Christmas Greetings

A very Happy Christmas to all our family and friends all around the world!   We had a very special day enjoying the company of friends from New Zealand and the Middle East, some of the latter with a Coptic heritage.    We learnt that the Coptic Church celebrates the birth of Jesus on January 7th of the Gregorian Calendar.   By the year 2100 C.E.  this will change to January 8th.     The Coptic calendar, claimed to be the oldest in history, originated three millennia before Christ.    This link gives an extensive description of the development of the Coptic or Alexandrian calendar.   About 10% of Egyptians belong to the  Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria;  the church was founded by the Apostle and Evangelist St. Mark around 42 A.D. and is  part of the Oriental Orthodox church which separated from the Eastern Orthodox church after divisions originating during the Council of Chalcedon in     451 A.D.

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The 28th Maori Battalion.

In  2009, the 70th Anniversary of the formation of the 28th Maori Battalion, a website was created to honour and commemorate the achievements of the Battalion during the second world war.   It was formally launched in August 2009 by the Minister of Maori Affairs, Pita Sharples, and the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Christopher Finlayson.                            Click on the website to view some wonderful audio-visual archival material covering the years from 1939, the year the Battalion was formed, to 1946 when it returned to Aotearoa New Zealand.    The Battalion was made up of four rifle companies (organised along tribal lines) and an HQ company, drawn from all over Maoridom.   Each company had its own ‘nickname’.   Follow the Battalion across the world to its battles in Greece, Crete, North Africa and the Italian campaign.

This is a wonderful record of this unique fighting force and the remarkable part Maoridom  played in the war effort of New Zealand.




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Nicola Benedetti and the NZSO.

Join Nicola Benedetti and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the beginning of their ‘Forbidden Love’ tour, starting tonight at 8.00 p.m. at the Michael Fowler Centre in Wellington.    Nicola, who hails from Scotland, first shot to prominence in 2004 when she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year Award at the age of sixteen!   She performed at the ‘Last Night of the Proms’ on September 8th 2012 and her recently released album ‘The Silver Violin’ is second only to Nigel Kennedy(1991) for a British classical soloist in the UK Official Albums Chart.   If you are not in Wellington tonight and can’t get to the concert you can hear it live at 8.00 p.m. on Radio New Zealand Concert.   Click on Nicola Benedetti for details of her career and  the ‘Forbidden Love’ tour.     A wonderful evening of musical drama and romance is promised!

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Gold country

The miners working and living environment was an unrelenting grind, which they endured in the hope of a better future.    They lived in simple shacks or tents similar to the one pictured. Cold winds are common in this part of Victoria and the presence of a fireplace was important although potentially hazardous.

Disharmony between the various racial groupings was a constant issue with continuing discrimination against the Chinese miners.

Large companies became involved as the mines increased in depth in the search for larger gold deposits;  flooding became a major challenge and extensive pumping systems were installed.   The power for the pumps came from steam powered engines, the steam created by two enormous Cornish boilers.   The wood-fired furnaces were constantly tended.   Click on the diagram to view an enlarged cross-sectional view of the boiler.

Today, the servicing and operation of these furnaces and the steam  plant at Sovereign Hill is carried out by enthusiastic volunteers.

Visitors can access part of the reconstructed  mine by means of a rail track and learn of the conditions and hazards the miners endured.    A powered device, popularly known as the ‘widow-maker’ was used to drill holes in the rock for rock blasting using explosive.   Many miners died from silicosis, a progressive disease of the lungs caused by inhaling the fine dust particles produced by the drilling.

The noise created by drilling in the confined space of the mining galleries must have been literally ‘deafening’ and in those early days management had little concern for the health of the miners.

As part of the visit we saw a demonstration of gold being purified and poured to make a gold ingot worth over $100,000!    The gold from this area of Victoria possessed a deep yellow hue. Click on MAP LINK to view various attractions of the open air Museum.

