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Here's what Volunteer Sharlene Forbes is up to during lockdown

How are you spending your time during lock-down?

Do you know, apart from the underlying anxiety of us all getting sick, I’m finding the lockdown a bit of light relief at the moment. I had a frantic Christmas and January with a large work contract, visited my daughter in the UK to look after my grandchildren while she had cancer treatment during February and generally working part-time in Wellington where I can also visit my husband Peter in Te Hopai regularly. Now my workplace is only just getting to grips with the technology for connecting us, I Skype with Peter and Facetime my family around the world and its rather blissful doing a little of the many things I enjoy – moving at quite a different, more human, pace.

I’ve been making up photo books and dreaming up stories for grandchildren (there are nine of them), cooking like a lunatic trying to keep up with produce from my garden before the winter comes, and twice a day I walk with my two dogs, Broichan and Pearl. Broichan is named after a 6th century druid – he tries to be dominant but is a big softie. Pearl was rescued from owners who did not care for her properly and given to me. She’s not keen on cats and I’ve learned to recognise her ears going up when she spots one, because then I have a nano-second to get a firm grip of both dogs’ leashes! Finally, I set myself the goal of spring-cleaning one room in my house each day and, as of the beginning of week two, I’m half-way through the study.

Read any good books lately?

My philosophy is to keep busy both physically and mentally so, at the start of the lockdown, I got out my old first year Calculus text book (Ford & Ford) and I amuse myself flicking through and working out the set exercises. So far I’ve found one wrong answer which is fun!

I’m reading Sophie Cunningham’s City of Trees – which I bought to give to a friend when Sophie came to talk at the Featherston Booktown event back in January. Left it too late to mail and I thought I’d dip in. Not my usual bag but I’m enjoying some of the essays very much.

I’m a huge fan of science-fiction and fantasy – Brandon Sanderson is a favourite, I loved The Mistborn series.

Judith White is another favourite writer of mine. We attended the same secondary school and reading her work brings back my childhood years – nice reflective stuff. I’m currently re-reading her Visiting Ghosts.

Juliet Marillier is another favourite. She’s NZ born, lives in Australia and writes Celtic historical fantasy with druids and magic, etc.. Broichan is named after a character in her Seven Waters trilogy.

Listened to any good podcasts or music, watched any good telly?

I like to sit and crochet or knit in front of a good Scandinavian crime series, feeling self indulgent.

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?

I would invite the writers I’ve spoken about here – Sophie Cunningham, Judith White, Brandon Sanderson, Juliet Marillier and also John Tukey who wrote Exploratory Data Analysis – which is about ways of presenting and analysing information. He’s a fascinating man, very creative in developing graphs and, like me, interested in graphical history, including how they can be used to mislead! I think that would be a fun group – certainly for me. Don’t want anyone terribly serious, no great philosophers!

We would sup on mushroom burgers (suitable for Mad Hatters), beetroot chocolate cakes and lemon & ginger ice cream with avocado pudding. I last ate avocado pudding in Zanzibar, where they think of the pears as a fruit.

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

I’d like to see Judith and Juliet at Featherston Booktown. I’m all for more women in the line up – maybe as the keynote speaker(s) at the Fish & Chip Supper?


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