Memoirs full of life, laughter

If life had been different, perhaps she might have liked to have been a journalist. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
If life had been different, perhaps she might have liked to have been a journalist. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
If Fiona Rowley harbours a regret, it is that she did not start writing diaries sooner.

The Lake Hawea mother-of-six and farmer's wife recently self-published Fiona Elizabeth Rowley: Her Book and tomorrow launches a second, expanded edition.

The book is based on taped conversations with friend Devon Hotop, memories, and screeds of documents and photographs she has squirrelled away through the years.

A keen writer since the age of 19, Mrs Rowley (92) only started "proper diaries" in the 1960s, when she began travelling overseas.

"I always tell people to put everything down, even if they don't do anything with it," Mrs Rowley said in an interview with the Otago Daily Times.

She said her book came about because of the "dogged determination" of Mrs Hotop, who participated in many taped interviews dealing chronologically with Mrs Rowley's life.

Mrs Hotop balked at typing it up and suggested Mrs Rowley might like to write a book instead.

Mrs Rowley said she agreed without hesitation but admitted she needed continual prodding from her friend.

"She's caught me at some pretty moody times. She would say 'Come on!' And then at the 11th hour, Prue Wallis came on board as well," Mrs Rowley recalled.

Despite wishing she had started writing a diary earlier, Mrs Rowley despaired at the wealth of material already at her disposal; after all, she had kept everything.

Mrs Wallis, who helped design the book, rescued her.

"I was delighted when Prue vanished with armloads of photographs and documents. I was so relieved and thought, `Now I can throw the rest of them out'," Mrs Rowley said.

Mrs Rowley believes in the importance of an inquiring mind.

"Questions: they bring people alive. I think people love talking about themselves. You might not hear a word out of them for years and then they explode ... But there are an awful lot of people who don't listen, even in my own family. They are too busy thinking ahead to what they might say next," she said.

Mrs Rowley reflected that if life had been different, she might have liked to have been a journalist - but for having to report on Iraq and Iran.