Life (and I) look fuller

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

I've barely shaken off the hangover from New Year's Eve and remembered about the resolutions I made.

Now, it's the end of January already. At this rate, it's going to be Christmas again before I've even started losing the weight I gained last time. Life's so full living here, and 2013 (and I) look even fuller than last year.

To make matters even more difficult, even before Dorothy Browns' massive upgrade of its projection system so it can have all the latest releases at the same time as the big city screens, plus 3-D movies, I was struggling to see all the movies I wanted to, but now it's impossible.

I had already seen Life of Pi, which is such a great way to use 3-D. And last night we were taken to see Quartet. Older friends of mine say it's a bit scarily close to home for them to enjoy it thoroughly, but I adored it. Billy Connolly, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay as the ancient foursome in the Home for Retired Musicians are sensational.

And for a sensationally New Zealand experience to satisfy your inner Southern Man or Woman, get along to Closeburn Station on February 8 and 9 to watch the Wakatipu sheep dog trials.

When I watch sheep dogs totally focused on their owners and waiting for their instructions, I dream of a whistle that works the same way on husbands and children.

If you have ever tried moving sheep, you will know what a nightmare it is - what these dogs can do with just a look or a bark is nothing short of magic. And Closeburn Station must surely be one of the most scenic farms in the country.

Dog trials used to be known as grog trials, according to Closeburn Station manager Grant McMaster and they still always have a full bar (well, beer anyway) and a bit of sheepy stuff on the barbie.

Excellent instant coffee - this is a cappuccino-free zone - real ''ladies-a-plate'' lunches (think corned beef and cold mutton) and morning and afternoon teas with homemade scones and pikelets, slices and biscuits.

If you've got non-New Zealanders staying, this is a chance to show off the real us, or what was the real us before we started copying the rest of the world.

Of course, I wouldn't switch back to the old days for quids when rice was the most exotic thing you could buy at the Four Square, and even that was only for rice pudding.

It's so sad to hear that Queenstown's Paper Plus is closing and a frightening reminder that it's only one of dozens and dozens of bookshops that just can't survive any more. And where are we are going to go for a smile like Suzy Walker's now?I'm the first to understand the joys of downloading e-books and buying on the internet, not to mention the absolute bliss of having such terrific libraries and librarians as we have here in the Wakatipu, but if you want the luxury of living in a town with good bookshops, you have to support them.

Give everyone real books for their birthdays - there's a good book out there for everyone, even the most unenthusiastic reader. On the subject of being an unenthusiastic reader, thanks for all the emails about Wolf Hall. The world seems very firmly divided into the lovers and the haters and the not-very-interested. I'm one of the latter, and surprised about it - for a book that's won so many prizes, there should be more people passionate about it.

What did get me much more excited was Lost Voices by Christopher Koch. He has cleverly used two different parts of the story of Hugh, a young man whose father has managed to lose the little money the family had.

Hugh visits an old relation and begs him to help the family out. The latter part of the book is Hugh a few years later, again asking for help, and sandwiched in the middle is a story of his great-grandfather, who fell in with a big-dreaming convict.

The link between the three stories is always Walter, Hugh's great-uncle. Christopher Koch is one of Australia's greatest authors - he's 90 now and so this might be his last book. I'd never read anything of his before, but now I'm just going to have to add his The Year of Living Dangerously to my own dangerously large pile of must-reads.


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