Books read October 2018


Oliver Goldsmith: The Vicar of Wakefield/She Stoops to Conquer, New York,  Harper & Row, Perennial Library, 1965 [1766].

Oliver Goldsmith was born in Ireland, educated at Oxford and travelled throughout Europe before settling down to write in London. He would perhaps have not achieved recognition except for the friendship and patronage of Dr Samuel Johnson. The Vicar of Wakefield is his only novel and can be regarded as a novelistic version of the Biblical Book of Job. Wakefield describes the ministry of a well meaning and devout country vicar and his family whose fortunes take several turns for the worse, finally resulting in total destitution and the imprisonment of the vicar in a very ordinary prison.  The plot which, on his own admission, is full of wild improbabilities, nevertheless makes entertaining, humorous and beguiling reading. The vicar’s sincere but sometimes foolish simplicity is tempered by the author’s presentation of the value of the vicar’s simple faith in the Christian God and human communion.* 

There is something in this novel of the initial despair of the two eldest daughters in Austen’s later Sense and Sensibility.  The steady stream of horrific and unlikely unhappy outcomes followed by the joy of the final chapter compare exactly to the final chapter of Job which describes Job’s rehabilitation after the most horrific hardship.  Goldsmith succeeds in creating a novel which can still raise a smile and a sense of moral uprightness even after 250 years.

At the same time as writing a humorous and engaging moral tale Goldsmith takes the opportunity to expatiate on his favourite issues of the day including politics (chapter 19) in which he defends liberty and the monarchy but opposes the accumulation of wealth to the few;  a minor sub-plot which describes the attempts of his son to make his fortune by various entertaining means, at first in London and then in various parts of northern Europe (chapters 20 and 21); and an essay on the best way to encourage reformation of prisoners in gaol (chapter 26). Goldsmith’s generous and clever good humour refuses to be defeated by a potentially shabby and destructive C18th moral environment and his generous and gentle mode of argument would be welcome today in our C21st lust for entrenched oppositional  hatreds and certainties on Facebook and in the media.  This is a novel totally out of date and fashion but still very readable.  3 stars.

*taken from the Introduction to this edition by R. H. W. Dillard,pxix.

Oliver Goldsmith: She Stoops to Conquer, 1773. [publishing details as above]

Goldsmith was singlehandedly responsible for turning the mood of the English theatre scene from the choice of the somewhat wooden and immoral world of Restoration Comedy and the sanctimonious sentimentality of the London stage in the mid C18th. Goldsmith’s play is simply laugh out loud funny and is still so today and still presented for the joy and amusement of the many. It is a complete farce but in a believable and elegant way which would have made Noel Coward proud.  I really enjoyed reading this play and did laugh out loud!   5 stars.

Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own,  Frogmore, St Albans UK, Triad Panther, 1977 [1929]

Virginia Woolf is one of the twentieth century’s finest authors and this essay is about writing, in particular about women writing. The genesis of the novel was a request for her to give two lectures to the Arts Society at Newnham and Odtaa Colleges at  Girton, UK  in October 1928. The lectures are written in the form of a story or short novel and are written with all the exceptional grace, fluidity, imaginative force, elegance and learning that has marked her substantial works of fiction, literary criticism, memoirs and published letters.

Woolf’s key point about women writing is that before they can write they need both money and a room of their own in which to write.  Written just ten years after women in England were given the right to vote and where women’s colleges at Oxford and Cambridge were hard to find and substantially under- endowed this essay is yet written without anger or to make a particular case.  It simply states the fact that prior to the nineteenth century women did not have money of their own and anything they did earn was their husbands; and secondly that even if they were well off and encouraged by their husbands they did not have a room of their own to write in but had to write in sitting rooms where there were always other folk present, making demands and needing to be spoken to. The first of these barriers (money) she admits is true also of men…men also need money so that they have time to give to the serious business of writing and she cites a detailed article proving this by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch: The Art of Writing. (on page 101).

