Wednesday, August 31, 2011

An inspiring man

I have a pretty cool job. I get to talk to all sorts of people and write stories about important points in their lives, and writing is what I love. But sometimes it can get hard when you're pushed for time and you've got three stories and a feature to write in an hour. Then you get a phone call from a lovely old man you wrote a story about thanking you for the story and telling you what a great job you did. At the end of the day, that's what makes it worth it.

So I would like to introduce you to Stephen Davies, author of The Dolphin Enigma. He is a retired Masterton man who has suffered two strokes, but was determined to prove that there is life after a stroke, so wrote a book. I haven't read the book yet, but it's sitting on my desk amongst the pile of other books I have to read (almost finished Pride and Prejudice I promise). It's a story of New Zealand politics, war, and what if's... read about it here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tweet tweet

Yes, this technophobe has finally given in and joined Twitter...... I've had an account for awhile but I've never used it, but everyone at work is on Twitter so I thought, why not? I'm on Facebook and Blogger already, so I might aswell. What a cool little tool! I'm now following New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, a bunch of my favourite authors: Diana Gabaldon, Paullina Simons, Nicholas Sparks, oh, and the world's most gorgeous rugby player, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw! It's quite exciting :)

So follow me if you like... not too sure how it all works yet and my tweets may or may not be interesting, but hey, why not?
http://twitter.com/#!/sarahcornflake

Dreaming of The Beatles

Last night I had the most awesome dream… The Beatles came to New Zealand on tour! I am a huge fan of The Beatles – especially John Lennon – and this is the second time I’ve dreamt about them this month. Last time, I was at a party with all my family and friends and Paul McCartney (today’s version) came up to me and asked me to dance. I did, as you would… I mean, its Paul McCartney! Then John Lennon (a short, old version of him, possibly what he would look like now if he were still alive) tapped him on the shoulder and cut in. Lol.

So last night I had a dream that The Beatles came to Wellington, but it was 2011 Wellington and they were the 1960’s Beatles. Weirdest thing was, they were on a raft in the ocean and crowds of people surrounded them in the ocean and on the beach cheering and screaming.

I stood on a big wooden box on the beach, and suddenly the four of them came over to me and the crowd disappeared as if nobody knew who they were.

Then I had them all to myself and we sat on the beach together chatting as if we were old mates. Then it was time for them to leave and I hugged each Beatle goodbye, leaving John till last, and they got on a boat and disappeared.

If only…

If you could spend a day with any celebrity, dead or alive, who would it be?

Photo from http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/

The miracle of life

Yesterday I witnessed the miracle of life. Dad, sister and I went for our usual Sunday walk with the dog down by the river. On one side of the path sits the river, and farmland extends along the other side.
We walked up to the end of the trail past the farmland not noticing anything amiss. Then we turned around and walked back, and saw about five cows grouped together with their noses to the ground.


We stopped and looked a little closer, and saw a tiny little calf scrunched up on the ground. The cows had their noses to the ground because they were all taking turns to nudge the little calf, which was trying to stand up, it's skinny little legs wobbling as it got halfway up and collapsed back to the ground. I'm told calves stand up very soon after birth, so we stood there on the gravel path, all four of us silent, including the dog who never sits still, gob-smacked at the fact that we were witnessing the first few minutes of the little calf’s life.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A thought for your weekend...

"Reading gives us some place to go when we have to stay where we are." - Mason Cooley

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Down memory lane to visit The Famous Five

When you're young, it's a chore spring cleaning your room, but when you're past 20, it can be a joy. I moved out of home last year and mum decided she wants all of us to tidy up our wardrobes and put everything in boxes so she can take all of our crap out of her wardrobe and put it into ours. So I finally went down and spent half a day tidying and the other half of the day saying, "oh my gosh I remember this!"

So in between the Polly Pockets, baby dolls, teddy bears, princess crowns and Britney Spears CD's, I came across my eight-year-old self's answer to Diana Gabaldon: Enid Blyton, author of The Famous Five.


I remember my friend at primary school (who was a little bit kooky, and my only friend who read books as much as me) introducing me to the books, and after that I was hooked, somehow managing to collect about 15 of them, all of which I found tucked away in a box I had forgotten about.

And I never knew how old they were - can you believe they were first published in the forties?!

So for those of you not familiar, the Famous Five were a group of children, siblings Julian, Dick and Anne, and their tom-boy cousin George and her dog Timmy, who had the sort of adventures most kids dream about and solved mystery after mystery.

When I have my own house with a big enough bookcase, they will definitely be going on display. Do you think my future kids would read them one day? Not quite the same as Twilight, but you never know...

Also found these little gems: The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton and The Bubblegum Tree by Alexander McCall Smith.

So what books did you read as a kid?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are Facebook and Twitter turning us into an illiterate society?

