Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular
column about her recommendations for a good read, and life as
she sees it ...
It's just over a month till Christmas - where did my year go?
I loathe Christmas shopping and usually try to buy everyone I
love the same present so I can cut down the stress and strain
of choosing separately for everyone.
Sometimes it's obvious a present has pleased some recipients
as much as it has displeased others.
My brothers struggled to thank me the year I got everyone a
This year might be easier as Amanda Richardson and Cath Hanna
have persuaded (some of the foolishly modest took a lot of
persuasion) a whole gaggle of the Wakatipu's most talented
and creative people to bring along the fruits of their brains
and hands and sell them at the Anglican Church hall in Church
St on November 29.
The tiny sneaky preview I've had is sensational, but I know I
won't want to give any of the things I plan to buy away.
We are so lucky in the Wakatipu - our fabulous community has
chipped in huge amounts of support for things that really
should be fully funded by the council rates we pay - the
cycle trails, for one and the Memorial Hall upgrade for
Cath Gilmour tells me they have raised more than 90% of their
target for the hall - what a brilliant effort - and there's a
fashion show (with cocktails - excellent!) on November 28 to
help massage a little more cash out of our pockets and into
Everyone who's ever attended any event in the hall knows how
overdue this upgrade is, so get along to DT Carter in
Remarkables Park for tickets.
Our pockets got a little more massaging last week as we
celebrated Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee and raised money for the
QEII Jubilee Trust.
There's nothing nicer on a bit of a miserable grey afternoon
than a slap-up lunch at Rata and a stirring and warming
singalong of God Save the Queen.
The trust raised loads of dosh and we all had a ball - happy,
glorious and victorious all round.
I'm up in Christchurch as I write this and I'm still feeling
a bit shattered and emotional after doing the red zone bus
I've spent a lot of time in Christchurch through the years
and thought I knew it pretty well.
Now I barely recognise it.
While the most shocking and obvious change is the
disappearance of so many landmarks, the other truly
surprising thing is how many stunning older buildings are
reappearing after being hidden or crowded by more modern,
less earthquake-proof (and mostly less attractive)
It's worth visiting Christchurch just to do this tour and see
what I mean.
There are huge, huge areas of bare land everywhere and it is
quite eerie being driven along streets with no traffic or
people, just cranes and diggers and their drivers.
There's something morbidly fascinating about watching the
cranes (nicknamed Twinkletoes) gently pecking at condemned
buildings and seeing chunks of wall and furniture tumbling
down to the ground. Gruesome but gripping tourism.
Speaking of which, I was walking along the Arrow River with
some girlfriends, all talking 10 to the dozen when suddenly
we saw a man gagged and bound, lying on a rock beside the
Normally it's a big effort to shut us up for even a second,
but this worked like a charm.
A little further along was a group of slightly feral looking
types: wild hair and dirty faces.
And a couple of cameras filming them all.
It's Nomad Safaris' latest offering: they are taking visitors
round some of the settings for The Hobbit, and giving
visitors a chance to star in their own production Shades
What a fantastic idea - the visitors were so into it all and
so were the Nomad staff.
I've done an awful lot of travelling this year, and one of
the best things about travel is it makes reading so much more
meaningful. Reading books set in a place you know gives you
new insight into the people and their patterns.
Berlin's history is dirty and dark, and the Nazis'
contribution was particularly so.
Not all Berliners were part of the Nazi nastiness though and
A Woman in Berlin is a terrible record of two months
of one woman's life at the end of the war. She was a
journalist and started a diary as the Red Army invaded.
The Russians wanted revenge for what had happened in their
country, and as there were so few German men around, they
took their revenge on the women.
When the diary was first published, there was a huge outcry -
German men didn't like the way they were portrayed as failing
to defend their women against the rapes and violence.
The anonymous author refused to give permission for it to be
republished until after her death.
This is a fabulous translation and while it's not pleasant
reading, there's a lot of very black humour and you can't
help wondering how you could possibly cope living in those
times under those conditions.
Luckily for us, it seems unlikely Wakatipu dwellers are going
to have to find out the hard way, but it's good to be
reminded why it's good to keep our politicians in line,
rather than the other way round.