Monday, March 31, 2008

Coffee Stop

Woodend, Australia, 2007, Ajr
I have rather a soft spot for the little town of Woodend, one hour north of Melbourne in Australia. I visit there every year to catch up with family. What started out as a small rural service town is now a popular haunt for Melbourne workers who do the one-hour train commute into the city each day. Not surprisingly, cafes and boutique stores have sprung up like mushrooms on a damp day. This is one of my favourites – a bookshop-café combined and I was very excited about getting this early morning window reflection that shows of the very distinctive town clock on the other side of the road.


Rangiora, March 2008, Ajr
Am I mistaken or have the people of Rangiora been a little hysterical in their colour choices? This stately old Town Hall cost 10,850 pounds to build and was opened in 1926. It once housed Rangiora’s library on the ground floor and has since been home to The Rangiora Players, a group of theatrically-inclined locals and the Regent Theatre cinema. As vivid and unmissable as it now is, I think there’s something rather chummy and irreverent about this old beauty. I like it a lot – and it took me five circles of the roundabout before I could stop in the middle of the road to get this photo without irate locals tooting at me.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Small Moments of Beauty

Four Japanese dishes
A gift
To me

Meet the People - 5

Another in the series Meet the People - Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders doing Interesting Things - There can’t be too many New Zealanders who can claim to have hosted over 15,000 house guests – Bruce and Carol Hyland are two who can. As the owners of three top rating NZ B&Bs over the last sixteen years they’ve notched up an enviable record as fantastic hosts and many of their returning guests are now personal friends. They were the original owners of two leading Devonport B&Bs in Auckland and they now run the very delicious Maison de la Mer in Akaroa, an hour from Christchurch. And when they’re not pampering others, they’re usually giving in to their own passion for travel, spending three months of every year exploring France, Italy, Britain, Canada, Australia, USA and Asia. Back in the eighties they spent three years living aboard their sail boat in the Bahamas – complete with three young children and family dog! These days you’ll find Bruce yacht racing every Sunday on Akaroa Harbour.

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 5

"Origami Nightmare"

The provocative printmaker strikes again.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Picture Perfect

Millbrook Resort, Queenstown, 2007, Ajr

Sometimes there is a reflection so perfect it can't be walked past, no matter what. This was one of them - one of the beautiful redwoods at Queenstown's Millbrook Resort in perfect mirror image in the lake water.

Homestead History

I gave in to my passion for grand old mansions again yesterday and visited Okuku Country Estate, which is tucked into a tight fist of huge trees – including two massive redwoods – 30 minutes from the country town of Rangiora. Much has changed in the fifteen years since I last visited; for a start, there are new owners – Robert and Lorraine Smith – who have turned it into a gorgeous retreat for visiting guests. And what an idyllic hideaway. Built in 1920 (after the original 1860 homestead burnt down in 1917) and inspired by Italian Renaissance style, it oozes character and ‘friendliness.’ Dark downstairs panelling, a huge entry hall, big social spaces, six big guest bedrooms, an indoor swimming pool and 30 acres of beautiful gardens to wander in make it a very tempting weekend getaway. Back in the old days the Ensor family lived a grand old life hosting parties and hunts – with the aid of Chinese servants, who lived in the west wing of the house. It’s one of those lovely old places that seems to have sealed its history into every corner; it’s almost tangible. Gorgeous!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Plains Roaming

I was in my element again today. Armed with car, camera and time, I did the 120km loop from Christchurch to Rangiora, through the pretty autumn-flushed Ashley Gorge to Oxford and then home again. I had all the time in the world to enjoy those ruler-straight roads, the blocky hedges, the table-cloth spread of fields, the big Canterbury skies and strong coffee at Jo Seagar’s popular Oxford Café. It was 26-degrees and rising as I drove back to Christchurch, stopping to take photographs along the way and I couldn’t help thinking that when Canterbury puts on a blue sky it does so on a grand scale.

Small Moments of Beauty

Magnolia Ajr.

