Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Memories Stirred by Ashburton



I remember coming back from lunch and how, as I entered the lift, several patched gang members came leaping down the stairs, followed by other, differently, patched men. The lift doors shut, and when they opened again on the first floor, more men faced off with knives, between me and the office door. I froze, couldn’t move or speak or push the lift button – I just froze. The office door opened, and the small, greying, assistant director said, “Get the hell out of here, or I’ll suspend your benefits.”

I remember the desperate young mother who called me a “fucking pakeha bitch” when I wouldn’t give her instant money, asking her to fill out a form first.

I remember the day the order came to never give our names to anyone, after a fellow worker received viciously abusive phone calls at home, and things thrown at her house, while she and her children hid, frightened, waiting for the police to arrive.

I remember the weeping, abandoned women. And the elderly widow who, never having been allowed by her now deceased husband to handle any money, was found living with piles of unopened, unpaid bills, no electricity, discovered when a neighbour reported her for fossicking in rubbish bins for food. 

I remember the doctor who told me to stop talking about suicide, to pull myself together, and to stop upsetting my mother or he’d send me to Tokanui and “make damn sure you get electric shock treatment.” I remember feeling totally abandoned by the whole world.

I remember, later, working as a nurse aid at Tokanui, chatting to the pleasant couple weeding the gardens who I later discovered were there  for having killed their infant son while driving the demons from his soul.

I remember the influx of weary women at the end of the school holidays, who had used up all their stores of energy, and just needed to sleep.

I remember the delusional, the depressed, the displaced.

I remember the sadness, the anger, the despair, of those who, for whatever reason – circumstance, chemical imbalance, loss, inability – were unable to participate in the riches of Godzone.

I feel the enormous grief of those who have lost family, friends or workmates in Ashburton. I feel the deep desperation of a man whose life has gone so terribly wrong. I cannot blame anyone, but we are all responsible.

Monday, September 1, 2014

August Reading

Novels

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl
I'm so glad I read Garlic and Sapphires before I read this book, as I may have found some of the characters unrealistic if I hadn't recognised them from Reichl's memoir. It's a fun romp though the world of restaurants and food publishing, with a bit of history and love thrown in. I did enjoy it, and again I am pleasantly surprised by Reichl's ability to change genre. As someone who wrote for magazines, both her memoir and this novel could have been bitty but although her chapters are a bit more defined than those of many fiction writers, her books are tied together well. I'm looking forward to the next book.

The Dreaming Void by Peter F. Hamilton
 My son, Greg, lent me the first two books of a series ages ago. I have struggled with them for the silliest of reasons - they are physically large books, and I find it difficult to get comfortable when reading them! It is a science fiction adventure trilogy, but not of the easy kind where everything is explained. There are number of different main characters in different places, and even different times, who are all converging on the same central event / place. It's often difficult to know who a chapter is about for a while, and the second book, which I have only just stared, does not pander to the reader by having a chapter or two catch-up and reminder. It's a very involved story, makes the brain work hard, and I am enjoying it thoroughly.

The Tea Chest by Josephine Moon
Another book of a woman stretching herself and growing, along with a couple of other women who join her on her journey, whilst exploring their own journeys. It is about Kate who is left a half share in the business she has been working for, and how she grows the business along with herself. The setting is unusual - several tea shops - but there is not much real detail of tea growing, processing, blending and so on, which I would have found interesting. Quite well written, fun, but somewhat unlikely circumstances and twists throughout, some of which I found irritating, as they felt like lazy shortcuts to explain things. A pleasant enough winter-by-the-fire read.

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
Alan runs away from his 100th birthday celebrations at the old folks home and becomes involved in a ridiculous series of events, the telling of which is intermingled with the stories of his life - equally ridiculous. Despite the totally unbelievable nature of his life and adventure, they are only unbelievable if you stop to think about them. While involved in the book, it is all feels just wonderfully true. 

This book was lent and recommended to me by a woman around 70. I'm 62. My young, male, 20ish friend came to visit and pounced on it, having read half of it and loved it, but he hadn't finished it because his 50ish father hadn't completed it either, so wouldn't let him take it away. I can't imagine any reader not enjoying this book. I totally recommend it. I think it would be especially good to read aloud to a friend who also likes books - I was wishing Steven or Jeff still lived at home so I could read aloud with them. It is now out in movie form but only in a few cinemas, and not in Hamilton, so I guess I'll have to wait for it to come out on dvd.

Memoir

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

This Reichl book is another memoir, this time about her childhood and younger life up until she went to work as a restaurant critic. Although it is memoir, she says:
"Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual. In some cases I have compressed events; in others I have made two people into one. I have occasionally embroidered. 
I learned early that the most important thing in life is a good story."
It is, in fact, another brilliant story.


Non- Fiction (unfortunately)

Dirty Politics: How attack politics is poisoning New Zealand's political environment by Nicky Hager
I've only managed to read 60% of this book so far: I can only read little bits at a time, because I find it so upsetting. However, I read a little every day because I think it is a must read for everyone in the country. I especially think that National Party supporters should read it, because beyond the actual dirty tricks that are exposed, it also reveals the truly horrible attitude of a small (I hope) number of of right wing people who have been manipulating the National Party in ways that would appal the majority of National supporters. Sadly, many won't read the book, brushing it aside as a left wing smear campaign. Having read what I have, if I was a Nat, I would be getting myself very involved in the party, doing my best to clean out the corruption and the ugly immorality display by Cameron Slater and his cronies. I am Green through and through, but I have friends who always vote National and they are good people (albeit, misguided, in my opinion) who would read parts of this book with as much horror as me. Despite not having finished the book yet, I'm writing this now in the hopes that people may read it before they vote. Essential reading.