Monday, September 12, 2016

Great Britten

Great Britten is an exhibition currently showing at the Christchurch Art Gallery.
The exhibition is the work of Billy Apple as a tribute to John Britten.
Britten made this extraordinary motor bike, the Britten V1000, in his small workshop here in Christchurch. In 1992 it stunned the super bike world.
John Britten modified almost everything he touched - he had a huge capacity for invention.
His design for this bike was revolutionary.
The bike was ridden by Andrew Stroud. He rode it in six races of the 1995 British European American Racing Series (BEARS) and won five of them. The trophy was rushed back to Christchurch for John Britten to see - sadly, a few days later John died from malignant melanoma.

Britten V1000


Christchurch was named by the Canterbury Association which settled the surrounding province of Canterbury. The name of Christchurch was agreed at the first meeting of the association 27 March 1848. It was suggested by John Robert Godley, who attended Christ Church in Oxford.

The usual maori name for Christchurch is Otautahi ("the place of Tautahi"). This was originally the name of a specific site by the Avon River near present day Kilmore Street and the Christchurch Central Fire Station. The site was a seasonal dwelling of Ngaio Tahu chief Te Potiki Tautahi, whose main home was Port Levy on Banks Peninsula. The Otautahi name was adopted in the 1930s. Prior to that the Ngai Tahu generally referred to the Christchurch area as Karaitiana, a transliteration of the English word Christian.

I had no idea of this early Maori name until yesterday when we visited an exhibition at COCA.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

On Reflection

My Dad was a navigator during World War 2.
I never knew much about what he got up to because he never spoke about it with me.
Mum had the old family photos in an old grey square cardboard box (I think my sister Katie may still have the box). There were a number of photos in that box that I recall from days before I was born - but there was one that I remember well.

The original photo of Dad navigating
My big brother is now in possession of this photo. Just recently we discussed this photo and wondered about Dad's wisdom of smoking whilst airborne in a bomber full of fuel. It is many, many moons since I'd dwelt on this photo of Dad. Big brother Barry queried whether it really was a cigarette in his mouth. So I asked him to send the photo down and I would have a close look on my iMac. The original photo, only measuring ~80mm x 50mm, is what you see above.
So I rephotographed this original, loaded it onto the computer, and started work using Lightroom and Photoshop.
Initially I simply zoomed in to view the offending fag in his mouth!

Dad was always a smoker to the best of my recollection, but he always rolled his own and never smoked tailor-mades. Viewing close up, the offending cigarette appeared too straight to be a 'roll your own'. As well, his lips didn't seem to be holding the smoke.
And so, we started to think again. What is it? There is an axe and what seems to be a crank handle attached to the fuselage or bulkhead of the bomber. Was this too part of the plane?
Finally we deduced that in fact the white 'cigarette' is the sun shining over his shoulder onto his left lapel of his flying jacket.
So poor old Dad wasn't fagging on the fuel laden bomber at all - he was diligently navigating and keeping his crew on track. Sorry Dad - I certainly didn't give it much thought over all these years.
And so, I did photoshop the offending item out of the image to remove any doubt, and give Dad due credit.
RIP Dad.

Dad navigating clear of distractions!
My brother Barry has also blogged on this same subject recently
I've taken the liberty of cut and pasting a  little of his commentary (I'm sure he won't mind) to add to the story of Dad during WW2.

From Barry's blog...........

So after all that and with the aid of Google I've managed to also solve another mystery about the end of my Dad's WW2 service.

We had understood that he had always (while based in eastern India and Rangoon with RAF 358 Squadron) had Ray Bullen from Christchurch as his pilot and was upset at the loss of Bullen in an air accident. It wasn't until very recently that I stumbled upon a report of the accident. The crew had been split up towards the end of their service and Bullen was flying another Liberator in a 'formation flying' exercise when two of the planes collided after they suddenly flew into monsoon cloud. Both  Liberators came down and all fourteen crew died. Luckily Dad was not part of the exercise. The whole tragedy was recorded recently including communications with the families and some acrimony about the causes. It makes interesting reading and at one stage there is reference to my father and his other former crew members - all very interesting to discover about 73 years after the incident. The report can be read here.

