In the presence of the past

kirkmichael kirkyard resting place of James Wallace and Ann Cunnison

The kirkyard, Kirkmichael Parish Church, Perthshire, Scotland. Image: Su Leslie 2013

Churchyards and cemeteries hold great fascination for family historians. Headstone inscriptions can provide invaluable clues to an ancestor’s life, and in the process of finding one person, it’s not uncommon to discover other family members buried nearby.

They are also places of contemplation.

The tiny village of Kirkmichael in rural Perthshire, is where my 4x great grandparents, James Wallace (1799-1874) and Ann Kinnison/Cunnison (1806-1882) lived and died.

They lie in the bottom corner of the kirkyard, down by the burn; their lives commemorated by a headstone bearing the following inscription:

Erected by
Greeley Colorado USA
in memory of his father
who died at Benauld, Kirkmichael
20th March 1874 aged 74
and his mother
who died at Blairgowrie
18 February 1882, aged 78.
The above Charles Wallace
died 16 May 1925
Interred in Greeley Cemetery Col. USA

I’ve visited the graves of quite a few ancestors now, but the Kirkmichael visit stays in my mind particularly. Partly because it was such an isolated place — I was totally alone there — and partly because James and Ann are the oldest links in the chain of my history whose physical resting place I’ve touched.

Posted to Ragtag Daily Prompt | Past



The Changing Seasons: October 2018


I really should stop organising to travel at the end of a month; it plays havoc with The Changing Seasons scheduling.

I’m off to Sydney on Sunday to visit Sculpture by the Sea, a fantastic exhibition that is installed annually along the coastal path from Bondi to Tamarama Beach. With luck I’ll have lots of photos to share — but not until November.

Which leaves me wondering what I’ve done with this month.

Part of it certainly has been spent woolly-headed and lethargic from the absolute worst cold I can ever remember having. But that only accounts for about 10 days, and my photo folder for October is the smallest it’s been in ages. So however I have occupied my time, much of it obviously hasn’t seemed worth recording.

I’ve done a lot of sewing — mainly cushion covers to freshen up our living room.


I’ve baked bread, including a couple of variations on sourdough.

First came some impromptu flatbreads from dough that was intended for crackers …


… then Rewena Paraoa, or Maori bread.

Maori bread is something I have been aware of for a long time, but knew nothing about. I found an old recipe, and was surprised to find it’s basically a sourdough, using boiled mashed potato mixed with flour and water to create the starter.

Neither wheat nor potatoes are native to New Zealand, and arrived with European settlers. Prior to that, kumara (sweet potato), yams, taro and ti pore (Pacific Cabbage Tree) were probably the principal sources of carbohydrates. Both were brought from East Polynesia by the country’s original migrants, probably around in the 13th century. As far as I know, pre-European Maori did not make bread.

Potatoes are easier to grow than kumara, and were widely adopted into the Maori diet. The use of potatoes in sourdough cultures is not unique to Maori, and was once widespread, but interestingly I had found no reference to it prior to finding this recipe. It certainly produced a starter culture much more quickly than the flour and water version that the Big T and I made a couple of years ago. My potato starter (which I actually made with kumara out of curiosity), was ready to use after two days, while our original starter took around two weeks.

The finished loaf was ok; a bit dense, and I forgot to salt the dough properly, but it was edible, and I’d certainly attempt it again.

Eroded sea-shell. Image: Su Leslie 2018 Exposing the inner workings. Eroded sea-shell. Image: Su Leslie 2018

One of those little philosophical moments …

I found this tiny, eroded shell in a little bag of rocks and other stuff tucked inside one of my son’s shoes. He had obviously planned to take the bag (and the shoes) home after a visit to us, but somehow they got left behind.

It reminded me of a time –long past — when we went to the beach together, bringing home assorted treasures destined to be forgotten.

From the outside, the shell is relatively smooth and uniform. It is only when the interior is exposed that we can see the complexity of growth and change. The passage of time does that.

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.


Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Deb at The Widow Badass

Marilyn at Serendipity — Seeking Intelligent Life on Earth

Babsje at Great Blue Herons, who joins us for the first time. Please take a look at this great blog, including a second Changing Seasons post.

Lee at Ladyleemanila

Little pieces of me

Jude at Under a Cornish Sky

Ruth at Ruth’s Arc

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Sarah at Art Expedition

Ju Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful



Final resting place: Rose Anne Hall (nee Dryden), and her husband Sir John Hall (former Premier of New Zealand, and campaigner for universal suffrage). Churchyard of St John’s, Hororata, Canterbury, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Monuments to the dead are often elaborate structures; from mausolea and sarcophagi to intricately carved headstones of crosses, winged angels, birds, flora, and all manner of other symbolic elements. Often the more prominent the person in life, the more magnificent their funerary art.

So it was something of a surprise to find — in the churchyard of St John’s Anglican Church Hororata – the spartan graves of Sir John Hall (18241907) and his wife Rose, nee Dryden, (1828-1900).

Both Rose Dryden and John Hall were born in England and arrived in New Zealand as young adults. John Hall came to farm in Canterbury, but entered politics quite quickly. He served as a Cabinet Minister in several administrations, and as Premier of New Zealand between 8 Oct 1879 and 21 Apr 1882.

Although a conservative, Hall is best remembered as one of the major driving forces behind women’s suffrage in New Zealand, championing the cause in Parliament.

I can find little information about Rose Dryden. Indeed she is not even mentioned in Hall’s biography in Te Ara — Encyclopedia of New Zealand.  In fact, the only reference I can find for her in NZ historical sources is an entry in NZ History that she (probably) signed the Women’s Suffrage petition, alongside 32,000 other women. This petition was famously presented to Parliament by her husband; all 500 pages glued together to form a roll that stretched over 270 metres.

The Halls were prominent citizens of the Canterbury province, having their farm and homestead in Hororata. They were actively involved in the community — regularly attending church at St John’s (and apparently teaching in the Sunday School), as well as school prize-giving, sports days and other events. I know this because the Big T’s family also has strong roots in Hororata, and newspaper archives tell me that some of his ancestors were recipients of those school prizes.

The Big T and I spent well over an hour in the St John’s churchyard, searching for — and finding — headstones for a very large number of his ancestors. Amongst those memorials to the dead, the Halls’ graves stand out as perhaps the plainest and most spartan.

Perhaps their children believe that the best memorial to their parents lies in the ballot papers cast by women in each election.

Posted to Ragtag Daily Prompt |spartan

Like father, like son … not really


A younger, and much muckier, boy-child. Image: Su Leslie 2006

I really had to go searching for a shot of the boy-child in any sort of state that could be described as grubby. He’s always been an outdoorsy sort, but as a skateboarder, prefers paved urban street to muddy fields.

His father on the other hand ….


Never afraid to get grubby in the pursuit of a good bike ride. The “I’m so tough, I kick sand in my own face” shot. Image: Su Leslie 2016

Posted to the RagTag Daily Prompt | grubby

Living in the journey


The last family holiday before the boy-child took wing. The path to Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany, 2015. Image: Su Leslie

“Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy

Life is full of journeys. Twenty one years ago, the Big T and I had just set out on the longest and most significant voyage of our lives — nurturing the embryo that would become our son. It’s a journey filled with memories that refresh and strengthen as we share new moments together.

Posted to Debbie’s weekly quotation-inspired image challenge at Travel with Intent

Sometimes the journey is the best part

Ruapehu dawn. Road-trip with the boy-child. Shot of young man photographing morning mist shrouding Mt Ruapehu, New Zealand. Su Leslie, 2017

Ruapehu dawn. Road-trip with the boy-child. Image: Su Leslie, 2017

“The journey not the arrival matters”
– T.S. Eliot

Eliot’s words are particularly true when the journey is made in good company. This shot was taken last year when the boy-child and I were on a road-trip to visit family in Whanganui. A-typically for a teenager (but typical of the photographer that he is), he insisted on an extremely early start so that we could experience sunrise on the Desert Road.

Posted to Debbie’s weekly quotation-inspired challenge, at Travel with Intent.