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.



Pears Go With…

From Ngaire’s Journal
1st March, 1956
Made pear ginger and pear sauce and bottled 10 quart jars of pears. Carol went to Phyllis’ millinery class this evening.’
2nd March, 1964

Bottled pears (Bon Chretien), made plum jam, baked.’
4th March 1951
Bottled pears. This evening went to the Annual Meeting of the Young Marrieds Group.’

Cooking with pearsInspired by a new season (I love Autumn – beautiful days, crisp evenings, the promise of boots and scarves…), and spurred on by my friend Sas’s return to blogging (you’ll find her at oneequalstwo), I have decided it is time for my first post of 2105.

The crate of pears in the laundry prompted me too. Dad delivered them the other day, picked from the trees my partner and I planted along the corrugated iron wall of the shearing shed. We’ve been surprised at how well they’ve done – the ground is stoney and the iron gets very hot in summer, but they’ve thrived. Dad’s kept a close eye on them of course, and kept up the water all summer, so we’ve had a fabulous crop.

Old Delhi marketsI was going to bottle them, but I waited a day too long and they were a bit ripe, so instead I stewed some for breakfasts and turned the rest into sweet treats for the long weekend.

Pears go with chocolate like a Young Marrieds Group goes with 1951, so I made an old favourite that we call Capricious Pear Pudding (a name I’ll explain in another post – it’s a long story) and a Chocolate Pear Tart. The subtle sweetness of pears seems to call for spices – cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and cardamon all work well. We’ve recently returned from a trip to India, and in Delhi, where we stayed at the  lovely Devna B & B, our host David took us into the old town, including to Paranthe Wali Gali (yum!) and the spice markets. This afternoon I cooked my pears with some of the saffron and cinnamon we bought there. They’ll make a perfect Autumn breakfast – porridge with stewed fruit, toasted almonds and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

PS Banana Paranthe would make a perfect breakfast too  – I’m on the hunt for a recipe, though it will never taste as good as in Delhi.




Where Ngaire and Gerald return from their Tour of Europe,
the National Party is re-elected
and Ngaire celebrates her birthday.

From Ngaire’s and Gerald’s travel letters

21st September 1958, from RMS ‘Strathmore’
We arrived at Bombay at 12.30 pm and went ashore at 2.45 pm when we commenced the Bus Tour organised by the British Women’s League of Mercy (£1 each)…The heat was slightly more bearable that that of Aden.
The Taj Mahal Hotel is a tremendous establishment…
In the centre of a public square were the Men’s conveniences, shielded only by a trellis fence – one better than Paris…
The Hanging Gardens were beautiful…

StrathmoreWe passed the Tower of Silence and saw the huge vultures…
There were men selling beautiful crochet cloths of all sizes…
We passed the Laundry where all the citizens send their washing. Men stood in the water and beat the clothing against concrete slabs. How on earth anything comes out white is a mystery, but our courier assured us that she sends her sheets and pillowcases there and they are returned washed and ironed, beautifully – 1/6 for a week’s wash.

Further along we heard some cheering and musical instruments and found a bridal procession. The bridegroom was arrayed in glittering gold and flowers…He was being led along the main street by his friends and followers, to the home of the bride.

Ngaire's 21st

Ngaire on her 21st birthday (1927)

23rd September 1958
At 1.15pm we passed the ‘Stratheden’ sailing northwards. Poor things. They have to pass through the Red Sea.
The SW coast of India seems to be covered with jungle and very seldom is a house seen.
We are due to arrive at Colombo at 6am; the pilot is to come aboard at 4.30 am. We have bought tickets for a tour, so should see a little more of the Mystic East.

Thank you so much for your birthday greetings. Daddy has given me some beautiful pearls and I am very thrilled.
My cotton frocks are getting a good wearing and washing so I suppose I shall need some new ones for home.

We haven’t entered the Deck Games on this ship. There is no Deck Golf and I am hopeless at the other games.”

