Which prompted me to feel a bit guilty about how few Māori and Pacific New Zealand authors I read… and then I pretty much forgot about it because life is too short to feel guilty about the books you haven’t read. As a librarian I’m exposed to a constant stream of new and interesting looking titles and (spoiler alert) I read hardly any of them.
But, for a couple of reasons the notion that I should expand my reading into more Polynesian fare stuck.
The main one being that I had a one week holiday coming up during which I could get in some solid novel-reading. The second being that the holiday in question was in Rarotonga (of the aforementioned Polynesia). And thirdly, because I had a couple of titles on my For Later Shelf that were available in time to take the trip with me (sometimes the Atua* of the Holds Lists smiles upon thee).
My first holiday read was not a novel at all but a collection of short stories. I always think with short stories that they are less of a commitment than a whole novel. Something that you can move easily on from should it not be to your taste. However Stories on the four winds: Ngā hau e whā was by far the more emotionally gripping and in places gruelling of the two books. In the space of relatively few pages I was drawn into murders, deaths and losses as well as tales of joy, love and connection. I started blubbing before the plane had even landed.
Writers, with their writerly tricks can surprise you, and indeed this was the brief for all the stories in the book (from a variety of well-known and perhaps less well-known Māori and Pasifika writers) – to surprise the reader. So every story has a twist or takes you somewhere you don’t expect. Even though the stories are short, they pack a punch and I found with some of them that I had to take a break between them, to get my bearings again. Standouts for me were the contributions from Albert Wendt, Alice Tawhai, Ann French, Jacqui McRae, K-t Harrison, and Reneé.
My second book was a novel and after the emotional rollercoaster of Stories on the four winds it was a nice change of speed. How to party with an infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings was perfect holiday fare. Hemmings is not a New Zealand writer but she is Hawaiian and I very much enjoyed the film of her first novel, The Descendants. I have so far neglected to read the source novel (more book-related guilt) but thought that this story of a single mother raising a small child in San Francisco would suit me.
It certainly did. The book has a sly sense of humour and uses the mechanism of the protagonist, Mele, listening to and writing the stories her parents’ group friends tell her. There are some really great characters in there, full of anxieties and insecurities – worrying about measuring up to other parents, fitting in, being good enough. As well there’s a bit of light romance of a very grown-up kind because everyone in this book has kids. I liked this book for its knowing jabs at the “Mummy Wars” aspects of parenting whilst celebrating the great, affirming friendships that can grow out of that shared experience.
For other recommendations of “brown reading” do check out Paula Morris’s post Why Aren’t You Reading Brown? for 21 titles by Māori and Pacific writers. Get the Holds Lists Atua on your side and you could be reading one before you know it.
In her new book, Seeds of Hope, Jane champions the cause of plants. A spiritual call to humankind to avert the looming crisis in nature, backed with scientific authority. Jane reminds us that all animals are reliant on the delicate balance of flora and fauna, at risk from factory farming, destruction of habitats and genetic engineering.
Incredibly decorated, (thirty three awards at last count), Dame Jane’s accolades include the Order of the Golden Ark (1980) for World Wildlife Conservation, The Encyclopaedia Brittannica Award (1989) for Excellence on the Dissemination of Learning for the Benefit of Mankind), the Rainforest Alliance Champion Award (1993), the Commander of the Order or the British Empire (1995) and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Life Science (2003) to name a few.
The month of June 1918 started pleasantly enough for Canterbury. However, as the weeks progressed, the good weather soon gave way to frequent rain. By 27 June, snow had started to fall in the back country. Then, on the afternoon of Sunday 30 June, the temperature in Christchurch plummeted and the sky darkened. Snow fell on the city, but did not settle. Soon it was replaced by rain which continued to fall throughout the evening.
Further inland, the snow kept falling. As it steadily built up, the weight of it caused the chimneys and roofs of rural houses to collapse. Livestock which couldn’t find shelter were buried. Telegraph lines were bent. The railway lines became completely snowed under, with the West Coast train stuck at Waddington.
Canterbury was completely cut off from the rest of the country.
Throughout the day the power in Christchurch began to falter. Then, at 3.50pm, the south transmission line from the hydroelectric scheme at Lake Coleridge failed.
