30 March 2014

Mt Kaukau sunrise (sort of)

This morning's spur-of-the-moment hill-climbing expedition was up Mt Kaukau (445m) to try to catch the sunrise. When I left home it was still dark, so I took the soft option of approaching the summit from Sirsi Terrace in Broadmeadows rather than the full gut-buster hike from the Khandallah pools further down. I reached the summit at 7.15am with the sky a dark blue and the stiff northerly breeze whistling through the struts of the giant transmission tower, and settled down on the viewing platform to wait for what I hoped would be a decent sunrise. It may well have been a good sunrise somewhere, but from the vantage of Mt Kaukau it turned out to be somewhat lacklustre due to the low clouds skimming the summit and the tops of the Rimutaka Range, where the sun rises over the city. I waited until nearly 8am in the hope that the cloud cover would clear, to no avail. Still, there was a glimpse of clear air near the heads, which afforded a view of reddening skies over Pencarrow Lighthouse. I'll just have to try again and hope for clearer weather.

Cattle at Mt Kaukau summit, 7.14am



Northeast view, 7.59am

On the way back down, 8.13am
See also:
Blog: Brooklyn sunrise, 2 March 2014
Blog: Tinakori sunrise, 6 October 2013
Blog: Highbury sunrise, 11 February 2013

28 March 2014

There's always free cheddar in a mousetrap

Tom Waits' song God's Away On Business (co-written with his wife Kathleen Brennan), from his 2002 album Blood Money, also features on the closing credits of director Alex Gibney's 2005 documentary, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. The track is a rude burst of nightmarish energy that captures the film viewer's bubbling outrage at the shameless and amoral criminality of Enron's deceivers-in-chief. And the video features emus and stilts, so you can't go wrong, really.

See also:
Music: Tom Waits - Waltzing Matilda (live, Old Grey Whistle Test, 1977)
Music: Grinderman - Heathen Child (live, Later With Jools Holland, 2010)
MusicCookie Monster - God's Away On Business (mashup)

27 March 2014

League tables for lollipop ladies

It's out here in the countryside that I come up with some of my best ideas. Over there beneath the lightning tree I was caught in a freak storm. Of course, I immediately lay down in the field to make sure I was not the path of least resistance should lightning decide to strike. And it was there whilst spreadeagled in the field, beneath the rain, wet but warm and safe, that I came up with the idea of league tables for lollipop ladies.

On further investigation I was shocked to discover that anyone who is not a registered sex offender can become a lollipop lady. Even men. The only people who should be able to command a vehicle to stop should be the Army in times of national emergency and traffic lights - and yet we're handing this power over to people who are little more than retired dinner-ladies. It has to improve, or stop.

See also:
Comedy: 'I'm leaning towards Colossal Velocity', 18 March 2013 
Blog: Norwich, 19 February 2009

26 March 2014

Every Irish wedding ever

From RTE2's sketch show Republic of Telly, 2013:

Priest: 'We don't see you from one Sunday to the next, but as soon as there's a wedding everyone's religious!'

Waiter: 'May I take your drinks order?'
Yer man: 'Yeah, gimme two triple vodkas with a little bit of Coke'
Waiter: 'You have to pay for it'
Yer man: 'Wine. Wine's fine'

Dad: 'For the loife of me I don't see where 70 Euros went there on that meal'


See also:
Comedy: Republic of Telly - Limerick's biggest sins, 2 February 2014
Comedy: Fred MacAulay - The Troubles, 13 January 2013
Comedy: David O'Doherty, 5 May 2012

25 March 2014

Diversifying TV1's schedule

Wow, TV1 - I knew you were hunting for a younger demographic but I didn't realise you would go THAT far. (Picturing the pitch session: A Hollywood good-time-girl! With a heart of gold! Wins the lottery! She fights crime! High-fives all round.)

