This week has been nothing short of monsoonal. When the Far North gets rain, it sure gets rain. Since June 19 we have had 108.6mm of rain and I reckon I copped all of it when I came out of my hairdresser’s the day before yesterday. I was having a great time showing her how to set up an Instagram account and the rain seemed to be clearing. But…as my luck would have it, the moment I leave the salon, the monsoon rains came on down. Whatever great hairdo I had was drenched, as was the rest of me.

I managed to make it across the road and then into a local shop to shelter. I wanted to get to the library though, so I went back out and was making my way along when I spotted a cafe I hadn’t seen before. Apparently, it’s been there for nearly a year but I don’t get to this part of town all that often.

The sign said it was a wholefood cafe so I dropped on in. I decided to try a slice they make – no sugar and with plenty of good stuff like nuts and seeds. It was yummy, as was their organic free-trade coffee. I huddled in the cafe for about 30 minutes then dashed to the library.

I joined the local library about a month ago and have been enjoying borrowing books again after so many years of buying them. You can even suggest they purchase a book (which I’ve done) and the library informs you that they’re purchasing the book if they think it suits their collection. You are first in line to read that book if they decide to purchase.

Today is the first day we’ve had sun in nearly a week. And yesterday (June 21) was the Winter Solstice here in New Zealand – shortest day; longest night. Now, we begin the upward climb to Spring and can look forward to the days getting lighter as we near September (September 1 being the start of Spring in NZ). Bring it on!

I was a bit perplexed that I wasn’t given a saucer for the coffee. The cup was pretty full and was in danger of spilling over. But the slice was yummy and the coffee was just what I needed.

I’ll be doing a review on this book I borrowed from the local library. I made a Vienna coffee to go with my morning reading!

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Well, looks like the house frames may not be ready by June 25. That’s when our builder arrives (by leaping over the fence since he’s our next door neighbour). So not quite sure what’s going on yet. The next few days will reveal all.

Meanwhile, I’ve had great news. My wonderful Aussie mate and my god-daughter have decided they are fed up waiting for me to visit Sydney again. They are coming here on September 29 and will stay until October 6. Unfortunately, there’s no room in The Shed for guests, but I recommended a great lodge that we stayed in several times on our scouting missions around the area.

My god-daughter we actually call my god-niece and I’m Auntie Kim. I last saw them both in 2013 – five years – and now Emily is nearly 7 years old. I’m bracing myself for the shock, although we’ve talked on Skype quite a few times.

I’m busy thinking of things we can all do from dolphin and whale cruises to visiting the local chocolate cafe (naturally!) to riding horses. Apparently, Emily wants to learn to ride. Really looking forward to their visit.

We are also thinking we might have to go to South Africa for Christmas. El Hubs has not seen his mum or sister since 2013 or his son (who lives in Brazil) and is thinking of also going to South Africa to visit the family. I think this would make it my sixth visit to South Africa. I’m really keen to go back to Madeira and also Lisbon. I’d like to visit Brazil again and we’ve talked about going to Peru with El Hubs’ son. All up in the air at the moment.

The Z Team continue to love the Far North and spend all their time outdoors. Except night-time of course. Zsa Zsa has a special place she likes to sit in the morning to soak up the sun.

The Haunting of Henry Twist by Rebecca F John. Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2017. John is a Welsh author and I must say this book was a very pleasant surprise. I borrowed it from the local library. Yes!! I’ve joined the library. Haven’t borrowed books from a library in yeeeeeears.

The title led me to think it was Gothic horror but it’s not. Nor is it a traditional ghost story in the true sense. The time setting is London, 1926 – that short pause between WWI and WWII. The narrative centres around Henry Twist who was a British soldier in WWI. He marries Ruby after the war and their relationship is a short but intense one. We meet Ruby in the first chapter and that’s it, because she dies following an accident. She was nine months pregnant and the baby (Libby) miraculously survives. Henry Twist is heartbroken and a large part of the story is Henry’s remembrances of Ruby and how he must raise his daughter as a single parent.

After the funeral, Henry meets the mysterious and charismatic Jack Turner who is first seen outside Henry’s flat, but also follows him over subsequent weeks. Jack seems to know who Henry is, but Henry does not know Jack. Eventually, they meet and get to know each other. Henry believes that Ruby has come back to him in the form of Jack. Henry is obsessed with soul transfer and this I guess is the haunting aspect of the book. The whole story has a dream-like quality to it.