Liberator in RAF colours
Interestingly, the accident occurred less than three weeks before the end of WW2. Dad ended up staying on in the Rangoon area for five months (flying out POWs from SE Asia etc) and arrived back in NZ to find all the housing gone and we ended up living in a couple of small army huts for two winters.

I discovered from Barry's research, that Ray Bullen's house was at 111 St Martin's Road - only a mile from home. The house is still there.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Totara Graveyard

In the 19th Century, Banks Peninsula was largely covered in native bush, much of it Totara, but many other significant species as well.
When the settlers arrived from UK in 1850 - and later, trees were immediately in demand for their wood to build houses, especially in the development of Christchurch. The trees in the Wairewa district - Little River as we know it better today, were particularly in demand because of the relatively easy access in getting the timber to Christchurch.
At one stage there were seven sawmills in the area. Trees were felled up on the tops and with dragged down the hills or rolled - sometimes on flimsy rails. After milling, the timber was barged down Lake Forsyth, then towed on tracks across to Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora) and barged again over the lake to Lakeside (Wairewa), where it was put on a train and taken to Christchurch. A laborious journey. Many of the original buildings still stand in the city today, most of them having survived the recent earthquakes.
Back out on the peninsula the remains of these old trees still survive today. They have survived 150+ years of fires, farming, and savage weather. The trunks, some of them on their sides, are now silvered and stark against a blue sky.
They are dotted over the whole of Banks Peninsula, but there is a concentration of them high above Little River within easy access of Port Levy Saddle, only a 50 minute walk from the car park. It is a regular place to go with family, friends, and photographers - and often on my own - always with a camera.
For the adventurous, there is a walkway that traverses the ridges from Mt Herbert (the highest point on the peninsula) along to Hilltop, overlooking Akaroa. In fact it is a paper road - the Summit Road extension from Gebbies Pass. Never built - and probably never will now!
And still today, if you discretely scrape away the silver lining, the rich red colour of totara wood is a fraction of a millimetre below the surface. Long may that last.

Waipuna Saddle enroute to graveyard - guess the prevailing wind direction! 
White bones of silent Totara
Avian totara
These are so powerful in black and white

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


We escape the city at regular intervals with our friends Graeme and Sue. A few days away together is good for the soul. We managed to find space in our diaries for three nights at Kakanui (or more correctly Taranui on the south bank of the Kakanui River) just south of Oamaru. This time we took Martin, a dear friend - raconteur, wine and single malt appreciater, and good cook.
Not too much was achieved - good walks, Oamaru, Moeraki. All good fun.
Highly recommend the holiday house we rented. A place to go back to.
A bonus in Oamaru (apart from the whisky tasting 'shop') was finding the Adventure Book shop. Wow, what a place! I have it booked for a day when it is persisting down outside, and I have a good coffee and a comfy chair. Bliss!!

Kakanui Rivermouth
Coastal platform
South towards Moeraki
Sunset Reflection
Sunset glow
Pre dinner drinks!
Reminder of the past
Look carefully - Martin disappearing into Adventure Books
Beach patterns
Local shag posing

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Bridge of Remembrance

And another city icon, the Bridge of Remembrance has finally been completed after several failed promises to have the bridge refurbished for Anzac Day services - including the centennial service.

Repaired Bridge of Remembrance
My memories of this bridge go back a long way, a very long way - although I didn't ride my tricycle through it when I was three years old!! I chose a different route that day!
I used to go to town with my Mum on the bus at regular intervals. Back then traffic, including buses, used to drive across the bridge. Our bus route to Hornby did not cross the bridge however - it went past the bridge and down Oxford Terrace to the hospital.
Incidentally, the best hamburger shop in the city used to be on the corner of Cashel St and Oxford Terrace directly behind the right abutment in the photo above.
By coincidence, this image below appeared on Facebook a few weeks ago - which prompted me to post this blog.

Bridge of Remembrance circa 1959-1960

Art Gallery Revisited - again

A visit to the art gallery is so good for the soul.
Always something new to see, good for people watching, restful.
This recent visit was no exception.................

