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Friday, July 29, 2016

Cache of undelivered 17th century letters

From The Guardian

An appeal for help from a desperate woman has been opened and read more than 300 years after the man it was sent to refused to accept delivery – not surprisingly, since the wealthy merchant in The Hague must have suspected it contained the unwelcome news that he was about to become a father.
The letter is part of an extraordinary trove of thousands of pieces of correspondence, never delivered, many still unopened and sealed closed, found packed into a leather trunk and stored away for centuries in the Netherlands.

The collection includes letters from aristocrats, spies, merchants, publishers, actors, musicians, barely literate peasants and highly educated people with beautiful handwriting, and are written in French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and Latin.

One of the letters that has been transcribed and translated is from a woman writing to a Jewish merchant in The Hague on behalf of “a mutual friend”. The friend was a singer with the Hague opera who had left for Paris, where she discovered the disastrous truth. She needed money from the merchant to return.

“You can divine without difficulty the true cause of her despair. I cannot put it into so many words; what I ought to say to you is so excessive. Content yourself with thinking on it, and returning her to life by procuring her return,” it says.

The letter is marked “niet hebben”, indicating that the man refused to accept it. The fate of the poor singer is unknown. Daniel Starza Smith, of Oxford University, said the man was undoubtedly the father of the child – the true cause of the singer’s departure.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New NZ publisher for HarperCollins

Alex Hedley has been appointed as HarperCollins NZ Publisher, replacing Finlay Macdonald who left for a role outside the industry.

Alex has, for the last four years, been the General Non-fiction Publisher at Penguin Random House publishing a broad list Non-fiction.  

He is part of a fourth generation book trade family; his great grandfather William Hedley established Hedleys Booksellers in Masterton in 1907. Alex is also a photographer and author in his own right.

Alex’s appointment reaffirms HarperCollins’ commitment to publishing New Zealand authors for New Zealand readers.

HarperCollins is the publisher of The Notorious Captain Hayes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Notorious Captain Hayes published

During the 1860s, a flamboyant American named Captain William Henry ‘Bully’ Hayes blazed a path across Australia and New Zealand. In Australia, he acquired ships through pseudo-legal legerdemain, vanished over various horizons to avoid large liabilities, got engaged to one woman, married another, was sued for abduction and attempted seduction, and managed a circus. In Otago, New Zealand, he continued his scandal-ridden theatrical career until his past caught up with him. In Nelson, he was accused of murdering his family; in Akaroa, it was claimed that he abducted yet another girl; in Wellington, he acquired yet another ship by nefarious means; and in Auckland he bilked yet another impressively large number of merchants.  And throughout, his combination of flamboyant showbiz and commercial chicanery never failed to pull headlines, because his antics made such compulsive reading. 

A retreat to the tropics was by no means the end of newsworthiness.  Hayes went in for the disreputable ‘blackbirding’ trade — he was one of the captains who transported natives from various islands to the labour markets of Tahiti, Fiji and Samoa, the draw being the head money paid by plantation owners who were anxious for a cheap workforce. Some of the Islanders were happy about it — they were glad to escape the restrictions of the missionaries, and have fun and make money on the sugar plantations. Others met a miserable fate. Hayes, as it happens, was not one of the monsters of the business. Indeed, whether he was any good at it is open to question. In one of the many farcical episodes of his career he was arrested by a Samoan chief with a band of mighty warriors, who then seized his ship, along with the men and women on board.

Confined at large in Apia (because there was no prison), Hayes staged another of his breathtaking escapes, this time by absconding on a ship owned by one of the really nasty men of the time, Captain Ben Pease — and he rewarded Pease by stealing his ship, painting her white and giving her a new name. Thus the ship that had belonged to another rogue became the infamous Leanora. Hayes, as the raconteurs would say, probably chuckled as pirates characteristically chuckle.  Dissolute beachcombers were picked up as crew, and all about the north-western Pacific lonely copra traders were robbed of their stock. No less than eight British navy ironclads roamed the seas in search of the notorious Hayes, but still he remained at large. It took a sailor with a grudge to put an end to the man, by knocking him over the head and then tossing the body overboard. Which should have been the last of the story — but instead Captain William Henry ‘Bully’ Hayes became the Pirate of the Pacific.