Woolf cites many other reasons why so few women wrote apart from the above and the fact that “scribbling” was not considered an appropriate thing for women to be doing. These barriers include the fact that writing usually demands a wide, contacts, experiences that were rarely open to women prior to the nineteenth century. She also looks deeply into the “state of mind” of writers..which is hard to determine, but good writing should be free of anger; good writing simply is good writing and is harmed by bitterness or deep regrets of the past or anything else that gets in the way of the finest wisdom and words that humans can put together.

. In establishing the foregoing arguments Woolf manages to include a vast array of female writers in England from Elizabethan times onwards and also finds space to make some useful comments about the relative merits of various male English writers and in particular the atrocious, ignorant and baleful negative comments about women’s writing from several otherwise highly regarded literary critics.

I found this to be a moving and elegantly written piece of writing which left me with several images of beauty and the difficulty faced by the first women “scribblers”  that will be hard to forget.   5 stars.

David Attenborough: Journeys to the Other Side of the World: Further Adventures of a Young Naturalist, London, Hodder & Stoughton/Two Books, 2018 [1981]

I first approached this book with some nervousness thinking it might be a rather dry scientific analysis of a number of obscure creatures and plants from equally obscure places. I was delighted to be immediately enjoying Attenborough’s engagingly urbane, humorous and indeed exciting writing style. Attenborough’s courage, energy and determination captivated me immediately and I found this beautifully photographed and illustrated book difficult to put down.

This book is a follow up to his 2017 Adventures of a Young Naturalist and is an abridgement of three already published Attenborough works: Quest in Paradise (1960 ..a search for birds of Paradise in New Guinea); Zoo Quest to Madagascar (1961) and Quest Under Capricorn (1963..Northern Territory journeys).

The New Guinea material is extraordinary. Even in the 1960s New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland) was largely uncharted.  Attenborough and his intrepid cameraman journeyed where only one or two white explorers and administrators had ever been in search of birds of paradise. The hardships, climate, dangers of all kinds were extreme and the communications severely limited. Apart from anything else it is a story of survival and of powerful interest.

The Madagascar journey was historically and biologically very worthwhile but perhaps the least interesting of the three sections.   The final third of the book detailing 1960s journeys through the Northern Territory is mesmerising, humorous, revealing and challenging. The interaction of white Australia with indigenous ancient Australian culture in the 1960s is thrown into new relief when viewed from an outsider’s perspective.

I think this is a book I will long remember and return to.  5 stars

Greg Sheridan: God is Good For You: A Defence of Christianity in Troubled Times, Sydney, Allen & Unwin, 2018.

Greg Sheridan is a well known Australian media commentator on current affairs and since 1992 has been the Foreign Editor of The Australian newspaper. Sheridan is a committed Roman Catholic and his wife is a Sikh believer and they have three sons who are members of the Sikh community in Australia. He has written six books on Australian/International relationships and issues. This is his first book on religion.  Sheridan has clearly spent a considerable amount of time researching the material for this book and has interviewed in some detail a large number of political and religious figures in the process.

The book is divided into two quite different sections.  Part 1 is a defence of the validity and enduring value of the Christian faith even as it fades away in the West. The book has particular reference to Australian believers but with more than a nod to the Western world in general. Sheridan’s coverage includes an analysis of “the sins of Christians” including ancient scars such as the inquisition and the Crusades as well as the recent uncovering of horrific pedophile scandals. Sheridan writes as a committed Roman Catholic but has clearly researched deeply into many Protestant Christian communities and demonstrates an excellent understanding of their approaches and functioning.

Part 2 consists of a series of interviews with a significant number of politicians who espouse Christian faith from both sides of the political divide and other chapters on outstanding Christian leaders and spokespersons of a wide range of denominations and involvement including Planetshakers, Focolare, Monastics, Campion College and many others. Sheridan also devotes chapters to descriptions of vigorous “signs of life” in many Christian communities, new styles of church and worship  and organisations that are making an impact on Australian society. He closes with some advice to Christian leaders and churches on what needs to be done to reignite Christian faith in Australia.

