Remembering Norman Kirk

A big man in every sense, Norman Kirk was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1972 to 1974, and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1965 to 1974. He  died on 31 August 1974 and I would like to pay homage and possibly introduce him to another generation of Kiwis.

It’s not a very long period to be Prime Minister and be remembered with such affection and respect by so many and that in part explains the man. He was raised by parents in the Salvation Army and extremely conscious of social injustice and a tireless worker for the downtrodden.

In 1943 aged 20 he joined the Labour Party in Kaiapoi, North Canterbury. By this time the poor student had held down numerous jobs and was already married to Ruth Miller. The young couple bought a piece of land in Kaiapoi but due to a lack of funds and building materials being in short supply post-war, Norm built the bricks and then he built the house. All this time he was working at the Firestone factory in Papanui and cycling to Kaiapoi, doing a stint on the house and home again.

All the while he was pursuing a political career and again by sheer hard work he led a Labour team to victory in the Kaiapoi local body elections and became the youngest Mayor in New Zealand at the age of 30, also being leader of the first Labour Council in Kaiapoi.

In 1954 Norm Kirk stood for Labour in the Hurunui electorate, increasing Labour’s numbers but failed to win the seat. In November 1957 after a physically energetic (door knocking) campaign he won the seat of Lyttelton for Labour, becoming a Member of Parliament in opposition. He held this seat until 1969 when he transferred to the electorate of Sydenham.

It wasn’t until January 1958 that he resigned as Mayor of Kaiapoi and the family (Norm and Ruth had 3 sons and 2 daughters) moved to Christchurch.  The work involved in being Mayor of a town outside Christchurch and the sitting MP of another electorate altogether must have been such hard work, especially for such a man as large as he had become. Partly because of his bulk and a childhood illness his health was never really good but still he worked hard for his beliefs.

Between 1960 and 1965 Big Norm progressed in the Labour Party, and with the backing of several large trade unions he was elected Vice President in 1963 and by December 1965 he was elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  None of this without hard work and proving himself the right man for the job and a brilliant debater using his bulk and stentorian voice to his advantage.

On 25th November 1972, Labour won the election with a 23 seat majority.  The campaign was Norm’s campaign. The conservative newspaper The Dominion bestowed its ‘Man of the Year’ prize on him for ‘outstanding personal potential for leadership’.  Quite a coup!

Cover of Diary of the Kirk yearsNorman Kirk took a stand: The South African team wanting to tour New Zealand in April 1973  were not racially integrated and the Kirk government refused visas. Pressure was applied to the French to stop testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, this failed so a frigate was sent to the test area ‘to provide a focus for international opinion against the tests’. This was an activist government the like of which had not been seen in New Zealand for 40 years.

Ever the hard worker, Kirk pushed himself during the two years of his prime ministership, travelling and attending conferences desperate to achieve what his government had promised, all despite suffering with problematic varicose veins, breathing difficulties, blood clots, weight issues and stress. By 1974 the world economy was slowing and oil prices rising and Kirk opposed abortion and homosexual law reform both of which were gaining more recognition with the public. His government’s popularity was waning, but he still had a big personal loyal following.  His health deteriorated further and he was finally persuaded to go to hospital and died of congestive cardiac failure and thromboembolic pulmonary heart disease on Saturday 31 August 1974 aged 51.

There was an enormous outpouring of grief nationally. He had gone before he could truly achieve what we all believed he was capable of. I had voted with proper consideration for the first time during the election of 1972 and felt we had lost a great leader, one not likely to be seen for a long while.  Labour went on to lose the 1975 election to Robert Muldoon’s National government.

Norman Kirk summed up his and the Labour government’s political philosophy as ‘a social programme which will promote the housing of our people, protect their health, and ensure full employment and equal opportunity for all’. What a man and what ideals.

Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Macfarlane, Ian : Negatives of Graham Bagnall and Norman Kirk. Ref: 35mm-00277-b-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22910147
Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Macfarlane, Ian : Negatives of Graham Bagnall and Norman Kirk. Ref: 35mm-00277-b-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22910147

More about Norman Kirk

The Changeover by Margaret Mahy

Laura Chant lives with her Mum and beloved little brother Jacko and she has ‘warnings’. Odd sensations overcome her. She’s had them before, when their Dad left the family home and when she met Sorry (Sorenson) a prefect at her high school. And now she’s had another one.

