Worse things happen at sea–book review

Worse things happen at sea, by John McCrystal

Worse things happen at sea is probably the most appropriate book title ever. Whatever catastrophe happens on land you can crank up the Richter scale of disaster if it happens out on the briny. Flood, fire, psychopath, injury, grandstanding, storm, starvation, getting lost – put a ship in the background of any of these and they become so, so much worse.

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The Lincoln Highway—book review

Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles

The Lincoln Highway follows Amor Towles’ masterpiece that is A Gentleman in Moscow, which I highly recommend. That’s a hard act to follow and this new novel is bigger and more ambitious with a wide cast of characters, multiple viewpoints and a storyline that deliberately goes in the wrong direction. Where the Moscow gentleman was confined to one hotel for almost the entire book, this 580 page monster of a story roams halfway across America.

It is in the style of a classic 1950s American roadie and features a group of footloose young men and a couple of cars.

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The Wreck of the General Grant

Diving for gold and buttons

Mrs Jewell & the Wreck of the General Grant is the story of the survivors of this most famous of shipwrecks. In 1866 the General Grant, carrying miners, their families and gold home from Melbourne struck towering cliffs that reared out of the sea at night. She was sucked into a cave and sank. Fourteen men and one woman (Mrs Jewell) made it ashore on the remote, sub-Antarctic Auckland Islands where they lived as castaways for eighteen months. This is the base for my new novel, due in June with Cuba Press, best-guessing to fill gaps in the survivors’ testimonies and reading between the lines in the context of the times and situation. Everything we know about the story has been told to us by the survivors and despite numerous searches along that wild coast for over 150 years, the ship and her gold has never been found.

But—and here we go again with history reasserting itself— that might be about to change. For that I blame swashbuckling shipwreck fanatic, Bill Day.

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Kuripapango

Walking the river

It’s good to learn a new trick. Pleased to report I’m not an old dog quite yet.

This new trick was how to cross a river without falling over. I’ll admit it’s a skill I would have been wiser to learn earlier. I’ve been arse over tit in many rivers and don’t rate fine balance as one of my skills. My friend Sandy taught me this one. She’s done courses on how to cross rivers and I think finally got fed up with my gung-ho, wobbly approach.

But first the river, the tramp.

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Shackleton’s Endurance — book review

Shackleton’s Endurance, an Antarctic survival story, by Joanna Grochowicz

Complained about the cold lately? Snowflake! Shackleton’s Endurance will knock that out of you. Comparatively, you have never been cold.

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Jerningham Wakefield, 200 today

Happy birthday, scoundrel

Colonial Wellington’s original wild boy, Jerningham Wakefield, was born 200 years ago today. The son of New Zealand Company founder Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Jerningham was a member of the advance party of the Wellington colony, arriving in Port Nicholson on the Tory in September 1839. He was nineteen years old and sent away from England by his father to keep him out of mischief. It was a mistake Edward Gibbon probably came to regret.

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When the Spirit’s on the Sea

Sailing with the Spirit of Adventure Trust

I went sailing for the first time in about 30 years this time last year when I signed on for an “Adult Coastal” with the Spirit of Adventure Trust. This is different to a Spirit of Adventure experience for youth trainees, with its programme of empowering activities and challenges. On an Adult Coastal the ship needs to be moved to a new location, and berths are offered to adults keen to help, learn and experience life at sea.

I did all three of these things and it was wonderful. We sailed from Dunedin to Nelson and I sweat-and-tailed, learnt the difference between bunts and clews and stood watch off the coast of Kaikoura under the stars, listening to the night wind blowing over a dark sea. Continue reading “When the Spirit’s on the Sea”

Spearo – book review

Spearo, by Mary-anne Scott

If you’re a kiwi and you go to the beach, here’s a tip: read this story and learn about spear fishing. I had no idea it was a thing. I thought fishing at sea involved sitting passively for hours on a boat until a tug on the line left you dealing with whatever Neptune sent you. But a “spearo” goes beneath the surface, free diving, and gets to know the fish in their own environment. This is not someone sitting comfortably on a boat having a random tug of war with some poor fish they may not even want. A spearo goes out to get dinner. Continue reading “Spearo – book review”

The running graph

Optimism for over the hill runners

You’re born, you run, you die.

Somewhere in the middle there’s a peak when it all comes together: age, training, body, everything adding up to the perfect run where you hit the hills and can run for hours. God, I miss it!

I will never run that well again. I am over the hill, as it were.

So what’s to do? I’ve never been one for analysis. I don’t record my times and speed, I do different trails all the time, always off-road. It’s difficult to compare times when the track’s washed away or the dog’s decided to avoid the zigzag and go cross-country for a change. But even so, it is hard not to consider that once I ran Te Mata Peak, fast and furious, without falling over. Obviously the sensible thing, as we age, is to continue to run, consistently, patiently, accepting the fact that as you slide from “peak you”, every run will be that little bit less. “Good for your age” people will say, but it will be a challenge just to stay on the path of steady decline. Look, I’ve drawn it for you:

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