The many confusions of a new year

At the start of every new year I feel a certain sense of confusion. How will this year be for me? How will I be for this year? I feel very receptive to signs and portents at this time. Here’s what I’ve garnered so far:

Breakfast is a Dangerous MealWhat will I eat? Not breakfast as it turns out! The very latest foodsy trend knocks on the head the old notion that brekkie is the most important meal of the day, and does so with one of the cleverest cover designs so far this year! Terence Kealey’s Breakfast is a Dangerous Meal is a very well researched diatribe against early morning eating for diabetics, the overweight and those with blood pressure problems. How does he cope? “On waking I resort to a strong cup of black coffee; then I go for a run, a swim or a cycle ride. It helps that I have a job that I love.” Oh and Kay.

Goodbye ThingsWhat will I do? More tidying I’m afraid. Goodbye Things by Fumio Sasaki (who is quick to point out that he is no Marie Kondo) is just a regular messy guy who changed his life by getting rid of absolutely everything he did not need. The effects were remarkable: “Sasaki gained true freedom, new focus, and a real sense of gratitude for everything around him.” Sounds good – and there is no folding of clothing required.  If you can’t handle that, try Bohemian Residence instead which bills itself as being witty with: “lavish possibilities for contemporary city living”. There’s something about that word “lavish” that fairly screams “Bring Me My Eggs Benedict Now!”

I actually Wore ThisWhat shall I wear? Years ago I loved Trinnie and Susannah because they helped us work out what to wear by ruthlessly telling us what not to wear (everything we had in our wardrobes, as it turned out). I Actually Wore This (Clothes We Can’t Believe We Bought) is a happy reminder of that time in my life. Arty types and fashionistas reveal those items they bought and then never wore (or hardly ever). It is comforting to realise that we have all done this – bought an item for a New Year’s do, worn it once, then only dragged it out again as a kind of fancy dress item for Halloween. This book is visually pleasing and very wittily written. I now know that I must NEVER AGAIN be tempted by ethnic clothing while on vacation to exotic shores.

So there you have it: the all new, possibly snappy (no brekkie) 2018 Roberta. Neat and tidy, but whatever is that she is wearing?

Happy New Year!

What were you reading when …?

Britt Marie was hereWhat were you reading when all the events of 2016 took place? Looking back on my reading year, here’s what brought me a bit of comfort in those weird and wonderful times:

Brexit – well I never saw that one coming. The book on hand was Britt-Marie Was Here – another winner from Fredrik Backman, the author of the sensationally successful A Man Called Ove. This novel is set in small town Sweden (still a member of the EU by the way), so a bit of a geographic link there.

The election build-up in America – would it never end? I got through a whole heap of reads like The Portable Veblen. Nothing like an American novel on squirrels and dysfunctional families to get one through the voting road show.

 Leonard Cohen died. I took solace in a murder mystery The Lewis Man by Peter May. All grey skies and peaty remains and the odd bird on a wire. Perfect.

The satanic mechanic Trump got elected – I was on holiday in Cape Town and indulging in a very South African read The Satanic Mechanic by Sally Andrew. One of those Alexander McCall Smith type reads – with recipes thrown into the mix as well. I just buried my head in the sand, something like the ostriches in the book.

When the Kaikoura quakes hit, I was still on holiday. It was a weird feeling to be so far away from New Zealand at that time. I’d moved on to a short, whimsical read that I picked up in an independent bookstore – The Reader on the 6.27. Translated from the French, this is an enchanting novel about the love of books and reading. It served me very well at that time.

John Key resigned while I was reading The Muse. This is a great novel to immerse yourself in by the author who wrote The Miniaturist. I preferred this second book (and the first was not bad The Reader on the 6.27at all either). If you are an art lover and would like a change of scene to Spain, this should go onto your list.

Finally what was I reading at the end of the year? One of those crumbling mansion, upstairs downstairs, governess novels – The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan. And dipping in to the silliest book I found all year Knit Your own Moustache. No I am not making this up!

How about you? What books sustained you last year? What books are carrying you gently into 2017?

Resolving My Resolutions

I am firmly resolved not to make any New Year’s Resolutions this year.

Cover of The Calorie MythActually, I make the same statement at around this time of year every year without fail and invariably New Year’s Eve finds me trying to think of something that isn’t too ambitious so that I will not let myself down.

If these resolutions involve depriving myself of food or ramping up the ‘I don’t do any’ exercise regime, they are quickly kicked into the ‘totally undo-able’ bin. I have tried to commit to healthier eating and gentle, diligent exercise, but by about Day 5 I’m bored, bored, bored and bored with the whole idea. I need instant results with none of the hard labour!

