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Here's how Volunteer Noelle McCarthy is spending lockdown

How are you spending your time during lock-down?

I’m home with my husband John and our nearly- 3 year old Eve. John and I work from home together anyway, so right now, our time is split between finishing off a couple of new podcast series for RNZ later in the year and watching a lot of Frozen. I’m also tenderly nurturing my first tray of kale seedlings, having come to gardening late in life.

Have you read any good books lately?

I turned the last page on Elizabeth Knox’s The Absolute Book the other night with an audible sigh. It was a feast- fantastical adventure in worlds brought to life so vividly, you feel like you can reach out and touch the flowers, the trees, the ravens, and of course the books. I haven’t felt that exquisite mix of contentment and sorrow finishing a story since Sherlock Holmes when I was ten years old.

Have you listened to any good podcasts or music?

Desert Island discs is my gardening soundtrack. There’s something so comforting about the format- it’s revealing without being challenging or combative, I love stepping into other peoples lives for a bit. I always learn something. And I love it when our musical tastes are in sympathy- Steve Coogan picked my favourite Talking Heads song the other day, it was pathetically validating.

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?

Dame Lynley Dodd- now that Hairy McLairy is part of our household, I’d love to meet her. And the group chants would be hypnotic. Altogether now: “The cat from France likes to sing and dance…”

Bram Stoker, for some ghost stories once it gets dark, and Ronald Hugh Morrieson, to introduce Mr Stoker to the murky delights of the New Zealand gothic

Sam Duckor Jones and Freya Daly-Sadgrove, for poetic fabulousness - my husband said Late Night Lit at the Bowler at the last Booktown with Freya was one of the best, most intense performances he’d ever seen. I'm still kicking myself I missed it, so a private performance would be great

As for food and drink- cucumber sandwiches obviously, with bread from Martin the baker and I’m sure he’d whip us up a chocolate roulade for Dame Lynley. And Helen from Tarureka Estate makes the best cup of tea in Featherston, strong, but not too strong in white china cups. We’d have the party on the lawn in front of her cottage, actually, next to the birdbath, in twilight, in the company of her doves.

Do you have a favourite author or genre at the moment?

Times being what they are, I’m taking a weird sort of consolation in horror. I just re-read Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. People sent her hate mail when it was first published in The New Yorker. For those of us in small towns, maybe it’s a bit close to the bone? And I’ve got The Stand ready to go as well- bit of pandemic perspective, I find it soothing to read about how very much worse things could be.

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

Probably Christopher Hitchens. Sadly impossible I know, but he makes me laugh so much, and I could see him availing himself liberally of our hospitality afterwards in the RSA.

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