Show us a story

CoverAnd Joe the Roundabout Tavern regular took his eyes half hopingly, half warily around his bar just in case he saw a mug or two he and his pals could beat up on, and just in case yesterday’s madman had returned to back up.  Then he clapped his hands together: So. So who else’s got a story to tell?

This is a paragraph from Alan Duff’s One night out stealing. It caught my eye when I was doing some booky housework along my fiction shelves here at Central Library Tuam, and started me thinking about stories, and bits of stories. We are launching ourselves into New Zealand Book Month here, and celebrating all things EnZed. And I thought to myself (because I have a mind like a mayfly), how much fun would it be to just dart around the shelves, picking up New Zealand books at random, and finding fabulous paragraphs that tell a story all their own.

Now obviously, it’s always nice to read a whole book, and get a complete story; but I reckon sometimes you can tell a story in just a paragraph or two. I’ll show you what I mean – here’s an extract from one of my favourite books here in the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection:

One night in the early 1850s, an odd event took place at a Christchurch ball. JT Peacock, a shipping man, had a partner for a quadrille, but they were without a pair to dance opposite to them. This caused a man named Joseph Longden to stand and stare contemptuously, and after the ball Peacock pulled his nose. Longden was a partner in Canterbury’s first stock and station agency, and could not ignore the affront to his dignity. He brought an action against Peacock, who was fined 2 pounds, but said that he thought the money well spent.

See? Worlds and layers of story, history and back-story, all in just a few sentences.  How cool is that?

So here’s my NZ Book Month challenge to you – either pick your fave Kiwi read, or make like a mayfly and cruise the shelves. Find a story that tells itself in just a few lines, and post it here. And let’s see how many New Zealand stories we can tell …

Psst! – hidden treasures #5

So far, while exploring, I’ve mainly talked about old stuff in our Aotearoa New Zealand Collection. This time around I want to let you in on a little secret:  whenever our library selectors buy New Zealand titles for the libraries, they buy a special copy for the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection. Just like its brothers and sisters out circulating in the community libraries, it gets processed and organised and added to the records, but after that it (most often) makes its way here to Tuam Street, where it is freely available to read, as long as you don’t leave the room!  Seriously, don’t make me chase you …

Remember that these books are reference only, and not to borrow, so unfortunately if you are number 72 on the list for a popular recent release, you can’t jump the queue; but if you truly are DESPERATE to get a head start on the latest must-read, Central Library Tuam and the ANZC are a great place to visit. Poking round the shelves this morning turned up these treasures:

  • Julie Le Clerc’s Favourite Cakes (for when you need something yummy)
  • Dennis Greville’s Easy on the Pocket Vegetable Growing (in case you spent all your money buying those cake ingredients)
  • Witi Ihimaera’s The Parihaka Woman, and Paula Morris’ Rangatira, both recent novels by two of our most well-known writers
  • Joanne Drayton’s The Search for Anne Perry (for those who saw, or didn’t see, Joanne at The Press Christchurch Writers’ Festival)
  • and a series of large and hauntingly beautiful books featuring the photographic work of Doc Ross. I was particularly moved by the 2012 title Quietus: Observations of an Altered City, a large white-covered book recording the changing face of Christchurch, with a mixture of black and white, and colour photos, and script by Andrew Paul Wood. This is one of only 50 copies printed, and it is a real privilege to have a copy here on the shelf at Tuam Street to be read and admired by all.

Hidden treasures # 4: Creative Canterbury 1965

One of the things I am loving about our ANZC resources is the sheer breadth of what is collected there.  From the 1850’s almanack that I talked about last time, to the most recently published books from contemporary NZ writers, there’s something for everyone.

I’ve just spent the last 20 minutes flicking through a book that’s only a year older than me.  It’s been vastly entertaining, although possibly not in the way the publishers intended.  Page 9, for example, contains one of the most amusingly badly written articles about our region that I’ve ever read.  There are an overabundance of exclamation marks!, several sprinklings of unlikely “speech marks, and a series of rather mysterious utterances:

From the Hurunui River in the north to the Waitaki, where it marches with North Otago in the south, [Canterbury] is expendable and expandable.

Whatever that means, this wee magazine was surely meant to inspire and inform.  A joint publication between Breckell & Nicholls Ltd, and the Canterbury Manufacturers’ Association, Creative Canterbury 1965 features a series of mini-articles showcasing everything from the Extremely Bouyant (sp.!) Building Industry to Skellerup’s brand new rotocure machine, opening a new field for rubber flooring.

Those who are drawn to old machinery will love the black-and-white illustrations (see p. 98-99 for Mace Engineering and more toolroom slotters, universal grinders and horizontal borers than you can shake a stick at), while history buffs and all of us who have watched our city disappearing in front of us will feel quite surprisingly moved at the articles about brand new buildings like the BNZ on Colombo Street, and features on the Christchurch Railway Station and the Lyttelton Tunnel.