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Visit to Sovereign Hill

During a recent visit to Melbourne we made a trip to Sovereign Hill, an outdoor museum near the historic town of Ballarat, which tells the story of the Victorian Gold Fields of the    19th Century.    Ballarat, the largest provincial city in Victoria lies around 105 kilometres west-north-west of Melbourne and was built on the wealth of the gold fields.   The name is thought to originate from the Aboriginal term  ‘balla arat’, meaning resting place.   Gold was first discovered in 1851 and within months what was originally a small sheep run had been transformed by the arrival of 20,000 migrants, as news of the rich alluvial fields spread around the world.   In 1854 the Eureka Rebellion ( more popularly know as the ‘Battle of Eureka Stockade) resulted from the miner’s objection to the cost of the Miner’s licence (the means of taxation by the governing authorities) without representation, as well as the conduct of the police and troops.   The rebellion was brutally put down by the Victorian government but the resultant massive public support for the ‘rebels’ resulted in full white male suffrage through the Electoral Act of 1856, the first example of political democracy in Australian history.   There has been continuing debate over the political significance of the ‘Eureka Rebellion’ and the place of the ‘Eureka Flag‘ ever since.

After a brief trip around Ballarat we headed off to Sovereign Hill which has developed, over many years,  into one of Victoria’s biggest tourist attractions.   The township has been designed  to reflect many of the characteristics of the settlement during the ‘gold era’ and many of the local inhabitants dress up in period costume and become the leading personalities of the town.

Many children from around Australia choose to spend a ‘term’ at Sovereign Hill to experience what school would have been like in the 1870′s.   Here they are walking up the hill to their morning class.   I looked in on one of their teaching sessions and it reminded me a little of my early school days!

We were able to see shops and restaurants of the period, as well as the local theatre and town apothecary with his various curative offerings.   It was important to watch out for the stage coach as it rattled through the dusty township!

I will cover some more aspects of the gold rush days at Sovereign Hill in my next post.



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Lindos on the island of Rhodes

After two wonderful days visiting the historic city of Rhodes, we headed south along the east coast of the island to Lindos,  an ancient city founded around 10 B.C. by the Dorians and one of six cities known as the Dorian Hexapolis.   Its location made a natural site for trade between the Greeks and the Phoenicians and it only lost its importance after the founding of the City of Rhodes in the 5th century B.C.

Dominated by the acropolis (citadel) of Lindos,  in the classical period it enclosed the Doric temple of Athena Lindia, completed around 300B.C. and was later successively occupied by the Greeks and Romans.   The massive surrounding fortress was erected (on older Byzantine fortifications) in the 14th century A.D. by the Knights of St. John  to defend the Island against the Ottoman empire.   The large rock to the right of the village partly surrounds St. Paul’s Bay where it is said the Apostle Paul took refuge from a storm and so brought the ‘Christian message’ to the Island.

The bay encloses a bathing beach favoured by holidaying families.  Looking away to the left from this picturesque beach, one is confronted by a massive pile of rock with the Acropolis on the summit, a very daunting sight for any would be invader!

It is understandable why this area of the island was chosen by director J. Lee Thompson  for some of the scenes seen in the

film ‘The Guns of Navarone’.

Click on the image to enlarge.

After gazing in awe at the scale of the citadel, it is time to climb back up the hill to the village itself.  The acropolis dominates the village and to reach it the visitor faces a very imposing staircase.   For further details of Lindos and its acropolis click on Citadel.

Even though our visit took place in early summer,  the narrow streets and quaint shops were bustling with visitors enjoying the warm sunshine and looking for local wares.  Greek and Turkish glazed pottery are favoured purchases, along with leather items.  Many of the whitewashed buildings are typical of those seen across many of the Greek Islands;   the architecture is influenced by a mixture of Mediaeval, Byzantine, Arab and Rhodean design.

Narrow cobbled streets lead up from the harbour far below and these hard working donkeys are used to carry  visitors up the hill to the village.   Here they stand, patiently waiting for their next passengers.   The  small boy in the foreground looks hopeful?


After taking in the sights, we found our way up some narrow stairs to a sheltered  terrace overlooking the sea.   Surrounded by a green oasis of cooling plants and amongst friendly folk from all around the world, we enjoyed some delightful refreshments, capping off a memorable visit to this ancient and picturesque village.

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Our Vision for Central Christchurch?

An exciting plan for the rebuild of Central Christchurch was unveiled thirty hours ago and has received a generally positive response.   Click on vision to view a short  video of the plan and further details of the vision for Central Christchurch.      Detailed planning and negotiations for purchase of necessary land within the designated area can now begin.   If the plan comes to fruition, there is no doubt that the ‘New Christchurch’ will further reinforce its reputation as the ‘Garden City’ of New Zealand.     If you are interested in viewing a more detailed version of the plan click on ‘Central City‘ [ then select Central City recovery plan (PDF 12MB)].   An essential element is the ‘green frame’ that will define  and enhance the central area.

The other imperative for our city is for a parallel plan and definitive action to restore homes in the other devastated residential areas of the city and instil a sense of hope and purpose to so many of our citizens.

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Excited anticipation!

This evening the visionary plan for central Christchurch is to be unveiled.   The plan is crucial for the economic advance of both Christchurch and New Zealand and should provide a positive stimulus for the rebuild of the city and emotional recovery of our citizens.   The welfare of the latter is also dependant on the settling of insurance disputes and  restoration of homes, particularly in the devastated eastern part of our city.   While on a recent bike ride in the countryside to the west of Christchurch, I came across huge areas that of land that are being prepared for new residential subdivisions to replace the ones that have been lost.   The map of Canterbury around Christchurch is being radically redrawn.    The rebuild is on the move!


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Venice Bienalle Exhibit comes to Christchurch.

Last week I enjoyed visiting Michael Parekowhai’s exhibition ‘On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer.    Originally New Zealand’s exhibit in the Venice Biennale 2011, it has made its New Zealand debut in the “Red Zone” of Christchurch.

Michael Parekowhai is one of New Zealand’s leading contemporary artists.   Born in Porirua in 1968 his work is held in private and public collections in many parts of the world.

There are three large scale works which make up the sculptural aspect of the Christchurch exhibition.   Firstly, a wonderfully carved red Steinway concert grand piano (covered with automotive paint and incorporating  inlays of brass, mother of pearl and paua), which was played throughout the exhibition.   Sitting quietly, listening and enjoying the music was an integral part of the experience as I admired the detailed intricacy of the work, which bears the Title:  He Korero Purakau mo Te Awanui o Te Motu: story of a New Zealand river.

Walking to the window offered a view of the other aspect of the exhibition.  Standing in the ruins of the central business district, in stark contrast to their original Venetian setting, two grand pianos fabricated in bronze support two massively  casted bronze bulls. 


One entitled ‘A Peak in Darien’ (the resting bull and piano), the other ‘Chapman’s Homer (standing bull and piano), issuing a challenge to the pianist to sit down and play!

The unusual titles of these two works and  the Exhibition as a whole are taken from the title of a poem by the English poet, John Keats.

For further consideration of  Michael Parekowhai’s own thoughts on these works, click on Chapman’s Homer.


Grateful thanks to the artist and  everyone who helped to bring Michael’s exhibition to Christchurch.   A most uplifting experience!


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The Island of Rhodes

After completing our trip through Western Turkey we boarded a ferry at the port of Marmaris and travelled across the Aegean Sea to the Island of Rhodes.   Although it is part of the Dodecanese group of Greek islands, Rhodes is much closer to Turkey than the mainland of Greece.

Mounted on columns and guarding the entrance to Mandraki harbour are statues of the patron animals of the Island;  Elafos and Elafina, the stag and the hind. The deer stand on the supposed legendary site of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the original seven wonders of the ancient world.   The enormous bronze statue of the god Helios stood for only fifty six years before being toppled in an earthquake in 226 B.C.   Archaeologists now believe that a more likely site for the Colossus was in the courtyard of the Temple of Helios, now buried under the Palace of the Grand Masters (click on to view photographs of the Old City).   This photograph shows part of the external walls of the Palace.

The positioning of Rhodes at the centre of the ancient trading routes ensured its conquest through successive periods of history.

In 1988 the Old Mediaeval Town was named as a World Heritage City.   The tiny houses along the old cobbled streets are still occupied, many of the inhabitants earning  their income from the thriving tourist industry.   The scooter is a favoured means of transport around the narrow thoroughfares and visitors need to keep their senses tuned to the imminent arrival of an approaching rider!   A  map is an essential aid to help visitors find their way through the maze of streets to important landmarks.

After enjoying the wonderful atmosphere of the secluded alleys and colourful shops of the old town, it was time for a coffee and designer ice-cream!   The locals are very proud of the history of their city and were keen to engage the visitor in conversation and share information about the other delights of the island.   There is also much to see and enjoy in the so called New Town of Rhodes, which has a colourful history of its own with its Venetian, Gothic and Arabic architecture and Jewish quarter.   After walking across this beautiful square, we left the Old City through one of many impressive gates before finding our way back to our hotel whilst enjoying a view across Mandraki harbour to the Fort of Saint Nicholas.     The following day we travel down the east coast of the island towards Lindos.

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