A symphony in yellow 
Michael Parakowhai's 'Chapman's Homer' in good company
'Everything is going to be alright'

The Great Hall

On the same day we visited the Art Gallery and Quasi (previous post), the Great Hall at the Arts Centre had a reopening ceremony.
After the earthquakes the Art Centre has been a hive of activity with repairs well ahead of schedule - a year at least. Just goes to show what can be done without political intervention, insurance arguments and petty personal agendas!
The Great Hall has great memories for both of us - right back to school and university days with lectures - and more recently with concerts and recitals.
The Hall is back to its former glory - even better now.
And the rest of the Art Centre will also soon be finished. Well done.

The Great Hall
Ceiling detail
Window detail

Friday, August 12, 2016


A few weeks ago we wandered about town to check on updates in the art scene.
We spied this atop the Art Gallery - it has only recently been craned up there.
It is a recent work by Ronnie van Hout. He describes this surreal piece of visual fun based on scans of his own body parts as 'the artist's hand made giant'.


Friday, July 29, 2016

Shag, Shags, and Shagged!

The South Brighton Spit is always an enjoyable walk - especially if the tide is low, the day is clear with no wind, and you have good company.
Such was the case a few weeks ago. With all that is currently going on in remediating the cliffs after the earthquakes and careful removal of destroyed houses on the road to Sumner, there is always something to watch from afar on the spit at 'morning tea time'!

Rapanui - Shag Rock is certainly shagged. This sentinel (an old sea stack) has sat there for tens of thousands of years - if not longer - until 22 February 2011 when in an instant it was reduced to a pile of rocks

Rapanui - Shag Rock
An End of an Era - perched above Rapanui is Ed Cotter's house.
Ed was a mountaineer that I had the privilege to know through the CMC that we both belong to, and Mountain Face Rescue activities. Ed was at the forefront of mountaineering at the same time as Ed Hillary - another Ed! An awesome man and personality - a man who never hit the highlights like his namesake.

Sadly this photo below is his house - very soon to be demolished. Wrecked in the earthquake of February 2011. I don't know if he was in the house that day, but if he was, it must have been one hell of a wild ride. Sadly Ed is now in a rest home in Wanaka near his son, Guy Cotter.

Ed Cotter's House - top right

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Around the World in 16 Months

Solar Impulse 2.
For the past 16 months this completely solar powered plane has been carefully flying around the world. Two days ago it touched down before dawn at Abu Dhabi airport to complete its around the world journey.
An amazing feat of engineering - something that has transfixed me throughout its journey.
I've tried to share this with many people but somehow it didn't seem to resonate with them the same way it has for me. Maybe I am just a wannabe adventurer and pilot!!
So I thought I would share these few images with my non existent followers. My apologies for the very poor quality of them - they were shot using my Lumix camera handheld  during the live stream of the landing on my laptop.
They have proved it can be done. So now we need to watch this space for developments in the solar engineering domain in the future.
Google Solar Impulse to get the history, story, future, etc.

Solar Impulse about to touch down at Abu Dhabi airport
Touch down - mission accomplished
The two pilots - they shared the legs of the journey
Everything is done manually - mountain bikes with riders holding up the wings, and volunteers pushing/pulling the plane on the tarmac

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Blast From the Past

Let's go back to the 1960s - 1968 to be exact (or as exact as my ageing memory allows!)
I was doing a lot of climbing and tramping back then - almost every second weekend.
By chance we met up with two other climbers - Ray Calder and Graham Boddy. Can't recall exactly where - either the CMC's Kennedy hut or the Alpine Club hut at Arthur's Pass. I think they asked to join my group on a winter traverse of Cassidy - B'limit and on to Temple. It was then or in the Waimakariri at probably Carrington hut. Whichever it was, I struck up a friendship with Ray and we climbed together for a briefish period throughout 1968-69.

