Sunday, July 29, 2007



Today I will post another page of my fabric book about "Devon House." This page shows just a few of the things that have been grown here, both past and present.

This page represents the time when I had an enormous herb garden, mainly in the area in front of Devon Cottage. At that time, we also had a row of shadehouses, initially built when we were setting out to establish a Vanilla industry. That is all in the past now, and has given way to the boys' enterprises.We do have a few vanilla plants still growing up near John's Joinery, but the only remaining evidence of the herb garden are the Fennel plants, including bronze fennel, which still refuse to give in! I have a few of the herbs in pots around the remaining half of one shadehouse, and of course, a few around Devon House. But at the time, I grew an enormous variety, interspersed with vegetables and cottage garden plants, all mainly growing in raised boxes.

Some of the things I grew were quite exotic and unusual, and I was continually challenged to try something new. Along with the plants, of course, came the beautiful books and herbals, and I just loved all the knew knowledge and herbal lore I gained.

I cannot say that I started using all sorts of unusual things in my cooking - my family would not have accepted that! Nor did I become weirdly "alternative" with strange concoctions and herbal remedies. I really just enjoyed the sensory pleasures of growing and handling the plants, and learning something of their history.
One of my favourite herb plants was Rue - the "Herb of Grace." The plant must like me too, because I still have a few bushes in the beds around Devon, all self-sown. Like the fennel, it really feels at home.

Rue is a very old plant. It was once used for sprinkling holy water in churches, and the story goes that the rue leaf is the shape on which the "Clubs" in a pack of playing cards is based. The fragrance is not particularly sweet, and it cannot be called a useful herb today. I would certainly not use it in cooking, and when asked, I liked to tell people it was useful for bringing on miscarriages! I am sure that it would have some antiseptic properties.

With all this plant material at hand, I was able to raise several hundred cuttings and seedlings each year to sell at our St Barnabas' Spring Fair. That gave me enormous pleasure. I also delighted in making herbal posies....there is nothing showy about herb flowers, but a mixed posy is the most delightful thing, very gentle and calming and eye-pleasing. Another great pleasure in my herb garden was 'showing' round people with visual disabilities. The fragrances and textural qualities of these plants more than made up for the inability to actually see them.

The picture above shows the bed in front of our verandah, showing the ever-faithful lavender, pineapple sage, and perennial statice. There is also some 'pink pearl' sage, which disappeared for a few years, then re-appeared by itself last year.

Bernie is not really a gardener, but he does know what he likes in a garden. He has a much better vision for the 'big picture' and the landscape generally. I am afraid he regards my 'method' of gardening as somewhat haphazard, disorderly and untidy. But for me, if a plant looks as if it has settled in happily into its spot, particularly if it has done so of its own accord, I will leave it there. If it both useful and beautiful, so much the better. I just cannot get rid of my old plant friends without a real sense of loss!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Paulette invited us to come and see her garden, while her Azalea bushes are in full bloom.

They are magnificent, as you can see!

Now Paulette is closer to nine decades than eight, but that has not diminished her zest for life, and her ability to keep a big beautiful garden, with lots of flowers. She still does her own mowing, too.

Paulette came to this island from Vanuatu as a young woman, and was quickly snaffled up by a local fellow, Cec Eastwood. In fact, the story goes that even when he was watching her being brought ashore from the ship, he declared "She's mine!" Sadly Cec passed away a few years ago.

Although French is her native language, Paulette has managed to play an excellent game of Scrabble until very recently. Now sadly, her failing eyesight has made this difficult, and it was very frustrating for her not to be able to participate. However, we have now found an excellent game called "Addictionary", which has much larger letter pieces, and Paulette is once again giving us a run for our money when we play on Thursdays.

Paulette is always 'up front.' And she told me off yesterday when I complained that the day before had been miserable, because it was so cold and overcast. She said it had been a perfect day for working out in the garden, and she had spent many hours out there!

While we were there yesterday, Bernie discovered a beautiful orchid in full flower ina corner of the garden. Being pale in colour, Paulette's eyes had missed it. So Bernie got a big kiss - always one on each cheek, French style, for Paulette.

Paulette - thank you for sharing your wonderful garden with us, and for reminding us that life is for living!

Paulete gives Bernie some grapefruit from her prolifically-bearing trees

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


It has been waiting in the wings for a while now, but today I have a few quiet moments to start sharing with you the fabric book I made about our home "Devon."

