Memoirs: Fran Hill’s ‘Miss, What Does Incomprehensible Mean?

I have recently been looking at memoir. There are many types of memoir books that have been written. Diary memoir is one of them. My friend and fellow writer, Fran Hill has written her latest book, Miss, What Does Incomprehensible mean in this format, following the life of an English teacher in a secondary school.

Why did you decide to write your latest book, ‘Miss what does incomprehensible mean’ as a Diary Memoir?

Ah, a question I ask myself whenever sales figures dip, but that’s merely paranoia. In summary, the memoir was suggested by Tony Collins, a commissioning editor. He’d read my first book ‘Being Miss’ which charts one fictional day in a teacher’s life. He suggested a book in the style of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ by James Herriot, but set in school. I thought the diary form would be fun, a la Adrian Mole and Bridget Jones. It’s a tricky format – Tony sent back first drafts with instructions to make my sentences grammatically incomplete. As an English teacher, I had to breathe deeply, but it began to feel natural.  

I loved some of the characters in the book, especially Camilla and Bahlul, are they based on real people, and if so, have you changed their names?

My daughter’s favourite character was also Camilla, she said. (I thought this harsh as the main character is her own mother.) But it’s best to see the teachers – and the pupils – as composite characters: mixtures of all those I have known and worked with. Camilla’s personal problems (I won’t specify …) and Bahlul’s aversion to marking – these are characteristics from people’s real lives that I have integrated into the narrative of the memoir.

I felt desperately sorry for you and your very long work hours, is that really the case?

It is absolutely the case, particularly for a full-time English teacher. The reading, planning and marking burden is Sisyphean and, now, working from home, I look back and wonder how I coped. The book bears witness to the fact that I barely did. My husband calculated my hours and told me I was really earning £8 an hour. That was a fun conversation. It’s the reason I switched to part-time but found that ‘part’ was a term used loosely.

I also felt very sorry for your terrible sleep patterns, is that also true?

For me, teaching equalled restless nights, and that didn’t change until I left the traditional classroom and became self-employed. I’d lie, staring at the ceiling, worrying about seating plans, pastoral issues, coping with misbehaviour, lesson observations, whether I knew enough about Shakespeare, how to fit in my marking …. How long do you have? Using evenings to mark and plan lessons rather than watch Coronation Street or have bubble baths didn’t help and Mrs Menopause compounded the issue.

Are you still working at the school and if so, is the school real or imaginary?

I’m now self-employed, tutoring English and creative writing from home – currently via Zoom. In between, I procrastinate and sometimes write. The school itself is, again, a composite of all the schools in which I’ve worked. Teachers who’ve read the book say it’s instantly recognisable as typical of school life. I dubbed it Beauchamp School because the book is based in Warwick and Richard Beauchamp was the 13th Earl of Warwick. I’m sure, from the grave, he is delighted with his mention.  

The school magazine was a great idea. I see by the write up in the back of the book that it was imaginary. Is that due to the fact that with your very busy schedule it would be one thing too many?

No, I really did produce some school magazines, so those experiences were typical. I think you’re referring to the mention of Warwick Printing in the acknowledgements. I consulted them as research for the ‘imaginary’ magazine I included in the memoir. And, yes, it was definitely one thing too many, cue more sleepless nights.  

Is your spouse really that into exercise?

Spouse is Outdoors Man and has always loved walking in the countryside. Worried about being 60 plus, he bought some sports shorts more appropriate for men in their 20s, and off he went, striding through our local fields like Wordsworth only without the poems. He’ll go out in rain, wind, and possibly tornadoes, while I stay at home and eat a Curly-Wurly, like sensible people do.

I loved the humour in your book and much admire anyone who can write funny. How did you develop this or did the gift come naturally?

That’s really kind of you, Sheila. Is it a gift? It’s the way I naturally look at life and anything I write reflects that. I’m unreasonably aware, it seems, of ironies and mismatches and the funny side of things. It gets me into bother. Not everyone sees the world that way and I should keep some of my opinions to myself in serious situations. I have also tried to hone the skills by studying how comedians construct jokes or how funny writers such as Wodehouse or Dorothy Parker achieve their laughs.

What is the next thing you are working on? Will it also be school related? And funny?