What follows is a love story between two men and it is extremely well-handled. In a sense, Henry is haunted – by his memories of Ruby; by Matilda who is their friend and in love with Henry; by his war-time experiences; by his love for Jack at a time when homosexuality was a crime. I thought that Henry’s character was developed to the point that I felt I knew what was going on in his mind, such is the power of John’s writing.

We eventually discover who Jack Turner really is (I won’t spoil it) but I did feel the ending was a bit weak. This is a quiet novel about grief, anxiety and fear and I think it’s a cracker of a debut.

There are shades of Sarah Perry in her writing (The Essex Serpent, which I loved and reviewed here). I highly recommend The Haunting of Henry Twist.

The Illumination of Ursula Flight by Anna-Marie Crowhurst. British author. Debut novel and published in 2018. I’m lukewarm on this novel to be honest. I’m not a fan of the historical time-period (1670s/1680s Restoration England) and I did find the 17th Century slang and dialect a bit tiresome – although I appreciated the attention to historical detail. I also enjoyed the descriptions of 17th Century life and decided that I’m very thankful to be in the 21st Century.

This is the first-person narrative of an inquisitive young country girl who is married off to a tiresome thirty-five year old. Ursula was schooled by her father in the Classics and astronomy but ends up in the restrained halls of her husband’s stately home. Ursula writes plays and poems and dreams of going to the theatre in London. Her husband eventually takes her to King Charles’ Court, where she is seduced by Samuel, a boy she met as a fourteen year old and fell for.

Basically the story is full of lovers and scoundrels, arranged marriages and a young woman who ends up as a playwright.

There’s something about this book that just fell flat for me. The author uses diary entries, letters and play dialogue (complete with period fonts) interspersed with the narrative. This was clever since the structure mirrored the Restoration-era theatre. I found though that it interfered with the narrative too much at times.

I did think the character of Ursula was well-formed and she grew with each chapter. It’s a light-hearted read and definitely a good old romp through Restoration England. It just wasn’t a page turner.

The Healer by Antti Tuomainen. This crime novel is translated from Finnish and won the award for Best Finnish Crime Novel of the Year (2011). I really enjoyed this story set in a not-too-distant future when climate change has wreaked havoc. Johanna is the wife of struggling poet, Tapani Lehtinen, and she goes missing. She is a journalist and has been investigating a serial killer known as The Healer.

Tapani undertakes a frantic search as Helsinki literally crumbles around him and climate change forces people to move north in search of food and work. What I liked most about this book was that the urban environment was a character in itself. There were plenty of vivid descriptions of parks overflowing with climate refugees and people taking advantage of civic chaos. I also liked the secondary character of Hamid, a taxi driver who drives Tapani around the city but also ends up involved in the search for Johanna.

The writing style is effortless and the pace steady. I don’t think it’s the most exciting crime novel I’ve ever read but…I think it’s the most original. I believe this is the author’s third novel and I will see if his other novels are available in English.

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo. Published 2018. This is a debut novel and I think its premise is great – in a not-too-distant future, everyone is wired up to The Feed. You don’t have to talk or worry about a thing, because The Feed allows you to read other’s thoughts, tells you when to eat and drink, monitors your health. Then one day, all hell breaks loose because The Feed goes down. President Taylor has been assassinated, stock markets plummet, planes drop from the sky and people literally drop dead (because The Feed is wetware, implanted in the brain). I did like this aspect of the novel – the post-apocalyptic world – and it really shows the dangers of our connectivity-obsessed culture. How addictive it can all be and what might lie in our future if we’re not careful. I think the author was a bit heavy-handed and moralistic about our techno-obsession, but can’t say I disagree with him.

We then flash forward six years and survivors have lost all knowledge. They have to forage for food in a new wilderness, learn how to speak again, work out how to fix generators. It’s the collapse of civilisation. But something really sinister lurks – the survivors have to watch each other sleep because, during sleep, random survivors are taken. Their minds are invaded and they wake up as different people.

Tom and Kate are the two main characters, along with their six-year old daughter, Bea, who goes missing or, rather, is abducted. The question becomes – how do you find someone in a world without technology? In a world overgrown by nature, inhabited by vicious, wild dogs and equally vicious survivors?