Cover of The Changeover

Warily she continues through her day at school, picks up Jacko and walks home, everything as normal. Except on the way they pass a shop that was never there before and the strange, rather sinister old bloke inside bothers her enormously…

Jacko’s health starts to deteriorate, his life hanging in the balance, and Laura is convinced it’s because of the man in the shop. Her Mum is struggling to make ends meet, keep her job and be a loving Mum, there for her children. It’s tough going and Laura’s mad ideas are just not going anywhere. Laura feels herself to be alone.

So she turns to Sorry for help, knowing, believing he is a witch.

The Changeover is classed as a teenage story with supernatural elements. I first heard it as an adult, as it was read on a children’s holiday programme. I missed the last few episodes and headed to the library. I had to know what happened. There appears to be more going on with Sorry and Laura than meets the eye and what happened to Jacko? Are Laura’s bizarre theories correct? I was so pleased I tracked the book down.

Whilst I have read sci-fi and Fantasy, The Changeover avoids both genres. It’s a darn good story with witches and a bit of magic thrown in and it works. I was caught up in a great story and characters. Jacko is a small boy I wanted to live, not die and I found myself driven to read on, to urge Laura to put some of her thoughts into action, to save him if she could.

As a young woman New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox met Margaret Mahy and got to know her well. In her introduction to the latest edition she writes of the her hero Margaret Mahy:

“I’m thinking of her laugh, her hats, her dogs and cats, her winter coughs, her knitted coats, her rainbow wig, and very imposing penguin suit. I’m thinking of her long sentences and pithy quips; of the rose window of the top bedroom of her flat in Cranmer Square; of her empty refrigerator, of her very model of a modern Major General and, in the same vein, her virtuoso “Bubble Trouble”, and the loving rapture in her grandson Harry’s eyes when he watched her perform it at the launch of Tessa Duder’s book”.

A recent reread of The Changeover as a middle aged adult and I still loved every minute of it AND there’s a movie coming in September AND its filmed in Christchurch, New Zealand, Margaret Mahy’s home town. Will watching a favoured book turned into a movie be iffy? Possibly (watch the trailer below and judge for yourself). But I will go and pay homage to a wonderful writer.

The Changeover
by Margaret Mahy
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781869713553

Cabin Fever

I am totally hooked on small houses, cabins log and otherwise, tree houses, yurts, ex-railway carriages, caravans… essentially dinky living and I’m not alone I don’t think. Apart from the sheer ingeniousness required to squeeze everything into the limited space, what is that gets me?  Is it some basic psychological need coming from cavewoman days that cons me into thinking bushcraft living could be for me? Hunter Gatherer or nesting urges? Me the card carrying urban dwelling wimp who is not a big fan of the dark ?

CoverI read The Tree house Diaries by Nick Weston from cover to cover. Devoured his knowledge of shooting and hunting game, the coppicing lessons needed to keep his vege garden safe from the farmer’s fat porker, how to build the composting loo, the pizza oven and ground oven. Never mind the actual building of his gorgeous treehouse with Bertha the stove (old oil drum) heating his recycled eyrie.

I was with Nick as he ate the game.  He knows his onions and his toadstools, is an extremely resourceful young man, writes a good diary, and brews a decent elderflower wine and nettle beer. Oh and he is crackerjack at foraging. If you’re small-living fixated — whether or not you think you want to build a tree house — you really might after reading this.


Cabin Porn is exactly what it says it is.  For lovers of cabins, this is the real deal — more than 200 cabins handpicked for your inspiration, as well as 10 special stories and photo collections.

Zach and friends found the perfect setting for a group cabin, brought the land, and built their cabin. The first night in the cabin, the workers lay on the floor in their sleeping bags as one friend read to them all. Bliss!

As the years have passed, they have added extra cabins and a large hot water tub — all ingeniously built and heated.  The second part of the book is given over to shots of huts and cabins in the most stunning scenery and treehouses.  My favourite is attached to its host tree by upright 2 x 4s held in place by a metal band. The treehouse moves a little in time with the tree and the tree suffers not. Apparently the house has slid down the tree a little but he’s confident it will hold on until the tree expands  and stops any more slippage.

Did I mention it is mighty high up and the owner got fed up with trekking up and down the extension ladder so he installed a lift. He sits on his mother’s old bike and goes up and down on a pulley system with counterbalance weights. Ingenious.


