The other Kiwi icon – The Yates Garden Guide

This library’s recent promotion involving that great Kiwi icon, the Edmonds Cookery Book, has provided a fascinating insight into social and family history, but there is another iconic guidebook that has been far more important to me personally. Let me sing the praises of Yates Garden Guide.

Like Edmonds Cookery Book, Yates Garden Guide sprang from a commercial imperative, to create a demand for the company’s product,  and like Edmonds transcended mere commerce to become a basic reference guide found in many homes.  My own old, battered copy of the Guide was bought in 1965 by my dad, when we moved from a mostly tarmacked backyard in Lyttelton to a quarter-acre section in Spreydon (there were houses on these properties but I always felt that the gardens were more important). Mum and Dad had migrated from London in 1958, and knew very little about gardening,  so a straightforward guide to New Zealand conditions was needed. 

Step back in time to 1965. The gardening world was different then.  The Guide sang the praises of DDT and artificial fertilisers. DDT and its component dieldrin wiped out everything, in a hygienic, efficient and cost-effective way, especially when applied via “convenient plastic squeeze dispersing bottles”.  And why use smelly, bulky natural manures when you could apply a clean, white powder and get better results?

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“Dark places” leads reader to aim for the light!

I have to confess I am not really a “who dunnit” reader.  I  blame watching one to many mind numbing crime programmes on television. I now pretty much don’t care  about these imaginary victims with their corpses displayed for my viewing pleasure (they are getting more and more graphic have you noticed?)  nor can I be  bothered waiting to see who did what to whom and why (their mother was too clingy, they are greedy or just plain psychopaths ). But I do have to confess that Gillian Flynn’s “Dark Places” has managed to change that.

None of the main players in this book are likable. There is no truely innocent victim nor some hardened but likable local cop.  The main protagonists in this book is the greasy haired angry and depressed Libby Day, who lives off the proceeds of her dwindling trust fund, set up for her when as a child her mother and two sisters were slaughtered in the family’s Kansas farmhouse.  It was a seven-year-old Libby’s testimony that sent her then 15-year-old brother, Ben, to prison for life for the murders. Ben, who we also get to know well in the book as an awkward and angry manchild, yearning for a father-figure while being raised in a poverty-stricken household by a single overwhelmed mother.

We meet Libby twenty odd years latter after the murders, when desperate for cash she reluctantly agrees to meet members of the Kill Club, true crime enthusiasts who bicker over famous cases. She’s shocked to learn most of them believe Ben is innocent and the real killer is still on the loose. Though initially interested only in making a quick buck Libby  soon begins to question what exactly she saw—or didn’t see—the night of the tragedy.

The book is told in an interesting flashback format, with Libby, tough and damaged  narrating the present-day chapters in first-person, while the flashback chapters, told in third-person, describe the actions of several key characters including Ben on one winter’s day in 1985.

Trust me – you will never guess what happened in that farmhouse in 1985  and I challenge you not to have your mouth agape at the end when you find out!    

Crazy old Q Awards

The annual UK Q magazine awards, held last week, are guaranteed to provide some juicy rock-in-roll controversy and this year did not disappoint.  It was Amy Winehouse‘s magnificently re-configured bosom that grabbed all the headlines when her bad girls, determined to get their time in the spotlight, leapt out of the hanky Amy called a dress. But the music though over-shadowed was not entirely forgotten. In no particular order and missing out the boring bits, the reader voted Q Awards went to:

  • White Lies for best new act (think Echo and the Bunnymen meet Interpol)
  • Spandau Ballet, of frills and hair flicks fame, scooped a Q Idol award. They’ve reformed and announced a series of UK tour dates for 2010.
  • Kasabian triumphed with a best album award for West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum.
  • Muse proved they are more than a Radiohead tribute band and scored the Best Act In the World today.
  • Robert Plant not only got a good eyeful of Amy’s assets but also won the Q Outstanding Contribution To Music Award. Robert we salute you.
  • Lily Allen got Best Track Award for The Fear from her album It’s not me, it’s you. Lily is always threatening to retire so this could be the pinnacle of her pop career. 

Arctic Monkeys, Yusef a.k.a Cat Stevens, Edwyn Collins, U2, Marianne Faithful, Sonic Youth, Frankie goes to Hollywood, Mr Hudson, Lady Gaga and The Specials all also felt the Q-love and received congratulatory trinkets. Well done chaps.