Cover of The 100To help me feel better I thought I would see whether anyone else had the same failure rate as me. Unfortunately, typing in ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ in the library catalogue came up with Judith O’Reilly’s A Year of Doing Good. The author ’embarked on a mission to Cover of A Year of Doing Gooddo one good deed every day. Some called it a social experiment. At times she called it madness.’ My opinion is firmly anchored in the latter camp. Still, it did give me an idea… I am not making a Resolution, but I will try to read this book at some point during the year.

What ‘tried and tested’ Resolutions have proved successful for you?

Methodist Mission, Woodend Beach, Christchurch : Picturing Canterbury

Woodend Beach, Christchurch. The Methodist Mission went there every New Year for a week – or two? And ran activities for children, outdoor movies & square dancing. FUN!! Bob? with microphone, “Uncle Ted” on accordion. Behind Bob, Noeline Zuppicich, Gavin Stevens, Colleen Stevens. Late 1950s. Entry in the 2013 Christchurch City Libraries Photo Hunt. Kete Christchurch. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ. Kete Christchurch PH13-111.jpg

Breathe in – twenty fifteen. Breathe out – twenty fourteen

Cover of Breathing LessonsWhat better time of the year than the very start of a new one to reassess who we are and who we would very much prefer to be. This year I am throwing my focus onto things that I am not doing right, in the hope that this will be the year when I finally get myself sorted.

Let’s start with breathing. Can you believe it – something this basic and I got it all wrong.  Turns out it’s not as simple as inhale/exhale, and if you do it properly, good breathing can sort out all your life problems. You can read about how to breathe although it does feel a tiny bit silly. On a more practical note, The Press (December 16th 2014, p. A14) informs of a breathing course in Christchurch, and it may well come to that. But if all else fails, you could just immerse yourself in a good fiction book like Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler or Breath by Tim Winton.

Cover of I'll Have What She's HavingWhat’s more, I have also been eating incorrectly, but it’s not strictly speaking my fault. Oh, the conflicting instructions I have been given: eat butter, don’t eat butter, eat margarine, don’t touch margarine – eat butter again. Watch out for sugar, go vegan, lower your salt, up your roughage, eat 5 days a week, fast two, never fast, eat small meals all day, eat Ancient Grains (whatever they may be). The library has an amazing array of food books: here’s a selection already published in 2015. I’m so worn down by it all though, that I’m falling back on the Taoist option of Winnie the Pooh and eating whatever I like.

The final indignity is that I’m apparently not blogging correctly either. An entire issue of Mollie Makes (Blogging: The guide to Creative Content*) is devoted to this topic and I fail on most counts – possibly because blogging is one of the few things I don’t over think. I can summarise blogging in 50 words: get an idea that has your brain wired – this usually happens at 2am. Make the naive leap of faith that if it interests you it will also captivate others. Write the entire thing in your head. Go back to sleep, wake up, bash out a draft, submit it. Move on. Mollie Makes, on the other hand, takes 178 pages packed full of admittedly very good tips.

So here’s what I’m going to do: take a deep breath, eat exactly what I like, and blog on. That’s my 2015 – all done and dusted.


*To find Mollie Makes: Blogging: The guide to Creative Content in the catalogue, click on View subscription and availability details and look for call number 745.5 MOL BLOGGING 2014.

Holiday hours

Hannah - 2nd prize in the Summertime Reading Club photo competition
Hannah – 2nd prize in the Summertime Reading Club photo competition. Flickr: CCL-2013-01-18008

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Here are our holiday opening hours – so you know when you can stock up on most excellent holiday reading, watching, and listening from your local library.

All libraries will be closed 25 December, 26 December, 1 January and 2 January.

Little River will close 24 December at 4.30pm and reopen 5 January 2015 at 8.30am. Akaroa and Diamond Harbour libraries will retain their usual earlier closing times. All other Christchurch City Libraries will close at 6pm on Wednesday 24 December.

The Library2Go vans will follow their usual weekly timetable.

The Archives and Research collection will be closed from Wednesday December 24 to Tuesday January 9.


Wednesday 24 December All libraries close at 6pm except Akaroa, Little River and Diamond Harbour Libraries which close at usual time.
Thursday 25 December All libraries closed.
Friday 26 December All libraries closed.
Saturday 27 December Normal weekend opening hours. Little River closed.
Sunday 28 December Normal weekend opening hours. Little River closed.
Monday 29 December All libraries close at 6pm except Akaroa and Diamond Harbour Libraries which close at usual time. Little River closed.
Tuesday 30 December All libraries close at 6pm except Akaroa Library which closes at usual time. Little River closed.
Wednesday 31 December All libraries close at 6pm except Akaroa and Diamond Harbour Libraries which close at usual time. Little River closed.
Thursday 1 January 2015 All libraries closed.
Friday 2 January All libraries closed.
Saturday 3 January Normal hours resume except Little River remains closed (it will reopen on Monday 5 January).
Botanics Gardens Christmas tree
Botanics Gardens Christmas tree. Flickr: 2014-12-21-IMG_4155


Happy New Year!

