A lesson for conscriptionists

Cover of Ripa Island A lesson for conscriptionistsWe’ve recently digitised a very interesting publication that shows a different side to military service than the one we’re used to seeing.

In 1912, military training or “drills” were compulsory for boys from 14 years of age. Refusal to attend training, even on religious grounds, was considered a serious infringement that could result in confinement at a fortress for a period of 28 days. There were other potential consequences too.

In addition to imposing a fine at the beginning of this process, the magistrate may, and frequently does, declare the offender, for any period up to ten years, ineligible to be employed in the public service, or to vote at a Parliamentary election. The Education Department also takes a hand, and deprives the boy who has not done his drills of any scholarship which he may have won.

Pretty harsh stuff for teenagers to have to contemplate.

Published in London in 1913 by the “Friends’ Peace Committee” and written by “passive resister” Samuel Veale Bracher, Ripa Island: A lesson for conscriptionists tells the story of 13 youths from Christchurch and the West Coast who refused military training and were subsequently imprisoned in Fort Jervois on Ripapa (Ripa) Island . Bracher uses the story of the Ripa martyrs as a plea against conscription in Britain.

Initially the boys are treated well and are happy to do manual work that is set them by the officer in charge, but when they refuse to clean guns and take part in military drills, and are subsequently punished with half rations they go on a hunger strike.

At about 3.15 p.m., Bombardier Moir and the other soldiers again came in, and this time we were asked if we would drill and learn semaphore signalling. Again a negative answer was given. An attempt was going to be made to force us to drill, but we were determined that it should fail. Force would have no more effect upon us than coaxing had previously. We had been offered a forty-eight hours holiday in Christchurch if we would drill. We had refused. Now we were going to be slowly starved into submission on half rations, but we would beat them; we would starve ourselves and so bring about a climax .

What follows is an interesting insight into what happens when an irrestistible force comes up against an immoveable object.

The drama unfolds very quickly with one chap succumbing to sickness very early (described later as “biliousness”) and attending his own hastily arranged court trial while unconscious.

Sergeant-Major Conley asked if Robson was to be brought in. ‘Yes,’ replied Macdonald. ‘But he can’t talk,’ protested the sergeant-major. At this moment the lieutenant lost his temper and said, ‘Bring him in! Use any force you like! ‘ A few minutes later Robson was carried in unconscious between two soldiers.

He’s subsequently accused of “malingering” yet remains floppy, pale, and unmoving for the entirety of his “trial”.

Appeals are made, an enquiry is called for, and a follow up trial is held which returns a rather different verdict.

Read the whole story online in Ripa Island: A lesson for conscriptionists.

For more information on the Ripa Island dissenters and compulsory military training for youths see:

The First World War from a different perspective

Being the 100th anniversary of the First World War, there has been an avalanche of material arriving in the library on this subject. Many are long forgotten diaries and personal stories that are understandably harrowing and poignant to say the least.

Alongside these important stories are  some lighter – but none-the-less interesting – facets of war that haven’t previously been published.

The Great War CookbookThe Great War Cookbook
Contains over 500 wartime recipes,  from Ox-Brain Fritters and Fish Custard, to Shepherd’s Pie and Trench Pudding.  Apparently according to the publisher “there is something for everyone!”

Antiques Roadshow World War I in 100 family treasures
The ever popular Antiques Roadshow team decided to mark the centenary of the start of World War I by filming a series of specials at the Somme, where the public brought in their family’s war memorabilia and photographs. This book selects 100 stories that shows how they fit in to the wider history that was occurring around them.

FaFashion: Women in World War Ishion : Women in World War One
Women’s wartime roles as nurses, naval officers, factory workers of course needed the right clothes for the job. From the luxurious silks of High Society, to the boots and breeches of the Women’s Land Army, Fashion: Women in World War One explores the impact of war on fashion from 1914-1918 with unique images and beautiful original garments.

And the Band Played OnAnd the Band Played On
Songs, stories and singalongs played a huge part in keeping moral going during the long months spent in the trenches. This book seeks to recreate the music and the camaraderie that accompanied these men who went to war.

