Last of the Summer reading

Did we have a Summer just then? Possibly in the days to come… N8N is back on board, bright eyed and bushy tailed, and presents herewith the final instalment on what books folk are dipping into over their breaks.

Recently retired Waikato district councillor Rod Wise is reading Russell Stone’s Makers of Fortune.

Published in 1973 the book describes how a small group of influential business men led by Thomas Russell played a major role in the development of Auckland in the second half of the nineteenth century.

During those times of prosperity, Russell looked to the Waikato to purchase land to develop large-scale farming. This led to the formation of the 98,000 acre property by Piako Swamp Co which stretched from Taupiri to Eureka.

The author describes in detail the building of the first farm manager’s house which is now known as Woodlands Homestead.

In the 1870’s to 90’s the homestead was a hive of activity. It was the self-sufficient social centre of the surrounding district. Infrastructure was built to house the flour mill, bakery, black smith, butchery and the like, enabling the large staff needed to drain the swamp land to be fully self-contained.

The sheer size of this development and the amount of borrowed money invested was such that during the financial turndown in the 1890’s the survival of the BNZ, NZ Insurance and Loan & Mercantile were all very much in doubt

Gordonton was named after the second manager, John Gordon.

John Gordon, and family, at Woodlands

The ‘Anchor’ Brand, now in it’s 125th year, originated at Woodlands during the time of the first manager when he copied it from a tattoo on one of his worker’s arms (he was an former seaman). The carved Anchor on the fireplace surround can still be viewed at Woodlands in the Kauri Room.

This is the second time I have read this book after it was recommended to me by Denys Oldham, a retired architect from Auckland, who has a real interest in Woodlands Homestead and historic houses in general.

I now own a copy which was located by a Woodland’s member in the Hard to Find Second-hand Book Shop in Onehunga.

As a result of Deny’s interest, Woodland’s Trust Board engaged Dr Stephen Hamilton to do a scoping study of all the material available relating to the original estate through to the present day. One day in the future this study will be used to write an official history of Woodlands.

Horsham Downs’ Julie Roe spent 10 days at Stony Bay, over the stormy New Year period.  Perfect reading time…

Nestled into a cosy corner of the caravan, my nose buried deeply into The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – what a fantastic book!

It is a story about a young girl Liesel, living in Munich, Germany, through World War 11 – so well written it had me crying at the end.

I have passed it on to my 14-year-old daughter and hope to see it appear in many secondary schools. It is a great read for young adults and older…

More than 10 years ago now, we were lucky to have two wonderful German Wwoofers – willing workers on organic farms – stay with us in Gordonton. They gardened, they built our outside table and pergola, they baked courgette cake and birthday black forest gateau. We’ve stayed in touch with Uli and Mecki, and here is what they read this summer, while on holiday in the Canary Islands.

Uli, left, and Mecki get to reading

Nice warm days, lots of time to read – we had three books in our backpacks. The biggest, Limit, was by Frank Schaetzing, a German writer. It took Uli 11 days to read, more than 1300 pages. She loved it!

Science fiction, set in the year 2025, it is about a competition between nations to solve their energy-problems. It was hard to put the book aside and come back to reality, she says.

I love to read crime-stories, because you are right away in a different life, you can dive down into scenes, and forget your own ups and downs for a while. Patricia Cornwall, Henning Mankell, Elizabeth George, Stieg Larsson, Tess Geritsen, we always wait for the next book to be published and ask around my sisters and our friends, to find out who is buying which book first…

An interesting book I found on the bookshelf where we were staying was Ordinary Heroes, by Scott Turow. It tells the story of a journalist who uncovers writings by his father while going through his things, after his funeral. The novel, told in the first person, traces the son’s journey into uncovering his father’s role in World War II.

It was good that I was reading it on vacation, feeling warmth and calmness inside and out. I had to put the book away sometimes, because it was too horrible to visualize what human beings are able to do in extreme situations, like in World War II. Still, it is good to remember these things, and it was a very good book.

But then again I was glad to take a Tess Gerritsen book, The Killing Place, with me for the flight back to Germany. It says on the front page: You’re cold. You’re scared. You’re lost. You’re just where the killer wants you…

Hopefully, not 35,000 feet up in a plane somewhere. Thanks to everyone who took part in these Summer Reading stories – there’s plenty of books out there and not really enough time!

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Number 8 Network - a community website for the rural areas northeast of Hamilton, NZ, is run by Gordonton journalist/editor Annette Taylor.

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