Get The Look: Natural Summer Glow

When it comes to make-up, many of us tend to pare down our routine in the summer. Enjoy this natural, easy and pretty make-up look.

Start with a cleanser and hydrating spray so you have a clean and fresh canvas to work on. Apply serum, moisturiser and a sunscreen for that poolside lounging. For evening cocktails, add a highlighting liquid to your décolletage, arms and legs.

Using a couple of drops of serum primer on the back of your hand, work in a little Aleph concealer/foundation so it becomes dewy and sheer, perfect for this summer look. Set through the T-zone and under eyes with the Aleph translucent powder, allowing the high points to appear dewy and fresh.

Dab a little Aleph cheek/lip tint in Ascend onto your cheeks and pat into your skin with your fingertips to create a “glow from within”. Add a touch of Aleph Radiance Moon to the same area to create a dewy sheen.

Apply Aleph eye pigment over the lid with a flat brush and blend out with your fingertip and under the outer corner of the eye. Then apply Aleph Radiance Sun through the centre of the lid. Curl lashes and add mascara using a tubular waterproof mascara for those hot summer days.

Keep brows minimal by using a styling wax to create a soft no-fuss brushed-up feel and to help keep in place all day.

Use your favourite shade to add just a hint of colour so as not to look overdone. Apply with a fingertip. I used two shades from Aleph called Ascend (peachy coral) and Grounded (soft nude).

Finish with a setting spray to keep your skin feeling hydrated. I used Hourglass Veil Soft Focus Setting Spray which is lightweight, hydrating and sets make-up for 24 hours.

What You Will Need

Mecca Cosmetica
To Save Face SPF50+ Brightening Sun Serum

To Save Face SPF50+ Brightening Sun Serum.
Meca Cosmetica $53

Les Beiges Foundation

Les Beiges Foundation

Aleph Beauty
Highlighting Fluid Foundation/ Concealer

Highlighting Fluid Foundation/ Concealer

Aleph Beauty
Cheek/Lip Tint in Ascend

Cheek/Lip Tint in Ascend

Aleph Beauty
Cheek/Lip Tint in Grounded

Cheek/Lip Tint in Grounded

Aleph Beauty
Radiance Highlighter in Moon

Radiance Highlighter in Moon

Aleph Beauty
Eye Pigment in Meteorite

Eye Pigment in Meteorite

Mco Waterproof Full Lash Mascara

Mco Waterproof Full Lash Mascara

Anastasia Beverly Hills
Brow Freeze

Brow Freeze

Veil Soft Focus Setting Spray

Veil Soft Focus Setting Spray

Your Virtual Kaikōura Tour Guide

As the late great George Michael once said, “Turn a different corner and we never would have met’,” which is exactly how I feel about Kaikoura.

How To Get Here

The best way by far to arrive in Kaikoura is by train. The Coastal Pacific goes between Picton and Christchurch, sadly only three days a week now. But when you arrive at the Whale Way Station (cracks me up every time), you’re right on the beach. Otherwise it’s a drive from the closest airport, Blenheim, or Christchurch, or get the ferry to Picton from Wellington.  

How to pronounce “Kaikōura”

It’s not Kai-kura or Kai-cawra, it’s Kaikōura – just the way it’s spelled with a long “o” which is what the “ō” means.  Although as Brett Cowan says: “Hey, I’m not about to correct anyone – although the local primary school kids might correct me!”

The corner in question is under the rail bridge on your left if you’re driving State Highway 1 south from Picton and for years I hurtled past it on my way to or from other places.

Until a pal visiting from England (remember when that happened?) came to stay, regaling me with stories from her Kaikōura stopover.

“And then the bus driver said, ‘Climb aboard, my little mermaids’,” she laughed. “Me and my 86-year-old cousin in wetsuits after swimming with the dolphins! Can you imagine?”

Swimming with dolphins? Yes, I had imagined it. Many times. I just didn’t know you could do it in Kaikōura.

But turn that different corner off the highway and it’s a whole new world. First there’s the compact main street with its shops and cafés and council building shaped like a cray pot. 

Follow the road past the curving beach and stick with it for a few minutes as you pass a historic pink cottage, the remnants of old whaling stations and finally come to a car park overlooking a seal colony at the tip of the Kaikōura peninsula. Yes, it’s a peninsula. I mean, who knew?

Not me, until 2017 when I made my first dedicated trip to this precious gem of a coastal town (population 2,400) and discovered that Māori legend has Maui using the peninsula as a foothold to brace himself as he pulled the North Island out of the ocean. 

So without Kaikōura, Auckland could be just another suburb of Hobart. In which case, it’s a big old ngā mihi, Maui. Or kā mihi as they say down here.

On that first trip, I quickly found myself doing my own unlikely mermaid impression with Dolphin Encounter. And boy, did we encounter dolphins. Not one or two, or a dozen, but hundreds. I’d been reluctant for aesthetic reasons to don a wetsuit but I could not get into the water quickly enough to swim with these magnificent creatures. At one point I looked down, making the recommended nonsense noises through my snorkel, and there were seven of them circling playfully in layers below me.

Naturally, I cried. Misty mask aside, who wouldn’t? It remains one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. And I went back last year and had it all over again.

But 2020’s been a different beast and, worried about how this beautiful place was faring without all those lovely international dollars (thank you COVID), back I went.

“Yes, we’ve taken a hit,” says Lisa Bond who’s been with iconic tourism business Whale Watch for 25 years. “But people love this place and we’re actually doing okay with domestic.” 

Yes, the Kiwis are coming. 

Well, we can’t go anywhere else but even so, where else can you go where you stand on an empty beach with waves lapping at your ankles and snow-capped mountains so close it feels like you could reach out and scoop the icing off the top of them with your finger?

“That’s exactly what I was just saying to my wife,” said one young Wellington father of two whom I met outside BeeBox Café where I had just decided against buying a cheese scone because it was gluten-free and I’m not. 

It was this Wellingtonian family’s first time in Kaikōura and he was amazed. “I had no idea. I guess you have to come here to really appreciate it.” 

Dan Stevenson from South Pacific Helicopters, which offers fixed wing and helicopter fights for whale watching and sightseeing, says the Kiwis are doing more than just opening their wallets. “Well, they get my weird jokes,” he says. “But also, if they can’t do something right now, they might come back and do it next time.”

The optimism in this town seriously warms the cockles. Dan says the pandemic’s actually given him precious time to think about how to do things differently and Lisa’s the same. She started as a guide at Whale Watch, then became a boat captain and is now marketing manager – but “post Covid we’ve all had to wear many hats, go back to doing whatever. And I think we appreciate each other a lot more now.”

But enough standing around chatting with the locals (although that’s one of my favourite things to do), it’s time to do some actual Whale Watch-ing.

Kaikōura’s sperm whales are not migratory but permanent residents and half an hour out of the marina, we spot Zeus, who gives us the pleasure of his company on the surface of the water, blowing his spray, for a good 20 minutes before rewarding us with an elegant flick of his tail – and he’s gone. 

On the way back to shore, fur seals dived [subs: dove?] gracefully in and out of the water – porpoising as it’s called – startling because they look like such lumps when they’re basking on land. And then there’s those dolphins. (Oh, and did I mention the albatross?)

The reason for this embarrassment of riches is the Hikurangi Trench which comes closer to shore than any other trench in the world forming the Kaikōura Canyon, a year-round food source that fuels this natural wonderland.

Speaking of fuel sources, I could not get that cheese scone out of my head (don’t judge) so after our Zeus experience I got Lisa to drive me back to BeeBox to buy one but – sold out. Lesson learned. If the corner George Michael wants you to turn is a gluten-free one, take it. 

And you should also venture off SH1 to the glorious Hapuku Lodge. If you can’t stretch to staying in their amazing treehouses, you can always feast in front of the roaring fire in their restaurant. This is a very special spot. Oh, and get the crayfish. Kaikōura is famous for them although none of the locals I asked really cared for it. 

Hapuka Lodge
View from Hapuka Lodge

Including Brett Cowan, Cultural Facilitator with the Kaikōura District Council. A member of the local iwi, Brett’s mother was born in Kaikōura but he grew up in Christchurch, moving “home” in 2000, and now bursting with pride in the area and its people.    

“It’s a one-stop shop,” he says. “If you want a lonely beach to read a book on, you’re there. If you want a mountain bike, we’ve got them. You can go snowboarding and surfing in the same day. Do something different every day for two weeks. I think we’ve got it all.”

Including resilience. If locals are stoic in the face of the pandemic it’s because they survived the massive earthquake which hit in December, 2016.

“Two minutes.” 

Those who were there that night all say the same thing with the same look on their faces. Two minutes is a very long time for an earthquake.

But when I ask one operator whose family home was destroyed if he considered moving away afterwards, he looked at me as if I’d just shot his favourite horse. No way. He rebuilt the house, only stronger. “Next time, we’ll be ready for it.” 

In fact, you’re more likely to meet people who’ve moved to Kaikoura since the earthquake. 

Rob Cullen runs the Old Kaikoura Winery restaurant on the cliffs above SH1 just south of the town- and it’s an absolute must. The view is sensational – that comes with the territory – but the food is next level. Stewart Island salmon with locally-picked kawakawa? A chocolate mousse with a chilli bite that blows your socks off in a good way? 

There’s a reason the standard’s as high as those snow-capped ranges up behind us. Rob spent years feeding the Jordanian royal family before bringing his wife and five children back here. There came a day, he says, when he looked around at all that flamboyance and thought: “This is not us. So, now we’re back to basics. This is reality! And if you want a safe place to bring up families, it’s Kaikōura.”

Similarly, I bump into Johnny De Zen, an Australian doing the electrical work on the stunning rebuild of Kaikoura’s Art Deco cinema, the Mayfair. Red-stickered the last two times I was here, he was just putting the finishing touches to this re-born community asset. His pride in the place was infectious and his delight obvious as he talked about swapping his stressful Sydney commute for life here.

“There’s something about Kaikōura that draws people in,” agrees Moira Howard, another import who moved here many years ago after meeting her husband, local farmer Richard. 

I’m lucky enough to be staying in one of the uber-stylish self-contained cottages Richard and Moira have built on the family property, Glenburn. It has that magical Kaikōura combo: wake up looking at the Pacific, turn around and see the sun rising on the mountains. All that and you can cook and do your own laundry. 

I tell them about a woman I met earlier on the beach who’d moved to Kaikōura from the UK two years ago but lost her husband after just a year yet had no thoughts of leaving.

“The ocean,” she told me. “And the ruggedness of it all. It’s an ever-changing world.”

Richard agrees. “I’ve lived here all my life but sometimes I look out the window and go ‘Wow. I’ve never seen THAT before’.”

At Karaka Lobster, north of Kaikōura (spot the stunning cultural art installations along the way), I meet yet another Australian. Zali Thomas moved here with her partner at the beginning of the year. He catches the crays and she serves them from their shoreside café with stunning ocean views. They’re a brand new business and once more that incredible optimism bursts through the COVID bubble.

“We don’t have anything to compare it to but it’s the Kiwis who talk and spread the news,” says Zali, “so we’ve been thinking maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have the foreign tourists because they won’t come back but the Kiwis tell their friends who will. And locals keep coming in to grab a coffee and say: ‘We want to keep you guys on your feet’.”

On a bad day Zali is shifting 10 crays and on a good day 30 but no matter how often – or not – the cash register rings: “We’re just so lucky to have such a beautiful landscape.”

10 Things To Do in Kaikōura

  • Watch the whales
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Spot the seals
  • Walk the peninsula
  • Chat with the locals
  • Get up for the sunset
  • Grab a mountain bike
  • Visit The Mayfair
  • Read a book on the beach
  • Eat crayfish

Where to Stay

Where to Eat

  • Old Kaikoura Winery
  • Karaka Lobster
  • Hapuku Lodge
  • BeeBox Café
  • Kaikōura Fine Foods


Related article: Best Pilates Studios in NZ

The Queen Of Manifesting: Roxie Nafousi

Roxie Nafousi is a self-development coach, author, motivational speaker and most importantly, a mother.  You have probably seen the iconic little orange book that brought the colour orange back into vogue in 2022.  

Roxie Nafousis’ first book, ‘Manifesting: The 7 Seven Steps To Living Your Best Life’ was the must have self development book of 2022. UK Sunday Star Times labelled it the #4 self help book of the year, while Forbes named her “The Manifesting Queen”.  Exactly a year on and off the back of the success of her first book Roxie has written ‘Manifest: Dive Deeper’.

“All of a sudden Manifest was the book to own and be pictured with, and orange was the colour of the moment”

The practice of Manifesting sits alongside astrology, crystals and tarot cards. These ‘woo woo’ beliefs are being resurrected by the twenty-somethings of today in the hope they start ‘living their best life’, undoubtedly influenced by Tik-Tok. Unsurprisingly #Manifestation has a staggering 24.8 billion views on Tik Tok.  Roxie has expressed her frustration at the practice of manifestation and claims it has been ruined by social media, with people hoping to manifest a dream car or handbag over a purpose-led life. 

Manifesting was first coined by William Walker Atkinson in his 1906 book ‘Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World’ which was then made famous by the popular book & movie ‘The Secret’ written by Rhonda Byrne. William introduced the power of the mind stating “I believe that the man who understands the use of Thought-force can make of himself practically what he will.”

Manifesting, in case you are not a twenty-something on TikTok, is the practice of harnessing positive thinking. Roxie explains that due to quantum physics like attracts like, so high vibrations attract high vibrations back. Roxie believes that due to our brains being able to easily form new pathways we have the ability to override past beliefs, raise our self worth and align our thoughts to create our own reality. 

 “People on Tik Tok say they manifested their Chanel bag. Well, that’s not really what manifesting is about.”
-Roxie Nafousi

Rather than wishing for materialistic items or to win the lottery, Roxie acknowledges it as “a self-development practice to live by, that will empower you to be the best version of yourself and live the best life that you can.” 

Roxie is very open with her traumatic early 20’s that lead to her hitting ‘rock bottom’ and beginning her own manifesting journey. After drug fueled partying, poor self care and suffering from addiction, a friend introduced the concept through a podcast that she credits to saving her life. It is her personal story that makes her methods and teachings feel more authentic, realistic and accessible to anyone. 

“I made a decision that I was unworthy as I was. Of course, I was not attracting anything good. What you will learn from the book is that you manifest your own subconscious beliefs—what you think you’re worthy of.”

Roxie Naoufi’s new book ‘Manifest:Dive Deeper’ delves into the inner healing required to unlock the potential of manifesting and expanding your understanding of the long standing practice.

3 books stacked on top of each other on a white marble table

Manifest: Dive Deeper’ follows the same 7 steps from the original book but provides additional exercises, advice and personal stories from Roxie’s own manifesting journey.  

These 7 steps include: 
1. Be clear in your vision
2. Remove fear and doubt
3. Align your behaviour
4. Overcome tests from the universe 
5. Embrace gratitude without caveats
6. Turn envy into inspiration
7. Trust in the universe

The new year will always bring a feeling of motivation and energy to ‘live your best life’. 

Roxie is not here to say you can vision board and journal your way out of the rising cost of living, but self love, gratitude and having clear goals can go a long way in living a purposeful life this year. 

Manifest: Dive Deeper book cover
Manifest: Dive Deeper By Roxie Nafousi  $39.99
(Penguin Random House UK)

Sarah Lindsay On Creating Sala Yoga Studio

Sarah Lyndsay from Sala

Sarah Lindsay never meant to be a teacher or open a yoga studio, but a trip to India changed everything and the universe had a plan.

One day last month I went along to Sala, a yoga studio housed in a former industrial building on Brown street Ponsonby. The access from the footpath through full length glass doors leads up to room width stairs bringing you into a cool painted interior that is the gateway space to some of the hippest movement classes in Auckland.

It is rare to find yoga studios that are not squeezed spaces with lockers but I was surprised to arrive at an entire entrance room abuzz with sleek women in black Lululemon gear, resembling a school of otters. There were two immense wooden tables, a selection of books to peruse, a kitchen bench with the makings of tea and coffee and an air of excitement that was not the usual pre yoga solemnity.

In one of the high windowed airy rooms our instructor Sarah warmed us up with a sequence of stretches and adjustments that are normal at the start of any yoga class but pretty soon something else began to happen. From out of her mouth part prayer, part poetry, part spiritual-based wordplay was uttered in an almost unbroken stream while moving us through poses like a dolphin through water. Later I asked a friend if she knew who Sarah Lindsay was. 

“Sarah from Sala?” She said 

“Oh everyone is obsessed. She has cult status.”

Sala's Sarah Lyndsay

That Sarah finds a spring of words to connect with her class is made more astonishing when I discover she grew up in a household that was entirely silent. “My mother was at times nonverbal and when she was verbal she was incohesive with words”, she says of her childhood in a tiny mining town outside of Birmingham.

Both her mother and brother were acutely autistic and she developed her own internal monologue as a way to cope. Leaving school she managed to obtain a scholarship to Goldsmith’s in London. “A lot of the yoga I teach is reframed around a spiritual narrative but backed by physics. I did a BA in sociology and philosophy and I use what I learned everyday – Why do we make community? Why do we come together?

University might have opened her up but India, you might say, formed her. It was there she started work on her own psyche and began working through the layers. Doing CBT, learning to undo years of toxic trends. Yoga did not come naturally  “In the beginning every class was hell. When the teacher would saytake a rest in Downward Dog’ I would say who is resting? Nothing about yoga felt natural.”

It was a yoga teacher who told her she had a gift. She did the training and her teacher commented that she had a unique way with teaching. When she got back to London a friend asked if she could teach yoga in their office and within a few weeks she was teaching full time. 

“When I teach yoga I feel as though I am naturally tuning myself to energy. From a young child I was always good at picking up on my mum’s energy. Her nonverbal status made me work harder. I had to play the necessary role to not be in trouble. Through that atunement it has become natural for me to feel people’s energy fields.”

She admits she’s been through a huge journey but opening a studio wasn’t on her Bingo card. She met her kiwi husband Josh in London and he said to her on their first date. ”I don’t usually date British girls because I really want to go home.” So it was no surprise that she ended up here. “I always thought of myself as a ‘yes girl’  the kind people would ask, ‘Do you want to get the Eurostar and go to Paris at the last minute? So let’s go to NZ? Yes!” 

He took her immediately to his father’s house in Dargaville and she was like ‘is this where we live now?

In Auckland she looked hard for a space that resembled an East London studio – bare bricks. An ex textile factory. She says she was looking for the container for her community. It needed to have the essence of her past homes to help her tap into what she wanted to create. 

Sala is a success. People are floating through the doors in a harmonious flow. Classes are well attended and the business has recently upgraded its rooms to allow for a Sauna and a weights room. There are other plans. You get the impression that she is a person who is open to the river of life and it’s a fast moving current.

Sala, Yoga Studio Ponsonby

Running the business is attributed to her partner who she says, has all the business sense. These days with a 2 year old she only teaches 4 classes a week because she needs to have the space to really be there in a class. Sometimes people ask her about the class afterwards and she tells me “I am so present that I disappear.” 

For her, Yoga is part of the whole experience of being alive. “We constantly go through moments of awakeness in our lifetime and it’s about expanding those moments so you can be more consciously and deliberately there. You can’t live there because you would be Buddha and that position is taken” she says laughing. The studio is her home away from home “I would not be able to live here (in NZ) without my community. What’s the point of being able to wake up if no one is around you?

She wants the whole conversation about wellness to be mainstream and she credits Gwyneth Paltrow (‘whatever you think of her’) as doing just that “auras, sexual health even if you start with the matcha drinks and the candles… the more people that we bring the more that will be in conversation. 

Sala has been open for four years, two of which have been through Covid. She shoulder tapped her team and was strict about the right energy for the studio – a subscription to a way of living that is authentic. “I am always looking for that in others. I don’t care what you do, just really do it.” 

“Here is who I am,” she says, humbly and proudly, a vibrant spirit that is a vessel for making people move.

Related article: A guide to yoga pilates studios

Raw Kingfish With Fennel & Horseradish

Brown Brothers Raw King Fish with Fennel and Horseradish

Head chef of Brown Brothers, Bodee Price from Brown Brother has created a beautiful King Fish dish – Raw Kingfish, fennel, caper leaf, horseradish recipe. Brown Brothers Restaurant is nestled in Brown Brothers Vineyard. You can dine alfresco under market umbrellas overlooking the vines, or indoors in a warm and welcoming vibe ideal for enjoying dishes from a menu showcasing freshly picked produce from the kitchen garden alongside estate wines. 