Beyond the BattlefieldBeyond the battlefield : women artists of the two World Wars
A fascinating account of female creativity in America, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand during the turbulent era of twentieth-century conflict highlighting women artists’ unique  portrayal of war at the front lines. Documenting everyday life on the home front as well as being nurses, voluntary aides, ambulance drivers, these artists somehow found time to create astonishing art while working in the middle of war zones.

Great War 100: First World War in Infographics
The Great War 100And lastly an interesting way of highlighting all aspects of the World War using infographics.

This leads to a compelling and very visual representation of data and facts about World War I.  See how the idea of depicting World War I developed.

The sacrifice

Cover of The sacrifice

Disturbing.

Troubling.

Uneasy.

These words stayed with me as I read The Sacrifice. This is a sharp and pointy book. It caught my attention. I was curious from the beginning as the first words sent shivers down my spine.

Seen my girl? My baby? 

She came like a procession of voices though she was but a singular voice. She came along Camden Avenue in the Red Rock neighborhood of inner-city Pascayne, twelve tight compressed blocks between the New Jersey Turnpike and the Passaic River. In the sinister shadow of the high looming Pitcairn Memorial Bridge she came. Like an Old Testament mother she came seeking her lost child.

Who is the sacrifice in this story and what is being sacrificed? Is it Ednetta Frye the despairing mother seeking justice for her “young for her age, and trustin” daughter? Is it Sybilla Frye, the daughter, beaten and left to die in the derelict cellar of a disused building? Or Ignes Iglesias, the Hispanic (not black enough) woman cop sent to interview Sybilla at the hospital? Can it be Jerold Zahn, the young white police officer who is accused of raping Sybilla? Or Anis Schutt, the stepfather, who has a violent and dangerous past? What about the influential Mudrick brothers who stir up racial hatred after the attack? What are the consequences of their actions?

Joyce Carol Oates sets her narrative in the fictional town of Pascayne where skin colour, poverty, crime, and violence creates victims. This is a story full of powerful and convincing voices. The multiple perspectives establish empathy and sorrow for the characters and challenge perceptions along the way. Racial tension exudes from every page creating an edgy and evocative read.

Even though The Sacrifice is a work of fiction it is based on fact. I chose not to read about the actual case leaving this sharp point for later. I’m glad I did. The story became a national sensation and divided a country. This book will divide readers.

Ngaio Marsh – Crime writer now in eBooks

Ngaio Marsh was so much more than a crime writer. But remember we have over 30 of her crime novels as eBooks.

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Happy birthday, Ngaio Marsh!

Ngaio Marsh would have been 120 today. This world renowned crime writer and theatre director was born Edith Ngaio Marsh in Fendalton on 23 April 1895. Her father, a clerk, built Marton Cottage at Cashmere in 1906. This was her home for the rest of her life, although she spent significant periods in England.

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s

Ngaio Marsh photographed during the 1940s : “Ngaio in the spotlight” [194-], CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0038

Today there is a lovely little Google image celebrating her.

Many people know of Ngaio Marsh as the crime writer. But she also enriched the cultural life of Christchurch with her devotion to theatre production and mentored young people with dramatic aspirations. Ngaio made a huge contribution to the community, and it seems appropriate her name lives on  –

For more on Ngaio Marsh:

Confused and befuddled with Grain Brain: Welcome to the world of dietary advice

I think we can be forgiven for feeling that all the dietary advice that dominates our headlines and magazines (even The Listener for heaven’s sake) is confusing and often contradictory. Always at the forefront of trends,  the library too has its fair share of titles to confuse and befuddle! At this point I hasten to add that this is part of our business, i.e. to purchase items that give information,  different viewpoints and ideas etc. As a society we are concerned about obesity, fast foods and lack of exercise, and of course publishers are well aware of these trends as well.

Fat was the harbinger of all evil until about 8 to 10 years ago, now it’s carbohydrates and its evil twin Sugar. However baking is still hugely popular with sugar always being a star component, although some Paleo books are doing their best to steal its thunder.

Cover of Why diets fail Cover of Taste sweet feast Cover of Paleo sweet treats

Low fat diets were considered essential for a healthy heart, but this book tells us that butter and fat actually make us slim!

