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Writings

 Current projects and proposals:

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Maori Face imageTurangawaewae is a the story of a search for belonging, and through that quest, for the sense of identity we all crave. It is also, in passing, the story of a family that left its roots in 19th century Britain to
search for a new life where the opportunity to make good depended on them alone, their own labour and extravagance of vision. While the early settlers succeeded in finding a new land, it took several generations of definition and redefinition before the question of identity confronted them, when a convulsing world once left behind cried out again for her children. When life is hard there is little time for seeking out the common bonds of shared history or habitation or yearning for family left behind.  And when life is good and the sun is warm, we do not feel inclined to search for something that may disturb to no end so we let it alone.  It is only when the old world and the new engage that definition becomes important. The journey of our lives takes place in the heart and mind as well as in the aging, and cuts and measures both; it is of the places where blood was shed, mokapuna born and kin buried; it is about occupation and labour and the fruits of labour; the times and events that scar and give rise to rejoicing; the times that cripple and break us down and lift us up again.

The search for one’s turangawaewae is a search we all make, unwittingly or not, a search that underpins every person’s life. We are the sum of our parts, of course, but beyond that amalgam, that conglomerate of bits, each one of us lives in isolation, walking our life path in search of (even though not always consciously so) our turangawaewae, our fingerprint of earth. This is a story about recognising that one place so inextricably interwoven into our being that we cannot ever escape it, a place where smell and sense and sensibilities and dreams mix and yet for long periods of our life, we may not even recognise it  –  or choose to. We may spend our life within its shadow, in which case ours will be a settled life indeed. We may abandon it, lose it and spend years searching for it.  Or we may deliberately set out to live without it so as to escape the limits that our forefathers set for us. It is not lost, however, for it is somewhere in our molten core, a place where we are most ourselves, where the person we have become is explained and made real and given setting and context. It is inside us. It is quite possibly not what we would have chosen for ourselves. But it is our turangawaewae.  It is our anchor and our vessel. It carries and shapes us, moulding our identity and our self.  It will feed us and likely, bury us. And through this story, we may learn a little more about who we are and where we come.

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Future Books

The Last Twilight: The Empire in the Pacific

Before the Clapham sect, the Empire had engaged in trade, warfare and colonization. It had exported British goods, capital and people in exchange for land, wealth and merchandise. From the start of the nineteenth century, however, it aspired to export British culture and to ‘spread over (Africa’s) gloomy surface ‘light, liberty and civilization’.

The Pacific was one of the last areas opened to exploitation and colonization and was representative of this second phase of empire building. The random patterns of settlement and the legacy of the early whaler, sealers, traders and missionaries through to the testing of nuclear weapons has made the countries of the Pacific rim a social laboratory of the later stages of colonisation and empire and its residue in the years since decolonisation and independence.

Draft manuscript completed

The Centipede’s Chiropodist:

A collection of six moralistic tales for an undefined audience, highlighting some of the values in a rather idiosyncratic manner for an undefined audience.
Other stories in the collection include ‘The Anteater’s Analyst’, ‘The Penguin’s Peccadillo’ and ‘The Walrus’s Washboard.’

Unfinished draft manuscript

Turangawaewae:

Stephen Alderson was a sixth generation New Zealander who had moved to London after graduating in Law and, having obtained a position at Lincoln’s Inn, settled there. Despite enjoying what London had to offer, he remained stridently vocal in his advocacy of New Zealand, especially in its relationship to the Mother Country. And yet when he was given his family manuscripts, including the diaries of his great great grandfather in order to write a family history, he found himself asking questions about where his allegiances lay and about where he belonged. As he wrote the story from meagre records, diaries and jottings, he found disturbing evidence about his ancestors, one that sets out to answer the question of where we belong, and what is our turangawaewae.

Draft completed, but undergoing a re-write.

Writers’ Wives:

The relationship between a writer and his wife (or wives) is often a fraught one. There are numerous examples where acrimonious relationships affected the writings and health of writers or where spouses exhibited the patience of a saint in accommodating the foibles and frolics of husbands caught in the world of the imagination. Some, like Caitlin Thomas, gave as good as they got; other, such as Emma Hardy retreated into their own worlds; and yet others merely acquiesced. In looking at the relationships of the various married couples, one caveat comes through when marrying a writer: do so at your peril.

