Thursday, May 24, 2012

Travelling through time

If you could time travel to any era, where would you go, what would you do? I’m sure most of us have answered that questions many times, because for some reason, those things that are impossibly out of reach are the things we often want the most.
For everyone there is something in history they wish they could have witnessed, or, better yet, been a part of. For me, it’s always been the sixties. The year 1969 to be specific. On a farm in outback New York. Sound familiar? Yes, as a teenager, disappointed with what modern music had to offer, I turned to the classics; to the songs that caused such social upheaval and started revolutions, songs that created the teenager.

I longed to put on my long Indian-inspired orange skirt paired with a bell-sleeved top, topped off with bangles and headbands and hop into a convey van with a bunch of like-minded friends to drive the miles and miles it would have taken to reach Woodstock (never mind the fact that I live in New Zealand and if I time travelled I would end up in sixties New Zealand... minor detail).

I would get caught in the massive traffic jam that stretched for miles and my friends and I would abandon our van and walk, in bare feet of course, to the farm, drawn in by the strumming of guitars, microphone feedback, the thump of the drums and most importantly, the hum of half a million excited revellers come to enjoy this free concert that was never supposed to be free.
And when the rain started, my friends and I would let it come down on us and soak us to the skin. We would slide down the banks and then jump in the lake, all the while people that would go down in history as some of the greatest musicians of all time played on.

If my novel ever gets published, I know people will ask me “What inspired you to write about 1940’s Wellington?” To be honest, I don’t know. I started writing a novel based in 1960s America when I was about 20 and, although I may pursue it again someday, those files lie dormant on my computer. I can’t remember when I decided to base my book in the forties, it kind of just happened that way.

I let the story take me where it wanted and I ended up in the city I grew up in, but it is different. The masonry that, in my time, has been preserved, yet overtaken by high-rises, is now clearly visible and clean.
As I walk through the city, I am surrounded by a sea of hat-wearing people. Men in suits no matter what their profession and ladies in tailored suits and dresses with felt hats on their heads. There is a scattering of soldiers, their presence reminding people there is a war going on. Trams carry the people from A to B.

With the arrival of the Americans in 1942 comes both good and bad. Jealousy reigns among the New Zealand soldiers as their kiwi women become enamoured by the Americans, a brawl now famously known as The Battle of Manners Street erupts as an insult is flung from an American to a Maori, and a group of American soldiers drown at Paekakariki during a training exercise. However, their arrival also makes the city come alive with the opening of coffee bars, the organising of balls, a new sound of music, and hope that there is light at the end of the war.
And in amongst all of this are fretting mothers with sons away at war, exhausted fathers trying to scrape together a living, and young people who should be enjoying the innocence of young love but are instead mixed up in the turmoil and forced to think like adults.

It was not one thing, but all of this that has kept me stuck on the 1940s. The amazing amount of events, tragedies and social changes that occurred during that time is hard to ignore, as are my instincts – those instincts that drive me to find out more, to dig deeper, to find out the story behind the story. Those instincts are driving me deeper into Wellington’s history, with my novel pushing me on, urging me to go this way and that, shaping the story around me so much that, while it’s not the way I expected, I feel like I am travelling through time just like I always dreamed.
So, if you could travel to any era, where would you go, what would you do, and why?


  1. The forties is a great time to write about, women coming into their own in a world where men were dying overseas. What amazing wealth you have to draw on. I'll love reading your book as I like this time period as well. Though if I had my choice, I'd probably join Shakespeare for a romp or maybe chase cows on the Chisolm Trail. Truly though, I would travel to the future!

  2. I would love to experience, briefly mind you, the Elizabethian time frame. This is girly, but I would live to be at court in England, wear the dresses (not so much the corsets)and wait on the Queen. I probably would regret that, but hey...:0)

  3. In my time travel adventure, The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell, the kids get to travel to all the times/places I would like to visit! The 1893 Chicago World's Fair was extremely appealing to me, so Puggie and Gigi got to visit. I'm extremely attracted to to mid-to-late 1800s. It was such an exciting period in American history.