Cover of Low-fat feasts Cover of 200 Low carb high fat recipes Cover of The grain brain cookbook

We embraced whole grains to now being told we have Grain Brains…

The Paleo diet has been holding its own for a while now still topping the charts, although Pete Evans of My Kitchen Rules fame and the kingpin of Paleo did have his last book pulled from publication as it contained what was considered to be unsafe information.  However paleo – and its cavemen and women – are covering all bases from smoothies, sweets, chocolate and fast foods, and of course Cavewomen Don’t Get Fat.

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Interestingly, recent title Proteinaholic : How Our Obsession with Meat Is Killing Us and What We Can Do about  has come along to question paleo and its meaty companions …

An acclaimed surgeon specializing in weight loss delivers a paradigm-shifting examination of the diet and health industry’s focus on protein, explaining why it is detrimental to our health, and can prevent us from losing weight.

If all else fails we can always rely on insects –  low fat, low sugar, full of protein and tasty. Yum.

Reading the World

Cover of Reading the WorldAfter complaining about the hardships of attempting Read Harder 2015, I’ve come across an author who has shamed me into taking on another challenge.

In 2012 Ann Morgan decided to read one book from each of the world’s 196 independent countries, documenting her adventures on her blog and in her newly published book, Reading the World. While I don’t have the tenacity or the budget to do the same, it has prompted me to be more active in my search for diverse authors.

Cover of The Rabbit Back Literature SocietyI’ve already found a few on the Baileys Women’s Prize longlist for 2015 – Kamila Shamsie (Pakistan), Xiaolu Guo and P. P. Wong (China/Britain), and I’ve been struggling valiantly through The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen (Finland). (Isn’t that a fantastic surname?) Here are a few more I’ve optimistically placed on my holds list, descriptions mostly yoinked from the library catalogue:

The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu (China): Set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution, a secret military project sends signals into space to establish contact with aliens. An alien civilization on the brink of destruction captures the signal and plans to invade Earth.

Cover of Kabu-KabuKabu-Kabu, Nnedi Okorafor (Nigeria): Kabu kabu – unregistered illegal Nigerian taxis – generally get you where you need to go. Nnedi Okorafor’s Kabu-Kabu, however, takes the reader to exciting, fantastic, magical, occasionally dangerous, and always imaginative locations you didn’t know you needed.

The Guest Cat, Takashi Hiraide (Japan): A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living.

Cover of Listen, SlowlyHold Tight, Don’t Let Go, Laura Rose Wagner (set in Haiti): In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Nadine goes to live with her father in Miami while her cousin Magdalie, raised as her sister, remains behind in a refugee camp, dreaming of joining Nadine but wondering if she must accept that her life and future are in Port-au-Prince.

Listen, Slowly, Thanhha Lai (Vietnam): Assisting her grandmother’s investigation of her grandfather’s fate during the Vietnam War, Mai struggles to adapt to an unfamiliar culture while redefining her sense of family.

Cover of Black Dove, White RavenBlack Dove, White Raven, Elizabeth Wein (set in Ethiopia): Em, Teo and Em’s mother move to Ethiopia to honour Teo’s dead mother’s wish for them to grow up in a country free of racial conflict. For a while things go well — Em’s mother flies planes for a flying doctor service, and Em and Teo grow up happily on a coffee farm. Unfortunately this is the 1930s, and Mussolini’s army is eyeing up Ethiopia’s fertile land. With ties on both sides of the conflict, Em and Teo are drawn in against their will. Is their ability to pilot planes an asset or a liability? I don’t know yet, because I’m only halfway through!

Anything else I should add to my to-read list? Any fantastic authors who aren’t British or American? Let me know now while my motivation is still high! I’ll follow up on how I’m going in a month.

Food Fad Fury

Bring a cookbook to morning tea and suddenly everybody at the table has an opinion.

