The Gossips and Jonathan Franzen in the Mahau Sound.

Art- John Atkinson Grimshaw - 1880 - The Gossips, Bonchurch

The painting is called The Gossips, Bonchurch, by John Atkinson Grimshaw, put to canvas in 1880. I chiefly love how Grimshaw plays with the light, and the stark wintry exactitude of the trees.

It’s more than gossip Pauline and I have finally berthed at our permanent – for now – resting place in the Mahau Sound, which we will enjoy after we’ve waded through roomfuls of these:


Although it’s so hard when all we want to do is sit out here with a bottle of red, each:


And worse, I’ve made the mistake of picking a fabulous novel to read which sits inside my Kindle as a distraction I want to distract myself with, rather than open, unpack, then disassemble and fold down cardboard boxes into the boot of the Suzuki. Why have I not read Jonathan Franzen before now? While one of the great things about novels is to open experience to different lives, in an act that imputes empathy – well, perhaps only if you’ve got empathy in the first place (do sociopaths read?) – now-and-then it is a joy to come home to a middle-aged whitey middle-class author writing about *my* middle-aged, whitey middle-class family life. As author Maurice Gee brings me home, novel after novel, to living in the landscape and culture of New Zealand; despite I’ve got a theory you won’t want to know about that Franzen would never find a publisher in New Zealand for he is too transgressive of all things Progressive. The Corrections will be going down as one of my top ten reads: the relationship between Gary and his father, Alfred, and mother, Enid, a feast.

Outside of losing myself in Franzen, to escape the de-boxing I took Daisy Dog down to the beach today. On getting to the forested platform at the bottom where our hill first intersects and then turns into the beach I couldn’t figure out the light; it was brighter than it should have been.


It was disorientating being taken out of the expected until after minutes I realised the problem; there was a hole in the tree canopy where an old beech had succumbed to time and tide. From the dead, seaweed encrusted foliage it can’t have been long after we left last that it fell. Sad, yet not sad. There will be more life taking its place soon enough, for the extra light will allow young saplings to flourish, as it has always been (at least until Elon Musk or Peter Thiel can finally fund an immortality cream).


British chef, God, Rick Stein, says there’s something primeval that attracts us to the sea. I think he’s right; to walk a beach is to walk the cycle of life. This’s our beach on a grey, but mild, overcast day:


And a bird on our beach (which for eight years of her life I’ve been painstakingly teaching Daisy dog not to chase, because the bird has more rights here than we do):


This is Daisy asking to stay awhile longer for she loves beachcombing:


This is her grump face after being told, no, time to go up. She’s a funny little dog in that she’s a homebody: she could amble down the beach path by herself whenever she wants, but she either never thinks to do so, or it’s no fun without humans around to throw sticks:


It’s back to de-boxing life, but I suspect my next post will be on time and tide, along with the ability to die, dignified, currently denied us by the Fortress of Legislation in Wellington. And it will be about this guy who lived a lifetime with us in which he never grew up, remaining a permanent teenager – his name was Winston, for short, although there was nothing short or, for that matter, middle-class, about him: as dumb as an aristocrat, but unlike one, loveable, his blue-blooded pedigree name was Winstanley of (kennel) Jeymar:

Dog - Winston


3 thoughts on “The Gossips and Jonathan Franzen in the Mahau Sound.

  1. Just found this Mark, as I relax with a cup of lapsang souchong in a gold and white MInton bone china tea cup ( a thing worth doing is ..etc )
    First of all, I love the picture of winter and architecture revealed by the exquisite outlines of the leafless trees. One reason I usually used to go back to UK in autumn/winter… ( have you had a chance to check out Rowland Hilder?)

    The other reason I love your choice is that I used to walk down a narrow alley like that in Twickenham, with the river on the left, and Georgian houses on the right.. ending up at my in-law’s rose-coloured brick Georgian house built by Elizabeth Twining of Twinings tea around Jane Austen’s time…

    Your lake-side possie looks ravishing.. you must be feeling wonderful to finally be there and to have left commuting behind… I always feel that unpacking can be leisurely after that terrible scramble to get everything done in time for the deadline…Daisy looks full of character and utterly loveable … Winston looks noble and magnificent …and utterly loveable!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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