its lines of palm trees, we pretty much decided straight away that we would happily live here.
So what is it like for someone from England living here? That is easily answered â€“ very different. Living in Auckland had introduced me to some of the differences New Zealand has to offer someone from England, and what always sticks most in my mind is seeing the space between the houses (even in built up Auckland) and the fact that streets consist of houses that all look different. In England I had grown up with streets and streets of houses, all looking exactly the same. Gisborne though is very different again and has a quality all of its own. Having lived in large cities all my life, I quickly learned that the privacy and anonymity I had taken for granted all my life was now a thing of the past. Within a day someone had given me a full history of the previous occupants of the house we were renting, all the way back to the 1950s, including names, reasons for leaving, and the clandestine affairs at least one person had been involved in; someone else gave me a similar story of the neighbourâ€™s house. For me Gisborne has a sense of history about it that is missing in other cities Iâ€™ve been to in New Zealand. This is enhanced with the strong Maori presence in the city, and a visit up the coast to Tokamaru Bay and Tologa Bay, with their old shipping company buildings and wharves, reflects a time not so long ago when Gisborne was even more isolated and relied on the sea for its links to the rest of New Zealand. The style of people in Gisborne, both in terms of dress and attitude, is vastly different to Auckland and England, being infinitely more relaxed; I am not going to mention pyjama wearers because I really have no problem with them. When I lived in England, I had a fair number of clothes and there was a real pressure to keep up with fashion, which meant spending a sizeable amount of money on clothes. Since I have lived in Gisborne my wardrobe has gradually whittled itself down from a full wardrobe to something that would largely fit into an average size holdall, and the ability to wear fairly much anything is incredibly liberating, although, for over half the year, all that is needed is a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, with footwear being optional most of the time.
The style of people in Gisborne, both in terms of dress and attitude, is vastly different to Auckland and England, being infinitely more relaxed.
Gisborne also offers freedom from traffic congestion, coupled with the fact that you can get anywhere in less than 20 minutes. There is also the ability to be able to escape people when necessary. I am not sure which other city you could live in, where you can take your dogs for a walk along a beautiful golden beach and quite often not see another person, although it has to be mentioned that if the tide is in, then you are reduced to clambering over logs and the ubiquitous dead sheep in varying stages of decay, not that the dogs mind that! Similarly, if you drive or, better still, cycle just a few minutes, then you can be in countryside surrounded by fields of crops and rows and rows of vineyards. On a sunny day, with a cooling breeze, even after eight years here, I still find this somewhat magical. Back in London, it could take you literally half a day just to escape its confines, and if you made your way to the coast the few times the temperature gets up to the high 20s, you would find that most of London seemed to have the same idea too.
Living here I find that you can quickly take some things for granted, for example the ability of fruit trees to grow themselves with little or no maintenance at all.
Talking of cycling, it’s great to see more people taking to their bicycles in the last few years, although I am guessing it’s petrol prices that have led to this. I am not talking about the lycra clad fitness freaks, who never look like they are enjoying themselves that much to me, but people who are using their bikes to commute to work, go to the shops, or visit friends. Gisborne in many ways is the perfect city for cycling – no hills, good weather, wide roads, and a fairly decent climate. Its a shame the Council and the District Health Authority do not take more of an initiative to vigorously promote cycling as an alternative to cars. I really feel that, with some planning, Gisborne could be an example to the rest of New Zealand in regard to being a cycle friendly city.
Living here I find that you can quickly take some things for granted, for example the ability of fruit trees to grow themselves with little or no maintenance at all. In our small city garden we have avocados, apples, feijoas, oranges, limes, and tamarillos, all growing away and providing us with fruit all year round, as well as a particularly prolific lemon tree, which literally gives us thousands of lemons, which we trade in with one of the Chinese restaurants in town for meals. It is easy to forget that not all New Zealanders are so lucky. When friends from Wellington and Hamilton come to visit, it continually surprises that they ask for lemons to take back with them because they are a relative rarity there. All in all, it’s a pleasure to be living in Gisborne, particularly as we gradually emerge out of winter. Owing to its geographical position, being here can sometimes feel like living on the very edge of the world and, with it being one of the first places to see the sun every day, this is true in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense, but that sense of isolation is, I think, what helps give Gisborne its unique charm.
“There’s a blue bird in my heart that want s to get out, but I’m too tough for him” – Charles Bukowski
Stuart Moriarty-Patten http://101gisbornepeople.wordpress.com
F I N A L S AY
Moons and Magnolias Reaching for the stars
By Fiona Mitford
The night before Apollo 11 landed on the moon all those years ago, my father and I sat on the swing seat in the garden beside Mum’s fishpond. I tried to ignore the huge golden fish that slunk to its surface, lazily opening and closing their mouths. My neck ached with the effort of staring for so long at the night sky, expecting to see something up there. ”Wait until tomorrow,” my father said. He had been saying this to me for days. But we were waiting on other news, equally important to us. We were waiting for a phone call from the maternity hospital where my mother was with my overdue baby sister. They called them moon babies then, those babies that were born on the day that Neil Armstrong would step on to the surface of the moon. More than anything I wanted her to be, I wanted her to have one of the gift baskets the local grocers were giving away. I saw myself entering the maternity ward and presenting my mother with the basket. Such is life. My sister arrived a day late. I was in the Primers at school when we all heard that iconic ”one small step for man…,“ our faces upturned towards the box above the blackboards – the intercom system. It felt that day as though anything were possible, as though Neil Armstrong himself might suddenly step from within it and join us in our classroom. And I don’t remember the intercom system being used again while I was at that school. Afterwards, we all assembled up on the asphalt where we would normally play four square, beside the flag pole with the flag flapping madly in the wind at the headmaster’s back. Some of the teachers hugged each other. It was like a party with no party food. That’s how I remember it.
