Small-town luxuries

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

As I write this I am in New Zealand's biggest and fastest-growing city, Auckland.

In 2008, the world clicked over from being a predominantly rural dwelling place to having more than 50% of us living in cities and, a bit like global warming, where the more the ice caps melt, the warmer the world gets, so more ice melts ... With the urban drift, the more people move to the cities, the less reason there is for people to stay behind in the country, so even more move citywards. I don't understand it - a bit of me loves the buzz of being in a big city, but the bigger part of me loves living in a smaller population where it is not possible to choose friends who are just like you.

If you live in the city, you can have all your friends the same age, same profession, same neighbourhood and same interests and political persuasion as you. In a smaller place, you would not have many friends. You just have to learn to get on with people with all sorts of different life experiences and ambitions and beliefs.

It is so much more interesting.

And of course, in the Wakatipu, even though we have all the small town luxuries - like not having traffic jams or burglar alarms and sirens going day and night - we have the big city bonus of an international airport with all the excitement that our faraway visitors bring us - new thoughts and ideas and lots of money to spend in our local businesses and donate to our local fundraisers. Three cheers for our visitors.

We tried to fly to Auckland for Kathryn Wills' and Gary Lane's big bash (I still have not quite forgiven him for luring the queen of party-giving away from Arrowtown) but our Air Pacific flight was cancelled and we ended up staying in Fiji till Monday. I sometimes grumble about our council and government dumping their responsibility for funding various projects on tax and ratepayers, but in Fiji, locals rally around to help buy even the most basic hospital supplies. We went to a fashion show to raise money for Nadi Hospital - last year's effort went towards security fencing the perimeter (do we have or need

any fences round our hospitals in New Zealand?) as well as trolleys and monitors.

It was a fabulous evening, but slightly unnerving hoping that we would not need the hospital's services ourselves.

Hospital care is in the forefront of my mind right now - a young, fit, healthy friend had an aneurism playing squash in Hong Kong last week. He is still in a coma and if, and when, he is better, I am going to be giving him a piece of my mind for frightening us like that.

There is a terrible, spooky strangeness about ill health striking people that way. Being fit and healthy is not enough - it takes a lot of luck as well. How lucky are we that this newspaper and a totally dedicated team of fundraisers managed to secure the neurosurgery facilities for Otago and Southland?

That is a big city luxury, for sure. And I am so grateful to the amazing people who want to be neurosurgeons - it must be terrifying being so responsible for another human being's very life and health and happiness, especially when you operate for the first time. Enough hospital talk - no-one wants to think about that sort of thing at this time of the year.

There's way too much fun stuff happening at home and I am so sad to be missing it all.

Beautiful Jess Neame was the most beautiful bride ever this weekend by all accounts and Brittany Hanff is the most glamorous new 21-year-old. Now that she is fulltime at Remarkable Vets, I bet there's a sudden increase in the number of single men taking up pet ownership.

Bubbly Marnie Reid turned 50 this week and although I wasn't home for any of these, I did get to go to the surprise birthday drinks up here for Virginia Fisher. Happy birthday to these gorgeous birthday girls and happy marriage to the new Mr and Mrs Coburn. The prolonged stay in Fiji saw me run out of new books to read - aargh, my worst nightmare.

Lucky for me, I got my hands on a copy of Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides. It is a book I have been wanting to read ever since it first came out about 10 years ago, but newer books kept piling up on top of it and I just had not got round to it. What a mistake - it is brilliant. I am not the only one to think so - it has sold millions of copies. It is a bit of a family saga starting with heroine Calliope's grandparents' migration to America .

Calliope describes her whole life, right from conception - and her growing up into becoming a boy. It is really funny, adventurous writing. There is one bit where she looks back and tells her history like a film in reverse that leaves a vulgarly vivid picture in your mind - very hard to erase.


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