CoverTiny Houses built with Recycled Materials is by Ryan Mitchell. He obviously has the bug also as he has written more than one Tiny House book but this one is my favourite. It’s the recycled materials that complete the whole thing. The beauty of these gorgeous wee homes, most of them mobile, come with layout plans and a description of their utilities.

Part I has advice, apps, design tips, likely sources for your reused materials, even how to get the nails out of old wood easier. The sheer artiness and design brilliance of these homes makes my heart sing.


CoverBut wait there’s more, we have one for the girls: A Woman’s Huts and Hideaways. This time they are less mobile and more getaways: yurts, a sleek silver Airstream caravan from the US all tarted up, a beach hut, a straw bale story telling hut, A MUD HUT!, an old ice cream van, a truly beautiful gypsy caravan, a converted summerhouse and garden shed. This one is more coffee table book than a how-to. But definitely worth a read whilst you’re tucked away in your quiet spot.

Have you had the courage to break out and live tiny? Do these ideas make you want to start rummaging for secondhand material? Take another look at the garden shed? Or just dream like me?

Read more:

The Dead Poets and the Non Poetry Reader

It is for his prose that I love the writing of Laurie Lee, although it’s darn near poetry anyway. Cider with Rosie was what started this love affair, the flames were fanned by Village Christmas, a slim little number that had me wanting to be ‘carol-barking’ with the young Laurie and the boys from the village choir, trudging through the snow and being given food and hot drinks.

CoverThat speaks to his power of writing. I mean who in their right mind would want the poverty and the poor accommodation of his early life? He was happy though, he knew what to expect with each season as behoves a true countryman. His Mother loved him and his siblings, his Dad having left Lee’s Mum with children from his previous marriage and the children they had together, then departed the scene only to show up occasionally and send money at about the same rate. Village Christmas does cover a wide range of other subjects besides Christmas, festivities and seasons: Things I Wish I Had Known at 18, Chelsea Towards the End of the Last War, The Lords of Berkeley Castle, The Lake District, and the Lying in State of Churchill to name a few.

CoverAs I Walked out One Midsummer Morning has Laurie leaving his beloved Slad and walking slowly to the coast and eventually London and the next stage of his life. Becoming a builder’s labourer keeps him in food and shelter until the building work is finished.

By this time he’s keen to see abroad and has learned to ask for a glass of water in Spanish, so the choice is obvious. Arriving in 1935, he makes his way from north to south, living with the people (especially the girls). Laurie witnesses the dissatisfaction and poverty which led to the start of the Spanish Civil War, and when war starts he is rescued along with other expats by a British warship.

These delightful books are written from the retrospective of an exile. Laurie has been accused of an incurable leaning towards nostalgia and to quote the man himself “The only truth is what you remember”. This fan is delighted with nostalgic excess.

CoverAnother poet, another nostalgic read — Dylan Thomas‘s A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Thomas’s writing is also evocative of another time and place and gives such a warm glow – despite the snow which arrived from the heavens each and every Christmas without fail. Firing snowballs at cats and writing naughty snow messages were a regular event. Written as an adult with sly humour, this creates pictures in my head that make me laugh aloud.

coverMore grown up — but even more entertaining — is Under Milk Wood. The library has it as a narrated play, a talking book to lose yourself in, and play form in a book. Join the dreamers of Llareggub:

  • No Good Boyo a lazy young fisherman who dreams peevishly of “nothing”, though he does fantasise about Mrs. Dai Bread Two in a wet corset and is known for causing shenanigans in the wash house,
  • Myfanwy Price and Mog Evans who conduct a romance entirely by correspondence and dreams,
  • Mrs Organ Morgan wife of Mr Organ Morgan who plays the organ constantly,
  • Mr and Mrs Willy Nilly, he’s the postman and together they open the mail each morning, so they can spread the news around the village.
  • Mr Pugh, the schoolmaster who would dearly like to murder the domineering Mrs Pugh and hopefully orders the book “The Lives of Great Poisoners”,
  • Dai Bread the bigamist baker who dreams of harems,
  • Mrs. Dai Bread One, Dai Bread’s first wife, traditional and plain and
  • Mrs. Dai Bread Two, Dai Bread’s second wife, a mysterious and sultry gypsy.

Prepare to lose yourself in Llareggub as your narrator takes you from dawn to dusk with a host of exuberant, very human and memorable characters.

Milkwood was 20 years in the writing and is viewed as the best radio play ever written.
I’ve been stumbling around in my head for words to describe Thomas’s and Lee’s hold on me and why their work brings me such pleasure, but was bowled over completely and failed. I think silver-tongued, spellbinding weavers of words gives you an idea of their work — but read and listen for yourself, and see what you think.

