Cool stuff from the selectors: Designer dogs, Dickens and decluttering

9781910552773The Art of Winnie-the-Pooh: How E.H. Shepard Illustrated an Icon.  By James Campbell

The collaboration between the writer A.A Milne and illustrator  E.H. Shepard was unheard of at the time, and led to an iconic series of books where story and illustration became synonymous with our enjoyment of Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin, Eeyore, Tigger, Rabbit, owl, Kanga and Roo.  This is a lovely book of whimsy and memory, including examples of how the illustrations developed, descriptions of the life and family of Shepard and his relationship with A.A. Milne.

9781910636107The Scottish Bothy Bible: The complete guide to Scotland’s Bothies and How to Reach them. by Geoff Allan

Bothies were originally built as rudimentary accommodation for bachelor farm workers, and the vast majority of them were abandoned but have now been renovated by the Scottish Bothies Association.  They are randomly found across Scotland, are free, and often nowhere near attractions or national parks, however the nature of their existence and local make them an attraction in themselves.  These are not luxury 5 star huts, they are basic…”the two low benches can be edged towards the hearth, but there is a strange absence of chairs”. “Not available during stag stalking”. “No stove or fireplace” or “bring your own fuel”.  The views, landscape and the sheer out-of-the-way nature of these places however make up for the lack of home comforts.  Detailed descriptions of how to find them are included along with beautiful photographs of the hut and surrounding areas.

9780847860906At Home with Dogs and Their Designers: Sharing a stylish life  by Susanna Stalk

Coal, a yellow Labrador retriever is owned by Interior Designer Jeffrey Alan Marks.

“Coal travels with me a great deal, so her things are held in a navy leather tote bag that matches not only the car but also the navy leash I designed for her”

The dogs in this books live a charmed life, surrounded by opulent furniture, luxurious soft coverings and well clad owners.  They generally tone in well with surroundings and exude a certain smugness as they lounge beside their owners.  If you have a love of dogs and good interior design then this book will certainly not disappoint.

9781925322330The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to free yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter  By Margareta Magnusson

The author puts herself somewhere between the age of 80 and 100, so death is not an abstract idea, but she stresses that this is not a sad book.  Certainly clearing away all that clutter accumulated over a long life, alongside making decisions about the precious to alleviate family arguments, and perhaps dealing with things that you would rather people didn’t pore over after your demise is not a bad idea.  These are all practical suggestions, but this odd little book is as much about ideas on how to declutter as a memory of a life well lived.

9781910463338A Passion for China: A little book about the objects we ear from, live with and love by Molly Hatch

In complete contrast to decluttering is an ode to the past, a collection of beautiful objects with memories attached, this little book is a celebration of the everyday.  It is a mixture of history and art with beautifully painted renditions of old china and ceramics that the author remembers from her childhood, alongside family stories and interesting detail about some of the history behind these beloved pieces.

9781782494492Dinner with Dickens: Recipies inspired by the life and work of Charles Dickens by Pen Vogler

This is a book that celebrates the food of nineteenth century England and includes many of the dishes described in the books of Charles Dickens, including recipes and detail about the history of the time. Pete Evans of Paleo fame would no doubt enjoy Bone Marrow pudding, (apparently Queen Victoria had bone marrow every day so he is in good company), however French plums appealed more to me, alongside a good Leicestershire pork pie featured in Great Expectations. Many of the recipes are surprisingly appealing and are made even more interesting with a good dash of history and an even measure of literature.

Can I recommend …

CoverI’ve just found a new way to add to the ever-increasing list of book titles that I have great difficulty getting around to reading but have kept on my ‘For Later’ shelf in BiblioCommons. The cliché ‘better late than never’ springs to mind.

My shelf currently stands at a very respectable 17 (I’m sure there are people out there in ‘Library land’ openly gobsmacked at this paltry total BUT I have just had a cull. I was completely ruthless and it took only 2 minutes to cut it back from 27 to 17.

Oh the internal debating and agonising I didn’t put myself through! Most of these tomes have been on my ‘For Later’ shelf for an eternity and have either been recommended to me via colleagues and customers or I have read a favourable review in a magazine or newspaper and placed it onto the shelf before I forget the title.  Then I forget to look at the shelf and pick my next read from it – well nobody’s perfect!

Now I have another method by which I can add to this list – on the front page of the Christchurch City Libraries website right at the bottom of the page is a link called Books. This takes you to New in Books, Staff Picks, On Order and then Recent Comments.

ExampleRecent Comments deals with any comments or reviews of books from newspapers, library borrowers and library staff.  In a steady flow, these brief comments automatically move from one book to the next book that has been recently reviewed. Clicking on the cover will bring up a synopsis of the story line, publisher details followed by the heading OPINION where all the reviews appear.

Sometimes a certain sentence within a review personally resonates and is all that is needed to push you from apathy to action. Before you realise it, you’ve clicked on the book cover and are placing a hold OR adding to your ‘For Later’ Shelf.  If inclined you can even give the book a star rating.