Sheridan’s very up to date examples, his well known pithy and sharp style, his sensitive assessments of individuals and shades of difference in religious beliefs, his courage in fronting some formidable political leaders and his sympathetic attempts to get inside the real thinking of individuals about a topic which is seldom discussed in public make this book hard to put down. This book is half way between  serious research and serious investigative journalism. Insiders will quibble at some of his analyses and outsiders might think he spends too much time on some issues.  In my view he has sharply hit on just the right tone.

If Australian Christians don’t accept that their time in the sun is over, that their once privileged position no longer counts in Australian society, that in fact they are facing and will face increasing hostility and abuse for their views and that if they don’t regroup and reignite they will face oblivion, then it will not be Sheridan’s fault. He has sounded a bugle call for what needs to be done and given some fine examples. Ordinary Christians will sense a real challenge and excitement here. Church leaders and key operators should take careful note and read it twice. Truly a clarion call to the Australian church…Wake up ..get going…be alive and be faithful…don’t lie down and don’t water down. This is not the work of a professional theologian or of an ordained priest…it is the carefully delineated thoughtfulness of a highly committed Christian thinker and an at times brutally even-handed but also  highly competent  and sympathetic Australian journalist.  5 stars.

Andrew Moody: The Will of Him Who Sent Me: An Exploration of Responsive Intra-Trinitarian Willing, Bletchley, Milton Keynes UK, Paternoster, 2016.

Coleridge, in his once very popular Aids to Reflection (1825) wrote: …I have not entered on the Doctrine of the Trinity….[this doctrine] demands a power and persistency of Abstraction, and a previous discipline in the highest forms of human thought… (In Aphorism 96). I note also the Psalmist in Ps 131:1b ..I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me….

I should have taken both pieces of advice to heart before starting on Andrew Moody’s extraordinary  account of his Doctoral thesis which seeks to search out the possibility of an inter-trinitarian response from the Son to the Father within the one will of God who is Father, Son and Spirit. Needless to say this book is a difficult read even for someone well versed in theology. Three reasons for this difficulty stand out immediately, one practical and the other two inevitable.

On the practical side there are some problems with the layout printing of the book as the extensive footnotes often extend beyond the page of their notation requiring much turning forward and back and the footnotes can’t be ignored because much of the “juice” of the argument is contained within them. In addition there are numerous proofing errors and some web-references especially have been distorted by a copying process which makes them difficult to read.

The inevitable further  difficulties are first, the specialised language especially with terms emerging from analytical philosophy.  Immediately the reader is confronted with words like causal taxis, perichoresis, dyothelitic and monothelitic theology, aseity, innascibility, condescent, ectypal, supralapsarianism, apophatic,  decretive and so on which one hasn’t used since third year systematic theology research if even then.  Secondly of course is the Latin! I have good Biblical Greek but never studied Latin. The first chapter of this discussion focussing first on the “Pro-Nicene Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus), and followed by the magisterial work of Augustine and the Mediaeval Western synthesis after Augustine in chapter three inevitably involves extensive use of Latin sentences not all of which are easily translateable and to a non-Latin student this is a very tough beginning.

With all of these precautionary warnings this book is yet a vigorous and thought provoking read. Moody bravely jumps into the fray of tensions between the competing ideas of the subordination of the Son to a Monarchic  (and masculine) Father  verses a theology of total equality of the three persons of the Trinity, not least in lively disputation with his former teacher Kevin Giles amongst many others. After a while the reader becomes genuinely interested and excited by the whole notion of “ responsive intra-trinitarian willing” (RITW), which seems at first  an obscure central argument for a substantial book. Inevitably also these arguments tie in with current debates within evangelical circles between complementary and egalitarian models of Christian ministry. Moody steers a bravely fair and moderate path between these attached and divisive issues pointing out with clarity the strengths, weaknesses and challenges on both sides.

Another exciting part of the book for me is Moody’s helpful exploration into the current revival of Orthodox approaches to the mystery of the Trinity especially in the work of George Palamos and in addition the revival of Hegelian dialectic in various ways in Moltmann, Pannenburg and Robert Jenson, and in addition the revival of Christian Neoplatonic ideas in the work of Urs von Balthasar and David Bentley Hart, with even a glance at the “radical orthodoxy” of John Milbank. A strength of this book is the vast array of primary and secondary resources and books referred to. Having all this material together in one place is a substantial achievement and very helpful for anyone wishing to do further work on Trinitarian studies.

