The joys of being back

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

I'd forgotten so many things about living here.

It takes forever to do the shopping because there are so many people to stop and chat to.

When I go to the airport to collect my darling, I know every single person who gets off the aeroplane before him. When I get up each day, there's none of that boring same old beautiful weather.

The first day I got home it was windy and oh-so-warm, the next day there was new snow way down the mountains (even on the seats at the top of Tobin's) and the next was sunny but freezing.

The coffee is amazing - I'd forgotten how fantastic our coffee is here.

And the food ... home comforts indeed.

Even though the Wakatipu is so small, it's easy to go for months (and sometimes years) without seeing people whose company you enjoy.

It's always fun to catch up.

When you have been away though, it's so exciting seeing everyone again and hearing all the news.

Lots of lovely news - such as Dan Egerton and Olivia Porter getting engaged and lots of new babies and pregnancies and new houses and relationships.

But it seems so funny how everyone is still the same.

Everyone except brothers' delicious children.

People who are 3, 4 and 5 change a lot in five months and I've come home to the new, taller, chattier version, with all sorts of new friends and interests and abilities.

I love being an aunt and can't wait to be a granny.

My children are so lucky to have the grandparents they've got.

I grew up with only one and she lived in London.

Our only contact with her was receiving much appreciated postal orders and very unappreciated handknitted atrocities.

My childhood memories of that granny are the pain of being made to write thank-you letters when I wasn't a bit grateful for all the time and effort she had put into knitting yet another appalling garment.

My parents are quite different - my mother now has the littlies round on Sundays to watch their favourite star, Annabel Langbein, in her cooking show and then they cook something from it.

It's extraordinary how these small bundles of dynamite will sit entranced and take it all in, then happily help prepare the food.

I thought it sounded a disastrous idea, but everyone loved it, especially me with my penchant for a great burger.

The mountain of mail I haven't got to the bottom of yet means I am trying to stay home and tackle it before I go and try all the new places that have opened.

I haven't been to the new burger joint, LaneWay, in Arrowtown's Arrow Lane (but I'm reliably informed I should).

Neither have I been to La Rambla for great tapas.

And apparently Queenstown Bounce, the new trampoline place in Glenda Dr, is really fun.

On top of all that, I am longing for all my tried and trusted favourites.

The trouble is, as well as all the boring jobs I have to do, I keep weighing myself to see if I have lost any weight.

Despite all my weighing and dieting, I keep weighing more, so if anyone knows of some reliably inaccurate scales that will give me the good news I want, do please let me know.

We are a bit homeless right now - we rented our house out while we were away, so we are flatting with my parents and my daughter for a while.

We have only been here for four days and already my parents and daughter have fled to Dunedin. Is there a problem?

It's a strange feeling living back in the bosom of my family.

I feel like a child again, especially today.

I got a long, and I mean very long, show-and-tell session from my old dad, whose latest thrill in life is to manage the hen yard.

He obviously thought I couldn't manage to feed and put to bed their motley gaggle of chooks without full instructions.

Apparently, the chooks are very intelligent and care who feeds them their slop, so I should disguise myself as him.

Ahem.

They are chickens and their brains are too tiny to notice.

He was a soldier in another life and he's still big on secrecy - both the gathering and keeping of secret information (I am completely useless at both and am itching to tell you what I know about next year's Festival of Colour).

Last night, when I threw the food at the hens (not the prescribed 12 piles) and tucked them into their nice warm hen houses, three silly twits were unable to work out how to get round the open door to get inside.

To teach them a lesson for being so stupid, I shut the door and let them sleep rough for the night.

The old man would never know.

Or so I thought.

First thing this morning is a telephone call from Russell Hamilton wanting to speak to him, to tell him some chickens are not in their beds.

Spies are everywhere.

There are lots of people like my dad who believe animals are smarter than we think.

And so it is in the beautiful Caroline, A Mystery by Cornelius Medvei.

A journalist is contacted by an old friend who is upset that at his father's funeral, no-one mentioned the beautiful Caroline.

As soon as his father met her, he was smitten and he found ways to have his wife and son, his workmates, employer, neighbours and friends all accept his extraordinary relationship with her.

It's a beautiful fable about obsession and about people's ability to accept the extraordinary as normal.

I loved it, and I know there are lots of people who love donkeys who will love it as well.