My next major project is a novel. Yes, there will be a school, and, yes, I hope to make it funny. Time – and the sales figures – will tell.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’ll add my thanks to you for reading and appreciating the book, Sheila, and for featuring me on your blog. Can I also add that my website can be found at franhill.co.uk and, if people would like to know more about my writing, I would love them to visit. There are a few laughs there, too, on my biography page.  

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Reunions in Literature

My sons, Adam and Luke and myself at Greenwich Docks

Family reunions are very important. They always have been. Yet in these times of the Pandemic, they have become more important than ever. It was great for my husband and myself to travel to London at the end of October and to see my sons, Adam and Luke and their partners, Kelsey and Mafalda (my husband, Angus is the one taking the photograph). It was only for a day but so worthwhile.

Reunions are also a great theme in literature. There is the reunion of the girls in ‘Little Women’ by Louisa M Alcott, when their father returns from the American civil war. Or there is the reunion of Jane with a blind Mr Rochester, after the fire which nearly kills him, in ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte. Or even the final reunion of Juliet with farmer, Dawsey Adams in the book, ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society’ by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows, when Juliet returns to the island realising it is Dawsey she loves and not her elegant, rich American fiancé.

In my book, Waireka, I have written about a reunion that doesn’t take place. Eliza is desperate to be reunited with her beloved sister, Kitty, who she has corresponded with over the past fifteen years since she left Scotland. However, her joy turns to despair as Eliza learns from a fellow passenger of their fate.

Aurora, aye, that was the name of our boat. And now you mention it, I do recall a couple with two very young children and an older girl. The Scottish lady was fair, much like yourself and her husband had brown wavy hair….

“Was?” said Eliza, swallowing hard.

“Aye, I last saw them before the ship went down.”

(Waireka, pg 180)

How important it is to value those family relationships while we still have them. In these fragile days especially.

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Student again!

Yes, I’ve gone back to university this time to do a short course – part of an MA – in Creative and Critical Writing. The idea being to be a better writer but let’s wait on that one! Although not so much in the library as the image suggests but sometimes online, sometimes on campus in the evenings.

It’s about twenty years since I took the last go at being a student when I did a short course in London, two days a week, to obtain a Postgraduate qualification in journalism. That time it did me very well. On completing the course I became a freelance journalist for a couple of years for our local media company, Gloucestershire Media. Then when that ended, I took up writing for the Christian Herald newspaper (now sadly deceased) and then with the same editor, Russ Bravo, I went on to write regularly for Inspire magazine, alongside many other publications both local and national. I still write regularly for the online magazine, the Writers and Readers magazine and have just had an article in the Good News newspaper.

So what about this course. Having learnt to write plainly and concisely as a journalist, I can tell you that this course frightens me. I’m not that great at descriptive, flowery language and just three weeks into the course, the IT has almost floored me, never mind the course information. Perhaps it’s my age!

But it’s one step at a time. I’m only doing a short course and most of my modules are completed by mid January, then I just have one course which I take on until May. So you should see me emerge out of hibernation sometime in early February. Until then I’m not ignoring you, I’m just busy.

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The North Devon Writers

A recent week in North Devon introduced me to a few local writers I didn’t know had an association with the area.

Firstly there is the writer, Charles Kingsley born in Holne in Devon whose family later moved to the very popular town of Clovelly with its steep cobbled streets leading down to a sheltered harbour. His Father was the Rector of the town. Charles was later to enter the ministry himself.

You can view the small cottage where the family lived on your way down to the harbour. The place obviously held happy memories for the writer as there is a quote from him displayed on a plaque in the cottage, which demonstrates that Charles returned here time and time again as an adult to relive those happy memories.

“We got here all safe…I cannot believe my eyes: the same dear old smells, the dear old handsome loving faces again. It is as if I was a little boy again, or the place had stood still while all the world had been rushing and rumbling on past it…”

Kingsley even gave the name of one of his books, Westward Ho! to the name of a local town, including the exclamation mark! His other novels include, Hereward the Wake and his children’s book, the Water Babies.

Henry Williamson, although born in London, settled in Georgeham, Devon in 1921 just after the first world war. The cottage he lived in was called ‘Skirr Cottage’ and it was here that Williamson wrote his most acclaimed novel, Tarka the Otter.

The cottage acquired historical status as an English Heritage Grade II listed building in 2014 and a tarmacked track in the area built over a disused railway has been named the ‘Tarka Trail’ after the book as many of the locations on the track are mentioned in the story. The 21 mile track is a great traffic-free space for walkers or cyclists alike.

