Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

18 April 2010

Open 7 Days 27. Nightcaps Dairy

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.

Johnston Road, Nightcaps, Southland.
Proprietors: Karen and Jimmy Forde

Nightcaps is still full of character, but the town’s not what it was. The main street says it all: a line of tired old buildings typified by one, dilapidated and deserted, with a scarcely decipherable sign over rusted iron columns with cast Corinthian capitals, ‘RUSHTONS - BREAD, CAKES FRUIT, SWEETS’.

Another, the old GHB store, is empty, held up temporarily by tanalized poles, all its colour gone. The Bauhaus-style town hall is redolent of a time when hopes were high and prosperity breathed through the community.

It was a coal-mining town, sustained by the Nightcaps Coal Company from 1880 until the mines petered out in the 1920s and yielded to the nearby Ohai mines. Now there’s little of commerce left because there are fewer people and therefore less demand. Enough, though, to support an undistinguished grocery shop and the bright little Nightcaps Dairy, which manages to give off an air of optimism.

Karen and Jimmy Forde have lived in Nightcaps all their lives. Jimmy still works in the mines at Ohai, as do his and Karen’s fathers. The store dates back to about 1925 and had numerous owners until the Fordes took it on in 1989. Now they supply groceries, bread, cakes, milk, fresh meats and takeaways; and are agents for the Southland Times, Taylors Drycleaning, and a three-day photo processing service. Up with the latest, they also have video-tapes for hire.



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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.