Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

07 September 2009

Il barbecue

To me, having lived in New Zealand for considerably more than half of my life, barbecues are commonplace. But to some English they rank for adventure with the Boy Scout fire; one preferably started with supreme difficulty and on a piece of equipment reminiscent of those makeshift stoves made of petrol cans one sees in photographs of British tommies ‘brewing up’ in the Western Desert in 1942. I have no doubt that England possesses as many elaborate self-starting gas barbecues in cast metal and redwood-stained hardwood as there are in the whole of Australasia but… they’re not British.
The barbecue at the casa Chiesetta Numero Due, Barga, Tuscany is a rectangular metal pan, similar in size and shape to a child’s toy pram. It totters on tubular plastic legs and has a wire grille that hovers over the pan with no discernible means of support or adjustment. Roger, flushed and pyromanic, sprinkles methylated spirits over shop-bought charcoal then drops a lighted match. Whoof! The coals settle to a cryptic blackness, their only sign of combustion being an occasional pinging noise.

Sausages, lamb chops and steak from the local Conad supermarket lie on the lukewarm grille for a considerable time before being turned to dry on the other side; but not before the grille has collapsed, plunging a number of titbits on to the coals. Sooty offerings are scraped and as charred sacrificial noisettes are shared around, augmented by a simple dressed salad, and eaten with as much relish as the contents of a soup bowl on the Hungarian border in 1956. This is the life!

As we wash our feast down with a local verdicchio the charcoals assume the fierceness of hot, flowing volcanic lava. The meal is over, the barbecue is ready.

From ‘Antipasto’ random samplings from various writings made over a few years of visits to a ‘New Zealander’s Italy’



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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.