23 March 2014

The City - Becoming & Decaying

Today I took a relatively rare trip over to the Wairarapa for a first visit to Masterton's museum and gallery, Aratoi, for an exhibition of German photographers. Called 'The City - Becoming and Decaying', the exhibition is by members of Germany's Ostkreuz photo agency, and captures perspectives on urban life across the globe. Sponsored by the Goethe-Institut, which also does great work in supporting the Wellington Film Society, the exhibition runs for six weeks until 12 April 2014. It's a decent-sized collection of photography, and the gallery space is impressive given the size of the town. (It's a great counterpoint to the small Hedspace gallery behind the Hedley's bookshop in Masterton's main shopping street, where I saw the Sukita / Bowie exhibition in 2012).

Five favourite images from the exhibition (not online, sorry):

  • Jörg Brüggemann - Ushuaia series: Capturing the vibrant and diverse youth scene of the isolated corner of Argentina that stakes a claim to be the world's most southernmost city. (It's at 54° 48′ South - see map)
  • Pepa Hristova - Tokyo Electronic Town: Hristova's pictures of weird Akihabara cafe culture are typically interesting, but my favourite was a night-time portrait of a presumably wealthy Tokyo resident showing off his two enormous dogs on an Ebisu park bench. Where would he find the space to house them in one of the world's most crowded cities?
  • Dawin Meckel - Detroit: The expected signs of urban decay are present in Meckel's photos, but my favourite was the one of an elderly black gent with two-tone shoes, pausing momentarily to have his picture taken outside the Fox Theater en route to a concert. (The venue is soon to feature a Hendrix tribute night featuring Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang and Dweezil Zappa). 
  • Anne Schönharting - Auroville: Images of a planned spiritual settlement near Chennai in India that houses 2000 people, mostly Europeans and Indians, focusing on the golden sci-fi dome of the Matrimandir spiritual centre.
  • Thomas Meyer - Dubai: Exploring the ultra-planned, sterile streets of the Gulf entrepot, Meyer came across a shop selling only stuffed pink camel toys. A wonderfully surreal image. 
Aratoi is also worth a visit for its small exhibition on Wairarapa history, which is presumably a permanent feature.

See also:
Photography: Dark Cloud / White Light, 22 September 2013
Photography: Wildlife Photographer of the Year, 20 January 2013
Photography: World Press Photo 2012, 22 August 2012

22 March 2014

The Inimitable Thatcher

A recent book club assignment found me reading New Zealand author Jenny Pattrick's novel Skylark, a story of travelling theatricals and circus folk in colonial New Zealand. Pattrick is best known for her West Coast novel Denniston Rose, but I had not read any of her work before. Skylark proved both entertaining and interesting, with a lively writing style in the form of a Victorian stage melodrama including musical interludes, editorial commentary from a 21st-century archivist, and stories told from multiple perspectives.

Much of the background detail of particular performers at large in the colony is taken from real life - apart from Lily Alouette, the story's heroine. One of the incidental characters is the well-known performer Charles 'The Inimitable' Thatcher (1830-78), a purveyor of topical and satirical songs tailored to parochial local audiences. Performing with his wife, the singer Annie Vitelli, Thatcher toured New Zealand and Australia, delighting audiences with his nimble song-writing:

Thatcher depended for his success on topical, ephemeral, and regional balladry; he travelled around all the principal goldfields of Victoria and also undertook three tours of New Zealand. His wife, 'Madame Vitelli' as she was known on the stage, provided a contrast to his descriptive 'local' songs by singing popular, sentimental ballads. 
Thatcher was considered good looking, with his delicately moulded features, lank hair and moustache. He was known for his vivacity, wit and sparkling conversation. Although he tended to drink to excess, he was also 'susceptible to deep religious impressions'. He was a big man, a crack shot and ready with his fists.
One of Thatcher's 'locals' was quoted by the Nelson Examiner and New Zealand Chronicle of 20 June 1863, during Thatcher's second tour of New Zealand settlements. Entertainingly, the Nelsonian author appears unaware of the existence of the new settlement of Queenstown, which burst into existence on Lake Wakatipu following the discovery of gold in the Arrow River in 1862. The Rees referred to below is William Gilbert Rees, one of the first European settlers of the Wakatipu basin, and who is regarded as the founder of Queenstown when he converted his woolshed into the Queen's Arms hotel. The Yarra Bend referred to at the close is the famed Victorian lunatic asylum.
We have now before us the first number of "Thatcher's Lake Wakatipu Songster, containing many of the popular local songs as written and sung by him at the Theatre Royal, Queenstown." Our readers will naturally ask where Queenstown is, that boasts a Theatre Royal. We can only reply by saying, that we suppose it to be near Lake Wakatipu, in the Province of Otago, but a couple of Mr. Thatcher's stanzas, taken from one of his songs, styled, The Olden Days of Lake Wakatipu, will tell our readers all we know about it ourselves: 
Gold's a wonderful thing, what a change it can make,
Who'd have thought we should ever have come to this Lake?
Like magic there springs in a populous town,
And hundreds to get gold are here settling down.
Oh how it must knock off his perch, Mister Rees,
To see such a township and buildings like these!
When a few months ago he was here all alone,
And the fact of gold-fields near the Lake was unknown.  
Chorus—But just look around and you'll quickly behold,
The magical changes effected by gold
We keep shifting about, and a fellow's perplexed,
The question is, Where shall we have to rush next?  
Rees settled down here on this nice quiet station,
The Lake was a place then of calm desolation
He'd cross the Shotover his cattle to find,
But that nuggets were there never entered his mind.
His shepherds here daily unconsciously trod
Over tons of bright gold lying hid in the sod
And Rees drove in bullocks, and branded away,
Never thinking what money they'd fetch him some day.  
Chorus— But just look around, &c. 
No Queenstown was formed with its noisy hotels,
And no restaurants with their loud dinner bells
No Port Chalmers' boats could be seen on the Lake,
But the ducks had it all to themselves, no mistake!
No bellman here shouted as he walked along,
That Thatcher was going to sing a new song
If you told Thatcher then here his time he would spend,
He'd have thought you were booked for the fam'd Yarra Bend.  
Chorus— But just look around, &c.
I enjoyed reading Skylark, but my one gripe is that on my own account without the influence of my book club reading list I would never have read the book, due to its cover design. It's decked out like a romance novel, which is short-sighted marketing because it dissuades male readers from enjoying this deftly-crafted tale. Skylark has a love story at its core (a decidedly unconventional one, that is) but it is far from romance novel fare.

Books: Skylark review (spoilers)
BooksYossarian's liver, 16 October 2012 
BooksHokitika Town, 4 October 2011
History: A fire at Seacliff Lunatic Asylum, 20 April 2011

21 March 2014

Phoenix City

This evening's film viewing encompassed Paul Morrison's 2003 film Wondrous Oblivion, a story set in south London in 1960, in which David, an 11-year-old Jewish boy who's mad about cricket, befriends a Jamaican family who move in next door. The film deals effectively with the prejudice of the neighbourhood against the newcomers, and features likeable performances, particularly by Delroy Lindo as Dennis Samuels, the neighbour who teaches young David how to play the game he loves. It's a sweet tale, and can also be recommended because good films about cricket are so scarce - the only other one I've heard good things about is the 2010 West Indies cricket legends documentary, Fire in Babylon - but I've yet to see that one.

In one party scene, David's mum Ruth (Emily Woof) accompanies Dennis to a West Indian dancehall where a band is playing the ska classic Phoenix City by the Ska-talites. It's a bit of a liberty to include this instrumental in a film set in 1960, because the Ska-talites weren't formed until May 1964, but no matter - it's a great track. Phoenix City is sometimes credited to Roland Alphonso, a member of the group who formed Roland Alphonso & the Soul Vendors when the Ska-talites split up in 1965.