Ray Calder at Carrington Hut
Ray Calder and Richard Plowright crossing the Waimakariri River
Around New Year 1968-69, Ray and I drove up to Arthurs Pass to embark on an ambitious traverse of Mt Philistine, Mt Rolleston, Mt Armstrong, and Carrington Peak - all in a 24 hour period. After a few hours sleep on the Otira Valley track we were on the summit of Mt Philistine at 0500 - a good start. Sadly half way along to Mt Rolleston the weather turned to shite and we had to withdraw. We were back at my trusty Morris Minor about noon on the Saturday. Neither of us particularly wanted to return to the city so I suggested to Ray that we drive to Ross on the West Coast to visit Chris, whose boyfriend had recently died from cancer, and see how she was faring. I knew her boyfriend, having treated him, gotten to know him well, and shared many a pint at the Valley Inn in Heathcote with him. He asked me to look after her after he'd died, so thought this would be a good start.
We didn't quite make it to Ross - a one way bridge just south of the Totara River had a bump a tad too much for my Morris which managed to stove the fan into the radiator. And so we walked the last few kilometres into Ross in our knickerbockers (my old school longs cut down by Mum) and long Norsewear socks and climbing boots. A great introduction to Chris's family!! The rest is history from the visit and the subject of maybe a future yarn. Soon after that I lost touch with Ray - work, developing relationship, marriage, family, and overseas - all got in the way.

........Until recently!!
Last year, as briefly described in a previous blog, I visited China  and Tibet on a photographic tour. I struck up a great friendship with a couple on the trip from Orari, just north of Temuka. God knows how the subject of Ray came up, but it turns out he and his wife were close friends with the Orari couple. Small world!!
And so, two weeks ago we drove the 150kms down to Orari for the weekend where we finally caught up with Ray and his wife Kath. A great catch up and reunion after an absence of nearly 48 years. The old black and white photos appeared and lots of stories told. Nothing had changed - well not much!!
A great evening over dinner. Thank you Heather and Alistair for making this happen. We were having so much fun that evening we completely forgot take any photographs.

And what about Graham Boddy? Ray had lost touch with him too. But by chance a few years ago, Chris and I were at a social dinner with our friends Doug and Rose (I used to tramp and kayak with Doug and Chris worked with Rose). Doug is the guy standing outside Greenlaw hut in a recent blog. Who should be there at this dinner but Graham, a good kayaking friend of theirs. He was asking about Ray too. Now I will soon be able to update him. Let's hope the next meeting will be less than 48 years!!

And whilst I was looking out the old photos I came across this old black and white image below.......

Stuart Hawker outside Barker Hut
Stuart Hawker was part of the group doing that tramping and climbing back in 1968. Here he is about 17 years old. Stuart is now an International Captain with Air NZ and in a few months will relinquish his left hand seat and start collecting his pension like the rest of us. My how time flies - not just 777s!!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Centennial, Heroes, and Survival

So today is 20th May 2016. What's so special about this date I hear you ask? Be patient and I will tell you - but first a story.

When I was a teenager I came across an adventure book called 'South' by Ernest Shackleton. It looked a good read, so went to bed early at 353 (no TV there to distract me then) and buried myself in the book. At 5am I finished it - totally mesmerised and spellbound by this amazing story of survival. To this day it remains the only book I have read from cover to cover without putting it down.

I speak of the Antarctic expedition lead by Ernest Shackleton and his ship Endurance, captained by Frank Worsley, a Kiwi from Akaroa, not far from home. The ship was crushed by pack ice in the Weddell Sea in the Antarctica. I'll leave you to read the story - it is well worth the effort, but in short they man-hauled several lifeboats for hundreds of miles to Elephant Island on the Antarctic Peninsula. They were on terra firma but no-one knew where they were or what had become of them - and no ships were likely to come their way.

Endurance stuck in the pack ice
The iconic image of Endurance by expedition photographer Frank Hurley
Shackleton was determined to rescue his men. One of his lifeboats was called 'The James Caird' - with the help of his carpenter this boat was modified and a mast and sails prepared. Six men, including Shackleton and Worsley, launched the boat and set sail for South Georgia, 800 miles distant, leaving the rest of the expedition members on Elephant Island, hopefully to be rescued later.

Launching the James Caird from Elephant Island
On the 18th May 1916, thanks to superb navigation skills by Worsley in terrible conditions, they arrived on the southern side of South Georgia at King Haakon Bay. At 3am on the 19th three of them - Shackleton, Worsley and Crean - started the daunting trek across the island to the nearest whaling station. At 3pm on the 20th they walked into the whaling station at Husvik near Stromness.

