Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

23 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 12.

This is a diary from 1960. The actual entries are in typewriter font. Added comments are in red. 
The photographs are from that date, some in colour (expensive in those days).

3rd February

Although in the heat of the Indian Ocean, we have noticed a certain nip in the air at times today. There have been one or two rain showers going on around us and we have run into a couple. During the later part of the afternoon the sea became absolutely flat and leaden, this sort of state leaves the sea so that we can see whatever goes on on the surface. I missed a school of porpoises during the afternoon while I was having a shower, but hope to see some monsters yet!

6th February

Since the last entry there has not been anything out of the usual run happening.

[‘The usual run’ on the  J v O  as, I imagine, on any ocean liner, was the inevitable routine that develops in a small community completely locked within inescapable boundaries. The first week or so is a collage of new and often enchanting experiences. I expect prison is much the same but without the enchantments. Pat and I had an inside cabin so we never knew what the day was like until we had dressed and gone on deck. Often we were inappropriately dressed and had to return for a quick change. The daily round pivoted upon meal times - breakfast, lunch, dinner - which were, in effect, breaks in tedious days. There was always a queue of passengers waiting for the dining room to open.

A young group of travellers met on the afterdeck -  the poop - everyday. We played quoits or deck tennis, swam (rarely) in one of the pools, or generally chatted about life and experiences. Our crowd was comprised of two sorts : those emigrating from the United Kingdom to either Australia or New Zealand , or those returning home to both countries after having done work in or paid pleasure visits to the UK.

But there were others with whom we rarely came into touch. Most of the complement were Dutch people with their families travelling under low-cost government sponsored immigration arrangements to both countries. Nearly all of the children on board were Dutch; the manners of nearly all of  them were appalling. We tried to avoid them as much as  possible and (I’m ashamed to admit) resented their access to facilities for which we had paid full fare.

Pat and I - still, in truth, young lovers - had little time for anybody but ourselves but were amused to see shipboard romances develop, not only among our contemporaries but also the oldies - anyone over 30, I guess. One such fascinating romance took place between a very attractive Dutch blonde and a ship’s officer; they couldn’t keep their hands off each other. I last saw her just after we’d arrived in Wellington, she was pushing a pram and accompanied by a man who certainly wasn’t the ship’s officer (who, by then, was on his way to Panama!)

Many of the passengers spent long hours in the bars - especially the fashionable ‘Neptune Tavern’. We avoided the bars because we had no money. The ship’s entertainments officers worked hard putting on dances, fancy dress events, sods’ operas and running bingo evenings. There was a ship’s library, hairdressing salon and shops, but in essence little diverted us from whiling the hours away from one meal-time to the next.]

We have been steaming into a very long and heavy swell which is coming from the south and seems to indicate a big storm away to the south. We passed under the sun yesterday and theoretically it should start getting cooler now.

We were invited to the Captain’s cabin for drinks last evening.

[This honour usually features as the highlight of a voyager’s trip but its importance clearly escaped us for it made little impression. No doubt every passenger (at least every paying passenger) had their turn. I felt sorry for the captain who would probably have been more fulfilled commanding a battleship or aircraft carrier than driving a schoolbus.]

They have been showing travelogues about New Zealand in the ship’s cinema. Today we are sailing in what could easily be the Atlantic type of sea, there is no blue in the water, it is quite grey and if it weren’t for the high temperature one would think it rather forbidding.



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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.