Friday, September 30, 2011


Just a few minutes drive from my home is the Gardens shopping centre - so called for its proximity to Dunedin's beautiful Botanic Gardens. Amongst the usual shops we are fortunate to have not one, but two secondhand bookstores.

On a recent trip I came across these two treasures:


From fox hunting to whist this book describes in detail the facts of daily life in 19th century England. Whilst Daniel Pool wrote this to help make the reading of 19th century books easier, for me it is an open window into the lives of the people who often frequent my stories and novels.

There are chapters on subjects such as Currency, Etiquette, Transport, Clothing and Disease. Then at the back there is a comprehensive glossary, covering words like reticule, tiffin, pelerine and cotillion.

It will sit comfortably on my bookshelf next to Ian Mortimer's 'The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England' and Candy Moulton's 'The Writer's Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West'.


This fascinating book is filled with ballads about old time New Zealanders. There's ballads featuring gold diggers, swaggies, shearers, drovers and even sailors, all written by Joe Charles. Before each song is a short history or explanation and a black line drawing.

I'm particularly drawn to his ballads, 'Somebody's Darling', 'Gentle Annie' and 'Roaring Meg', well known legends from Central Otago.

Here's a few lines from 'Roaring Meg.'

... No butter-milk maid with shy girlish ways,
    But a bull-busting barmaid of the gold-digging days,
    Who could handle a team and a full bullock yoke,
    A girl you could talk to and share a good joke.
    Her voice was as clear as a chime of brass bells,
    And the mountains fair rang with her bullock-driving yells.
    Her eyes were bright blue, a-roving and bold
    And her heart was as true as a nugget of gold.
    A bull-whacking barmaid - an Irish colleen-
    Was wild Roaring Meg, the gold-digger's queen! ...

There's plenty of fodder in these pages for my fertile imagination! I'm sure they will inspire many a story.

And on a final note, this is my 100th blog post!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Having just got back into the swing of blogging again, I came down with shingles. (Check out my last post.) Now one week and one day later, I'm back again.

Yesterday I ventured out, feeling much better, but still not 100%. And what a surprise was in store for me!
Trees that were bare and wintry a week ago are covered with green buds, pink and white blossom abounds, and daffodils have raised their bright and sunny heads.

Daylight saving started in the weekend and I'm enjoying the extra light at the end of the day. When it was autumn I know I said it was my favourite season, but spring comes a close second. It's the promise of new things, new life. Lambs bleating in the farm land behind us and the birds acting 'twitterpated'. (That's a word stolen from Disney's Bambi movie.)I like the bluer skies and the sunnier days of spring, but appreciate the cool breeze.

Last night was the monthly meeting of Mad Scribblers, which is the critique group I belong to. Six like- minds getting together to discuss our latest scribblings. I took along another chapter of the rewritten Blackbird and was pleased with the mostly favourable feedback. It's not perfect (of course) but it seems I'm on the right track.

Now, for the next two weeks it's back to the short story I'm writing for a competition. All going well, you will be hearing from in the next day or two.

Wish me luck!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011



1   [shing-guhl]  Show IPA noun, verb, -gled, -gling.
a thin piece of wood, slate, metal, asbestos, or the like,usually oblong, laid in overlapping rows to cover the roofs and walls of buildings.

Now in New Zealand we would call these shingles, tiles and mostly they would be made of terra cotta.  Although our older Victorian buildings have slate roofs. Our little church, which is well over 100 years old, has a slate roof; several tiles fell off with the Christchurch earthquake.

My favourite type of roof is tin. Good old corrugated iron. I love the sound of rain as it plunks down on it, or the scuttling of a possum as it races across. Almost every house I've ever lived in has had a tin roof. So when I write, my characters invariably live under one. Which works for 19th century New Zealand and the American West. In England there might be a thatched roof, or in Scandinavia a turf roof with a full 'head' of grass. I wonder what it would be like to live under one of those?

However, today is not about the roofing definition of shingles. It's about the following:


  [shing-guhlz]  Show IPA
noun used with a singular or plural verb Pathology .
a disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus, especially by reactivated virus in an older person, characterized by skin eruptions and pain along the course of involved sensory nerves.

As I write this, I am sitting up in bed, feeling sore and miserable.  I want to work on my short story, the next chapter of my novel, or critique a chapter for a friend. Instead, I think I will read, play some silly Face Book games and snooze a little too.

Oh, and thanks to for the definitions.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


This afternoon I had a pleasant trip into town with a friend. We went to the movies and watched The Help, then chatted over coffee at the newly refurbished cafe - Kitsch.

I recently read Kathryn Stockett's The Help and thoroughly enjoyed it. But sometimes when you go on to watch the movie it's disappointing. I'm pleased to be able to tell you, that wasn't the case with this movie.  Yes, they changed a few things so it fitted a movie format, but nothing was lost in the telling of the story. My friend and I laughed and cried and left the theatre feeling like we could watch it all over again.

Driving through town was an interesting experience too. The city is buzzing with Rugby fever. Flags flying everywhere and a general festive air. So many visitors, a good portion of them wearing the red and white of English supporters. Interesting that the English strip is all black now, but that's another matter all together!

Have you been following the World Cup and if you have what team do you support? Being a Kiwi it's the All Blacks for me, although I'm not a serious fan by any means.

At the Kitsch cafe the fire was roaring and my favourite 60's song - Eleanor by the Turtles - welcomed us. As the name suggests this cafe is devoted to all things kitsch. Formica table tops and 60's decorations everywhere. Models of Thunderbirds, pictures of The Beatles, LP records and the list goes on. If you live in Dunedin, or you come visiting, do check them out. I can tell you their caramel slice is divine.

Whatever you chose to do this weekend, enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


It's been a long time since I've blogged. There's no real reason. I haven't been sick, and I haven't been extra busy. It's just the way it is. I have a blogging friend who coined a relevant phrase: "blog tired".  It fits the bill.

But here I am back again, refreshed after my blog holiday and encouraged by a new follower in the midst of my desertion. Welcome to Dals.

Writing wise I have put the first two chapters together on my rewrite of Blackbird and had them critiqued by my fellow Mad Scribblers. Still lots of work to do, so I've rolled up my sleeves in grim determination. This story will be whipped into shape!

Also I've been playing around with a different genre for an upcoming competition that the local writers group is running. We have to write speculative fiction and I have chosen something completely different than my usual historical settings. I was about to write a few lines describing the story, but as the judge sometimes reads my blog I'll have to keep Mum. All will be divulged in November!

NaNoWriMo will be all go in November. Well I haven't heard anything about it yet, but I assume it's business as usual. Have you any plans for taking part? I'd love to hear about it. I'm toying with the possibility of writing something completely new, or maybe resurrecting the NZ story I started at the beginning of the year.

My oldest son has been back from his European tour for a few weeks now. He's come back older and wiser and I know all that fundraising was worth the effort. To make up for my absence of late, I'll spoil you with some of his wonderful photos.

This is St Francis of Assissi, Italy

This is a statue of Mary and Jesus at Le Puy in France

A street in Le Puy, France. A bit much light, but I love the narrow street, the cobblestones and the old buildings.

In the grounds of the Palace of Versailles
Louis XIV  The Sun King, Versailles
Snapped somewhere in London. St. Georges dragon, perhaps.