This recipe serves 2.


  • 160g Kingfish  
  • 1 baby fennel head  
  • 1 small stick fresh horseradish  
  • 1 juice of 1 large lemon   
  • 30ml Extra Virgin Olive oil  
  • 2 caper leaf in oil  
  • 6 bronze fennel fronds  

Brown Brothers Raw King Fish with Fennel and Horseradish


  1. Slice baby fennel with a mandolin or using a knife as thin as you can 
  2. Slice the caper leaf as thin as you can 
  3. Dressing the shaved fennel liberally in lemon juice and olive oil 
  4. Slice Hiramasa Kingfish into sashimi pieces and lay them on a plate 
  5. Cover the kingfish in the sliced caper leaf 
  6. Place the fennel over the kingfish and using the lemon juice and oil dress the dish 
  7. Using a micro plane, liberally grate horseradish over the whole dish and garnish with the bronze fennel 
  8. Serve with your Raw Kingfish with your favourite Brown Brothers wine.

Related Article: Chocolate custard tart with berries

Tracing Katherine Mansfield Through Europe

Tracing Katherine Mansfield through Europe.

Literary detectives, historians and Katherine Mansfield enthusiasts have much to gain from Redmer Yska’s latest book. Using Mansfield’s letters and diaries as his guide, Yska embarked on a journey along the rail trails of Germany, France, and Switzerland between 2017 and 2019 and the result is a treasure trove of previously unknown information about Katherine Mansfield’s life presented in an accessible and visually stunning manner.

Among the fascinating revelations in the book are the details of Katherine Mansfield’s unexpected role as a gunslinger during her time in a remote Italian location in 1919. She was loaned a small revolver as protection against marauders and became adept at handling it. Mansfield’s love for her gun was such that she kept it even after leaving Italy, referring to it as part of her world in Switzerland in 1921.

The book also reveals evidence that Mansfield was likely an opiate addict, having started taking morphine daily in 1918. This habit continued throughout her life, and she was likely taking a common preparation, ‘Red Cough Mixture’, containing both hydrobromic acid and morphine. Perhaps it explains Mansfield’s extreme mental confusion and hallucinations in Italy in 1919. Despite this, she managed to produce some of her finest work.

We asked Redmer how he came to tackle the facts and legends of this great writer and what he found in her traces.

Katherine Mansfield's suite in the Hotel Victoria Palace, Paris, photographed by Conor Horgan
Katherine Mansfield’s suite in the Hotel Victoria Palace, Paris, photographed by Conor Horgan

What was the genesis of the book?

During a 2017 visit to Europe it hit on me that the Continent – not literary London – was truly Katherine Mansfield’s happy place. I’d never known drafts of ‘Prelude’ emerged in a garret above the Seine. No one told me that Kiwi classics ‘At the Bay’, ‘The Garden Party’ and ‘A Doll’s House’ were born in a chalet high in the snowy Swiss Alps

And when I dug a little deeper, I saw that little had been written about her European legacy, the varied continental landscapes she kept crisscrossing by train on budget tickets in third class carriages. Her husband John Murry once put it well: ‘Once across the English Channel, inspiration will run free, thought be profound, and word come back to the speechless.’ 

So I decided to learn more about her constant travelling across the landscapes of Germany, Switzerland, Italy and especially France. These were the landscapes that fired her creativity. She’d pause and write, but never for long, she was such a restless spirit. She struck me as the original backpacker, her travelling world a blur of night trains, channel ferries and cheap, grimy hotel rooms. 

Her life was packed into three black tin trunks. Once checked in, out came her folding bookstand with Shakespeare and Chaucer, a black Japanese fan, and her trusty revolver. She’d unfurl her travelling photo folder in leather with silk lining, laying what she called her ‘old wild jackal skin over the counterpane’.

And her continental voyaging only speeded up in her final years as the killer disease tuberculosis progressively ruined her health.  Katherine Mansfield kept chasing doctors up and down the continent, signing up to all sorts of expensive and agonising cures. Nothing helped in this scary era before antibiotics. 

Billiards room where Katherine Mansfield played in 1922, Hotel Château Belle Vue, Sierre, Switzerland. Photo credit Max Grün
Billiards room where Katherine Mansfield played in 1922, Hotel Château Belle Vue, Sierre, Switzerland. Photo credit Max Grün

How long has the process taken you? Did you fill thousands of notebooks like your subject did or were you all digital? 

Between 2017 and 2019, I set out on her rail trails into Germany, France and Switzerland, absorbing and recording what I saw out the carriage window, mostly using her many letters and diaries as my maps. The book is not an account of a single journey. Rather a composite: dispatches woven from a stack of A5 notebooks, interview transcripts, misty photographs snapped on a cellphone, email and text message printouts, and a bulldog clip of boarding passes and hotel receipts. My aim was to report back on what’s left of the landscapes Mansfield knew a century ago and how she is remembered, if at all, in those places today. I completed the book during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Locked down at home in New Zealand with my books and papers as Covid-19 circled the world, it was sobering to think that close to a century earlier, she too, witnessed a pandemic, catching – and surviving – the killer influenza virus as she crossed Europe in a wild bid to prolong her life. Equally lethal but slower moving, TB would finally overwhelm her, at 34.

Having already immersed yourself in Katherine Mansfield’s Wellington, did you find corners of Europe came alive with her writing in the same way or was it a different process?

Mansfield’s Europe effortlessly came alive for me. My stay at Victoria Palace Hotel in Paris, for example, gave many insights into KM’s world in 1922 while being treated for TB. I gained access to her jewel box of a suite where she spent days by the window. I looked out across the same enclosed internal courtyard where KM, at her window, watched the woman in an apartment directly across putting out her canaries. This inspired her final story. Within weeks of my stay in October 2019, extensive renovations of the hotel began and the rooms were gutted. Fortunately I’d arranged a beautiful photographic record, all of which is featured in the book. 

In the basement of a hotel in the sunny Swiss town of Sierre I found another of her treasured haunts: the old low-ceilinged billiards room. At one end loomed a fireplace made from a piece of marble so large and rough-hewn that it is like an iceberg adrift. Extending to the ceiling and edged with lion-topped columns, the marble is mottled like blue vein cheese. Today the billiards room has been repurposed as the Sierre town council chamber. She and husband John Murry shared hours here together in the summer of 1922, chalking cues, knocking balls around a baize table under a bright light. Katherine felt herself transported back to convivial schooldays in Wellington. She recalled crouching around a full-size billiards table at the prime ministerial residence on Tinakori Road, the family home of a classmate. In a letter to her father, she wrote: ‘There is a splendid table here and we are both very keen. It’s a fascinating game”. Nine months later, Mansfield was dead. 

Is there one particular fact in this retracing of Katherine Mansfield that totally surprised you?

I was amazed and delighted to find that a company of European ‘foot soldiers’ is ensuring she’s not forgotten. The world of these patient historians, literary sleuths and shameless admirers shaped my understanding of the imprint she left on their countries, and how they formally (and informally) commemorate her. Notable among these is Bernard Bosque of Fontainebleau/ Avon in France, who tends the cement box of flowers at the end of Katherine’s tomb, arranges her annual graveside birthday commemorations, and has devoted years to tracking her movements across France and Switzerland.

And memories of Mansfield are fresh. In Germany, I met Henning Hoffmann, who recently persuaded the Bavarian spa town of Bad Wörishofen to erect a Mansfield statue in 2018, nearly 110 years after her six month stay there. And there was Italian novelist Roberta Trice, who persuaded the San Remo municipality to erect a ‘belvedere’ after she curated a 2008 exhibition there.

Katherine Mansfield's grave, Avon Cemetery, France. Photo credit Conor Horgan.
Katherine Mansfield’s grave, Avon Cemetery, France. Photo credit Conor Horgan.

KM wrote and set her stories in so many European countries – which European place had the most fertile soil for her writing and in which country did you feel her most alive?

That would have to be France, a nation to which she kept returning, even during wartime. We especially associate her with Menton on the warm Riviera. She once wrote: ‘I never feel indifferent to France… there is a wonderful spirit here … one cannot see it all & not think of the strange cement like state of England.’

 Katherine Mansfield’s Europe by Redmer Ysker is published by Otago University Press $50
Katherine Mansfield’s Europe by Redmer Ysker is published by Otago University Press $50

Related article: Liz Grieve, Share My Super

The “Why” Behind Your Sugar Addiction. Dr Libby Talks About Emotions, Beliefs, And Habitual Treat Eating

Dr Libby in orange top sitting on couch

It is not how much sugar you have occasionally. Treats are okay sometimes. It is more about how much sugar you consume daily. 

Sugar is hard to avoid today in a world full of packaged products in almost every part of the supermarkets. It is literally everywhere and hidden in so many processed foods and drinks. It is even hidden in breakfast cereals and food labelled as “healthy”.

But it is not just the abundance of sugar that is the issue. It is your thoughts around sugar that play a big part too.

So says nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver, who is also a 13 times best-selling author and international keynote speaker.

Dr Libby talks about how you can try and avoid this addictive white substance as well as her new 6-week Shake Off Sugar programme launching on February 20. This programme is designed to help sugar-lovers kick the habit of constantly chasing that sugar rush.

“So many people know they need to eat less sugar yet struggle to do so. They feel stuck with their sugar habits”.

Dr Libby talks first about the biochemical reaction you have when you have sugar.

Research shows the more sugar you have, the more you want. Sugar gives a dopamine “hit of excitement and we want it again, and again and again”.

“When we over consume sugar, our body physically and biochemically changes to crave more, and we can easily slip into a cycle where we don’t realise just how much of it we’re eating. Or we do, but we can’t seem to stop,” says Dr Libby.

The World Health Organisation’s official guidelines suggest that adults consume no more than 6 teaspoons daily. Yet, as a nation, Kiwis consume on average 37 teaspoons of sugar daily. This equates to 45 extra kilograms per person per year. 

“This can have dire consequences when it comes to your health”.

“The regular overconsumption of sugar is linked to a host of serious health problems and degenerative diseases, as well as a raft of symptoms that can disrupt the quality of our daily life.

Overconsumption of sugar over a long period can impact you with things like: low energy, low mood, “anxious feelings”, brain fog, bloating, digestive issues, acne, headaches, as well as longer term consequences, such as harming your ability to shed weight. 

Other serious issues resulting from a long period of overconsumption of sugar include obesity, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, an increased risk of kidney damage, and heart disease, to name some. 

Sugar also has a role to play with how much body fat you have.

“The more sugar we eat, the more insulin the body typically needs to produce to deal with it, which in excess, instructs the body to store fat instead of burning it. Doing this day in and day out tends to lead to insulin resistance, which can make it seemingly impossible to lose body fat, even if a person is doing everything else ‘right’. This can lead to feelings of hopelessness or failure — uncomfortable emotions that people all too often attempt to mask with a sugary fix. It can be a difficult cycle to break without the knowledge or support,” says Dr Libby.

Too much sugar can disrupt your skin too.

“Over consumption of sugar can be linked to acne, dry skin, rosacea, pigmentation, uneven skin tone – and all mostly via disruption to the gut microbiome.”

A big part to play in the overconsumption of sugar is also “the emotional part”. Women can tend to turn to sugar when they feel a gap of feeling loved, appreciated and accepted. Sugar can become a crutch.

“It can be an unconscious drive to avoid our pain – to get that sweetness, the joy”.

There is a perception that willpower is the major tool you need to harness in order to quit sugar. 

“Yet for most women, after a few days, or hours, without it, their biochemistry or mindset will lead them back there. I want people to experience that this is not about willpower. So, I created the course to arm people with education and practical strategies to make lasting change,” says Dr Libby.  

One part of making lasting change is understanding your thoughts that drive you to sugar and how you can learn to think, and use your language, differently around sugar.

“Food is either nutritious or not nutritious. But we label our food as good or bad and that translates to how we see ourselves. There’s a need to change how we judge ourselves because that judgement leads us back to sugar again.”

Instead, try to “catch yourself” when you judge yourself around food. Then bring curiosity to your behaviour and ask yourself what led you to your behaviour? Dr Libby explains that, for example, maybe you might have missed lunch and then later got so ravenous that you ate a packet of biscuits. If you got curious about a solution it might be that you try not to miss lunch and so you will only desire two biscuits instead.

“We need to deal with the facts, not the judgement.”

Dr Libby says clients in her new programme will look at the impact that the regular overconsumption of sugar has on the body through nutritional, biochemical and emotional lenses. The course will offer a mix of education along with practical tools and strategies on how to break behavioural patterns and crush sugar cravings.  

The course also allows people to individualise their food choices for the week ahead. Plus there is a Community Forum where participants can ask questions and receive guidance from Dr Libby and interact and gain support from other “sugar shakers”.

The goal is “to help reset the body’s natural set-point for sweet foods”. Clients will also learn how to swap out sugar in everyday life “without feeling deprived”. 

Shake Off Sugar begins on the 22nd of May 2023.

Find out more via

Choreographer Turned Painter Sarah Albisser

Choreographer Turned Painter Sarah Albisser Pirouettes from The Dance Floor and The Studio

“Art is an expression of freedom,” says Sarah Albisser. “It’s connecting with your subconscious mind and being able to express emotions, thoughts and feelings into a visual form.”

Sarah learnt the art of improvisation as an award-winning choreographer in New York before moving to Wellington. Like her dance, she starts her painting and drawing projects simply by moving in her home studio. “It’s that power of being in the moment,” she says. “Just connecting with yourself and then things flow. That’s my way of getting into something deeper.”

The contemporary artist moves between mixed media styles, especially when she needs to step back and seek a new perspective. She has experimented with classic black and white portraits for more than 14 years – focussing on tones, lines and forms. “Black and white has something more abstract and there’s also a simplicity about it,” she says. “Colour feels like a distraction from what I want to do.” 

Her work focuses on strong female characters, with a powerful presence. Her large paintings centre on two figures that are one and the same, a realistic figure and its more abstract side. Meanwhile, her “wirehead” drawings have evolved from a history of sketching. Inspired by a lifelong fascination with faces, expressions, body and gesture, Sarah has created these women through “uncontrolled and controlled chaos”. Her paper works include ink and the stitching of a thick thread, which keeps its natural curl for a more 3D effect. She also works with Perspex for a unique texture.

Recently, Sarah created a lockdown series that centres on figures with a black box for a head. They are a reminder to track how we are feeling during these panicked pandemic times, as well as where we are going. They also represent how our minds store our past and present. 

Sarah’s upbringing in Lucerne, Switzerland, is etched into her work. From the time she could first hold a pen, she would create beside her father, an architect and artist, in his home studio. Her parents collected minimal and abstract art, and Sarah can remember days spent in tow, touring galleries in nearby towns.

Her current home in Eastbourne, Wellington, is an inspiring and active spot, close to the beach and walking tracks. The art she chooses to display here varies, but she is drawn to surrealism. “I do like beautiful things,” she says. “Sometimes you see something and you just fall in love.”

Sarah’s work can be found in galleries and stores around New Zealand and her artworks are held in private collections around the world. When choosing art for new homes, she invests time in the final look of each piece, presenting them in angular black frames that work well with both modern and traditional interiors.

She sees art in everything, and has even designed a special bottle for Adorn Beauty Gin. The work is a manifestation of female beauty and power, which she says comes from a woman knowing her true self. 

“I can’t imagine life without creativity,” says Sarah. “I think everybody is looking for or has something in their life where they can express themselves.”

How to start An Art Club and Expand Your Aesthetic Horizons

Inspired by The Collective, joint art-buying groups are a supportive community for those who want to explore and enjoy the art market. 

“Art is to the community what the dream is to the individual,” wrote novelist and social critic Thomas Mann. 

Buying art as part of a group not only pools the resources needed to afford brilliant, new artwork but brings together new points of view that will expand the group’s understanding and appreciation of art as they rotate the collections around their homes. It is also a way to support creative talent at a time when the arts are vulnerable to the financial challenges that come with living through a global pandemic. 

Founded in 2002 in London, The Collective helps a growing network of groups collecting and enjoying contemporary art. When starting a new group, they suggest finding five to 10 households of family, friends and those with a common interest. The group should agree to pay a regular sum into a buying fund to purchase new works. (The original group each contributed around $100 monthly.) The works displayed in each household should be rotated after an agreed period. 

How to start

The new group should meet together to iron out details. For example, the original Collective group has a rule that works must be purchased based on quality, not potential profit. A treasurer can be appointed, and a joint or group bank account opened. After that, most administration can be tackled via email, with the odd responsibilities rotated, just like the art.

How to buy

There are several ways that the group can come together and buy works. Sometimes a buying panel of three or four members is chosen to do the research, including seeking advice from artists and gallerists. Often a new buying panel will be elected for each new purchase, to ensure everyone has input. It can help if the group sets a limit on the amount that the panel can spend and a time period in which to do so.

How to swap

When it’s time, the swapping of artworks around the homes can be a social occasion or a chance for a meeting to see how the group is progressing. While some members may not like a new artwork at first, The Collective has found that art can often grow on members over time – this is a chance to try out something new and challenge your appreciation of art.

Protecting the art

Safety in numbers does not absolve the individual art group members from protecting the works. Advice on how to display individual artworks should be sought from the artist or gallery. Artworks should be insured. This can be done through adequate household insurance. To ensure there are no slip-ups, the group can ask that members provide evidence of cover before artworks are allocated to their homes.

The legal stuff

Legally, there should be a document members sign, agreeing to their arrangement and part ownership. It should also include what to do should anyone wish to leave the group later on. 

Selling the artworks

Over time, an artwork may grow on a member and they might want to own it outright. In this case, there will need to be a mutual agreement from the group to sell it to the member. Similarly, if the group decides to sell an artwork, they must all agree and offer members the chance to buy the work before putting it on the market. To make things easy, The Collective recommends that each member is supplied with a copy of the invoice with a statement of the member’s proportionate share in the artwork every time a work is purchased or sold. 

What Does A Sexologist Do?

Morgan Penn has a unique job title: Somatic Sexologist.

Soma is the Greek word for body. Somatic means to “work with the body”.

She helps women and “vulva owners” build confidence on how to navigate their bodies better so they can have mind-blowing sex – with themselves, or others.

Sexologist Penn is a pleasure advocate, sex educator and co-host of the award-winning podcast, The Trainee Sexologist alongside The Edge’s Sharyn Casey. On the show, they chat about whips, vibrators and how to have the best orgasms of your life. No topic is taboo or untouched (so to speak).

I ask to catch up for coffee with Penn in Auckland for an interview – to ask what she does in her job. We follow each other on Instagram. So, I slip into her DMs.

She calls our interview a “date” and says “I look forward to connecting with you in the flesh”. I blush, of course, but thankfully she cannot see that via our digital chat.

She turns out to be as gorgeous in the flesh, as she is in her photographs. She looks younger than her 36-years. The secret, she reckons, is “living a pleasure-filled life” and so “my skin looks good”.

Penn is also smart, fun, funny and a professional communicator.

The latter should not be a surprise. Her background is in media (for 15 years she did sales and marketing mostly), life coaching and embodied counselling.

Sexologist Moran Penn standing in front of white background with her arms crossed. Women is wearing white pants with green shirt.

She decided to train to be a sexologist four years ago.

“I loved my job in media, but I wanted to do something where I could be more in-service and help people.

“I was the person in the office who others would divulge all their secrets and I would hold no judgement.

“I’ve always been intrigued by sex, why things were taboo, and I was also the one in the friend group to spill the beans on my action at the weekend.

“When someone is open, then it gives a permission slip to others to share and own their own stuff instead of feeling alone and shameful about what they might be experiencing”.

Sexologist Penn was going to do the psychology side of this profession initially, “but it became clear to me that I wanted to work with the body as well”.

“I find it really helpful when working with people with trauma… There’s only so much you can do with repatterning with the mind. Things can get stuck in the body on a cellular level that needs to be sequenced through and acknowledged”.

She trained mostly online, but then did some hands-on learning in Byron Bay. She was nervous at first but soon understood this was necessary.