I’ll leave you with a summary of what Canterbury can offer that’s surely better than anything I could have come up with myself:

There is a habit of saying, “There’s room to move in Canterbury”. Perhaps that is the true secret of its appeal. There is room for initiative and enterprise, there is room for recreation and relaxation, there is room to build a home, not alone from bricks and mortar but from those ingredients which in fact make life.

Be you newcomer or tourist, there’s room for you in Canterbury – and a welcome on the mat!  Come on in!

Hidden treasures # 3: The Canterbury Almanack 1853

Apparently I should have sown my Oats and Barley last month.  The good news is, though, that there’s still plenty of time to get my Mangold Wurzel into the ground.  I am also to bear in mind that

… each successive day throughout the month [of October] suggests additional duties peculiar to itself, the performance of which cannot be advantageously deferred.

All this and much more helpful information can be found in this week’s ANZC treasure find – The Canterbury  Almanack for the Year of our Lord 1853, Calculated for the Meridian of Lyttelton (first year of publication).

With a charming disclaimer on the first page:

In presenting to the public the first Almanack published in the Canterbury Settlement, we are but too sensible of its shortcomings in many respects.  Such as it is, however, we present it, with its imperfections, to our fellow-colonists, in the hope that they will not too minutely scrutinize its deficiencies.

the almanack provides information ranging from phases of the moon, to planting guides for mangold wurzel, to a remarkably detailed description of the Canterbury landscape:

at the S.W. angle formed by the peninsula with the main land, a shallow lagoon, called Lake Ellesmere, about 18 miles long and 8 broad, is only divided from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, through which, at its S.W. extremity, the natives every year cut a channel for the purpose of catching eels on the borders of the lake thus laid dry.

I love almanacks, and I especially love that this one is both SO OLD, and SO LOCAL.  So much of the information here remains current or useful for research, despite its over-150-year-old publication date – planting guides, local geography, shipping list and other historical details.  The advertisements at the back not so much, however, which is a shame.  I would love to have visited Thomas Gee, Pastry-Cook, Confectioner, Fancy Biscuit Baker, and Ginger Beer Manufacturer in Canterbury Street, Lyttelton (for Bride-Cakes, Jellies, Blanch-Manges, Patties and Ornamented Savoy Cakes made to order), on moderate terms.

Tune in again in a few days, when we’ll be looking at manufacturing in 1965 Canterbury; read some previous Hidden Treasures posts; or just drop by the ANZC collection here at Central Tuam Library and find your very own gems!

Twelve years in Canterbury: Hidden treasure #2

My second visit to ANZC, and I have unearthed this wee gem, with possibly the longest title in the world:  Twelve years in Canterbury, New Zealand, with visits to the other provinces, and reminiscences of the route home through Australia, etc. (from a lady’s journal), by Mrs. Charles Thomson.

I have fallen deeply in love with this book, and have a strong desire to take it home and sleep with it under my pillow, but alas, it too is part of our heritage and reference collection and can only be read here at Tuam Street.  So I will continue to sit and read in the ANZC area, and use words like alas! a lot.

In early December, 1852, Mrs Thomson tells us that she boarded “the good ship Hampshire at Gravesend, bound direct for the Canterbury settlement.”  Her journal goes on to describe the sea voyage (noting that although there are many fine people aboard, with good hearts and minds, there are also – !!! – many opportunities for sin!)

There are charming anecdotes – she tells the story of a family who brought out an English carriage:  “It was of course utterly useless, and served only for a laughing-stock, so ridiculously out of place did it appear”.  In attempting to land the carriage safely on shore, it instead ended up sunk in the harbour, and after the unfortunate vehicle had been fished up, it was promptly sent off to Sydney instead.

And some references to the early pilgrims’ reaction to what we see as our beautiful landscape:

It is not easy for the early Canterbury pilgrims to forget the desolate appearance presented to their gaze by the plains, when … they stood on top of the hill and looked down and beyond in the distance upon the site of their intended city. Few spots in nature could look more dreary or ugly; they could only comfort themselves by the assurance that it was healthy, and the hope that they might in time become accustomed to its ugliness; and then they looked upon the ever-grand and majestic mountains that bounded the view, and felt that in them, there was a magnificence that could never fail, and that in beholding them, the eye could never tire.

This book is a true treasure, and I can only urge you to go find it yourselves, and perhaps at the same time find your own Canterbury treasures to explore.  I will leave you with Mrs Thompson’s own words

[The author] trusts that the information she has been able to collect may prove useful to those who contemplate a visit to the Antipodes, interesting to those who stay at home, and may, perhaps, tend to open the eyes of all to the many advantages and blessings to be reaped by those who, with strong hearts and willing minds, seek distant shores, to create for themselves, under God’s favour, new homes, new fortunes and new health.

