Li­brary chaos

Nelson Mail - - COMMENT&OPINION -

I think it’s true to say that Nel­son’s Elma Turner li­brary is now in a state of over­crowd­ing chaos. At this stage, any ex­ten­sion project won’t be con­sid­ered by the coun­cil un­til 2018 or 2019 – but it needs to be done now.

But to be hon­est it’s like talk­ing to a brick wall with the coun­cil, be­cause for the last two years I’ve told them that the va­cant bi­cy­cle shop next door would be a cheap and quick ex­ten­sion to the li­brary read­ing space, and this is needed now. we see Lewis Stan­ton re­moved and are given as­sur­ances that rate money will not be used in any of his court charges.

Coun­cil­lors rep­re­sent us but do not in­vite our opin­ions on the de­ci­sions they make.

While I con­grat­u­late them on their up­grad­ing of at­trac­tions like Tahuna Beach and watch the hun­dreds who hap­pily use it, I would like as­sur­ance that the city in­fra­struc­ture is sound enough to sup­port us and all the new sub­di­vi­sions.

We sim­ply can­not af­ford many things, like Stan­ton and the beaded cur­tain over Salt­wa­ter Creek.

Will the coun­cil sue us for rates?

Or will they la­bel us as ‘‘free­dom campers’’?

In fact, 1.32 per cent of Maori men are in prison while this is only 0.11 per cent for Maori women and 0.21 per cent of the to­tal pop­u­la­tion are cur­rently in prison. treat­ing it as a health is­sue. Get­ting caught now means a small fine and re­fer­ral to a treat­ment pro­gramme, in­stead of a crim­i­nal record.

The num­ber of drug-re­lated deaths in Por­tu­gal now av­er­ages 3 per mil­lion, com­pared with 44.6 in the UK and the EU av­er­age of 17.3.

Rather than lis­ten­ing to the ex­perts, politi­cians in New Zealand and the United King­dom just raise their wet­ted fin­gers into the wind. An ex­am­ple of this kind of ‘‘think­ing’’ is given by Pro­fes­sor David Nutt in his book Drugs With­out the Hot Air, in which he re­lates the fol­low­ing con­ver­sa­tion he had with a Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment:

MP: ‘‘You can’t com­pare harms from a le­gal ac­tiv­ity with an il­le­gal one.’’ Nutt: ‘‘Why not?’’ MP: ‘‘Be­cause one’s il­le­gal.’’ Nutt: ‘‘Why is it il­le­gal?’’ MP: ‘‘Be­cause it’s harm­ful.’’ Nutt: ‘‘Don’t we need to com­pare harms to de­ter­mine if it should be il­le­gal?’’

MP: ‘‘You can’t com­pare harms from a le­gal ac­tiv­ity with an il­le­gal one.’’

Some­times, ‘‘think­ing out­side the box’’ means just that – think­ing.

Sat­is­fy­ing sim­ply as an his­tor­i­cal novel, the book in­trigues be­cause in post-mod­ern fash­ion, Fowles breaks the nov­el­is­tic spell by in­ter­rupt­ing the nar­ra­tive with com­ments on the mores and sen­si­bil­i­ties of the Vic­to­rian era.

He ex­plains the Vic­to­rian un­der­stand­ing of sci­ence, re­li­gion, eco­nom­ics and sex­ual pol­i­tics, with the hind­sight of a man writ­ing al­most ex­actly a hun­dred years later.

Writ­ing in 1969, Fowles knows what his 19th cen­tury char­ac­ters did not: of Dar­win, Marx and Freud, two world wars, the fall of the Bri­tish Em­pire and sci­en­tific ad­vances that changed the world and how hu­man be­ings would think in the 20th cen­tury.

In reread­ing The French Lieu­tenant’s Woman in 2017, 48 years after its pub­li­ca­tion, I felt as su­pe­rior to the Fowles of the 1960s, as Fowles felt about the Vic­to­ri­ans of the 1860s.

When he wrote the book, Fowles didn’t know that the fu­ture con­tained the in­ter­net and the smart­phone, ge­netic en­gi­neer­ing, global warm­ing, the fall of com­mu­nism, the rise of re­li­gious fun­da­men­tal­ism and ter­ror­ism, and how this would change the world, and how hu­man be­ings would think in the 21st cen­tury.

When I be­gan to read through the let­ters I had writ­ten from Brunei in 1994, they evoked a sim­i­lar feel­ing of trav­el­ling back­wards and for­wards through time, though on a smaller, more per­sonal timescale.

The 41-year-old self who wrote the let­ters didn’t know what her 64-year-old self would know.

My present self is amused at how, in the grip of cul­ture shock, I de­scribe my­self as ‘‘an in­sa­tiable mon­ster of dis­con­tent’’.

I’m in a fury that in­nocu­ous books, con­fis­cated by Cus­toms, are sky at night fright­ens her. And me.

The ceil­ing in the lounge be­gins to leak so ‘‘the globe of the glass lamp­shade has filled with water and looks like a dan­gling gold­fish bowl’’. Noth­ing is as I want it to be. On New Year’s Eve we find only one restau­rant open. ‘‘It was a Chi­nese restau­rant but the cooks had gone home. The wait­ers scoured the kitchen and served us with 4 dim-sums and beer served in a teapot be­cause al­co­hol is banned.’’

How­ever, the let­ters also show that that I am­inch­ing to­wards my de­sire to be­come a writer.

‘‘I am sit­ting at my com­puter in what should be a ser­vant’s room. There’s a fan so I don’t drip sweat onto the key­board.’’

I at­tend a writ­ing work­shop run by New Zealand writer Joy Cow­ley at the Univer­sity of Brunei.

I amanx­ious about my re­liance on books for plea­sure and refuge and ‘‘I’m afraid of what will hap­pen if they desert me.’’ I com­plain that ‘‘If I’m not writ­ing I feel less than a whole per­son. When I am­do­ing it, I feel a kind of de­spair.’’

My 64-year-old self, read­ing this litany of com­plaints knows how much of that im­pa­tient, scat­tered en­ergy I still have, and how much thought I still waste in ar­gu­ment with the uni­verse.

But she also knows that when that past self re­turns to New Zealand, she will com­press all that fevered, water-logged in­tro­spec­tion into a short story.

A story which will fea­ture palm trees, stray dogs, sweat, the smell of spices and rot, beer in a teapot and an un­happy nar­ra­tor. And that story will be­come one of the first pieces of writ­ing she has pub­lished, and is paid for. Read more at www.greyur­ban­ist.com

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