“I had to experience it on my own body, so I had a felt experience of everything because you don’t want to be doing something to someone that you haven’t experienced.

“You need to know the slowness of the breath. You have to have the embodied experience of it to really integrate.”

She credits her mum for helping to lay the foundation of self-love, self-confidence and self-worth and having free expression of the body.

She grew up in a household where her mum “talked about bodies”. So, chats about sex were normalised in a safe space from an early age.

She was inspired to become a somatic sexologist by someone on Instagram who was talking about things like “womb connection”. This inspired her to go on a journey of “figuring out my own body”.

She learnt she needed to be more mindful about her life as the stress in her life was having a big impact on her body. So, she quit 5am gym sessions and suppressing period pain with painkillers, to live a life instead where she learned to “listen to my body and chill out”. She came to realise when you are highly stressed there is a ripple effect with your body.

Penn’s clients are roughly aged 25-45 generally, but she has also helped a 65-year-old. She sees women on their own in person or online. She has even seen a mum and her three daughters. It was one of the daughters who found her first.

She also helps couples, or men on their own, strictly online (for safety). Clients come from throughout New Zealand, Australia, Britain and even France.

Her service of yoni mapping is one of her most sought-after services and has a waitlist. Clients travel internationally for this.

Yoni is the Sanskrit word that translates to “sacred temple/divine passage and source of all life and is used to describe the entire female genitalia and reproductive system”. So, women learn the womb and vulva anatomy (glans clitoris, labia major, labia minora, prepuce, urethral opening, vestibule, vagina etc).

Women importantly learn how they want to be touched under Penn’s expert guidance. They learn how they can escape numbness, or tension, trauma, stress and go from experiencing pain to feeling pleasure.

“Some people come to me and say I’m just dead down there. Most can’t believe how much sensation there is when you go slow with consent and intention”.

Yoni mapping is a 3-hour instructive session that is hands-on, but not sexual. It is done at a client’s individual pace in safety and with consent throughout. Women learn the map of their bodies and the places that bring them pleasure from the G-spot to a list of erogenous zones (there are too many to name).

Penn helps guide women with touch, and consent, on their genitals and internally to help them learn.

“This brings women back into their bodies and gives them a sense of direction and laying out a map for them.

“A lot of women haven’t felt slowness and that awareness with their bodies. When there’s touching, I’m educating them. They feel it themselves.”

This might be seen as body work. But it is more heart and mind work for Penn.

“It’s about people getting in to their (own) body. It’s mainly the mind that is blocking people from orgasms”.

After the yoni mapping session, a client is sent away with “home play” (aka homework) on how to self-pleasure themselves. She often gets “excited emails” later.

What is it like to help women have orgasms?

“Write it on my headstone. It’s a big accomplishment. It’s life changing for people. We are talking about real pleasure. For a lot of women, they have felt they have been missing out, or faking it for years…

“It’s one of my favourite things when I get these excited emails from clients.”

Penn believes almost everyone can orgasm. About 4% cannot orgasm due to nerve damage or nerve structure.

One of the issues with Kiwis is being “prudish”.

“We are so disconnected. They (women) know they have a vagina mostly.

“To have an awareness of this is so important and how to

touch themselves and pleasure themselves.

“This should be in our curriculum and so then people would stop outsourcing pleasure.

“You don’t have to do this with anyone else. You can do it by yourself.”

It is important to know your body too so you can notice health changes.

Sexologist Penn says your sexual health is linked to physical health.

Orgasms release feel-good hormones that make you feel happier and less stressed like endorphins, serotonin, and oxytocin.

You need to “use it or lose it too”. Your vagina can atrophy with age and clitoris can shrink back over time. Keeping your pelvic floor muscles strong and active are helpful for having orgasms too.

Penn hates that the media dictates what orgasms look like, usually hot, instantaneous, usually with someone grabbing or being thrown against a wall and “a woman being ready to receive a penis in the first five minutes”.

In reality, it actually takes about half an hour for “that whole area to come online” (i.e. for a woman to be connected, engaged, excited and ready for penetrative sex). We have a different makeup than the male with arousal.

“When people come to me with pain. They may have been only taking five minutes to prepare (for sex).

“And how we treat ourselves with pleasure is often what we will put up with in partner sex.

“If we are tapping and gapping with ourselves, why would we demand more with a partner?

So self-pleasure should be a priority with yourself – and when you are in a relationship too.

“Bring that mojo back, awareness back to that area. If your body can orgasm with just you, then you can remember that with others and go to that place again.”

Penn’s next most popular service is doing one-on-ones where people come to her with issues like low-libido, mismatched desire, sexual dysfunction, disruptive thoughts like porn addiction or a disconnect with the body.

“Or someone just wants to expand their pleasure or upskill. I love that!”

Sexologist Penn helps people with a guide and framework to upskill on sex. It can be for women new to discovering themselves, or couples who have been married for 20 years and want to escape their routine and learn new things.

Penn also has a service on vaginismus. This is when the vaginal muscles involuntarily contract and stay closed “and so it is nearly impossible to get anything inside i.e. a tampon, or penis”.

This could be due to trauma. It is a psychological condition.

“(Some)Doctors say they should have a glass of wine and relax, or use numbing gel, which is so counterproductive. We need to listen to the body and understand what it’s communicating. It’s a big unravelling piece.”

“A woman came to see me and had never had vaginal sex but wanted to have a baby. After going through my vaginismus protocol, she messaged me some time later to say she was having a baby and showed me the scan. It was so beautiful. I do this work for these moments.”

Penn says Kiwi women are progressive and there is a growing “hunger” for more pleasure.

Her tip is not to get fixated on “the big bang” i.e. the orgasm.

Get curious and discover all the different ways to have orgasms and to better connect with yourself, or someone else.

Ultimately, Penn wants Kiwi women to be able to talk more about pleasure and sex, normalise it and not feel shame, but rather savour the sacredness of it.

Women standing in front of white background with her hand on her hip. Women is wearing a red silky dress

“My goal is for society to be able to talk about a clitoris the way they talk about a nose “.

Meanwhile, I’m curious and ask Penn if she has tried everything?

She laughs and tells me “I fell out of a sex swing at Christmas!”

She shares that she has tried a lot of things. She needs to be able to talk about these with clients.

But there are still some intimate ways to further explore for her too, which she hopes to do when she finds someone special to love. She is currently single.

“There’s a part of me that’s still waiting for my person who I can surrender to completely.”

“My heart’s desire is to nest down with someone and have a little family.

“I won’t freeze my eggs. It’s about co-creation with love and life and doing that journey with someone.”

For now, while Penn waits to meet her Mr Right, she is content with self-love. She gets pleasure too from bushwalking, deep connections, coffee, learning new things, te moana (the sea) and dancing in quiet places.

Women standing amongst native New Zealand bush wearing a sheer dress

Tips for Pleasure from a Sexologist

Firstly, know that there is more. Start your journey with reconnecting back to yourself.

Change things up with masturbation. Bring sacredness into the act. If you do it with one position with yourself, then change it up.

Try different things. Try a new thing two or three times too before knowing if you enjoy this, or not. It can feel different due to you being tired, stressed up or upset. So, you might enjoy something new if you try it a few more times.

Use music.

Light a candle.

Ask what you really need or want. “Is it a long smooch session? Or a long hot shower with yourself to get into your body.”

Make sex a full body experience. Self-pleasure is about more than just the genitals.

Take a moment with your body to let an orgasm land and realise that that was a really nice time and let that goodness flow through the body.There are so many things we must do in life that are mediocre, and sex just should not be one of them.

Have presence. Connection with the heart gives a deeper connection.

Learn to surrender so you can orgasm more easily.

Find ways to “down regulate” i.e. shake stress by doing things like breath work, singing or something enjoyable etc. So, you can orgasm more easily.

Stay curious

Related article: I didn’t hit my sexual stride until I turned 50 – here’s how to kickstart yours

One of Those Mothers: Megan Nicol Reed

Megan Nicol Reed on a blue background

The suburbs have been a mine of inspiration for journalist Megan Nicol Reed who found the makings of her sensational new novel in her own backyard. She talks to Sharon Stephenson about growing up with two mums and achieving her life goals.

Women in white shirt standing in front of tree. Looking straight on to the camera smiling.
Author Megan Reed Nicol
Photograph by Babiche Martens

If there was a patron saint of the exhausted, Megan Nicol Reed should be praying to him/her/them. 

But that’s unlikely, given the columnist-turned-novelist isn’t really the praying type and, more to the point, doesn’t have the time.

Megan’s much anticipated debut novel One of Those Mothers is published on 21 March and with it comes the marketing merry-go-round: book signings, literary festivals and interviews with pesky journalists. It doesn’t help that the day we speak Megan is moving back into her West Auckland home after 18 months of renovations, Cyclone Gabrielle is bearing down and her first born Archie (18) is about to head to Dunedin for his first year of university.

Did she also mention that her husband George has the flu?

“Apologies for the noise and chaos, but I have to make my family lunch,” says Megan, skidding around the kitchen as she throws together Huevos rancheros for Archie and his sister Peggy (14) and reheats last night’s Chinese takeaway for her husband of almost 20 years.   

Interviewing a fellow journalist can often be fraught because when the hunter becomes the hunted, bad things can happen. There’s the danger they’ll try to stage-manage the interview, skillfully deflect questions or, the one that those of us who make a living from words hate the most, demand to see the copy before it goes to print. 

Not so Megan. The 48-year-old is interesting, clever, generous with her answers and laughs a lot. We work out that years ago I briefly worked for her at Sunday Magazine when she was doing maternity  leave cover for the editor. “But then I got pregnant with my second child so I wasn’t there long.”    

Many of us know Megan as the sassy slayer of sacred cows, first with her weekly column that ran in the Sunday Star Times for five years and, later, for another two years in the New Zealand Herald’s Canvas Magazine. Interesting, amusing and frequently controverisal, her words skewered everything from parenting and family dynamics to politics and growing up with two lesbian parents (more on that later).    

“I focused on big ideas but accessed them from a small place. So, for example, current political issues  but seen from my day-to-day middle class perspective.”

While Megan loved being a columnist, she eventually ran out of puff, not to mention tiring of the often toxic feedback.

“I probably had as many haters as I had fans. But the nastiness does wear you down.”

Sipping one of the many cups of English Breakfast tea she never quite seems to finish, Megan says she always wanted to write a novel. “I’d go to literary awards or interview a writer and although I was pleased for them, the little green monster would rear its head and I’d be jealous it wasn’t me.”

George, who recently sold his mechanical services company, generously permitted his wife a couple of years reprieve from contributing to the family’s finances so she could focus on full-time writing.

In the end, it took Megan seven years to finish One of Those Mothers. “I spent a while trying to figure out what I wanted to write.”

 And then menopause gatecrashed the party, stalling Megan’s creative flow (“Things were a bit of a blur for two years.”)

Her lightbulb moment eventually came from an unlikely place – the American woman she’d nannied for in Paris 20+ years ago. 

“She came to visit and while reading a bunch of my columns said, your book is here, in these columns. She was right because the book ended up being about the middle class community that is my life and about the petty middle class issues that I took the piss out of in my columns.” 

The resulting book is a wild ride, focused around three couples and their offspring who live in Point Heed, a liberal postcode where everyone is mostly white and upper middle class, drinks too much, occasionally does drugs and sometimes fantasise about someone who isn’t their partner. But beneath the gleaming kitchens and late model European cars lurk dark secrets, mental health issues and buckets of anxiety.

When a local father is convicted of child pornography and granted name suppression, things go as badly as you’d imagine.  

While Megan swears the book isn’t autobiographical, she admits there’s a lot of herself in the main character Bridget, a former journalist and mother of two with an over-developed sense of anxiety.

“Menopause really amplified my anxiety so I’ve channelled that into Bridget. My finely honed sense of guilt also makes it into the book – I have a comfortable, easy life compared to so many other people. But what do I do with that guilt? Even though I’ve never had to worry about being able to feed my kids, I’m only human with my own set of anxieties and worries, and it’s okay to feel like that.”

Megan gets extra brownie points for not shying away from the gritty subject of porn and, specifically,  child pornopgraphy.   

“Like so many people, I’ve always had that ‘Do I look, don’t I look’ thing with porn. But the idea of child pornography is so incredibly repellent. When I lived in Paris, the papers were full of stories about a child pornography ring in Belgium which I’ve never forgotten. And then a friend sent me a Guardian article about a husband in the writer’s social circle who was molesting children. It started me thinking about what something like that would mean for a tight-knit community, how it would impact on a social circle’s friendship.”

It takes a particular talent to see the humanity in situations like that but Megan nails it. I proffer she’s Aotearoa’s answer to Liane Moriarty, the Australian writer whose hugely succesful novels such as Big Little Lies and Apples Never Fall similarly colour outside suburbia’s lines. 

“Thank you for saying that! If I was half as successful as Liane I’d be thrilled!”  

Growing up in Auckland, the oldest child of “good hippy parents” (her father was an artist, her mother a clothing designer/teacher), when Megan was eight her mother left her father for Jan, “my other mother”.

“I knew it shocked other people but I fell in love with Jan and regard her as a very special woman in our lives. Mum and Jan have just celebrated their 40th anniversary.” 

While Megan was never bullied about what was, back then, quite an unconventional living  arrangement, she was circumspect about who she told. 

“I remember a conservative friend saying her parents were fine with her coming for a sleepover as long as she didn’t have a shower or bath around my mothers because it wouldn’t be safe!”     

Megan loved English at school, and it loved her back but, diverted by a desire to “save the world”, she   did a politics degree and then worked for not-for-profit organisations for a while.

Her OE was two years in Paris where she got engaged to a Frenchman, originally from Martinique. “He wanted to speak English and I was a bit homesick by then so we, and his enormous Rottweiler, moved to Auckland.”

The Frenchman turned out to be a serial philanderer and eventually he and his dog were sent packing.

“I had to pay for them to get back to Europe which left me with a huge debt.”

By then Megan was working as a journalist, initially for TVNZ’s website, then for the Sunday Star Times.   

All those years of journalism’s tight deadlines have served her well when it comes to her current career. “I’m a terrible procrastinator so I have to have a deadline to work to. I’ll say, I won’t leave my desk until I’ve written 500 words.”

She’s currently starting work on her follow up novel which be in the same middle-class suburban vein. 

When she’s not doing that, Megan likes to walk the family dog Roxy (“I gave up my gym membership during Covid) and isn’t averse to spending time in the kitchen.

“I’m vegetarian and am currently having a bit of a Mexican phase, so I’ll make some hot Mexican-themed dips which everyone can help themselves to.”

By this stage of the interview  I would have said that not much fazed Megan from a professional point of view. I’d be wrong.

Yes, she’s stared down the trolls and the keyboard warriors who poured their vitriol onto every column. But she’s genuinely concerned about how her first novel will be received. 

“All the time you’re writing a book, you just want to get it out there. But now it’s actually happening I’m utterly terrified. I’m girding my loins for people to tear it apart! Having experienced that level of hate before, I kind of know what to expect but it’s never easy.”

'One of Those Mothers' Book Cover
One of Those Mothers, Megan Nicol Reed
RRP $36.99

Hey There, Honey – The Amazing Benefits of Honey

Whenever I got a sore throat as a child, Mum gave me honey on a spoon with a crushed Disprin. The gooey, golden liquid slid down my throat, always making me feel better. Over the years, I’ve spent many winters guzzling lemon and honey drinks to soothe colds and sore throats, and sucking on propolis lozenges rather than cough drops.

Many centuries ago, the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks began using honey as a medicine and wound healer. Honeybee products – honey, propolis and venom – have been used medicinally for thousands of years. However, it was only relatively recently that scientific research revealed that honey has proven health effects. 

A recent University of Oxford study found that honey was more effective in relieving coughs in children than pharmaceutical remedies. “Honey was superior to usual care for the improvement of symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections. It provides a widely available and cheap alternative to antibiotics. Honey could help efforts to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance, but further high-quality, placebo-controlled trials are needed,’’ the report in the British Medical Journal said.

Another study by Cochrane, a UK-based health-research organisation, asked if honey could reduce cough symptoms caused by bacteria and viruses in children. It compared standard honey with cough medicine, the asthma medication salbutamol, and a placebo, and found there was little or no difference between honey and pharmaceutical medicines. Alongside honey’s effects on coughs and colds, bee venom was recently found to help with certain types of breast cancer in a Perth study.

These studies did not consider mānuka honey, which has received masses of attention in New Zealand and Australia due to its antibacterial and medicinal properties. As a result of this, beekeepers and the New Zealand honey industry claim that honeys like rewarewa and pōhutakawa have been overlooked. Pure New Zealand Honey raves on its website that honey is packed with antioxidants, antimicrobial qualities and other goodies: calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as enzymes and trace elements of iron, zinc and selenium. Honey also tastes sweeter than regular sugar, with one teaspoon of honey containing the same amount of sweetness as two teaspoons of sugar, so you need less of it for a sweet kick.

Jeremy Friend and Sharyn Woodnorth are artisanal honey makers in Christchurch, who source honey from their own beehives and from beekeepers around the country. Jeremy explains that all honeys are not equal, and darker honeys tend to have higher levels of antioxidants and flavonoids. The one that he and others are raving about is beechwood honey, sourced from trees in the South Island, which contains high levels of oligosaccharides, which help boost beneficial prebiotic bacteria in the gut.

Jeremy is a type 1 diabetic who has to be careful about his sugar intake. He often eats a teaspoon of beechwood honey. “It settles my stomach and helps me process my food. It’s a better option as a food sweetener as it has a lower glycemic index than sugar,’’ he says.

With almost one million hives now dotted around New Zealand, one of the frustrating issues for the industry is that honey is governed by food rather than medicinal laws, so they are not allowed to make health or therapeutic claims about honey on a jar.

That means a honey producer can’t report that honey has been shown to reduce blood pressure or has antibacterial qualities. “We find ourselves going up against Australian honeys with labels with a picture of a healthy gut on their jars but we can’t do the same here,’’ says Sean Goodwin, CEO of Pure New Zealand Honey and also the former deputy chairperson of Apiculture New Zealand.

Maureen Conquer, a hobby beekeeper and an international honey judge, travels the world tasting and judging honey. With hives on her properties south of Auckland and in Central Otago and about 45 different honey jars in her pantry, she can’t say enough about the benefits of honey. Each honey is influenced by the local flora, soil, climate and location of the hives. Maureen describes it as “a taste tour of New Zealand in a jar”, and says, “We’re increasingly realising that each honey reflects the terroir it comes from. The same apiary site will not produce the same honey each year, depending on the conditions.’’

Like others in the industry, Maureen is excited about the University of Oxford findings that honey is as effective as cough medicine in fighting respiratory illness symptoms. “We’ve always felt that honey in a lemon and honey drink is soothing, but to have it backed by science is pretty exciting and shows that it’s not just a nana tale. It tastes good and it’s good for the environment.’’

When it comes to eating honey, she says local can be best for those with allergies and food sensitivities. “There is evidence that people with allergies and food sensitivities benefit from eating honey from the their area as opposed to eating honey or bee pollen from another area.’’

Asked what the optimum time frame is to eat honey within, Maureen explains that the fresher it is, the better. The only exception is mānuka honey, which strengthens its Unique Mānuka Factor (UMF) rating as it ages. “Honey off the hive is the freshest and best honey. Or eating it from your local farmers’ market is also better as a whole food than a processed honey. Having warm honey straight from the hive is just like picking a peach straight off a tree.’’

And in what is a controversial point rejected by some honey producers, Maureen says that raw honey – honey that has not been heated, pasteurised, clarified or filtered in any way – has more goodness than some processed honeys, especially those that are heat treated above 35 degrees (above the ideal hive temperature) and fine filtered in a factory. 

“A lot of the big commercial honey producers making liquid honey will fine filter the honey to dissolve the crystals and make it runny,” says Maureen. Every time you heat it up and reduce the temperature, you risk reducing some of the flavour and nutritional value.   That said, consumers are funny people. They don’t want to find bees wings and bits of grass in their honey.’’ Jeremy Friend agrees that raw and fresh is best. He even sells honeycomb to those who want it.

The downside is that raw honey – such as that bought at a farmers’ market – will crystallise over time. While people might think this means that the honey has gone off, that’s not true, says Maureen, who points out it’s as good as ever but the texture can be strange to eat, like you’ve got sand or glass in your mouth.

