The day I fell over Caravaggio

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colosseum

The Colosseum Rome

My first trip to Rome was brief but memorable. It was summer, and stinking hot. Kerry was in Europe already, but I arrived in Rome several hours ahead of him. An astute traveler, I found the airport station, train, city and the hotel with no trouble whatsoever. I changed into a light dress and navigated my way down Via Nazionale. I came across a nice café, drank a ‘flat white’, ate lunch. I wonder what those buildings are further down, I asked myself, and kept walking. I arrived in the middle of the Forum, just by chance. This impressed my husband, that’s for sure, as I had no map, and no idea of the rich legacies which lay within reach. Our motto became – If only we had done our research. Continue reading

In the absence of electronic devices

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exploring copy

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

The stories behind our mementos

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bookcase top

The day I posted my last blog, my cat Ninja, as if thinking my Japanese ceramic horse and the Chinese Warrior replica were taking precedence in my affections, managed to break both within a few minutes of each other. He was up on the bookcase and decided to push a glass paperweight off the side (rather like a baby throws a rattle from its cot). Unfortunately, my warrior bore the brunt of this act, with one hand being severed by the heavy glass ball. “I can fix it,” my husband said, “it’s a clean enough break.”  Continue reading

Finding extraordinary rewards

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Watercolour group

Art group Nakatsu

‘When did you start writing?’ is a question often posed to authors. I, like many others, started writing in childhood, building on from the stories written for school projects. In my case, I recall writing about girls leaving home; travelling to foreign towns, or countries. The protagonists were always by themselves, managing with little money but finding extraordinary rewards by navigating their journeys alone. Continue reading

Why would anyone write about themselves?

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Diski small

It has often been said that everyone has a story to tell and it certainly appears that the adage holds truth. Memoir, or Life writing, is a genre which has flourished in recent years. Mary Karr  writer, memoirist and teacher defines the genre in her recent book The Art of Memoir  “Novels have intricate plots, verse has musical forms, history and biography enjoy the sheen of objective truth. In memoir, one event follows another. Birth leads to puberty leads to sex. The books are held together by happenstance, theme, and (most powerfully) the sheer, convincing poetry of a single person trying to make sense of the past.”

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Book Clubs and other interesting stuff

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devonport

Devonport Auckland

As part of my getting to know my new neighbourhood I decided to join a book club. I had shied away from joining one in the past, although my reasons probably weren’t that solid, except to me. Most groups I’d heard of could bring any book they happened to be reading and chat about it.  I was after a group that read and discussed one book per month, who actually read the book and were able to discuss why, or why not it held appeal for them, and how they viewed the writing style etc.

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Don’t rubbish that first draft

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mangaweka gorge

South Rangitikei Viaduct

While researching for my last post, I opened a file I had not touched in a while. It contained several drafts and assignments for a travel writing paper I had completed through a New Zealand university. I opened each in turn, quite pleased at the diligent student I had been. But something intrigued me about one assignment in particular.

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Ce n’est pas un mémoire

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Mum 2

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

How some stories keep on keeping on

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idea cartoon

In an earlier post I talked about how some stories start; namely the ‘fictional memoir’ as I called it then, a novel-length story about my much-loved father. I so wished to keep going with this project, but I was stuck – call it procrastination, writer’s block, or what you want – but I was desperate to keep the promise to my daughter to write about the grandfather she never knew. So how did I break this writing drought? Continue reading

The mysterious case of the Lost Positive

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Sky writingSetting the scene: The staffroom of an English teaching school in Japan. It is morning. A young Scots teacher is fiddling with papers. It is a matter of minutes before our classes  start when an Australian male colleague enters. “You are looking very kempt this morning,” I say, pointing to the tie. This is so far from his usual ruffled appearance, I am shocked – almost to the core.

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