In the end for me, with my no doubt  too simple view of things,  there seems to be no realistic way to define finally the notion of the Trinity in Christian thought. Some approaches such as Arianism and tri -theism are definitely out; but when it comes to further delineation every writer, no matter how careful, in prosecuting their case, and trying to find analogies, will inevitably move at times towards either  modalism or put too much stress on the individuality of the “persons” within the Trinity.  The reasons I draw this conclusion are threefold. (i) the complex   philosophical terms inevitably required to define the indefinable are themselves subject to varying interpretation; (ii) The sheer extraordinariness of the incarnation of the divine Son of God as the man Jesus of Nazareth puts almost impossible stress on the notion of divine willing since Jesus has both a human and a divine will and as Moody shows some writers arbitrarily use this fact to decide that some Biblical events relate to the Son’s human will and some to his divine will and do so inconsistently (iii) any attempt to adequately define the reality and nature of “God” in any religious faith is doomed to inadequacy because in the end there is inevitably mystery here beyond human understanding.

This book is a tribute to Moody’s amazingly elastic and deeply penetrating mind and his grasp of many of the threads which make up current theological discourse. If you are looking for a simple and straightforward guide to the theology of the Trinity don’t start this book. If you seek a genuine exploration of the power and purpose of the trinitarian revelation of God to mankind according to the Church’s finest thought leaders throughout the last 1500 years then this book is an excellent place to start. It will set your mind to exploding in five directions at once. It has for me!  Five stars!


Navigating around naturally nature-filled New Zealand  23 Sept – 6 October 2018

Ann at SilverleavesWhy do we have to go to New Zealand? It’s so comfortable here on Phillip Island!

23 September: 5.30am start to drive 2 hours to Tullamarine airport for a 3.5 hour Qantas flight in a very long, narrow and tight tin can Boeing 737 packed to the gunwales. Landing in Wellington and  escaping through customs,  we renegotiated a hire car to include an incar sat nav (blue Ford Mondeo wagon with fabulous turning circle) and found our way through pre daylight-saving darkness  to the Grand Chancellor hotel Wellington where our room wasn’t really all that grand and not much was happening on Sunday evening!  Found some yummy Chinese food next door and happy to have arrived safely.  Note to future self drivers hiring a car in NZ …don’t go into detail about your itinerary.  Hire companies don’t like you taking your hire car across Cook Strait on the car-ferry! They will try to persuade you to change to a different vehicle on the other side which can by annoying. We were very pleased to have our Mondeo for the whole two weeks and two ferry crossings.


NZ Mondeo

24 September;  Walked our feet off all day in wonderful Wellington with cool sunny weather (which remained with us for two whole weeks!). Our first stop after the tourist centre for some up to date free maps was Te Papa, the People’s Museum which is an exceptional exhibition and includes an award winning ANZAC historical recreation using real N Z heroes and was certainly the most moving and powerful recreation of Gallipoli I have ever experienced..deeply emotionally involving.  In addition the Maori history, artifacts and  guided tour were all sensational especially an original and complete early  thatched  meeting house celebrated on a very popular 1935 2d orange stamp.


View of Wellington Harbour from the top floor of Te Papa, the Museum of the People.

NZ Te Papa Museum Wellington.jpg

Amazing Te Papa Museum (Museum of the People) in Wellington  (tour guides fantastic ..need a good 2 hours plus here)

NZ"The Beehive" Wellington's Parliamentary building.jpg

“The Beehive”  ..New Zealand’s impressive Parliamentary Buildings in Wellington.

