One on one: Diane Brown and Philip Temple

Diane Brown and Philip Temple, here, in 2007, with some of their output, including writing from a...
Diane Brown and Philip Temple, here, in 2007, with some of their output, including writing from a Berlin residency. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
The lockdown is a chance to finally get answers to some of those questions. With that in mind, Diane Brown interviewed her husband, Philip Temple, from their central Dunedin bubble.

Q You said to me that a wise friend once told you the most important thing in life was habit. How have you made habit a practice in your life and is that helping you at the moment?

A As a writer, working to a routine and schedule is crucial to getting anything done! Habit provides the solid framework for creativity.

Q Has living in lockdown changed your life much?

A At home, no, because that is where I work and the pattern does not change. But there is an invisible barrier, which starts about 50 metres from the house, behind which lies those things which enlarge life — trips to the beach, concerts, movies, meeting with friends, meals out. But there are still walks with Chloe, our toy poodle. Life has never been so good for dogs — with owners always at home to play with and go on walks.

Q You were born in 1939. Do you think your earlier experience of living in England during the war has better prepared you for the conditions we are now living under?

A Yes. The vital first seven years of my life were lived under all kinds of restrictions — rationing of food for example. The one thing I stole as a small boy was an apple from a market stall. And I did not taste chocolate until I was seven. So although we’re in lockdown now, it does not seem particularly hard to me; in fact, life seems luxurious compared to those times.

Q What is a good book to be reading right now and why?

A Try that tome or classic you’ve always never had the time for. Yes, you know exactly which one I am referring to. Or my own recent novel MiStory, telling what it might be like around here mid-century.

Q You are a lover of cricket and currently deprived of watching it. What have you turned to instead?

A The other great love in my life is classical music and there are no concerts! But luckily I got a pair of swish headphones at Christmas and can go through my CD library, discovering music I’d forgotten about and — wow — plugging in online to the Berlin Philharmonic’s digital concert video library — currently for free. Amazing.

Q What are you looking forward to doing when we are allowed to roam beyond our neighbourhoods again?

A Making a trip up to Central — it seems a long way away at the moment.

Q You were an early adopter of the computer but not a particular fan of technology. But is it enhancing your life right now?

A Like so many others, I've discovered Zoom with you — I’ve never socialised so much with family and friends!

Q Where do you think we are going after Covid-19?

A I hope that we will have learned that life does not have to be all about stuff and endless growth. That community matters; that local self-sufficiency matters; national self-sufficiency. We know now we can pull together and Covid-19 is a wake-up call to prepare for similar crises to come — especially related to climate change. Let’s begin to focus on what really matters.

Q From memory, I introduced you to the morning pleasures of a cup of tea and reading the paper in bed. Would you recommend this habit to others?

A Yes, with the ODT of course, the best newspaper in the country.


Philip Temple is an award-winning author of  fiction and non-fiction books for both adults and children. He has received a Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement and been appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to literature. During lockdown, Philip expects to finish volume two of Life As a Novel, a biography of Maurice Shadbolt.

Diane Brown is a novelist, memoirist, and poet who runs her own creative writing school, Creative Writing Dunedin. In 2013 she was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to writing and education. She is the poetry editor for the The Weekend Mix. Her latest book, Every now and then I have another child, will be released after the lockdown.

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