Having my granddaughters to stay was as enjoyable as it was interesting. I knew the eldest had an iPhone, but what I didn’t expect to find, was how little interest she showed in using it. I mean, most children I see these days have some kind of device they’re staring at, speaking into, or plugged to their ears; whether out walking, sitting with friends, or eating with their families in cafes. The use of these devices is endemic – or is it? Not as far as Phemie and Beatrix were concerned, for they were more interested in following their creative instincts: they drew, wrote, read, and played their days away. Continue reading
I met Jennifer Beck while tutoring illustration classes some time back, and had long admired her writing for children. When I noticed her latest book in my local bookshop I picked it up, admiring the pencil and watercolour sketch by Robyn Belton on the cover. The Anzac Violin tells the real story of New Zealander Alexander Aitken and the part a violin plays during his time as a soldier in the first world war. Continue reading
Margaret Fowlds (nee O’Brien)
I was scrolling through a number of essays I hadn’t looked at for a while and came across this one, which I wrote after visiting my elderly mother a few years before her death. This is not a series of amusing anecdotes, no embellishments of a personality, or extolling of one’s virtues; just a story of a daughter visiting her mother and the impact of becoming a stranger to the woman who had given her life. Continue reading
Whangaparapara Harbour, Great Barrier
In New Zealand we may not be able to provide the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, or the vast wilderness you’d find in Yosemite. We have no bears, coyotes, bison, or alligators, no rattle-snakes, or cobras; in fact no snakes at all. We can hike through our native reserves unworried by strange rustlings or rattles, knowing that the only thing that’ll eat us is a sandfly (and they’re not deadly). Most tourists head south to the ski-fields and fiords, and it is terrific down there, don’t get me wrong, but it is wise not to forget the north, as here you’ll find hundreds of splendid beaches and islands you may never have heard of before. Continue reading
Varenna on Lake Como, is a town I adore, so when my daughter and I began planning a trip to Europe, I booked us into a small apartment there. I had often spoken of my love for the place, and one area in particular. It was day three of our five day stay. We’d taken the ferry to many places, including Bellagio, Cernobbio, Lenno and Tremezzo. We had shopped, eaten, and walked part of the old Roman road. Lake Como is fabulous and I was happy, except we hadn’t yet visited the castle.
Lara and I, and other bag-totting lookalikes, stepped off the water taxi at Venezia Lucia Station. All eyes lifted to the arrivals screen. What! The sleeper train to Paris had been cancelled. “Information Office,” I shouted and a mob ran with us the length of the platform.
“It says cancelled. But it’s not,” the official snorted, making a shooing action as if we were flies. “Keep watching the screen.” And thank you too, I muttered.
Try holding two shoulder bags, nailing a big case with a foot while nibbling pizza from a paper bag and holding your eyes on a screen. “It’s arriving,” a backpacker yelled an hour later, and we stampeded down the platform like fleeing refugees.
Books, books, books. My home is filled with them and so is my head, especially when it comes to writing about my dad. He was surrounded by books; not because he was a scholar, but because he had ingenuity in bucketloads when it came to earning his family’s keep. It was post war; his army service done. So what does a man do for a living, with no job, little education, with a wife and four children to look after? Why, he sets up a lending library service of course. He started small, with a stationary library in Gloucester Street, Silverstream (north of Wellington). And being the entrepreneur he was, the idea of a travelling library soon followed.