I know I have told you about "Devon" before, but for those who do not wish to go strolling back through the archives, it is a 7 acre property which has been in Bernie's family for five generations. It was left to us by his great-aunt Charlotte. Today it has 3 homes on it. Firstly there is our place "Devon." Then there is "Devon Cottage" which probably dates back to the war years, and is where Charlotte herself lived after she left her parents' home. Our son John now lives there. Finally there is "Devonside", which Charles built about 7 years ago behind us. The property is also the site of John's Joinery business, JCB Cabinets, and also Charles' Building Supply Centre. Truly it is a Christian-Bailey compound, but I know Bernie's great grandparents would be pleased and proud to know that it is still in the family, and is "humming" as a wonderful spot to live, and also a hive of industry.

In spite of everything that has been built here, there is still a great deal of garden and woodland and natural vegetation, and that is what I have focussed on in my little book.

The first picture, above, which has appeared in my blog before, shows the main homestead where we live. This is what it looks like today. About 11 years ago, before we ourselves moved in, there were major extensions and refurbishments, and we tried to avoid making them look like "additions". As on all the other pages, I have transferred images to silk, and then embellished around them.

The second picture shows the house as it was originally. It was, in fact, a typical New Zealand version of the Californian bungalow in the 1920's, and all the flooring is of "Matai", a New Zealand hardwood. Charlotte's brother Charles, who built the house, had spent some time working in New Zealand.

One feature of the old house which we would like to have carried on in the newer version were the shingles beneath the bay window. Never mind, the ever-resourceful Charles has used them beneath a bay window in front of "Devonside", in the spirit of the old homestead.
The third picture shows an outbuilding, which is very close to the back door of the house. It contains two rooms - the "old laundry" and another one called "the Nigel Room." (that is a story in itself.) We considered removing it when we did up the house, but Hunky, our builder advised against it. He told us that it was "genuine country character" and as such it was priceless. He was right.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


The second page I have done for the "Ancient Architecture" fabric book Round Robin features the Georgian architecture of Norfolk Island. The buildings associated with the penal settlement at Kingston would be, without a doubt, the finest and most unspoilt collection of Georgian buildings in the Southern hemisphere. They include the homes along "Quality Row", many still used as residences, but others now used as offices, museums and even a golf clubhouse. There is Government House perched on a hill, larger two and three storey buildings used for government, administration and judicial purposes, and the 3-4 storey Commissariat store which is now All Saints' Church. Some of the other structures are in various stages of "ruin", such as the water and windmills, the Salthouse and the Lime Kiln, and various prison buildings, but these are still well-maintained "as is", and the tall walls surrounding them all are still intact. Compared to, say, Port Arthur in Tasmania, the Kingston convict settlement area can only be described as magnificent and pristine.

Over many years, both the Norfolk Island and Australian governments have directed considerable resources to the restoration and preservation of this historic area, and an application to have it World Heritage listed is underway.

My page for Mary Anne has a background of stonework which I filmed with my digital camera and printed onto fabric. The typical Georgian window frame was created from Vilene, onto which I plastered thick acrylic paint. Visible through the panes is the Kingston vista, looking down towards the sea. The stamps are from a very lovely series that was produced a few years ago here.

There is something quite aesthetically pleasing about a Georgian building. There is a balance, a symmetry and an integrity about them. The style is classic and timeless.
However, living in one would be a different story. They do not adapt well to alteration or change. Nor do they take kindly to any attempt to embellish, modify or extend. While you may be able to change a doorway or two internally, the idea of changing or adding windows on the outside, and destroying that classic symmetry, is a definite no-no. The rooms are beautifully proportioned, and defy you to try and divide or extend them. They do not take kindly to an adventurous colour scheme, and stubbornly refuse to move with the times! If you have a Georgian building, then you must accept it as it is, and adapt your needs to suit the building, rather than the other way round!

Funnily enough, all this reminds me once again of holidays spent on the Isle of Sheppey as a child. I had an aunt who worked as a live-in maid/housekeeper for a rather aristocratic old lady who lived in one of a beautiful row of Georgian terraces in Marine Parade in Sheerness. I still remember those lovely deep sash windows in the front rooms, and the elegant staircase. When I went to stay with my auntie Nell, while my parents were packing for our move to Australia, I stayed up in one of the attic bedrooms. Aunt Nell lit a "nightlight" for me - a small candle something like a tealight - so that I would not be frightened of sleeping in a strange place. And in that part of my brain where sense of smell and memory are so closely linked, I can still smell the wax of that candle, and it makes me feel special and secure.
My final picture is a collection of plans and drawings of our Kingston buildings which I collected together, intending to use them for my fabric pages. But I was overly ambitious, and did not end up using any of them on this occasion! You just have to balance out the information, the techniques and the aesthetic aspects of these projects!