  • Matte paper looks nice for about five minutes, but don’t put the book anywhere near where you actually cook. Drops and splashes look very nasty very quickly.
  • Cover of Dr Libby's Sweet Food StoryDr. Libby sucks all the joy out of life.
  • Reading a cookbook without intending to cook from it is fine. In fact it is officially A Big Thing.
  • Close-ups of the food in its raw state do not count as an illustration. We know what dirty potatoes look like – we want to know what the finished dish should look like once we’ve cooked it.
  • Beige is big but it’s not appetising.
  • One man’s meat is another woman’s poison. Paleo Pete‘s bone marrow broth may be the basis of the Paleo diet, but the very idea induces deep shudders in non-followers. Bone broth in a baby bottle is even worse.
  • Cover of Healthy Every DayCookbook writers should just take drugs to help them recover from their rare diseases. Modern medicine is a wonderful thing. Why bring food into it?
  • If you write a cookbook all your friends have to be good looking. Those who aren’t can have their arm appear at the edge of the picture – but only their arm.
  • All your dogs also have to be attractive. Cats can’t be in cookbooks due to their habit of sitting on the table or lounging in the dishdrainer.
  • All your table cloths have to be retro. Also your china. Nothing should match. Useful if you live in Christchurch.
  • Your garden can be overgrown, but in a good way – grass long enough to attract a council fire hazard notice telling you you’re in for a fine in the real word is picturesque in cookbook world.
  • Assemblage is O.K. – wrapping a bread stick in a bit of ham with some rocket sticking out the top counts as cooking if it’s in a cookbook.
  • Nut butter is vile.

Are you infuriated by any food fads? Please share.

Yours truly, Cecil

Letter to Hazel, 17 August 1914
Letter to Hazel, 17 August 1914

I have been reading a collection of letters by Cecil Malthus, who spent three years in service in the 1st Canterbury Battalion during the First World War.

The letters, which were written to his wife-to-be Hazel, are on our website. They chronicle Cecil’s time in the army from when he went into camp in April 1914. They follow his journey from the training camp to Hobart, across to the east coast of Africa, through the Suez Canal to Cairo. Cecil writes of his longing to say goodbye to his family and Hazel. He writes of the difficulties he experiences sharing a small space with a lot of working class men. He writes of the comfort gained from a letter from home. He needs more writing paper and envelopes, please.

Cecil thought he was going to the continent. He thought he was going to have some training in England. He didn’t. He arrived in Egypt in December, 1914. After undergoing more training, he shipped out to Gallipoli. He knew that Hazel and his family had read about the Gallipoli campaign in the news. His letters were, I think, intended to tell Hazel that all was going well and he was okay. While he was there, he was hospitalized with scarlet fever. Hazel wrote frequently and wanted to know about his friends. It was quite sad to read that his friends had all been killed, injured or transferred. Returning to his unit must have been very lonely.

Letter to Hazel, 11 September [1916]
Letter to Hazel, 11 September [1916]
Cecil finally arrived in France in the spring of 1915 and he wrote that it was better in France. His letters became infrequent as it became harder to get anything sent off. He still replied to Hazel’s comments and questions, but said nothing about the war. On 11 September 1916, Cecil wrote what reads like a letter of goodbye. I’m sure that if I checked the official war records, I would learn that he was about to engage in a big push.

His letter dated 29th September was quite hard to read. I had become used to his handwriting, but this was an unfamiliar, spidery scrawl. He had been badly wounded and for him, the war was over. Cecil Malthus was discharged from the army on 5th April 1917.

Before he went to war, Cecil Malthus was a teacher at Nelson Boys’ College. His family lived in Timaru. Hazel Watters was a student at Teacher’s College. She wrote to Cecil every week. They got married after he was discharged from the Army.

Talking about Christchurch

Cover of Once in a lifetimeThe team at Freerange Press brought you one of the best books of 2014 – Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch. Now they come bearing Talking Heads – a series of talks that explore the current state of play in Christchurch and expand upon themes and issues explored in the book.

The first discussion – Talking Heads #1 – is on the topic of asset sales. Councillor Raf Manji will be talking with one of the book’s editors James Dann.

Raf will be talking about how the council reached its decision to include selling assets as part of its response to Christchurch’s current financial situation (submissions for which close on April 28).

The talk is on Thursday 23 April 5.30pm at EPIC (96 Manchester Street, opposite Alices). James will also take questions from the floor, so you will get the chance to have your say.

Copies of the book Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster in Christchurch will be available for $40.