Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

10 February 2010

Another Wedding? We Already Gave.

I have a small piece of cut glass, an attractive vase about 8cm high in the shape of a Scots thistle. It was given to my father and mother as a gift on their wedding day on 4 April 1930. Their marriage lasted until my father died in 1983. Whoever it was - a friend or relation perhaps – that gave them the present it lasted in their memories over many years and probably became increasingly valuable as a memento of a momentous day.

A young woman of our acquaintance got married and before the event a ‘shower’ was held at her home. This was a knees-up to which all those invited were expected to take a gift for the bride-to-be. 

For those not lured into that web a list was distributed of things the happy couple would like to be given; the list was also deposited at a local ‘up-market’ department store. The idea was that if you decided to give them, say, the 36 piece Sevres dinner service you approached the department store to check whether it was still unallocated to a donor. If it had already gone you were invited to scrutinize the list so that you might, say, opt for the unallocated signed Picasso print.

Showers and lists: detestable practices at the best of times. Blackmail in disguise. But what makes it all so much worse is that the marriage went from bliss to divorce so quickly that there was probably never a chance either to hang the print or dirty the Sevres!

Were the gifts returned to the givers? No way. They were probably part of the divorce settlement; the party of the first part keeps the Sevres, the party of the second the Picasso.
What’s really galling is that the ex-wife is about to become married again. Another wedding invitation? Shall we be expected to come down generously in the next shower? Or, if we aren’t invited, to choose off the new list?

It’s a real dilemma. I think we might decline any invitations either to shower or wedding. In fact I think I might deliberately break a leg or arm to avoid any of them. Or perhaps I could write and say: ‘Please continue to keep the present we already gave but apply it to your new wedding.’ Or maybe we’ll give them a promissory voucher cashable for something from The Warehouse in two years’ time if the marriage lasts that long.

Or – and it’s just possible the secondly-weds have a conscience – there might be a quiet register office ceremony with nobody outside the families invited. We can but hope but we shan’t hold our breath.



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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.