Monday 1 July
When the people of Christchurch awoke on Monday morning they found that the city was cut off from its main power supply. Throughout the night, attempts had been made to repair the south transmission line, but by 2.40am it had failed. This was followed at 6am, with power failures on the north transmission line.
The Tramway Board and the City Council municipal plants were able to supply a limited amount of power to the city, using coal provided by local coal merchants and the Railway Department. Yet the restricted amount caused the power to remain intermittent.
Lawrence Birks, the Public Works Department (PWD) Chief Electrical Engineer for Canterbury aimed to establish where the breaks had occurred on the north and south transmission lines, and began to organise for men to get through to the power house at Lake Coleridge.
Tuesday 2 July
The superintendent at the Lake Coleridge power house was Archibald George Rennie Blackwood. Realising that Christchurch was without power, he set out, with a couple of workers, using a dray drawn by two horses, hoping to find the location of the fault in the transmission lines. After an accident forced them to leave the dray behind, they continued on through the snow with the horses. Eventually they reached Snowden Hut, where they camped for the night.
Meanwhile, an attempt to establish communication with the rural township of Coalgate was made by PWD employee, Robert Allen. Setting out on foot from Darfield, he staggered through the snow and managed to reach his destination, exhausted.
Another attempt was also made by Harold and William Jones. Travelling in a motorcycle with a side car, they departed the Addington substation at midday and reached Hororata by 2pm. Despite being warned to turn back, they pushed on. As the evening approached, with the intention of reaching Snowdon, the brothers were overtaken by two PWD cars. One of the cars had been fitted with a snow plough, but was soon forced to turn back. The other contained another PWD employee, Boris Daniels.
The brothers soon found that the wheels of their motorcycle were hindered by the ruts left behind by the PWD car’s snow plough. After attempting to push the motorcycle, they were forced to discard it and continue on foot. Wading through three miles of deep snow, they finally reached Hororata at 10pm, where they were put up for the night.
Meanwhile Boris Daniels, after overtaking the two brothers in the PWD car, had reached Hororata at 6pm. A Russian, he had been loaned a pair of skis which had formerly belonged to Robert Falcon Scott. Setting out immediately, he reached Mount Hutt, where he rested, having been forbidden by Birks from continuing on through the night.
Wednesday 3 July
The next morning, with their clothes still damp, Harold and William Jones made the return journey back to their motorcycle. Since the ruts which had previously impeded them were now filled with frozen water, they were able to return to Hororata. However, upon arriving, they learned that Boris Daniels had already set off, with the likelihood of reaching Lake Coleridge.
Earlier that morning, Blackwood, the power house superintendent, and his men had also left Snowden Hut, reaching Point Hut by midday.
Having set out on his skis, Boris Daniels found himself confronted by a vast, white landscape. In many places the snow was three feet deep, allowing him to simply jump over any fences which normally would have been a barrier. Throughout his journey, he encountered sheep which, without any shelter, had become buried, the only sign that they were still alive being their noses poking through the snow. When he reached Brackendale Hut, he was met by two men on horses who had been trying to reach Lake Coleridge but to no avail. Continuing onwards, he finally encountered Blackwood and the team from the power house at the line’s highest point. Together, they returned to Brackendale Hut and spent the night in a nearby farm house.
From Christchurch, another attempt was made, with three PWD cars setting out in the morning and one in the afternoon. The last car contained G.F. Ferguson, the assistant engineer of the Lake Coleridge scheme, C.P. Agar, and two journalists. Upon reaching Hororata, they found that the other cars which had preceded them had been abandoned. Continuing on to Coalgate, the depth of the snow meant that they often had to get out and push the vehicle. Eventually they reached their destination where, after a meal, they ventured out into the frozen night on foot to examine the damaged lines.
Thursday 4 July
With only a sporadic amount of electricity to rely on, Christchurch had been brought to a near standstill. Factories were unable to operate effectively to meet production deadlines. Workers were sent home. The trams which were able to run did so with no lighting. Businesses whose trading hours normally extended into the evening were forced to close. When the automatic stoker of the Tramway plant failed, the workers resorted to manual hand stoking and using inferior coal, which caused a reduction in the pressure.