See also:
Music: The Who at Monterey Pop, 31 January 2014
Music: The Selecter - On My Radio, 17 January 2014
Cricket: 2nd T20I v West Indies, 16 January 2014

19 March 2014

Now God said to Noah "I don't want no sinnin'"

Having been to the movies a few times in recent weeks, I've been exposed several times to the trailer for a film I'm unlikely to see - the short for Darren Aronofsky's new Russell Crowe-featuring biblical epic, Noah. Perhaps it'll do really well, who knows. But whenever I see the trailer, featuring plenty of scenery chewing and CGI hokum, I can't help but picture it as one of the legendarily bad Hollywood 'event' films parodied as films-within-films in titles like State And Main ('Hey, did you see the grosses for Gandhi 2?') and the admittedly limp Simon Pegg vehicle How To Lose Friends and Alienate People. In the latter film from 2008, Megan Fox plays a budding starlet with a knack for deft self-promotion who is seen in full wimple in an award-grasping trailer for the fictitious Teresa: The Making of a Saint. Yes, Megan Fox as Mother Teresa - now you've seen everything. But is it more far-fetched than Hermione from the Harry Potter films turning up as Noah's ark-worthy daughter-in-law?

Thinking of Noah's biblical tale also puts me in mind of the shiny-toothed offerings of the New Main Street Singers from Christopher Guest's fond folk mockumentary, A Mighty Wind. Here they are summarising the tale of the Ark in a few pithy verses for your edification, in The Good Book Song, with Terry Bohner (John Michael Higgins) on ever-so-wholesome lead vocals:

In the film Terry explains his journey into folk by pointing out that 'there had been abuse in my family, but it was mostly musical in nature'; while his wife Laurie (Jane Lynch) sets out her character's stall with her brilliant comic prowess ('And I learned to play the ukulele in one of my last films, Not So Tiny Tim'). Her timing is - as ever - impeccable.

See also:
Movies: Jane Lynch & John Michael Higgins, A Mighty Wind (2003)
Music: The Folksmen - Start Me Up (live on Conan O'Brien)
Music: Mitch & Mickey - A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow (live, 76th Academy Awards)

17 March 2014

The death spiral of news

Instead of generating their own content, news sites increasingly exist to paraphrase something somebody else said, or generate ad revenue by attracting reader comments in much the same way a jam jar with holes punched in the lid collects wasps. Sadly for editors, in the future, researchers will discover these comments aren't being typed by real-world humans at all; they are in fact the agonised howlings of blighted souls trapped in a text-only dimension parallel to our own. Lacking any physical form, these lost and tormented spirits are unable to purchase any products and services, and are therefore useless to advertisers. The day after this revelation, what little money remains in the online newspaper industry drops out completely, leaving behind a powerful vacuum that sucks in two-thirds of the internet. All news sites shut down overnight and are replaced with pictures of dogs in sunglasses for idiots to chortle at. Columnists warn gravely of the effect this lack of access to current affairs will have on society, but none of the columnists have columns any more, so they're reduced to typing this grave warning on Twitter, where no one can hear them over the sound of themselves chortling at the dog photos, apart from their six or seven columnist mates, who desultorily retweet it among themselves a few times before putting their smartphone down and crying softly in front of a daytime repeat of Masterchef.

- Charlie Brooker, Guardian, 16 March 2014

16 March 2014

The finest theatre in Taumarunui

Regent Theatre detail, Taumarunui, 16.03.14

According to its website, the Regent Theatre in Taumarunui was opened for business in 1935. Built for the Imperial Picture Company, it has 340 seats in its auditorium, which reminds us of the far-reaching influence of cinema in the pre-TV days. The Regent could hold more than a tenth of the total population of the town - which was about 3000 when it opened. Papers Past lacks any news of what must have been a grand opening ceremony, but doubtless it was a big night for the country town on the main trunk line.

The only news reported for 1935 regarding the theatre building was the cowardly June robbery of the female proprietor of the Regent gown shop in the same building, Mrs Hanks. According to the Auckland Star of 1 July 1935 she was assaulted in a dark alley and robbed of the hefty sum of £11 after the shop had closed on a Friday night. The Star carried no further news of the robbery in 1935 or '36.

