Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood

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Busytown: Reading Room

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  • Tim Michie,

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 570 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I do love a literate child, Jolisa - although I would expect nothing less from your boys. I am pleased to report we had our own little local success story today. One of our mothers was telling me that in the latest round of parent-teacher interviews, her just turned 6 year old (who was one of ours) was lauded by his teacher for being able to write over 70 words in under 10 minutes. She said to me - and I quote - "Not bad for a boy from Southside, eh?" Indeed!

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Homebush, the homestead in Dean's Bush

    Actually, the homestead in Deans' Bush is Riccarton House, the rather confusingly-named Homebush is on another Deans family property near Darfield, very close to the epicentre of the quake.

    As far as I know, Riccarton House is OK, although I'm guessing it may have lost its chimneys.

    I feel sad about Homebush, it was a beautiful house.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • JLM,

    Thanks, you reminded me to put a library hold on Reading on the Farm, which I intended to do after hearing that, yes, fascinating, interview with Kim Hill.

    Extra interest for me growing up near Masterton, where my oldest sister taught at Lydia's school for a couple of years, and always liked to take credit for sparking her interest in English, probably quite incorrectly. Ask her if she remembers Miss Bragg.

    Judy Martin's southern sl… • Since Apr 2007 • 228 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    Another lovely post, Jolisa -- thank you!

    As far as I know, Riccarton House is OK, although I'm guessing it may have lost its chimneys.

    Yes, Bob and I went to check and it seems to be okay. It does have at least one chimney down (maybe two?) as you suspected.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 992 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    Marvelous post Jolisa.

    Ah, Canadians. The New Zealanders of the north

    Heh, thank you so much, we are collectively flattered.

    Though I feel compelled to admit in general we are a little more wussy and your menfolk are a little more manly than ours.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    What is it about these musty old bits of paper between thick cardboard and leather? I cannot help myself from picking them up and quickly getting engrossed in the lost world. Wifey is into geneology which too brings out the ferret of the past. Recently I got into digging out "history" (if 1968+ is history) of NZ shooters to Olympic Games. it was 40 years since Ian Ballinger won the only medal NZ has won at an Olympics. Bronze in Mexico. I spent a couple of days in Nat Lib searching newspapers looking for articles on these few guys. It was painful. The adjacent column was always at least or more interesting than the "research" topic. My bookshelf is full of "collectables" (hahahahahaha). Antarctic heroes. Old science books. Aviation. And an amazing series on engravings of Shackeltons expedition of Antarctica of flora and fauna that was going to be chucked out from a library. Saved!

    Love it.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    The story that Donoghue unfolds is vaster, larger, deeper and more humane than any of that. It's a modest ante-chamber that opens into a labyrinth of paths; wandering them as you read will take your mind to places it's never been before, and to some places you've been but have forgotten

    Of Donoghue's books, I've only read Hood, Kissing the Witch, and Slammerkin, but your description could equally fit any of them! Those stories are still vividly present in my mind, and I feel richer from having read them. And I have some catching up to do!

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3470 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    . . . geneology which too brings out the ferret of the past.

    The most startling aspect of which (for me, though with a little reflection it shouldn't have been) was how many of the ancestors were illiterate. Like, signing marriage, baptism, and birth registers with their mark ('X'), which was then annotated and endorsed by some official or church functionary. Only those who absolutely had to - domestic servants, the occasional sea captain - seemed able to read and write.

    The last examples in NZ were from the early 1860s, but in one branch who remained in West Yorkshire it persisted until close to 1900. Despite being described as 'scholar, aged 5' in a census record, a couple of decades later they'd be affixing their mark to some parish register.

    Were colonial NZers a relatively literate bunch? One of the most striking things about my own ancestors is that, in the space of a generation, they seem to have gone from being barely literate to amassing their own small libraries, with not a few volumes bearing the stamp of some lending library or similar. Perhaps great-granddad is paying off the overdue fines to the Brunner Miners Institute in the afterlife.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3597 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    My greatgrand-dad - who went by various names
    (the family know him as Tiaki/Jack/John Mira/Miller)
    and who may have been of Waitaha/ Poutini Kai Tahu (well, he was definitely of that latter) but also Tahitian & American heritage-
    didnt willingly speak English - but made sure all his 14 kids (including my grand-dad) not only spoke Maori & English, but also read & wrote it-
    appreciated....words....

    Motoitoi's first child, my greatgrandNanna, is recorded as scrawling words on the cave she & her parents lived in (her father was Richard Driver.) I have letters from her daughter, Emma, to my Nanna.
    "Were colonial NZers a relatively literate bunch?"
    Yes Joe Wylie-
    the aboriginal settlers and those they united with-

    all lots believed that words had power.

    I do not think they were wrong.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    O, I also know Tiaki's 'real' name but one doesnt put that out there - however, because this is a wonderously gathering place, any other offspring of Tiaki & Piraurau or Motoitoi & Richard Driver - please do not hesitate to get in contact with me.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    all lots believed that words had power.
    I do not think they were wrong.

    Thanks Islander, much appreciated. I'm reminded of the story of how, when the first newspaper was published in the Bay of Islands, local Maori petitioned for an edition to be produced in the language of the country, as they were now "a reading people". What a thrilling time that must have been, when literacy, something we tend to take for granted, held a real revolutionary promise. It's still the early days though, eh?