Sean Goodwin says there is no difference in nutritional quality between processed and raw honey sold in New Zealand. Unlike other honeys around the world, there are strict quality controls for New Zealand honey that is unpasteurised and has nothing added. Internationally, honey is one of the top three adulterated products in the world, with some overseas honeys being watered down or diluted with cheap syrups and passed off as honey. “Here, we have this natural product from our islands. Our honeys generally have a minimal amount of processing to retain the goodness.’’

Based in Timaru, his company’s honey is handcrafted and blended to make the honey silky smooth before being sold here or shipped offshore. “We warm it to the temperature of the hive, so it can be filtered, which removes the impediments like bee parts and wax.’’

Along with honey’s health benefits, Sean argues that there are wider feel-good benefits from knowing that we have healthy hives in New Zealand, particularly when bee populations are suffering around the globe. “There’s a lot of interest in honey generally at the moment as we become focussed on preventative wellness and wholefoods, especially since Covid-19 and with the desire to boost one’s immunity. Honey is definitely a product that needs more talking about.’’

After more than a decade studying and analysing honey, Terry Braggins, a chemist at Analytica Laboratories in Waikato, waters down honey’s benefits, arguing the only proven variety is mānuka. Yes, honey is a healthier sweetener than white sugar but he doesn’t think we should overstate its goodness. “There are chemicals in it that may be good for your health,’’ he says.

Whatever the case, cooks and foodies are increasingly using honey to replace sugar in cooking and baking, and big food brands are ditching sugar for honey in products such as cereals. In Wānaka, Annabel Langbein has two hives at her property and uses her own honey in her cooking. “Where I am looking for a flavour profile rather than just straight sweetness, honey is my go-to. Honey is also hygroscopic, so it’s great to add to cakes and loaves to ensure a moist result,’’ the cook and food writer says.

Like wine, Annabel says honey has a range of flavour profiles that are exciting to taste and discover. Thyme is very savoury and herbaceous, working well in savoury marinades for example. “Bees are such amazing creatures and they’re so important to our world as pollinators and to give us this delicious honey. We’re so lucky to live in a place where we have these incredible varieties of honey to enjoy,’’ she says.

Kānuka Sidebar:

Shaun Holt eats a spoonful of honey every day. “It’s a great supplement filled with vitamins and minerals. It’s a healthy part of my diet,’’ he says.

The Coromandel-based doctor, pharmacist and entrepreneur is the co-founder of a pharmaceutical company that uses kānuka honey as the base of all its natural products. HoneyLab produces medicinal honey, and has so far made several products out of kānuka that have been lab tested and are rivalling their pharmaceutical equivalents: a cold sore ointment, an acne cream,  a rosacea cream and a honey liquid for sore throats.

Kānuka honey is sourced from kānuka trees, which are often mistaken with mānuka because they look similar and are also called tea trees. The late Professor Peter Molan talked about kānuka’s potential when he studied the medicinal benefits of honey in the 1980s and 1990s.

Shaun says his company’s cold sore trial tested 952 people and was the biggest clinical trial ever carried out in New Zealand. Published in BMJ Open last year, the results showed that cold sores took the same time to heal with Honey Lab’s Honevo cream as they did with Zovirax, the pharmaceutical equivalent. But Zovriax can only be used for a limited time, and with restrictions, whereas you can continue applying mānuka honey until the cold sore has healed.

“I think that’s exciting because if you ask consumers if they’d like a natural honey or a synthetic chemical, I think they’d choose the natural option,’’ he says.

Other HoneyLab natural products containing kānuka or bee pollen help with anti-ageing, nausea and vomiting, sleep and stress and muscle and joint pain. HoneyLab recently signed a deal with a pharmaceutical company in the United States to license seven of its products.

Annabel Langbein: Carrot orange honey muffins

Honey is hygroscopic, which means that it absorbs moisture. As a result, any kind of baking that uses honey will be nice and moist and often better a day or two after it’s been baked.

Ready in 35 mins Makes 15


  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup neutral oil
  • ½ cup honey
  •  ¼ packed cup soft brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  2 carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or sunflower seeds


Preheat oven to 180°C and line a muffin tin with squares of baking paper. Beat eggs, oil, honey, sugar and vanilla until evenly combined. Mix in carrots. Stir in flour, soda, cinnamon, orange zest and salt until just combined, then stir in coconut and walnuts (do not overmix). Spoon into prepared muffin tins to three-quarters full. Bake until springy to the touch (25-30 minutes). Uncooked batter keeps in the fridge for several days and can be cooked as needed.

Caption: The beneficial properties of mānuka extend beyond honey. ManukaRx has developed a mānuka oil harvested from East Cape mānuka trees, which it says have scientifically proven antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

Discover the Magic of Matcha

Matcha is a finely ground powder made from specially processed and shade-grown green tea leaves, specifically from the Camellia sinensis plant. It has been a central part of Japanese culture and traditional tea ceremonies for centuries. The word “matcha” comes from “ma” (meaning ground or rubbed) and “cha” (meaning tea).

Are there any health benefits?

Matcha is considered to be healthy due to its various benefits, which are primarily attributed to its high concentration of antioxidants, especially catechins. Some of the potential health benefits of matcha include:

  1. Rich in antioxidants: It contains a high concentration of antioxidants, which help protect the body against free radicals and cellular damage. These antioxidants, particularly a catechin called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), are known for their potential cancer-fighting properties.
  2. Boosts metabolism and aids in weight loss: Some studies have shown that matcha can help increase metabolism and fat burning, which may support weight loss efforts when combined with a healthy diet and exercise.
  3. Enhances cognitive function: Matcha contains a unique combination of caffeine and an amino acid called L-theanine, which together are thought to promote alertness, focus, and concentration without the jitters or energy crashes associated with other caffeine sources.
  4. Supports heart health: Regular consumption of matcha green tea has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and improving blood flow.
  5. Provides a natural source of energy: It moderate amount of caffeine, providing a sustained and natural source of energy without the adverse effects typically experienced with coffee or energy drinks.

It’s no surprise that matcha is becoming increasingly popular. The team at Honest Food Talks has created some incredible dessert recipes that will leave you feeling happy and satisfied. 

Matcha Pudding


  • 1 ½ tbsps culinary-grade matcha powder 
  • 2 gelatin sheets 
  • 2 tbsps hot water 
  • 1 ¼ cups whole milk 
  • ¼ cup sugar 
  • 3 tbsps sweet red bean paste 
  • Whipped cream (optional) 
  • Salt to taste


  • Cut the gelatin sheets and melt them using the double boiler method. 
  • Pour the whole milk into a saucepan and bring it to almost a boil. When there are small bubbles around the edge of the saucepan, turn off the heat. Add sugar to the milk and whisk well until dissolved. 
  • Add 3 tablespoons of the milk mixture to the matcha powder. Whisk until the mixture is silky smooth and lump-free. Pour the mix into the remaining milk mixture and whisk until well combined. 
  • Add the gelatin liquid into the mixture and whisk well. Add salt to taste. Add a tablespoon of the matcha mixture to the red bean paste and mix well. 
  • Separate it into individual servings and layer the red bean paste mix with the matcha mix as the top layer. Refrigerate your pudding for 2 hours, and serve with whipped cream on top.

Vegan Matcha Ice Cream


  • 3 tbsps culinary-grade matcha 
  • 1 can sweetened condensed coconut milk (about 350 ml)
  • 1 can coconut cream (about 350 ml) 
  • Pinch of salt (optional)


  • Begin by combining sweetened condensed milk and matcha powder in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Whisk the mixture thoroughly until the matcha powder is fully blended and there are no visible clumps. Next, gradually pour and whisk in the coconut cream until thoroughly combined with the matcha mixture. 
  • Divide the mixture into a bowl and freeze it. Remove it after an hour to whisk it so air gets into the mix and turns creamy. Pour into ice trays. Then leave it back to freeze for another hour. 
  • Remove the ice trays from the freezer after freezing the base until solid. Let them warm up at room temperature. Next, remove the cubes from the trays. Place them into a blender. Blend the frozen base until it becomes smooth, ensuring to scrape down the sides as needed. 
  • Transfer the final product into a chilled storage container. Freeze the dessert for 30 minutes to let it firm up. 
  • Finally, enjoy your vegan matcha ice cream after leaving it out to soften for a few minutes!

Related article: Elevating Your Smoothie Game. Creating Nutritious and Delicious Smoothies with a Fashionable Twist

Te Motonui Epa Book Extract

Te Motonui Epa Book Cover

Dr Rachel Buchanan (Taranaki, Te Ātiawa) is an author, historian, archivist, journalist and curator. Her recent book Te Motonui Epa (Bridget Williams Books, 2022) tells the story of a treasured set of carved pātaka (storehouse) panels that were smuggled out of the country in the 1970’s.

When they resurfaced at a Sotheby’s auction years later it prompted a long and complicated process to bring them home again. It is a compelling story that involves skullduggery and theft and greed and it is written with the eye of a writer who thinks like a poet. We asked her some questions about her work.

Read the full WOMAN+ interview about Te Motonui Epa here.

Book Extract FroM Te Motonui Epa

On the eve of  the apocalypse, the old people hid the treasure. They said karakia to ward off  the terror and panic. Clear heads, steady hands, quick feet, teamwork, a plan. Future-​proofing. They dismantled the pātaka and carried the five carved panels to Peropero, a swamp just north of  Waitara. They placed the taonga in the gentle arms of  mother Earth. The rangatira carved into the tōtara took one last look at the blistering Taranaki sky before they let go, sank beneath the surface and went to sleep. Power-​save mode was fully activated. Snug and safe, our tūpuna dozed in the dark beneath the days and months and years of  the 1820s and 1830s when Taranaki was gutted by invaders from the north.

They were waiting for someone to come back to get them, but no one did. The ones who had hidden the epa were killed or captured or had fled. Then, just as people began to return home to Taranaki, a new apocalypse began. The first shots in the war between Taranaki and Britain were fired on 17 March 1860 at Te Kōhia pā, just down the road from where the carvings lay. From there the fighting spread south, along the coast and inland, encompassing the whole province.

He rā pōuri, he rā tukupū pōuri kerekere.

These are days of  darkness and the moon and stars give no light.

The hiding place at Motunui was forgotten. The soil shifted and the place markers sank. The temporary interment of  the panels stretched into something more permanent. The epa were left alone, and the years became decades and the decades became a century and then the century became a century and a half. The carvings travelled on, unchanged, beneath the surface of  time – not dead, not extinct, but dormant.

The problem was, the epa were hōhā. It was boring down there in the dark. It was lonely. And they were sick of  being in the one spot. They wanted to have a look around – do something! So, our ancestors stretched their tongues, rolled their eyes and got ready to wake up.

The old world was about to meet the new.

The alarm clock went off  in late 1971. Summer. Cicadas owned the airwaves. And cows. And the sea. If you lived near the coast, the sea hummed all night like a giant air-​conditioning unit.

Cecil Smart, a Pākehā farmer, contracted Alec Fields of  Inglewood to dig a ditch through the swamp opposite the Bailey house on Otaraoa Road, Tikorangi. Cecil and his brother Maurice ran drystock there. Thirteen years earlier, the brothers had leased the land from the Māori owners, the Skipper family. The block was known as Ngatirahiri 1D2.

The digger got to work, and in doing so scraped the edge of  a buried length of  wood, shearing off  some of  its carved surface.

Speckles of  light at first, then a stream, then a flood. The air was a shocking blast of  salty cool on our ancestors.

Cecil Smart was aware that Māori artefacts, as he called them, had been found nearby. A carved panel had been discovered there by local man Percy Cole in 1958. When Fields had finished his work and the whole ditch had been dug, Cecil contacted an acquaintance, Melville Manukonga, to see if  he would like to come and have a look around. Manukonga, himself  a carver, was the owner of  Kurahaupo, a souvenir shop in New Plymouth. He sold his own work there and at other places, like the shop at Auckland War Memorial Museum.

Cecil showed him the spot where the digger had scraped the carving. Manukonga walked around, felt the carving with his foot, and bent down to examine it. Our tūpuna looked up at him. They blinked. They were so happy to be found, touched. Then Manukonga made a wider, more careful search. In the sides of  the drain he saw four more carved panels, which, when placed together, formed the complete wall of  a pātaka or food store. He also found two other pieces of  carved wood, the bits that had been removed from the first panel by the blade of  the drain digger.

Manukonga had found the odd stone sinker or broken adze before, but nothing as exciting as the panels. ‘It was like a gold prospector finding gold,’ he later said.

Cecil and Manukonga took the carvings back to Cecil’s place. They washed them, then Manukonga covered them in wet sacks and, with Cecil’s consent, took them back to his house at Constance Street, New Plymouth. He cleaned them again, treated them with a mixture of  kerosene and linseed oil, and stored them in his shed. From then on, he regarded the panels as his property. Finders keepers, as they say.

Cecil’s brother Maurice Smart was away fishing when the panels were unearthed, but a few days after he got back he went over to Manukonga’s place to have a look at them. The carvings were in a very bad state. ‘As I say, they looked a mess,’ Maurice recalled. ‘When I saw the wood under the wet sacks I didn’t think they had any real value. All I thought at the time was that Mel Manukonga would be lucky to save them.’

Manukonga knew the carvings were very significant. He appreciated the exquisite skill in the strokes, the hours and days and months it would have taken to bring the figures to life from the fine red pine, the restraint and patience of  the artists. He judged that one panel had been made with greenstone tools, because the markings were shallower. This panel had possibly been made for a maihi, a gable of  a meeting house, and it was almost certainly made in pre-​European times, though it may have been modified to fit with the newer work. Those other panels, with their deep, intertwined serpentine figures, had probably been carved with steel – early on, well before 1840. He took some photos of  the panels with his Box Brownie and started to invite ‘interested people’ to his shed for viewings. Among them were Audrey Gale, the chairwoman of  the Taranaki Museum Board executive committee, and her husband. The aim, Manukonga would later say, was to present the taonga to the Taranaki Museum.

On 26 August 1972, Audrey Gale made her second visit to Constance Street to see the epa. This time she was accompanied by New Plymouth-​born anthropologist Dr Harry Skinner, founder of  the New Zealand Archaeological Association and a former director of  the Otago Museum. The carvings were now laid out in the living room, each set apart from the other. Put together, they were about 1.5 metres high at the peak of  the middle panel and 1.2 metres wide – about the same size as the side of  a small car. The anthropologist and the museum board chairwoman tiptoed around the panels for about three-​quarters of  an hour, then left.

Manukonga had also invited the director of  the Taranaki Museum, Rigby Allan, but he did not turn up. Manukonga was so offended that he decided he would not present the panels to the museum after all. Instead, given the ‘complete lack of  interest shown by Mr Rigby Allan’, he would mount them in his home. He later told Nigel Prickett, an archaeologist and former curator at the Taranaki Museum, that he heard Rigby Allan had gone to play bowls instead.

Some five months later, on 11 February 1973, Andrew Moller, a retired dairy factory manager from Edgecumbe, and his wife Margaret took Canadian visitors Mr and Mrs Jack Binkley to Manukonga’s house to view an assortment of  his carvings. The men had become friends during the Second World War; Moller bought the Binkleys a wooden tiki as a gift.

Manukonga took the two couples out to the shed to show them the epa. Andrew Moller was impressed. As a member of  the Bay of  Plenty Historical Society, he knew a bit about ancient Māori carvings, and recognised that the panels were carved in ‘traditional Taranaki style’ and had been part of  the end wall of  a pātaka. Manukonga let him take a photograph, and Moller later passed this on to the curator at Whakatāne Museum.

On another occasion, Manukonga invited a local collector, Raymond Joseph Watenburg of  Waitara, to value the panels. Watenburg believed the carving on the farthest left of  the five panels was made by carvers associated with Manukorihi pā, Waitara. The other four he categorised as coming from ‘Ngatirahiri’. He later recalled that while he was looking at the panels, a man and woman arrived and asked him if  he thought the panels were genuine. Watenburg said he thought they were, and that he estimated their worth at about $14,000. He also told them the carvings couldn’t go out of  the country; the couple said they were setting up a collection on the East Coast. That night, Watenburg invited the pair over to his place to look at his collection, but they seemed unimpressed. The man did most of  the talking. He was European. The woman was nondescript.

Melville Manukonga did not mention Raymond Watenburg at all in the account he later gave to investigators. The way he recalled it, a man and woman showed up unannounced at Constance Street one weekend afternoon in late February 1973. He had ‘no idea’ how they had heard about the carvings, as few people knew of  their existence. The man was in his early thirties and spoke with an educated English accent. The woman was about the same age but she had an American accent. They drove a new car, something like an Austin Maxi. The woman told Manukonga that her father was a millionaire. They said they were travelling around New Zealand buying artefacts and had heard he had some carvings. They asked to have a look.

The epa were face to face now with a different kind of  connoisseur, one whose networks extended well beyond Pākehā scholars, museum staff, fossickers and members of  local historical societies, and out into the world of  international dealers and collectors for whom discernment and discretion were the code words that hid other motives. Money was one motive, obviously. But there were other things too – about possession and protection, hoarding and storing, a sort of  mooning sentimentality about the lost, the dead, the former, the primitive, the pure, the true.

The man and woman touched our ancestors’ faces and bodies, making a careful appraisal. They were clearly interested, and questioned Manukonga closely. He showed the couple specific parts of  the panels that were particularly characteristic of  Taranaki carving. Number one: the foreheads of  the faces were pointed, like the summit of  a mountain. When the panels were placed side by side, they also formed a mountain shape. That was one of  the major giveaways. The writhing, serpentine figures cut so deeply into the wood were another Taranaki signature. As were the short, curved ridges that cut into the patterns on the eyebrows or mouths of  the figures, and the open loops and spirals above the heads.

Scholars had written – and would continue to write – about these features, noting the various details and publishing articles about them in the Journal of the Polynesian Society and elsewhere. John Yaldwyn, director of  the National Museum, Wellington: ‘As a style, Taranaki carving has not been followed since the musket wars of  the early nineteenth century.’ The skill and rarity of  Taranaki work was remarkable. Past tense: mandatory. Tone: final. Stone-​age Taranaki Māori art.

Now, an exhumation, a pulse, heartbeat, colour. A glowing miniature of  the mountain on the lounge-​room floor.

Touched, the figures looked startled, puckered, wrinkled, quizzical, intertwined, like birds or serpents trapped in wood. The arms and legs flowed in and out of  each other, and in the central panel, a three-​fingered hand reached out of  a mouth.

‘Ancestor sculpture with the interwoven bodies possibly sexual in significance expressing ideas of  fertility and abundance (a theme not inappropriate to a food store-​house!)’

Like a strand of  DNA made from wood. A double helix with tongues. Like eels seething in a black creek.

An encyclopedia in another language.

An index finger, pointing to the future and the past. Look!

Taonga tuku iho.

The epa watched the three people from many angles. Their eyes, where pāua shells once hung, were little knobbles in the wood, like buttons. They scanned the people’s faces. The man and woman were keen but not too keen. Nonchalance was a good mask. Melville Manukonga was hopeful, wary. 

The man asked Manukonga if  he was interested in selling the panels, and Manukonga said he was not. The man asked him to think about it and said he would contact him again.

Two or three days later, the man once again got in touch. He offered to buy the panels for $6,000. The average annual income in New Zealand at that time was less than $5,000. Manukonga and his wife Frances talked it over and decided to sell. The next day the man and woman came back. The man wrapped the panels in sacking and put them in the boot of  his car. They paid Manukonga in cash, as per his request. ‘Whilst I counted the money I asked the two persons whether they intended to take the said panels out of  New Zealand and they assured me they did not,’ he would later recall.

Several weeks later, the epa left New Zealand. How? The dimensions were one restriction on concealment. Height x width x depth, 1050–680 x 440 x 50mm. And the weight. The carvings could not be fitted in your carry-​on or squashed into a sports bag. One theory was that the epa were painted red and smuggled out disguised as replicas. Another was that our tūpuna were hidden in the back of  a wardrobe.

By April, the epa were in an apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side owned by Roberta (Bobbie) Nochimson, an historian and collector of  Pacific art. The touching continued. The looking. The calculating. The telephone calls to interested parties. Swiss-​based collector George Ortiz flew in to New York for a viewing.

