Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

14 September 2009

It’s All In the Mind

When you’re four down with five to go in a best-of-nine competition it makes no difference to the final result because, all things being equal you could win the next four and find yourself at evens for the last race. So why are you at such a disadvantage?

Similarly, but conversely, why is playing at home an advantage to the local team? The wind blows for you in the first half and against you in the second. If the field slopes it slopes for both teams equally. And in international games the authority is always careful to find neutral referees, umpires and line judges.
Well, the commentators and analysts will tell you that if you’re the apparent underdog you have a big psychological hurdle to overcome. As Neddy Seagoon used to say in ‘The Goon Show’: ‘It’s all the mind, Jim. It’s all in the mind…’

My granny and all good mums have always been only too well aware of how the mind affects performance in life and they’d readily understand the common cliché ‘the feel-good factor’. It is what good grooming is all about. I mean, does it really make a logical difference if you have a hair-do? Or manicure? Or put on some lippy, blusher, blacken your eyelashes or sport subtle greeny-bluey eyelids?

Once a year granny used to take herself off to the seaside. On the bleak Victorian promenade of Brighton in Sussex she would breathe deeply, face bravely into the salt laden gale that scoured her roseate cheeks, work up an appetite and then repair to some side street café to lunch on a slice of pork pie washed down with Mackeson’s Stout and declare that ‘a change was as good as a rest’, and ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’.

Her descendent female line, had she had one, would, these days, have sought the feel good factor in a range of sophisticated cosmetics whose advertising promised beauty and hope; creams to restore youth and remove wrinkles, vitamin supplements especially formulated for women, and sun lotions whose magical properties would give them anything between an instantaneous Mediterranean tan or an unaltered pink under the glare of the midday sun.

All the logic and science in the world would not convince granny’s descendents that little in those nostrums would halt the march of age or wrinkles. They only knew that they made them feel good.
Doctors call it the placebo effect; most healing and good health comes about because of what’s in the mind. Perhaps we should bear in mind that part of the Hippocratic Oath goes: ‘Primum Non Nocere’ - ‘above all, do no harm’. If the cream, lotion or pill that hints at a therapeutic effect isn’t harmful, leave it alone. If it makes somebody feel good that’s all that matters.



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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.