On Thursday morning, G.F. Ferguson, C.P. Agar. J. Reeves and R. Young set out from Coalgate for Lake Coleridge on horses. By midday they had reached the house of Mr and Mrs Gilmour, who insisted that the party stay for lunch. Afterwards, the group pushed on to Round Stables Hut. The plan was that, if the lake power house was still out of contact, they would then proceed with a nocturnal march across the frozen snow.
However, upon reaching Round Stables Hut, they managed to make contact with the power house, only to learn that another group, which had reached Hawkins Hut, had beaten them by mere minutes.
As the repair teams started to fix the transmission lines, they found that the weight of the snow had caused the poles to bend and break. Because the current couldn’t be turned on until it was certain that the damaged isolators had been replaced and that the repair gangs were clear of the lines, it wasn’t until 8pm that they could start testing the lines.
Friday 5 July
By 10pm Friday, power had finally been restored to Christchurch, allowing for communication with Wellington to be established via the West Coast. However, eighteen miles of telegraph line between Christchurch and Kaikoura still remained damaged. Smaller townships such as Waikari, Hawarden, Culverden and Waiau would remain isolated until 12 July.
Over the following days, life returned to normal for the people of Christchurch. Many may have rushed to purchase the Delco-Light electric generators from the Farmers store, which took advantage of the situation to advertise their stock. Yet for many, although they had experienced late trams, closed shops, and a lack of lighting, the loss of these conveniences was not as nearly as distressing as the absence of the news regarding the war in Europe.
When I was 7, a substitute teacher read the class the first two chapters of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I thought it was a bit rubbish and told my mother so when I got home. “I think I’ve heard about it on the radio,” she said. “It’s meant to be quite good.” Oh. I gave it another try, this time borrowing it from the library. I read it so compulsively that I finished it on a family visit to a friend’s for dinner, surfacing at the end to ask if there was a sequel. I was hooked.
That was in 1997. Over the next few years the world caught up in the same kind of madness, and I slowly caught up to Harry in age. By the time Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the seventh and final volume) was published I was a teenager on a gap year — I still have a photo of myself in a bookshop in France on the day it was released. Like a lot of people, Harry Potter was my first experience of fandom, sharing my fiction affliction with millions of others around the world. There are a thousand stories like mine.
My relationship with the books is a lot more complicated now than it was in the beginning, but they shaped so much of my growing up that I still love them anyway. From making Harry Potter paper dolls with my best friend to writing a fan letter to J. K. Rowling (and getting a reply!), buying my first merch (Hedwig sweatshirt) in Germany in 1998, getting spoiled for who died in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix because for once I didn’t read fast enough, dressing up for a launch event at the local bookshop in 2005…
Somehow, as of today, it has been 20 years since Harry Potter was first published. Time for a re-read and a chocolate frog, I think.
“Happee Birthdae Harry” as Rubeus Hagrid so aptly said twenty years ago.
Yes, its hard to believe, but this year, ‘Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone’ celebrates the twentieth anniversary of its first publication, and my generation of twenty-somethings can now, finally, feel old.
Together we and Harry Potter went through school (admittedly with less owls and enchanted halls on our end), and gradually ‘grew up’ through both good and bad experiences (though again, less trolls and horcruxes’ were involved), losses, and gains. Harry Potter really was the story of our generation. I remember my father bringing home the first Harry Potter book with a casual ‘the woman in the shop said this was quite good’ (yes – they hadn’t quite taken off at that stage).
From then on, as each book in the series was released, there would be a flurried, exciting day where me and my two sisters would charge down to our nearest bookstore and buy a copy each (the only way to avoid an ugly scene). We would then spend the next day (and night) with our noses buried in its pages, never emerging until the very last sentence had been read. One year we were so immersed in the latest installment we let our log fire go out three times, and forgot to eat any food until dinner time (a very monumental thing for us).
Twenty years on from our first introduction to Rowling’s incredible world, I not only feel old, I also feel oddly proud that ‘Harry Potter and Philosophers Stone’ is every bit as good to me as when I first read it all those years ago. Reason enough, I think, to break out the butterbeer and cauldron cakes.
