A memoir of collecting, writing and the highs and lows of life
by Jennifer Beck
When I first saw this book I was attracted to the cover. It has an old black and white photograph on it and I identified with the era immediately.
It was not a disappointment. It could have been my childhood in those pages but it’s the memoir of the author as she writes about growing up in country New Zealand, her schooling, employment, travel, courting and marriage.
There are many memories that are so familiar. The nursing homes (instead of birthing centres), service cars, tins of loose biscuits, outside toilets down the garden path to the back of the section covered with sweet smelling vines and walking down the path at night carrying a candle hoping the spiders are asleep. They were all part of growing up in early NZ. We also had aunties and uncles who were no relation but family friends, and that gave us a sense of belonging in small town living.
Bits of String is written with short chapters that are easily read. They are accompanied with many photographs that add to the enjoyment of this memoir.
There are so many gems in this book making it a trip down memory lane for the older reader; but one that fascinated me was on the front cover. It is an old cutting entitled “How to open a new book”. It gives explicit instructions on exactly that so the integrity of the book is protected. Well, who knew? We live and learn.
The chapter ‘Hen and Now’ had me laughing as the author compared past kitchen teas for brides-to-be with hen parties held now. Then, peg-bags, egg-beaters and graters were given as gifts, but today it’s more likely knickers or suggestive gifts opened to much hilarity as guests sup wine or champagne, rather than Choysa tea taken oh so delicately from English bone china.
For me, there was a sense of excitement when the old stone Church on the top of the hill in East Tamaki was mentioned. I remember it well as I used to take the back road to Howick as part of my employment at the time. Is it still there I wonder?
Thank you Jennifer for this glimpse into your life - your collections, your writings and the highs and lows of your life. Any reader will be enriched with these stories and so will future generations that are curious about living in New Zealand during the 1940’s and onward.
Author: Jennifer Beck
Publisher: Mary Egan Publishing