When I was a kid, my mum had a rule: when we went to bed, we had quiet time for half an hour in bed before lights out, and at exactly thirty minutes, she would come in and turn our lights out. My brother and sister did all sorts of things. My sister would draw or play with her dolls, my brother would build Lego or Kennex, but I would always have my head buried in a book. Often she would have to wait for me to "just finish this chapter", and then she would turn my light out and go to bed.

For years I had a torch hidden under my pillow and as soon as I heard  mum's last footstep on the top of the stairs, I got out my torch and hid under the blankets to continue reading about the adventures of The Famous Five or the twisting tale of the Bubblegum Tree. On rainy days instead of watching TV, I would be curled up on the couch reading. My proudest moments at school were taking the reading tests and being told I was reading at a level well above my age. I always borrowed far too many books from the library and constantly had books overdue.

When I read this story this morning, it made me sad to know that less than half of all British children aged eight to seventeen choose to read a book outside of class at least once a month.

It said that children are now increasingly getting their literacy skills from Facebook, Twitter, emails and texting, the language and grammar of which, in my opinion, leaves a lot to be desired.

Don't get me wrong, social networking is amazing, and I love it because it allows me to keep in touch with people I met overseas who I would otherwise lose touch with. Then again, isn't it nice to sometimes receive a well-written letter in the post? My American friend Hannah, who I met three years ago, and I exchange letters, and there is nothing more exciting than getting home from work and finding a hand-written envelope in your mailbox.

So now there is a real fear out there that more and more adults will start struggling with literacy over the next few years because, as children, they just didn't read. Putting the literacy factor aside, I am also so saddened by the fact that these children are missing out on the joy of books - the excitement of being transported into another world while curled up in bed at night, and the discoveries you make about life.

I'm sure most people with kids following this blog will have no problem getting their kids to read, and my future children will definitely know the joy of books, but what about the rest? How do we get kids off Facebook and into a good book?

Story of your life

Now that I'm settled in a job I enjoy, I've stopped thinking so much about my future. I used to think and fret about my next step constantly, but now that I'm where I've wanted to be for a long time, I'm sitting back a bit.

But the other day, I read an obituary of New Zealand's greatest war heroine Nancy Wake (who I did a blog post about), and then I was so inspired by her story that I went and bought the book by Peter Fitzsimons. That got me thinking. My favourite kinds of stories to write for the paper are life stories - not necessarily obituaries - just the story of a person's life, and, at the risk of blowing my own trumpet, I'm quite good at it. So I said to myself, "I would make a good biographer".

But it seems to me like a biographer is one of those career paths people just fall into, they don't plan it. I read up on Peter Fitzsimons, and he is a rugby player turned journalist who ended up writing a few biographies.

So I ask you: How does one become a biographer?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dreaming of Iceland

I've added another country to my "list of places to go on my Big OE"....... ICELAND!
It's a place I never would have thought of going, but I saw it mentioned in a wedding blog this morning, Googled it, and now I'm hooked.
I even texted my partner and he replied, "Really? Iceland? You want to go everywhere." Yeah... I do this a lot... lol. So instead of talking about it, here are some pictures I found on Google - beautiful!

Anyone ever been there? It's a looooong way from New Zealand, but it looks quite similar. :)






Photos from:
http://grandcanyon.free.fr/images/cascade/thumb.html
http://skvots.net/holiday-iceland.html



I dreamed of disaster...

Yesterday was the six-month anniversary of the deadly 6.3 Christchurch earthquake which killed 181 people and destroyed New Zealand's most beautiful city. I think that's why I had the dream I had last night, and it was just so vivid I have to share it.

It began with me, my parents, brother, sister and partner in a little suburban house in Christchurch. We stood in the dining room and heard a rumble in the distance. We all stood stock still - having experienced our fair share of earthquakes, we knew what was coming (a major fault line runs straight through Wellington and we were supposed to be the ones that got "the big one" - I wrote a poem about it). The house started to shake and I held onto the doorway next to my partner, while the rest of my family ran for cover. We held on for dear life and it seemed to go on forever. Even when we thought it had stopped, it came back again.

Suddenly I was back in Wellington walking through the centre of the city and another earthquake struck. This time I was on my own and I didn't know where to go because there were glass shop windows on my right, cars on my left and old masonry above me. From what we saw of the Christchurch earthquake, you are not safe anywhere in a big one. So I was running around in all directions - in circles really, and then gave up and just stopped in the middle of the footpath and hoped for the best.

Then I was in the middle of Auckland city and the Wellington earthquake seemed to continue there. It stopped briefly and I looked up to see the Sky Tower (the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere) leaning over like a tree in the wind. There were people all around me who hadn't noticed and I pointed, saying: "Do you see that? It's going to come down." Everyone looked then, and it leaned further over and suddenly snapped in half without making a sound.

