Last of the Summer Flowers

hamilton gardens

It’s a frightful day. The rain’s so loud I can barely hear myself think. I look outside and see a slush of autumn leaves. The last surviving flower in our front garden, a perfect pocket of beauty in a stack of ragged stems, is finally defeated. Winter is coming.

I miss the beautiful flowers of summer. I miss them more than I ever have, because this year I’ve taken more notice of them than I ever have. I got my first DSLR camera for Christmas, you see, and flowers make great subjects for practise.

Consequently, I’ve got lots of photographs of flowers that I’ve been looking for an excuse to share. Well, this is it. I hope, therefore, that if you’re sitting somewhere murky and rain-lashed, they help to brighten your day.

And… I guess I shouldn’t go crazy. Here’s hoping the weather clears up so I can explore somewhere new…

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The Artistic Quirks of Katikati

Cherry Tree, Katikati, New Zealand

Katikati is a small town on State Highway 2. Like many small New Zealand towns, it has attempted to make itself more interesting by adopting a quirk. Paeroa has a giant L&P bottle; Bulls has bad puns; Katikati has murals. But I didn’t take any pictures of those. Instead, I was drawn to this courtyard.

Katikati

It’s in the middle of the town, surrounded by shops and cafés, and it’s quite a lovely place to sit.

Katikati

Speaking of lovely places to sit, here’s Katikati’s best sculpture, which doubles as a bench.

Katikati

The live one on the right is my partner, and I wasn’t the only one taking photos of him. In the time it took for me to get those pictures of the colourful courtyard above, he became quite the tourist attraction.

Katikati

He told me later that he noticed the shoes the statue wore were real. The paint was peeling off of one. He had the irresistibly creepy thought of what if he were to peel the paint off the statue’s hands or face… would he find real skin underneath? But let’s turn away from that potential horror movie, towards a haiku.

Katikati Haiku Pathway

That’s one of the haiku stones from Katikati’s Haiku Pathway. Nice idea, isn’t it? You follow the path through a riverside park, reading the poetry carved into the boulders along the way. If you need a break whilst driving from Auckland or the Coromandel to Tauranga, you could do a lot worse than Katikati. It even has a museum.

Katikati Museum

More Photos from the Goblin Forest

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

The Goblin Forest of Taranaki really does have to be seen to be believed. It’s like stepping into a fairy tale.

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

But I’ve already waxed lyrical about it in a previous post, called The Goblin Forest, so I’ll leave the talking now to the photographs. (Even though I know I’ll probably never again get a photo as good as the one from that first post!)

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

I thought this branch kind of looked like the head of a dog, or a dragon. You know, in that stylised Celtic sort of way…

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

And see how this tree has grown over its own sign?

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

But now we must leave this enchanted forest. Pass through the archway and return to the real world… I hope not too much time has passed and your loved ones are still alive.

Goblin Forest, Taranaki

The Trippy Trees of WOMAD

Tree Lights WOMAD

WOMAD stands for World of Music and Dance, a massive hippy festival held in New Plymouth every March. My favourite thing about it isn’t the music, or the food, or the stalls selling endless floaty dresses. My favourite thing is the lights.

WOMAD

You see, WOMAD takes place in a park – Brooklands Park, to be precise – and when it gets dark, all the trees get lit up in weird and wonderful colours. Some have quirky decorations hung in them…

Tree Lights WOMAD

And some are merely part of the psychedelic scenery…

Tree Lights WOMAD

But this year, one tree out-did them all. It actually had moving images projected onto its branches.

Tree Lights WOMAD

As I stood before it, entranced, I slowly realised that there was music coming from inside the tree. I mean, obviously there was a speaker concealed somewhere, but I don’t know what I’d have done if I’d been stoned, as some festival-goers were!

Tree Lights WOMAD

Each image projected onto the tree was beautiful in its own way…

Tree Lights WOMAD

Except maybe this one – those things were crawling down towards you!

Tree Lights WOMAD

Even in daylight, however, some of the trees seemed rather trippy. Take this one, for example…

kids in creepy tree

The kids were having a grand, old time playing amidst its branches, but it kind of looked like the branches were grabbing them.

creepy tree

Maybe I’ve been playing too much Call of Cthulhu.

There’s a church made of trees – and it’s just outside Hamilton!

The Tree Church

That’s right. There’s a tree church… in Ohaupo.

The Tree Church

It was made by this guy whose job was transplanting trees, so he decided to transplant some into his own garden in the shape of a church. It looked so amazing that people persuaded him to open it to the public, and the rest is history.

The Tree Church

It’s not just a church: there’s a whole massive garden to explore, with a labyrinth, a pond, a stunning avenue of trees and absolutely glorious flowers. And cats.

The Tree Church

The ginger cat, in particular, has become world-famous for its habit of lounging in the Tree Church and charming the tourists. As soon as it saw me, it sprang up and trotted towards me, meowing. I never wanted to leave it!