All this leads me to conclude that North Devon with its steep, stunning coastlines and wide sandy beaches, attracted and inspired many different kinds of writers.

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Celebrations

Granny’s 90th Birthday Celebrations

We have just celebrated my mother-in-law’s 90th birthday with a big party, balloons and a cake

Well, she deserves it. Although her actual birthday isn’t until next month, the Bank Holiday weekend was the only time we could all come together with balloons, buntings and a special cake. It’s great celebrating these family occasions which, even with social distancing we were able to do in our garden with a gazebo and good spacing. The weather was kind to us all day too.

In my book, Waireka, one of the biggest celebrations, apart from the family weddings, is the official opening of the dairy farm and two-storey farm house. They also have good weather for the occasion.

“The day marked for the official opening of the dairy in May 1873 dawned fair, and a large crowd gathered. Alister had asked all the chief representatives of Frampton to the opening….Robert, as the minister of St Andrews, was to proclaim the place open for business at last. It looked splendid decked out with the bunting saved from Charlotte’s wedding a couple of years previously.

‘I declare the Waireka Butter Factory open’, announced Robert with a quick glance at Eliza as if to win her approval. He did. She returned his smile, her heart full of joy for the future that lay ahead for their family. She was proud of Alister’s hard work in building the factory and establishing the business.” (Waireka, Chapter 12, page 192)

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Rural Landscapes and animals

This last week, my husband and myself have been enjoying the rolling rural landscape of Gloucestershire

We walked in the Slad Valley,

enjoying scenes of outstanding beauty and never seeing anyone. No wonder such scenes inspired the writer of ‘Cider with Rosie’ Slad author, Laurie Lee. We were even able to glimpse the cottage where he lived in the valley which is currently in private ownership.

Rolling countryside with deep valleys but not as dramatic as the mountains of the Remutaka Pass which Alister and Eliza, Robert and Mary cross with their respective families from Wellington to the Wairarapa.

Remutaka Pass

Once there, Alister buys some land and eventually builds his two storey barn and house, much to Eliza’s relief.

“At last we are moved into the new place, which we have called, along with our land, Waireka (Maori for ‘sweet waters’), as a tributary from the Waihaha River flows through our land making it rich and sweet for our cows. (pg 165)

These two images are of more modern but similar properties. But built in wood because New Zealand is in an earthquake zone, they are rather different from our more familiar British farm buildings.

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An Introduction to the story of Waireka

In the last few weeks I have been busy recording a video of me talking about my book, Waireka. In these strange times when movements are still restricted and going out to talk about your book not possible, the new way to give an illustrated talk about your book is via social media. This has been a rather steep learning curve for some of us but nevertheless a necessary one and one I’m really glad to have mastered. I have not only managed to do a Live Facebook event but to use Zoom as a instrument to ensure that I could also show my images on that talk.

My publisher, Ambassador International, https://ambassador-international.com realising these difficult times for authors also hosted an online book event entitled ‘Christmas in July’ encouraging readers to look ahead to Christmas and buy some great book gifts now. Thank you, Daphne Self for organising and running this event. Again I made a recording for this. Unfortunately, being in the UK rather than the US, giveaways weren’t an option for me but it was great to see the price of my kindle version of Waireka reduced to just 79p in the UK or 99c in the US. Please note that there is also a free giveaway of my first book, Alpha Male, on my website too if you follow me.

I am therefore attaching the link to YouTube here so that you can learn a little about the start of my book and hopefully want to read more. The link is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRkoc9u_zXM

As well as a special price on the kindle edition of my book at the moment, I am offering a special price on the book for my UK followers of £9 including postage and packing for one book or £16 including postage and packing for two copies, direct from me.

Why not look ahead to Christmas and buy some copies of Waireka now?

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Colonialism and the Maoris

In the early nineteenth century when most of the Europeans arrived in New Zealand, the Maoris were the indigenous people. They had been there since the thirteenth century when they had arrived in canoes from the Eastern Polynesian islands

War and unrest followed as the British authorities persuaded the Maori chiefs to sell their lands to the British Crown for some financial compensation as well as peace and prosperity. But when it became evident that this financial compensation wasn’t materialising as promised, the Maori tribes become restless. War broke out in various parts of New Zealand with the Maoris blaming the cheating Pakehas (foreigners). Eventually in 1840 an agreement known as the Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the British forces and over 500 Maori chiefs. But although this did largely quell the unrest, there were still minor skirmishes and wars across New Zealand as many of the Maori chiefs hadn’t signed the Treaty and those that had hadn’t always had the full implications of the Treaty explained to them in detail.

