Maritime and general short reviews, Gavin McLean

Waitemata Ferry Tales
Sally Fodie,
Collins, Auckland, 1991, $19.95

Sally Fodie was the first woman master of an Auckland harbour ferry. Waitemata Ferry Tales, her short collection of nautical anecdotes, shows that it was not easy to elbow her way into this formerly male preserve. Yet despite all this seagoing chauvinism, the mood of the book is one of gentle tolerance. Fodie’s humour is subtle (this is a book for wry smiles rather than belly laughs), nicely complemented by Jim Storey’s whimsical cartoons. References to a submarine ‘turret’, though, make one suspect that these ferry masters have more in common with bus drivers than blue water mariners!


Poles Apart With Northanger
Vince Scully,
Cape Catley, Picton, 1991, $35.95

In an age when small boat adventure trips are commonplace, it takes a great deal to make one voyage stand out from the pack. Northanger’s crew’s sailing/mountaineering exploits at the poles in consecutive seasons make entertaining rather than compelling reading. Wellingtonian Vince Scully joined the British yacht Northanger after responding to a newspaper advertisement. For the best part of the next two years he sailed and climbed while her owner/skipper fought the elements, fate and his crews. Their first voyage into the surprisingly busy Antarctic waters was a success. The second, in which owner/skipper Rick Tainton’s financial worries aggravated his proprietorial feelings, was disastrous, with the crew eventually ‘jumping ship’ short of its destination. Scully’s readable and even-handed account shows how close-living can blow small domestic disputes into irreconcilable differences. The many clear colour photographs make up for the sometimes scratchy desk-top type.


New Zealand Kitchen Herbs for Health
Gillian Polson,
John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1991, $24.95

From almond to yarrow, Gillian Polson takes us on a tour of the herbs commonly used in New Zealand kitchens. For each plant, she provides snippets of information on its history and folklore, details of its nutritional and health-giving properties, advice on cultivation and companion planting, and a recipe or two. These range from the mundane (mint sauce) through to ‘olde worlde’ delights such as bever cake, dannicks, huffkins and wiggs. Jenny Cooper’s design, Pat Altman’s line drawings and McIndoe’s fine printing all combine to make this a most enjoyable little book for wholefood fiends and conventional cooks alike.


Exploring Maori Values
John Patterson,
Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 1992, $29.95

It will be a pity if price and lacklustre presentation limit the audience for this valuable little monograph. Patterson, Lecturer in Philosophy at Massey, draws on his training in the western analytic tradition to explore Maori values which, he argues, are fundamentally different from Pakeha ones. Exploring Maori Values attempts to persuade Pakeha readers of those differences and that their details are worth exploring further. Patterson’s argument bridges the apparent gap between the demands of a western sceptical approach and the acceptance of the teachings often thought compulsory in a traditional society. Later chapters examine Maori environmental values (put into practice less successfully than Patterson believes), Maori virtues and Maori concepts of collective responsibility. A last section covers a few of the better-known myths and legends. This book is a tentative offering, but an important one, if only for its reminder that neither Maori nor Pakeha values are static and that understanding of one set of cultural values does not automatically require acceptance.


The Man From Nowhere and other Prose
James McNeish,
Godwit, Auckland, 1991, $24.95

This collection of pieces on sojourns in Berlin, Montalbino, ‘Godwit Bay’ and New Caledonia is a timely reminder of the quality of James McNeish’s non-fiction prose. Each long chapter deals with a community in which McNeish has lived and worked during the last quarter century as a writer. ‘The Man From Nowhere’, the first and by far the longest piece, is the story of McNeish’s trip to Berlin in 1983 to gather information for his novel on Jack Lovelock. He’d gone there specifically to discover what, if anything, happened during the 1936 Berlin Olympics that may have contributed to his strange death under a New York train a decade later. McNeish’s search sounds like a whodunit, which it is, but a very fine one with the added bonus of his fascinating observations of the Berliners on whom his researches intrude. The other stories, set in the feuding Italian countryside, rural New Zealand and pre-independent New Caledonia, are equally rewarding. Elegantly written, stylishly designed and crisply printed, The Man From Nowhere is a delightful offering from a promising young publishing house.


Kiwi Journalist
Jim Tucker (ed),
Longman Paul, Auckland, 1992, $34.95

Although Kiwi Journalist is a textbook for the New Zealand Journalists’ Training Board, writers, editors, PR people and club secretaries should also find plenty of useful information in its pages. Twenty-seven chapters, many written by experts such as Warwick Roger, Mike Patterson and Geoff Black, explain the basics of print and electronic media, achieving balance, building a story, interviewing, doing the rounds, information searching, handling PR, working with photographers, presenting statistics as well as special reporting such as weather, court news, sports reports and reviewing. A final chapter provides a brief examination of the vexed question of media ethics. Ten useful appendices on punctuation, spelling, jargon, metric conversions, weather/business and court terms and subbing marks, round out a useful item for the reference shelf. The language is clear, leavened with sufficient anecdotes and examples from newspapers to keep the general reader turning the pages. The comments on book reviewing on pp182 and 200, though, indicate that we have a long way to go in this department! The major omissions are legal and Maori reporting, both covered by other books.


A Guide to Employment Contracts
Richard Rudman,
Longman Paul, Auckland, 1991, $17.95

This is the smallest, cheapest and in many ways the most useful of the books and booklets now offering a path through the Employment Contracts Act’s minefields. In just 24 pages, lecturer and consultant Richard Rudman provides practical, commonsense advice on what constitutes an employment contract, how to negotiate one, how to set out terms and conditions (he provides a sample individual contract) and enforcement, disputes and grievances.


Gavin McLean is a historian with the Historic Places Trust whose most recent work is ‘Local History’, which was published on 4 June by Bridget Williams Books.


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Posted in Health, Māori, Memoir, Natural History, Non-fiction, Sociology
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