The Tree Church

The Tree Church is only open on Tuesdays and Sundays from late October until the end of March, between the hours of 10 and 4, but you can book it for weddings as well. It costs $15 to enter, and children under twelve are only allowed in by prior arrangement.

The Tree Church

Whilst we were walking around, my partner Tim turned to me and said, “This has got to be one of the best places to go in the Waikato. Up there with Hobbiton.”

The Tree Church

High praise, indeed.

The Tree Church

It was beautiful. We had the perfect weather for it.

The Tree Church

We ended up chatting to the owner for a while. The poor guy hates being stuck in the ticket booth when he could be gardening!

Butterfly

Sitting inside the Tree Church was so wonderfully peaceful. There was an altar, a bell and a crucifix, but also pentagrams on the doors. I didn’t feel especially spiritual inside it, because I’m not a spiritual person, but I could tell that other people would. I felt that it would be a magical place to spend time writing in.

The Tree Church

If you fancy visiting this place, check out the Tree Church website.

The Tree Church

Photos from Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

The 2018 Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival has been fantastic. From Shirley Valentine performed in the Italian Renaissance Garden to A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed amongst the trees, I have loved every moment of it. Especially because I have had the privilege of performing in it myself.

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

One day, I was a fairy, flitting around getting photographs with children. One older boy tried to get smart with me, telling me he didn’t believe in fairies. Of course, I replied that every time someone says that, a fairy drops down dead. I expected him to laugh and repeat it, but instead he looked quite guilty and told me he’d chase away anyone who said it!

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

Another older boy threatened to hit me, so I told him (wisely or not) that fairies can only be harmed by iron, to which the boy replied, “There’s iron in my body!” Clever child, you must concede, so I leaned in and said, “I’d better not eat you then.”

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

One day, I was Marie Antoinette, promenading around with a fellow courtly lady. For the last half-hour or so, two little girls, attached themselves to us, so we taught them how to say, “Bonsoir, monsieur!”

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

One day, I was a flapper statue as part of the entertainment for the Katherine Mansfield Garden Party. Katherine Mansfield is New Zealand’s most celebrated author, who died at a tragically young age in the 1920s. The garden party had live jazz music and vintage stalls, and I got a photograph with a little girl who was rather apathetic towards my presence until she found out that we were both called Abby!

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

The Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival happens every year in February, so if you’re anywhere near the Waikato then, come and join in. I met a couple of British tourists there: I’d just slumped gratefully into a seat at the café when this bloke leaned over and said, “Shouldn’t you be standing still?” I told him I’d just finished “me” shift and he asked if I was travelling.

“No, me family immigrated ’ere when ah were a kid,” I said.

Yes, I was playing up my accent for the fun of it. I often do that. When a few older men started to get a bit handsy with me when I was the fairy, for example, I suddenly came out with a roguish Scouse accent that made it easier for me to fend off their actions and make my escape before anything happened. But I digress.

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

This British couple were surprised to hear that Hamilton is like New Zealand’s equivalent of Coventry, a city mercilessly mocked merely because it is. To them, Hamilton seemed like a beacon of culture. And it is! Enjoy the pictures and make sure you visit yourself one day.

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

Thank you to the Free Lunch Street Theatre Company, of which I am a part, for posing for these wonderful photos, taken by my partner, Tim.

Free Lunch Street Theatre Company

Ode to Another Bookshop

Hard to Find Bookshop

Sometimes, stepping into a secondhand bookshop is like stepping into a magical world. Such is the case with Hard to Find Books in Onehunga.

Hard to Find Bookshop

It’s a labyrinth. Mysterious staircases lead you into little nooks. Creepy faces follow you with their gaze. Intriguing objects entice you around corners and along balconies. And, of course, it’s crammed with books.

Hard to Find Bookshop

It’s a shop you could willingly get lost in. There are so many rooms of books it’s almost dizzying. I’m always afraid I won’t have enough time to explore every cranny. Hours are needed.

Hard to Find Bookshop

The walls are adorned with everything from a map of Middle-earth to a portrait of Virginia Woolf. Theatrical props and set pieces crouch between the shelves, including a throne decorated with skulls. Books frame an old-fashioned fireplace and lounge upon every stair. In the science fiction room, there’s what looks like a rocket from a 1950s TV show.

Hard to Find Bookshop

There are chairs in there, but more often than not you see people on the floor in a corner, in a nest built from books. Sometimes, I stand on the rickety mezzanine level and look down at the customers below. They all have that same sense of awe, wandering in a daze down the avenues of bookcases.

Hard to Find Bookshop

Hard to Find Books has to be one of the best secondhand bookshops in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the building it’s in is being sold, and it’s too much to hope that the new owners won’t increase the rent, forcing the shop to move. I sincerely hope, if it does move, that its new premises can be made just as magical as its current ones.

Hard to Find Bookshop

If anyone out there can point me in the direction of any other wonderful bookshops, please leave a comment below. I tend to make a beeline for them on my New Zealand campervan travels.

Hard to Find Bookshop