The Sky Tower has a point at the top, and the half that snapped off went point first and drove itself into the sand on a beach nearby. We all knew there would be people in there and we also knew there was no chance they could have survived, but a whole crowd rushed over to help. There was no noise. No one was crying out for help. But we still went anyway, but we never got close. No matter how fast we were all running, no one could get there - we all stayed in the same place.

Then I found myself in a building that had been set up as a makeshift hospital and I volunteered to help. People were coming through the door on stretchers covered in blood and moaning in pain.

So that's my dream... FREAKY RIGHT?!




Monday, August 22, 2011

Oh God... more Justin Bieber?

I'm not really a big believer in religion. I'm baptised and I go to church on Christmas Eve every year because I find a sense of peace and family there, but I don't believe in worshipping a God. I believe that religion, God and church mean different things to different people and we should all respect that, so please do not take this post and think I'm some sort of atheist.

I'm just a Bieber hater.

I read today that a book is being written about Justin Bieber and his faith. He's not even getting interviewed for the book, it's just based on his references to christianity he has made in some interviews.

Don't even get me started on teen idols... okay do... Teenagers have had idols in celebrity form for decades now, starting with Elvis and The Beatles all the way through to the Justin Bieber era. When I was a teenager, we had The Spice Girls and Britney Spears, and I will admit that they were pretty tacky as most teen idols are these days (just to clarify, I'm a HUGE Beatles fan, but I think they're a class apart from modern musicians), but we also had people like Christina Aguilera who can actually sing and is still going today.

It seems to me that, since Elvis, teen idols have been getting progressively worse, and I for one can't stand the sight of thousands of screaming teenage girls watching a BOY prance around on stage flashing a cute smile with no instrument in hand.

I'm not making fun of Justin's faith, believe me, I simply think it's a bit of a tacky move for the publisher, Worthy Publishing. It looks to me like a way of getting young people interested in religion and, as a lot of them pretty much worship Bieber anyway, what better way to do it than to highlight his faith in a book?

So what do you think, is this book going to change the way teenagers look at religion? And is that a good or bad thing?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why, oh why, did they change the ending? (spoiler alert)

My sister warned me not to watch it. She told me I would be disappointed by the ending. But I did watch it. And I was sorely disappointed by the ending.

My Sister's Keeper. A beautiful, heart-wrenching book that brings tears to your eyes with almost every page.

Those who have not read the book but have seen the movie say "oh, it's so sad, I cried at the end". But, for those of us who have read the book and then watched the movie, it's more like, "why did they change the ending?! They made it so predictable!"

Although I've only read two of Jodi Picoult's books, I think I can safely say that they are anything but predictable. But good old Hollywood goes and turns it into a heart-wrenching sob story with the most predicable ending: the girl with cancer dies. THAT'S NOT THE STORY!

Jodi Picoult's ending (I won't ruin it for you, don't worry) was beautiful. Don't get me wrong, it was still awful and sad, but in a way it just seemed right.

One good thing I will say for the movie is the actors were great. Especially Abigail Breslin who played Anna - She is the most beautiful kid and I think she has a bright future - and Cameron Diaz who played Sara. I'm not the biggest fan of Cameron, I just don't find her funny. But as a drama actress, she was just brilliant.

So who has read the book, seen the movie, or both? What are your thoughts?

A thought for your weekend...

"Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought" - Arthur Helps

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Come on SPRING!


Dear Mother Nature,

The snow you gave us on Monday was great. We had a lot of fun making snowmen, having snowball fights, taking beautiful photos of the snow and having an excuse to sit on the couch all night and watch movies, but seriously, we are all over these freezing cold temperatures, the rain, and the miserable grey skies.

My feet have not been warm in about a week, the front lawn is a bog, my car refuses to start most mornings and stalls at every intersection, and I can't show off my new haircut because it's too damn cold to not wear a beanie.

So please give us a good spring, and bring it soon. We all can't wait to get outside to go for bike rides and long walks, swim in the sea, eat icecream, wear sunglasses, go on random roadtrips, and laze in the grass reading a good book.

Yours sincerely,
Frozen

NZ's greatest war heroine

She may have left New Zealand as a toddler, but we still claim her and she still saw New Zealand as her home until the day she died.
Nancy Wake, who passed away on August 7th at age 98, was nicknamed "white mouse"  for her ability to elude capture during World War II when she helped thousands of downed Allied pilots and Jewish families elude German and Vichy officials to reach the Pyrenees and neutral Spain.
She was living in France when Nazi Germany invaded. She joined the French Resistance and was smuggled into England for specialist training.
In 1944, she was parachuted back into France, where she co-ordinated the efforts of thousands of fighters and fought alongside them.
Wake was at one point number one on the Gestapo's most-wanted list - with an offer of five million francs for anyone who dobbed her in or killed her.
As soon as I read her obituary in the newspaper, I just had to find her biography, and had to visit about eight bookstores in the city before I found it up the coast.
Her story is written by Peter Fitzsimons, who I have heard writes a great biography. I don't really read biographies, only ones I'm absolutely passionate about like John Lennon by Philip Norman, but I'm really looking forward to sinking my teeth into this one.
It seems empowered females are becoming the theme of my blog at the moment... yesterday I talked about my role models Audrey Hepburn and Kate Middleton (also the 21st Century's worst role models: Kendra Wilkinson, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton), and I have a feeling Nancy Wake will become one too.
How could she not? Not only was she beautiful, but she could do anything a man could do and more.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Perfecting gracious living