Anyone out there enjoying the freedom of reviewing the books they read or feeling that they would like to give it a whirl?

All the ways to share a bike

Library staff cycling through Christchurch town centre, At the intersection of High, Manchester and Lichfield Streets. 1980s
Library staff cycling through Christchurch town centre, At the intersection of High, Manchester and Lichfield Streets. 1980s, Flickr: Arch-52-PH-07-21

Christchurch and cycling have always gone well together. That winning combination of flat terrain and wide roads makes the Garden City a great place to cycle. With new cycleways rolling out around the city, it’s becoming more and more bike friendly.

Assuming that you have a bike, that is.

Luckily there are options for people who don’t have their own wheels to pootle about on.

Spark Bikes

Similar to the “Boris Bikes” of London, Spark Bikes offer those in Central Christchurch the opportunity to travel further than their feet can take them, but without the hassles of parking.

The bikes, which come complete with a lock and adjustable helmet, are available at 5 stations around the central city and can be used for 30 minutes, free of charge. Additional time is charged at $4 per hour, or a bike can be borrowed for a full day for $20.

Kind of like a library but with bikes instead of books!

Station locations, Spark Bikes

There is an initial $4 charge to register and “borrowing” is managed either via an app or the mobile website, so it’s also quite smartphone dependent. The project is currently in pilot so may extend to more bikes and more stations in the future.

RAD Bikes

RAD stands for “Recycle A Dunger” and is a not-for-profit initiative that takes donated, unwanted bikes and parts and helps turn them into rideable bikes.

From their shed headquarters (shedquarters?) at 70 Kilmore Street, RAD Bikes provides all the tools, equipment, parts and expertise to help get your bike roadworthy. They also gift recycled bikes to charity organisations.


“Inner City East” Cycles runs bike maintenance workshops to help people get their rides ready for the road. They also accept donations of bicycles and bike parts.

Bikes for Madagascar

If you’re in the envious position of having too many bicycles then maybe you’d be interested in exercising a little bicycle altruism?

Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world and access to education and healthcare is a real issue for people who live in remote areas.

a large number of people living in rural communities could not afford to get to a health facility when they needed it. They were totally reliant on volunteer community health workers (CHWs) to travel to them. Most of these CHWs have to walk to visit sick patients. But, if you give them a bike then suddenly they can cover three times the distance!

The plan is to collect 400 adult size mountain bikes and ship them to Northern Madagascar. The collection day is on Saturday 15 August: Bikes need to be dropped off at SB Global Logistics, 11 Syd Bradley Road, Dakota Business Park (next to the Christchurch Airport). If you can’t make it on the collection day: You can drop your bike at an alternative location by Friday 14 August at Limitless Supplements, 22 Stanley St, Sydenham.

If there are surplus bikes these will be donated to ICECycles for local use.

For more on bikes and cycling


Obsessive collecting takes many forms. There are those tragic types who collect the titles of books they fondly imagine they will read some day. Some of those types even have lists of more than 200 books.

Cover: CollectomaniaThen there are the people who just can’t bring themselves to throw anything away. Chastened by too many viewings of Hoarders, they claim that they have ‘collections’ because somehow that seems more connoisseur and less crazy cat lady. Purists say you need to have three of something before you can call it a collection, but, even if it’s one random item picked up at the last car boot sale, finding another one is a great excuse to peruse every publicly available pile of tat possible.

These people look for reassurance that they are not going to end up crushed under a pile of ‘vintage’ (sounds so much better than second hand) Christmas decorations that include cardboard balls that were once strung across the streets of Geraldine. They hope that when they are found the small piece in the newspaper will not say things like ‘Librarian’s Body Lay Under Old Christmas Decorations Until February’.

They revere Andy Warhol; admittedly before his death he was unable to get into most of the rooms of his house because they were full of his ‘collections’, but when his belongings were auctioned in 1988 they fetched $5.3 million dollars. Warhol’s example is the perfect answer to the threat of the skip parked up the driveway.

Reassurance that things aren’t really out of hand can also be gained from reading about other collectors. Collectomania presents collections from Bakelite radios to classic cars in a chapter by chapter format, with lots of photographs. A Collector’s Year takes the reader through 12 months of one man’s trawls through car boot sales, auctions and odd shops in search of the next great addition to his stuff.

One Coin is Never Enough addresses the psychological aspects of collecting coins in a nicely upbeat way with the emphasis on how the choice the collector makes when he or she adds an object to their collection transforms that item. Satisfyingly intellectual.

Cover: Proust's OvercoatProust’s Overcoat is the story of an even more rarefied obsession – the work and belongings of Marcel Proust. I came across it when I was reading books about Proust rather than actually reading books by him (could be why completing his magnum opus is once again on my 2013 resolutions list).  It’s about a man who started out collecting Proust’s books and letters. When the opportunity presented itself  he branched out into material items like furniture and then the ultimate prize – Proust’s overcoat.

