The wondrous Waitaki

Labour Weekend marks the 75th birthday of the Waitaki hydro dam, which is one of the cornerstones of this nation’s power grid. Built in the 1920s and 30s using old-fashioned hard work – picks, shovels, concrete, steel and blood, sweat and tears, it first generated power in 1935 and was the first of  several dams on the Waitaki River.

A remarkable collection of 185 photos donated by Linton Simmons Payne, a hydro-electrical engineer, has been digitised and made available online in time to mark this occasion. The photos cover all aspects of the the construction of the dam and provide a fascinating glimpse into this massive project and what life must have been like for the workers who toiled in the harsh valley climate.

There are a few books on The Waitaki River and its hydro electric history, and another is set to be launched for this year’s milestone. I wonder what a power project on that scale would look like today? Would we even have the audacity to give it a shot? Reading the book commissioned for the fortieth anniversary of the Benmore Dam, with text by Lloyd Jones, I wonder if we would.

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Is your teacher an alien?

Do your teachers speak in a really weird language when they think you’re not looking? Do they wear a brass wrist band that they use to communicate with someone in another galaxy? Do their eyes flash blue when you annoy them?  If you answered yes to all of these questions it is very likely that your teachers are aliens from another planet and you should get as far away from them as possible.

In Mark Haddon’s new book, Boom!, Jim and Charlie do exactly the opposite when they discover something weird is going on.  When Jim overhears a conversation between his teachers, he believes that they are trying to get him sent to a new school and so with the help of his best friend Charlie, they bug the staff room.  However, what they actually hear is two of their teachers speaking in a strange language and so they set out to find some answers to these strange goings-on.  This story has everything – action, adventure, aliens, mysterious men in gray suits, cool alien technology, a strange language and lots of laughs.

You may know of Mark Haddon as the author of the hugely popular Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  Boom! is a completely different sort of story for a different age group but it’s an out-of-this-world read.