Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

11 September 2009

From Jabiru to Katherine

28 March

We escaped from Kakadu, our Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls pictures now on film. We drove to Katherine, 372 kilometres south of Jabiru. It was sunny with photogenic clouds at first but deteriorated as we got closer to Katherine.

The first 200-odd kilometres was on the Kakadu Highway crossing the north-flowing rivers that contribute to the Kakadu ‘delta’ until we reached higher land and the watershed where westward flows eventually start to discharge into the Timor Sea north of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf.

Kakadu Highway joins the Stuart Highway at Pine Creek. North lies Darwin; to the south, Katherine, Alice Springs and faraway Adelaide. Pine Creek is an old gold mining town, the only one left in the Top End from the 1870 gold rush. They found gold there while the great overland telegraph line that connected Adelaide to London via Darwin and all points Oriental, Asiatic and European. The town, as all gold towns do, flared like a matchhead to gain a brief importance sufficient for a railway line to connect it to Palmerston (Darwin). It’s quite an attractive little hamlet fussily preserving and serving up to tourists its museum, railway station (which closed in 1976), a large corrugated iron shed called The Old Bakery, some water gardens and a Miners Park scattered with rusting boilers and stampers from the gold era.

We had lunch at the local pub which I described in a fax I sent to Pat later that day as ‘…rough as old boots but we talked the Italian-looking “chef” into grilling barramundi in olive oil with salad.’ I don’t think he’d ever cooked it that way before. It was very good, especially as it cost us only $5.00 each. The bar was full of locals who by their ingenuous appraisal made us feel like foreign objects - which we were - so we went out the back and sat with some aborigines in a room that resembled a large, paint-chipped prison cell. It might once have been a stables. They had a pretty little girl with them who looked bored and not too healthy. I asked her what her name was. I thought she said ‘Melissa’ but her mother - I presumed it was her mother - grinned with some teeth missing and said, ‘Priscilla’.

‘This is “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”?’

The woman grinned gaply again and nodded her head. The little girl hopped on one leg shyly; such a beautiful girl spending Sunday in the pub with the grown-ups smoking and quietly sinking towards the sleeptime.

On our way to Katherine we made a detour to Edith Falls in the north-west corner of Nitmiluk National Park. It was a venue for Sunday afternoon outings where people were picnicking, swimming and boating on the lake, part of the Edith River, fed by the falls which were really a modest cataract on the lake’s far side. We took no photographs.

We stayed the night at Knotts Crossing Resort motel, Katherine, and I cooked us a simple penne é pomodori which we ate with yet another of Robin’s fine choices of wine while we watched the nightly disaster taking place in Kosovo.

© DON DONOVAN 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.