Sunday, July 15, 2007


If you were looking for a rather ridiculous sort of name for someone, you probably couldn't go past "Sexburga" or perhaps Etheldreda for a woman. Or for a man, how about Erconbert, and Egbert? If we go back to the 7th Century, these were real people, royalty no less, and I am going to tell you why I am interested in them.
This month, for the Fabric book Round Robin I am participating in, I needed to do two pages on the theme of Ancient Architecture. The owner of this month's book, Mary Ann in New Zealand, said she was happy for me to do Georgian architecture for one page - although it can hardly be called ancient. However, for the second page I thought I should work with something really old. I tossed around ideas such as the Great Wall, the Taj Mahal and Angkor Wat, but none of them seemed quite right.

So, believing that the best ideas are the ones that come from your own experience, I chose Minster Abbey. Now Minster Abbey is on the Isle of Sheppey, which is an island in the Thames Estuary in Kent, England. The island , large enough for a few townships, has a fascinating history, originally being called "The Isle of Sheep." It is now joined to the "mainland" by a long bridge. It is where my parents were born and lived up until their marriage, and I have many happy memories from early childhood of holidays there with grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.

But back to Sexburgha. She was the daughter of King Enna (or Anna) of Kent back in the 7th century AD, and had two sisters Aethelreda and Withburgha. All three sisters later became Saints. Sexburga's husband Erconberht later became King of Kent, and after his death, Sexburga became regent for four years before abdicating and handing the kingdom over to her son Ecberht (or Egbert.) She also abdicated from secular life, and established a Minster (or Monastery) on land given to her by her son in 664 AD. It is believed she headed a community of 77 nuns in this spot on the Isle of Sheppey, on one of the few elevated areas of a fairly flat island.

After a few years, Sexburga decided to go and join her sister Ethelreda, who had similarly founded an abbey at Ely in East Anglia, and became the Abbess there after her sister's death.
The picture above is the only pictorial representation of Queen Sexburgha, and is painted on a wall of the Willingham church at Ely. I love it, and can't wait to use it in a future creation!
Meanwhile Minster Abbey had a chequered story, undergoing many periods of destruction, neglect and re-building, at the hands of the Saxons, the Danes and the Normans. At one time it became part of a private estate of a gentleman, who proceeded to move the remains of several of his ancestors into the church!

Nevertheless, the attached Gatehouse is still much as it was in Saxon Days, while the church itself still has some traces of the original building, including some Roman tiles. The basic fabric of the present church building dates back to the 15th century.
Minster Abbey, also known as "The Abbey Church of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Sexburgha" has a claim to being one of the oldest churches in all of England, with Christian worship having been carried on here for over 13 centuries!!

My page shows an image of the church, printed onto water colour paper, and mounted onto a silk paper background. The foreground has also been produced with hand-dyed silk fibres. Now the border fabric is one I bought because I really liked it, and I think I have probably been waiting about 12-15 years for the right occasion to use it!!! The lace at the top is fairly old, and was purchased at an Antique store in Newcastle N.S.W.
The binding fabric, in the deeper plum shade, is from a piece that I hand-dyed some time ago. I found just a small strip that was the perfect length and width to use. That was after laboriously unpicking another piece of fabric that was just too slippery and shiny and quite unsuitable.
Below is a 19th century print that shows the Abbey church, with the very imposing old Gatehouse to the left. I am told that the Gatehouse has been kept in better and more original condition over the centuries because it has been continuously been occupied as a residence. Today it is used as a local Museum.
A small footnote....the present congregation of this old church have a wonderful website. However, they have been very careful to refer to it as "Minster Abbey" to avoid attracting Net users looking for Porn sites!

Monday, July 09, 2007

One of my most poignant memories is of my father singing a love song to my mother. It was at their Silver Wedding Anniversary, and he sang "When I grow too old to dream" to her. Sadly my father did not have the chance to grow old, as he died suddenly at the age of 52. I believe he died of a broken heart, because on the day he died, my mother was to be operated on for bowel cancer, and he was fearing the worst. That day, 31 years of happy marriage came to an end, but my mother recovered, and lived a further 28 years without her darling David.

If you ask what makes a happy marriage, everyone would probably give you a different answer. I do not believe there is a template for a successful relationship or partnership.