And it was a Saturday like any other Saturday, all these years later, when I heard that Neil Armstrong had left this planet. I had come in from the garden, ”just for a moment,” I promised my daughter, just to check my messages. She had coaxed me outside, away from the washing and the vacuuming, to throw a frisbee with her. ”It’s sunny for once,“ she said. ”You can do housework any time.” She was right. Everything looked more beautiful than it had in weeks. The grass seemed an almost ridiculous shade of lime green; the sky could have been the sky in a picture postcard from the Greek Islands. Spring was in the air; not officially, no, but just around the corner and the state of the garden would put an end to any argument to the contrary. I confess I felt a wave of nostalgia and sadness reading that news flash on my computer. And, if I’m honest, it wasn’t just for Mr. Armstrong’s passing but, selfishly I suppose, with the sudden and painful awareness of just how quickly those years had passed for me. And when I stepped back outside, it was as though a shadow had passed across the garden. The camellias that had endured so much recent rain hung like pale pink and cerise cabbages, browned at their edges. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of what lay ahead of me. There was so much that needed to be done. I would need to find the rake and get all the dead heads that had fallen and now lay decomposing on the grass. And the grass; that needed mowing as well.
The camellias that had endured so much recent rain hung like pale pink and cerise cabbages, browned at their edges. I felt overwhelmed at the thought of what lay ahead of me.
The sun lit up the magnolias which were just beginning to flower. With or without my help, they were going to be magnificent this spring. There had been just a few specimens planted long ago in this garden when I moved here. My gardening book informed me that those original magnolia species in our garden might have been around for close on 50 years but their kind have flourished on this planet for a few million years longer.
And then the clouds parted. The sun washed over the garden like lemon ink. Daffodils bravely poked their heads up from beneath the mulch of leaves provided by the copper beech trees. I regretted that I hadn’t pruned the hydrangeas. They carried on despite me now, in full bud among long canes of dead wood. I knew that they would look like scrawny necked girls this summer with just one oversized bloom on each cane instead of the bushy lush creatures they should have been.
The frisbee skated across the lawn towards me and a rogue breeze lifted it so it sailed above my head and scudded across the grass to land at the base of one of the copper beech trees.
As a school girl in Auckland, Western Park bordered our school. The summer flowering magnolia grandiflora that had grown there for many years were magnificent, their blooms like huge tilting teacups, balanced on glossy green saucers. But these spring flowering varieties in my garden, named after celestial bodies, seem more fragile than their summer contemporaries; ‘ethereal’ was the word that came to my mind. And there, near the top of the driveway, the stunning vulcan was just coming into bud. It was given to us when we became engaged with just one bloom on a single stem. “Whenever it flowers, remember how in love you were when you received this,” that friend said at the time. All these years later, they don’t recall that conversation, but I do. And so, now when those marvellous deep crimson orbs cover the limbs of that tree I am mindful of that. It reminds me to be grateful for so many things I might not otherwise. It does this without saying a word. We have planted more magnolias over the years; stellata, with the dainty, fairy-like flowers, milky way, and later, venus and galaxy. With each flowering of these beautiful creatures I thought how aptly they were named, looking as they do like some otherworldly creation.
While I tossed and caught the frisbee with my daughter, my head was a mixture of guilt and pleasure at what I had neglected to do and at what the garden had done for itself, and thoughts of my teenage years when Neil Armstrong stepped on to the moon. The press release had mentioned Armstrong’s modesty, his avoidance of the limelight. The frisbee skated across the lawn towards me and a rogue breeze lifted it so it sailed above my head and scudded across the grass to land at the base of one of the copper beech trees. And there it was… magnolia apollo. ”Here I am,“ it seemed to say. It wasn’t growing quite as well as the others, perhaps because the copper beech overshadowed it for much of the summer and spring, but there it was just the same, its first flowering. I had to hang on to the fence to reach it; sank up to my ankles in deep sludge that hadn’t drained away from winter. “What’s that one called?” my daughter asked later, as I placed a single bloom in a vase on the kitchen bench. “It’s a magnolia,” I said. “It’s called apollo.” She stood beside me – another rare moment, I thought – with her arm against mine, all warm from the garden and we admired it for a few seconds. And I thought how apt that was, my little memoriam to Neil Armstrong on my kitchen bench, coming as it did from that little shrub, an almost unearthly bloom from modest beginnings. ”See how its branches arch heavenward,” I said to my daughter that afternoon. And I like to think that the modest Mr. Armstrong would have found her reply fitting, appropriate in the circumstances. ”It’s reaching for the stars, Mum,“ is what she said. Ethereal, I thought. But I kept my mouth shut.
Stuart Moriarty-Patten http://101gisbornepeople.wordpress.com