Not only did he become the Pirate of the Pacific, but he became the Romantic Pirate of the Pacific, the predecessor of Captain Jack Sparrow of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ fame. Somehow, Bully Hayes has gone down in history as a famous buccaneer.  No book about the Pacific is complete without him. Documentaries include far-fetched yarns attributed to his name, and fiction writers revel in bloodcurdling tales. No one is even sure what he looked like, and yet Hayes stars in a number of swashbuckling films. His name is used to promote shirts, pubs, restaurants, and exotic holiday destinations.

Throughout my writing life, I have specialised in the stories of the unusual people who roamed the world under sail — the captains’ wives, the children on board, whaling surgeons and female pirates, the Polynesians who sailed for adventure.  Of these, the Bully Hayes saga has to be one of the most bizarre.  Was he a real pirate, or just a smooth-talking crook who attracted sensational headlines?  He never boarded a ship with a sword in his hand and a knife between his teeth.  He never killed a man.  He didn’t even drink!  But still he is ‘the last of the pirates’, a legendary corsair, the leading man of a myth that endures today.

A friend in America said to me, ‘Bully Hayes would make a fantastic nonfiction book — if you succeed in the formidable task of separating fact from fiction.’ To which I lamely concurred, ‘There was certainly a lot of garbage written about him.’ So that has been my job —  to sort out the facts by reporting what was written about him in his day (often by men with their own agenda), and to solve the mystery of his mythic status by exploring what has been written since.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Americans hammering at the door of New Zealand


There's been a massive increase in the number of Britons and Americans planning to come to New Zealand since Britain's Brexit vote and Donald Trump's political rise.

Immigration NZ typically receives 3000 registrations from Britons wanting to work, study or invest in New Zealand each month, through its New Zealand Now website.  But that leapt to 5005 in the 12 days immediately following Britain's June 23 Brexit referendum, in which Britons voted to leave the European Union, spokeswoman Emma Murphy said.

The department also normally received 7000 registrations from Americans wanting to work, study or invest in New Zealand each quarter, through New Zealand Now, she said.

But that had risen to 13,522 in the less than three months since Donald Trump won the Republican Party's pivotal Indiana primary on May 3.

About 3700 Britons normally visited the websites each day, but that had nearly trebled to 10,000 in the 12 days following the Brexit referendum.

Visits from the US rose from an average of 6100 a day before the Indiana primary to 8700 since, she said.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Working on a cruise ship

What it is really like.....

Cruise ship employees have revealed what it's really like to live and work at sea for months at a time.

In a new thread on the US-based website Reddit, current and former workers lifted the veil on their exploits as they explained what goes on behind closed doors or in plain sight when passengers aren't paying attention.

Anonymous crew members told tales of random hookups with colleagues, booze-fuelled parties, hatred for bosses and

Cruise ship 'hanky panky'

It's no surprise that cruise ship workers become involved in flings or serious relationships, given that they live and work in close quarters for weeks or months on end.

A Reddit user named MirtaGev wrote: "Everyone sleeps with everyone."

Another user, JMPBass, added: "Remember high school, where everyone knew everything about everyone's business? Who was macking whom, cheating on so-and-so, doing this-and-that, being a such-and-such? Well, that's ship life in a nutshell.

"The bar is where we all congregate, it's where we all commiserate and it's our only meat market option."

Hookups with passengers are a no-no

User heapsgoods worked on a cruise ship for three years and revealed they had three friends sent home for sleeping with passengers.

The Redditor wrote: "Essentially you get busted, you have a masters hearing and you're sent home at the next port (on your dime).

"The cruise companies don't want to be liable for anything and rape accusations are all too real. We aren't allowed to take elevator rides with guests if you're the only two people in it either, for the same reason."

Having your own cabin has its perks

Most employees sleep in shared cabins that are tiny and cramped, but officers tend to have their own rooms. It turns out there are a number of advantages, especially for those who are looking for love.

One user wrote: "If you have a solo room then you might as well write a blank booty cheque.
"Girls (and guys) go crazy over you as you have a solo room. Ugliest guys get prettiest girls if they have a solo room... I should know."

A female crew member said she enjoyed similar "benefits" as an officer, which meant she had a large cabin with a double bed and windows.

Your social life is better at sea than it is on land

Workers said a lot of partying happens when they're at sea or on their down time when the vessel is at port, although not every employee is into that kind of lifestyle.

Employees have access to cheap booze from the crew bar or event discounts at certain bars or restaurants on land.

Reddit user heapsgoods wrote: "There is a crew only bar, and beers are $1.50. Some ships have a crew only hot tub."