But after 37 years, I can tell you what a long and happy marriage means. To me, it is like a favourite armchair, comfortable and stable and familiar and warm. It is like a guide rope, leading you and steering you through life's stages, giving you a feeling of continuity and direction and being "on the right track". It is like a box of treasures, holding in its deep recesses not only a store of memories, but delights that are yet to be discovered and enjoyed together.

On Saturday, we had the joy of sharing in special celebrations of two lovely couples. In the afternoon, we gathered at the Guide Hall, where Nancy and Pete celebrated 6o very happy years of marriage. Nancy was born on Norfolk Island into an island family, and was fostered into another - so she has no shortage of relatives! And although she and Pete have lived in New Zealand for many decades, it was important for them to "come home" for this important occasion, and to be surrounded by loving and loved friends and family. And many of those family members had also made the trip from New Zealand to join in the celebration. What a beautiful example of family love and togetherness - there is no doubt that family is by far the most important institution known to mankind!

Special congratulatory messages are read from the Queen, the Governor-General of New Zealand, Prime Minister Helen Clarke and other MP's

You are never too old for romance and tenderness

Then in the evening, there was a special anniversary for Dr John and Josanne. John and Josanne have been calling Norfolk Island their second home for many years, and have made many special friends here. Two years ago, after 29 happy years, they decided to re-live their marriage ceremony and re-affirm their vows in the Chapel, followed by a special "wedding breakfast" at Branka House. And it was the second anniversary of that occasion that we celebrated on Saturday with a beautiful potluck dinner at Sheryl and Puds' place.

A toast to happiness and togetherness for John and Josanne

Thank you to our special angel of love Sheryl and her own beloved "Puds" for gathering us together to share in this warm and happy occasion.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

After showing you my collage which featured Guavas, I got to thinking about this wonderful fruit.

Guavas originate in Central and South America, but they have been growing on Norfolk Island for a long time. We love them .... and they seem to like being here too. Everyone would have at least a bush or two growing around the house. They grow along the roadsides. They grow in the paddocks, and they grow up in the forest. Not that anyone ever plants them much, except as a hedge sometimes. The birds do that for us, and although they are strictly speaking a weed, they are very much part of Nature's abundant bounty here on Norfolk Island.
On Norfolk Island, guavas are known as "Porpay". There are two main kinds here. The most common is the cherry guava - traditionally known as "blue porpay" here, in spite of its bright to deep red colour. Less common nowadays are the larger yellow ones, which grow on a larger tree rather than a bush. But Bernie has memories of stewed yellow guava as a pretty standard pudding in his boyhood. Up in our woodland, we have an enormous tree which bears small yellow guavas, more like the red ones in size. But it is so tall, we have never reached the fruit. But the tree has the most beautiful bark, smooth and golden. It is the sort of tree you really feel like "hugging."
Guava season can happen two or three times a year, and varies from year to year. And on the west side of the island it is up to a month later than the east! But whenever it happens, you will see people heading with their buckets up the mountain, where they grow prolifically. These will usually be turned into the famous "guava jelly", which is enjoyed by visitors and locals alike. Perfect topping for toast and scones! And simple to make.

Get your guavas, wash them and put them into your pan. The size will depend on how many you have gathered, but for my part, it usually involves one of the big "dixies" that used to belong to Bernie's mum.
Add some water, and cook until they are soft and mushy.
Now you must strain them. For the purists, this means putting them into a jelly bag or large cloth suspended between the legs of an upturned chair. The idea is to let the juice drip out over several hours into a container underneath. You are supposed to resist the temptation to squeeze, or your jelly will be cloudy. But I confess that most of us take shortcuts, often lining a colander with a teatowel, and giving the whole thing a stir or massage to help it along.
When you have your juice, you add equal amounts of sugar, a bit of lemon juice if you have it, and just boil it until it jells!! Enjoy!!
The enormous jar of jelly in the picture was a gift to us from Mildred. Her jelly is just wonderful!
There are plenty of other uses of course. If you cut them up, sprinkle with sugar and chill in the refrigerator for a while, you can then serve them with cream, and they will certainly taste better than the modern tasteless strawberries. They can be stewed, put into pies, and the puree makes a wonderful topping and flavouring. Guava ice is pretty good, and they make a great addition to fruit salad. I have even heard that a tea made from the leaves is good for arthritis, but that it tastes dreadful. But I do know they are extremely rich in Vitamin C.
Young Sienna is not interested in the recipes - she just goes and picks her fresh fruit straight off the bushes. Peter's dog Mitti also picks any she can reach - she loves them too!

We do not import any fresh fruit or vegetables into Norfolk Island, because of quarantine restrictions, so we just love our free supply of guavas !
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