Piping in the new year
Piping in the New Year – New Year’s Eve 1960

Christchurch City Libraries wish you and yours all the best for 2014.
We are closed on the 1st and 2nd of January. Check out our holiday opening hours for more details.

Find out more about New Years in New Zealand and around the world.

The Digital Library is open – why not have a look around. Our latest addition is Zinio – e-magazines for your computer, smartphone, or tablet. And the holidays are a great time to read some mags!

Economist  Cover of Games master   Cover of Marie claire

Listing towards quality

This morning I came across a post on Good Reads – a popular book recommendation site. Their 2013 Reading challenge allows you to set yourself a challenge to read a certain number of books and record their details – for the edification of all?

I thought about attempting this and then wondered if it should be consigned to the pile of resolve to do in 2013 advice that floods in at this time of year (and then gets ignored). But then I thought – it’s just the numerical aspect I find hard. Read 100 books – even if you dress it up as “A century of reading” or something like that seems a bit too mechanistic to me. What if you get to 90 and you are running out of time – do you rush and find some quick reads just so you can say you have done it?

The New Year has thrown up another disturbing reading challenge – someone who is planning to read all 131 Babysitters club books.

I do quite like the idea of setting myself a reading challenge though. I’ve only done it once before – I set out to read all the Patrick O’Brien Napoleonic seafaring novels (Master and Commander et al). This proved to be a satisfying challenge because he was such a good writer and I found the characters and stories interesting.

I’d like to set myself a challenge this year but can’t think what. Maybe 10 books in an area outside my reading comfort zone? 10 books of philosophy? 10 New Age classics? Proust? Aaaargh! I think it has to have an element of enjoyment. Actually I’ve just ordered a book from Amazon and it made me realise that I have already brought 2 other books this year already. Perhaps that is my challenge – buy and read enjoyable books this year.

Has anyone else set themselves reading challenges before? Any suggestions?

Stepping lightly into twenty thirteen

Cover: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold FryWhen country singer Patsy Cline went out walking after midnight, we can be fairly certain she wasn’t after getting from A to B, nor was she looking to slim down and get fit. No, Patsy was after some soul searching. And walking for the soul has just hit its bookish straps. This is a soul walking blog with no mention  made of pedometers or lycra. Just strap on your metaphorical hiking boots and let’s get spiritual.

Many moons ago when I had long permed hair, listened to Woodstock Festival music and wore floaty tie-dye dresses, I read The Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananada. It was all mind blowing, but I remember best the descriptions of spiritual walkers (lung-gom pa) who could take giant steps and sort of fly over the Himalayas. I wanted to do that so badly.

More recently I have stumbled on book after book where the main character just ups sticks and walks off into the wide blue yonder. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce is a lovely, gentle read about a man who walks the length of England to make a long overdue apology, and in The Lighthouse, by Alison Moore, the main character, newly separated from his wife, goes on a “restorative walking holiday”. Both books made the 2012 Man Booker Prize long list. Is that a sign of the times or what?

But wait, there’s more … In The Year of the Hare  by Arto Paasilinna, a man involved in a minor car crash walks away from his career, his marriage and his friends and wanders around Finland with a hare in his pocket. All the men in these novels learn a lot about themselves, to the dismay/rage of their left-at-home wives.

Walking for the soul has a long history that shows no signs of dying out. In fact, it’s starting to look as if we are hardwired to want to do it. For example, the popularity of pilgrimages to locations such as  Santiago de Compostela has increased over time and the library has many resources to inspire pilgrim hopefuls.

How about you, have you ever wanted to walk out of the house – alone – and keep going until you can go no further? Have you wanted to slow right down and think your thinks while placing one foot in front of the other? And, most importantly, have you remembered to arrange for your significant other to come and fetch you when you have had enough?

If any of this has crossed your mind, maybe 2013 will be the year when we all seriously decide to walk the walk.

Piping in the New Year

Piping in the new year

New Year’s Eve 1960

John William Bettridge (1899-1960) and his son Llewallyn (Allyn) Bettridge about to go visiting local pubs to collect donations for the Christchurch Metropolitan Pipe Band. This photograph was taken at the home of John and Minnie Bettridge at 91 Burwood Road (the house has since been demolished and the section redeveloped). The two little girls in front are John’s grand-daughters Alyson and Leonie Miller who had come down from Auckland to spend the summer holidays with their grandparents.

From Christchurch City Libraries collection.

Collated for Heritage Week 2010. See other Heritage Week 2010 photos