Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular
column about her recommendations for a good read and life as
she sees it ...
Merry, snowy Christmassy Christmas to you all from Big White
I'm so annoyed I didn't know this beautiful resort existed
when our children were all younger. There are Wakatipu voices
all around here and everyone seems to have been to
Wes, who worked at the Heritage for six years, skied at 14
Canadian resorts last year and said Big White is the only one
that matches Queenstown for the nightlife. Everything happens
up the mountain - skiing, skating, restaurants, ice-climbing,
tubing, even the famous ''Big Reds at Big White'' wine
festival takes place in the main building, so you never need
a car at all here. Forget all that faffing around driving
whichever child has left their right glove or their ski
ticket behind home to get it.
They can run back to the apartment themselves, although with
the amount of snow around, it's easy to go waist deep the
minute you step off the groomed snow.
There's so much sport on offer that a sign I saw for ''horse
boarding'' had me imagining some extreme equestrian
snowboarding exercise. In fact, they are just offering
stabling for your horse, which doesn't sound as thrilling.
I'd never been to Canada, and I didn't know what to expect.
Emma Hill warned me I'd love it and she's right. Air NZ does
an overnight direct flight to Vancouver so we had three days
there. It's right on the sea and we gorged ourselves on the
justly famous Canadian seafood (they are way fussier about
sustainable fishing than New Zealand is - we should copy
them). We went up to Grouse Mountain which is only a 20
minute drive from downtown, then an eight-minute gondola
Lots of people were just going up the mountain for lunch or
for snowshoeing, even though the skiing was great, but most
were non-skiers going up with children to see Santa and his
Honestly, I know I'm 52, but Santa's cute as a button cabin
right on the edge of the skating pond where tiny children
were all zipping about, with snow falling and reindeer
grazing and twinkly lights had me racing in for a turn on his
knee. I think his orthopaedic surgeon will have words to say
about the wisdom of letting him put that amount of weight on
a fragile joint.
We had a good long chat and he was particularly interested to
know how Jack Howley and Oscar Spary are treating their
younger siblings. I hope I haven't ruined their chances of a
good haul at Christmas.
Santa looks a lot happier in the winter weather than those
obviously fake ones in New Zealand with sweat rings in their
armpits and a nasty dose of prickly heat.
Christmas is so pretty in the northern hemisphere - even
towns in New Zealand that do bother putting up Christmas
decorations struggle to make it look festive. It's just not
dark enough till too late and there's nothing very festive
without the twinkly bits. Every shop, office, house, tree and
bridge in Vancouver seems to be sparkling and the smells of
mulling cider and chestnuts roasting from every corner
definitely make you feel like buying stuff for your family.
Lucky I'm so strong-willed ... The artisan food movement is
huge here - there's a real ''buy local'' mood and it seems
every restaurant has a tame farmer who supplies them pigs fed
on such delicious diets as hazelnuts and rye, or chickens who
dine on restaurant scraps. The very delicious Campognolo
restaurant even had octopus which annoyed prawn fishermen had
found in their prawn nets (or baskets?) and sold on as
I think kale is inedible, but Forage restaurant had roasted
it with olive oil and salt and now I can't wait to do it
myself. They also served popcorn cooked in duck fat with
little crispy bits of duck skin and pork crackling. How could
I resist? Next time I go skiing I'm going to be borrowing ski
pants from a fatter friend.
I am not very computer savvy - there's an understatement for
you - and reading Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore by
Robin Sloan really had me wishing I knew more. It's a
modern-day fairy tale, where high tech and books collide. I
loved the story anyway, but if I'd known whether the techy
stuff was real or not, it would have been more meaningful ...
Now I have learned the answers to that, I want to reread what
was already a fun and fanciful fable. Clay is struggling to
find work in the current economic climate and he sees a
''Help Wanted'' sign in the window of a bookstore. At first,
the only mystery is how it stays open when it sells almost
nothing, but there are more and more mysteries the longer he
When he meets Kat, who is a superwhizz computer girl working
at Google, their combined efforts solve one of the mysteries.
Right now, the real world of books is in the same state of
chaos, where the love of the old, paper, traditional means of
storing information clashes with the new.
The bookstore's a more developed character than any of the
people, but the story is fun.
Happy birthday and happy housewarming to Jane Todd and I hope
everyone enjoys all the Christmas get-togethers this week.