I’ve been jolted into blogging action by Ngaire’s birthday (she would be 108 tomorrow), and the return of the NZ National Party. My very one-eyed grandmother would have approved (she even linked Labor with a shortage of nice dressmaking fabrics at one stage).

Tomorrow I’ll bake something suitable in her honour, or perhaps just iron the pillowslips.

For the Glory

From Ngaire’s journal, 20th June 1959
I have finished a white satin ‘nightie’ for Carol’s box. I have made a yoke of point lace design, joining the satin flowers and leaves with the piping.”

The assembly of my mother’s glory box kept Ngaire occupied for years.  She sewed aprons, oven mitts and night dresses, embroidered place mats, doilies and napkins, and produced at least one tapestry teapot holder.  What she didn’t make she shopped for — mainly at Ballantynes of course. (For those of you not from Christchurch, Ballantynes is a very smart — Ngaire would have said superior — department store.)



The collecting started when my mother was in her teens, and by the time my parents married in 1959, the carved camphor wood chest was overflowing.  Along with their wedding presents, it was shipped across the Tasman to Melbourne where customs officials unpacked it and lined the contents up along Station Pier for inspection.

The chest still sits at the foot of my parents’ bed.

The Joy of Industry

From Ngaire’s journal, 4th October, 1952 (following the Durham Street Methodist Church Fête)
I have never seen such a wonderful cake and delicatessen stall (as the one) which was run by the Fireside Circle. The Women’s Guild was in charge of the Work Stall and the Men’s Fellowship had the toys etc. There was a nail driving competition. Harold Skelton had a large chopping block into which people drove nails at a charge of 6d. Arnold Heath won with 2 strokes. Warwick and Ray Barrill were equal 1st in the hobby display. They made Meccano models and won an ever-sharp pencil each.”

6th October 1954
I went to the Guild meeting and Mrs. Watson demonstrated making floor mops from skeins of wool.”

Having spent a few hours trailing around a shopping centre this morning, I feel the need to make something (though not necessarily a mop) but first I’m going to chase my 13 year-old off the computer and into his Meccano.  Or maybe I’ll set up a nail-driving competition in the back yard.

Have a lovely weekend.

Happy Birthday Ngaire

From Ngaire’s journal, 23rd September 1950
My 45th birthday – dear me.
It has been a beautiful day – at Church we had the Spring Festival where the Sanctuary was beautifully decorated with blossom.
Gerald and the children presented me with a beautiful cameo brooch, Phyllis gave me a lovely blue silk lock-knit underslip and Mother a set of biscuit forcers.”

For the Want of…

From Ngaire’s journal, 12th August 1959
Did some shopping. Trailed the town to match material but without success. This Labour Govt. needs to be voted out.”

Honestly, was it really too much to expect that the shops would carry a decent range of matching accessories? After all,  in 1959 New Zealand was being led by Walter Nash who, prior to becoming Prime Minister, had run a tailoring business and been a wool and cloth salesman. You’d think he’d have had some idea.

Of course, four months out from her only daughter’s wedding, Ngaire may not have been at her most forgiving. In the end, in typical Ngaire style, she decided that the issue was one of exclusivity.

17th September, 1959
The material I have bought to wear at Carol’s wedding is so exclusive that I cannot get anything to match it. I have had shoes and handbag dyed.”

Time Poor

From Ngaire’s journal, 24th July 1952
Today I thoroughly cleaned the kitchen and bathroom and Gerald painted the saucepan cupboard.”

I wish I had time to thoroughly clean the kitchen and bathroom. With that sort of time on my hands I could finish sewing the dress I cut out last winter, crochet some more squares for the afghan rug I’m making with a group of friends, trawl the streets for discarded wooden pallets to build boxes for the vegetable garden I’ve been planning forever or…go to bed and read my book in time for book club.

The truth is I seem to have lost the art of being idle (damn that Protestant work ethic) so, finding myself with a couple of spare hours, decide to make Cousin Dorrie’s marmalade.

