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Cover

A ‘Note to the Reader’ at the beginning of this book reminds us that the dates commonly used for astrological signs are far from accurate, being based on information from several hundreds of years ago.  I learned this when I visited Stonehenge Aotearoa in 2012, and I wondered whether Eleanor Catton has also been there.

At first I found her long clause-ridden sentences difficult and sometimes had to read them twice to be sure I’d got the meaning.  The book took a good deal of effort to get into, but it was worth it – just.  I found the 832 pages hard going, and some could surely have been cut.  Towards the end I resented the continual time changes, and I never tried to follow the astrological signs.  However, the authentic tales of the West Coast in goldrush times are absorbing, especially so for me as my Great Grandfather Henry Rout was a Bank Clerk in the goldfields in the 1870s.

I couldn’t understand why words like d____n were treated delicately while bloody was written in full.  Surely damn would have been in as common usage at that time.

Altogether this was a marathon effort of writing and of reading.  The latter has taken me three weeks.  I got my copy from the Book Fridge, and that’s where the book will be returned to.

“This novel has just too much length
a shorter form might have more strength.”

 

 

Shakespeare

‘Shakespeare Live’ was an amazing treat.  This is the show that was staged at Stratford Upon Avon to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on 23 April, and it was filmed live.  It’s narrated by the adorable David Tennant, along with Catherine Tate who was his companion in Doctor Who.  The cast is totally star-studded, with many familiar names, more familiar faces, and some very talented people I’d never seen before.  As well as excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays there was wonderful ballet, music, and bits of other shows such as West Side Story, which have been inspired by Shakespeare’s plays.  There were too many highlights to be able to choose, though Ian McKellan is always a favourite.  The show lasted for more than two and a half hours, but never dragged.  My eyes are feeling tired because I was glued to the screen, and never thought to look away.  Surprisingly there were only seven people at the 2pm session.  Where were all the rest of you?  It’s showing at Sumner’s Hollywood, and at The Tannery, but only for a few more days, so you need to be quick.

“Shakespeare’s inspired so many shows
with all those words he did compose.”

 

 

 

Ngaio’s Nest

Today I had the privilege of a guided tour of Ngaio Marsh House.  This is a truly amazing place, of interest to anyone who cares about literature, history, architecture, theatre, or whodunnits.  Sadly Dame Ngaio Marsh is not as well known in her home country as she is overseas.  I remember being at a workshop last year, where we were asked in pairs to choose a famous local person.  The seventeen-year-old I was with was a student of creative writing, but had never heard of Ngaio Marsh!  Ngaio’s murder mysteries were once as popular as Agatha Christie’s, and arguably better written.  In 1949 Penguin published one million copies of her ten most popular books.

The family home in Cashmere where she lived and wrote was designed by Samuel Hurst Seager, and is set in a mature Edwardian garden.  Ngaio lived there from 1906 until her death in 1982, apart from times when she was in England.  The house has been added to over the years, and it remains very much as she left it, with her china and cutlery on the dining table, and her dresses in the wardrobe.

Ngaio Marsh House

Ngaio Marsh House

We entered the house via the writing room which also contains her library of reference books.  One can easily imagine her seated at her desk, gazing out the window for inspiration.

Writing Room

Writing Room

The dining room has the table set for a formal dinner.  The adjacent kitchen still has the 1950s Kelvinator refrigerator, and a pulley washing dryer rack.

Dining Room

Dining Room

The Long Room, used for entertaining, is painted a lovely dark blue, demonstrating her artistic taste.

Long Room

Long Room

She often sat in a green chair to write.  She wrote in longhand, in green ink, and had a secretary who typed up her draft.  A facsimile copy of essays she wrote when a foundation pupil at St Margaret’s College, shows a beautiful neat hand that would be easy to transcribe.  Some of the chairs show signs of depredation by Ngaio’s cat.

The Green Chair

The Green Chair

It was fascinating to see her bedroom, again filled with mementoes.  I was pleased to note that she used Chanel no, 19, which is my favourite perfume.  In one of the drawers is a Masonic apron, perhaps belonging to Ngaio’s father.

Bedroom

Bedroom

A visit to the Ngaio Marsh House is a step back in time, with knowledgeable guides who know and love the items displayed.  There’s just so much to see and consider.  Ngaio’s biography “Black Beech and Honeydew” contains anecdotes about the house, and this visit has made me want to re-read this.  Tours are available by appointment.  You just need to phone 03 337 9248.  The cost is $20 – definitely worth it.

“I loved my time in Ngaio’s home
a fascinating house to roam.”

Waimairi Waters

A ‘Fendalton Rivers’ walk took us along the Waimairi Stream.  This is one of several Fendalton streams which meet the Avon River near Mona Vale.

Waimairi Stream near Medbury Terrace

Waimairi Stream near Medbury Terrace

 

Waimairi Stream near Barlow Street

Waimairi Stream near Barlow Street

In March it was reported that the Waimairi Stream had completely dried up.  Yesterday there was water in it, perhaps because of recent rainfall.

“Two months ago this stream was dry
but it was wet when we walked by.”

 

Book Night

Tonight is Book Night – organised by the Book Discussion Scheme, the idea is for everyone to read a book for at least 15 minutes this evening.

Book night (Small)

The picture shows me and Ziggy.  I’m reading “The Luminaries”, which I found in the Book Fridge, and i’m about two-thirds of the way through.  What will you be reading tonight?

“Today’s the twenty-fourth of May
and it’s our national Book Night day.”

 

 

Postie Puss

Fiona Farrell, author of “The Villa at the Edge of the Empire” was the guest speaker yesterday at the AGM of the Avon Loop Planning Association.

Fiona Farrell

Fiona Farrell

I chair this association, and was pleased that so many members came on such a wintry day.  We enjoyed hearing Fiona talk about how she wrote the book, especially as our area features so prominently in it.  The Avon Loop community has struggled since two-thirds of our residents were forced out by CERA’s red-zoning.  Many of the members who came yesterday live near the Loop, not actually in it, and some are new members.  They appreciate the events held in our community cottage, and care about the area.  Fiona and Juliet Nicholas have also produced a booklet with photos and interviews from six households who were forced to leave the Loop.

CEISMIC Booklet

CEISMIC Booklet

This is being published by CEISMIC and will shortly be available as a free e-book.

“It’s good to have our stories told
as new developments unfold.”

 

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