My neighbour's magnolia
hangs languidly
my fence

Artist Studio - 4

Christchurch fabric artist, Jenny Gillies has lost count of how many costumes she’s created for theatre, opera, the World of Wearable Art Awards, conferences, race days and her now-famous and eagerly-awaited choreographed costume performance staged annually at Christchurch Cathedral.
“I must have done hundreds over the years…..I don’t know really….I live a chaotic lifestyle,” she says with a laugh and a sweep of her hand. “I keep all my flower costumes though. They’re stored around the house. It drives my family crazy.”
The Gillies house is almost entirely given over to creative pursuits. The whole place is one fantastic chorus of colour and the upstairs rooms Jenny has claimed as studio space are my idea of heaven - upright bolts of electric blue, red, green, orange, yellow and pink silks jostle for attention; baskets are filled with colour-co-ordinated cottons, a ‘million’ small containers are filled with a sewer’s essentials and half-completed floral costumes fill every corner – it’s one giant, colourful, exuberant creative den that I could happily spend hours in.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


a small chocolate truffle is all you need

Bach Beauty

Wikipedia will tell you that a bach (pronounced batch) is the name given to a small, modest New Zealand holiday home, usually located at a beach. The alternative South Island name is a ‘crib.’ But for many New Zealanders a bach is very much more than a simple dwelling; it is a part of growing up, an iconic part of our lifestyle and culture swollen with memory and event – especially from 1950-1970. You don’t find so many truly humble baches these days – the ones made out of recycled materials and furnished with cast-off curtains and old chairs. They’ve been superceded by trendy new holiday homes with hot and cold running everything. I found these ones at Boulder Bay, a stony little horseshoe with less than a dozen baches in total, just around the coast from Christchurch. There’s no road access; you either walk the coastal track from Taylor’s Mistake Beach, or you descend the steep, narrow track from Godley Head.

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 4

'Mr Boojum has a Dream about William Morris'
This is what happens when pets are introduced to fine art.

Cool Cars

Kaiapoi, March 2008, Ajr
One Thunderbird - spotted on the Kaiapoi River bridge on Monday.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Meet the People - 4

Another in the series Meet The People - Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders doing interesting things. Jason Dell is living the chef’s dream. As executive chef at the internationally top-ranked luxury lodge, Blanket Bay in Glenorchy, he has a generous food budget, a fabulous kitchen filled with clever gadgets and the ability to recruit a top brigade of chefs. And now he has published his own cookbook, Savvy. “For me it was all about the challenge of extending myself beyond the stove, of putting what I do down into words. " As well as being judged a New Zealand Chef of the Year, Jason,35, was a member of the gold medal-winning New Zealand Culinary team in Singapore in 2006. Most recently he won the prestigious 2007 Pacific Asia Travel Association Young Tourism Professional Award. He’s also proud of his Ngai Tahu heritage. “Most of my experience of traditional Maori kai came from extended family members at Rapaki when I was growing up. I think as you get older you also gain a greater appreciation for your ancestry and I’m definitely much more interested in learning about Maori kai than I was in my early years. I’ve managed to get hold of some very good books about native plants and how to grow vegetables in the old ways and I think it’s safe to say that Savvy won’t be my last book.”

Lighting the Way

Kaiapoi, March 2008, Ajr.

When a simple street lamp becomes a thing of beauty. I was drawn to the elegant curve of this lamp beside the Kaiapoi River yesterday - and the loveliness of blue-on-blue

A Nose that Knows

Ilja Gort, the Dutch owner of Chateau de la Garde in Bordeaux, producer of Tulipe Wines has a nose worth knowing. He claims it can distinguish millions of different scents and is essential to guaranteeing the quality of his wines. He has thus had it insured by Lloyd’s of London for 5 million Euros (US$8million). Lloyd’s also insures the taste buds of restaurateur, Egon Ronay and the guitar-playing fingers of Rolling Stone, Keith Richards.

