Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Girl in Times Square review

This was a good book, although not quite good enough to be in my top ten. It has all the trademarks of a favourite Sarah book: It’s set in New York City, the main character is an artist, there’s tragedy and death, and there’s a love story. But I almost forgot to write this review – I’ve read a whole other book since finishing this one, and I think a true sign of a good book is one that you continue to think about long after you’ve turned the last page, which was not the case here.
While this one was good, it didn’t blow my mind. And while I was glued to it in the last couple of chapters, part of me just wanted to finish the damn thing.
The characters were good, the drama was good, the setting was good, but in the end I felt a bit let down – it was an ending that made the whole book seem like it didn’t have much point, and a hell of a lot happened.
It’s quite hard to explain my feelings about this book without ruining the ending for those of you who want to read it, and if you do want to read it, don’t let me put you off – this is just one person’s opinion; it just wasn’t really for me.
I love Paullina Simons' books, but often they leave me with an empty feeling at the end – except for her Tatiana and Alexander series, that blew my mind.
But Tatiana and Alexander’s story was a lot different to her other books and it makes me think maybe she’s just better at writing the intense, heart-breaking love story set in the midst of history rather than modern thrillers with a bit of romance thrown in.

*Above picture: "Kissing the War Goodbye" by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A touch of magic

On Saturday I went for a drive to take photos of some beautiful houses I had seen around the place, and, as it usually happens, I ended up on a completely different road than I expected - right in the depths of Gladstone - where I found a tree full of fairies. So here is a little touch of magic to brighten up your day.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


On Friday, December 30, the hills were alive with the flowering of manuka and Times-Age chief reporter Don Farmer came into work and asked me to do a story on the manuka crops and the benefits it would have for beekeepers.

"Call Joe Sweeney," he said, and two and a half hours later I had on a full beekeepers suit complete with thick gloves that made it nearly impossible to work my camera, and my flatmate's blue floral gumboots.

In my 19 months as a reporter, I have donned big white gumboots and a hair net for a tour of the Premier Bacon factory with former Governor General Anand Satyanand, a wetsuit and lifejacket for a tour of the Ruamahunga River with Green Party co-leader Russell Norman, and a massive pair of gloves to hold up the 2011 Melbourne Cup when it visited Greytown to celebrate the town's 1954 winning racehorse Rising Fast - all of which have photographic proof hidden in Times-Age photographer Lynda Feringa's "Blackmail Folder". So this was nothing unusual.

It was raining when I went to see Joe's hive, the worst type of day to open up a hive, as bees are not fans of the rain and don't do alot when it's wet or cold. But, to Joe's surprise, the muggy heat meant the bees were particularly well behaved and had built up a substantial amount of honey, more than expected.

Before putting on the suit, he showed me the hive without opening it and said "if you're game, we can suit up and I'll open the hive for you", so in the spirit of trying new things, I didn't hesitate and ended up feeling quite at home in the big white suit.

You would think it would be kind of scary standing in amongst a swarm of bees when your mum is allergic and you've never been stung so you don't know if you're the same, but from the get go, I told myself "you're in a beekeeping suit, they can't sting you" and stood still, respecting their territory and their work.

I've never been much of a honey eater, not because I don't like it, but because as kids my brother and sister and I were offered vegemite, jam or peanut butter for our sandwiches and the honey was for the adults.

When Joe scooped up a little blob of honey for me to try, the risk of opening up a couple of buttons on my bee-tight suit was totally worth it to taste the smooth, sweet golden goodness of manuka honey. I'm now a honey eater.

Joe has invited me back on a sunnier day to teach me to ropes of beekeeping and, in the spirit of the new year, a time when you promise yourself you are going to "be more adventurous" and "try new things", I agreed, so stay tuned for the next installment of my beekeeping lessons.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Journalist vs. Human Being

After working as a journalist for 19 months, I went to my first ever press conference on Sunday. I know, shocking right? Well, that’s because nothing major ever happens in the Wairarapa.
But that all changed when a hot air balloon caught a power line which sent the basket up in flames and plummeting to the earth, killing all 11 on board on Saturday morning.
Before I go on, let it be known that I am not writing this to get for sympathy for my poor journalist soul. I am writing this to get my thoughts out of my head so I can sleep tonight, which is one of the purposes of my blog, and I’m sure some of you might like to know what it’s like to cover the worst aviation disaster in New Zealand since Erebus. Pressure much?!
While journalists from my work who were in the Wairarapa were woken up by our chief reporter minutes after it happened, I was guiltily having a sleep in at my parents house in Lower Hutt and didn’t know about it until three hours later when my partner woke me up with a text message telling me the news.
I raced upstairs to get online and find out the full story and the first thought that went through my head was that of a journalist: “We have a lead story for Monday’s paper”.
I was already rostered on to work on Sunday, and I imagined that my editor would come in and me and another reporter would work on the story together.
But as the day wore on and the radio reports started naming people and the television reports began calling it the worst aviation disaster since the Erebus crash in 1979, in which all 237 passengers and 20 crew on board were killed, I had an inkling that it would be slightly more major than I thought.
It was not until I drove back to the Wairarapa on Sunday morning that it started to sink in both professionally and personally.
It has taken a good year for it to happen, but I finally feel like Wairarapa is home, and even when I leave, it will still feel like home. So having something like this happen in my home, to people I’ve met, is not an easy thing to deal with.
It’s a bit of a moral dilemma being both a journalist and a human being, and this isn’t the first time I have felt like I have too much compassion, too much of a conscience for this job.
On the one hand, you feel your heart breaking for the families who have lost someone they love and for your community, but on the other hand, you have to try and feel happy about the fact that you are writing about an historic event that will remembered for years and years to come – people will have your newspaper tucked away in a memorabilia box; people will have your articles glued in a scrapbook. Events like this make a journalist’s career.
I went to the Carterton Events Centre today to interview a reverend who I adore and who I had tea and scones with just weeks ago, and seeing the One News crew loitering outside with their video cameras set up, looking bored and unaffected while I waltzed in and could count about six people I knew who were visibly upset, really brought it home to me and made me feel like I’m truly a Wairarapa resident.
I told the reverend that I couldn’t sleep on Saturday night knowing what was waiting for me at work on Sunday, and she said that even people who did not know anybody on the balloon were being deeply affected, but their grief had nowhere to go.
So she encouraged me to sign the condolence book, and when I did, I felt my heart lighten just slightly, but still fought back tears as I power-walked back to my car where I sat and just breathed.