The Regent does not appear to be in regular use - perhaps it just operates over the summer months. The Imperial Picture Company, despite its grand name, was solely based in Taumarunui. Incorporated in 1913, it survived until 1988. A year after the Regent Theatre was founded, another noteworthy event occurred - the birth in the town of Trevor Rupe on 10 October 1936. Rupe later attained fame in New Zealand and Australia as the drag performer Carmen.

See also:
NZ: Old New Plymouth, 9 February 2014
NZ: The great fire of Raetihi, 11 January 2012
NZ: Hokitika Town, 4 October 2011

14 March 2014

I ain't talkin' no big deals

A road trip highlight from a compilation disc made in 2012 - here's John Mellencamp performing Hurts So Good at the Farm Aid benefit gig in Kentucky, October 1995. The original was the first track on his chart-topping 1982 LP, American Fool, which also features the classic Jack & Diane.

12 March 2014

Princely goings-on

My search for a prince to marry has suffered serious setbacks over the weekend with engagement rumours surrounding both Prince Harry and Prince Andrew.

Harry – always my safer bet thanks to anecdotal evidence that he’s an easily led-astray drunk – took girlfriend Cressida Bonas to a rugby game this weekend leading bookies to slash odds of a wedding announcement to 8/13. Cressida, who resembles a delicate baby fawnlet who buys its clothes at yacht shows, is perfect Firm fodder. Cressida has a 1960s’ “It” girl mother – Lady Mary-Gaye Georgiana Lorna Curzon, daughter of the sixth Earl Howe – plus a dashing half brother Jacobi Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, who is a polo-playing man about town.

Harry’s squeeze is exactly the sort of young lady over whom tea-towel manufacturers get a heart murmur, unlike Prince Andrew’s “friend”, the Croatian swimwear model Monika Jakisic, who is 20 years younger than Andrew and has a portfolio full of “arty” snaps of herself clad in knickers totally unsuited to the Balmoral chill.

- Grace Dent, Independent, 10 March 2014

[Prince Andrew later denied he was engaged to Ms Jakisic]

See also:
Blog: A new duke for an old title, 30 April 2011
Blog: Windsor Castle, 17 May 2010
BlogA royal garden party, 9 July 2008
BlogTrooping the Colour, 15 June 2008

11 March 2014

Festival 2014: Power Plant

On Sunday night I caught my one and only glimpse of the arts festival with a late-night visit to the Botanical Gardens to take in the Power Plant sound and light installation. Taking over most of the gardens, the exhibition comes alive after dark, and hundreds of Wellingtonians were out to enjoy the spectacle. It was the busiest I've ever seen the Cable Car terminal (the first time I've used the new, flashed-up top teminus) - more than a hundred were queuing patiently for their timed 10-minute entry slot. Mine was at 9.10pm - a late night for me these days!

The exhibition draws heavily on skilful use of neon lighting to create dazzling nocturnal imagery intertwined with the features of the gardens, but also injects sonic interplay with weird electric chimes, rhythmic drum machines, spinning gramophones playing peculiar objects and startling static bursts. Smoke generators are used to good effect, conjuring a spooky atmosphere worthy of Macbeth's witches, and when this is coupled with the multitude of unpredictable sound-scapes the gardens become a treasure trove for the imagination. It was a perfect, still evening when I visited, but I can imagine if the Wellington wind had been gusting the gardens might have been even spookier.

Power Plant was a great night out, and provided some lasting memories. Even still, I can't help but wonder if the children living in houses across Glenmore St from the gardens will be having some particularly inventive nightmares over these past few weeks, listening to all the ghostly sounds emerging from the dark.

The organisers asked for no photography (not just 'no flash') but I interpreted that liberally to mean the opposite, as long as I didn't get in anyone's way or disrupt things with light from the camera. Out of respect for the rules I'll only post one of the pictures I took: let that encourage you to take in Power Plant yourself if you're in Wellington. It closes on Sunday night (16 March).