Not only that but Rowling was also incredibly funny. There are passages which still make me gwarff out loud like Lee Jordan’s ‘impartial’ quidditch commentary:
“So-after that obvious and disgusting bit of cheating-“
“Jordan!” growled Professor McGonagall.
“I mean, after that open and revolting foul-“
“Jordan, I’m warning you-“
“All right, all right. Flint nearly kills the Gryffindor Seeker, which could happen to anyone I’m sure…” .
And Ron’s pragmatic reply to Harry’s question:
“what if I wave my wand and nothing happens?”
Ron: “Throw it away and punch him on the nose.’
Some comic relief and cosy moments at the Burrow actually manage to transform these books into go-to comfort reading for me (except for the last book I guess- and the end of the fourth and the sixth and, well, a few other moments…).
And of course the stories are damn good. Who doesn’t love a story which features the underdog (in this case an unloved orphan) transforming into a honourable hero with the skills and courage to save the (wizarding) world. In addition, as the story grew both in intricacy and character development, so did Rowling’s first generation of readers. The stories’ growth really couldn’t have been better timed. There were always strong themes of sacrifice and loss running through Harry Potters story but, somehow, Rowling managed to introduce more intricate, often darker ideas like Horcruxes, the death of Dumbledore, Snapes’ heartbreaking love for Lily, and the supremely evil professor Umbridge’s ‘takeover’ of Hogwarts, just as her audiences were growing in reading level and maturity.
Rowling always celebrated important character traits too such as loyalty and knowledge, themes which will make her stories timeless. Ron and Hermione sacrifice a happy, normal life to follow Harry on his quest; Snape sacrifices his own name and safety to avenge Lily and keep the mission going and, in the end, Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice, his own life, to rid the world of Voldemort.
Knowledge is celebrated through Hermione, the cleverest witch of her time and Dumbledore the epitome of wisdom. It is doubtful if Harry’s quest would have progressed as successfully had it not been for Hermione swotting up on virtually every wizarding book under the sun including material on horcruxes, and had it not been for Dumbledore’s private lessons with Harry in which they discussed Voldemort’s past.
And who couldn’t love the world Rowling managed to create? An amazing world of Quidditch, pet owls, wizarding schools, and so so much more. Somehow, Rowling still managed to also ‘keep it real’ by having very real themes of love (in many forms), and painful loss. Perhaps this is part of Harry Potters huge appeal – that perfect mix of magic and reality.
Rowling also includes some great hat tips to ancient mythology. Like St Patrick or Herakles, Harry Potter has power over serpents (though admittedly Harry takes a somewhat more passive approach to Herakles and has a reasoned chat to his snakes rather than killing them in either hand from his infancy). Cerberus, the 3 headed dog like guard of the underworld, even makes an appearance as Hagrid’s beloved pet ‘Fluffy’, and there are frequent references to Rowling’s own personal favourite of mythical creatures – the phoenix, the ultimate symbol of renewal celebrated in Greek, Roman and many other mythologies. Also, like all mythological heroes, Harry is on a ‘quest’ which only he can achieve. Wise as Dumbledore is, and loyal as Hermione and Ron remain to the bitter end, Harry still must go on his own and leave his companions to confront the essential menace and conquer the root of all the evil.
I also love Rowling’s clever use of latin within spells and potions (For a start, ‘accio’ sounds so much more impressive than ‘fetch’ and ‘felix felicitis’ far more meaningful than ‘lucky day’), and one has to admire the hidden meanings dedicated Potter fans manage to unearth behind seemingly innocent phrases. Take Snape’s first question to Harry:
“Potter! What would I get if I added powdered root of asphodel to an infusion of wormwood?”
Some dedicated Potter fans insist that what this really means is ‘I bitterly regret Lily’s death’, because, according to Victorian Flower Language, asphodel is a type of lily while wormwood means ‘absence’ and symbolizes bitter sorrow. Just as rabbis take a passage in the Torah and discuss its complexities and multiple meanings for many days, so it seems, do Potter fans for a snarky question from Severus Snape. There exists a sort of Harry Potter midrash. Who knew?