The book looks at Emma and Florence Hardy, Caitlin Thomas, Nora Joyce, Frieda Lawrence, Georgie Yeats, Catherine Dickens and Sophia Tolstoy amongst others.

A second book on writers’ mistresses awaits.

Proposal only

Sherborne:

Sarah and I have been looking at the feasibility of writing a new travel book on Sherborne, amply illustrated and providing a brief and accessible history of the town, the castles and church, its schools and markets, its wartime experiences and its literary associations as well as its future. The book is aimed at locals as well as visitors and would be intended to help fill a gap in the range of books available for people curious in knowing a little more about the town.

Proposal – research underway

The English Bookshop:

In 2011, on an impulse, we found ourselves the owners of The English Bookshop’ in the medieval town of St Antonin Noble Val. The bookshop had been operating for about twenty years in a four story building that dated back to the 13th century.

The story of refurbishing the shop and first opening for business, of the shop keepers, stall holders and customers, of the town and the solitary business of selling books makes for a compelling story.

Proposal

Beyond Salvation:

In 1942, two sisters, both officers in the Salvation Army, were murdered in the northern Hawkes Bay township of Wairoa, New Zealand. The assailants (and their motives) were never caught. Nick was first aware of the murder when a young boy when he discovered that the house where the killings took place some twenty years before was only two doors away. Later in life, by now a successful journalist in the capital, he returned to write a book about the case only to find that it was not closed, either by the police or in the minds of the residents – nor chillingly, by someone out there who wanted him to leave well enough alone. A mix of fact, faction and fiction, the book uses the evidence available to speculate on what actually happened and why while finding out why some things don’t ever disappear from the memory.

Proposal – some sources collected

A Stone Drops:

When taking his decision, how could Benjamin have anticipated the consequences? He had thought of everything, had been as rational and careful as he could be, but like a stone cast upon a pond, the ripples from his decision spread inexorably outwards, flooding the spaces around and swamping the unsuspecting tenants. As his world unravelled, Benjamin faced with the realisation of what he had started, but too late to stop the destruction of the fragile world that he had so desperately wanted to save above all else. Only then did he realise just how tenuous are the strands that hold us together – and how easily they can be broken.

Proposal

Lines and Crosses:

In looking at the various world hotspots, those territories and regions fuelled today by racial, religious and ethnic tensions, the underlying source of conflict, at least in geographical terms, can often be traced back to the great age of empire building that took place in the late 18th and 19 th centuries. The absorption, division and sharing out of vast tracts of the world’s territories to create a new world map, full of straight
lines and acute angles, constructed with jigsaw complexity had as their raison d’etre the strategic, political and economic appetites of the imperial
powers, led by the greatest empire of all, that of Great Britain. Many of today’s problems can be laid at the feet of the expedient decisions of
politicians enacted through the pen of cartographers in ways that have shaped the modern world.

Book plan / contents only

Caitlin:

When Caitlin Thomas found about Thomas’s affair her anger was savage and direct. Never afraid to confront and deal with Dylan’s meanderings, she resolved this time to teach him a lesson. In doing so, both by attacking his pride and his craft as well as beating him senseless, we learn a great deal about the strange, volatile relationship that was their marriage, how Caitlin loved and hated her husband in turn and the enduring legacy of their years spent together.

Draft written

Pilgrim Soul:

The West Coast of the South Island is a wild and remote land, battered on one side by the Tasman and hemmed in to the east by the Southern Alps. Here, Rupert had built his hut with the purpose of ending his life in this remote and primeval land – but not yet. First, he had a strange tale to unpick and some unfinished family business to attend to. What he didn’t know, however, was that his curiosity would cost him his anonymity, his refuge and later, the thing he most wanted, but had never known.

Proposal

In the Name of Education:

As politicians jostle for position and give their own take on how our children should be educated, we watch the effects of league tables, of targets, of technology and social networking on our children. As childhood implodes, opportunities contract and life becomes more toxic, we should reflect as to whether there is a better way. The central question is always the same: does society in its present form want a free and equal education, available to all? The answer is not what we may expect.

Proposal

Publications:

In The Chair: The Public Life of Sir John Ormond

Emma: West of Western Girl

Florence: Mistress of Max Gate

Mahia: Murmurings of the Sea

Thoughts from the Study

And Another Thing

And What’s More

And Finally