Surrounded by history

Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular column about her recommendations for a good read and life as she sees it ...

In Turkey, history slaps you in the face whichever way you turn.

Yesterday I paddleboarded across the bay to look in some of the ancient tombs carved into the cliffs and this morning we walked another leg of the Lycian Way, following the trail that goat herds and armies trudged over for more than 3000 years.

There is a lot less history at home - the Turks say that we are New Zealand and new means not much history.

It does not mean that our history is any less important though, and it is a huge relief to hear that our wonderful Lakes District Museum is in the black again.

It is a very important drawcard for Wakatipu, having New Zealand's most visited rural museum and we are fortunate to have David Clarke and his team bringing such great exhibitions to the region.

The museum shop has all sorts of book treasures and I am looking forward to coming home and seeing what new goodies are in stock.

This part of New Zealand breeds all sorts of adventurers and tale-tellers and whether you want to learn about the Scottish settlers gushing about the warm climate and abundance of food and firewood in the Otago they first arrived in, or read long-time local yarn-spinner Alan Hamilton's books on Wakatipu shearers, hunters and miners, this is the place to come.

With less than a week to go before I leave the good ship Miranda, I am trying to achieve all the goals I set myself when I first arrived.

Mmmm - becoming fluent in Turkish, losing 5kg, swimming or paddleboarding for at least an hour a day and tidying up my photo library - I am nearly certain that seven days is not enough to achieve all that.

I should have started earlier.

My friend Philly is on board and she is pushing me into a punishing exercise and eating regime - i.e. more of the first and less of the latter.

Luckily it is pomegranate season and there are trees dripping with fruit.

Instead of the figs that the hairdressers and butchers and cafes gave me free last month, now it's pomegranates.

I have just realised that there are local bananas here as well - they are smaller and sweeter than the imported ones and the local distributor calls himself Dolce and Banana, which is such a great name and intentionally funny.

Some of the unintentionally funny names, especially on menus are so wonderful.

Red peppers give me endless delight - sometimes they are red peepers or red papers or staffed peppers or stiffed peepers.

English is so easy if you only want to speak it - as soon as you start writing it, it gets much trickier.

I am just reading David Crystal's excellent Spell It Out, which is all about why English is such a contrary and difficult language to spell in.

Why is the "hypo" in hypodermic and hypocrite spelt the same but pronounced differently?

Why don't "give" and "dive" rhyme? If you are a language nut, you will love this book.

If you are not, you will go into uncontrollable bouts of somnia.

Is there such a thing?

But if you are keener on a ripping good yarn, there is no-one better than Ian McEwan.

As in his excellent Atonement, he steps into a young woman's shoes and tells the story from her perspective. His latest novel is Sweet Tooth where Serena is recruited by MI5, thanks to her older lover, to lure an unknown author into being an unwitting tool for the organisation.

It is a spy story but showing the glamour-free, grotty, boring side of the business and a love story and full of the delicious sly and dry wit he is so very famous for.

Serena's father is a bishop, and when she goes home for Christmas, she notes that although it seemed normal as a child, "now it seemed exotic to have a father who dabbled routinely in the supernatural, who went out to work in a beautiful stone temple late at night ... ".

And his comments about adult marijuana smokers was spot on - "that inexcusable thing that men who liked cannabis tended to do, which was to go on about it - some famous stuff from a special village in Thailand, the terrifying near-bust ... ".

We all know those tedious types! He really is a brilliant author and this book is one of the finest.

The twist at the end is fantastic.

There has been no rain here since the first week of June, so the Turkish weather authority, whoever it is, gave us a grand finale to our last week on the boat.

A massive electrical storm that lasted for hours, followed by torrential rain, then hail, then strong, strong winds which kept our crew up all night keeping us off the rocks.

It was spectacular and a bit scary but exhilarating, all the same.

Now today is boringly glorious again!

- miranda@queenstown.co.nz