Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Last Post

Telling Tales Bookshop
In the last week of the Arts Centre Residency in Christchurch I signed books at the wonderful new children's bookshop called Telling Tales, I gave a writing workshop at the Arts Centre, had a farewell dinner at the wonderful Hannah Wilson's (Arts Centre organiser) place, saw the latest James Bond movie on the big screen, did my last school visit (at Shirley Intermediate), gave a talk about writing Sir Ernest Rutherford biography for teens, and had a photo shoot with the Arts Centre residents. Busy. But the last of those engagements for the year. I was heading back to Auckland and Alert Level 3 on Wednesday 20th October. 

Arts Centre

I said my goodbyes to the Art's residents. I enjoyed getting to know them. Nathan, the playwright and poet, for his humour and exuberance. A.J. the science fiction writer for her kindness (she baked!) and her fierce work ethic. And Matilda, the artist, for her wit and daily Gildermesh (cat) updates.

On Wednesday, my good friend Fifi Colston joined me on the car ride north. We stopped for a garden tour and coffee at Jenny Cooper's (illustrator) place. Then carried on up the coast, past seals lounging on jagged rocks. We had a coffee and customary cheese scone in a small town. Reversed back when we saw Nim's Seafood place, just past Kaikoura, and had fresh fish and chips. Waited in the queue to get on the Interislander in Picton. Then carried on working on board the ship. Fifi was designing a birthday card for her husband. I was tweaking my junior fiction novel. 

That night we stayed in Wellington at Fifi's place and celebrated her husband's birthday. Her son, Rory, cooked us a feast and we washed it down with bubbly.

The next day we drove to Taupo, topped up with cheese scones and coffee, and then had a swim at the hot pools. It was divine. I dropped Fifi off at her mother's place and stopped the night at a hotel. (I had to cancel so many hotel and air bnb bookings that I had been going to share with my family. By the time I got to the Taupo booking, I thought, why not spoil myself - my last night before I go back into lockdown.) If only ...

The next day, ten minutes before I was supposed to pick up Fifi and take her to the bus station so she could get home, my husband called me with terrible news. He had had a meeting with his boss on Wednesday (outside), and now his boss was experiencing Covid symptoms. They were both off to get tested. I couldn't come home. 

I think I was in shock when I dropped off Fifi. "Stay another night," suggested Fifi. So after much deliberation of what I should do, I did that. For twenty-four hours I thought I was going to be homeless for two weeks if his boss tested positive. After half a day of moping and indecision, I went for a walk around Taupo coast and then a swim in the hotel pool. 

The next morning, I received the good news that they were both negative. I could come home and spend my birthday with my family after all. There were no troubles on the trip back to north Auckland apart from a long detour (was that to avoid a Covid infected town?) and a road block to have my papers checked. Five hours later I arrived home. That night we toasted my 60th with my Auckland family bubble.

It is weird being back in lockdown. I keep thinking I can just pop down the shops to get something but apart from the supermarket, I have to click and collect. But I'd rather be safe than worrying about catching Covid (I am double vaxed).

My hopes for the rest of the year ... The country gets to 90 percent vaxed. I send my junior fiction biography off to a publisher and they like it. My latest book 'The King's Medal' gets plenty of reviews and sells well. And I get to spend Christmas and the summer holidays with my family.

Huge thanks to the following people who made my Christchurch residency possible:  Fifi Colston, Hannah Wilson and the Arts Centre team, Creative New Zealand, Ruth Parkyn, and the three other residents: Nathan, A.J. and Matilda.

Take care everyone!


Maria Gill

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