Next stop was the very short cable car ride to the top of the hill overlooking Wellington and a very steep but beautiful walk around the Botanic Gardens. NZ in Spring is an amazing mix of new leaf deciduous trees (larches and poplars especially contrasting with evergreen pines), pink and white blossom everywhere and exceptional rhododendrons and camellias in full bloom as well as the native yellow gorse flowering all over the hillsides and because their Spring is later than ours, daffodils, jonquils and tulips  everywhere also.NZ Wellington cable car.jpg

Finally we walked to the other end of town to one of  the largest wooden Gothic cathedrals in the world, Old St Paul’s Cathedral, now maintained by Government support and  not far away from the brand new cathedral on the hill, close to the Beehive Parliament building and  the gracious law school library. The new cathedral is also impressive and makes a remarkable contrast to the small wooden cathedral of old. We certainly used up some shoe leather in Wellington. It is a vibrant, friendly and creative city.

NZ Wellington Anglican Cathedral.jpg

Wellington’s “new” Anglican Cathedral replacing “Old St Paul’s”..a remarkable wooden Gothic cathedral now maintained as a working church with Government support.

"Old St Paul's" in Wellington.jpg

“Old St Paul’s”  Constructed in 1866 and one of the finest examples of wooden Gothic Revival architecture in the world. Still retained as a place of worship although no longer Wellington’s Anglican cathedral

Dinner at the Grand Chancellor was casual and we were overwhelmed by the friendship of locals who overheard our complex plans and gave us very good realistic advice and suggestions which were very helpful indeed.

25 September:  We headed north from Wellington and after an initial fight with the SatNav about finding a voice as well as the map for directions (which was eventually solved by a friendly Ford dealer in Lower Hutt (it took him 10 minutes..I didn’t feel completely stupid!) and commenced our driving tour. We drove first  cross-country from Lower Hutt through haunted hills and deep forest and very curly roads to the West coast of the North Island and the seriously blue/turqoise ocean of the Southern Pacific …what a sight as you turn a corner from the forest and find a turquoise ocean.

NZ North Island southern ocean.jpg We moved on to the small town of Otaki. Why I hear you ask? Because in Otaki is J R Mowbrays Collectables Ltd, NZ’s and one of the world’s largest philatelic dealers. I have been bidding online in their auctions for many years and it was a delight to meet John Mowbray himself and his staff and see the whole very large set up in action.


NZ Richard at Mowbrays Stamp Dealers Head office in Otika

Richard at Mowbray Collectables  Stamp Dealers in Otaki where he met John Mowbray, the founder,  in person.

Continuing north we stopped in at a very helpful “possum and merino” clothing outlet and succumbed to several of their beautifully created knitted garments. Hitting the highway again we finished up at Lake Taupo.. NZ’s largest lake and a very popular holiday spot.

NZLake Taupo North Island.jpg

Lake Taupo..huge lake; very pleasant town with two impressive art galleries.We had a little cottage to ourselves here for two nights and enjoyed the relaxed vibe and friendly environment of the town. Needless to say the scenery en route whether ocean, mountain pass or forest was always impressive.

26 September:  From our base in Lake Taupo we journeyed north through stunning snow capped mountains and plateaux to Rotorua and its powerful Wai-O-Tapu geyser and many other geysers besides in the Te Puia  geo-thermal park and artistic school. Students from all over NZ come here to create exceptional works of art in the Maori tradition and work with wood, fabric, steel, precious stones, musical instruments. and just about every other medium to produce works of art of exceptional quality.  As well as the bubbling mud-pools and excitable geysers we were able to catch a glimpse of our first real kiwi . a small black flightless nocturnal  bird which is the NZ’s national icon also recognized on an equally popular 1935 1d red NZ stamp. Te Puia has a special “nocturnal reversal house” which enables guests to see a kiwi in action although I have to say it was still pretty dark and it was just a glimpse of a very shy critter indeed!  Te Puia was a fabulous experience and our Maori guide was impressive.


NZ Rotorua geyser

Wai-O- Tapu  “going off” at Roturoa!

