How are you spending your time during lock-down?
It’s incredibly dull to admit it but I’ve been doing work mostly. And don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful to still have a day job – I just didn’t fully factor in, at the beginning of lockup, that work was gonna be as bonkers as it has been. Like a dill, I had foolishly anticipated more ‘book reading time’.
Besides the grind though, I have managed to free some time to continue working on a couple of my on-going vanity projects: Bea (aged 9) and Monty (aged 7). Hanging with these guys, up the backyard, I have been reintroduced to trampolining. This has led to a reacquaintance with the 'Art of the Double Bounce’ which was always fun as a kid, but when you’re a hefty middle-aged adult sharing the tramp with a brace of wee’uns, it’s a whole new level of Comedy Gold. Not only has it presented a great opportunity to introduce them to the science of projectiles, but the exercise has also been a welcome offset to counteract lockup’s insidious and ‘creeping’ vice: The Pudding. (My other current flatmate, aka the Missus, is a pathological Feeder who has spent most nights during Lockup perfecting Apple Pies and Hot Peach Sponge.)
Read any good books lately?
On the Non-fiction front, someone bought me The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene - from ‘For the Love of Books’ in Featherston actually - which was a chewy, but mind-meltingly great read. Physics books always makes me feel reassuringly insignificant. Also, I like to think that if someone was to spot me reading such a nerdy book, it would help project just how clever and intellectual I am - which I guess is pretty ironic, ‘cos if I saw someone reading that same book in public, I would totally think: ‘what a try-hard tosser’.
Fiction-wise, I just finished China Miéville’s wonderfully imaginative Bas-Lag Trilogy and have started on Pūrākau - another gift - which is an anthology of local myths all retold with modern twists (like Briar Grace-Smith’s tale told from the perspective of baby Māui’s sister, Hine, as she and her mother, Taranga, dodge sniper fire and zigzag through a dystopian landscape at night on a mission to hurl the dead infant into a lifeless, rubbish-strewn sea from the precipice of a huge dyke that prevents the decaying city from flooding.)
Between Non-Fiction and Fiction, I’ve been reading Dominic Hoey’s, I Thought We’d Be Famous’, a collection of self-deprecating-yet-scathing, foreign-yet-familiar, sad-yet-hilarious poems. He recited some of his work last year at the ‘3 Poets’ Booktown event at the Royal Hotel. Totally memorable evening - despite all the booze I drank. Really hope he gets invited back.
Listened to any good podcasts or music, or programmes on telly?
Normally, on weekdays, I have music piped into my brain all day, but under House Arrest, I haven’t been able to disappear so completely into earphones. With home-schooling underway, I need to keep an ear out in case I’m suddenly required to referee a fistfight. And I can’t just play my Music out loud on the stereo ‘cos the philistines I live with have denounced my taste as too obnoxious and have placed a rāhui on the stereo. I am so misunderstood.
Podcasts? I’m not a voracious podcastee but... the one podcast I do follow and am currently working my way up through the back catalogue, is Taringa, produced by Te Wananga o Aotearoa. I highly recommend it, not just because it’s so effective at powering-up one’s Reo but also because it’s hugely informative about a wide range of strands of Te Ao Māori - all delivered by presenters and guest speakers who really know their shizzle. It’s a genuine portal to another universe.
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?
For an authentically mad bender, inviting Messrs Huxley, Boroughs, Kerouac and Quincey should get things off to a wild start. Of course, the trick would be to keep Hemingway and Bukowski from drinking the bar dry (and to keep Hunter S Thompson away from the firearms) but I’d imagine that the excellent munchie-sating treats from the Country T&C crew would help distract them all there. I do rate Orwell as a stellar novelist but I probably won’t invite him as he he’ll just bum everyone out with his paranoia.
In a perfect world who would you most like to hear speak at the next Featherston Booktown?
I think if we just handed Bernard and Manny (aka Dylan Moran and Bill Bailey) the keys to Loco during the next Booktown Festival (and furnished them with plenty of fags and whiskey), they could reprise ‘Black Books’ for the weekend. (Could probably even commandeer ‘Totem’ next door, just so Fran could run ‘Nifty Gifty’).