Quote of the day

September 14, 2015

. . . Liberally sprinkling a book aimed at youngsters with foul language – of a kind that not so long ago would have led to arrest – is no way to increase anyone’s literacy. Certainly not that of teenagers.

Writers have plenty of perfectly good expressive words in the English language to choose from, without reducing literary and language standards to the lowest common denominator.

While bad language may be the norm in the playground, you can bet it isn’t tolerated in the classrooms of teachers marching to the freedom-of-speech drum.

And why are young males from “educational deprived backgrounds” taught that swearing is a good way for them to communicate? Does this mean they are written-off as knuckle-dragging proles?

Youngsters need inspiration, guidance and discipline if they are to engage fruitfully, communicate decently with each other and make their mark.

They don’t have many role models, not if the swearing heard on buses and around bars and cafes is anything to go by.

There’s no need for it…Charles Dickens didn’t do it that way – and he knew about deprived backgrounds.Jock Anderson

Quote of the day

July 6, 2015

We do not belong to those who have ideas only among books, when stimulated by books. It is our habit to think outdoors — walking, leaping, climbing, dancing, preferably on lonely mountains or near the sea where even the trails become thoughtful. – Friedrich Nietzsche.

Hat tip: Rob Hosking in a post on walking – ‘that suspensive heaven’ which is topped by a stunning photo above Lake Wanaka and that anyone to whom walking, thinking, and just slowing down appeals and noticing will enjoy.

Isn’t every day Book Day?

April 23, 2015

Every day is Book Day for me.

It doesn’t mean I read at least a few chapters of a book every day, though there was a time when I did and at one stage it was several books a week.

It does mean that I love books and feel discombobulated should I not have something to read at hand should boredom or the opportunity to lose myself in the pages present itself.

I’ve read a few electronic books but still prefer real books with pages that turn and which can be passed on to others when I’ve read them.

Anyway, World Book Day was March the 5th but in support of my contention that every day is book day, it’s being celebrated in Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct  today.
Oamaru's Victorian Precinct's photo.

The Farm At Black Hills

April 20, 2015

The Farm At Black Hill is the story not only of the farm and the families who farmed it.

It weaves in the history of the Hurunui District, merino wool and the Romney and Corriedale sheep breeds

Most of all it is a memoir of the very full life of Beverley Forrester, a woman who, as she quips to one of her staff, is not afraid of hard work.

Beverley was brought up on a farm on Matakana Road, near Warkworth, by parents who modelled a strong work ethic and taught their family the importance of community involvement.

She trained as an occupational therapist and soon after graduating was appointed charge OT at Templeton Hospital.

While working in various posts as an OT, Beverley continued to follow her interest in coloured sheep. An invitation to judge at the Cheviot Show led to a meeting with Jim Forrester and she moved to Black Hills.

The marriage was a happy but short one. After just 10 years Beverley was widowed and found herself in charge of the farm.

Eventually she had to accept Black Hills was too big for her and she sold most of it to focus on other work.

She and her staff undertook the restoration of the farm’s historic limestone buildings which became a tourist attraction.

She also followed her passion for wool. English cousins helped her set up a shop in Henley-On-Thames. She exports to several countries, has her own fashion label and her clothes have been shown at New Zealand Fashion Week.

Beverley writes in a matter-of-fact style on everything from dagging sheep to meeting royalty.

I finished this book in awe of what she has accomplished.

You can find out more at her website Black Hills.

The Farm AT Black Hills, Farming Alone in the Hills of North Canterbury by Beverley Forrester with John McCrystal, published by Penguin Random House.









All royalties from the book are being donated to Rural Women NZ.

Open Season

March 31, 2015

Dave Witherow’s book, Open Season, An Angler’s Life in New Zealand, sat on my to-read shelf for weeks.

I know little about fishing and my interest in it is no better than my knowledge.

But I picked up the book last week and was not only hooked but reeled in by the tales of fishing, fishers and their adventures.

As Kevin Ireland says in the forward:

. . . The sheer pleasure of Dave’s abilities and craftsmanship always save the day. His writing has the same relaxed, discursive and illuminating brilliance of his conversation. . .

This is why he managed to keep someone with little interest in fishing reading. He writes well, keeping the reader engaged with the adventures and escapades he and his mates have enjoyed.

This includes crossing a flooded river on a raft constructed from lilos and building his own plane to enable him to get to good fishing spots more easily.

Open Season is an easy and entertaining read which will appeal most to anglers and other outdoor adventurers, but could also hook those like me who know little about the sport.









Open Season, An Angler’s Life in New Zealand by Dave Witherow, published by Random House.


