Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 February 2012

Our 1960 Journey to A New Life in New Zealand. 13.

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).

7th February

Still steaming into a heavy sea. The sun seems to have taken a holiday. Last night we went in for the fancy dress competition. Pat was Lysistrata and I poked my finger through a piece of cardboard and went as The Finger that Plugged the Hole in the Dyke. I was surprised to find that I had won the special first prize. It is a bridge set in a calf leather case, a very acceptable memento of our trip.

[My entry was disingenuous; the surprise was not that great; I deliberately picked a ‘fancy dress’ that would be understood by both the British passengers and the Dutch. On the strip of corrugated cardboard I had written the title in both languages, the Dutch being ‘Pieter van Dyke’s finger’ (I didn’t know ‘finger’ in Dutch!]

8th February

We spent the day sunbathing. In the evening there was a farewell dinner for all those people getting off at Australia and NZ. The captain gave a long speech in Dutch with a short translation. Then some unauthorized persons insisted on responding while our dinners got cold! The sweet course was served by the stewards in darkness. They paraded down the stairs with little toadstool lights on their trays then stood around the centre table and at a given signal they started to serve us. It was quite impressive to see the little toadstools all over the dining room.

[At which point it is appropriate to record ‘our’ waiter/steward, who looked after Ian, Ken, Pat and me throughout the voyage. His name was Walter Iten and he was Swiss. We developed a good relationship with him especially after we went into the big storm in the Gulf of Lions when steaming from Gibraltar to Genoa. At its height, when we four arrived into an empty dining saloon for lunch, there were not only no other passengers but also no other stewards, except for Walter who managed to serve all of our courses like an acrobat. The tablecloths were soaked in water so that no matter how canted the tables became in the rolling ship, the crockery and cutlery stayed in place. I also remember Ken describing the J v O as a ‘tender’ ship - she, he said, would have rolled in dry dock].



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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.