Read all about it: In the shade reading

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

Isn't it always the way? The last weekend of the school holidays is always a scorcher, and the first week back. The only sensible afternoon activity is lying in the shade with a book.

It seems the older I get the more I know how much I don't know. There's just too much information for one simple housewife to take on board and with everything being so exciting and fascinating, I run round like a headless chook shrieking with delight about it all.

This week, a visiting journalist friend who was writing a column about Arrowtown wanted my company as porter/photographer/coffee fetcher ... I did know about the gold panning at Dudley's Cottage - our daughter works there teaching visitors how to find gold and making rather good coffee, so as it's right by where I park for doing the Sawpit Gully or Bush Creek walks, it's no hardship to stop in and enjoy watching her earning a living in such a fun way.

What I didn't know about was the winery cycling tour that leaves from the same building. They've got great big upright bikes with the softest, squishiest seats. We zoomed off down the Arrow River trail all the way to Whitechapel, then down Morven Ferry Rd and over the fabulous Edgar Bridge and under the underpass (compulsory shouting for the fun of the echo) and before you know it, you're at the Bungy Bridge. And there's Dylan with the van waiting to take us and our armchairy bikes down to the far end of Gibbston. We biked our way back through the vineyards, getting wobblier all the way, ending up at the new old Gibbston Pub.

As is my wont, I inspected the bottles in the bar, and saw a new gin! Broken Heart Gin. This delicious gin comes from Whitechapel - the Whitechapel we had just biked past. No choice but to ring the makers and go visiting.

Only two weeks till Valentine's Day, and you may well be one of those organised chaps who's already had the book of poetry you've written to your loved one printed and bound.

I have dropped endless hints to my darling about the romantic chap who let Kaye Parker sell him the naming rights to the hill that goes from Millbrook down to Speargrass Flat Rd. Lucky Christine with a hill named after her. I haven't told my darling but I already bought myself a present from him - two years of being a benefactor of the Festival of Colour. The festival is in April. The programme's official launch is on Valentine's Day and supporters get two weeks of priority booking.

I gobbled up Will Schwalbe's The End of Your Life Book Club in one sitting. This is the story of a mother with pancreatic cancer, so there's no happy ending possible, but as she and her adult son discuss books they've loved while they make the most of the time she has left, it's hard not to enjoy the happiness they've shared.

Anyone would be proud of a mother like Mary Anne Schwalbe - she's packed a lot into her life and is still focusing on getting a library built in Kabul even while her own time is running out. The worst thing about this book is the five pages of book titles at the end - all the books discussed in this book, and I only know about a quarter of them.

And on top of that, I read Jenny Erpenbeck's Visitation which is 150 pages of tight, tight writing about a house in East Berlin. Like Simon Mawer's The Glass Room, the house is the main character and its history is that of the people who've lived in it. I had to read it a second time, to make sure I'd understood it properly, and now I want to read it again as it is just so clever.


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