princess-margaret-weddingFrom Ngaire’s journal, 6th May 1960
Princess Margaret’s wedding day. When we passed through the Square this evening the Cathedral bells were pealing merrily. Gerald and I went in to the Student’s Revue which we thoroughly enjoyed. We arrived home in time to hear Princess Margaret and her husband Antony Armstrong Jones leaving Westminster Abby.

Princess Margaret’s beautiful dress, described by Life as ‘the simplest royal wedding gown in history’ and by Vogue as ‘stunningly tailored’ caused quite a stir. It was designed by Norman Hartnell, who clearly knew all that is worth knowing about necklines.

Any brides contemplating a dress that requires the use of adhesive tape take note. Do I sound like Ngaire?

PS The Student’s Revue seems to have been less lavatorial than usual, perhaps in deference to the Royal Wedding.


The Usual Dash of Sex

From Ngaire’s journal, 30th April 1955
I have been learning how to use the new sewing machine. This evening we went to the Student’s Revue at the ‘Civic’,  which was very good with the usual dash of sex.’

I love this journal entry, but it’s not my favourite. That would be this one:

5th May 1961
Gerald and I have been to the Revue. It was the usual lavatorial sex show.’

Obviously a dash of sex wasn’t enough to put Ngaire off.

Scenes from Univ. of Canterbury recruitment film 1964

Once I read this, of course I was desperate to know more about the Student Revues, but I haven’t had much luck. What I have found though, is a promotional film made for the University of Canterbury in 1964.

The film (an indulgent 32 minutes)  includes wonderful footage of Christchurch and Canterbury, including of Christchurch airport (which brought back many memories for me).

And then there’s the students, fabulously dressed (look out for the rather formal law tute) and on the cusp of a new era.

Scenes from Univ. of Canterbury recruitment film 1964

There’s an academic procession through the city (and a less formal procession through the river Avon) but absolutely no mention of a lavatorial sex show. Which is a shame really.

Finally, just goes to show that nothing was sacred, here’s Ngaire’s report on the Revue of 1957:

4th May, 1957
This evening Gerald, Warwick and I went to the Student’s Revue. The theme was the South Pole, which was lost in Cathedral Square. The statues of Godley, Captain Cook (Cock) and Captain Scott (Scoot) were the chief ‘stars’.

As Ngaire once wrote, ‘we are not very narrow minded, but…


The photographs on this post are stills from the promotional film mentioned. The film was been posted on YouTube by the University of Canterbury.



The Remembering

Clockwise from top left. Ray Simpson &  my mother Carol Mottram, Ray, Carol & girlfriend Helen, Godley Statue, Ben Mottram, family picnic pre WWII (Ray second from left), Godley Statue from Cathedral spire (1963)

Clockwise from top left. Ray Simpson & my mother Carol Mottram, Ray, Carol & girlfriend Helen, Godley Statue, Ben Mottram, family picnic pre WWII (Ray second from left), Godley Statue from Cathedral spire (1963)

From Ngaire’s journal, 25th April, 1957
‘Warwick went to the Memorial Service at Christ’s College and planted poppies for Ray and Ben in the memorial plot by the Godley Statue. This afternoon I helped Gerald and the men with the picking.’

Reading through Ngaire’s journals is often an unsettling experience. The years fly past, and regular anniversaries seem to come faster and faster. 1957 marked the 15th anniversary of Ray’s death in North Africa.  I can imagine that keeping busy in the orchard would have helped that day, as she remembered ‘my little brother Ray.’

Placing poppies in the Godley Plot was an annual ritual – one for Ray and one for Gerald’s brother Ben, who had a short life due to injuries sustained in WWI. Assuming this was a Christchurch tradition, I expected to find something about it online, perhaps some photographs of poppies around the statue, but there is no mention of it (it’s odd, isn’t it, how we both distrust what we read online, and doubt the validity of what isn’t there). I’d love to hear from anyone who remembers their family placing poppies in the plot.

I  hope my grandparents knew that we would carry on the remembering – I think they did. What they probably couldn’t have imagined was a world where we could lay a poppy at a distance, via the internet. I have found both Ray and Ben’s war records on the Auckland War Memorial’s online cenotaph, and the process of adding a poppy feels  more substantial, and more moving, than I would have thought.

More on this story:
Ray Simpson
Ben Mottram
Post: Anzac Day
Post: Letters from the Front
Post: Outbreak of War

Photographs of the Godley Statue found on the Christchurch libraries site.





On a Roll

Harrison farm by Menzies Gibb

Harrison farm by Menzies Gibb

My grandmother Ngaire was related to the Harrisons of Christchurch in all sorts of complicated ways. With twenty-three children in the Harrison family, it was probably hard not to be related to them.

The Harrisons’ house ended up on Francis Avenue when their farm was subdivided around 1910, and a number of the children built in the street as they married and left home. William Menzies GIbb’s painting ‘A bit of old Christchurch’ is of the original house, with the Port Hills in the distance.

