Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Blue in Marlborough and Fiona Kidman a double knight?

Two exciting pieces of news:

The Blue is having its own NZ Book Month event at the Marlborough District Library, 33 Arthur Street, Blenheim tomorrow night - Wednesday October 28 @ 7.30 pm [do ignore the websites that declare the event is on Thursday, it absolutely isn't]. Exciting because Marlborough is at the heart of my novel set on Arapawa Island in Tory Channel and I love taking it back to that part of the world. So far, my South Island events have been in Christchurch and Nelson, but this is my first sortie to Marlborough. I will talk about the research and writing of The Blue, and why I think the story of these 1930s whalers and their families lay in wait for me to write it. Then I read for a bit.

I have my notes ready and in big letters on the first square of card are the words Epic and Elemental. Every talk is different because I work from two note cards scrawled with notes and key words, but I nearly always start with Epic and Elemental. The epic stuff of the life of the whaler in Cook Strait on fast, two-man boats with explosive harpoons, and the elemental world they and their families inhabited. Their families. Well that sends me off in a whole other direction. For this was a time when men were men and women waited... well, they didn't just wait did they? There was washing and sewing and minding the children and feeding the chooks - and sometimes there were secrets too deep to remember and losses too deep to repair. Do come and hear more in Blenheim. It's so much more fun speaking to a crowd.

Speaking of Arapawa Island, one of my favourite NZ authors, Fiona Kidman [author of The Captive Wife also set on Arapawa and one of the reasons we are friends] was tonight presented with the gong for the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres which makes her officially a knight. The French Ambassador announced she'd received the honour at a function earlier this year to launch her memoir Beside the Dark Pool. Well, tonight, after pinning Fiona's honour onto her appropriately red jacket, the deliciously mischievous ambassador Michel Legras opened another slim box and pinned on a second medal - this time the highest order in France: the Legion of Honour. Which from my reading of wikipedia makes Fiona Kidman a double Knight as well as a Dame.

Sounds like a fancy chess move... ! But this time, Fiona wasn't going to be outsmarted. She was reduced to silence by the first knighthood surprise but tonight she had a speech prepared - albeit for one knighthood not two. It ended with some rather lovely poems, especially one about her husband Ian and a perfect time they had at a village in France. You get the feeling that Fiona Kidman, like Katherine Mansfield, might have a bit of poker work on her heart ....

Needless to say Fiona, and her assembled family and friends [some of them going back to her childhood] and colleagues were delighted by the Legion of Honour, and we all took turns to admire the enameled brilliance of both medals and tried to read the tiny French words. I recommended to Fiona that she wears them on a daily basis, and overlapping so they clank gently together as she walks, and she said she would definitely think about it, and as a start she would wear them to breakfast the next day. She agreed it was so much better to enjoy the honours than hide them away in a dark drawer. As fellow blogger Denis Welch said, over the divine fingernail-sized canapes and bottomless breasts of champagne, the French do the best medals.


maggie@at-the-bay.com said...

'Bottomless breasts of champagne' - such an image, Mary... lovely... rounded... (why do they use breasts and we use flutes?).
Bon Voyage across the little piece of 'blue' between here and Blenheim. Lucky you that the weather has improved.

Rachel Fenton said...

"bottomless breasts" made me titter - oops!

Wsih I could have been there to hear you - especially as I was down in South Island, too! Too caught up fishing for pasts for my own story!

Hope it went well.

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Thanks for this report Mary - you do such a great job of keeping the rest of us up with the important Wllington events!

How wonderful to see Fiona Kidman getting such well-deserved honours and distinctions. We have so much to thank her for.

PC x