As you all know I am away from my desk at the moment. I am, in fact, hot-desking in Wellington at present and although taking many photos am finding little time to put finger to keyboard. Which is a good thing. It would be sad to travel 12,000 miles and sit at a pc all day typing. I’m seeing old friends, new friends, catching up with long lost relatives and eating/drinking way too much.
I am also getting some time to read. You know, those wee small hours (the Spanish have a lovely term for that time of night, la madrugada), those single digit times that you wish to be asleep but the over excitement of traveling and jet lag have put paid to sleep. So you turn the light on and read.
Books have always cost a lot in New Zealand. I try and bring plenty, read them and pass them on. This trip is no exception. I finished book the first on the 28 hour flight.
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures (Emma Straub) was gifted to me by Mrs Litlove, Tales from the Reading Room and was a perfect antidote to economy travel. It was also exactly the right length. I finished it as we taxied to the terminal at Auckland airport. I also watched three movies. 28 hours is a long time to be on an aeroplane.
Laura Lamont has a new home in Glen Dowie, Auckland now. I hope she is enjoying the magnificent views over the Tamaki Estuary.
I then read The Seamstress by Maria Duenas. There should be a squiggle over the ‘n’ but I can’t be bothered to find it on the keyboard. I’d been saving it for the trip because the first paragraph promises so much.
A typewriter shattered my destiny. The culprit was a Hispano Olivetti, and for weeks, a store window kept it from me. Looking back now, from the vantage point of the years gone by, it’s hard to believe a simple mechanical object could have the power to divert the course of an entire life in just four short days, to pulverise the intricate plans on which it was built. And yet that is how it was, and there was nothing I could have done to stop it.
Sira, the protagonist, moves from Madrid to Morocco, back to Madrid and stops briefly in Lisbon during the Spanish Civil War and subsequently World War II. Her journey both real and metaphorical is gripping and page turning and written (and translated) beautifully.
The Seamstress has a new home on the corner of Vivian and Marion Streets in downtown Wellington. From the seventh floor she has 360 degree views of the whole city. Lucky woman.
Here is but one of her views:
I tried to read Ford Maddox Ford’s Parade’s End for the second time. Someone tell me it’s worth enduring more than the first thirty pages otherwise I might just leave it in the Antipodes unread be Yours Truly.
Now, the other night we went out for a Vietnamese and I was introduced to a wonderful second hand bookshop on ‘the left bank’ (capital city version) off Cuba Street. Called Pegasus Books, it’s a Wellington institution and deserves iconic status to my mind.
I bought a book, my friend C……., three.
The place put me in mind of Shakespeare and Company in Paris where Jeanette Winterson wrote about in Why Be Happy When You Can be Normal? There she stayed in one of the back rooms and was made to feel so welcome she found her fighting spirit and credits the father and daughter duo with a slice of her salvation.
There are no sleeping quarters at Pegasus, not that I could see but there should be. It’s so cool and welcoming.
It has multiple rooms and is way better that most English libraries which I find to be sad things these days.
Not a Kindle lover in sight either!
I am now reading Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts) which has a bit of cult status here. He’s an Aussie who escaped prison and, on a forged New Zealand passport, immersed himself in Bombay life. I am only on page 72 so it’s way too early to pass judgement yet. The book’s 1000 pages in girth. I have barely scratched the underbelly.
In my final week of travel I seem to have acquired more bookage than I left with and that in combination with the pineapple lumps, chocolate fish and Hundreds and Thousand biscuits my daughters demand I bring back to Blighty my suitcase is in danger of overweight status.
Books and biscuits – yummy huh?