Choc Roll Pudding2Gertrude Harrison (who is said to have commissioned the painting) was married off to Ngaire’s father after the death of his first wife, and while she proved to be a less than tolerant stepmother, she was a wonderful cook. Given this I’m sorry that I had no success with her Chocolate Roll, but I have had more luck today with her sister Ollie’s Never Fail Sponge. I’m not sure if that would please Gert or not!

I added a generous quantity of good cocoa to Ollie’s recipe and turned it into a roll. The result was not quite the light-as air sponge I was hoping for, but an even better pavlova-meets-cake concoction with a chocolate fudge centre. As good as this is, I’d still like to master a proper chocolate sponge roll – I’ll just wait for our cholesterol levels to settle down.

The daunting Harrison sisters (1950s)

The daunting Harrison sisters (1950s)

Ollie Harrison’s Never-Fail Sponge (turned into a chocolate roll)

3 eggs, ½ teaspoon bicarb. soda, 1 small cup of castor sugar, 1 large cup of flour, 2 large tablespoons cocoa, 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Beat eggs well. Add bicarb. and beat well. Add sugar and beat for 3 minutes.
Add sifted flour, cocoa and cream of tartar and mix through.
Bake in greased and lined lamington or slice tray at 180º for 10 – 15 minutes.
Turn out onto sugared grease-proof paper and roll up in the paper while still warm.
When just cool, gently unroll and fill with strawberries and cream then roll up again. Dust with cocoa and icing sugar.

Something Special

From Ngaire’s journal, 24th September 1953
This afternoon a class of students from Lincoln College came for instruction from Gerald. I served afternoon tea which they apparently enjoyed. I had made scones, sausage rolls, chocolate eclairs etc.’

choc roll2My grandfather Gerald had a long association with Lincoln Agricultural College.  The college was quite close by, and Gerald was a member (and President for a period) of the NZ Fruitgrowers Federation. Although he came to agricultural life somewhat by accident, and not entirely by choice, he was serious and very knowledgeable about orchard life.

Lincoln College Woolclassing school 1958

Lincoln College Woolclassing school 1958

Students visiting Prestons Road might have learnt about grafting techniques or perhaps new varieties, but however fascinating those visits were, I suspect afternoon tea was the highlight  – especially if it included ‘chocolate eclairs, etcetera’. Ngaire seemed to think the vast majority of men were under-fed, and would have seen students as an especially needy group.

Gert Simpson's Chocolate Roll

Gert Simpson’s Chocolate Roll

Anyway, today as promised I made Something Special to mark Ngarie’s birthday. Gert’s Chocolate Roll (Gert being Ngaire’s stepmother), with no etcetera required.

The result – OK, but not fabulous. The family demolished it of course, but I thought it was a bit ‘cakey’ so back to the drawing board. There’s another recipe in Ngaire’s book which I’ll try out tomorrow.

And a final aside. My father Stan attended Lincoln College as a woolclassing student during his 1957/58 wife-finding tour of New Zealand. He’s on the far left in the front row of the graduating class photograph, having set the auto-timer on his Voigtländer and raced back into position.


The Hello and Goodbye Place

Christchurch Aiport terminal

Christchurch International Airport, C 1960
Source: Christchurch City Libraries

22 February,  1960
Opening of the new Christchurch Airport terminal, designed by Paul Pascoe.

CCF11102009_00020 - Copy

Leaving Christchurch with my parents and brother Nigel, 1965

Yesterday, February 22nd, was the third anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake. As is always the case with these sort of milestones, the time frame is hard to comprehend — it seems much more recent and far more distant all at once.

Airport departures

From Christchurch to Melbourne, 1960s

Coincidentally, February 22nd was also the date the new Christchurch airport terminal opened in 1960. The terminal building, designed by Christchurch-born architect Paul Pascoe, is a timely reminder of the very modern face of New Zealand design. While the building has now been replaced — its sleek and much-needed replacement opened last year — photographs reveal a design that reflected the confidence, optimism and glamour of the time.

My memories of the Christchurch airport are tied up entirely with my grandparents. Of finally seeing Granny after a year or more, and of saying goodbye again. In those innocent days, when passengers and those farewelling them wandered out to the tarmac, I could cling to her legs until the very last minute.

A Very Hot Day

From Ngaire’s journal, 9th February 1949
‘Another very hot day. There was a sharp earthquake at 5.30 am and Mt Ngauruhoe is in eruption. I bottled plums and made jam, and went to choir practice in the evening.’

Mt Ngauruhoe postcardI must say that my first inclination on a very hot day – and we’ve had more than our fair share lately – is not to crank up the bottling or make jam. Not that bottling is something that can generally wait. I remember as a teenager (not desperate to help) that cases of fruit always seemed to appear on the hottest days. Mum had the Vacola set up in the laundry, which was outside, but I’m not sure how much difference that made. Warracknabeal in February is hot, and before we had air-conditioning installed in the late 1970s we relied on a portable evaporative cooler, sometimes with a huge block of ice perched on a stool in front. Of course, in 1949 Ngaire wouldn’t have had anything remotely advanced in the way of cooling, especially in Christchurch where the summers are generally much milder. I don’t imagine she would have lowered her dress standards too much either, no matter what the temperature.

