Read all about it: Relaxing from holidays

Don't forget the dog trials at Closeburn today and tomorrow. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Don't forget the dog trials at Closeburn today and tomorrow. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
Arrowtown book buyer Miranda Spary continues her regular column about her recommendations for a good read and life as she sees it...

Everybody's children have gone back to school now - there's a general feeling of relief as the routine of school kicks in again, at least for those lucky parents who still have children at school - ours are making me feel very old by having such big birthdays - our youngest son turned 22 this week - Happy Birthday, dear Michael!

And not having the structure of the school terms and holidays still feels strange - nice, but you do feel a little bit wild and out of control - a bit like not wearing a bra.

Having a little shape and control to the year is helpful.

I can't help reading all the advice in newspapers and magazines about how to get your children's year off to a good start, even though I have seriously missed the boat in that regard. And some of the advice is so odd. Do they really think that having healthy sandwiches and fruit in their lunchboxes is going to make children do better at school? Mine never ate a single thing from their lunchbox - healthy or unhealthy, it was all still there at the end of the day. They said lunchtime was far too busy with all the games and fun things to do that they never had time for eating.

I know what they mean. Life in Wakatipu over the Christmas holidays is so busy (although I do always fit in plenty of eating time) that we ended up going to Matarangi, on the Coromandel Peninsula, for a bit of peace and quiet.

I do love the New Zealand beaches and there is something very delicious about the smell of the ocean and a few days of doing nothing. We watched some teenagers fishing in the surf catch a huge shark and their faces when they realised what was on the line was priceless! They managed to get the hook out and release it back into the ocean (I didn't swim once after I saw that).

Coffee is a 9km bike ride away around the cliffs - and back again. I really felt I'd earned my cappucino.

We managed to get to Waiheke Island on the way back, to see the sculpture exhibition. We could hardly move without bumping into Queenstown connections. Not only had we been staying at Matarangi where so many diehard Coronet Peak fans have their summer hideaways, but while we gorged ourselves on culture, we bumped into Geoff and Christine Bradley from the old Bradley's Pharmacy, then Simon Carnahan and his beautiful new wife Angela, our waiter at the lovely Oyster Inn was none other than Perry Newton, and our neighbouring table held Zak Darby. We were happy to see so many Central Otago wines on the menu.

If you feel like a good laugh, look up Sam Neill's speech at last week's pinot noir conference. The video about identifying grape varieties is wonderful and he was quite out-starred by the glorious pigs.

As I write this, we are in Christchurch where my darling is having surgery for cataracts. He is getting some magic lenses sewn into his eyes so that he will be able to throw away his glasses and stop driving me nutty asking me where things are. I would much rather he went to an audiologist and had a hearing aid fitted but he is more interested in seeing pretty girls than hearing what his nagging old bat of a wife is saying.

Every time I visit Christchurch, I am shocked by how much more demolition there has been and how much more energy and enthusiasm there is. New places are popping up everywhere and we finally managed to be here on a day when Pedro's House of Lamb is open - a container next to Liquor King where you buy a meltingly tender shoulder of lamb on a bed of potatoes and you go home and pretend you cooked it yourself. The best news is ... shh ... I think he might be setting one up in Queenstown. Fingers crossed.

I finally managed to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - several of you have recommended it and I just hadn't really understood what all the fuss was about. If you've suddenly got 9am to 3pm free and want to celebrate having a silent house again, get a copy and lie down with it - what a treat. The style leaves a bit to be desired, but the plot and its twists and turns are dynamite. It's like those poor teenagers trying to hang on to the shark - whichever way they thought it would turn, it did something quite different. Very ''he said, she said'', two completely different versions of the truth from a husband and wife and hopelessly unputdownable.

Don't forget the dog trials at Closeburn today and tomorrow - it's going to be a lot of fun watching the wonder dogs. Actually, the naughty ones that don't listen to instructions are even more fun to watch.

- miranda@queenstown.co.nz