Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

23 December 2009

The Detestable Practice of Writing the Intensely Boring Circular Christmas Letter.

More and more it appears to have become fashionable to create a catch-all letter to accompany the obligatory annual Christmas card. Where, in past times, a short, hand-penned message might impart family news to absent friends and relations, we now receive (with some outstanding but rare exceptions) litanies of banal irrelevance such as this:-
'Dear All,

'Well another year has passed and we’re all that much older but as Jack says “As long as we’ve got our health what else matters?’

'The highlight of the year was our camping trip up north where we stayed in a rented caravan in a bay by the sea. Unfortunately Bobby cut his foot on a broken beer bottle - not badly but enough to have him limping for a couple of weeks. I can’t understand how these faraway "paradises" manage to have plastic bags, condoms, drink cans and dog poos littering the place. The caravan leaked like a holey bucket but can’t complain, the first four days were really hot and sunny.

'Jack got all ready to have his hip done in May but the op was postponed until July. Then he was told he couldn’t be done until September at which point they sent a letter to say that he’s been dropped off the waiting list and would have to go back to Dr. Khan, our GP. Jack’s fed up underneath but he puts on a brave face and only gets really grumpy when he can’t find his aluminium crutch - the kids keep hiding it.

'Other events on the wider family front: Maureen had her veins done (we went private after I won $500 on Lotto); gran had a run in with the audiologist because her hearing aid wasn’t working properly then they had the nerve to tell her that she was wearing it not only upside down but in the wrong ear! Oh, I forgot, Jack broke his wrist when his crutch went into the slots in a roadside drain at the local shopping centre. Brett (only three, bless him) put Nikki’s cellphone in the dishwasher, we tried to fix it with the hair drier but to no avail. Jack said it was a good thing as she stood a chance of getting RSI of the thumb from texting.

'They still haven’t fixed that nasty bend up the road so we’ve had four more crashes through our front fence. None of the drivers was insured so, to get repairs done, it’s cost us $500 excess on our insurance policy each time. Needless to say, none of the crashers has stumped up.

'We bought a new LCD telly and subscribed for Sky. Jack - whom we basically bought it for because he can’t get around very much - was quite chuffed with it at first but now spends a lot of his time trying to get through to Sky on their help-line to complain about the number of times they repeat everything; he says they’ll be repeating the news next. 

Mind you, TVNZ’s not much better, they seem to spend all their time showing programmes about dogs, sick people’s fights against the odds, and people going round the neighbourhood decorating other people’s houses or digging up their gardens. What I would give to all singing round the piano like they used to do in Victorian times. Or give me a good book - I read the latest Grisham in July.

'We buried somebody else’s tabby in the garden in August. Its body was all squashed on the road and it looked like our Tigger. Just after we’d buried it Tigger came through the cat door large as life so where the other one came from God knows.

'Marcia went trekking in Nepal and came back with an unidentifiable disease. Peter is still in Mt. Eden and vows to clear his name (I know for certain that he didn’t do that warehouse). Tui went on a course on medical terminology so that she could get a job as a doctor’s receptionist/typist but chucked it halfway through because some of the words made her feel sick and, in any case, as she said, who would ever truly need to be able to spell ‘spondylolisthesis’? Pauline fell in love with the boy who picks up the rubbish sacks because she says he looks like Daniel Carter, I said why couldn’t she fall for the real thing as his prospects are better. She stopped talking to me for a few days until she got herself gobsmacked by the lad who collects the empty trolleys at Pak ‘n Save - he’s got more spots than the milky way and wears his hat back to front.

'Jack and I will be on our own for Christmas Day this year as, one way or another, the kids are all doing their own things. I don’t mind really but it will be a bit quiet. Jack does love his family Christmas dinner though so I’m going to see if I can get a very small turkey - enough for just us and cold cuts on Boxing Day (the kids will all be busy again then) - and one of those shop-bought puddings. I’ve kept some five cent pieces to hide inside, I’ll wrap them in grease-proof this year as last year Jack broke his dentures on an old threepenny bit we’d found and they cost a lot to replace.

'I hope they still have the Queen’s speech on Chrissy Day - Jack says Sky will probably repeat last year’s - he’s a dag sometimes with what he comes out with.

'Anyway I hope you have a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year. Any of you is welcome if you’re up this way - especially on Christmas Day.



PS We managed to buy all our Christmas grog this year on Fly Buys - good eh?'



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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.