One of the less known facts about New Zealand’s colonial days is the fact that we shared what has become known as ‘Pacific rim’ culture – a colonial disapora, driven in part by the hunt for gold, that left places from Victoria to California with very similar look, feel and even people.
The historic precinct in Cromwell, central Otago.
This is the historic district of Cromwell, one of New Zealand’s gold-mining towns in the 1860s. See what I mean? I find that inspiring. Do you?
As far as New Zealanders are concerned there were two famous steamships that had their maiden voyages in 1912. One of them was the Titanic (obviously). The other was this one – SS Earnslaw.
SS Earnslaw approaching the Queenstown steamer wharf on Lake Wakipitu.
Unlike the Titanic, the Earnslaw’s still going – in fact, she is one of the oldest working steamships in the world. She was built in pieces in Dunedin and then assembled inland, at the south end of Lake Wakipitu, to serve the mail run and get mail and supplies to inland sheep stations along the coast of this zig-zag lake. She’s still doing it – and is a major tourist attraction. I think that story is one to inspire.
Ever since Peter Jackson filmed The Lord of The Rings in New Zealand, I’ve only ever been able to see the place in terms of its Tolkienish landscape. Mostly, anyway.
The Misty Mountains? Maybe…
This is a picture I took the ranges west of Lake Wakitipu, in the south of New Zealand’s South Island – actually Mount Bonpland and other peaks, rather than Caradhras, but you get the idea… Jackson actually filmed the Caradhras sequences a little further north, but the scenery’s all much of a muchness in this district. Inspiring? Absolutely.
The centenary of New Zealand’s landings on Gallipoli, this weekend, is also a moment to remember all New Zealand’s war dead. We know who they were; their names are inscribed into memorials from Bluff to Kaitaia, from Palestine to Egypt, to North Africa, to Italy, France, Belgium and many other places.
Names of the New Zealand dead, Tyne Cot cemetery, near Ypres.
Here is a list on the wall of the New Zealand Memorial at Tyne Cot cemetery, near Ypres, a photo I took some years ago and which still resonates today. This memorial commemorates the 1200 Kiwis who died between August and October 1917, during what is usually known as the Third Battle of Ypres.
One of the most moving experiences I’ve had as a writer was on the day I visited Ellis Farm, a preserved aid post from the First World War, near Ypres. It was here that Canadian doctor, Major John McCrae, penned what has become the signature verse of the war: In Flanders Fields.
Remains of the aid post in Essex Farm where John McCrae wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’.
He was inspired by the death of a friend, Alexis Helmer; and during the evening of 2 May 1915 began drafting his famous rondeau. The timing is significant; in 1915, nobody guessed that the war might last another three and a half years. And yet the spectre of death – and the iconic flower of that war, the poppy – already loomed close.
It was an inspiring moment for me to visit that place. And inspiring, I hope, for you.
It was remarkably difficult to get this photo of sunset over Wellington, New Zealand. The camera I had wasn’t great for low-light shots, and was way too heavy for the tripod I was using, which meant it wobbled everywhere if I so much as breathed near it, let alone hit the shutter.
Sunset over Wellington from Petone beach.
Still, I managed to get a photo that was reasonably illuminated and not too blurry – which I did by trying to work within the limits. And that, to me, is inspiring, because it’s something writers have to do all the time, if you think about it. And yet that doesn’t stop us. Does it? A thought to inspire.