We returned the same day  to our Lake Taupo cottage

27 September:  From Lake Taupo this time we drove south east to the seaside resort of Napier in the Hawkes Bay region with our first sight of a black stony surf beach…it takes a while to get used to the idea.  In 1931 a devastating magnitude 7.8 earthquake destroyed the area, killing 256 people and injuring thousands. The town of Napier was destroyed and when it was rebuilt it was the height of the Art Deco era.  The centre of town has retained and indeed celebrated these amazing shop fronts and major buildings and even many new buildings and homes are created in this style. It is a very stylish town but black stony surf?? I don’t think so!

NZ Napier black stone surf beach

What do you think?

Our trip back to Wellington had to be rerouted because of landslips in the Thompson Pass area but whichever way you travel through the mountains back to Wellington from Hawkes Bay area the driving is challenging, beautiful and needs care.  One interesting small town on the way back was Woodville which has two very impressive collectibles shops in one of which Richard found a treasure trove of early Dinky Toys and Micro Model cars.. a collector’s heaven.   We stayed that night back in Wellington at the St Paul’s apartments which were undergoing refurbishment so we had a good deal, but no outside view!

28 September:  After a slow start relaxing and reading we drove to the Inter-Islander port, one of two major ferry companies taking vehicles across Cook Strait. On both of our crossings we enjoyed good weather and calm seas. The journey takes about four hours and there is plenty to do on board including excellent dining facilities, films and many places to view the scenery or for children to be involved in activities. Our destination was the seaside village of Picton which has a glorious harbour at the head of Charlotte Sound and is again surrounded by hills. The one flaw of the Mondeo is that the vibration of the ferry upsets its burglar alarm. On both crossings I was called up to go down to the hold and unlock the car to stop the alarm!


NZ Cook Strait Car Ferry

Picton, at the head of Queen Charlotte Sound is one NZ’s most picturesque towns with many inviting galleries and restaurants and even a useful second hand bookshop! It has its own little Sydney Harbour Bridge which is still quite a steep climb!

NZ Picton harbour)

Picton Harbour looking out over Queen Charlotte Sound. Gorgeous town for just sitting and relaxing!

29 September:  We made an early start from Picton on Highway 1 to Christchurch. This is one of the most spectacular journeys anywhere in the world by car or by train.  But in 2016 the massive Kaikoura earthquake, magnitude 7.8 destroyed large sections of both the highway and the railway and produced structural damage as far away as Wellington as well as two major tsunamis. Fortunately the area at the epicentre of the Kaikoura earthquake is not heavily settled and only two deaths were attributed to this massive earthquake. The highway has only reopened this year and there are still many one lane only hold ups. The railway has not yet reopened. In spite of the many pauses this journey is one for the ages.  Massive surf beaches and sea-scapes, spectacular snow clad mountains, vast tracts of forest and beautifully manicured vineyards and orchards especially in the Marlborough region.  The “wow” factor is very much present on this journey.

In spite of hold ups we managed to make our Christchurch destination in good time to walk the 20 minute journey to the centre of the city. Christchurch is the second largest city in NZ and here once again we came face to face with yet another seismic catastrophe. In 2010 a magnitude 7.2 earthquake weakened the structure of many Christchurch buildings and in 2011 a 6.2 magnitude earthquake closer to the centre of Christchurch caused massive damage right in the middle of the city. The quake killed 185 people and turned the centre of the city into molten lava.  The magnificent brick Gothic Anglican Cathedral was severely damaged, many thought irreparably,  but in 2017 a decision was taken to rebuild the cathedral in its traditional Gothic style. In the meantime Anglicans have been worshipping in a nearby “Cardboard cathedral” which has its own unique beauty and simplicity (and many would wish it would remain the cathedral).


NZ Christchurch cathedral damage





NZ Christchurch Cathedral 2018A terrible sight but nothing compared with the trauma of the death of 185 people and the complete destruction and disruption of the business and transport centre of the city! Cathedrals can be rebuilt but the impact of seismic savagery will last for genderations in this city.NZ Christchurch Cardboard Cathedral

The temporary “Cardboard Cathedral” in Christchurch.  The interior ceiling is indeed made out of reinforced cardboard!


We wandered through several of Christchurch’s glorious parks and gardens ( there are over 90 in Christchurch) Christchurch is the second largest NZ city after Auckland and has its own style, not only its array of botanic gardens but also its old style trams in its centre (including a shopping mall with a tram running through its centre); a casino and some very funky restaurants (including an American style Route 66 eatery with wonderful fifties music where we had dinner.


NZ Christchurch USA Route 66 Cafe It is a city which seems to breathe the beauty and grandeur of New Zealand alongside its vulnerabilty and the warnings inside the various motel rooms we occupied were salutary. We arrived back in our motel room in time to catch the exceptionally tense last quarter of the AFL Grand Final between Collilngwood and West Coast and had to commiserate with the many Magpie supporters in our extended family. I have to say for Aussies one of the amazing things about NZ newspapers is the complete absence of any reference at all to AFL issues.

30 September.  From Christchurch we took another 300km+ drive to the very popular holiday destination of Wanaka just 40 minutes by car north of Queenstown. The drive from Christchurch was memorable once again with spectacular scenery including snow clad mountains, forest and agriculture, rivers,  attractive small communities and very well built roads. It is ridiculous how frequently we would turn a corner and let out an involuntary “wow” at the rich vistas  laid out before us.  We arrived in good time at Wanaka and found a very useful motel/park with very practical laundry facilities enabling us to catch up on some clothes washing. Like Taupo, Wanaka sits on a beautiful elongated lake and our weather here was warm and dreamy.  Here we made use of the local supermarket and cooked our own dinner for two evenings. Wanaka is a seriously relaxing place.

1 October .  From Wanaka we celebrated NZ’s commencement of daylight saving with an amazing “over the mountain” drive to Queenstown past the Cardrona Hotel, one of only two remnant buildings from the goldrush in the area in the 1860s.  The climb to the top past Cardrona needed careful attention (as did the climb down into Queenstown) but the view from the top was well worth the effort. We felt on top of the world.


NZ view from Cardrona pass peak

Queenstown once again boasts spectacular scenery with huge mountains on three sides and a smooth flowing quiet river on the edge of a seriously bustling town. Traffic here was excitable and the city radiates youthful energy with adventures of every type on offer in many places.  We enjoyed the vibe of Queenstown but were happy to retreat to Wanaka via the longer and flatter route through rich fruit growing areas (where yummy home made ice cream was a roadside treat.)


NZ Queenstown

Gloriously situated Queenstown surrounded on all sides by protective mountains with a beautiful river to sit and watch a busy town go by.

2 October.  We were sad to leave Wanaka but also were looking forward to our  300+km drive towards the South Island West Coast through some of its highest mountains including Mt Cook to the West Coast and once again were treated to quite inspiring landscapes and ever-changing vistas. After the forest came the spectacular Southern ocean with nothing between us and Antarctica. One highlight of this journey was lunch at the rather strange Hard Antler Bar and Restaurant in Haase. This wild west establishment had a distinctly “take it or leave it” style and the ceiling was literally covered with the antlers of vast numbers of deer that are hunted in the area (as an introduced pest).  [It is interesting to go online and see the warfare between antler bars all around the world and the attention they get from vegetarian and vegan protestors].


NZ Hard Antler Bar and Cafe Haase

Huntin’ and shootin’ Hard Antler bar and restaurant..not to everyone’s taste but we found the food was good!

Our goal was the Franz Josef glacier and appropriately it has produced its own town! With daylight saving help we arrived in time to walk the approximately 2km up and down walk into the glacier past a series of fine silvery waterfalls. Due to safety precautions it is no longer possible to actually set foot on the glacier without reverting to a helicopter and guide landing but it was exciting to be within a stone’s throw and see in reality a geomorphological feature I recall studying so carefully in the Melbourne University Geography department in the 1960s!  An additional highlight was the outstanding food provided by the chef at the Alice May restaurant in the village of Franz Josef Glacier.  This was a meal to be long remembered and a quite unexpected treat.


NZ Franz Josef glacier

Retreating Franz Josef glacierNZ North Island waterfall

Impressive “trident” waterfall  on the walk into Franz Josef glacier

3 October.  Our West coast journey continued with another dazzling surf, forest and mountain 300+km drive to the sleepy town of Westport. Our lunchtime stop this time was quite a contrast to the “outback” town of Haase. We were treated to the far more civilised and prosperous “greenstone and gold” town of Hokitika, made famous in recent years  by the widely book club read and Man Booker prize winning 1860s gold rush novel Luminaries, the second novel by Eleanor Catton. Hokitika is a stylish town with its own art deco cinema whose restaurant sells  seriously good meat pies of great variety and in addition some outstanding pastries.  Hokitika also has at least four major greenstone shops  (NZ jade whose sale is controlled by the Maori population) and in addition  The Gold Room, ; run by an outstanding jeweller this retail outlet is  a quite remarkable shop full of historical material about the gold rush days but also impressive for its high quality gold workmanship.

I have to say after all these highlights that the surfing town of Westport was somewhat of a letdown but nevertheless we had a comfortable motel with an attractive garden setting and in any case a good rest was needed.

4 October.  Our final South island journey was yet another 300km+ journey back to the Picton ferry through spectacular mountain gorge scenery, quiet little towns and finally the fertile Marlborough plains, source of so much of the sauvignon blanc and pinot gris downed in quantities by Australian quaffers. A particular highlight was the delightful rural town of Murchison which currently is lucky to have a gold star French pastry chef and his wife who have created a quality of coffee and cake which I believe it would be hard to match anywhere. Quite remarkable! How long can he last in this quiet little town?

In Blenheim near Picton we discovered the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre and the Omaka Classic Car display centre.  Local flying enthusiasts commenced this collection of classic aeroplanes and the chairman of the Centre is extraordinary Film Director and entrepreneur Sir Peter Jackson of the Lord Of the Rings films fame who is also the creator the impressive Wellington War Memorial.  The Omaka Classic Car collection of 140 vehicles is personally owned by Blenheim dentist and business man Ron Stewart and includes about 8 Jaguars, 3 impressive Daimlers, an Austin A105 in immaculate condition, many Holdens and Fords and a host of other now quite rare vehicles including a Super Shadow Rolls Royce. (But no Triumph Mayflower!]

austin A105

Immaculate Austin A105 and Wolseley 16/60 (Omaka Classic Cars

Rolls Royce Silver Shadow

One of 9 Jaguars in Ron Stewarts Omaka Classic Collection


recreated C type Jaguar – very few originals anywhere in the world

After finally extracting myself from the Car Display we returned to the same amazing motel in Picton and enjoyed this stunningly calm and peacefully beautiful fishing village at the head of Charlotte Sound.

sad to leave Picton

5 October.    We mooched around Picton for the first half of this day enjoying the scenery, the Jewellery shops, the second hand bookshop and just the peace and quiet with very little driving!  In the afternoon we rejoined the InterIslander ferry and passed through gorgeous Queen Charlotte Sound back to the North Island.  Our motel on this evening was in trendy yuppy Lower Hutt and we truly enjoyed the wonderful dinner provided by the very crowded Buddha Stix restaurant.


5 October.  Our final day in NZ  was spent In Wellington at the Weta Conceptual Design and Manufacturing Workshop responsible for the amazing Peter Jackson visual characterisations which brought The Lord of the Rings to the screen as well as much of the visual wonder  of James Cameron’s Avatar movies. In addition Weta was also the company that animated the original UK produced Thunderbirds Are Go puppet tv programs into a new six dvd series. This guided tour workshop is simply an amazing place and the company maintains a huge staff employed in a variety of roles.  A highlight of this visit was lunch at The Larder, 500 metres up the hill from the Studio with the most sensational menu and food.

NZ Weta Design Studio troll from Tolkien

Richard outside the Weta Design Studio with a model of a Tolkienian troll

In the afternoon we sadly bade farewell to our faithful Mondeo and enjoyed the hospitality of the Wellington airport as we awaited our return flight to Melbourne. New Zealand had stolen our hearts…a peaceful, stunningly beautiful and energetic place. We are glad we went!