The Return of the Hedge

Hedge, Tai Tapu, Christchurch, March 2008, Ajr
I'm photographing hedges again - not that I ever really stopped of course. I planted my foot on the brakes to get this lovely curved hedge at Tai Tapu.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Spaces Between 8

Lyttelton, March 2008. Ajr
My fascination with the long, narrow spaces between buildings continues. I love the mix of textures here - the red brick contrasted with red and green corrugated iron and a rough little stone pathway - and the little bunch of (barely visible) red geraniums at the end.

Lyttelton - A Snapshot

A friend and I spent Easter Saturday roaming the streets of Lyttelton with our cameras – a leisurely wander taking in every detail, every sign, every quirky little thing. I liken the whole business to a treasure hunt – that scouting about for THE picture, the one that encapsulates everything that caught your eye and sparked inspiration. So many snapshots fall short but every so often there’s one that sets you buzzing with excitement. It’s how I like to get to know a place – through the lens – and if I had my way, it’s what I would be doing day after day after day. Factor in a likeminded individual with a keen eye and you have the makings of a doubly inspiring day out. I am always intrigued by the creative response – what draws us to the things we draw, paint or photograph – and I am even more fascinated by the very individual responses of two or more people to the same subject. One might be drawn to a building in its entirety, the other to the door of the building, or some tiny detail of colour, texture, pattern – or, in my case, to the spaces between that one building and its immediate neighbour. Lyttelton, the tiny port town just over the hills from Christchurch, provided us with a feast of inspiration – from its fabulous Saturday Farmers’ Market to its old buildings and character-filled streetscapes. One of my favourite photos of the day was this No.7. surrounded by line and texture; the other, the boldly patterned Loons comedy theatre juxtaposed against the sky and the rigid ‘leaning’ street lamp.

Looking for Signs

Lyttelton, March 2008 Ajr
You don't have to go far in Lyttelton to find evidence of a quirky sense of humour. The Wunderbar - a Lyttelton social institution - is notorious for it. Along with the skantily draped mannequin torso swinging above the exterior staircase, you'll find interior lampshades topped with dolls' heads, walls of crushed velvet and all manner of other kitsch amusements - which no doubt seem funnier with every glass of ale.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Rainbow Warrior

Rainbow Warrior II, Lyttelton Harbour, 2008 Ajr.
Yesterday I drove over to Lyttelton to see the Greenpeace vessel, Rainbow Warrior II – the original having been blown up in Auckland Harbour by French agents in 1985. This one, originally a fishing vessel in the North Sea, was launched in 1989 after being cut in half and extended. The wooden wheel (above) is the only component of the original Rainbow Warrior on board. Unexpectedly, I found myself on a free tour of the boat. It was an interesting experience. For one thing, I never expected to have to produce photo ID – twice – to even get into the port area; and while the video of the crew’s hair-raising ‘activist adventures’ was terrific, I was a little disappointed by the ‘hard sell’ of the Greenpeace staffers, who, having snared their captive audiences, lectured us in environmental issues that we’ve all heard before. Surely anyone visiting the boat is ‘on their side’ in the first place; and how much more interesting it would have been to learn what life is like at sea for the 15 multi-national permanent crew and, at any one time, the 15 activists who join them on various missions. Having seen the video though, I must say I admire their commitment – not for cowardly old me the act of throwing my body between a whale and a harpoon!

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, Ajr.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hop On Over

No one will ever be able to convince me that Otahuna isn’t one of the most magnificent houses in New Zealand. It’s my dream home. I adore it. Every inch of its 18,000 square foot, three-storied framework is riddled with history. Built in 1895 for Sir Heaton Rhodes it’s reputedly the finest example of Queen Anne architecture in Australasia and it’s now an Historic Places Trust Category 1 listed property. Who can blame Hall Cannon and Miles Refo for tossing in their New York jobs, buying Otahuna and turning it into one of New Zealand’s finest luxury lodges? And what better way to kick of Easter 2008 than joining Hall and Miles for Otahuna’s First Annual East Hunt & Lunch? When I first got the invitation I pictured horses, hounds and terrified rabbits. It wasn’t until a week later that the penny dropped and it became clear that we would only be hunting easter eggs. Creative guests turned up in Easter bonnets; there were bunny's ears aplenty, a divine lunch in the timber pannelled ballroom; and an egg hunt complete with straw lined baskets. How easily we all slipped in to the childish delight of it all. And as it turned out, the only bunny in sight was five-and-a-half feet tall and wearing gumboots.

Meet the People - 3

Charlotte Berry & Barney, 2008 Ajr
More in the series Meet the People – Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders doing interesting things - Charlotte Berry, 28, has been riding horses since she was three. They’re a passion and a lifestyle that she combines in running a successful horse trekking business, Terrace Downs Equestrian just out of Christchurch. It’s the perfect lifestyle – looking after ten horses – including her favourite, Bundabank (Barney), her own competitive show-jumping horses (which only she gets to ride) and the first horse she ever owned, her 28-year-old pony, Bob who’s there for the kids. “I moved out here because I love the outdoors and it seemed like a quiet place to study for my business studies degree. Now I’ve also become a mad-keen skier.” With Mt Olympus and Craigieburn skifields only a sneeze away, Charlotte is living the dream. www.terracedowns/activities.

The Spirit of India 2

Spirit of India musicans, Christchurch 2008, Ajr
What a glorious way to finish an altogether spectacular day! Last night’s 28th Spirit of India performance at Christchurch Art Centre’s Great Hall was something to tickle every nerve ending – the lilting sounds of exquisite flutes made almost human by Dr Natesan Ramani, performing with his son and grandson – all three brilliant flautists – accompanied by the astounding drumming talents of Raja Rao on his colourful Mridangam (double-headed drum) and fleet-fingered Trichy Murali on the Ghattam (clay pitcher drum). This a taste of South India, with young North Indian singer, Manjiri Kelkar doing astonishing things with the human voice, accompanied by tabla and harmonium players. I’m no musician but it seemed to me, a breathtaking interweaving of complex, subtle sounds and melodies that I would sit through all over again.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Flying High

It was the perfect day for it – 26-degrees, brilliant blue skies and one of the most gorgeous Canterbury landscapes you’ll find – and that’s before we even get to the jet boat and helicopter! Terrace Downs High Country Resort is a heaven-on-earth location roughly an hour inland from Christchurch. Perched high above the Rakaia Gorge it comes complete with classy villas and chalets, one of New Zealand’s top18-hole golf courses and a location that will take your breath away. Given that I’m mad about both jet boats and helicopters, I felt very spoilt today in being able to do both at the launch of the Terrace Downs Discovery Jet on Rakaia River. After being raced upstream on water unbelievably turquoise, through landscapes unbelievably pristine, we were picked up by Mt Hutt Helicopters and whisked back to Terrace Downs for lunch and, in my case, rather manic attempts to get a hole-in-one in a light-hearted putting contest. I have to say it was one of the loveliest little jaunts I’ve had in ages and I hope everyone is going to make a beeline for this fabulous location. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have it so close to Christchurch.

The Spaces Between 7

Blax Espresso Bar, Christchurch, 2008 Ajr

Life's a Beach

Brighton Beach, Christchurch, 2008 Ajr.
I have an American friend who lives at New Brighton, here in Christchurch. He frequents the beach – mostly because after living here for well over a decade, he still can’t get over the fact that he has this huge, pristine stretch of white sandy beach – virtually empty of other people – right on his doorstep. I guess we New Zealanders are lucky that way.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Dirty Down Under

Fire the name Julia Galvin into the GOOGLE search engine and you’ll find out everything you ever wanted to know about the World Bog Snorkelling Championships. Julia, 37 of Ireland, was recovering from a serious accident and on 16 painkillers a day when she decided it might be fun to try bog snorkelling; now she’s up there with the world champs and is about to make an appearance at Queensland’s Dirt’nDust Festival on April 4-6, at the coincidentally-named, Julia Creek. She’ll take on Australia’s brawniest bog snorkellers in a sloppy event that calls for compulsory snorkel and flippers. The aim? To complete two consecutive lengths of a 60-yard filled trench cut through peat bog in the shortest possible time. If you feel like joining them for a down and dirty weekend, check

Window Shopping

Victoria Street, Christchurch, 2008. Ajr
When I go window shopping it’s the windows themselves that I’m looking at, not what’s behind them. I love the crazy graphics on this sushi shop window in Victoria Street – typical of the busy overlaying of text, image, reflections and interior detail that I often photograph. There's just something about that mad tangle of line and colour that inspires me.

