Heading for Wakatipu

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

If all goes according to plan, I'll be home today.

I'm racing round London trying to get my fill of big city thrills, off to the Bronze exhibition at the Royal Academy and just one more visit to my idea of heaven - Ottolenghi's Nopi restaurant.

Thanks so much for all the kind emails, and the ones I can't decide about. I'm so glad you've enjoyed my columns while I've been away, but I don't want to stay away (as has been suggested!) just to keep you entertained and up to date with how the world is seeing New Zealand.

The world does love us! Stephen Fry did a great interview on the Jonathon Ross show here recently all about his new love for bungy jumping at the old Kawarau Bridge. He's such a wonderful storyteller and having him sing our praises so loudly and lovingly is fantastic.

London has free-fallen into winter while we have been here - it hasn't reached double digits all week. I raced down to the charity shops in Wimbledon to buy extra jerseys. Honestly, I think people here go shopping and then drop all their brand new things in at these shops - it's extraordinary. If there's a recession, someone hasn't told the people who are taking cashmere jerseys in with the tags still on.

And the books! Almost every latest release is in there for 3.

There's so much I'll miss about London - I could spend all day sitting reading the papers here.

There is so much brilliant writing.

The highlight this week was talking about the trickiness of deciding when boys reach adolescence. Apparently the turning point is when they go "from Lego to legover".

And I'll miss the pages and pages of events and exhibitions opening each week.

I won't bore you with the list of things I've seen and done this week, but with a population this size, there really is something for everyone every day and so much is free. Things that aren't free are VERY expensive though.

I had thought of going up to see the view from the Shard - it's really divisive - everyone loves it or hates it and the haters say the best thing about going up there will be seeing London without seeing the Shard - it's the only place that it's possible any more. They are taking bookings for next February and it's more than $NZ50 a ticket.

I'll miss the wildlife as well - so many birds and squirrels and foxes. Although a fox with diarrhoea visited my sister's house last night and left a surprise that failed to thrill.

Well, it didn't thrill her, but I do love to see foxes - for all the things the locals hate about them, they still have glorious bushy tails and they just look SO, well, foxy ...

But foxes and newspapers and second-hand clothes aren't enough to keep me here.

I'm counting the hours till I'm back in the bosom of my family and my bookclub and my walking group and yoga classes and reeling from the drop dead deliciousness of the Wakatipu.

I've just read Maxine Alterio's latest novel Lives We Leave Behind in one non-stop session and my heart did a homesick lurch every time there was a reference to sailing on Lake Hayes or boating at Pigeon Island.

She's a great story teller (she should be, she lectures on it in Dunedin) and this story about New Zealand nurses in World War 1 mixes the stories of five real women and eight fictional ones.

It's so important to read these stories about war, stories that don't glorify it in any way and explain the reality of its effects on people. This one portrays it to perfection.

These nurses get sent all over the place from Egypt to Turkey to London to France, playing their essential roles, not just in medical care, but in being loving friends and support for scared, sick, injured and dying soldiers as well as for each other.

Maxine's descriptions are almost too graphic in places and make me so glad I live in times of peace, or should that be places of peace?

miranda@queenstown.co.nz