Fortunately the Wairarapa area where my forebears and my fictional characters settled was largely peaceful, although there was some unrest in the summer of 1862 in this area which Governor Grant managed to successfully quell. Many supported him in his stance on this including farmer Alister but local minister, Robert has a different and perhaps more modern view of what has taken place.

“I felt such a sympathy with the Hau-Haus and the Muapoko tribe,” he said. “I’m so glad we didn’t have to fight them. The Governor had cheated them and his message about loyalty to the Queen didn’t quite stick with me. No, I’m convinced that it wasn’t his presence or his message that caused them to withdraw but rather the sight of the soldiers’ colourful uniforms, badges and bayonets that cowed them into submission rather than anything else.”

A new Treaty was finally signed at Waitangi in 1975 to address some of the grieviances of the Maori community but over the years much damage has been done to the relations between them and the European settlers.

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New Zealand and the Lord of the Rings

Novelist S.C Skillman had visited Australia several times and even lived there for a period, but in November 2019, she made her first trip to New Zealand.

As writer of paranormal mystery novels and a lover of JR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series she was keen to visit the sites used by Peter Jackson in his films of the books. She talks about her experiences.

When you visited New Zealand where much of the movie footage was filmed, were you excited or disappointed by what you saw?

When I visited the North Island, I thought Hobbiton represented a perfect recreation of that bucolic landscape in which the hobbits lived. Based upon Tolkien’s own idealistic view of pre-industrial rural England, it seemed to speak to all our childhood dreams.

Given that Tolkien was born and brought up in Birmingham and the countryside around about, do you think the New Zealand scenery does justice to the images Tolkien had in mind, especially as he was inspired so much by his local scenery? Or do you think it was filmed in New Zealand simply because Peter Jackson, the film-maker, was a native of that country?

I think Peter Jackson chose New Zealand for several good reasons and he was probably greatly influenced by the fact that he lives there! But New Zealand is an excellent choice. First of all, the sublime scenery of the South Island does parallel the grandeur of Tolkien’s vision, providing all the varied settings for Frodo and Sam’s epic journey.

The farmland around Matamata in the North Island is very appropriate as a location for Hobbiton. When I visited the North Island I was enchanted by miles upon miles of velvety green hills, uninterrupted by any of the signs of a modern society such as those you might see in England.

Ironically, Tolkien was indeed inspired by the countryside around Birmingham. But the changes that have taken place since those days are so radical, that region would now be utterly inappropriate as a film set in which to conjure up his vision. The place which he had in mind when he created Hobbiton, Sarehole Mill, is now in the middle of an urban community. When Tolkien played there as a little boy it was a rural village.  He drew upon all his feelings as a small child when he created Hobbiton. To represent this on screen, the lovely landscape of New Zealand’s North Island was a brilliant choice.

Describe your reactions to the scenery between Paihia and Matamata.

We set off from Paihia early in the morning and drove south through a landscape of velvety green hills uninterrupted by hedges or fences, dotted with a wide variety of trees, and occasionally by pretty white bargeboard houses in gardens. It felt as if we were surrounded by Tolkien’s hobbit country all the time: The Shire, that pastoral idyll which the hobbits called home. No wonder Peter Jackson settled upon this landscape as the ideal location for Hobbiton. Further along in our journey we entered a region of verdant forest packed with trees so diverse and so attractively interspersed with giant tree ferns that they seemed planted by design. When we arrived in Matamata. we immediately saw the welcoming sign, and those of us who have loved Middle-earth at once felt a sense of high excitement. Even the local visitor centre has been turned into a nostalgic homestead

Upon entering the visitor information centre we found a sculpture of Tolkien’s most insightful creation: the tragic and chilling figure of Gollum, who had been known as Smeagol, one of the river folk, until he was enslaved and possessed by his lust for ‘the Precious’ – the One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.  