The epa met him on 21 April 1973. They let their eyes bore into him. Then they made their eyes pop at him, pūkana style. Then they shrugged. What now, wee fellow?

George Ortiz was not much taller than the highest panel. One of  his famous friends, British writer Bruce Chatwin, called him Mighty Mouse. He was a dapper dresser, with dark eyes, dark skin and a cap of  black hair. He was also the possessor of  an eighteenth-​century mansion in Geneva and an ebullient, obsessive spirit – and primed to appreciate this masterpiece of  Taranaki art. Ortiz prided himself  on his eye, his gift, the way he could perceive what artists had put into their work.

Our tūpuna, so complex and beautiful, hit him with an incredible force. His response was emotional, visceral and instantaneous. It was FOMO at an epic scale. Two days later, George Ortiz agreed to a purchase price of  US$65,000, to be paid in three instalments. A sort of  Afterpay arrangement, with a little bit knocked off  the price if  he promised to throw in ‘a few minor items’ in return. The vendor admitted he had removed the carvings from New Zealand without a permit – but even so, he was still the owner, he held the title and he would pass that title on. Ask me no questions, I’ll tell you no lies. All in good faith.

They called it primitive art. Or Oceanic art, to be nice.

By 11 May 1973, our tūpuna were on a plane to Switzerland. From six feet under to 30,000 feet up, Taranaki’s envoy had been dispatched.

Imagery from: Rebecca McMillan

BearLion Kitchen Miso Potatoes with Garlic, Lime & Chilli

A recipe taken from the wholesome new cook book Food For Thought: A New Zealand Grown Cook Book From BearLion Kitchen. The addition of fresh slices of lime to this salad is what really brings it alive. I go nuts for limes when they are in season. If you are making this when there are none available, lemon will suffice.


  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds 
  • 4 heaped tbsp miso paste 
  • 2 tbsp olive oil 
  • 3 tbsp water 
  • 6 potatoes, scrubbed & chopped into big wedges 
  • 8 cloves garlic 
  • ¼ cup olive oil 
  • 5 big kale leaves 
  • 1 whole chilli, finely chopped, or dried flakes 
  • 2–3 limes, zest and flesh
  • salt


  1. Preheat oven to 170˚C fan bake. 
  2. Toast the sunflower seeds on a small tray for 15 minutes. Remove seeds from the oven and turn temperature up to 220˚C. Mix the miso, olive oil and water in a bowl, add your potato wedges and mix and coat well.
  3. Spread them on a tray and roast for 20–30 minutes. Don’t be alarmed as the miso can darken quickly.  If your oven is super hot and it looks as though the miso is blackening, turn oven down to 200˚C. Finish cooking when spuds are tender. 
  4. Slice garlic thinly and place in a small pot with the olive oil, cook on medium heat until just starting to brown and then turn the heat off. The hot oil will continue to cook the garlic. 
  5. Prep your kale by washing and stripping the frills from the stems, then roughly tearing the leafy part into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Slice the stalk thinly. When potatoes are ready, turn off the oven, remove the tray and place your kale stems and leaves on top. Put back in the oven and let the residual heat almost blanch the kale. Give it 5 minutes and then remove to cool. 
  7. Put the potatoes and kale into a bowl, add all the garlic and oil, chilli (use as much or as little as you like; fermented chilli is my favourite) and lime zest. Remove the pith from the lime, then slice very thinly and add to the potato mix. Give a good toss and try a mouthful with a little bit of everything together. Does it need a little salt to bring it all together? 
  8. Serve as is or with a whole fried flounder, or perhaps some chopped boiled eggs with aioli.

Recipe from Food for Thought: A New Zealand-Grown Cookbook from the BearLion Kitchen. “Food for Thought is a book for anyone who likes to eat tasty food that is easy to make. A book for anyone who cares what they put into their body. A book for anyone who gives a damn about this planet. Be prepared to simplify and improve your attitude to cooking, to food and to the way you live your life”

Related article: BearLion Kitchen Date Pudding With Espresso Syrup

A Mole Map May Save Your Life

A new Kiwi-developed AI for a Mole Map will soon be used to screen thousands of patients for skin cancer and that’s great news for a country with chilling statistics on skin cancer.

*This is a voiceover created by AI and therefore some of the words or pronunciations may be incorrect. We hope you still enjoy this listening experience

“He should’ says Claudia, watching a sunburnt man in Speedos. “She should. He definitely should.’

She’s playing a game of her own devising. She calls it Melanopoly. She passes judgment on the surrounding sunbathers, announcing which of them should have particular moles checked. A freckled red-head picks his way across the hot sand to the water.

‘I give him two years.’

‘You’re a morbid cow, aren’t you,’ says Max. Max is Claudia’s new boyfriend.

‘One does what one can.’ She smiles demurely; ‘He should. He should. Both of them should. Oh! Oh how sweet! An entire high-risk family!’

Mother, father and three pink children walk past with dripping cones.

Written by Catherine Chidgey, the scene from the novel A Fishbone Church features a young medical doctor on a city beach in Sydney playing a game she has invented with her fellow medical colleagues. I remember reading the book while lying on white sand in my togs in the summer of 1998. It was the first time I had come across the word melanoma in a novel.

Poisoning, heart attacks, murder and what was known as ‘the NZ death’ – drowning, were the usual ways to kill off a character and yet the previous year 200 people had died from skin cancer. Since the 1960’s and right up until the mid 80’s the melanoma mortality rate increased by approximately 3 percent each year.

1998 was also the year my husband one day leaned across and asked if I could feel a lump in his neck. I remember tracing my finger into the lovely scoop of flesh below his clavicle and finding the pea sized ball that rolled around under my touch like a marble in a cup. The lump was not a mole but tests revealed it to be stage 4 melanoma. Somewhere at some time in his life the sun’s ultraviolet rays had disrupted and affected the genes that controlled how his cells grew and divided. It’s hard not to want to know when this occurred exactly.

I need a beginning. Was it the summer he spent painting roofs with his shirt off? Or the year he lived like a hippy on a sun drenched Greek island? It didn’t really matter when it began and for a while it looked like we were going to be lucky.We had seven years before the bad cells won out. 

These days no one with any sense goes out into the sun without protection. Still I worry about my own past. My summers of burn and peel. One year when she was 14 years old my sister had sunstroke and had to stay inside in the dark to recover for days while the adults paid closer attention to our application of zinc. As well as the obligatory thick white unguent that coated our noses we also used a mixture of baby oil and coconut oil to fry our legs. 

Skin cancer, including non-melanoma and the more deadly melanoma, is New Zealand’s most common cancer with an estimated 90,000 non-melanoma skin lesions diagnosed each year. New Zealand and Australia have the world’s highest rates of melanoma with 4,000 new cases annually and over 350 Kiwis dying from it each year.

For most of us who sunbathed throughout the 60’s and 70’s we’ve learned to look at our skin in the shower with an awareness of skin cancer.. Any changes in the appearance of a mole or one that looks unusual alarms the heart. 

Melanoma can be cured in 98% of cases if diagnosed early enough and so the news that a new Kiwi-developed AI will soon be used to screen thousands of patients in the early stages of melanoma is something I care about. The new tech can diagnose almost as accurately as a doctor and by mapping a patient’s suspicious lesions with the algorithm it determines how likely it is to be malignant. Anything suspicious can then be referred on to a specialist to examine more closely. 

Dr Franz Strydom, Mole Map medical director, says it is hoped the new AI will help address the chronic shortage of skin specialists in the country. 

“While a doctor might see numerous lesions or melanomas over the course of their career, the computer also learns this information, but can formulate a diagnosis much faster,” he says.

For peace of mind and because I couldn’t decide if the mole on my ankle had always been there or was a harbinger of death I was keen to take up the offer of a mole map.

The map of moles 

It was easy to book an appointment that lasted an hour and 30 minutes but I had wrongly assumed that since we were dealing with AI I wouldn’t be dealing with a human. I thought I would step into a windowless room with just me and a robot and my careless choice of underwear that morning was a bad mistake.

When I arrived at the Skin Clinic I was led into a very small room which was locked and told to pop behind the screen, strip down to my undies and emerge ready for her intense gaze. This was only slightly terrifying given that a week of rain and flooding in Tamaki Makaurau meant I was wearing the worst pair of underpants ever. I’ll be honest they are underpants that shouldn’t even live in a drawer. You know the kind. No elastic, baggy, a grayish white from going through the wrong wash.  The clinician asked if I wouldn’t mind rolling them down a bit (they were large high waisters) and told me to stand up against a wall while she used a camera with an impressive lens to capture me in a range of very specific poses; from front to back and side on, bending over, legs apart, arms above my head and these she uploaded onto her screen and mapped into segments. 

She then began to go over my entire body using the gentlest of touches and speaking in the softest of voices. She started under my fingernails on each hand and proceeded to thoroughly inspect every square inch of me. My hands were held and scrutinized and my arms, my neck, my shoulders, my ears, under my breasts. Even the inside of my belly button was given the same attention. The hair on my head was parted into stripes and systematically surveyed. I felt like I was being groomed and de-loused in the gentlest way which gave me mild ASMR vibes. We could have been primates in a pen. I admit, I almost began to enjoy it.

If a mole was ‘suspicious’ she took a very close up photo of it. These would be sent off to be given the scrutiny of an expert. I was assured all images would stay locked in an online portal that only myself and my doctor had access to. I didn’t think any money would be made selling pictures of me in my bad underpants. I won’t know the results for another ten days, but assuming all is well this time, it’s nice to know the map of my moles will be there as a comparison for my next visit in twelve months. 

The average cost for a full-body skin screening in New Zealand can range from $250 to $399, depending on the technology used and the provider. An inner city medical centre charges $120 without imaging. Doctors will often be able to identify and remove some moles in the same appointment. Ask if your GP has experience of doing a mole map. Not all doctors offer a complete mole map but they will all be able to check a particular mole you are worried about.

Related article: Cervical screening – The Health Check to End All Health Checks

Some facts about melanoma in New Zealand:

High incidence rate: New Zealand has one of the highest incidence rates of melanoma in the world, with a particularly high rate among its population of fair-skinned individuals.

Sun exposure: Excessive exposure to UV radiation from the sun is the main risk factor for melanoma. New Zealand’s location near the equator means that its population is exposed to high levels of UV radiation, increasing the risk of skin damage and skin cancer.

Age group affected: Melanoma can affect people of all ages, but it is more common in people over the age of 50.

Early detection: Early detection and treatment of melanoma are critical to increasing survival rates. Regular self-examination of the skin, and regular check-ups with a dermatologist, can help to detect melanoma in its early stages when it is most treatable.

Treatment: The treatment of melanoma depends on the stage and size of the tumour, as well as the patient’s overall health. Treatments may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or a combination of these treatments.

Survival rates: The five-year survival rate for people with early-stage melanoma is over 90%, but this decreases to around 15-20% for people with advanced-stage melanoma.

Prevention: Preventing melanoma involves reducing exposure to UV radiation from the sun, using protective clothing and sunscreens, and avoiding sunburn. Regular skin checks and early detection are also important for preventing melanoma and increasing survival rates.

The most common signs and symptoms of melanoma:

A change in the appearance of a mole: This can include the size, shape, color, or texture of a mole.

The development of a new mole: Melanoma often appears as a new mole that is different from the person’s other moles.

Asymmetrical moles: Melanomas are often irregular in shape and asymmetrical, with two halves that look different from each other.

Irregular borders: Melanomas can have uneven, scalloped, or notched borders.

Changes in color: Melanomas can be a mix of different colors, including shades of brown, black, and tan.

Diameter larger than a pencil eraser: Melanomas are often larger than 6mm in diameter, about the size of a pencil eraser.

Itching, burning, or tenderness: Melanomas can be itchy, tender, or bleed.

Love Language Lost

Love letters are meant for only one pair of eyes but the sentiment remains forever...

Everyone knows the Victorians were big on the love letter. Face to face meetings were chaperoned but the letter was a private space where feelings could be expressed. For consistency and effort no one outdid Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning though. Between them they wrote 573 letters, stoking the love in each other’s hearts to a blazing fire before eloping against the wishes of Elizabeth’s father.

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways” are the opening lines of Sonnet 43 written by Elizabeth Barrett Browning to her husband and used on sticky Valentine’s Day cards for over a century. With the skills of a supreme writer she lists them as precisely as though giving  coordinates to the formulation of her heart.

“I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints”

Most of us are inadequate or cliched when it comes to the task of saying just how much we love someone. Like in the best selling children’s book  “Guess How Much I Love You” (2005) in which Little Nut Brown shows his daddy how much he loves him (as wide as he can reach and as far as he can hop to the moon and back). 

Always the advice is less is more when it comes to writing it down. Unlike the Victorians, modern day love notes are/were written for one set of eyes only. Say what you mean to say (and keep it short). In 2009 the Courtney Place Lightboxes exhibited Marie Shannon’s Love Notes (2005) a series of black-and-white photographs Marie had taken of private notes exchanged between her, her partner (the artist Julian Dashper), and their son Leo.

“I L Y and sorry for being grumpy xxx” read one 

“ I L Y always”” 

and “ I L Y xxx”

Without any inflated vocabulary or sentence structure, without metaphor or adverb and more than the fact of their plainness what also gives these notes their charge is the fact of seeing the private made public. 

Once while wearing a 1950’s blazer belonging to my late husband’s aunt (that I had saved from the charity bin), I reached into the pocket emblazoned with the official silver fern and discovered a love note. Sonia Cox had been a world champion badminton and tennis player who’d gone to Wimbledon and played professionally in the 1950s for New Zealand.

She’d returned home and lived alone, her body lay undiscovered for days in her semi-detached flat in Island Bay when she died. As far as the family knew she had never been in a relationship, never been in love. The note which had been written on ruled note paper and carefully folded up (and how many times unfolded!) into a minute square read simply  “To my dearest” and  “Good Luck” and beneath it kisses drawn in the form of crossed tennis racquets.

As ee cummings wrote “here is the deepest secret nobody knows, I carry your heart with me” (I carry it in my heart). 

pile of letters on a wooden table with blue ribbon

When my father and mother fell in love they were not in a position to do anything about it. My mother was a widow with two young children and my father was a close friend of her dead husband. I imagine it must have been awkward. At what point did their common grief turn to love? This is not an unusual story. People come together to comfort one another and find they’re all tangled up.

The history is vague and they never really talked about it, preferring to try and keep the stepdad aspect out of the family lexicon. Put it this way, I did not know that two of my siblings had had another father until I was around 13 years old.

When my dad died, my parents had been married for over 60 years. Every year for almost all of their marriage dad would write mum a Valentine’s Day sonnet. He mastered the poem’s fixed rhyme scheme and used all the metaphors of his flying days to good effect – parachutes, blue skies as well as roses. The denouement was always an expression of his hopelessness – ”without your love…” He was a true romantic as well as a fighter pilot and stayed well on course with his serenades.

In 1945 shortly after they both realised that their ‘closeness’ was becoming so much more, dad left the Hawkes Bay where my mother was living to go and find work in Auckland and – it seems – to put some space between them so they could know what their ‘true feelings’ were for each other. I know this because recently I found a cache of letters that he had written to her. They are the only things that she kept from a time before their marriage and they were tied with a blue ribbon. True story.

The writing is almost impossible to decipher. So slant as to be horizontal, the letters are written over the days and weeks he was away and they always start with him proclaiming how slow the post is. Sometimes they run to 13 or 14 pages written on both sides. They dictate the tedium involved in his life between receiving the last letter of hers and the agonising wait for the next. He is so love smitten he is ill. All hell is endured because of their love. The more harrowing and painful it is, the better the witness to it.

The letters are so personal and private that I cannot bear to read them. I do not recognise my father who ran marathons, flew planes, built a shed and poured concrete but I do recognise a man in love.

Emails disappear in a glitch, texts are lost to the Cloud but what I would rescue from a flood are letters which start with the words  My darling, …


A Rail Of A Good Time: This Inter Island Journey Might Be The Most Scenic Route To Travel

The man on my port side is recalling the Waihine grounding and the boy off to starboard insists he sees sharks but am I bothered? Wellington harbour’s calm and emerald green, terns are escorting the ferry Awatere into Cook Strait and the first of the three Great Journeys of New Zealand I am making on your behalf is fully underway. 

The seasonal Coastal Pacific train between Picton and Christchurch will be my second journey; the TranzAlpine between Christchurch and Greymouth the third. NZ Rail doesn’t know that for these trips I’d pay to travel in the luggage car and has got me in Scenic Plus, their new first class service and worth every cent although, full disclosure, I never paid a thing. 

The Picton ferries have their own version of Carriage A and if I wasn’t so busy striding Awatere’s decks whistling sea shanties, shouting “Ahoy there” at fellow passengers and generally entering into the salty spirit of things I could upgrade to the Interislander Plus lounge (meals and drinks included, comfy seats, no children). However, no need – I have partaken of one a “world famous oven-baked scone” (more jam next time please); the Awatere is only a third full – many Kiwis are back at work and Covid’s done for the internationals – and the juveniles on board are fully occupied with their BYO activities or the ferry’s. 

Awatere glides between the densely bushed slopes of Tory Channel and Queen Charlotte Sound, then Shiver me timbers, there lies Picton!

A bus, a car, a plane will move you from Christchurch to Picton or Greymouth, but you book a seat in Carriage A for all that happens in between – sublime country, much of it invisible from the road; endless Aotearoan food and drink that is regionally relevant where possible Tiki and Tohu wines, Monteith beers, Marlborough salmon, Canterbury lamb, chocolates and cakes from Christchurch, plated on board and served with bona fide china, linen, cutlery and glasses; and the Scenic Plus crew, most of whom exercised their terrific customer service skills in the cabin of an aircraft until Covid grounded their industry. 

“Planes got like buses,” says one. “They got you from A to B, passengers were antisocial, nobody wanted to talk. People are here for an experience. They’re mingling and socialising and having a laugh with each other and with us.”

True that. As the Coastal Pacific begins its 349km journey Owen across the aisle says “If you’re going to do this trip, do it properly.” A South Islander to the marrow, he and wife Doreen are now living in Auckland but only because they have to – their children and grandchildren are there.  From Christchurch they’ll drive a camper van to Te Anau to meet some of them, presently walking the Milford Track. Owen is encyclopaedic on the Mainland. I tell him I’m writing a 1500-word travel story.  He says 1500 words will only get me as far as Blenheim. “This is such a wonderful country and so few people appreciate it.” 

Yes it is, Owen. And honestly, I’m appreciating it like mad – bush-clad hills and little valleys; row upon row of vines, an almost hectic green against the lion-coloured hills; the fabled bays I’ve read about on wine bottles (Cloudy, Pegasus); Lake Grassmere’s pink evaporation ponds, the effect of algae changing colour as salinity increases, and the glittering mounds of salt, an ingredient in Skellerup gumboots; the hulking Inland and Seaward Kaikouras, the clear and lovely Hurunui River; the Canterbury Plains, basically 3000 square miles of wheat, barley, oats and peas.  

I know about the algae, the gumboots, the crops and loads of other stuff partly from the recorded commentary available through headphones and partly from crew coached in local storytelling by broadcaster Jason Gunn (good job Jase.)

Ash presides over the drinks trolley. Asked as we approach Kaikoura, “Are we going to see a whale today?” he says he’ll go down the back and push the Whale Button. However, the button must have been defective because we don’t see a whale, just a few seals lounging on rocks whose white tops were shoved up out of the water by the Kaikoura earthquake. 

Nor do we see dolphins. Apparently dolphins are morning people – Ash says they saw hundreds of them on the way up – but by afternoon they are tired or elsewhere but at any rate not plunging about in any quantity off Kaikoura so if marine mammals are a must-see it’s probably wise to get off here or start this journey in Christchurch. 

You don’t do the 232km TranzAlpine for the fauna. The mammals are terrestrial and familiar, the sheep and cattle which inhabit the farms and high-country stations that pick up where the plains and their crops leave off. Authentic (visible) wildlife is avian – hawks everywhere, waterfowl on the lonely lakes, often keas at Arthur’s Pass (we don’t see them either).