Frank Worsley's hand drawn map of the journey across South Georgia
The crossing had taken 36 hours - an adventure worth reading in itself. Not without its moments!
In modern times a number of climbing parties have tried to replicate the crossing - it has been done, but no-one has ever got close to the 36 hours.

The next day they returned by local boat to rescue the three members back at King Haakon Bay on the south side. Later, after several attempts to get to Elephant Island were thwarted by ice, the remainder of the expedition was rescued.

I have left huge gaps in the story, so you will have to read 'South' to complete the epic.

And so, about this date - the 20th May 2016. It is 100 years to the day since Shackleton, Worsley and Crean arrived to announce their survival to the world and commence the rescue.

How do I know this? Well by sheer coincidence, I happen to be reading 'Frank Worsley - Shackleton's Fearless Captain' by John Thomson, and I just happen to be at the arrival at Stromness. Quite the shock!

Not bad for an Akaroa boy!!

To finish off this epistle, see the advertisement that Shackleton put in the newspaper in London to attract applicants........................

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Huts - 05

Maybe the Alzheimers really is setting in.
My big brother Barry (I think the only person who reads these blogs) has recently reminded me that I have forgotten one hut in the Waimakariri Valley within the APNP - Greenlaw hut. And following the shock of that, I also remembered that I had also forgotten Bealey Spur hut. Now believe it or not, but both these huts were amongst my favourites. How could I forget them!!

Greenlaw Hut
Greenlaw hut was situated about 50 minutes walk downstream from Carrington hut a few hundred metres up Greenlaw Creek. This hut was invariably by-passed by trampers, preferring to get to either Carrington or Anti-Crow huts - or even out to Klondyke Corner.
However I loved it - it was quiet, well appointed, light and in pretty good condition. The last time I stayed there was with Doug Rankin when we did the Three Pass trip from west to east in 1986. Sadly, not long after that the APNP saw fit to remove it as it was under-utilised.
One challenge when walking down the Waimak riverbed from Carrington to Greenlaw was to search for the old car which was driven up the Waimak from the old Bealey pub way back in the 1920s. Sadly it never quite made it to Carrington - although it did get very close - only a few kilometres short. I saw it a few  times on the true right side of the riverbed in the 1960s but never did get a photograph of it. I suspect it has gone forever now....... but you never know!

Greenlaw Hut
Bealey Spur Hut
This hut was an old musterer's hut - the oldest hut in the area built in 1925. A gentle uphill two hours from the Bealey Village at the foot of Bealey Spur will bring you to the hut door in a clearing. It has recently been renovated - now with foam mattresses rather than the old sacking bunks - but still retain the old beech supports internally. The views looking out across the Waimak are outstanding on the trek in, and at Happy Hour as short walk for two minutes with supplies will bring one to open tussocks overlooking Klondyke Corner and looking directly up the Mingha River to Mt Oates.
Beyond the hut and maybe a 40 minute gentle climb - now in open country will bring you to the top of the ridge towards Jordan Saddle. The views from here both up and down the Waimakariri River are to die for! This would have to be one of my favourite places in the mountains. I've taken my wife, my granddaughter, overseas friends, etc up here on numerous occasions. It is a great place for a day trip, an overnight trip, or a launching spot for ventures beyond - Jordan Saddle and the Avoca, Lagoon Saddle to name two.
And to think I forgot it!!

Bealey Spur Hut - Arna and John
 And just to prove the 40 minute ramble above the Bealey Spur hut is worthwhile............

Waimakariri Valley panorama from Bealey spur above the hut
Moody morning looking down the Waimakariri Valley from the spur above the hut

Monday, May 9, 2016


I cannot talk of the reopening of the Art Gallery (previous post a few minutes ago) without mentioning Rita Angus (Rita cook as she was in the 1930s).
As a Canterbury artist she was outstanding. They must have been very heady times back in the 1930s with all the known artists either living together - or coming together on a regular basis to discuss, paint, debate, etc.

Rita Angus did a number of paintings in the Cass area at Craigeburn. This is her most famous painting. The gallery reframed it not long before the earthquake - a big improvement I felt.

However she also painted this one (below) which I personally prefer - and have a print of in our guest bedroom here at home.