Saturday, November 24, 2012

marking time

Today was the annual end of year social get-together for the local genealogical society. Unlike last year where it teemed with rain and the venue of the croquet club would have been better for water polo given we had to paddle in and wade out, we had glorious sunshine and blue skies.

That was but one of the noticeable differences between the two events. Last year I was still very much the newbie, even though I'd been going for half the year I was still the 'new girl' and stood out as being both new and considerably younger than everyone else. This year I was still the youngest by over a decade but that was an improvement by at least half, and there were a good number of new members along who had joined through this year.

Before we ate our fabulous picnic spread we had grace, a moment when many of us felt again the passing of our dear friend Joyce who usually rose to such occassions. Given we're a group that spends our time researching and discussing the dead it has still been a tough year with the passing of several members and members spouses - the idea of adding to your family tree is not intended to be via your own death certificate. It does seem to be predominantly a retirement hobby though so I guess it is only to be expected.

We met this year at Butler Point, the Whaling Museum itself was closed for refurbishment but we had a fascinating talk from Jan Ferguson and a guided tour of the homestead and grounds. Such a beautiful spot, so tranquil... such a difference from what it must have been like in the 1800s. It was hard to imagine the place reeking of rendered whale oil and the Mangonui harbour so full of ships you could walk from the Point to the township across the decks of the boats. The homestead is restored to how it would have been in the time of the first residents, William & Eliza Butler and their family. For me it was reminiscent of the Colne Valley Museum, Beamish and other such places of my childhood.

Various items in the room settings were familiar for having been functioning parts of our own childhoods yes, even mine - although admittedly the tin bath at Granny's was for playing in in the summer rather than bathing! However I was the one who explained to the guide why the cooking range seemed so low - you try lifting a cast iron cauldron pot off something waist high when it is empty, let alone full of simmering stew, then you'll understand why the 'stove' was only knee high! But I'm probably one of the last generations to have grown up with a lot of those things around them, even if they were consigned to the coal shed like Granny's mangle, so museums like this become even more important to remind people of our past. Not only to see and appreciate how life has changed, but also to help us envision how to manage with lower levels of technology and find new ways of moving forward that neither rely on plugging everything in to electricity nor winding the clock back 150 years.

Other benchmarks of the passage of time there are some amazing pohutukawa trees, one thought to be about 1,000yrs old. Their knotted and twisted branches mean they are no use as timber and their wood isn't that great for burning so they've tended to survive the ravages of early European settlement far better than the much more versatile kauri and rimu, but these were far more impressive than any others I've seen here.

I came away with some great memories, some good photos (which I'll upload to Flickr soon...) and a renewed determination to one day get around to making a rag rug like I've been promising myself since I saw one being made at the Colne Valley museum when I was aged about 10yrs old! Oh and of course the usual monthly reminder to actually do some research myself and not just learn how...

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