Christchurch sketchbook: Hidden treasure #1

One man’s trash, another man’s treasure  – words that keep echoing in my head every time I go into the Aotearoa New Zealand area here at Central Library Tuam. I talked a couple of weeks ago about the ‘old stuff’ that we have here and how mesmerising and distracting it can be. I thought I’d illustrate this some more as we focus in October on the theme of Rediscovering Christchurch.  So in this spirit of rediscovery I am venturing back into the shelves in search of more treasure.
Christchurch sketchbook by Unk White, text by Monte Holcroft

Today’s find: a little green volume called Christchurch Sketchbook, published in 1968.  A collection of pen and ink drawings by Unk White, with accompanying text by MH Holcroft, this is a wee gem that made me laugh, describing the Antigua boatsheds as a place where:

Icecream and soft drinks are sold briskly to customers in short pants.

and cry (remembering the heartbreak of watching the Provincial Chambers fall)

And then there could be seen in Durham Street a remarkable sight – a Gothic structure with arches, buttresses, windows and a magnificent entrance … viewed across a landscape of tussock, flax bushes, and a few lonely willows.

and feel proud to be a librarian

 … in all this time the [old Public] library continued quietly to grow … and under good librarians has made a fine contribution to a city whose people have always been fond of books.

Watch this space for more hidden treasures to be discovered!

Old stuff at Central Library Tuam

Aotearoa New Zealand collectionThere’s nothing like opening a new library. There’s a lot of excitement round here at the moment as opening day for the brand-new Aranui Library draws near (this Saturday! 11am! woo!).

And we’re not jealous here at Tuam Street, not at all.  They have a beautiful, brand-new, architecturally designed, art- and light- filled facility, with water features, rolling parkland, and oh-so-shiny brand new books, movies, magazines …

It’s not a competition, we tell ourselves.  After all, we love our post-industrial, dystopian-chic-themed electrical warehouse makeover.  We love that the bus exchange is right next door.  We love that we are in the heart of the city, where big things are happening every day.  We love the Re:Start mall, and the Escarto coffee cart, and Ballantynes.

We love having so much of the old Central library’s stock here, and working in tandem with Central Library Peterborough library we provide access to family history, newspapers, magazines, motor manuals, the law collection and all the expertise that Central used to offer.  We love that our shelves are full, not just with the latest shiniest bestsellers, but also with Wodehouse and Woolf and Austen and Ballard, with Salinger and Verne and Kerouac.

We also love the Aotearoa New Zealand Collection. We tried really hard to fit it all in here, but even with the best of intentions we are only able to offer a ‘representative sample’.  The rest of it is safely stored off-site, but it’s only a hold request away.  What’s here, at Central Library Tuam, is distracting enough.

Stepping into the ANZC area is a bit like opening a packet of pineapple lumps.  You think to yourself, I’ll just have one.  Maybe two.  And then before you know it, you’ve eaten an entire packet spent a whole hour browsing the shelves, and people are wondering where on earth you’ve got to.

I went down the rabbit hole this morning, and in just a short 15 minute browse came up with these gems:

  • A 1963 edition of Just Cooking, Thanks (being a dissertation on New Zealand seafood), by Noel Holmes. Mmm, tentacles.
  • A 1942 book called Medical Advice from a Backblock Hospital (a bit afraid to read this one in case it involved biting on a bullet while someone sawed off a leg)
  • A delicious wee gem called Bits and Pieces by Gran, ZB Personality.  I LOVE this book!  A quick flick through offered everything from sage words – “Indulging in fits of bad temper shortens life”;  to recipes – mix equal parts minced ham, beetroot and gherkin to make a savoury spread for biscuits; to must-have outdoorsy advice – find here a “good mixture for waterproofing a tent” that you can mix up in the kitchen.
  • Rosemary Rees’ 1933 travel diary, called New Zealand Holiday, in which she notes the large numbers of “young, fine, splendid men pouring into the country.”

Also on the shelves, reference copies of Consumer magazine and the Listener, lots and lots of books by New Zealand novelists and poets, and the gripping, relentlessly paced Ocean Outfall Handbook (A Manual for the Planning, Investigation, Design and Monitoring of Ocean Outfalls to Comply with Water Quality Management Objectives).

There IS a fine print clause with ANZC material – none of it can be borrowed, and you can’t bring your tea and sandwiches in with you, but you can (and should) come and browse, sit for a while, and discover all the hidden treasure that awaits.

We may not be the newest shiniest library on the block, but just remember this:  sometimes, old stuff is good stuff.