I can imagine Matamata itself was an unassuming little ‘one-horse settlement’ before Peter Jackson found his ideal location for the Hobbiton film set nearby. It is astonishing to reflect upon the power of an iconic fantasy epic to catch the imagination of millions and transform the fortunes of one small town.

Early the next morning we arrived at The Shires Rest, a short distance outside Matamata, to set off on our tour of Hobbiton, led by a young Englishman called James.

The tour bus took us through the rolling hills of the Alexander Farm, a vision of the undulating landscape of young children’s picture books, a perfect setting for the small, round, cheerful hobbits.

On the way James showed video clips of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films, and also gave us plenty of fascinating facts about the making of the films, how this area came to be chosen as the site for the Hobbiton film-set, and why indeed there now exists here a perfect, robust and well-built rendition of hobbit country, for the delight of many thousands of visitors each year.

And yet, as we were to discover again and again throughout our stay in Matamata and our visit to Hobbiton, you don’t even need to have read the books or have seen the films to be thrilled by what has been done here to recreate this romantic vision of pre-industrial England.

Describe the menu at The Redoubt restaurant in Matamata.

The night before we visited Hobbiton, we had dinner at a restaurant called The Redoubt which had, along with the town of Matamata, ‘fully embraced its Middle Earth credentials’! (a phrase borrowed from the Matamata section in the Lonely Planet guide for New Zealand).

The menu and decor were based around characters from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Gollum’s famous catchphrase “Sneaky little hobbitses” was emblazoned on the wall and all the dishes on the menu bore names such as “Bilbo’s Patch”, “Sauron’s Fury”,  “Eowyn’s blessing”, “Theoden’s Last Wish” and “Frodo’s Secret”. Of course, it all represented the shameless commercialisation of Tolkien’s creation, but we accepted it as a fun experience on its own terms. It certainly built up our excitement at the prospect of visiting Hobbiton the next day. 

Describe the scenery of Hobbiton.

The scenery of Hobbiton was pure delight. I found it beyond my expectations, so perfectly realised, with exquisite attention to every detail: all the hobbit holes with their different coloured doors and their gardens packed with bright flowers; Bilbo’s sign on the gate announcing ’No admittance except on party business’; the oak tree above his home, Bag End; the line of washing, the wheelbarrows full of freshly harvested vegetables, the mill and bridge, the party field, Bilbo’s ’eleventy first’ birthday cake, the Green Dragon Inn and the tankards of beer.

Being here was like being transported into Tolkien’s original vision. It is said that he believed the power of the imagination must determine how people see the world he created.  Nevertheless, I feel he would have been awed by what has been achieved here. Hobbiton lacked only one thing: real life hobbits!

What were the objections of Tolkien’s family to the films and the way in which Peter Jackson depicted Tolkien’s story?

Tolkien’s son Christopher, the great novelist’s literary executor, sadly objected to Peter Jackson’s films. I think I can see where Christopher was coming from, though I do not agree with him.  Tolkien originally sold the film rights to The Lord of the Rings in the 1960’s, and he did not place any conditions on that sale which would have allowed him or his literary executors to have artistic control over the content of the films.

Christopher felt that the commercialisation of the films had reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of his father’s work.  I do understand the beauty and the seriousness of Tolkien’s creation, and do not agree that the films reduced this. In fact I believe that, overall, they respected it. My only caveat would be the extended battle scenes, which I thought unnecessary; and the use of crude horror elements, in for instance the depiction of the Orcs. Christopher made specific reference to the battle scenes as being one source of his unhappiness. He also criticised the over-literal presentation of the Eye of Sauron which he said was intended by his father on a much profounder, spiritual level.

I am aware that Tolkien himself preferred his readers to use their own imagination with his books, and of course the re-telling of a story on screen can to an extent “spoon-feed” people with images of the characters, forever linked in our minds with the actors who play them. It is a complex issue and many writers have had widely varying experiences of their books being turned into films. It is also very probably true, as Christopher pointed out, that many of those who love The Lord of the Rings think first of the films rather than the original books. 

Tolkien had a strong Christian faith. How do you think this is depicted in his novels and has Peter Jackson done justice to this faith in the films?

The question of whether readers see the Christian faith shining out of Tolkien’s creation again depends on the background and presumptions with which they come to it. The grand themes are there; spiritual warfare; the fatal lust of humankind for self-determination and power; the paradox of weakness and power spoken of by St Paul ‘for my power is made perfect in weakness’), the vital importance of persistent faith.