I had a few problems with this book and nearly did a DNF on it, but persevered. The writing style I found odd and clunky at times. I don’t know how many times I needed to read about the clouds, the trees, the forest, the weather – very atmospheric but sometimes at the expense of action. There were some lovely descriptive passages along the way though. But I didn’t find the world building all that convincing. My pet hate: adverbs. There were plenty of them in this book.

I found it a really slow start and I didn’t engage with the first few pages at all. There’s a fair bit of techno-speak you have to wrap your head around. I never connected with Kate. I found her very one-dimensional. Because of the slow start, I ended up feeling Tom and Kate (who go in search of Bea) meander through the narrative. The pace never really picked up for me.

It started to get interesting at about the 45% mark when we find out something about Kate. It gave the author an opportunity to explore the motives of those who caused the apocalypse and those who are suffering in a dystopian world that is the result of the collapse of everything.

I can see The Feed would have a ton of commercial appeal and I think it’s been picked up for a TV series. It just fell short for me. No page turner.

Zeph and Zsa Zsa really love it up in the North Island. They spend far more time outdoors because the weather is usually great (putting aside the monsoonal rain we can get). We have a little patio area attached to The Shed and their pet beds are here for them to sit in the sun.

Have you ever heard the English Pointer howl? Zeph is a master at it, so I thought I’d link to a video of him doing his thing. He has different howls. The one you hear in the video is his I want to play howl or the I want to go for a walk howl. When Zeph howls, Zsa Zsa tries to accompany him but hers is more of a yap.

Zeph also knows how to pose for “dog portraits”. Loves his photo taken!

New Zealand has just entered winter (June 1) and so the weather is a little colder. But certainly not as cold as we experienced down South. The Z Team still like their blankets though.

Here is the Pointer howl.

And some photos of the Z Team. Enjoy!

We’ve not had great weather over the last few weeks. Days of rain followed by days when the sun tried to shine through, but failed. So the slab was left to keep on curing. My last post on the house building showed you the chaps busy polishing the slab.

Last Tuesday, we managed to get to the next stage. The contractors needed two days of guaranteed sun and, last week, we had four, yippee! It won’t rain again until the weekend. The Far North does get its fair share of rain I must say.

The contractors rang us at 5.50am on the morning to say they were on their way. They live in Whangarei, which is an hour’s drive away. They arrived around 7.00am with heavy machinery and worked all day long.

I was trying to write a short story. Nope. Didn’t happen. Not with all the whirring and whining of the machinery. Tomorrow’s another day, as they say.

Now the slab has a mirror finish and you can really see the aggregate coming through and the glass El Hubs scattered. There are a few more polishes to go but the next step is the frames. The frames for the house have been ordered (no idea where they are coming from but will find out) and they arrive towards the end of June.

Hubby put a number of builders through interviews – basically had them pitch for the work – and, in the end, he decided on our next door neighbour. Aside from the fact that he can literally leap over the fence to come to work, his own house shows his craftsmanship. So he is ready to go end of June.

I don’t think anything happens until then. It’s a pity we’re having to build throughout autumn/winter, but the plans weren’t approved by Council before Christmas. Click on photos to enlarge.

 

We’re in a waiting phase at the moment. The concrete slab guy is booked to come back on May 29 and 30, so he can complete the polishing of the slab. We’ve had a fair bit of rain over the last two weeks or so, but the slab appears to have cured. So I think the job will be completed on May 30. I will bring you all the news and photos.

Meanwhile, our cows are waiting. And Zsa Zsa is waiting (in this case, for her dinner).

 

When I first came to New Zealand I was told nope, no spiders here. Let me tell you there are indeed spiders in NZ, including the Australian redback which has apparently hitched a ride on cars brought over from Oz. I know the redback is in the Otago region, not so sure about the North Island.

Then there is the white-tailed spider and the katipō. This latter spider I hope to never meet up with as its bite is extremely dangerous. I can take comfort in the knowledge that the katipō is endangered and no deaths from its bite have been reported since 1901. However……

what friggin’ huge spider spun this web???

It has appeared in the last week, just outside the door to The Shed and near my lavender bushes. I took the photo above in the early morning and it is not doctored. I shot it in black and white.

I am keeping an eye on this web!!