Actually, for some time we don’t see anything at all on account of the fog that starts closing in at Rolleston and envelops us soon after. Gary, our Scenic Plus host, shows me photos on his phone of what we could be looking at if we weren’t enveloped in fog. Then he gestures into the murk. “There’s a castle over there,” he says. “And there’s a gorge down there, with a whale in it.” 

Well knock me down with a feather. Because sitting up the back with his partner, as far as possible from their four kidults up the front, is only Andrew Adamson, Kiwi director of the Narnia and Shrek movies.  So if, as Gary implies, the train has indeed passed into a misty world of castles and giants and frankly who would know, Fate has delivered unto the daughters of Eve and sons of Adam the only man to lead us through it. (OMG did Andrew get the Narnia gigs because he’s Adamson? I never asked!) 

He’s living in Auckland and as Covid’s stopped him making films and the family from holidaying overseas he has minutely planned a magical mystery tour for them down south. One of his secret destinations is what he calls “the Blue Pools of Haast”. I say that sounds like a Narnian place and he says it kind of is. “I used it as a location.”

The wet blanket outside doesn’t appear to be dampening anybody’s spirits but I wish it would go away because people are in Carriage A for important reasons and not one of them is fog. 

I’m about to ask Gary to go down the back and push the Anti Fog button when it starts to lift all by itself. By the time we get to Cass (population: 1) the sky’s as blue as can be and all the reasons for which National Geographic Magazine ranked this among the world’s most scenic rail journeys are right there, so blindingly obvious it brings tears to your eyes.  Braided rivers, represented in the pattern on Gary’s uniform tie, and unbraided ones; mountains, gorges, lakes, viaducts, tawny tussocked mountain slopes and densely forested ones.

TranzAlpine approaching Waimakiriri Bridge
TranzAlpine along side Waimakiriri River

The 8.5km tunnel between Arthur’s Pass and Otira is the wardrobe between worlds. On the Pacific side of the Main Divide the forest is New Zealand native mountain beech. On the warmer, wetter, Tasman one, it’s all primeval-looking podocarps, threaded through with scarlet rata flowers that occur this way perhaps every second summer. Lupins pink, blue and white, and purple buddleia’s in bloom. 

The coming autumn will be Gary’s first out here. So far he’s loved this journey most in spring – blue sky, still-snowy Alps, gorse and broom in yellow flower, wild peach and apple trees in pink. “So beautiful,” he says.

But then winter has its waterfalls and snow blankets everything and smothers every noise and all is white and otherworldly and I seem to know this place of which he speaks from a book, and a movie. “Actually,” he concludes, “like everything in this country, there’s no good or bad time to see it.

“I don’t care about opening New Zealand up to the rest of the world. It’s all ours.” He laughs. “Listen to me! I’m like Gollum…my precious.” 

Middle Earth now? Wherever we are, it’s out of this world. 

The Lowdown

The TranzAlpine is a daily return service departing Christchurch 8.15am and Greymouth 2.05pm. The one-way 223km trip should take just under 5 hours. Stops at Christchurch, Rolleston, Darfield, Springfield, Arthur’s Pass, Otira, Moana and Greymouth.

TranzApline approaching Springfield

The Coastal Pacific Christchurch – Picton – Christchurch service operates Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until April 15 when the season ends. The service resumes in September. The one-way 349km trip should take 6 hours 15 minutes. Stops at Christchurch, Rangiora, Kaikoura, Blenheim and Picton.

Scenic Plus service is not yet available on NZ Rail’s fourth Great Journey of New Zealand, the Northern Explorer service between Auckland and Wellington. 

Go to for more train and Interislander information and bookings.

Tranz Alpine Passing Lake Sarah

Traveling 101 With Jacinda Ardern

Jacinda Ardern gives her top tips for when she packs her suitcase and takes a holiday with her loved ones.

First trip I remember:
It wasn’t my first holiday memory, but probably my most memorable as a kid. Opononi! We drove the five hour trip from Morrinsville with Mum and Dad playing The Carpenters on repeat. It was the first time I learnt to fish – sprats off the wharf with bamboo poles. I was so excited by my catch I went home and drew my own picture of it.

Best trip:
I can’t go past simple summer holidays at New Zealand beaches. But my best overseas trip was probably Japan with Clarke some years ago. It was one of our first trips together and I loved it.

Worst trip:
Possibly Opononi. The fishing was great but the Iraq was broke out and Mum and Dad spent the rest of the holiday watching it unfold. Mum then got a stomach bug. It was downhill from there.

Place that surprised me most:
It was never a surprise to me that I would love the East Coast, what did surprise me is how quickly it became a second home. I grew up going to Whangamata and The Mount but now summer doesn’t feel right without a trip to Gisborne or Mahia.

Biggest womp womp:
I have a few travel disasters. I used to travel a lot when I was the president of an international youth organisation. Once on my way to Peru, a colleague and I had a stopover in Florida. He managed to leave his laptop and wallet in a cab. We spent 24 hours calling every cab company in the city. It was not a good time!

Favourite holiday outfit:
Anything that’s not a suit.

Regrettable holiday outfit:
Every outfit I wore in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. There was a lot of fluoro and lycra.

Person I most like travelling with:
Clarke and Neve. Neve loves the water like her Dad and it’s such a joy.

Person I would jump off a moving train to avoid travelling with:
I’ve not yet found anyone I wouldn’t travel with again!

Cheese scone, meat pie or sausage roll?
Cheese scone in the morning. Meat pie in the afternoon.

Backpack, wheelie bag or suitcase?

Bikini, one-piece or mumu?
Shorts and a t-shirt!

Stilettoes, sneakers or jandals?

Favourite holiday read:
Anything that isn’t a Cabinet Paper. Realistically these days it’s likely to be something I can share with Neve but Im also partial to spy novels, books about Antarctic exploration and basically anything written by Kiwis!

Best-kept secret in New Zealand (that I’m willing to share):

Most Instagrammable vista:
The top of Mokotahi Hill at Mahia.

No-holds-barred dream holiday:
I’ve always wanted to visit Antarctica. It’s such a special place and the history of it has been a long-held passion.

Back-to-real-life next holiday:
This will be a Christmas when we plan to spend some downtime as a family on the East Coast.

Holiday when you’re not having a holiday:
Reading a bookAn actual book.

Tips for travelling with a toddler:
I’m not going to lie – it’s a screen!

Don’t let me leave the house without:
Sadly, my phone.

Related article: 5 top Jacinda Moments

Why Is It So hard to get An Endometriosis Diagnosis in New Zealand?

The public health system may be free but the waiting times and referrals are tedious, and there are costs associated with going to multiple GPs, childcare, ambulance fees, taking time off, travelling to appointments, and annual leave when you’ve surpassed your sick day entitlements as Sasha Borissenko finds in Part 2. Part 1 of the Endometriosis investigation can be found here. Why Is It So hard to get An Endometriosis Diagnosis in New Zealand?

Dr Michael Wynn-Williams, a leading gynaecologist in New Zealand and Australia, says it’s important to inform patients of their fertility options, but pregnancy has never ‘cured’ endometriosis. Instead vaginal childbirth may alter the way people experience pain, which affects nerves and the pelvis. He conducted a survey that was sent to the clinical directors of obstetrics and gynaecology departments in 2020.

It found 80% of District Health Boards (DHBs) didn’t have a dedicated endometriosis diagnosis clinic, 35% of stage four patients would be referred elsewhere, and only 30% of DHBs had multidisciplinary pelvic pain clinics. There are just 21 public gynaecology surgeons who specialise in advanced endometriosis surgery around New Zealand, most of which are based in the North Island. 

Working in Brisbane, he would have patients coming from all areas of Queensland. Their flights and accommodation would be paid for; the same needs to happen in New Zealand for patients that need tertiary level of care, he says. 

“At the moment there’s no coordination around the country; it means we’ve got a postcode lottery system.” 

Dr Michael Wynn-Williams

Ministry of Health chief medical officer Dr Robyn Carey says DHBs are responsible for assessing the health needs of their local populations and making decisions about the level and mix of services to provide to meet these needs. 

Patients who are referred to a DHB service are assessed and prioritised by clinicians to ensure those with the greatest need and potential to benefit from treatment receive the highest priority, Carey says.

“In the past year some referrals and waiting times in public hospitals have been extended due to the major reprioritisation of health and support services for the COVID-19 response. 

“The Ministry is working closely with DHBs to support them in managing hospital treatments and increase people’s access to surgeries and consultations that may have been delayed.”

Sweeping health reforms were announced last year to address equity issues in the sector. The Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill passed in June, and as a result, the 20 DHBs were replaced on July 1 by Crown entity Health New Zealand, which will work in partnership with the new, independent Māori Health Authority. 

The legislation specifies there will be a Women’s Health Strategy. Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall says the Ministry of Health has commenced work on the strategy, which will set Government direction on women’s health, empower women, increase the visibility of women’s health needs, and better connect women’s health services. 

“There will be opportunities for women and for those involved in women’s health to contribute to the development of the strategy.” 

Money wasn’t specifically allocated to the strategy in Budget 2022, and work to develop the strategy is being funded out of the Ministry’s baseline. The Government will make decisions on funding for the implementation of the strategy and its actions later, after public consultation.

The Gender Justice Collective – a non-profit – has estimated the strategy could cost $6m. 

Developing and implementing a strategy takes time, however It’s important we act now, rather than wait for a strategy to be in place, Verrall says. 

She’s fast-tracked priority initiatives such as breast and cervical screening, contraception, maternity services, maternal mental health, abortion services, surgical mesh, endometriosis, and sexual and reproductive health.

Medical trauma of a Endometriosis Diagnosis

Lydia Cole, 34, had experienced terrible periods since she was a teenager but it was only once she stopped working three years ago as a result of chronic fatigue and burnout that she sought help from a GP. She was referred to a gynaecologist and was formally diagnosed after the exploratory surgery six months later.

Lydia Cole

“I felt like I was one of the lucky ones because I wasn’t told I was imagining things – I wasn’t gaslit like I know other people have been.

“It was good news to wake to hear there was a diagnosis of endometriosis and that it had been taken care of. But I was sent home with only panadol because my stomach issues meant I couldn’t take anti-inflammatories, and the pain was unmanageable. I couldn’t sleep for three nights. I was in a really bad state.”

She went back to the hospital and was told everything was fine as she’d just had surgery. The following night her body started convulsing as a result of a panic attack triggered by the unbearable pain, sleep deprivation, and anxiety around what felt like a lack of post-op care.

“I was terrified and I freaked out about everything. You have this huge surgery, you come out with a diagnosis but you still have pain and you’re left out in the cold.”

Months after the surgery, Cole went to the hospital for an unrelated minor procedure and suddenly found herself in tears from being back in the hospital environment. She’d experienced medical trauma.

Had there been another avenue to diagnosis other than surgery, she would have taken it.

Read part 1 of the series here.

Maunga To The Moana With Stan Walker

From the maunga to the moana, there’s no place like Tauranga for singer Stan Walker. He shares all the special spots around his hometown.

Whenever I’m driving to Tauranga, I stop in the Kaimais to get fresh water from the spring at the top. I’ve never tasted any water as fresh or as good as that. Then you see Mauao, the Mount, and you know you’re almost there.

I always have to go straight to my nan’s house. She lives right up on Maungatawa Hill and from her whare beside Tamapahore Marae, you can see the Mount, all of Tauranga Moana. It’s incredible.

Anywhere you go here is going to be beautiful – the whole coastline.

If you’re a visitor, you have to go for a walk up Mauao to see the view. The beach is huge – it goes all the way down to the East Cape. Morning is nice but I love the heat, so I like to go during the day and work up a good sweat. A hike up there is good for everything: your body, your spirit and your mind.

Stan Walkers home town tour

You also have to check out the water tower on the Mount, with its incredible mural by the artist Mr G. Graeme (Hoete) and I are whānau and he’s the man. You need to see what he’s doing. It’s not just really cool art, it’s the tikanga and whakapapa behind it.

Stan Walkers home town tour

Pilot Bay Tauranga
Pilot Bay is still and calm, so it’s good for families. We’ve had heaps of family Christmases there and there are lots of wicked spots for a barbecue.

I like the buzz at the Mount and there’s a little place, Gratitude, I go to with my bros. It has mean-as vegan food, which I like, even though I’m not vegan. And Izakai, at Bayfair, is the bomb. My first cousin’s brother-in-law owns it. It’s Māori-Japanese fusion and the menu’s always changing but everything’s good. Everything.

Sometimes, I’ll hire a bike and just cruise down Marine Parade. I like to swim at the main Mount beach but I also go way down the end of Papamoa and swim there, past the houses, where there aren’t any people. You can still do that in Tauranga Moana.

Mount Maunganui

As kids, me and my cousins jumped off every bridge, every rock, into the water, including the ones we weren’t supposed to jump off. And McLaren Falls in the Kaimais; I remember going there lots when we were kids.

In Tauranga, you have to go to Bobby’s Fresh Fish Market on the wharf. They’ve got the best seafood, the best raw fish in coconut cream and they do good rēwana, too. I know it’s fresh, because I know the whole whānau that works there.

Fresh Fish Market Tauranga

My little cousin Rangimarie (Elvin) is based in Tauranga. I’m really proud of her; she studied design and fashion and has started a brand called Teiria Studios. It’s real earthy-looking clothing and the whakapapa behind it’s incredible. I’m trying to get some for a shoot I’m doing. You should check it out.

In my book, Impossible, I talk about the chaos and pain of my early years, but I also say my whānau is at my very core. It gives me everything that’s important to me in my identity, and I have so many cousins, I sometimes feel like I’m related to everyone. I love how all my marae – Tamapahore, Matapihi, Maungatapu, Te Whetū o te Rangi – are connected through water; when the tide goes out, you can walk to Matapihi.

When I was a kid, every holidays we stayed with my auntie and uncle and we’d walk to downtown Tauranga over the bridge. It’s still a cool walk over the bridge. Or you can walk to Maungatapu, collect titiko (sea snails), cook them, then use a pin to pull them out and eat them.

“I love the incredible whakapapa through all the marae. What my ancestors, my tīpuna, did back in the day for us to be who we are” – Stan Walker

They were nurses, doctors, chiefs, incredible leaders and advocates for education and our reo. Such grace and aroha. I hope I can have that kind of empathy and compassion, that kind of respect and honour.

My biggest thing, when I’m in Tauranga, is to visit all the old people. I try to spend as much time with them as I can – sit with my nan, let the sun hit us, toast up.

Related article: Wellbeing in Hawkes Bay

Perfect Pasta Across The Country

As the temperature drops there is nothing I crave more than a bowl of pasta with a group of friends. As an aficionado of Italian cuisine, I always seek out the best Italian restaurants in any city I visit. Below is a list of my top picks throughout the country, including Pici (Shop 22, St Kevin’s Arcade, 183 Karangahape Road), which is featured above and is undoubtedly one of my favourites.

Sage at Paroa Bay

Where: 31 Otamarua Road, Russell 0272
Sage is part of Paroa Bay Winery, which is perched at the top of the Bay Of Islands. When you see the view you will not be surprised that this is a seafood filled menu. Not only will you enjoy the freshest catch of the day, but wine from the onsite cellar doors too.

Lil Ragù

Where: 3/9 Northcroft St, Takapuna, Auckland
The new kid in Auckland, Lil Ragù was set up by Chef Tarik Tnaja. Once a food truck, it has now found its home off the main street of Takapuna. Fresh pasta, homemade pasta and no fuss food is what Chef Tarik is claiming makes him different.


Where: 22a Ocean View Road, Oneroa, Waiheke
Your taste of Italy found on Waiheke Island. Right in the heart of Oneroa, you can cozy up next to the warm fireplace with a glass of Pinot Noir and a big bowl of their Confit Duck Pappardelle (my go to).


Where: 97a Kaimanawa Street, Taupo
Below is what they are calling ‘a salad’ – heirloom tomatoes, homemade raviolo with fresh herbs, finished with a warm tomato consommé… just wow.


Where: 199 Cuba Street, Wellington
Wellingtons very own Venetian-inspired restaurant. Ombra has a loyal following of Wellingtonians who make this a regular in their weeks and I can see why!


Where: 215 Heretaunga Street East, Hastings
Sazio means to be full or satisfied. And I know this is how you will feel after a trip to Sazio in Hastings.

Chi Chi

Where: 270 St Asaph Street, Christchurch Central City
ChiChi Kitchen serve gorgeous pastas and reinvented sauces that are inspired from around the world. It has been crowned ‘One of the best Italian restaurants in Christchurch’ and I would have to agree!

Giovi Fine Foods

Where: Shop 1, Building 10/12 Hawthorne Drive, Frankton, Queenstown
Giovi is a relaxed dining experience at the Remarkables Town Centre. Not only can you sit in and enjoy an incredible bowl of pasta you can purchase freshly made pasta and sauces to take home and cook yourself.

Related article: Nostrana’s Butternut Cappellacci

Maple & Lime Glazed Salmon

Salmon always makes for an impressive dish to serve guests. Here’s a little trick: instead of serving a baked side of salmon, gently warm a piece of quality hot smoked salmon and it’s as though you’ve just pulled it out of the smoker yourself! Serve it with a kicky little citrus and fennel salad to lighten the richness and there you have it – a spectacular and impressive centrepiece for your spring table, guaranteed to be absolutely scrumptious. 

Serves 6-8 



  • 600-800g hot smoked salmon
  • ¼ cup maple syrup 
  • 3 tablespoons lime or lemon juice
  • Small squeeze of orange juice
  • Pinch of sea salt 


  • 3 tablespoons quality olive oil 
  • 3 tablespoons verjuice or red wine vinegar
  • Dash of pepper   
  • 1-2 fennel bulbs, shaved thinly 
  • 2 oranges, peel and pitch removed, sliced thinly 


  • Preheat oven to 160°C. Line a tray with baking paper. Place the salmon on the lined tray. 
  • Mix maple syrup and citrus juices and brush liberally over salmon. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 30 minutes or until just warmed through. 
  • Carefully transfer salmon to a serving plate/platter. 
  • In a bowl, whisk olive oil and vinegar with pepper and then toss the freshly shaved fennel with orange slices. 
  • When ready to serve, top warmed salmon with the salad and some fennel fronds. 

Every Good Novel Is A Warning: Interview With Eleanor Catton

Image credit above: Ebony Lamb

Eleanor Catton, youngest-ever winner of the Man-Booker Prize, for The Luminaries, has just produced her third novel, a gripping, hand-on-heart literary thriller titled Birnam Wood.  In an interview with Anne Kennedy, Catton speaks with characteristic intensity about the power and importance of fiction, ‘the moral artform’, in our anxious times.

It’s been ten years between drinks, but the decade has been busy for Catton, with big screenwriting projects, voracious reading, a relocation to the UK with her husband Steven Toussaint, becoming a parent (‘I can’t faff around like I used to’), and starting work on a fourth novel. As she discusses her life and work there is perhaps a new sense of urgency in her belief in fiction, not just the power of it but the necessity of it in our anxious times. ‘Fiction is the moral art form: it can explore not only actions and their consequences, but intentions. Fiction is necessary to a moral life.’

Catton  makes a compelling case for her own and her readers’ engagement with fictions – and not just novels but games as well, she stresses more than once. Fictions can guide us in ‘facing down the existential threats that lie ahead’. They also, Catton points out, make us feel happy and hopeful, which are important states of mind in ‘perilous times’. In a jokey tone, Catton insists that apart from writing fiction, ‘I don’t  know how to do anything else’.

Not true, of course. In the last few years, she has written two major screen works, firstly the 12-part BBC television adaptation of The Luminaries, followed by the adaptation of Emma, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy of Queen’s Gambit fame – she of the yellow coat. Catton says she starting working as a screenwriter ‘largely as a response to the intense exposure of the post-Booker years, which I found quite overwhelming and self-alienating’.

Eleanor Catton receiving Man Book prize in 2017
Eleanor Catton at 2013 Man-Booker Awards. Winning for her Novel The Luminaries. Eleanor Catton was the youngest author to ever win.

It’s worth pausing for a moment to remember the literary sensation and innovation that was The Luminaries, a ‘mass confabulation’ (Bill Roorbach in the New York Times) garnering mass praise ( and yet Catton failed to win the highest book award in Aotearoa that year) and readers may remember the ordeal that the then 27-year-old Catton was subjected to in sectors of the New Zealand media for daring to have a political opinion – which has perhaps turned out to be a sober harbinger of things to come for influential women. 

