Meet the author
A Bach for All Seasons: A Love Story (Ishtar Books, $38) is Auckland artist and writer Juliet Batten’s heartfelt memoir, in which breathing new life into a traditional Kiwi bach becomes a metaphor for healing longstanding emotional wounds.
In nutshell, how would you describe your memoir?
It’s a story about a bach and a relationship intertwined with betrayal and forgiveness.
Tell me about buying your bach back in the 60s...
I had been married to my husband Francis for about a year. We were in our early 20s – young and adventurous – and there was no way we could afford a house. We were both living unconventional, creative lives. We were never going to earn a lot of money – but we could afford a bach. We had a dream to buy a place in the wilderness; a place to nest. When we found this bach at Te Henga [on Auckland’s west coast], we fell in love with it and bought it for $1000. It was just a little fibrolite box on the hillside, but in the most spectacular landscape.
Your marriage ended in your late 20s, just 11 months after you gave birth to your son – when Francis took up with another woman.
Can you describe how that felt?
The way it ended, it felt like my life was in ruins and I could never rebuild it. I used to always sing to our baby son. I used to sing all the time. But I stopped singing for two years. I couldn’t listen to music or go to a music concert, which was something I loved. I was in extreme pain.
You got the bach at Te Henga as your part of the divorce settlement?
Yes, I got the bach and he purchased a brand new Renault. They were worth about the same! The bach was such a comfort to me and a bit of a challenge, because at that stage I hadn’t learned to drive a car, so at first I couldn’t even get out there.
You enjoyed your bach for decades, but a few years ago it was in such a sorry state of disrepair that you thought you would have to sell. In your book, you describe the almost alchemical process of bringing it back to life, while at the same time finally resolving your relationship with Francis. What did you find more difficult, rescuing a decaying building or reconciling a great betrayal?
They’re both very, very tough. I think that reconciling a betrayal is a healing process that goes on inside for a long, long time. The difficulty about rescuing the bach was, ‘Where the hell do I start?’ I had to do a certain amount of internal healing first before I could have the power to take on the bach.
Do you think the rumpty Kiwi bach is an endangered species?
Sometimes – when I see that people think they’ve got to recreate a city house on the coast. I’ve discovered many people don’t know what a long drop is anymore, or what a gravity-feed shower is.
What was the last truly great book you read?
David Abram’s Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology. It’s all about inhabiting the sensuous world of plants and animals and landscapes and sky. I really loved it because it opened me up even more to the world of nature.
Tell me something surprising about yourself.
I really like darning socks.