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3597 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    (I suppose we would need to know the call numbers of those particular shelves to be able to figure out the true intensity of the blow.)

    IIRC those pictures were taken on the third floor, which houses geology, maps, English and other literature, and the records of the New Zealand and Australian Parliaments since eighteen-whenever. The pictures I saw were only of the literature and geology sections, though. So...a great blow for Australian mining, people who can find faultlines, and future book reviewers, then. Not quite sure what that would have implied.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    When I saw those photos of books in Christchurch, my first response was "I must go down there and sort them out!". Note: I didn't want to rebuild houses or donate blood or take in refugees or anything, oh no. Then, my more subversive side came in and I was like "I must go down there and arrange them by colour while everyone else is busy".

    My grandparents had another Lockwood house put next to theirs without any internal walls to hold all of my Opa's books. Those bits of cardboard and paper and words are sacred in my family.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 727 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    I stand corrected about Homebush vs Dean's Bush. You guys are the best copy editors in the world.

    a great blow for Australian mining, people who can find faultlines, and future book reviewers, then. Not quite sure what that would have implied.

    In other words, me and my friend Steve who told me about the Chch earthquake risk in the first place. Hmm. Could have been a real disaster, then!

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    On the question of literacy, absolute numbers are hard to come by, because the definitions are variable - the ability to sign your own name as the most minimal measure (and was the one applied to one set of Irish ancestors, who arrived with their eight or so children in the ?1880s? and were all marked as "literate"). It definitely varied by class.

    But it seems that colonial New Zealand was very big on reading and that people were eager to catch up once they got here. Lydia cites J.E. Traue on the "explosion" of lending libaries: apparently NZ had the highest density of libraries per person "ever reached in any country or state in the world."

    And for me, at least, the contemporary Maori-language newspapers that are mentioned in the book, along with the treasured translations of the Bible and other books in te reo that the Beetham family held (and read) are also a welcome reminder that bilingual literacy was eagerly embraced early on. We've got a lot of catching up to do,in that regard, for which earnest Willie Beetham is a useful role model. Want to live somewhere? Learn the language as soon as you get there so you'll fit in.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    It should also be remembered that reading and writing are not the same, and that where we think of people as 'literate' or 'illiterate,' we use categories that mask more than the reveal about past reading practices. It is perfectly possible to be a competent reader and not be comfortable signing your own name, and the fact that we group both skills in the category of 'literacy' says more about the twentieth century public education system than nineteenth century readers (though possibly not writers).

    Which is to say nothing of those who could partake in the written word without being able to read it very well -- reading out loud in groups, for instance, or asking people to read letters for you, was much more commonly practiced in the past than in the present, although the shift to silent, private reading seems to have taken place in the Victorian era.

    How brilliant to find an archive that can be made to say so much about a group of readers that we would scarcely imagine existed. Any chance we'll see this for sale in the U.S.?

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    "I must go down there and arrange them by colour while everyone else is busy,

    Oh dear......I remember a flatmate (female) who hung the washing out by colour AND by shape. Lalalalalala.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1502 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    My grandparents had another Lockwood house put next to theirs without any internal walls to hold all of my Opa's books. Those bits of cardboard and paper and words are sacred in my family.

    My husband talked me into buying a Kindle. One of his grounds was that I'll be able to take all the books back with me when we leave again.

    He is technically correct, but vastly overoptimistic about my preference for hardcopy v. electronic. I won't feel properly at home here until I have a few more over-full bookshelves, and we don't even have half of one full yet.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    off colour tips for people... (& Bower birds)

    I must go down there and arrange them by colour...

    you can arrange your web browsing by colour too...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart,

    Very nice post, Jolisa.
    My 11 year old keen reader adores Footrot Flats too, though most of his little mates have never heard of the series. Their loss, say I. Another favourite is Bogor - something about the little woodsman and his friend the hedgehog just has my lad in stitches.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 662 posts Report Reply

  • Jake Pollock,

    I won't feel properly at home here until I have a few more over-full bookshelves, and we don't even have half of one full yet.

    Although I'm with you on the sentiment, having been in the US (and shipped a lot of books back because I knew someone who had a container going from Pittsburgh to Auckland) I look at my bookshelf and think 'I love you, but I don't know how I'm going to move you.' See also: Home-brewing kit.

    Raumati South • Since Nov 2006 • 489 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    It is perfectly possible to be a competent reader and not be comfortable signing your own name . . .

    I have a copy of my great (to the power of 3) grandmother's signature as a witness from the 1838 marriage register of one of her many sisters. While it appears to have been done very slowly and carefully it's still effectively illegible, and has been annotated with her name in brackets alongside, by a more competent hand. 18 months later, at another sister's wedding, her nerve appears to have failed her and she's opted for a simple X. While I don't know much about her, I reckon that she must have been a real trier.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3597 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    My 11 year old keen reader adores Footrot Flats too, though most of his little mates have never heard of the series. Their loss, say I.

    My younger brother got a really terrifying amount of his education about the birds and the bees from the dogs and the sheep of Footrot Flats.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Friday being a sharing and caring day, some of you might be interested in this offer from Intellect Books (UK). Ben Goldsmith edited the Australian section: I edited the New Zealand section:

    Intellect Directory of World Cinema: Australia & New Zealand is still available as a limited FREE download. Take a look at the website to download your copy now: [http://www.worldcinemadirectory.org/]

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2333 posts Report Reply

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