Birthday cake from boat boy's family

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

Queenstown is definitely in Turkey this week.

We've got Matt Patt and his gorgeous Kelly aboard, and also David Arnau who stayed with Don and Kath Andrew when he came to learn English about 12 years ago and has since been every Queenstowner's best friend in Barcelona, showing them all the high life and nightlife of his home city.

And we bumped into the beautiful familiar face of Ana Aoke who is working on the super-elegant superyacht Ad Lib, as well as getting a surprise visit from Michael Hanna.

It's probably why I'm not too homesick yet.

There are also many very sad and sour Australians who do not love a Kiwi flag right now - they have pointed out theirs is the five-star version, and we are downmarket from them.

Oh really ... ? Time for a new flag, in that case.

Tyler Brule, who writes "Life in the Fast Lane" in the Financial Times, wrote a great column last week about the need for countries, businesses, whatever, to differentiate themselves from others.

I'd never remembered how many stars we had until the frosty Australians made their caustic comments.

Everyone everywhere seems to know why New Zealand is different: they know we have a very green country, very incorrupt, they know about The Lord of the Rings and the All Blacks, but nobody knows our flag, not even many of us.

I am always interested to know which subjects create the most feedback in this column.

Our boating disasters have the top rating, but boat toilet disasters are at the top of the top.

Thanks for all the emails and suggestions and the total lack of sympathy! And I loved getting Garrick Tremain's Augusta cartoon - lucky us having this strange and wonderful man in the Wakatipu.

In case you don't know, you can often buy the originals of his cartoons from him but my darling is trying constantly to get me to tighten my belt. I don't often succeed, partly because I am very greedy and prone to portliness, but also because I think it is my duty to keep spending and stimulating the economy in my own small way.

Obviously my dear old Dad doesn't think that way.

At his vast age, maybe he's getting a little confused and thinks Angela Merkel is telling him, not Greece, he needs to tighten his belt and practise a little austerity.

Whatever, he's taking it to heart and has taken the battery out of his 20-year-old Mercedes and will not register it for a while in an attempt to save money.

We did ask if he had thought of just selling it, or the two ancient Nissan Sentras he drives rather than wear out the Mercedes, but he can't see any sense in that.

He's also bought my mother an iPhone, but without a contract or any data plan; again a money-saving initiative if ever I heard of one! It is hard to imagine what she plans to do with this device, but I'm only a child in his eyes, so even though he asked my opinion, he didn't really take any notice.

I can't wait to be his age and ignore all my children's advice, but they say that is already the case.

I can't forget I'm getting old because my birthday has gone on and on.

On Saturday night we went for dinner at our favourite kebab joint.

It's actually our favourite restaurant overall, not just because the food is so delicious, but because dinner for six, including booze, is a whopping $NZ80.

We always seem to over-order and overeat, so our hearts sank when the waiter - who is our boat boy's brother - brought out a dangerously rich looking chocolate cake exploding with sparklers and big hearts saying "Miranda" and all the staff singing Happy Birthday.

Our boat boy's family had ordered it for me as they are so grateful we have given him a job and let him have a day off for the recent holiday (boat crew aren't meant to get a single day off in the whole season here).

I feel ashamed as the job is gruelling and involves his working 18 hours a day (our captain is a ferocious slavedriver) but all his friends are jealous because he says his job is so fantastic.

I can't imagine how tough life must be on other boats.

I told you last week about the card that said reading a book was a way of trying on another person's life for size.

Often I feel very pleased the life I am trying on finishes when I finish the book.

Tom Lubbock's excellent journal Until Further Notice, I am Alive is one such.

This British journalist kept a diary from when he was first diagnosed with a rare and malignant brain tumour.

He asks why he says he is dying when all of us are living, until we actually die.

And questions what our lives are and why we want them so much.

It's beautiful, tragic writing by a young, intelligent man with a very young son and wife who mean the world to him.

Sometimes reading about lives we don't want makes us value our own so much more.

Loads of you have already got the fantastic Black Dog Cottage cookbook, and if you're interested and quick, contact Cath Hanna at Gently Used Clothing or Motogrill and put your name down for the launch of book two, and if you're even quicker, get your name down for author/cook Adie's cooking class.

- miranda@queenstown.co.nz