Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

29 August 2009

Humidity and Barramundi

I made a little note that afternoon:-

This is a different experience from the trip Robin and I did around the Red Centre two-and-a-half-years ago. That was a desert journey; hot dry days, cold dry nights. Here, the tropical humidity saps all energy and stresses the body’s systems, especially the heat-exchanger. The flora of Kakadu are luscious, strong-growing, fecund, sensuous.

Lotuses have a mute, threatening intelligence (like the sun-staring girasole of Italy), the paper-barks seem strangely vulnerable and dainty; and fist-sized mauve-petaled water lilies flower boldly beside their tiny white and cream cousins - naiads consorting with nymphs. Dragonflies pepper the sky like world war one bi-planes, they come at the car in head-on attacks but very rarely hit the windscreen; their relatives, the damsel-flies are tiny strips of blue and red neon on mica wings.

Coarse, broad-leaved grasses give shelter to snakes and long, stiletto lizards who dart suddenly with their heads up, seeking height for vigilance. Other grasses, lining the tracks, are taller than a man and give a deceiving impression of intimacy to the forest that lies behind them. At Jabiru nothing can be seen from the ground that gives direction. No hills; only the sun which rises over forbidden Arnhem Land and swings north to light up the flooded streams of the Alligator rivers.’

At dinner in the Escarpment Restaurant of the Crocodile Hotel I sweet-talked waitress Annabelle into sweet-talking the chef to depart from the set menu and do for me barramundi grilled in olive oil, and steamed potatoes. She did, he did; it was simple and delicious.

As we returned to our room lightning flashed in the southern sky but too far away for its thunder to carry. Instead the night crickets rattled while small lizards hung stencilled on the hotel wall. The air smelled of a subtle perfume.

From diary notes: ‘Kakadu and Beyond’



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By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.