More specifically, the events of the Resurrection are paralleled by Gandalf’s self-sacrifice in the Mines of Moria; he confronts the evil force of the Balrog, submitting himself to this most deadly enemy, and falls down into the chasm to his death (we all believe). Thus Gandalf the Grey dies. Later on, Gandalf the White appears; he has fought and conquered the power of evil, and has been reborn. There are also other specific elements in the story which also reflect Tolkien’s Christian faith and worldview.

As to the question of whether Peter Jackson did justice to Tolkien’s Christian faith in the films, I believe all the moral and spiritual parallels are there, within the characters and events and context of the story telling.  They will be seen and heard by those who have both eyes and ears to see and hear them.

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New Zealand, The Land of the Long White Cloud

To introduce my series about New Zealand past and present, I want to share some pictures of the place I have visited and enjoyed three times.

New Zealand, or ‘Aoteroa’, as the Maoris call it, ‘Land of the Long White Cloud’, is a land of variety with its beautiful coastlines, rare wildlife species and thermal valleys.

Auckland, with a head count of 1.5 million people sits north of the North Island. Known as the ‘city of sails’ there is plenty to do here but not unsurprisingly much of it involves boats. For the adventurous there is the Americas Cup sailboat experience where around a dozen people, including a crew of four, are encouraged to have a go at steering the boat and navigating the sails. A trip out on a larger Tall ship is more sedentary but there is still opportunity to help steer and navigate the sails and even a chance for the bravest to climb the ship’s rigging! After all this excitement you can while away the evening hours at the Sky Tower, the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. The cuisine here is first class and with its rotating restaurant you can enjoy ever changing views over the city as you eat.

If you like a lively worship programme, the City Impact Church, North Shore might be to your liking. It is part of a large group of churches which includes another in Auckland at Mount Wellington and several in the South Island at Queenstown, Invercargill and Balcutha. More information about the churches can be found on the website at www.cityimpactchurch.com

The Wairarapa is a largely unspoilt area of New Zealand surrounding Lake Wairarapa south of Wellington. One of the homes of the New Zealand’s Paua – a type of large black sea mollusc whose iconic shell with its beautiful blue rainbow interior can be fashioned into anything from jewellery to dishes, it makes wonderful souvenirs. It is also becoming a ‘hide out’ for some of America’s rich and famous with film maker, James Cameron being the latest to purchase land in the neighbourhood. But you can still head off over the mountains on some 4×4 tracks unknown even to many New Zealanders.

Wellington with a population of around half a million people is New Zealand’s capital city and home of its parliament, the Beehive, so named because of its beehive appearance. The city’s main museum, Te Papa is well worth a visit to learn about early and current Maori life and to step inside a Marae or Maori meeting house.

However, the full Maori experience can be enjoyed in Roturua, a town north of the North Island, a major centre for Maori arts and culture where you can even take part in a traditional Maori meal or ‘Hāngi’ where food is steamed in hot stones under the ground.

On 22 February 2011, Christchurch, the South Island’s largest city suffered a major earthquake but it is still worth a visit to see the famous Antarctic centre, the Aircraft museum or to simply to enjoy rowing, canoeing or punting on the river. I am sure something even better will arise from the ruins as in the case of Napier after its 1931 earthquake when the city was rebuilt in Art Deco style and is now a ‘must see’ place to visit.

Dunedin’s architecture has a Scottish feel with features to be explored being the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street -not for the fainthearted – the University of Otago, New Zealand’s first university and the Cadbury factory. All Saints Anglican church is Dunedin’s oldest church (1865) where you can enjoy a contemplative Taizé service on Sunday evenings with incense, and chants.

Dunedin is also renowned for its wildlife just off the Otago peninsula. Here you can view a colony of Albatrosses, rare Yellow-eyed Penguins, Blue Penguins, Sea Lions and Fur Seals.

Queenstown has a spectacular location beside Lake Wakatipu against the backdrop of the Remarkable Mountains. This makes the town a perfect setting for its aerial Gondolas, woodland walking trails, small ‘Luge’ go-karts and for the bravest, the bungy jump. It is also a good place from which to explore the breathtaking scenery around Milford Sound just a day’s trip from here.

New Zealand maybe a long way to travel but if you make the effort you will enjoy spectacular scenery and a very warm welcome.

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