But Catton found that she enjoyed the collaborative nature of screenwriting, and the task of writing to a brief. This aspect came as a surprise, after years of working alone writing novels. But she also relished the structured story approach to screenwriting, and this had an effect on the novel she would turn to next: ‘Inevitably, I brought a lot of what I’d learned as a screenwriter to Birnam Wood.’ Returning to fiction, Catton rediscovered ‘all the things that fiction does best’. She says she now has a greater appreciation of both forms. 

Birnam Wood is an eco-thriller, a surprising new venture in genre for Catton – although perhaps not so surprising when one considers her habit of exploring new literary directions. Her first publication The Rehearsal (made into a film by Alison Maclean) was a pared-down novella about sexual harassment and rite-of-passage, then the lush yet uber-controlled literary whodunnit that was The Luminaries. Catton has previously discussed her dislike of the boundaries between ‘literary’ and ‘genre’ fiction. Hence, a gripping, page-turner of a literary thriller. 

Luminaries Book Cover. Novel written By Eleanor Catton
Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker award winning novel The Luminaries. The Luminaries sold 1.5 million copies worldwide, including 140,000 in New Zealand

Catton liked the challenge of the cross-genre, its pure thrill, its what-happens-next component: ‘A thriller has to be thrilling.’ But more than that, says Catton: a thriller looks towards the future, an important quality for our times: ‘When people despair, politically and personally, they stop caring what happens next. I didn’t want Birnam Wood to be complicit in any form of apathy or nihilism.

‘I wanted it to be a book of action, a book of connection and conversation, a tragedy, yes, but one where human actions really matter, both for better and for worse’

In Birnam Wood, Catton critiques some of the positions we take for granted in contemporary society, such as ‘smart’. Quoting Michael Sandel’s The Tyranny of Merit, Catton insists being clever isn’t the same as being moral: ‘We’re human beings! If we stopped being moral creatures, we’d stop being human! ‘Likewise the term ‘problematic’: ‘What kind of a word is that? It’s so anodyne, so safe. It’s a way of identifying a moral issue without having to take a moral position—in fact, without even using moral language at all. I hate ‘problematic’. Take a stand!’

The novel has a contemporary fizz, is up-to-the-minute in setting, mood and theme. The story concerns a group of young people who ‘garden-bomb’, growing vegetables on vacant sites in Christchurch. When their prime mover-and-shaker 29-year-old Mira Bunting, horticulturalist-turned-activist, hears about a tract of land that is lying vacant deep in the Canterbury hills, she heads there illegally. Thus begins a tale of action, belief and deceit, of land, money, climate,  in which characters seem familiar yet, as with all good stories, are utterly surprising. As well as the driven Mila, there’s her meek off-sider Shelley Noakes, journalist Tony Gallo, landowners Sir and Lady Darvish, and the Musk-ish tech billionaire Robert Lemoine. 

This range of personalities both reflect and carry out Catton’s take on that very human attribute, moral choice: ‘Each character acts out of a certainty they hold. They might be mistaken, but that doesn’t mean that their actions have no meaning.’ The dichotomy of right and wrong in the end drives the emotional highs and lows of this startling book. ‘If there was no such thing as right and wrong,’ says Catton, ‘it wouldn’t be a tragedy!’ 

It is a tragedy – and eco-tragedy. The ‘Birnam Wood’ of the title and the gardening collection refers to the prophecy in Shakespeare’s Macbeth where the play’s main protagonist will never be vanquished until Birnam Wood uproots and moves – which seems impossible, of course. While Catton’s novel doesn’t purport to be a retelling of Macbeth, there’s the overriding idea that nothing is out of the question

Catton describes how the impetus for Birnam Wood came in the aftermath of the political upheavals of 2016 to do with Brexit and Trump. Recognizing a kind of absolutism in people’s views, even those around her, Catton reread Macbeth, and in that climate saw the play afresh as being about the ‘dangerous seduction of certainty’. But Catton is quick to comment on the intrinsic moral values of the play, rather than it riding on the supernatural tropes of Shakespeare’s famous three witches. ‘It’s not a play about fate or magical forces; it’s a play about human nature. Macbeth just needed a push.’

One of the most compelling scenes in Birnam Wood – without giving too much away plot-wise – is a debate among the Birnam Wood community about consumerism. It escalates to something very heated, and yet the community might appear, on the surface, to be on the same side politically. This is indicative of the complexity of the relationships in the novel, and Catton is eloquent on the nature of political ‘sides’. ‘There are plenty of people who would much rather lose than compromise. My feelings about that are complicated. On some issues I feel more hardline, on others, more like a moderate.’ Catton cites Simone Weil’s On the Abolition of All Political Parties, which argues that party membership discourages people from thinking for themselves. ‘The book was a real turning point for me. I had voiced support for political parties in the past, but I won’t in the future. I think we should all be supporting (and discussing) policies, not parties.’

For all the Shakespearean references and political dilemmas played out in Birnam Wood, Catton reveals what was for her a deeper influence on the novel: Jane Austen’s Emma. This was the work that Catton adapted for film in 2020. ‘Every time I reread that book, I find something new to marvel at. Its design is perfect, and yet it’s so much fun to read, and the characters are so alive and so vivid and so endlessly loveable, that you forget it’s been designed at all.’ Catton enthuses about the ironies woven through character and situation, and how that affected her approach to her own novel: ‘I see Jane Austen as the formal heir to Shakespeare’s comedies; with Birnam Wood I wanted to do something similar, but using a tragic form.’ 

Birnam Wood Book
Birnam Wood, Eleanor Catton.

One of the delights of Birnam Wood is how the fictional elements of character, structure, logic, telling – those that Catton admires in Austen – are so remarkably synthesized. Catton is generous about discussing the nuts and bolts of how she puts the apparatus of the novel together.  

‘I always begin with an ending in mind, but without any idea of how I’m going to get there.’ And yet, she surprises herself along the way as she writes: ‘I don’t like to get ahead of the reader, so if something unexpected happens, it was probably unexpected to me as well.’

Also occurring up front for Catton are the ideas or themes behind the work. ‘I have a sense of the questions I want to ask.’ In the case of Birnam Wood, Catton reveals her Macbeth-ish design, whereby every character could be Macbeth – and therefore a villain, ‘though of course none of them would see themselves that way.’ Each character could also be Lady Macbeth, and the witches, and a kind of Birnam Wood. ‘We’re all hopelessly polarized, but nobody ever seems to think that they’re the one who needs to change.’ In short, the brew of the book is how it explores Catton’s initial questions. 

Catton has been praised for her gem-like sentences, and Birnam Wood is no exception. Yet where The Luminaries mimics beautifully a formal 19th century tone, Birnam Wood is distinctly contemporary. On this modern-day voice, Catton observes, ‘I think it’s important to remember that your reader is always situated in the present. Your book is going to be read now, whether it is set in the present, the future, or the past.’ According to Catton, there’s a responsibility that goes with speaking to and understanding the present. Birnam Wood started life set in an ‘alternative present’ or even a near future. But changes to laws around foreign ownership of land under Jacinda Ardern’s government changed the implications for the plot, so back it went to pre-2017. ‘It’s interesting how much the political conversation has shifted even since then. The word ‘woke’, for example, was in currency in 2017 but hadn’t yet been weaponized in the way that it has been since. I had to be careful not to be anachronistic.’

‘I think it’s important to remember that your reader is always situated in the present. Your book is going to be read now, whether it is set in the present, the future, or the past.’

The novel is told through the point of view of several characters, right up in their close, third-person grill, but each one realistically differentiated. Catton admits finding it hard to inhabit the world view and sound of billionaire Lemoine, the ‘Musk’ character. ‘I had to psych myself up to be able to enter his state of mind, and his sections took me much longer to write than the others. I often work in coffee shops, and I am told that I make the most peculiar faces while I am writing, scowling and smirking and looking aghast and quavering with emotion and so on. When I was writing Lemoine, I was conscious of the fact that my whole posture would change: my chin would lift and my shoulders would go back and I’d feel more cocksure and unrepentant. It felt very close to acting; maybe it was a form of acting.’

In the end, says Catton, all the characters have a ‘little piece’ of her in them, and she sees that as being important in preventing caricature. 

Birnam Wood presents a believable fictional world, partly through its rich use of contemporary detail. One of those is technology, in particular surveillance. Whether it’s a threatening drone, old-fashioned binoculars, or someone peeping from behind a tree, who’s watching whom is a gripping motif in the story. Once again, Catton cites the research that inspired her – We Are Bellingcat: An Intelligence Agency for the People, by Eliot Higgins. Catton observes: ‘We conduct petty surveillances on one another all the time. It’s oppressive—and we’re totally addicted. I sometimes catch myself thinking that other people spend far more time on their phones than I do. They’re probably thinking the exact same thing about me.’

Information about gardening (because the Birnam Wood group are gardeners, of course), comes, from Catton’s admission, from books. ‘I am a hopeless gardener—though I lived in Mount Eden in Auckland for a few years, and the volcanic soil was so rich and amazing that I was fooled into thinking I had a talent for it.’ She devoured garden guides, survival handbooks and took lots of notes. ‘I only ended up using a fraction of the research in the novel, but that’s always the way. It’s about building up a sense of authority more than anything else.’

Like The Luminaries, Birnam Wood is set in Te Waipounamu / The South Island, the place of Catton’s childhood. The landscape is portrayed vividly and specifically, with knowledge of the geography. Catton reveals that the novel she has recently started writing, Doubtful Sound, is also set in Te Waipounamu. She suspects she doesn’t feel confident to set a book anywhere else, perhaps through a sense of ‘permission’. ‘I live in England now, so maybe that will change.’ 

As Catton discusses, her life has changed in more ways than one. ‘Since having a baby I’ve had to become a lot more disciplined, both as a writer and as a reader. The hours I have to myself are so precious now.’ She notes ruefully: ‘I’m closer now to Lady Darvish than to Mira!’ 

My final question is to ask if Birnam Wood is saying ‘Beware’, to which Catton replies, ‘I think every good novel is a warning, so I hope so!’

This year, Catton will return to New Zealand for an events tour.

Earthy Pleasures: All Your Favourite Summer Edibles

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” Yes please, Margaret Atwood! If her novel-turned-TV series The Handmaid’s Tale has proved to be too much of a slightly prophetic, depressing feminist dystopia for you, her command to pick up your trowel is an empowering reminder of how getting our hands

in the dirt is so good for us. Some of my happiest moments are those spent weeding, planting and mulching. At this time of year I usually stay outside until the light has disappeared and it’s just me, my wheelbarrow and tunes on my headphones – I have a fantasy where one of the neighbours compliments me on my lovely singing voice.

Spring in the garden is a joyful time of planning for food and flowers over the months to come. It’s always good to have something to look forward to, especially when it’s the anticipation of picking tomatoes, warm from the sun and smelling like freshly cut grass, or snacking on beans straight from the vine. And while it’s a bit of a privileged stretch to say that growing your own food will save you money, it’s definitely cheaper than therapy and is highly therapeutic – plus you get to eat your efforts.

Do Your Ground Work

Labour weekend is generally the “push play” button for planting summer crops. That’s because many of them require soil temperatures (as opposed to air temperature) to be above 16 degrees Celsius to get going. Beyond that date, any time after your last frost (hopefully Jack will notify you!) is the ideal time to get started. As for sunlight requirements, most vegetables require at least six to eight hours of sun

a day, so if you’re creating a new vegetable garden, make sure it’s in a sunny spot. If it gets any less, stick to leafy greens such as lettuces or silverbeet that will grow happily with four hours of sunlight.

If planting into established garden beds, pile on compost and aged manure, such as sheep pellets, and you’re ready to plant. If you’re starting a garden from scratch, you can grow a decent vege garden from a freshly dug area of lawn. Scrape off the grass with a sharp spade (you can add the sods to your compost), loosen the soil with a garden fork, then add compost and well-aged manure such as sheep pellets.

If you don’t fancy digging, you can go “no dig” and create a “lasagne” garden. Mow the grass short, then put overlapping layers of wet cardboard or newspaper on top of your lawn to suppress growth. Add a layer of aged manure and compost, followed by mulch, such as straw or dead leaves, then another layer of compost. By this stage, your lasagne bed will be around 10-20cm deep. You can make pockets in the top layer and plant seedlings directly into it.

If you have heavy clay soil, raised beds are a good option. They’re not cheap though and can be expensive to fill, plus you generally need to top them up every year, as the soil compacts and settles over time. While compost is wonderful, keep in mind that it’s a soil conditioner rather than a growing medium. If you’re filling new raised beds, aim for two-thirds vege mix or potting mix to one-third compost.

If you’ve got quite a few beds to fill, it’s much cheaper to get a truckload of vege mix delivered than to buy individual bags of potting mix – even if you don’t use it all at once you can keep it in a shady spot or covered with a tarp until needed. Providing you remember to water them, most vegetables will grow happily in pots. If you’re gardening on a budget or want to grow heaps of food, drill holes in the bottom of plastic buckets. Some garden centres also have bins of old pots that you can take for free. Be sure to use a high- quality potting mix – you tend to get what you pay for. Look for options including sheep pellets or organic fertilisers.

Water Is Life

When it hasn’t rained, vege gardens need to be watered a couple of times a week, and pots should be watered daily or even twice a day during the hottest time of the year. Your plants will generally show you if they’re thirsty by looking a little wilted, but you can also put your fingers a few centimetres into the soil. If dirt doesn’t stick to them, it’s time to water. Always direct your hose or watering can at the roots of your plant rather than the leaves and take your time. Watering deeply encourages plants to put down deeper roots and makes them more resilient in hot weather compared to plants with a shallow root system.

Mulch Is Magic

Always add a layer of mulch around your crops to reduce evaporation and lock in moisture. Think of it as sunscreen for your soil. Water your garden deeply before applying mulch so you’re not locking moisture out.

Always add a layer of mulch around your crops to reduce evaporation and lock in moisture. Think of it as sunscreen for your soil. Pea straw is a popular option but you can also use a layer of compost, newspaper, a thin layer of grass clippings (too much will smell bad) or even weeds – just be sure to remove any flowers or seed heads. Always water your garden deeply before applying mulch so you’re not locking moisture out and keep it away from the stems of woody plants to avoid them rotting.

Grow What You Love

Homegrown cucumbers bypass the plastic wrap. Water the roots, not the leaves. Don’t turn your back on your zucchini plant or you’ll find yourself with a marrow.

We love tomatoes so much that it was once thought they even incited feelings of love and lust in us – the French once called them pommes d’amour (apples of love). If you were going to grow a tomato of every variety available in Aotearoa, you could fill your garden exclusively with tomatoes and then some but the easiest type to grow are cherry tomatoes. They’re quicker to ripen and far less prone to problems such as splitting skin. And if there is one tomato to rule them all, it’s ‘Sweet 100’ – this cherry-sized tomato is the most prolific of the bunch and is available in red and yellow.

If you haven’t had much luck with tomatoes in the past, opt for grafted varieties where the part of the plant that produces fruit has been grafted onto a rootstock of a tomato variety known for its fast growth and resistance to disease. Tomatoes are susceptible to fungal diseases so make sure they have enough air flow around them and space them at least 1m apart. Don’t forget to stake them as well – it’s best to put supports such as a piece of bamboo in place when you’re planting them in case you damage the roots when you push in a stake later.

One of the biggest wins with growing your own cucumber is that you’re bypassing the plastic-wrapped supermarket version. Cucumbers need something to climb – I grow mine up a piece of reinforcing mesh that we got at our local recycling centre, but you can also buy pieces of it from hardware stores. Or rig up some bamboo and string. Cucumbers are a hungry crop, so give them your best homemade compost if possible and also work some blood and bone into the soil before planting them. Usually two plants are enough for a household (I came home from holiday once and harvested 17!) but if you want them for pickling, plant at least five or six. ‘Homemade Pickles’ is an heirloom variety that is ideal for – you guessed it – making pickles. You can even grow cucumbers in pots. ‘Spacemaster’ and ‘Iznik Mini’ are good compact options for containers.

Once cucumbers set fruit, keep picking them so they keep producing cucurbits, but often these vegetables stress out the most relaxed gardener because once they start producing, it can be hard to keep up with harvesting them. And if you don’t pick them when they’re the perfect eating size, they turn into watery marrows! So just plant one or two – and make friends with your neighbours. You can dip the flowers in batter, deep fry them and stuff them with ricotta and herbs.

Pea straw makes fabulous mulch but there are other cheaper options

There are beans and then there are freshly picked beans. Once you grow your own beans you’ll never want to buy store-bought beans again, plus they’re one of the most trouble-free crops to grow. You can sow the large seeds direct, around 2-3cm deep, or start them off in containers and transplant them if slugs and snails are a threat. Climbing beans can crop for up to three months whereas dwarf beans, which are a great option for pots, generally produce a prolific crop over a month. Climbing beans need something to climb (and some dwarf varieties do better with staking too). I grow climbing beans over an archway we made out of the kids’ old trampoline frame and wire mesh. Whereas most beans are annuals, completing their life cycle

in one year, ‘Scarlet Runners’ are perennials and will pop up the following year. Beyond your regular green beans, there are some beauties to choose from, including royal-coloured ‘Purple King’ and ‘Fire Tongue Dwarf’, which produces cream and pink marbled-looking beans that can be eaten whole when young or left to dry, then shelled.

Add to Your List

Other crops you can plant in late spring and early summer include corn, beetroot, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflowers, pumpkins, lettuces, radishes, yams, kūmara, watermelons and eggplants (these final three in warmer areas only). l Don’t forget to plant herbs such as basil, chives and lemon balm right now. l And remember to plant some flowers – they’re a magnet for pollinators, which will then pollinate your vegetables. Plant marigolds, borage, cosmos, calendulas, zinnias and snapdragons.

Homesteads: The Story Of New Zealand’s Grand Country Houses

Photography by Jane Ussher. Words by Debra Miller

Men figure prominently in the stories of most station homesteads. But the house built at Merchiston Station between 1906 and 1908 was the ambitious vision of Edith Hammond (née McKelvie). 

Edith oversaw the design and construction of the 34-room homestead at Rātā, just south of Hunterville, and personally selected many of the finishes and fittings used in the house. 

The New Zealand International Exhibition, which was held in Hagley Park in Christchurch from November 1906 to April 1907, undoubtedly fuelled many of her ideas. The architect she chose, Joseph Clarkson Maddison, was responsible for the design of the temporary exhibition buildings, and an ornate Italian Renaissance-style fountain that stands on the driveway in front of the homestead was originally displayed outside the entrance to the exhibition’s main hall. The carved Oamaru stone fountain was made by a Christchurch stonemason, John Hunter of Colombo Street, as ‘an advertisement for New Zealand craftsmanship and for the use of Oamaru stone’.  After the exhibition closed and the Hagley Park buildings were dismantled, Edith purchased the fountain for £30 and had it transported to Merchiston. It had cost £265 when commissioned. 

Edith’s impressive three-year building project was underwritten by an inheritance from the estate of her father, John McKelvie — one of Manawatū’s pioneering station owners. Her husband, John Hammond, also hailed from prominent Rangitīkei farming stock, and when he and Edith married it was said to bring together two ‘of the oldest, wealthiest and most esteemed families in Rangitikei’. 

The couple were living in a single-storey homestead at Merchiston when Edith ‘decided to build the house she had been dreaming of ’ and commissioned Maddison’s grand design. The original homestead, located just behind, burnt down while its replacement was under construction. 

The initial budget for the build was £5000, but on completion it is believed to have cost almost three times that amount. Edith refuted this, however; an article in the Hunterville Express reported: ‘The description of the design of the structure is misleading, and the price, as stated — £10,000 — is incorrect.’ 

Despite the rising costs, Edith ‘refused to lower her standards’ and sent frequent telegrams to Maddison refining the design, via the on-site clerk of works. According to a Hammond family history, ‘Credit for the design and for the standard of the construction goes to Edith herself. She watched over every step in the building of the house, and checked out each feature of furnishing and decoration.’