This Time!

Victoria Street Clock Tower, Christchurch, 2008. Ajr
I drive past the Victoria Street Clock Tower almost every day and it was only recently that I learned of its chequered history. Designed by Benjamin Mountfort and made in England, the tower arrived in Christchurch in 1860 in 147 packages. It was initially installed at the Old Government Buildings in Durham Street, but after just four years it proved too heavy for its support structure. In 1864 it was thus packed away in the council yards where it stayed for the next 30 years. It was re-erected in High Street from 1897-99 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Coronation of Queen Victoria and then moved again -1930-33 - to its present site in Victoria Street, where its hefty volcanic stone and limestone tower, its ornate iron work and its coloured glass details have become an iconic part of the streetscape. Restored in 2004, it now gleams anew in what we hope will be its final resting place.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Road Trip

For those of you who responded so heartily to my earlier GPS post, here’s another little gem – Road Trip NZa series of audio guide CDs masterminded by former television director, Fiona McKenzie of South Canterbury. Simply slip the CD into your car player and listen to Fiona leading you the landscape accompanied by an engaging mix of voices, birdsong, Kiwi music, information and geographical detail. The first in the series, The Aoraki Route, takes you from Christchurch to Queenstown through the dramatic landscapes of South Canterbury and Central Otago. Fiona points out the landscapes that have inspired writers and filmmakers; she gives you history; and she enlightens you to Maori myth and land use alike. At Road Trip NZ it’s all about the journey. I couldn’t agree more.

Good News & Bad

Some results from a recent TripAdvisor survey for you to think about: Paris has the most unfriendly hosts in Europe, followed by London, with Moscow in third place. London remains the most popular destination nonetheless – and the most expensive. London and Paris took top spots for shopping, cuisine and public parks; and also took the two top spots as Europe’s dirtiest cities. The 1,400 travellers polled worldwide consider Zurich to be Europe’s cleanest city, followed – not unexpectedly – by Copenhagen and Stockholm. Zurich also managed to score second place in Europe’s most boring city category. And the most boring city in the world? Brussels. (sorry D&H)

The National Bird

Kiwi Top :Eketahuna; back of a bus; Bottom: Queenstown & Rotorua Ajr.
You could be forgiven for thinking we’re obsessed with kiwis in this country. Not only is the kiwi one of our rarest native birds, it’s also a national icon, an iconic design motif and the standard ‘nickname’ for New Zealanders. And for some reason there is a desire to make them significantly larger than life – gigantic in fact. I spotted these ones when I travelled around NZ last year researching the latest Frommers New Zealand travel guide.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Meet The People - 2

More in the series Meet The People - Ordinary and Extraordinary New Zealanders doing interesting things...........Dom Maxwell is part of a group of dynamic, forward-thinking, young winemakers now working in New Zealand’s fourth largest wine region, the Waipara Valley, an hour north of Christchurch. Dom, 31, is winemaker for Greystone Wines, who planted their first vines in 2003, produced their first commercial release of Pinot Noir and Riesling in 2006 and have already won major awards. The vineyard has also planted 2,500 native plants on their picturesque hillside environment to help maintain healthy soils and grapes. It’s a beautiful spot as you can see and Dom’s favourite place is the Greystone Top Block on a clear day, where he can look out across the valley and the vine-covered rolling downs. Who needs the city with ‘an office view’ like this?

'Hard' Hearing

Ajr. 2008

This is a well decorated ear I sneaked up on at yesterday's Waipara Wine & Food Festival.

