Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

04 September 2009

The Evacuee Child: World War Two

When World War Two broke out I was evacuated with my school to get away from London and the expected bombing - which eventually came in the form of The Blitz. I was taken to a hall at Worplesdon, in rural Surrey.

There, all the children were split up into individuals and then allocated to local foster parents. Not yet seven years old, I had never
before been separated from my parents; I was utterly lost and frightened. Some years later I wrote some poems about my childhood and this was one of them...

There I stood
Labeled like a shop-bought shrub.
Bemused, confused,
With gas mask slung over shoulder
By string
In a cardboard box
With 'TOP' embossed on the lid.
(It was never used.
But everywhere I walked
The mask went with me
'Til it perished, who knows, perhaps
On a heap of wobbling rubber and muck metal!)

I wet my pants in fear
And shivered, lost,
Regardless of the friendly, droning tone
Of billeting officer
Lost, so lost.
Solicitous faces
Seen through a blur of tears.

'Mrs Dayborn'll take this one.'
They drove me in an Austin Seven Ruby
Along the unfamiliar rural lanes.
Holly and hawthorn now replaced
The edges where I'd known familiar brick.
I still remember now
The vivid excitement of a close-up cow!
Of a green waste of fields
Trimmed with skeletal elms,
Sky speckled with grating crows,
Blackbird and thrush; lamb and horse
Eyeing the small intruder from the town,
Intimidating me with silent country eyes
Keeping their peace and seeming deeply wise.

'This is your boy.' (I heard bucolic burr.)
'He's a bit of a sniveler!'
I felt ashamed and hurt
For was I not a Tough, a townie kid?
I looked into her face
The hazel eyes
Looked with compassion from the simple face.
Her arms reached out
And only then I sagged
Sobbing, relieved
To bury my grateful head
In the warmth of her apron
The journey done.

© DON DONOVAN. (PHOTO © William Vandivert ex internet)




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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.