See also:
Art: California Design, 2 October 2013
Art: NZ posters by young German artists, 30 June 2012
Art: Leonardo: not just for nuns, 24 February 2012

09 March 2014

Capital school dragon-boating

This afternoon Wellington's harbour was thronged with teams and spectators for the secondary schools dragon-boating competition. It was a perfect day, with hardly any wind. The two races I stayed to watch were the Girls C Grade Final and the Mixed B Grade Final; the former was won by St Catherine's (which I'd never heard of, but it's apparently a Catholic girls' college in Kilbirnie) and the latter by Hutt Valley High No.2. Looked like a fun day on the water.

St Margaret's, Christchurch

St Catherine's

St Catherine's, winners of the Girls C Grade Final

Five in the field for the Mixed B Grade Final 

HVH No.2, winners of the Mixed B Grade Final

Busy lagoon on a typical Wellington day
See also:
Wellington: Ciclovia Miramar, 17 February 2014
Wellington: Waitangi Day capital roadtrip, 6 February 2014
Wellington: Pencarrow Lighthouse, 20 January 2014

Famous Danish comedians

Sandi Toksvig: I do have to say, the Danes have a terrific dry sense of humour.

Jeremy Hardy: Are there any other Danish humorists Sandra, apart from you?

Sandi: There was Victor Borge...

Jeremy: Oh yeah! He was very funny.

Sandi: ...and then I run out.

- The News Quiz, BBC Radio 4, 7 March 2014

See also:
ComedyVictor Borge improvises Monti's Csárdás (1989)
Comedy: Fred MacAulay on the Troubles, 11 January 2013
Comedy: Jeremy Hardy on education, 22 April 2011

08 March 2014

Confirming our suspicions about Queenstowners

A Queenstown man withdrew $1000 from a Queenstown Airport cash machine only to become distracted and forget to take the cash.

Senior Constable Chris Blackford said an unknown person then took the cash. The incident happened at 11am on Wednesday. He said CCTV footage was being reviewed to identify whoever took the cash.

- Otago Daily Times, 7 March 2014

Queenstown 16.08.06, from a skiing trip to Cardrona
See also:
NZ: Old New Plymouth, 9 February 2014
NZ: Best NZ provincial news item ever, 19 November 2013
NZ: Canny vandals take note, 27 August 2013

07 March 2014

'Do you know how popular I am?'

There's this obscure, little-known movie you might have heard of called The Breakfast Club, which naturally I had never seen until this evening. (Test me - I've actually seen almost no movies ever). I was hoping to glean a suitable 80s gem from the soundtrack for a Friday night music post, but as it happens aside from the ubiquitous hit Don't You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds, the soundtrack is almost entirely forgettable. Instead, let's relish some relatively amusing acting as the gang hoe into bad-boy Johnny's dope stash, with Anthony Michael Hall hamming it up massively, Molly Ringwald fairly bursting with smug self-satisfaction, and Judd Nelson thankfully shutting the hell up for the most part and just looking rather like a 24-and-a-half year old rather creepily hanging around with a bunch of teenagers. (Nelson was born in 1959 and is currently aged 54!). It's a fine and dandy slice of entertainment, but surely most right-thinking individuals would be of the opinion that Ally Sheedy looked way more interesting throughout the film before she got all dolled-up at the end?

See also:
Movies: The Breakfast Club dance scene (reversed for some reason)
Music: Oingo Boingo - Wild Sex (In The Working Class) (from 16 Candles)
Music: OMD - If You Leave (from Pretty in Pink)

06 March 2014

'I cannot say much for this monarch’s sense'

Henry VI
I cannot say much for this monarch’s sense. Nor would I if I could, for he was a Lancastrian. I suppose you know all about the wars between him and the duke of York, who was of the right side; if you do not, you had better read some other history, for I shall not be very diffuse in this, meaning by it only to vent my spleen against, and show my hatred to, all those people whose parties or principles do not suit with mine, and not to give information. This king married Margaret of Anjou, a woman whose distresses and misfortunes were so great as almost to make me, who hates her, pity her. It was in this reign that Joan of Arc lived and made such a row among the English. They should not have burned her—but they did. There were several battles between the Yorkists and Lancastrians, in which the former (as they ought) usually conquered. At length they were entirely overcome; the king was murdered—the queen was sent home—and Edward IV ascended the throne.

- Jane Austen (aged 15), 'The History of England from the Reign of Henry IV to the Death of Charles I', 1791, quoted in Lapham's Quarterly.

The Lapham article states that the young Hampshire-residing Miss Austen was engaged in the act of parody, lampooning the style of the Irish writer and poet Oliver Goldsmith's history of England. Goldsmith, who died in 1774 and is perhaps most famous for penning The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) and She Stoops To Conquer (1771), and for being a friend of Dr Johnson, is only mentioned in the Times twice in 1791. Both mentions are for the same advertisement: a new edition of his work -

This Day is published,
With the Portrait of the Author, finely engraved,
Handsomely printed in Two Volumes, Crown 8vo, price 6s.
in boards, 
A New Edition. 
With an Account of the Life and Writings of the Author.
London: Printed for Rivington and Sons, F. Power and Co. and E. Newbery, St Paul's Churchyard; T. Cadell, St and W. Lowndes and J. Murray, in Fleet-street; and Debrett, Piccadilly. 
- The Times, 15 August 1791, p.2
Note: '8vo' = Octavo - producing leaves of a book by printing 16 pages on a single sheet and folding three times. The M.B. refers to Goldsmith's three years studying medicine at Edinburgh, but his formal qualification was a B.A. from Trinity.

See also:
History: 'The Club' (Founded by Johnson & Reynolds, et al., 1764)
History: 'The Other Club' (Founded by Churchill, 1911)

04 March 2014

The reputation of Queen Aelfthryth

From a biography of her husband, King Edgar the Peaceable (r.959-975), a discussion of how Queen Aelfthryth of England really got on the wrong side of the clergy, and how they attacked her name and reputation in response:
Queens could now exercise patronage, and in Aelfthryth's case this was formally promulgated in the Regularis Concordia. This put the queen at the king's side, with joint rule over monasteries and nunneries. The queen was expected to live up to the ideas of the reformers, and was seen less as a lay woman and closer to the status of a religious woman because of her anointing. But the queen's involvement, after the death of Edgar, in the murder of her stepson Edward at Corfe, while he was on a visit to see her and her young son Aethelred, laid her reputation open to attack as the obvious hate-figure of the evil stepmother. To this was added the allegations of resentful abbesses who objected to their being expected to conform to the standards of the new monasticism and to the subsequent loss of estates, which became the communal property of their house ... 
The Liber Eliensis contains an astonishing attack on the queen's reputation. She is accused of witchcraft and lewd behaviour and of an attempt to seduce Abbot Byrhtnoth. He died around 996-999 and Aelfthryth at about the same time or a little later. The Ely record accuses her of his murder because he would not accede to her demands. She is said to have plunged red-hot knives into his chest through the armpits, yet when his body was recovered by the monks it bore no sign of any injury. The cause of death must surely have been a heart attack! They also bring up allegations that she 'openly trapped by all her trickeries and unlawfully killed' her stepson, the martyr Edward. The whole thing is a farrago of monastic misogyny. 
- Peter Rex, Edgar, King of the English 959-75, Stroud, Gloucs, 2007, p.154.
Edgar is regarded by historians as being the first ruler of a united English kingdom.

See also:
History: The break of gauge, 14 January 2014
History: A sunny day on Dartmoor, 29 April 2011
History: Treasures of Mercia, 17 December 2009

02 March 2014

Brooklyn sunrise

I woke up early this morning, and as it was a nice clear day I decided to revisit my regular weekend morning walk from Highbury to the Brooklyn wind turbine to see the sunrise. Got there right on time, and it was a perfect scene. It just goes to show that if you're on one of the early morning flights from Wellington to Australia it pays to sit in a starboard window seat to take in the view. Bring sunglasses though. (Click photos to enlarge).





p.s. This is my 100th 'Wellington' post!

See also:
Photos: Tinakori sunrise, 6 October 2013
PhotosThorndon fair, 1 December 2014
PhotosMisty morning at the wind turbine, 16 December 2011