New Stuff this week in Aotearoa New Zealand Centre

Here’s this week’s  sample of the new items in the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre (ANZC).  ANZC is the library’s reference and research centre.

coverKiwiana party cakes : fun cakes for fun occasions by Rob Burns and photographs by Charlie Smith has pictures you just want to eat.
The number of cooking books produced in New Zealand is stunning – another one this week is A good spread : recipes from the kitchens of Rural Women New Zealand. These are classic recipes from the pages of the 1965 Women’s Division of Federated Farmers cookbook, and full of culinary creations from your childhood (or not, depending on your age)
In Your 21st century career : new paths to personal success, Heather Carpenter talks about how workers today need to be flexible, creative and innovative to be successful. She includes special exercises, strategies and self-assessment charts for practical self-evaluation when it comes to finding the career that is just right for you. She reckons that “the acquisition of new skills has assumed critical importance”.
Silver wings : New Zealand women in aviation by Shirley Laine tells the story of the many feisty women involved in flying our skies through the years.
Kyle Mewburn, New Zealand Post Children’s Book Award winning author, produces a new story for children in his usual highly imaginative style. In A crack in the sky, nine year old Conor has woken up to find his right arm missing and horns on his head. What?
coverPhysiotherapist Robin McKenzie has provided the best known self-help advice to back-pain sufferers for many years. In his latest volume, 7 steps to a pain-free life ; how to rapidly relieve back and neck pain, written with Craig Kubey, he looks at simple real solutions to back pain and illustrates all his ideas with case studies
And finally a book that deserves a post all to itself – Postcards from Tukums : a family detective story by Ann Gluckman ; edited by Kirsten Warner. A family history with attitude, this is illustrated with a wonderful collection of postcards which were found in the family home as it was being demolished. Fascinatingly entertaining.
More soon – there’s always more……

New books this week in the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre (ANZC)

Are you feeling overwhelmed by the number of new books that you really want to read but can’t imagine where you’ll find the time? Well prepare to feel even worse, because there are some fascinating new books in our reference centre – ANZC.  Most of these books will also have borrowable copies in the library.

coverAbout 30 years ago Robert Long dropped out of Medical School and took up life in remote Westland. Since then he has been joined in this frontier land by wife Catherine and  2 children He tells the story in A life on Gorge River : New Zealand’s remotest family..

coverIn After Andrew: two kiwis cross Australia by Bill Lennox, Bill retraces the steps of his grandfather, Andrew Lennox, from Adelaide to Darwin in 1899. Bill had the help Andrew’s unpublished manuscript of his experiences, and a car, which beats the transport that Andrew endured.

From rags to rivets: the Trevor Bland story: a biography compiled and written by Ron Pemberton, is the story behind one of the founding members and driving forces behind the New Zealand Warbirds Association. If the words Vampire, Venom and Hawker Hunter strike a thrill in your heart then you really need to read this book.

Cornelius & co: collected working class verse, 1996-2008 by John O’Connor is an anthology which springs from the author’s background of working class Irish Catholic Addington.

Continue reading

New books in the Aotearoa New Zealand Centre

The usual varied collection has turned up in ANZC – the reference centre of the library – this week:

  • coverRuth Naumann’s non-fiction books for children are beautifully set out and packed with good classroom and study ideas. Two that have just arrived are Te ao o te Maori (The world of the Maori) written by Ruth Naumann and Frank Winiata and Passchendaele also by Ruth Naumann.
  • Somebody stole my game by Chris Laidlaw, who is not happy with the current commercial state of New Zealand rugby.
  • Fiordland: news, views & anecdotes, pre-1911: excerpts from Papers Past compiled by Merv Halliday is a type of history we may be seeing a great deal more of now that many of our old newspapers are being digitised.
  • Under the influence: reshaping New Zealand’s drinking culture by Bev James can also be viewed online.
  • Bruce McLaren: a celebration of a Kiwi icon edited by Michael Clark and Jim Barclay, includes personal tales from those who knew him and many photographs of Bruce McLaren and his life in motor racing.
  • Simon Toomey decided to write a blog when he found he had terminal melanoma. Just months to live is a collection of blog posts, following the thoughts and experiences of this young man in his twenties as he comes to terms with his fate.
  • And in the morning, a DVD directed by Colin Jamieson and Jennifer Barrer, is a compilation of interview, personal reflection and archival footage of World War II soldiers returning home.
  • Letters from New Zealand (1859-1883) by Sarah Ann Walker; with an introduction by her great-great-niece, Margaret Brown, is an almost day-by-day account of life in the new colony – first in Papanui and then in Temuka. If you want to know what life was like for the early European settlers – and it wasn’t easy – this makes great reading.

More next week.