On the “if only” front, Herb and Dorothy is a delightful DVD about a postal clerk and a librarian (!) who spent every spare penny from their modest incomes on collecting modern art, ending up with a museum quality collection worth a very large amount of money. But, true to their principles, they have donated it all to the National Gallery of Art.

Do you have a picturesque collecting obsession?

Nesting Instincts

As much as I’m starting to resent the cold mornings, short days and my inability to understand the concept of layering, (I’m stubbornly hanging on to wearing my summer clothes!) there are wonderful things about winter I do enjoy.

I love closing curtains, turning on the heat pump and ‘nesting’. I wish I had an open fire, but alas I do not. I love cooking stews in my slow cooker, making baking and puddings my Mum used to make, and embarking on projects that for some reason seem too much like hard work in the heat of the summer. This winter’s projects come from a stunning book, The Re-purposed Library.

It is filled with projects using old books. Anything from bookshelves made from books to Christmas decorations and lamps. I’m hoping to adorn both my home and the library I work in.

I also, sadly, enjoy cleaning out drawers and cupboards, no need to wait for spring. I find all sorts of treasures, and hopefully get ruthless enough to throw things out.

I just enjoy the feeling of snuggling down into my house, enjoying it as a space to be in and create in.

I watch a lot of movies, and always hope there will be a series on television I can get hooked into.

Having friends over for drinks and a movie, or dinner is lovely too. It was one of my resolutions when I turned the big 50 that I would keep in touch with my friends this year, and so far it’s been great to catch up amongst the busy lives we lead.

Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk by the fire: it’s the time for home  – Edith Sitwell

Do you love winter, tolerate it or endure? What are your favourite winter activities, I’m an indoor kinda gal, but you may prefer outdoor pursuits? Are you planning a project?

Trash or treasure? Allyson Gofton’s Country Calendar Cookbook

I’m guessing that you wouldn’t expect to find a cookery book in the Trash or treasure list, but this one is something special. Allyson Gofton’s Country Calendar Cookbook celebrating Country Calendar’s 45th anniversary.  Tui Flower sure did “knock the chef out” of her and the food writer in. I went to the book launch in Oxford, North Canterbury. What made the afternoon and the cookbook such a delight— is this book’s subtitle “Our people, their food”.

Country Calendar CookbookDivided into seasons, each set of recipes is grouped by the families that cook them. The families, their land and their stories are each introduced, and then each recipe is enhanced with more family stories and Allyson’s tips. Instead of primped and posed food shots, there are pictures of people, plants, land and animals, as well as beautifully photographed simply presented food, mostly cooked by the families themselves.

This book is as far removed from the normal fare of cookery book as a single-serve prepackaged chicken breast in the supermarket is from a home kill pig, spit roasted and shared with friends in the shade afforded by the canopy of an apple orchard. It is a treasure. A sample of our people — fishermen, farmers, market gardeners. their lives, and their food. A slice of New Zealand, all to savour.

Trash or treasure? Outpost by Adam Baker

I can’t take it any more – I just have to complain.  Bitterly.  And at length.

With a name like Outpost, a tagline like “They took the job to ESCAPE THE WORLD. They didn’t expect the WORLD TO END” (and yes, the all-shouty capital letters are as presented), and a cover picture of a hazard-suited dude watching a burning city, it was always going to be either Trash or Treasure.

Sadly for Adam Baker, I’m placing this one firmly in the Trash category. Despite rave reviews from publishers on Amazon, lots of kudos from authors like Stephen Leather, and a general vibe that this is a great and gripping read, I’m not feeling the love.

The premise? Absolutely fab – what’s not to love here. A wintering-over skeleton crew marooned on an Arctic oil rig as civilisation falls to a global pandemic. The characters – hmmm, a little flat (conflicted chubby reverend Jane, dreadlocked dope-growing Sikh engineer Ghost, tattooed ex-con Nail, codeine-addicted doctor Rye: can you say walking cliche?). Tolerable, although there’s no real character development.

The storyline? Well, let’s just say, how many disaster scenario locations can you squeeze into one book? We’ve got the almost abandoned oil rig, the scientists marooned on the ice, the actually abandoned Russian research station full of biohazards, the crashing-in-front-of-their-eyes space station pod (with dying cosmonaut), the floating cruise liner (with infected ravening hordes), and I’m still only halfway through the book.

The thing that’s really tipping the balance, though (because despite all this, I can still see the potential), is the STYLE of the thing.  Every page has strings of sentences like this: “Flash of lightning. She let her eyes adjust. A seething ocean. Surging, frothing waves.”  Every single page. It’s like Dick and Jane Visit the Apocalypse. Can I make it to the end of the book? I don’t know. Do I even want to?  I don’t know. Also, there’s a sequel …

Have you read it? Vote below – trash or treasure? Or suggest some similar books that I might enjoy …