Dorrie Coe was Ngaire’s first cousin on her father’s side (and later, also her step-first cousin on her step-mother’s side, but that’s another, convoluted story). Dorrie and her sister Vera were both accomplished cooks, and their recipes appear throughout Ngaire’s book. Anyway, Dorrie’s marmalade recipe calls for four Poorman oranges which, outside of Ruth Park’s novel Poorman’s Orange, I’ve never heard of. As it turns out there’s a link.

The Poorman orange is also known as ‘New Zealand Grapefruit’, and although we claim Ruth Park as an Australian, she was born in Auckland, NZ. Poorman oranges (which are probably a pomelo hybrid) are thought to have been brought to Australia from Shanghai in the early 1800s, and then sent to New Zealand around 1855. Poormans ripen in much cooler climates than ‘real’ grapefruit (or oranges), so it makes sense that they became popular in the South Island of New Zealand, where citrus can be difficult to grow. (My mother recalls Ngaire buying jars of home-made marmalade from a man in Akaroa, where the family often holidayed. The warm valleys on the Bank’s Peninsula were one of the few places citrus could be grown in Canterbury.)

Poormans are supposed to have particularly good rind for marmalade making, so it’s a bit disappointing that I can’t put my hands on any. I’m sure that, given a little time, I’ll be able to track some down, but for this batch I settled on a substitute of one ‘real’ grapefruit, two mandarins and two Seville oranges.

The second interesting ingredient in Dorrie’s recipe is brewer’s crystals which, after much searching, I’ve decided simply means sugar. I found a gorgeous article about marmalade in the Sydney Mail from June 1922 which says ‘there are some women who like to use brewer’s crystals for all their jam making. Personally I have used it, and found the brand very good. Still, I have made great successes with what we usually term ‘soft’ or cooking sugar, and for everyday use this is nice enough for anything.’ An article titled ‘Jam and Jelly Making‘ in a 1935 edition of the New Zealand Railway Magazine also mentions crystals, saying ‘use pure white sugar — brewers’ crystals for preference.’ If anyone can tell me anything more about brewer’s crystals (or Poorman oranges) I’d love to hear from you.

Dorrie’s Marmalade

Ingredients: 4 Poorman oranges (or substitute a mixture of grapefruit, oranges and mandarins), 2 sweet oranges, 2 lemons, water, white sugar.

  1. Wash and peel the fruit. Slice the peel into very thin matchsticks then put to one side. (Dorrie’s recipe simply says ‘cut fine’ but this is what I did.)
  2. Peel off and discard as much of the white pith as you can from the flesh. Also discard pips then put the fruit into a food processor and pulse until pulp.
  3. Collect the juice by pushing the pulp through a sieve. (You’ll need to weigh the juice so use a suitable bowl.) Put the pulp into a muslin bag, or tie in a clean tea towel that you’re not very attached to. (Dorrie’s recipe doesn’t mention separating the pulp, but doing this will give you a very clear jelly.)
  4. Add the peel to the juice and weigh. For each 1 kg add 500 mls of water. Write down the weight – you’ll need the figure again.
  5. Add the bag of pulp (you need this for the pectin) to the juice/peel and let stand for 24 hours.
  6. The next day, boil until the rind is tender (approximately 1 hour). Once cool, squueze all juice from the bag of pulp then discard. Let the mixture stand for another 24 hours.
  7. The following day, sterilize jam jars and lids (I put them through the dishwasher on hot).
  8. Bring mixture to the boil again. Add 1.25 kg of sugar for every 1 kg of juice/peel (i.e. the original weight) and stir until dissolved.
  9. Boil hard until the marmalade reaches setting point (test by spooning onto a cool saucer and putting in the fridge for 5 minutes). Allow to cool a little then pour into jars.

Delicious on toast for breakfast, in a steamed pudding, as a glaze on pork or slathered on fresh bread and eaten in bed while you finish your book club book.

Jam and Jelly Making: NZETC,, citrus pages