With a gripping, intricate story, quite literally magical setting, strong characters, and great humour, there is so much to love and celebrate about this incredible series. Rowling has helped to inspire a whole generation of bookworms and after twenty years, more beautiful reprints, and more spin off movies, it looks as though she will continue to work her magic for new generations to come.
Hi there, some great looking titles in the box this week.
Katey Sagal (Sons of Anarchy, Futurama, Married with Children) has written an autobiography! Grace Notes tells the story of Sagal’s amazing and challenging life (not the least having a baby, told as a series of essays. Christina Applegate hails the memoir as “a beautiful poem…you will be transported…and healed.” Follow Katey Sagal on Twitter @KateySagal
Wildlife enthusiasts will love this biography The Durrells of Corfu. Those who loved reading Gerald Durrell’s stories of the exotic island and equally exotic pets will enjoy this. The author, Michael Haag, was family friend of Lawrence Durrell, Gerald’s father. The book includes photographs, excerpts from stories and an epilogue on Lawrence Durrell’s writing.
Clive Cussler’s new book Nighthawk is the 14th installment of the Numa Files (National Underwater and Marine Agency Foundation). A highly advanced spaceship disappears over the South Pacific. Kurt Austin and NUMA scramble to find it, and its unstable cargo before other nations can discover it. Great reviews. Keep track of his series with Fantastic Fiction.
The Other Hoffmann Sister by Ben Fergusson, is an Historic novel about a German family, set in Southwest Africa. When her sister Marguerite later goes missing after their return to Berlin, the mystery haunts Ingrid, but her search is interrupted by the onset of World
War I. His second novel, the story is described at atmospheric, accurate, elegant and engrossing.
A Dog’s Way Home is another novel from W. Bruce Cameron, author of A Dog’s Purpose (recently on film). There are many wonderful tales of great animal journeys. In this story, Lucas has to give the dog he found as a puppy, as pitbulls are banned in Denver. Yet the bond between Bella and Lucas is so strong that Bella attempts a journey of 400 miles across Colorado wilderness.
Familiar Things is a bit of a gem. South-Korean writer Hwang Sok-Yong, is being hailed as ‘the most powerful voice in Asia’ (Kenzaburo Oe), this book as a ‘great political book’ (Critiques Libres). Flower Island is a landfill, home to the poor who have been driven out of the city. Yet against the stark backdrop of reality, Ancient Spirits are about to reveal themselves…
Miss Manners would probably be spinning in her grave*, but seriously, I don’t know when I’ve laughed so hard as when I read Old MacDonald Heard a Fart! I took it home the other night, to read it to the Beecrafty family, but it seems not everyone enjoys a fart book as much as I do! Maybe I shouldn’t have read it at the dinner table, because of course it prompted a raucous fart-noise competition between myself and the Young Lad, and Mr K left the room in disgust. But if you’ve got kids who appreciate a bit of scatological humour, this picture book is a must!
There’s just so much to love about this book. As you probably already guessed from the title, it’s an irreverent, noisy version of the farmyard classic. It has lovely, vibrant, and expressive illustrations, with lots of little details and things to spy. I had to giggle at the Elvis rooster and the Jurassic Pork poster on the stable wall. The Ziggy Stardust unicorn in a Dalí landscape is really something, too.
But best of all has to be the instructions on how to create (verbally, I promise!) each fart sound. The Young Lad and I had great fun contorting our lips into the correct formations to make all the gross noises. Although he was quick to demonstrate his own favourite technique – I didn’t know what an accomplished fart noise creator he was. The next night, he was most indignant when I said I couldn’t read it again as I had taken the book back to work!
The story of this story is also quite something. Debut author Olaf Falafel tweeted that he needed a publisher for his new book, and before two weeks were up, he had a book deal! Isn’t that twitterising a whole lot better than covfefe?
Part I: Paul Dalziel
Budget 2017 in its economic context; key elements of Budget 2017; putting Budget in layperson’s terms
Part II: Helen Leahy
Budget 2017 and its implications for whānau; family vulnerability and resilience
Part III: Discussion
Government-civil society partnerships and the importance of holistic approaches to family wellbeing; pros and cons of statistics-based funding models; prioritising economic growth against other types of growth