As an example of her attention to detail, while there are 23 fireplaces in the house — resulting in two men being employed full-time at the station to cut firewood in Edith’s day — no two fireplaces have the same tile surround or mantelpiece decoration. Each bedroom has a unique cornice detail. 

Richard Rowe, Edith’s great-grandson, lives there today with his wife, Vicki. He suggests that Edith’s approach to the house was heavily influenced by the unprecedented array of materials and decorative finishes she encountered at the Christchurch exhibition. 

Maddison’s design includes a number of unusual features that add to the house’s striking appearance. An open-air belvedere, which contains a bell from John Hammond’s family home, York Farm, which was located on the banks of the Rangitīkei River, provides a sweeping view of the garden and farm. It occasionally comes to life when Richard and Vicki’s son William, a New Zealand champion bagpiper, plays from there. A turret reached via a narrow set of stairs at the western end of the house once served as a wardrobe where Edith Hammond’s best clothes were stored. 

But perhaps the most distinguishing feature of Maddison’s design is the absence of a soaring entrance hall. Instead, there are three entry points to the house from the wide verandah that wraps around its east, west and south sides. There was no servants’ accommodation within the house: at the time it was built, domestic staff were housed separately on site, and this dispensed with the conventional arrangement of a grand staircase used by family and a narrow staircase for servants sequestered at the rear of the house. As a result, rooms open onto a central hall that forms the main circulation space. Laid out in a square plan form, it has an 8-metre stud height and is dominated by a massive staircase with banisters carved by Ngāti Hauiti craftsmen. In upstairs bedrooms, internal windows to the second-floor gallery increase the amount of natural light in the centre of the house. 

The chapel-like billiard room on the northeast corner of the house has rimu panelling carved by Ngāti Hauiti carvers, reminiscent of tukutuku patterns found in wharenui. Edith and John Hammond were fluent in te reo and were made honorary Ngāti Hauiti chiefs as a result of their close connections with the local iwi, according to Richard.  Stained-glass windows in the billiard room exhibit the art nouveau influences reflected throughout the house’s interior detailing. An entrance door with stained-glass panels and floor tiles with a Greek key pattern in the main south-facing entrance continue the interior decorative flourishes. 

A wide range of timbers were used in the house — mataī, tōtara, kauri and rimu for interior finishes, Oregon pine for the framing, redwood for window frames, and Australian tallowwood for flooring and blue gum for beams. 

The dining room has a sprung kauri floor, and massive rimu cavity sliding doors that open to the adjoining formal drawing room, so that the two spaces can be converted into a ballroom. A grand piano in the drawing room dates from the time of Richard’s grandmother Beryl Hammond. 

These days the formal rooms are seldom used except for extended family gatherings and guided house tours. Richard and Vicki, who moved into the homestead in 2017, occupy just six recently refurbished rooms on the ground floor at the rear of the house, which are now centrally heated. Richard’s mother lived in the house until she was 90, and it had been empty for four years when Richard and Vicki decided to move there from their neighbouring farmhouse. 

The present-day station is 910 hectares, a fraction of the 11,000 acres (4500ha) in John and Edith Hammond’s day. Richard marvels to think of his great- grandparents breaking in the land, which was so densely covered in bush that farm access was gained by crossing the Rangitīkei River — sometimes up to 20 times a day. It was only when tractors started to be used in the 1930s that the farmland was finally cleared. 

At the time the homestead was completed the railway line extended to Hunterville. Weekend visitors would travel by train from Wellington and the surrounding district to the station at Rātā. From here they would be collected in buggies and driven to the house, where they would arrive via a driveway that skirted a pond and crossed a bridge that is still a feature of the immaculately maintained 3-hectare gardens. Stables were located behind the house. When the age of the motorcar arrived, the driveway was moved to its current position closer to the house and encircling the stone fountain. 

Horses still play a big part in the life of the station. Vicki is a keen rider and has been deputy master of the Rangitikei Hunt, which was started by Richard’s great-great-grandfather. An annual hunt is still held on Merchiston. Vicki travels to Marton to work during the week, and Richard is kept busy managing the station’s Angus beef breeding programme. The family has plans to open the homestead and grounds to more visiting tour groups and for special events. Merchiston is owned by an extended family trust, with Richard’s brother Lloyd and sister Helen and their families all part of its activities. 

A full-time gardener and groundsman is employed, and a carefully planned maintenance programme has kept the homestead in pristine condition. But the upkeep of the house and garden is a constant drain on the station’s resources and maintenance is carefully staged to keep costs in check. 

Despite the homestead’s proximity to State Highway 1, and its Category 1 Heritage New Zealand listing, it remains a little-known landmark of the Rangitīkei district. Entering its tree-lined driveway seems to instantly transport visitors back in time. Ironically, when Edith Hammond built her grand mansion it would have been considered the height of modernity. Towering beside the homestead today is a Lombardy poplar, thought to be one of the oldest in New Zealand. It grew from a stick Edith used as a riding crop when she and John Hammond rode across their property to select the site for their first home. Like the homestead, it is testament to Edith’s vision and the legacy left for future generations of the family. 

Extract from Homesteads: The story of New Zealand’s grand country houses, Point Publishing, $75

A stunning tribute to the grand homes of New Zealand’s past. Homesteads shares a remarkable legacy of this country’s rural heritage. These houses are among some of the country’s most iconic, many of them surrounded by spectacular gardens, and all still lived in today. Jane Ussher’s evocative photographs capture the unique character and architectural diversity of each homestead, while Debra Millar explores the stories that have shaped these rural properties through generations. This landmark book showcases an extraordinary range of architecture, interiors and gardens, and entwines the past with the present day.

People Over Seventy Reveal Their Travel Regrets

Travel Regrets

According to a new survey from adventure travel company Explore Worldwide the majority of people aged 70 or over harbor ‘travel regrets’, with 62% saying there is somewhere in the world they regret never having visited.

The countries mentioned frequently in the over 70s travel regrets include Australia, New Zealand, USA, Japan, and Canada. But when looking at specific travel experiences, one in three people over 70 say they regret never seeing the Northern Lights, making it the travel experience most people regret never doing.

Other experiences older travelers regret never having experienced include seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza, visiting Machu Picchu or missing out on an African safari.

Five travel experiences the older generation regrets the most

1. Seeing the Northern Lights: Charged with cultural and scientific significance, as well as being breathtakingly pretty and only appearing in certain locations, it’s very easy to see why the allure of the magical Northern Lights takes top spot as the travel experience most people regret never seeing. The beautiful light displays need the right conditions to be admired, which is what makes them all the more captivating. They occur in regions close to Earth’s magnetic poles, such as Iceland, Norway, Alaska and Canada. 

2. Visiting the Maldives: The epitome of tropical paradise islands, the over-seventies who were surveyed regretted never having felt the white sand under their toes in the Maldives. The nation boasts some unique natural attractions, what with it sitting on top of a vast underwater mountain range, as well as its coral reef, rich green lagoons and beautiful and abundant marine wildlife. 

3. Seeing the Great Pyramids of Giza: One of the most iconic and famous monuments on the planet, the Pyramids at Giza are a showcase of incredible ancient engineering, set against a striking desert backdrop. Whether its for their historical significance as tombs for bygone pharaohs, their mystical allure as treasure troves filled with ancient bounty and curses, or simply to marvel at the incredible feat of manual construction – many people regret never having gone to see the Pyramids at Giza. 

4. Visiting Machu Picchu: Built in the 15th century, Machu Picchu is one of the few surviving examples of Inca architecture, made all the more special due to its lofty location on a Peruvian mountain ridge overlooking the Urubamba River. the original stone terraces, walls and buildings were created without the use of iron tools or mortar, making it another amazing human feat of construction. Thanks to the hike needed to view the site, its a popular travel experience which rewards adventurers with spectacular views and an insight into ancient culture.

5. Seeing Niagara Falls: The three waterfalls which make up Niagara Falls are a stunning natural wonder of the Earth. Often deemed a romantic setting, couples often honeymoon to this special location, but it’s a hugely popular travel experience for anyone who wants to marvel at the sheer power of mother nature – with millions of gallons of water cascading over the falls every minute. The older generation regret not having seen Niagara Falls first hand, whether from viewing platforms, or a boat on the water or even a helicopter aerial tour. 

However, the same survey reveals that people in their mid-life (aged 40-55) expressed a strong desire to see more of the world in the next decade or two. The most popular travel ‘hope’ for mid-lifers is seeing the Northern Lights, followed by a visit to the Maldives. A massive 85% of mid-life people say they hope to visit a new country, with Italy, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and USA coming out as the most popular places that mid-lifers want to visit in the next ten to twenty years.

Michael Edwards, Managing Director at Explore says “By sharing the travel hopes and regrets of different generations, we hope to inspire people to book that special adventure they’ve been dreaming about. The biggest travel regrets include never seeing natural and historical wonders, like the Northern Lights, Machu Picchu or the Maldives islands. These natural and historical wonders help to connect us to our planet and our past, something that becomes more important to us as we grow older.  

“We’ve just launched a new map (inspired by David Attenborough) which allows you to plot your travel history onto an interactive map, as well as plotting the places you still want to explore. With our research showing that so many people aged over 70 regret not having visited more of the world, we hope our new map encourages travelers to keep on discovering new things.”

Related article: The Best Kiwi Airbnbs for Summer Getaways

The Season For Salads

A great salad can easily become a satisfying meal on its own if you follow a few simple rules.

Aim For Texture:

Use salad ingredients that have a variety of textures from juicy (think tomatoes, beets, nectarines etc), to crisp and crunchy (lettuce, cabbage, nuts & seeds, croutons, cucumber etc) to creaminess (avocado, feta, blue cheese, boiled new potatoes etc). Texture brings a salad to life!

Mix & Match Flavours:

Each mouthful should be an explosion of flavours so you want some really punchy ones in there like the sweetness of dates, the piquant of parmesan or rocket, the tartness of sundried tomatoes, the herbaceousness of herbs like basil or parsley or sorrel. Aim for a mix of complimentary flavours.

Dress Well:

I’m not talking about dressing up to eat a salad but rather that you make sure the base of the salad, whether that be leafy greens or grains, beets or potatoes or some other starchy vegetable or a protein like chicken, tofu or prawns, is well-coated in the dressing by tossing it in a big bowl before transferring to the serving dish. Merely pouring the dressing over the salad means it all ends up at the bottom of the serving dish. Follow this rule and your salads will be forever improved.

Super Salad Recipe

Serves 2-4

  • 3 hard boiled eggs
  • 6 small new potatoes, boiled
  • 4-6 cooked baby beets, I use tinned or Leaderbrand
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, scooped and sliced
  • 1 buttercrunch lettuce , leaves separated
  • ¼ cup plain yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon pomegrante molasses (optional)
  • 4-6 medjool dates, halved
  • Small handful of mint and/or parsley
  • ½ cup pumpkin, sesame and sunflowers seeds, toasted

Basic Vinaigrette Dressing:

  • 4 tablespoons quality olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. Shake the dressing in a jar to mix. Taste and season.
  2. Half the eggs, new potatoes, beets and tomatoes.
  3. To assemble: Whisk yoghurt briefly with pomegranate molasses and spoon onto serving plate, spreading roughly over the base. Toss lettuce leaves with half the vinaigrette dressing and scatter these onto the yoghurt. Layer up the remainder of the ingredients – eggs, potatoes, beets, dates and avocado slices  – scatter over torn herbs and half the toasted seeds.
  4. Serve with remaining dressing and more toasted seeds on the side. Enjoy!

Understanding Dementia – Are Women Really At Higher Risk

As we get older, our memory tends to age with us. Recollection of names or words can slow, and it might be harder to learn new information. Though it may be frustrating, these minor memory quirks are considered a normal part of aging. But what about the not-so-normal aspects of memory loss? When does forgetfulness move from an age-related side-effect to something more serious like dementia? And are women really at higher risk?

The Dementia Umbrella

Dementia is not a disease but the name given to a group of symptoms affecting memory, reasoning, and decision-making. Dementia is progressive in nature – this means that symptoms are generally mild at first but will worsen over time. “We describe dementia as an umbrella,” says Dr Brigid Ryan, a neuroscientist and research fellow with the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland, “a group of symptoms that affect thinking and behaviour but can be caused by lots of different diseases – and the most common cause is Alzheimer’s.” 

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for around 60-70% of all dementia cases. It is thought to be caused by an abnormal build-up of protein ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ within the brain and brain cells. These plaques and tangles disrupt regular brain cell activity, usually beginning in the area of the brain that controls memory. Another relatively common type of dementia, is vascular dementia. “We think that it affects around 15 to 20% of all people with dementia,” says Brigid, “[and is] caused by damage to the blood vessels in the brain. This sometimes happens when people have a stroke, for example.” 

Less common types of dementia include Lewy body dementia and frontotemporal dementia. Lewy body dementia accounts for roughly 5-10% of all dementia cases. It is caused by abnormal deposits of a specific protein in the brain. These deposits, referred to as Lewy bodies, interfere with cell function in the brain – eventually leading to dementia. Frontotemporal dementia is caused by the degeneration of nerve cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. Frontotemporal dementia is unusual in that it tends to present in people under the age of 65. “Of all the people in New Zealand with dementia,” says Brigid, “about 7% of them will be under 65. That translates to about 4000 people.”

Normal Aging or a Cause for Concern

The signs and symptoms of dementia differ depending on the cause. In Alzheimer’s disease, the main symptom is generally memory loss. Memory loss can present as difficulty remembering conversations, repeated statements or questions, misplacing possessions, or getting lost in familiar environments. In advanced Alzheimer’s, people can forget how to perform basic activities, such as dressing or preparing food. Lewy body dementia presents in a similar way to Alzheimer’s disease. “But,” adds Brigid, “it also has an additional component of movement. So, people will have similar movement changes to someone with Parkinson’s [disease] – things like muscle stiffness and tremor.” 

Dementia affects people differently. Some people may find it difficult to communicate or control their emotions, while others may experience confusion or personality changes. Additional symptoms associated with dementia include difficulty planning, agitation, hallucinations, and unusual or inappropriate behavior. When it comes to sorting dementia symptoms from age-related memory changes, Brigid emphasises the importance of impact. “ . . .the really critical thing,” explains Brigid, “is that the change needs to be significant enough that its affecting your normal functioning.” 

One of the difficulties in recognising dementia is that the affected person often lacks the insight to notice symptoms. “Quite often it will be someone close to the person who notices changes,” says Brigid, “whereas the person with dementia actually thinks everything is fine. So, something that I often hear people saying is that if you think there’s a problem, you’re probably fine. But if your partner thinks there’s a problem, then you should probably take it seriously.”

Recognising Risk

Studies have identified a number of environmental, lifestyle, and genetic risk factors for dementia. Aging is the single biggest risk factor because it increases the likelihood of health conditions that can damage the brain causing dementia, such as a stroke. From 65 years of age, the risk of dementia roughly doubles every five years. “So, if you’re between 65 and 69,” says Brigid, “about 2% of people in that group have dementia. But between 85 and 89, it’s about 20%.” In people over 90 years old, this figure rises to around 33%. 

When it comes to genetics, scientists have identified ‘risk’ genes and ‘causative’ genes as having a role in the development of dementia. Having a risk gene does not mean a person will get dementia, and, in most cases, the increased risk is only slightly higher than someone who does not carry the gene. Causative genes are different from risk genes. They contain a genetic mutation that will cause dementia in those who carry them. “Less than 1% of people with Alzheimer’s will be born with a single genetic mutation that will directly cause their Alzheimer’s,” says Brigid, “with frontotemporal dementia, it’s more like a third of people that have that genetic cause.”

Hearing loss is another somewhat surprising risk factor for dementia. In one of the first studies to explore this relationship, mild hearing loss was found to almost double the risk of dementia, while moderate hearing loss was found to triple it. Severe hearing loss increased dementia risk by nearly five times that of people with normal hearing. Scientists believe hearing loss may increase dementia risk by accelerating brain atrophy (shrinking) and encouraging risk inducing behaviours such as withdrawing from social interactions.

Alcohol use is another avoidable risk factor to consider. “There is a specific type of dementia,” explains Brigid, “that’s caused by the overuse or misuse of alcohol. That occurs when someone is far exceeding the recommended amount of alcohol. It’s an interesting form of dementia because if it’s diagnosed early enough, it can actually be reversed – if the person stops drinking.”

Air pollution, a history of depression, and type 2 diabetes are other factors believed to increase the risk of dementia. “Another thing I wanted to mention,” adds Brigid, “[is that] there is no evidence that any dietary supplements are useful to prevent or cure dementia. I think it’s important to be wary of anyone who is claiming they have a dietary supplement that [does] because currently, there aren’t any.” 

Women and Dementia

Over 55 million people worldwide are living with dementia. Yet, women are disproportionally affected, making up 65% of all dementia cases – and dementia-related deaths. The main reason for this difference is thought to be because women tend to live longer than men – and dementia risk increases with age. But age alone doesn’t explain the dementia gap.

Recently, however, researchers have begun to explore if estrogen plays a role in the development of dementia. While this research is still in its infancy, studies have shown that women frequently report negative cognitive changes during menopause transition. There is also evidence to suggest that early menopause and shorter reproductive periods may increase the risk of developing dementia.  “[Estrogen] does seem to have a role in the brain,” says Brigid, “and there’s evidence that it might be involved in memory and other types of thinking abilities . . . there’s a hypothesis that maybe because postmenopausal women have less estrogen, and if their estrogen is important for memory, then maybe it’s increasing [the] risk of dementia. But basically, we don’t have enough evidence yet to say either way.”

Unsurprisingly, the potential relationship between estrogen and dementia has given way to studies exploring hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a possible preventative. The results, however, are mixed. While some studies show a positive effect of HRT in reducing dementia risk, others show a negative effect – or no effect at all. While these results might seem disheartening, it’s a positive step forward. “It’s encouraging this area [of research] is being looked into more,” says Brigid, “it could potentially tell us something about the origins of dementia . . . and if something like estrogen was involved in that, it would also potentially be a target for treatments – which would be really exciting.”


Dementia Umbrella Information:

NIH (2021, July 2). What is Dementia. Symptoms, types, and diagnosis. Accessed April 2022 from Alzheimer’s Society (2021, Feb 24). The progression and stages of Dementia. Accessed April 2022 from

Alzheimer’s Disease:

Mayo Clinic (2022, Feb 19). Alzheimer’s disease. Accessed April 2022.

Lewy Body Dementia:

Alzheimer’s Association (no date). Lewy Body Dementia. Accessed April 2022.

NIH (2021, July 21). What is Lewy Body Dementia. Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment. Accessed April 2022.

Frontotemporal Dementia:

Mayo Clinic (2021, June 17). Dementia. Accessed April 2022 from

Dementia Symptoms:

Mayo Clinic (2021, June 17). Dementia. Accessed April 2022 from

Risk Factors:

Alzheimer’s Society (2021, June). Risk factors for dementia (factsheet). Accessed June 2022 from

Dementia and hearing loss:

Lin, F.R., et al. (2011). Hearing loss and incident dementia. JAMA Neurology, 68(2). Retrieved from

John Hopkins Medicine (no date). The hidden risks of hearing loss. Accessed June 2022 from

Bucholc, M., et al. (2021). Association of the use of hearing aids with conversion from mild cognitive impairment to dementia and profession of dementia: A longitudinal retrospective study. Alzheimer’s & Dementia – Transactional Research & Clinical Interventions, 7(1). Retrieved from

55 million people with dementia/65% of dementia deaths are women:

WHO (2021, Sept 2). Dementia. Accessed June 2022 from

65% of dementia cases are women:

Alzheimer’s Society (2018, Sept 20). Why is dementia different for women. Access June 2022 from

Women and Dementia:

Alzheimer’s Society (2021, June). Risk factors for dementia (factsheet). Accessed June 2022 from

Conde, D. M., et al. (2021). Menopause and cognitive impairment: A narrative review of current knowledge. The World Journal of Psychiatry, 11(8). Retrieved from

Gilsanz, P., et al. (2019). Reproductive period and risk of dementia in a diverse cohort of health care members. Neurology, 92(17). Retrieved from

Newsroom (2022, March 1). Early menopause may raise risk of dementia later in life. Accessed June 2022 from

Pertesi, S., et al (2019). Menopause, cognition, and dementia – A review. Post Reproductive Health, 25(4). Retrieved from

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