NZ IceFest – dust off your ice skates!

NZ IceFest is a celebration of New Zealand’s relationship with Antarctica and of Christchurch’s history as a gateway to the Antarctic. This festival includes many events, as well as interesting speakers, documentaries, and exhibitions.

Cover: Still LifeThe ‘Still Life: Inside the Antarctic huts of Scott and Shackleton’ exhibition (based on the book of the same name), is a series of Jane Ussher’s photos (accompanied by a soundtrack) of objects inside and around the huts. It provides an interesting glimpse into what life may have been like for these explorers.

If you are keen to find out more about Scott and Shackleton we have a lot of books (including ebooks and audiobooks) detailing their remarkable lives. I am currently reading about Shackleton’s amazing survival story surrounding his ship Endurance. It became trapped in the ice and he managed to lead his men to safety through several incredible journeys over land and sea. At IceFest there’s a replica of the James Caird, the lifeboat used by Shackleton and some of his men in their efforts to be rescued, and it was seeing this and the accompanying notes alongside it that prompted me to get reading.

Photo: Statue of Robert Falcon ScottAlso on display at the IceFest is the magnificent marble statue of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, sculpted by Scott’s widow, Lady Kathleen Scott. It was sad to see it in several pieces (it sustained earthquake damage); I do hope that it can be restored. It is an eerie reminder of the earthquakes, and seems very symbolic, shattered but hopefully restorable.

Onto cheerier thoughts… If you’re hungry, I can recommend a West Coast whitebait fritter, and there are also some other great food options available from the stalls at the Icefest. If it is a chilly night and you need some warming up,  then that wintery treat, mulled wine, is available.

The ice skating rink at IceFest looks like fun (if you are more coordinated than I am!), and was getting a lot of use the night we visited. See the IceFest website for pricing and special offers.

NZ IceFest runs from 14 September to 14 October in Christchurch’s Hagley Park (next to the tennis courts that are close to Victoria Lake), and is definitely worth a visit, especially at night when you’ll see the twinkling lights surrounding the ice rink and lighting up the trees. Some activities within the Ice Station have an associated cost, but entry is free and there is plenty to see and do free of charge. For more details, visit the IceFest website.

Fictional families: the laughter and the tears

If there is one institution in this world that can make you laugh, cringe, weep and sigh then it would have to be family. Despite the emotional minefield that families can be, they are also a place of refuge – even if the various members are all very different. As one quote on families said “home is where they have to let you in.” That is why family is such a great source for fiction writers . Families bring people together who have long histories and memories which can lead to situations and behaviours that are comic and unacceptable. It doesn’t matter though – family have to love you, even when they don’t like you.

No author I have read recently brings out the eccentricities, dysfunction love in families like Jonathan Tropper. This is where I leave you had me laughing out loud and cringing all in one swift motion. A death in the family brings together estranged brothers and sisters all with their own problems and issues which ferment and erupt. I was so impressed that I moved on to Tropper’s Book of Joe which was a moving and funny portrayal of  a man unexpectedly pulled back to his old small home town and family. I laughed and sometimes buried my head in my hands and peeked at the pages through my fingers at the all too recognisable human behaviours of a self-aware but struggling character … I then put a hold on Tropper’s newest book!

Well that is  my recommended author for the coming months.  Has anyone got any further suggestions for me? Think humour, relationships and clever observation of human foibles …