"The most important thing is to enjoy your life - to be happy - it's all that matters." -Audrey Hepburn

I have a bit of an obsession with Audrey Hepburn at the moment. I've always admired her, but after watching Breakfast at Tiffany's for the second time a few weeks ago, she has me falling in love with her all over again.
In this 21st-century world bereft of female role models, Audrey, a rare and timeless beauty, remains the epitome of elegance and grace every woman should take note of.
So that is why I purchased How to be Lovely: The Audrey Hepburn Way of Life, by Melissa Hellstern.
It is a beautiful book which is part biography, part guide to finding elegance in every aspect of life, featuring rarely seen photographs and revelations about the actress who perfected gracious living. Every woman should have this on their bedside table.

Where did all the role models go?











With women like Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe long gone and high-flying women like Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama becoming role models for middle-aged women, who is there for the young ones?

I'd like to think Kate Middleton is up there - she is for me - she holds herself with a lot of grace, and her style is just divine. If anyone could come close to being the next Audrey Hepburn, it would be her.

So who are your female role models and why?



Monday, August 15, 2011

SNNNNNNOOOWWW!!! AGAIN!

Okay, this is just getting ridiculous. IT'S FREAKIN SNOWING FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS WINTER! You may remember my post last month when it snowed and we were all excited, but this time it's ten times better!
I realise that for most people, snow is a normal part of winter. But for us, we only get it way down south and on the mountains. It never fully snows. Like makes everything white. Like puts enough on the ground to make massive snowmen. Like makes driving dangerous.
But today, it's everywhere. The whole country, even the far north and the coasts, which haven't seen snow this bad in about 50 years, is all white! It's so magical! Last night, my flatmate and I looked out the window and it wasn't snowing. Then an hour later everything was white and it was the most amazing thing in the world. So we went outside in our gumboots and made a snowman and stuck our toungues out to catch snowflakes! Then this morning we were greeted with an even whiter winter wonderland!
You don't have to be a kid to enjoy snow, that's for sure!

This is my front yard!

Love these cute little rows of rural letterboxes

Poor wee sheep

This one's my favourite photo of the day :)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eleven Hours: review

Wow. Eleven Hours. I read it in about two.

Heavily pregnant and not at all comfortable in the relentless heat, Didi Wood is leaving for home, moving slowly through her regular routine of shopping, husband, children, with the extra excitement of the imminent baby always at the back of her mind.
And then she is bundled into the back of a car and kidnapped by a desperate young man.
What does he want? Where are they going?
Only the excruciating tension of the next eleven hours will tell.


I found this book at my local library for sale for $1, and picked it up instantly on seeing Paullina Simons on the cover. Incase you haven't noticed, I LOVE Paullina Simons after reading The Bronze Horseman, Bridge to Holy Cross, The Summer Garden, and Tully.

She is a brilliant writer, and although Eleven Hours is one of her earlier books, it is no less impressive than her recent ones. As soon as I bought it, I began reading it and was on the edge of my seat in about two seconds, despite the fact I am still reading Goodbye Sarajevo and Pride and Prejudice.

The story goes back and forth between Didi's terrifying ordeal and her husband Rich's desperate search for her, and is extremely hard to put down because it's one of those books, like the ones Jodi Picoult writes, that has very short chapters, so you're desperate to know the next step. What will the kidnapper do next? What will Rich and the police find out next? Will they find her before something more devastating happens?

Read it and find out...

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Wellington Writers Walk

We all love going on holiday, and I am on holiday right now. But I haven't gone anywhere. I've got two freinds from overseas coming to visit, so I thought I would take the opportunity to have a holiday in my own city.

When I used to work in the city, I always walked past this slab of concrete that said: "It's true you can't live here by chance, you have to do and be, not simply watch or even describe. This is the city of action, the world headquarters of the verb." And I recently discovered that it is one of 15 concrete slabs, containing quotes about Wellington by well-known New Zealand writers, scattered along the waterfront which were put there as part of the NZ Festival of the Arts in 2002. So yesterday I ambled along the waterfront before lunch in search of these quotes. One day I will find the rest, but for now, here are the ones I found: