Posts tagged Star Author

Same but Different

Same but different

When I arrived in Greece at the end of May, I expected some things to be different but other things to be much the way they are back here.

Different:            Ruined temples
Everyone speaks Greek
The street signs look weird
They drive on the other side of the road

1. Athens street sign

The same:           Jeans and tee shirts
Motorbikes and cars (lots of motorbikes)
Coca cola
Cell phones

But then I got some real surprises. Like thunderstorms.

I love thunderstorms. When I was a kid, I’d stand on the dirt road outside our cottage on Waiheke, with the rain pelting down and the mud squishing up between my toes. After each flash, I’d count the seconds till the thunder came – BANG!-rumble-BOOM-BOOM-bump-thud-grumble-mumble. Then silence for ages, apart from the splish of the rain in the puddles.

In Greece last month, I was chased through the hills by a thunderstorm as I searched for an ancient road to Mykenai. I stopped the car and got out to watch. I soon realised this was different to any thunderstorm I’d ever experienced.

2. Thunderstorm over Limnes

For a start, I couldn’t see any lightning. But for the 15 minutes I stood there, the thunder never stopped. It groaned and muttered and growled away without a break, as if the sky god Zeus and his wife Hera were having an argument, with both of them insisting on having the last word.

And then there were the seagulls.

NZ seagulls drift through the air crying gkeee gkeee, when they’re not strutting about screaming Kaar Kaar Kaar at each other. That’s what all gulls do, right?

3.  NZ seagulls

Wrong. After I’d finished searching for my ancient road, I returned to the fishing village where I was staying. By now I was hungry, so I walked along the waterfront to a taverna. As I sat there, I heard a mewing sound. I looked about for the cat – Greek tavernas always have at least one cat and often about six.

5. Cat in a Greek taverna

But there was no cat to be seen.

After a while I realised the noise was coming from the seagulls sitting out on the water – you can see them as white dots out beyond the fishing boat. Close up they look just like NZ gulls.

4. Greek fishing boat and seagulls

Then I remembered reading some English story or poem, years and years ago, which talked about the “mewing of gulls”. The phrase had passed me by – it was so unlike anything I’d heard gulls do and I put it down to poetic fancy (ie: silliness).

This morning I decided to look up the Oxford Dictionary and there it was: “mew n. the characteristic cry of a cat, gull etc.” In fact, in England, another word for “seagull” is “sea mew” or just plain “mew”.  So European gulls are not the same as ours after all.

Sometimes it’s the big, obvious things that take you by surprise. But it’s just as much fun when some small unpredictable thing happens. It makes you look at everything in a fresh way, even the things that are the same.

Leave a comment »

Stranger and Stranger

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a Greek olive grove, searching for a 3300 year old city (as you do). The first thing I came across was a herd of goats.  Soon after that I came across the goatherd, and when I asked him – in my very bad Greek – about the ancient city, he beckoned to me and set off through the trees.

Goatherd

I decided he must be leading me to some spectacular ruins, but instead we ended up at his camp, an untidy clearing with a rickety tin shed, some goatskins over a pole, a very friendly dog and her two young pups. By now I was starting to wonder what was going on.

Goatherd's camp

I soon found out. The goatherd produced a battered saucepan into which he poured some white liquid from a 20 litre plastic container. When he handed it to me, I knew I had no choice but to drink. It was fresh goats’ milk and it was absolutely delicious. This from a man who had almost nothing – by our standards. But because I was a stranger, he wanted to give me something.

What I’d just experienced was a Greek tradition called xenia that goes back thousands of years. In Ancient Greece, kindness to strangers was a sacred duty. The sharing of food and shelter bound people together almost like family. In Homer’s Iliad, the Greek hero Diomedes and his enemy Glaucus, a Trojan ally, stop fighting and swap armour because they find out their ancestors were guest friends.

Diomedes and Glaucus

And early on in my new book The Bow, Odysseus and Diomedes know they can trust each other for the same reason.

My Family and Other Animals book coverIf you’ve read Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals – surely one of the greatest (and funniest) books ever written – you’ll remember how Durrell was plied with food and wine by the peasants he met .Tourism is eroding this deeply embedded tradition, but you can still find amazing generosity in Greece if you travel off the beaten track – as I did.

These days, we’re increasingly careful around strangers.  A famous Dame Edna Everage quote goes: “My mother used to say that there are no strangers, only friends you haven’t met yet. She’s now in a maximum security twilight home.”

Dame Edna Everage

I think my goatherd would have agreed with Edna’s mum.

Leave a comment »

Hi from Catherine Mayo

Hi! I’m really pleased Christchurch Library has asked me to share some of my writing adventures with you this month.  Writing – and reading – can be an incredible adventure, even when most of it happens inside your head.

I should say, because most of it happens inside your head. How else can you go back in the past or forward into the future or sideways into another world? How else can you “become” someone else and experience all their fears and dramas and successes, and wake up safe and sound in your own bed the next morning?

Just occasionally we can actually travel to that other place and experience it face to face. I have just come back from a couple of weeks in Greece, where I visited some of the places I wrote about in Murder at Mykenai and The Bow – the fortresses of Mykenai and Tiryns, the site of the lake and the river in Argos, and the secret cave that occupies the middle of The Bow.

Mykenai, even in ruins, is huge and rather spooky. The fortress walls are made of enormous blocks of stone, some of them longer than me, and a good deal heavier. ImageHere I am standing in the entrance – it makes you wonder how people 3300 years ago ever put that huge capping stone over the gate without modern cranes and machinery. The Classical Greeks later thought it must have been built by giants – by  Cyclopses.

Even the doorways to the tombs are huge. Image

The lake my heroes hide in, in The Bow, has silted up, and people now live on it and grow their crops. But the river is still there, and the reeds. Image

The shingle spit is there too – it was pretty freaky to find something I thought I’d made up – though the weather was too calm to make lots of waves.

The big excitement of the trip was going down into the cave, which was explored in 1893 but forgotten about since. I met up with a bunch of Greek cavers and we had a fantastic time exploring it. Here’s a photos of me and Elissa at the far end, just before the crevice which … but I’d better not say any more, so I don’t spoil the story for you.Image

In the next blog, I’ll tell you what we found down there …

Leave a comment »

Meet our July Star Author – Catherine Mayo

Our fantastic July Star Author is Catherine Mayo.  Catherine’s first book, Murder at Mykenai, is a Young Adult book all about the early life of Odysseus, the hero of The Odyssey.  The sequel, The Bow, has just been released and is available at the library now.  Catherine is one extremely talented woman, not only is she an author, she is also a musician and a luthier (a violin maker and restorer), she loves gardening, horses and she’s been to Greece 3 times!

Thanks for joining us Catherine.  We look forward to hearing all about your books, your writing and your other interests.

Leave a comment »

Saffron calling from Uruguay again!

Hola again,

Remember Saffron’s story from Uruguay? Here is what happened next…by Saffron

 

This is what happens when I take my two little sisters for a walk in Colonia del Sacramento:

‘Why is everything so old?’ Sage asks

I tell her that Colonia is very old and precious and that that’s why it needs to be preserved.

But Sage is not listening and keeps complaining about everything being really old. She keeps saying that there is no one around and that she feels scared.

We start walking around the block. Then we stop. Then we try to walk. Then we stop again.

‘Saffron, I told you this place is all broken,̕̕ Sage says.

The street is all made of sharp pointy stones. Star Anise’s pram is completely stuck. I can’t move it. She starts crying. Sage starts whining. I tell Sage and Star Anise to be calm. I tell them that we are just stuck in a charming street. I also tell them not to worry because we are definitely protected by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.’

 

‘Saffron, are you sure you are all right? Your little sister seems very distressed.’ Lovely lady says on the phone.

‘Yes, I am quite excellent at the moment. Mum’s uncle Bonifacio is meeting us in an hour to take us around the tourist attractions in Colonia del Sacramento. Bye now. I might call you later.’

 

Star Anise’s crying is getting really loud now and Sage is saying she needs to go to the toilet straight away. I keep pushing the pram but it’s still not moving. I think my little sisters need me at the moment so chau, chau for now.

Oh, forgot to explain: chau chau means bye, bye in Spanish.

Image

Leave a comment »

Lovely children

Hola again!

One of the cool parts of my job is going to schools as a guest author and illustrator. Last week I was lucky enough to visit Al Madinah School in Auckland and what a lovely group of children they are! The best thing was that they were celebrating their book week so every day they were having a different activity to do with books.

From the moment I arrived teachers and children welcomed me into their school. Have a look at this:Image

I am the author on the right, the one on the left is lovely Sally Sutton who had visited the school the day before. I was so impressed with the children’s enthusiasm for books and for the craft of writing and illustrating. A real treat for me to see!

Do you have Book Weeks at your school? If so, what kind of activities do you do?

Victoria M. Azaro

http://www.victoriamazaro.com

http://www.saffron-sage.com

 

 

Leave a comment »

Hola again!

Last night I was deeply asleep when the phone rang at midnight. It was Saffron. We had a nice chat and this morning she sent me this photo and this note. Have a look:Image

 

Right now I am in Uruguay.

This is what happens when I call Victoria at 3 p.m. my time:

‘Hello… This is Saffron, calling from Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay!’

‘Oh yes, yes, hello,’ she says

She sounds really sleepy. I am sure this is not a problem. So I just start telling her all these really interesting things.

This is what I tell her:

I am quite excellent at the moment. I am speaking perfect Spanish and doing all the right things. Mum is so impressed with me. I don’t think she is impressed with Sage though. Sage keeps complaining about having to travel all this way for Star Anise’s Baptism.

We are baptising Star Anise in the same church that I was baptised at. It’s a very special occasion for the whole family.” Mum says.

All of Mum’s cousins and relatives have come from Argentina.

They are all practicing this very high pitched song for the baptism and they are all hugging and kissing each other, ’specially Mum. Dad is also hugging and kissing everyone. He keeps checking his little notebooks for things to say.

I tell Sage to come to the corner to avoid all this kissing. I also tell her that UNESCO has declared Colonia a world Heritage site and that it is full of history. I tell her that UNESCO is very important. I am not exactly sure what UNESCO is but it sounds really interesting.

Sage says, ‘Dad says UNESCO is the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.’

Of course I already knew all of that..

We are staying at a charming hotel in the historic quarters and I decide that I should take Star Anise and Sage for a walk to make sure my little sisters appreciate all the history and to stop Mum’s relatives kissing me all over my face.

OK Victoria, I will write you again later to tell you what else is going on.

Bye, Saffron

Image

Hopefully Saffron will contact me really soon and I can share it with you here.

Chau

Victoria M. Azaro

 

 

Leave a comment »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,098 other followers

%d bloggers like this: