Local Heart, Global Soul

July 13, 2012

Daisy: “Hey…Bessie I’ll Race you down the Lane!”

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

One thing becomes clear as soon as you travel away from the small territory that you inhabited as a small child and young adult… things familiar to you and expressions you use naturally  from your experience in life can mean something amazingly different to other people in and from other places.

I’ll always remember the day I thought as a kid, upon hearing the words on TV:  “travel England’s beautiful country lanes” …’Ugh since when are lanes beautiful? and who on earth would want to travel them?”

In my little world the questions were perfectly logical, we had lanes on the farm I grew up on and our neighbours did too… but ours were sheep lanes, and the only other “lanes” I knew of at that age were also for stock use… “cow lanes”.

So what’s a sheep or cow lane? Well first be aware of the average size of a New Zealand farm, they are often huge compared to what looks first like tiny fragmented hobby farms in Europe.  Molesworth, New Zealand’s biggest station at 1800 square kilometers  (1118.46 square miles)  used to run 90 000 sheep but switched to running 10 000 cattle  for sustainability reasons after the rabbit population decimated a lot  of the land required it be be resown after a  rabbit extermination project.

(Forget any cute  images of fluffy bunnies here, this was a rabbit infestation of plague proportions and whole hillsides would look like they were moving, there were so many rabbits on them).

So even if  exclude the mega stations like Molesworth, and you have a “small”  farm it’s clear that New Zealand  paddocks  come super-sized  when compared to their European counterparts, in the South Island a paddock can easily be the size of an entire hillside. The climate is such that sheep and cattle don’t need to over-winter in inside accommodation,  in the Southern Alps it’s simple,  sheep graze at higher altitude in the summer months and are moved down the mountains to lower altitudes in winter.
After the winter, the muster brings them in, their heavy fleeces are shorn and they are taken back up the mountains. Of course docking and dipping are also regularly done  so there are times when sheep have to be bought to a central location like the sheep station’s shearing sheds and yards.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I tried to find the average stock number for Dutch farms, I did my search in Dutch and didn’t find the information I wanted for the Netherlands but did find a site that said that the average number of stock on a farm in Belgium is 108.
The very average sized sheep station I started life on had about 35 000 sheep so shifting them all can be a slightly  bigger logistical  task.

Imagine the farm road (usually in a valley)  with wide “strip “of a paddock running parallel to it. This “strip” paddock is chopped off into a  series of very long rectangles  by gates and every now an again there are more gates on  the long edges that lead into the huge hillside paddocks above.  Like the road it follows, this strip paddock can be  kilometres long … but it’s got a very useful purpose.

When you are bringing  tens of  thousands of sheep down hill during the muster, you bring the sheep  from the top of the mountains to the bottom and then funnel them into the strip at the bottom and then close off the access to the hill. You just need to open as many gates in the “lane” as necessary to hold them all.  Now you have an awful lot of sheep in a manageable enclosed area (but not on the road) and by opening gates in front of them, and closing them behind, you can shift them all of them en mass  to the shearing sheds or yards for docking  with just the help of a few sheepdogs and minimum manpower.  Most people I know refer to this strip paddock as “the lane” or somethimes also as “the long paddock”.

Dairy herds are far smaller in numbers of course, but the milkers need to come to the milking sheds twice a day for milking and so smaller versions of the lanes are used for  exactly the same purpose. Milking cows just differ in that when they get heavy with milk they will usually just walk themselves to the sheds and then back again afterwards to the green pastures for their next feed.  On these photos I got out the car window,  the well trodden red dirt lane is a clear sign of a dairy farm… a far cry from England’s version of  “lanes” as I quickly discovered.

My city children and Dutch husband were completely ignorant of what my version of a lane was too..  Kiwi Daughter summed it up: “So it’s like a super highway for animals then? ” … well, Formula One maybe not, but … yes, I suppose it is!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 11, 2012

You Wear Down Some of your Local Flagstones,and Leave a Little of Yourself Behind in the Process…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I’m still taking you on a virtual tour of our December 2011-January 2012 trip to New Zealand.

This is the walking tour that was set up shortly before Christmas and that allowed limited public access between the Cashel/Colombo street intersection and Cathedral Square… well a small slice of it at least, well away from fragile buildings and ongoing work.

I realise that taking photos of the “ghosts” and shells of buildings that I knew and loved might seem in some way morbid and depressing…

Yes it is emotional, but that’s because these places have meanings and memories. One night in the 80’s the leaders of our youth group divided us into four teams, handed each team a cassette tape recorder and an envelope that contained an identical  list.

Each team had some three hours to collect as many sounds on the list as possible.

One of the sounds was to capture special sound that the pedestrian buzzer made at certain central city intersections… it was special because it was a different tone, meant to alert sight impaired people that it was possible to walk diagonally across this crossing because traffic on all four sides was being stopped  whilst the buzzer sounded.

I remember the exact spot we were standing in Cathedral Square that balmy summer night when we summoned up the courage to ask a pair of uniformed policemen to say “állo, állo, … állo, állo, “ for the tape.

I can remember watching the “Wizard” (a local personality) in his favourite spot in the square taking on a bunch of hecklers and the war of words and quick quips that saw each of his opponents bow out in defeat and the gathered crowds enjoying the spectacle as he ran rings around them.

I remember going up the spiral steps of the cathedral tower, emerging on the little balcony high up and feeling dizzy as I looked below… not that that ever stopped me from repeating the experience every few years with friends or visitors.

I remember the first time I went to an evening movie (in place of a kids 2.00 p.m matinee) emerging out in the street in darkness, listening to the far older friday night crowds and feeling   “grown-up”for the very first time.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

I remember the midnight service in the Cathedral that was held directly after the finish of the annual Carols by Candlelight Service around the river by the Bridge of Rememberance, and later in Victoria Square and the sound of the singing  as it rang out all around us as we sang together inside the Cathedral.

I remember walking in the cool of the Cathedral interior on a hot summers day, and taking a sad and quiet break in one of the pews and asking God why my school mate had had to die earlier that week from a brain tumour. She was only 16.

I remember running through the Square towards Chancery lane in winter hail on my way to the public library in Gloucester Street to study, or standing in a queue at the various food carts that came into the Square .. fried rice, …jacket potatoes with chili sauce.

There was a optitian in Chancery Lane where I had to go for my medical to become and Army officer… I don’t have binocular vision so I failed the eye test. Who knows what path my life may have taken had I passed since it was the only part of the medical that I failed.

I’ve waited for busses at countless bus- stops around the Square, I’ve walked these street with friends, commuted though on foot to and from work and partied there too.

Add to this that I’m a lover of detail, buildings fascinate me, especially old, ornate and interesting ones. I might not have been a customer of Hanafins but I always adored the building.

Any place where you have been a part of wearing down the local flagstones, leaves a little of you behind in the process.

You kind of rub off on your city, it rubs off on you and emotional bonds are made in the memories that are built up in microscopic layers over the years.

The building that CERA labels as the Grant Thornton building never had a name to me but it did mark the entrance to Chancery Lane… that I walked through frequently.

What’s the purpose of these photos you may well ask. Well, I guess that at this point in time they help for me to come to terms with the destruction of many of my old haunts.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Seeing them has released some tears and made feelings that I had in absentia, real in actual presence.

They provide a space for realising that the only way to deal with things now is to not just yearn for the past, but that we also have to move onwards.

The photos also give me a record of what was, what is …

…and later I will hopefully add photos to these locations of what they have become in the future.

My kids have been here and they have seen this too, but they are young and I know it’s too much to hope that they will really remember this moment as the “history” it is, so a photographic journal is a good way for them to understand in the future.

Yes, it’s painful right now, but this is the moment in time when we are staring at the open wound…

…It won’t always be like this…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

.. . quakes even upset the local lamp posts..

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Grant Thornton Building…  it’s days are numbered.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

What fate awaits these?

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

What’s left of Chancery Lane…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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