Did You Know......

...that the average New Zealander dumps about 700kg of waste a year in rubbish dumps. So says Green Times, news from the Green Party in Parliament.

The Spaces Between 6

Christchurch Arts Centre, 2008. Ajr.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Artist Studio 3

When I look at Kirsty Gardiner’s delicately wrought porcelain cat sculptures I think of Ancient Egypt, gods and pharoahs’ tombs. Cats were first domesticated in Ancient Egypt 4,000 years ago and they were a revered and sacred animal. Brought up a Catholic , Kirsty, who now lives in rural Wairarapa, north of Wellington, has an amazing ability to imbue her works with all the religious mysticism, beliefs, symbols and tribal rites that coloured her own upbringing in South Africa; yet at the same time, there’s humour there that I love. Kirsty admits that her recent series “Fetish for the Feline Form” tends to polarise viewers – “they’re either fascinated and enthralled, or repulsed and disturbed.” Her tall, slender, totemic felines on the other hand exude a strong, silent, almost eerie beauty filled with secrets. It seems to me, that Kirsty’s use of the feline form to convey very human characteristics and emotions plays right into our willingness - our need almost – to attribute our pets with human qualities. Photographs by Heather Busch, Featherston.

Northern Autumn

Auckland, 2007. Ajr

The first flush of autumn red is creeping across the façade of one of my favourite inner city Auckland buildings – this gorgeous corner property near Albert Park.

To Market, To Market

I can think of few nicer ways to while away a lazy autumn Saturday than indulging in treats at Canterbury Farmers’ Market, which is held every week in the grounds of Riccarton House in Christchurch. Farmers’ Markets have taken off in New Zealand – most bigger towns now have one – and they’re a great place to pick up fresh and handmade goodies – everything, in this case, from organic vegetables, fruit, flowers, local olive oils, preserves, breads, French and local cheeses, fresh organic meats, free range eggs, local chocolates, delicious little cup cakes and much much more. Factor in live music, good coffee, a streamside setting, a nearby bush walk filled with native birds and 600-year-old trees and one of Christchurch’s finest historic homes (built in 1856) and you have the perfect autumn morning. Best treat of the day: the Portuguese egg tart with coffee.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Barry's Provocative Unpublished Minutes - 2

Continuing the witty inkjet print series by one of New Zealand's top printmakers.

Fern Fabulous

FERNS, Civic Square, Wellington 2007, Ajr.
It doesn’t matter how many times I stand in Wellington’s Civic Square and gaze up, I’m always inspired by Neil Dawson’s shimmering “Ferns” – a site specific orb of fern leaves suspended 14 metres above the square. Christchurch-based Dawson has an international reputation for creating exciting, site specific works, among them, a major commission for the Stadium of Australia in Sydney, created for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. You can listen to Neil chatting about Ferns at

Gallery Hopping

ART TREK is back – that fun, annual night out trawling thirteen of Christchurch’s public and dealer galleries. Get a group of mates together and wander the streets, hopping from gallery to gallery; or get on and off the free bus that runs a 30-minute cycle connecting the galleries. Pick up the free map from galleries and information centres. When? Wednesday, March 19, 5.30pm-8.30pm

Buy Fresh

When it comes to buying vegetables, I’m a total convert to ‘fresh is best’ and lucky for me, I live close to the northeast city perimeter, just 2-3 kilometres from several big market gardens. I can stop at any one of four or five roadside vegetable sellers and take my pick from vegetables that have barely had the dirt washed off their roots. And they're a great photographic study as well!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nude Flights Anyone?

Here's a novel idea - nude flights. An East German travel agency has unveiled what is believed to be the world's first nude airline. The flight is to be part of a summer day trip, which flies from the East German city of Erfurt to a popular Baltic Sea resort. Passengers can strip off on board but will have to get dressed before disembarking.

Pattern on Pattern

Speaking of pattern-makers (post Morris & Co), the team at Wellington's very delicious Floriditas Cafe in Cuba Street has the right idea.


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