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Caroline Peren - Here's what our Featherston Booktown volunteers are up to during COVID-19:

How are you spending your time during lock-down?

I’ve progressed from actively engaged with home and garden projects (week one) to flat out on the sofa drinking gin and eating chips/biscuits (week two) and vaguely wondering how terribly bad my hair will be (week four).

I’m also loving the quiet, a bit sad that the joy that is Vintage every year in Martinborough has been muted by the need to keep people apart to be safe, listening out for the birdsong coming through more clearly these days, enjoying the scent of my partner Ron’s bread making experiments (inspired by him attending Jo Crabbe’s class at the Careme Cooking School), feeling discombobulated by living on the same vineyard as my Dad and sister Sophie, and down the road from my sister Sarah and her children, but not able to be in their houses.

Read any good books lately?

I have shabby reading habits – nothing unduly intense is my rule. I love a good historical murder – set in Victorian times for preference, so Sherlock Holmes and his best imitations (e.g. Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk, Laurie R King’s series beginning with The Beekeepers Apprentice). I also enjoy murder mysteries set in different cultures, including Tarquin Hall’s superbly funny series about Inspector Vish Puri, especially The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing, The Feng Shui Detective series by Nuri Vittachi and Colin Coterill’s series about Dr Siri Paiboun.

Listened to any good podcasts or music, or programmes on telly?

The lockdown has caused me to do something I’d never imagined previously - join the 21st century and sort out Apple TV, TVNZ On Demand, Amazon Prime, my own Netflix subscription, and guides to family friendly movies. Have bought the top ten Pixar movies and am working my way up (NO.1 is held to be ‘WALL-E’ but I’m standing for ‘Up’), I also love movies with gorgeous fashion – like ‘High Society’ and ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. Ron is the podcast aficionado for us both. I get to listen to the ones he’s fallen asleep with in the night because I don’t want to wake him up by pulling his ears phones out. In Our Time is a favourite – Melvyn Bragg and his panellists are wonderfully nerdy.

If you could have your own Mad Hatters tea party, catered for by the Featherston Booktown Country Tea and Cakes volunteers, which writers would you invite and what would you most like to eat?

The little I’ve learned about writers makes me nervous about inviting them for a party. Instead I’d like to be surrounded by great readers and raconteurs. I’d invite Margie Sharpe because I love her stories of growing up on her family farm near Parnassus – she has an extraordinary memory for the essence of childhood experience. I’d like my sisters there too – Sarah is a mighty reader and can always suggest a book that I find I absolutely love. Sophie loves projects and has a mighty collection of books that make me feel interested to be alive - designing sheds, growing a cutting garden, building tree houses, raising a good dog. Then I’d have to break my rule about no writers, because it would also be great to have Deborah Coddington there –if she’d come because she’s a private person. Deborah opened the Martinborough Bookshop a year ago and every time I go in there’s a jewel for me - including walking down the length of one side of the shop recently with Deborah pointing out the good and bad covers for every book on display. We agreed the cover for Dad’s book Final Approaches is especially bad. Deborah recommended A Gentleman in Moscow which is exactly the sort of fairy story I love.

I’m very happy to ask the Country Tea &Cakes ladies to decide what we feast on. Champagne and tea-dresses would feature and I’d love it if the party could be held in Liz Stringer’s garden, with Liz because she has a genius for parties and could give the Mad Hatter lessons in whimsy.

In a perfect world who would you most like to hear speak at the next Featherston Booktown?

Nancy Mitford talking about Madame de Pompadour and her own time of living in Paris.

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