Despite all of these books being written later in the author’s life, and being set long before my time, they reach me still. Do you find yourself reading nostalgia from before your time? Of your time? Do you revel in a read that makes you smile and feel good?

I do not like Fantasy, I do not like it Anywhere

But I’m reading Fantasy novels and worse (despite my carefully nurtured prejudiced convictions) I’m really getting into some of it. How the heck did that happen? I mean, Lord of the Rings was a once read and never watched. I gave it a go though and never got round to reading Harry Potter and don’t feel the need.

Enough! You get the drift I am not a fan, so how is it that the cover of Ben Aaronovitch‘s fantasy novel Rivers of London was constantly appearing either at the returns desk or on the shelves at different libraries and became a siren call? Great cover obviously, and the blurb on the back suggested humour and magic, contemporary and a mystery. So I gave in, read it and loved it.

Here’s a taster of the start. PC Peter Grant a probationary constable, looking likely for a placement in the Case Progression Unit (shuffling paper, not real copper work) is guarding a murder scene on a cold London night. His fellow PC Lesley – supposedly guarding the other side of the square – has gone for coffees when a strange looking geezer sidles up to Peter whispering that he knows whodunnit. Something about him makes Peter pretty sure he’s a ghost and when he vanishes at the sight of Lesley with the coffees he knows he’s onto it.

The next night he’s back in his own time, to see if there’s any further signs of spooks. No ghost but he does meet his future boss, Inspector Nightingale the last Wizard in England. Don’t be put off by the wizard bit, Aaronovitch makes the magic stuff seem perfectly normal and the upper Echelons of the Force use Nightingale and Peter when necessary but no-one’s allowed to use the M…. word. Rivers is written with lovely satirical wit and great imagination. Highly recommended.

shades of greyAgain with humour, and a suitably bizarre idea of a future, post apocalyptic world is Jasper Fforde‘s Shades of Grey. We of the here and now are “those who went before” and the leadership’s cunning plans including “great leaps backward” leaves this colourtocracy carless except for a Model A, severely short of spoons and with acronyms forbidden.

But there’s more rules of course and your status is defined by being able to see the higher end of a particular colour spectrum, purple denotes a higher social standing. Our hero Eddie Russett (sees red) has been banished to High Saffron due to a variety of misdemeanours. Depending on the results of his upcoming colour test though, he is destined to marry Violet.

But then he meets Jane, a Grey and with her smarts and attitude. It dawns on him that all is not as well as he thinks in a world he considers just and fair and has never questioned. A highly entertaining read. Ever since I read this I’ve been checking to see where the very slow to follow up Mr Fforde is with the sequel. He’s left a whole lot of us waiting impatiently for a good follow up to an original that’s got a nice tight plot, is cleverly satirical and laugh out loud. I may even read it again. In fact I know I will.

Book tea and tales with Jenny Pattrick – Community Read

Community Read kicked off yesterday at the Library at  Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre – Book chat, tea, and tales with bestselling author Jenny Pattrick. Jenny and her husband Laughton sang a little number especially composed by Laughton for the book launch of Heartland.

As much as I hate the expression “where else would this happen”  it still crossed my mind.  Jenny  read excerpts of the book including the last chapter and answered questions from Roberta Smith, the chair.

Facts:

  • Jenny has never belonged to a book club.
  • Manawa is based on a small town where she has stays frequently and where her son lives.
  • The three elderly Aunts and their tragic family story of soldier brothers was based on her own Great Aunts and family.

Although I have never lived in rural New Zealand Jenny Pattrick had me busting to read the book every spare moment.  To follow Donny Mac, the Virgin and the small number of character locals who permanently live in the dying community that is  Manawa. A very New Zealand story from a strong New Zealand author.

There’s more to come tonight and tomorrow, for adults and kids alike:

Jenny Pattrick’s Heartland brought to life by the Court Jesters – Friday 19 August 7pm to 9pm at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Experience Jenny Pattrick’s book Heartland brought to life by The Court Jesters.
Drinks and nibbles from 6.30pm.
Find out more.

Storytime for Songbirds with Jenny Pattrick – Saturday 20 August 2pm to 3pm at  at Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Join Jenny for a special interactive, toe-tapping storytime featuring the enchanting The Very Important Godwit. Fly in with the whole family to enjoy a musical storytelling extravaganza!
Find out more.