Judges’ decision

January 30, 2015

Miriama Kamo, convenor of judges for the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014 responds to Eleanor Catton’s criticism:

Esteemed academic Peter Munz once said to me, “The wonderful thing about the humanities is the lack of one answer to any issue, there is always debate, there must always be discussion and there may not ever be consensus.”  

 I’m reminded of this as I watch, with a mix of admiration and dismay, the debate fuelled by Eleanor Catton’s comments about the political state of our nation and her feeling that she is a victim of a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. I am interested in listening to all of it, but wish only to comment, as the convenor of the judging panel of the New Zealand Post Book Awards 2014, on the continuing conversation surrounding our decision-making.

The New Zealand Post Book Awards is a multi-category, multi-genre competition. It is quite unlike the Man Booker competition, which considers only fiction. The Luminaries won the Man Booker competition, a thrilling achievement. Last year it went on to win the New Zealand Post Book Awards prize for fiction.  In doing so, it won New Zealand’s equivalent of the Man Booker. It then went into contention for the supreme prize against three other exemplary finalists of different genres.  It did not win that supreme prize; Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer did.  

I’m as impressed as I am bemused by Eleanor Catton’s belief that The Luminaries should have won the supreme prize. I’m impressed because we don’t have a proud history of owning our achievements, of proudly proclaiming our talents. Perhaps this is a by-product of a nation that did suffer a ‘tall poppy’ syndrome. Comments like Eleanor’s make me believe that this is changing. But I’m bemused because, putting aside that it diminishes the achievement of the supreme prize winner, Jill Trevelyan, it betrays a belief that our judging panel should have fallen into line with an international panel of judges. This is at odds with Eleanor saying that she grew up with the erroneous view that Kiwi writers, and by extension Kiwis generally, were somehow less than British and American ones; that we did not, and perhaps do not, back our own opinions or our own talent.

There was no sense on our judging panel that it was ‘someone else’s’ turn to win. We made a literary judgement, not a political statement. Given that our opinion did happen to align with the Man Booker judges and we did award The Luminaries our top fiction prize, it is at least churlish and, at most, mischievous to suggest that The Luminaries did not win its due in New Zealand.  

But then, that’s the beauty of the humanities. Such decisions rightly inspire debate. Like the Man Booker judges, we were a group of individuals making a collective decision. We worked hard at the task in front of us and, in my view, we made wise and well-placed decisions. I was proud to honour Eleanor’s incredible work, The Luminaries. I was proud to award prizes to all the finalists that night of the New Zealand Post Book Awards, and to crown, as supreme winner, Jill Trevelyan’s book Peter McLeavey: The Life and Times of a New Zealand Art Dealer.  It deserved to win.  But in the grand tradition of debating and discussing the arts, I urge you to read all of our finalists before making up your own mind.

Well said and isn’t it good that she says it by way of addressing the criticism and not criticising the critic?

David Farrar also responds to Catton reasonably at Kiwiblog and Trans Tasman opined:

Catton . . . 
illustrated the old wisdom “artists are children,” and it is a little baffling why people seem to expect profundities about politics from them.  In Catton’s case, she is only the latest in the long tradition of NZ literary types who feel their country is too grubby and philistine for them to bear for too long.

It is one of the most tiresomely adolescent aspects of the Kiwi arts scene, and it gets more intense whenever their fellow NZers are so uncouth as to elect National Govts.

Catton isn’t a “traitor” though, despite what talkback host Sean Plunket – increasingly resembling a retired Rotarian – called her on his programme. It is just another case of artists being a bit silly. There is no need for this sort of over-reaction.


Hard Country A Golden Bay Life

December 17, 2014


Robin and Garry Robilliard had big dreams of owning their own farm but only a very small budget with which to purchase one.

Knowing better properties closer to town were out of their reach they settled for Rocklands, a rundown property on very marginal hill country over the Takaka Hill from Nelson.

Not only the farm was rundown, the house was too, allowing too easy access for mice and rats.

The three previous owners went broke trying to farm the property and given the challenges they faced the Robilliards could easily have done so too.

But they were determined to keep hold of their dream and their farm and they persevered where many others would not have.

Farming this hard country required demanding physical work and mental toughness.

Robin recounts the their trials and triumphs without self-pity and with a sense of humour, painting a vivid picture of their life  and times and the people who played a part in them.

Farming and raising their children would have been enough for most women but Robin also managed to write entertaining accounts of their life for the Auckland Weekly and was a guest on the TV programme Beauty and the Beast.

This led to opportunities for travel writing and accounts of her travels behind the iron curtain are included in the book.

Hard Country is an interesting and  inspirational read which will appeal to a wide audience, not just those with a connection to farming.

That said, if you have a farmer in want of a Christmas present, this book would make a good one.

Hard Country A Golden Bay Life by Robin Robilliard is published by Random House.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,715 other followers

%d bloggers like this: