A couple of Easters ago, I was cat sitting for my sister and borrowing her sewing machine while attempting to sew petticoats and an underskirt. It was the very start of my journey into this wonderful hobby of historical costuming. I had absolutely no idea that two years later I would spend the same long weekend actually wearing some of the outfits that I would create, enjoying passing the time with new friends, while taking part in various activities.
But, this Easter, that is exactly what I did. And I had the best time – even if it flew by impossibly quickly. Speaking of flying, that’s exactly how I travelled down to Christchurch on Good Friday. It was a rather smooth and uneventful flight and I distracted myself from the impatience I had about wanting to be in Christchurch already by reading Diana’s Gabaldon’s The Fiery Cross (I love the Outlander series).
If you follow my Facebook page you might have seen my post about hiding my hair under a beret and that’s because my hair is the most time-consuming part of getting ready to go anywhere historically dressed and I didn’t wish to risk trying to rush it after arriving in Christchurch. It was definitely a smart decision to make since after I arrived at Edan’s there was really only time to catch up for a bit and then dress for the evening.
I was sufficiently ready to go, dressed in my Penguin Suit when Monique arrived to pick us up. We exchanged hellos and loaded a few things into the car. I’d never been to Ferrymead Heritage Park before so I was quite excited to see and explore it over the weekend. We arrived at Curragh Cottage, where the evening would be spent and I could have quite happily explored every inch of it at that moment but Edan needed to walk down to the Post Office so I tagged along.
As we walked down the street he told me a bit about the park and the buildings and I found myself trying to look in every direction all at once at everything. After seeing to what he needed to in the post office he showed me around the different rooms and the displays.
After returning to the cottage, Edan busied himself getting everything set up and organised with Monique’s help, while Martin continued to bake up a storm in the kitchen. Not wanting to get in the way, and seeing how nice the park looked during the late afternoon light I wandered about a bit, testing out my new camera.
Heading back inside the cottage I found Monique in the parlour sitting on the chaise lounge and joined her. She showed me the ladies’ magazines from the early 1890s and 1900s and it felt like quite a magical moment, sitting there in an old cottage, with the fire blazing, turning the pages. I was only partway through the 1891 magazine when Cheryl and several other Dunedinites arrived. Karen also arrived soon after and the cottage came alive as the mini ‘family reunion’ began.
It didn’t surprise me that I was the only participant from the North Island as flights around Easter become incredibly expensive incredibly quickly if you don’t book them far enough in advance. But I was surprised at just how many of out-of-towners there were present when compared to the locals. Though, the fact that so many of us made the journey speaks absolute volumes about how this little community of ours functions – we were all there to have a good time, yes, but to also support one of our own.
Edan welcomed us to the cottage and to the weekend of events, giving us a little history of the cottage, and told us that he had selected several songs to play for us on the pianola. Everyone sort of scattered all about the cottage or out into the street, to have a little bit of an explore.
As refrains from the pianola drifted through the cottage from the sitting room we all were drawn to it and took seats. Edan had printed the lyrics of some of the songs out so those with the words and an idea of the tune sang along as he played. My goodness, playing the pianola looks like quite the workout! I couldn’t help thinking that it is a shame that we don’t partake in such an activity anymore because it was such a delight to be a part of. It felt so cosy and jovial.
After a few songs, the table in the sitting room and the dining room were set with an abundance of scones, cream horns, sandwiches, savouries, and other delights for supper.
More songs were played and sung along to once sufficient refreshment had been taken and before I knew it, goodbyes started being handed out as those present began to depart. I helped where I could, carrying plates and cups to the kitchen as the cottage was tidied and set to rights. I felt a little sad that it was already time to leave but I knew that we would be back again over the course of the weekend.
On Saturday, because I was opting for an 1890s look and wearing my Antique Rose outfit, I decided to try and wrestle my hair into a Gibson Girl style – something I’d only practised once before. Happily, it worked out rather well although I don’t have any photos of it without my hat off so you’ll just have to take my word for it…
After getting dressed and making sure that I’d moved everything that I needed into that day’s reticule, and after a nice cup of coffee I was sorted and ready to go. Monique came to pick us up again and we loaded cups, saucers, plates, and everything else needed for our morning tea into the car. We headed to the Botanic Gardens and fortunately found a carpark close by where we were to set up so we didn’t have to carry everything too far.
I ‘stood guard’ by the first lot of things we brought from the car while Monique and Edan returned to the car for a second trip. Karen arrived as they were returning and we helped to set up the teacups with the correct saucers and such as Edan headed off in search of our companions.
Slowly yet steadily, a stream of historically dressed ladies and gentlemen appeared, walking in our direction. It didn’t take long for me to spot Maree and Scott amongst them and half walked, half ran (so ladylike, I know) towards them for hugs and hellos. We walked together to where our little party was set up and chatted for a bit before Maree noticed the swings in the nearby playground.
I think it was rather inevitable that the two of us broke away to have a small turn on the swings. Much to our amusement, and that of others in our party, Scott followed along behind (to make sure that we wouldn’t make too much of a spectacle of ourselves perhaps?). We simply reasoned that women did swing on swings and I’d even found a fashion plate with a lady seated on one so we were still being utterly historically accurate.
After the swings, we felt as though it was time for some refreshment and made our way to the table with the tea, coffee, and hot cross buns were. I couldn’t help trying to pick the cup and saucer that most closely matched my outfit and was just about to opt for tea when Edan mentioned that we also had coffee. Once we all had our cups and hot cross buns, Maree, Scott and I found a place to sit down and chat amongst ourselves and with those seated near us.
We also had a little time to take some photos:
And then it was time to be off and make our way towards the Antigua Boat Sheds to go punting, an activity that had long been on my list of things I wanted to do while in historical costume. I’ll write about that in Part 2.
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