Friday, April 10, 2009

A Pre- Easter Holiday: Part One

After 28 years of parenthood, Mac and I had a holiday without any sons: it was very strange! It was fun in a different sort of way.

Too sudden a change might have been too much but on Saturday 4th April we went north for my niece Susan's wedding, which was lovely. It was fun to catch up with people I hadn't seen for quite a while - and three of my four sons were there.

Susan and Phil

Steven, Jeff and Simon

We stayed in Orewa for the night, and Simon and Jeff stayed the night with us. Then Mac and I traveled on to stay with his sister in Paihia. We took the long road to Paihia, turning off at the Brynderwyns and driving over to the west coast.

First stop was Baylys Beach, where we had lunch.

Then on up the coast, where we stopped to see the giant kauri, Tane Mahuta, which I just remember visiting when I was about 8. Mac had never been up that coast before.

While I was standing looking at this beautiful tree, an irritated grandmother growled at an energetic boy of about 6 years: "Did you think we came here just for you to practice your karate?" Boy: "Yep." Me: "Do you think you could karate chop down that tree?" Boy: "Naaah." (Tone of voice clearly says =you silly old woman=) "I've only been doing karate since last year." (Tone of voice clearly implies the answer will be yes in a couple more years.) As precious as the great kauri is, so small boys are just as precious.

The Hokianga Harbour was just delightful - well the bit we saw anyway - Omapere and Opononi.

Then on to Pahia, where we stayed three nights with Mac's sister Jenny and her partner, Malcolm.

On Monday afternoon Mac and I went across to Russell on the ferry.

(We were a bit concerned as to whether the ferry driver was fully qualified - but hey! we're retired homeschool parents, so what the heck! We appreciate the need for kids to be involved :p)

We browsed the shops and had an ice cream. We were thinking about heading back, when Mac sat down at the water's edge and started playing with the camera.

I walked on along the waterfront, and discovered a small sign outside Pompallier which informed me that this place had originally been a tannery, printing works and bindery making Maori Catholic prayer books and I discovered that the entry fee included a tour.

I went back to tell Mac and we had a coffee while we waited for the next tour in half an hour.

It was just so exciting for me as a binder, but Mac found it just as interesting. We were the only people on the tour and had we been better organised and got there earlier, we would not have had such an interesting time because they had a couple of school parties in. Because there were just the two of us I could ask as many questions as I liked.

The tannery: stage one. First soak the hides in large containers of urine collected from the piss pots outside the pubs, till the hair could be scraped from the skins, along with the remains of the fat (used to make candles, soap and dubbin.)


Stage two: the skins are tanned - soaked in water and tannin-rich bark. This stage took many month especially for the larger skins. They were lifted out each morning to dry out a bit, then put back into the pits to soak some more at night.

The smell of the hides attracted the attention of ship rats, who swam ashore and made their homes there, digging out holes in the rammed earth walls of Pompallier.

The rammed earth walls.

The 'forms' used to make the walls.

Because of the high level of lime in the walls, due to shell being used in the mix, when the rats died they became mummified and there are some very well preserved rats on display!

Once tanned, the leather still needed to be worked with a range of tools to make it pliable, and scraped to get an even thickness.

Meanwhile the pages of the prayer books were printed. They had two presses. The first was the proof reading press, then once two pages were ready the were sent upstairs to the second press for printing.

Cases of letters, which were stored on a sloping desk. The letters in the top cases were called the upper-case letters, the ones at the bottom were the lower-case letters! Well, duh! I never even thought about why there were called those names!

Another term I never thought about is 'to coin a phrase'. Well, that's not what it should be - it should be 'to quoin a phrase'. The phrase being the words or 'type' which have been arranged in the 'chase' or steel frame. The 'quoins' are the wedges that lock the type in place in the chase. Not only do I love books and making them, I also love words!

Signatures (sections of pages) were sewn in a sewing cradle.

The pages are then trimmed in a lying press, with a plough, and then the edges gilded.

The books were pressed in a standing press like this,

which is able to handle a lot more books than my nipping press.

The gluing and covering process.


The cords that held the book together with the cover show, so were made into a feature. The strings on each side of the cord moulded the leather neatly.

All this may be more than than most people want to know but I enjoyed it immensely!

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