Robert, Frederick, James and Desmond

Cover image Cover image Cover image
Cover image Cover image Cover image
Cover image Cover image Cover image
Cover image Cover image Cover image

About Askews eBooks

Christchurch Railway Station, 1953 : Picturing Canterbury

Construction of Christchurch Railway Station, Moorhouse Ave, 1953. Christchurch City Libraries, CCL-Arch978-1-026

What a good boy am I. Or am I?

Cover: P.G. Wodehouse a life in lettersDo we have to love the artist if we love the art? Does an artist have to be a ‘good’  person? Of course not. If they did the art galleries and the libraries and the concert halls would be silent and bare.

Womanisers (why is there no female equivalent for that word? Maniser just sounds silly), alcoholics, drug addicts,  terrible parents, borrowers of money with no intention of paying it back. All part of the myth, and the attraction.

But how about traitor? Or fool?

I’m having a think about this in anticipation of  The Court Theatre’s production of Plum. Apparently the play considers whether one of the great comic writers of the 20th century, P. G. Wodehouse, betrayed his country or merely poked fun at it at an inappropriate time.

During the Second World War Wodehouse was tardy in leaving France after it was invaded by Germany. It’s said that his wife wouldn’t leave her dog, Wonder. Good story. Good name for a dog.

Back to the facts. Wodehouse was interned by the Germans and after his release made five ‘non-political’ broadcasts from Berlin, aired in America and aimed at keeping it out of the war. Although few people in England heard them they engendered howls of rage, calls for Wodehouse to be charged as a traitor, questions in Parliament and worst of all saw his books stripped from library shelves.

Cover: Nothing seriousJust as well the outrage didn’t spread to New Zealand, or he was reinstated by the time I was at school because he was one of the few readable writers in my school library and I loved him for it. “As a dancer I out-Fred the nimblest Astaire” seemed to me to be the height of wit. On reflection there may have been good reasons why I was haunting the library and not out living teenage life to the fullest.

So, fool or traitor? George Orwell said that “the events of 1941 do not convict Wodehouse of anything worse than stupidity”. He taught Stephen Fry, who memorably played Jeeves in the television series of Jeeves and Wooster,  that it is “enough to be benign, to be gentle, to be funny, to be kind”.  Is it? Perhaps Plum will tell us.

Plum opens at The Court on Saturday the 9th of August. After seeing the play (or before) we can read Wodehouse’s  books and listen to them on audiobook, read his letters and the biographies  about him and watch the Films and television series.

Then we can make up our own minds.

In search of… the perfect reading spot

Everyone knows that the best place to get a book from is the public library, but where is the best place to read it? I have decided to look for the best places to read a book in Christchurch and share them with you.

Starting with home, the best place for reading in the morning is on the two-seater.  Nice and sunny all day and there is a coffee table within reach.  On cold days, the cat will occupy my lap.  On really cold days the best spot is in the corner seat of our corner lounge suite. Heater on and wrapped up in the quilt made by Mum, the cat finds this reading spot hard to resist.

When the weather is just right, I like to take my book off the property, but where is the perfect outdoor reading spot?

  • The Botanic Gardens: large areas of lawn, a river bank, shady trees and an ice cream shop.
  • The banks of the Avon River. The ducks on the river are lovely, there are plenty of park benches under chestnut trees, and at the Antigua Boatshed there is an ice cream shop.
  • The beach. If you don’t mind getting sand in your books, the beach is a good spot with beach umbrella, beach towel, sun block and an ice cream shop.
  • The library is a great place to read if the weather does not permit al fresco reading. Our displaced reader has visited most of them. The best part is, if you finish your book, you are already at the library, so you can return it and choose another. If you like reading e-books, bring in your e-reader or laptop and enjoy downloading books via wi-fi. I don’t think there are any libraries in Christchurch that sell ice creams, but some of them do have a cafe. A flat white will do when rum and raisin ice creams are not on the menu.
  • Akaroa. I would like to take my book to that picturesque paradise called Akaroa. I think it would be a great place to read. I would like to sit with my back against the lighthouse and as the sun moves, so would I. I might be worried that ma glace might melt, so I might have to have une baguette instead.
  • University of Canterbury. I have heard that the University of Canterbury is a good place to read a book. I thought that was a bit odd until I was told that the Avon River with grassy banks flows right past the University of Canterbury Students’ Association building. I am not a former UC student, so I don’t know where the ice cream shop is, but I’ve heard that they do make a good coffee.
  • A cafe. I have had no luck reading a book in a cafe. When the coffee arrives, it is too hot. Unfortunately I get so engrossed in the book, the coffee gets forgotten until it’s too cold. The waitress then tries to wipe down my table and give me the surely you are finished look. My colleague Di has told me that Ballantyne’s has a cafe downstairs with comfortable couches where reading is an acceptable pass-time.

So dear reader, your challenge (should you wish to accept it) is : during August, find the perfect reading spot in Christchurch.