While I’m keen to walk in Ngaire’s footsteps, I really couldn’t be bothered bottling today and since I didn’t have any fruit waiting to be dealt with I made a pudding involving plum jam instead. Homemade jam of course, though not by me. Thanks Andrea Webster!

Baked Cinnamon Crumb Pudding

Cinnamon Crumb PuddingBase: 2 oz (60 g) butter, ¾  cup sugar,  1 egg, 1 ¾  cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1 tbsp cinnamon,  ½  tsp salt, ¾ cup milk, ½ tsp lemon essence

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and beat well.
Sift in flour and other dry ingredients.
Add milk and lemon essence and mix well.
Turn into well-buttered and floured baking dish then make topping.

Cinnamon Crumb Pudding 2Topping: Rub 1 tbsp butter into 1 tbsp cinnamon and ½ cup sugar. Sprinkle over the cake mixture.
Bake at 180° for approx. 30 mins.

Sauce: Combine 6 good tbsp jam with 1 cup of water and heat. Allow to reduce until thickened but still easy to pour.
Pour the sauce over the warm cake, reserving some for serving.
Serve with cream or ice cream then have a nice lie down and congratulate yourself on having cooked anything at all on such a hot day.

Postcard found at Skufan Postcards.

Today we Saw the Queen of England

From Ngaire’s journal, 19th January, 1954

Queen visits ChCh 1954“We arose at 5am, breakfasted and left Akaroa at 6.45am arriving in Christchurch at 8.30am. I had packed sandwiches and pies on Monday evening and filled Thermos flasks with hot tea tea this morning so we were well prepared…
At 11.45 we all had lunch and settled down to wait. Carol and I did a lot of knitting. I am afraid the men folk were very bored.
At 2.45pm everyone became excited, and 5 minutes later, preceded by police and other cars, the Queen and the Duke passed by in their black Daimler car. It was all so sudden, they went by in a moment, that we were rather disappointed and settled down to wait for another 1 ½ hours.
At 4.10 pm cheers were heard again and along came the Queen and the Duke again, this time more slowly so that we had a better look. The Queen was beautiful and the Duke handsome. They were followed by cinema cars taking movies.  It was all over and we had seen Royalty.
We had some “Thermos” tea and sandwiches on some lawn beside the footpath and then journeyed 53 miles back to Akaroa. Carol and Warwick had bacon, eggs and tomatoes as they were hungry.
We all retired to bed, extremely tired but very happy, because for about 1 ½ minutes we had set our eyes on the Queen and the Duke.”

Only a Genius

From Ngaire’s journal, 15th August, 1949
The children and I went to the Industries Fair after having coffee and crumpets at the Sante Fe for a quick lunch.
The most interesting display was “Pixie Town” – hand made puppets which only a genius could make.  One show was of a school, another of a band, a ship building yard and a pleasure boat, only to mention a few and they all worked by electricity!”

1949 New Zealand Industries fair, Christchurch

First Day Cover: 1949 New Zealand Industries Fair, Christchurch

This entry sent me searching for my collection of New Zealand First Day Covers – I was sure there would have been one for the Industries Fair.  I was right, but my filing system let me down and I had to resort to the internet (powered by the magic of electricity) for an image.  I also spent some time on the web (genius!) looking for evidence of the Sante (or Santa) Fe Cafe in Christchurch.  I had no luck, but did come across Gwenda Turner’s beautiful book on the city which has been re-released since the 2011 earthquake.

By the way, the image used is from this New Zealand  First Day cover site.

Sure to be Better

From Ngaire’s journal, 23rd June 1960
Went to town and shopped. Bought ‘Mysterie’ stockings for Carol as they wear better than the Australian ones.”

Edmonds Factory, Christchurch

Edmonds Factory, Christchurch

I grew up certain in the knowledge that, while Australia was a very nice place with excellent shops, New Zealand-made products were vastly superior. This applied particularly to baking powder. No visiting relative every crossed the Tasman without several boxes of New Zealand-made white powder stashed in their suitcase. They were innocent times.

Edmonds Book

I still use Edmond’s Baking Powder (couriered by friends and relatives) and am as biased as my grandmother and mother. It always works, comes in great packaging and has no metallic after-taste.

Like Ngaire, I don’t use self-raising flour either — instead I add a teaspoon of baking powder to every cup of plain flour.

Ngaire's recipe book - Lemon Honey and Baking Powder

Ngaire’s Baking Powder Recipe

Edmonds baking powder is available in Australia from various online stores, including the Kiwi Shop.  Alternatively, if you’re really keen, you can make your own (but you really should use Edmonds ingredients).

Baking Powder

1 lb (450 gms) Cream of Tartar
1/2 lb (225 gms) Baking Soda
2 tbsp flour

Sift 5 times and store in an airtight container.