Community Read

Heartland

Cosplay and Comics at Papanui Library

Love reading and drawing your own comics? Do you want help with your drawing, assistance with your technique and tips on comics, publishing etc and a free comic? All of this for no charge? Right then get yourself signed up for our free comic drawing workshop at Papanui Library with Spencer Hall, artist/cartoonist. The workshop is for ages 12-18, registered attendees only and a limit of 30. We won’t let you go hungry either, there will be pizzas from Hell.

comic book day posterThere was a waiting list of disappointed young cartoonists last year so don’t delay, break out the light sabers, shake out those capes, slap on the face paint and come dressed as your favourite comic book/Manga character and be in for a prize.

International Free Comic Book Day is on Saturday 7 May this year but our event, which will include free comics courtesy of Comics Compulsion, will be on Saturday 21 May.

The selection of free comics this year ranges from Dark Horse to Archie to Strawberry Shortcake to Titan’s Assassins Creed to Love and Rockets. Something for all tastes.

To see what you might be missing check out last year’s pictures.

Meanwhile back at the library our comic book collection grows apace. We have comic books about Men who dress as Bats, Women as Cats, Green Men, muscly men, and animals that talk, Bart Simpson and Adventures, Mysteries, Funnies, Scareys, the lot. I was delighted to see Scrooge McDuck, nephew Donald and the Beagle Boys make a comeback in hard cover. Made me quite nostalgic for my young reading self.

Calling all Book Fiends – to the library book sale

slowThe Annual Christchurch City Library Book Sale is on again.  It’s book buying time again. Yeehah! Diary 11th/12th March and remember the tables are constantly reloaded, so going after work doesn’t mean you miss out. On Friday, they close at 7 pm.

I thought when I started working in the libraries that my mania for reading, borrowing and owning books would calm down … it has, a smidge. Nowadays I keep myself for the one book sale a year. Last year I promised Mr Bishi that I would restrict myself to non-fiction as we still haven’t read some of the fiction I purchased a couple of years ago and all the bookcases are bulging. The look of disbelief and the resigned note of his voice were uncalled for I felt.

Undaunted I headed for Pioneer Stadium and the travel and cooking sections and with neck crooked at a suitable angle and decent sized box ready at my feet I went searching. I was hoping for Slow by Alison Gofton a really good slow cook book I had borrowed but desperately wanted to own. Found a copy too! … And all the other books that tickled my fancy of course.

On one of my many raids at the Library Book Sale I noticed the woman in front of me was picking up the very books I would have gone for if she hadn’t been in front of me.  What to do? We had words … nice words. Turns out she too worked on the eyecatching ways of my sort of cover unless she knew and liked the author already. We agreed to trawl different aisles. It seemed to be the most civilised outcome.

Big bargain book sale

CoverThe magazines are so cheap, worth buying just for the sudoku and crossword puzzles that haven’t been done because our customers respect that it’s a borrowed item and the articles of course. 10 for a dollar I call that excellent value. CDs, DVDs $3. Get that book the kids love that you constantly borrow but would love to own for $1.

And if you are a Friend of the Library (subscriptions in by 28th February) you get to go to the Sale Preview and pre-purchase and help your Libraries at the same time.

In the meantime, will I see you at the world famous in Christchurch Annual book sale? Do you have this thing about owning books as well as borrowing them? Don’t be ashamed you are not alone. Come to the sale and see just how many of us there are.

Like the Library Book Sale event on Facebook for updates.

November 17th was World Premature Birth Day and I missed it…

Cover of Just A Moment Too SoonThank goodness though I can scrape into World Prematurity Awareness Week, well, I could if I lived in Australia. My awareness is only due to my thoughtful library colleagues alerting me. You see, they have lived vicariously through the birth of my little grandson at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation. Also through the trials and tribulations he and his loving parents are still experiencing, so you understand why I am writing this blog late rather than never.

The Empire State Building was lit purple for World Prematurity Day. I think that gives you an idea of how big an issue “early birth” is and how the numbers are increasing worldwide. 15 million babies are born early every year. Some very early; some just a few weeks early.

The stress for them and their families is unimaginable. They are so very tiny and apart from the fight for survival they could potentially suffer brain bleeds, necrotising enterocolitis, heart malformations, bowel malformations, visual and hearing impairment, lung disease or learning disabilities. They also grow considerably more slowly outside the uterus and frequently take some years to achieve the growth rate of their peers.

Cover of Coming Home from the NICUMy grandson Ari, classed as “just viable”, was born weighing 700gms which is one and a half pounds of butter to those who struggle with baby weights in metric as I do. He was also born in the U.K. and we live in Christchurch, New Zealand, adding to our stress time and again over the following tense months. Waiting for communications from our daughter’s partner; trying to find out how he was… What happens now apart from the obvious breathing tube down his throat, wires attached to him all over (there wasn’t a lot of all over to attach them to either), incubator, etc?

For the mother there is also the sense of loss of pregnancy. She may grieve for what should have been a time of blooming and pleasure. No more sickness, just a blossoming baby. When the due date of baby arrives it is frequently a day of tears.

Cover of Ready for AirFortunately for all of us Ari is a wee fighter which is as well as he has chronic lung disease. This means he is still on oxygen and still in hospital at 5 months old – his actual age – but if you consider he was due in mid-September and it’s now mid-November, he is 2 months old.

The library was a good source of information, both in terms of what to expect and of the biographical aspects of premature birth.  It was good to be able to read heart warming stories of babies who survive their traumatic starts, grow into stroppy teens and healthy adults.

Were you a premmy?  I have met so many adults who were born early, but you would never have guessed it.  Have you been down this road within your family?

Bonjour, Ciao, Buenos Días!

A few years ago we had the chance to spend two weeks in a friend’s very basic cottage in the Bourgogne. The opportunity of pretending to be French or at least pretending to live there? Heck, yes. The house had no electricity and a few inside/outside issues. One being the hornet community that had recently crowned a new Queen and were very busy making babies and a new home on the gnarled antique beam above our bed in the attic. What was wrong with some nice fresh air circulating round the nest, boys?

The sole tap and loo being outside was nothing like as big a problem as Queenie and the crew turned out to be. One of them managed to get their revenge and stung me rather painfully in the armpit. Fair do. The local volunteer fire brigade who came in their shiny brass helmets and 2CV Citreon truck (Ooh la la) had removed the nest and its occupants, but failed to rid us of some very confused boyos.

Undeterred, we gave our all in the name of science; we tested the quality of the products of local pâtisseries and boulangeries and caused a bit of GBH to the ears of the local populace with truly awful French pronunciation and grammar. Bliss. Two weeks was enough for the waistline but not for the soul.

Cover of Driving over LemonsSo then of course the “Why don’t we up sticks and move to France/Spain/Italy” mood took over. I mean, plenty of people have done it. Chris Stewart for one. Chris was briefly the drummer for Genesis in its infancy, but his Dad said there was no future in the band and he needed to get a real job and possibly a haircut too. He didn’t listen to his old Dad and being an itchy-footed sort of bloke he travelled, developing his drumming skills in a circus, learning the guitar, and working, amongst other jobs, as assistant pig man.

This turned out to be his epiphany: he loved farming! Decided Seville in Spain would be a good place for a guitar playing, agriculture loving young man and his girlfriend. Driving Over Lemons and A Parrot in the Pepper Tree are his first two books on their life in Spain and to my mind the best. We get to know the area, the lifestyle of the locals, mostly farmers, the history and the poverty of the surrounding area and Chris and Ana’s endeavours to survive and make the farm work financially.

Jamie Ivey and wife Tanya had the let’s ups sticks etc moment… while holidaying in France, enjoying some lovely Rosé. They believed they could see an opportunity to set up a small wine bar selling only Rosé wines. Now those of us who have read Peter Mayle‘s A Year in Provence will know that the French excel at bureaucracy and their civil servants can thwart the best of us. Starting with Extremely Pale Rosé I have followed their trials and tribulations from my armchair.

Cover of Vroom by the SeaPeter Moore makes me green with envy. In Vroom by the Sea, Pete, an Australian, tootles around Sicily, Sardinia and the Amalfi Coast on Marcello, an orange with white “go fast stripes” Vespa 1972 Rally 200. We’re most of us suckers for nostalgia; the Italians, it turns out, are no different and love Marcello. On a scooter there are no barriers to stopping and chatting to the locals, smelling the garlic, the sea, experiencing life. Another one for the bucket list.

Working, as I am so fortunate to do, in most of Christchurch’s libraries, I get to see a lot of travel books. I find it so hard to go past them if the cover/blurb looks remotely interesting. Do you travel vicariously as I do? From your armchair with a good book? Or have you broken free once, twice or altogether?