An engineer who worked four months at a time on cruise ships for three years added: "Alcohol (including spirits with my company) was very cheap and you would often find yourself buying drinks for an entire room of people for very little cost.

"I could, as an officer, order room service and there were even some crew cooking in there cabins and selling it to other hungry crew members.

"All in all it's a hard lifestyle to maintain and sleep is limited if you're social and want to go ashore at the same time but in my opinion, totally worth it. If for a few years in any case."

There is no such thing as privacy

User Seastar321, who worked on cruise ships for five years, described the joy of sharing a room with colleagues and working alongside them all day.

They wrote: "Long working hours, very small shared cabin with walls thinner than paper so you can hear everything your neighbours are doing."

User too-tsunami added: "Think of a time you did something embarrassing while drunk at a bar. Now imagine having to see every single person who saw you do that embarrassing drunk thing, every day for months & months. That's what ship life is like"

The food for crew is really bad

Several crew members wrote on the thread that the food served to crew is "almost inedible" or "really bad".

Workers also said they had limited options or had to eat food they weren't used to.

A user named too-tsunami wrote: "Food is provided, but the two most common ethnicities on my ship were the Philippines and India, so the crew cafeteria was usually full of food I wasn't used to, like pigtail stew & fish heads. I ate a lot of salad & mashed potatoes on my contracts."

It's not all play

Many employees complained they worked long hours for days on end and didn't get paid what they should have.

A user named teddersman wrote: "Crew members are super hard working and work weeks are 70 hours a week without a single day off for 6-8 months at a time.

"Most crew members rely on tips for their wages. My position was salaried for $58/a day, I was an officer on board working in the guest services office. Came out to roughly $1400 a month after taxes. No one else is taxed besides Americans on board."

Redditor JMPBass, a musician in a cruise ship band, called it the 'jail factor', adding: "You're in a tin can and you can't leave. Some people can never get off in port because their jobs don't allow for it."

It's a great way to see the world

Many people dream of having a job where they get paid while exploring the world. Even though they put in a lot of hours, cruise ship workers take in a lot of the sights.

User Seastar321 wrote: "In five years on cruise ships I literally travelled the world. I basically visited every continent except Antarctica and went to over 75 countries."

Their experiences included a sled dog ride in Alaska, white water rafting in Costa Rica, a day on a luxury yacht in the Caribbean, snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef and visiting the pyramids of Egypt.

The Redditor added: "None of the bulls*** you have to put up with on board matters compared to that."

There is a class system

User TickleMafia said things are very divided by position.

They wrote: "There is almost a caste system in place with officers at the top, then entertainment, then front-of-house, then the back of house.

"These groups are usually divided by nationality too, so there isn't a lot of interaction between them."
A user named BilliousN added: "Totally depends on which country you come from. My wife and I met working on ships. She's Indonesian, worked 10 month contracts without a day off, 12-14 hours a day... and made about $600 bucks a month.

"Lived in a shared room, ate food that was literally made from the scraps of what passengers didn't eat, never had time to get off ship in port.

"I'm American, worked 4 month contracts, had a solo room, usually worked about 6-10 hours a day, ate with the passengers in the lido, and made around $3000 a month."

Workers don't pay rent (but may have to pay for toilet paper)

Cruise ship employees don't have to pay rent on their cabins, although many are sending money back home to support their families.

User TickleMafia, a musician, wrote: "Paying zero rent or bills is a great deal and I've been incredibly lucky that that is an option, but... the pay is almost always less then what you make on land, and if you lose work on land it can be a wash.

"Some lines also try and suck the crew dry, charging extra for necessities like toilet paper, drinking water or over-charging for internet."

A user named teddersman added: "Wifi was $5 a day for 24 hour access to limited social media apps or $10 for 100 minutes unrestricted. I spent way too much money on the s***** wifi."
Is it true?  As a cruise lecturer, I have to say, yes .... Reading this, there was a lot of nodding.  But there was a lot that was a surprise!


Cruise ships often call at Tahiti.  The local ship Paul Gauguin is a common sight at the Paquebot Quay in Papeete.  But on April 21 there was an unusual visitor -- STS Tenacious. Not only was this three-masted bark reminiscent of a much earlier era, but there were 29 disabled student sailors on board.

Tenacious is a British sail-training ship that was specially designed to accommodate men and women who suffer from some kind of disability. Some are blind, some are deaf, and others have more "invisible" conditions, such as diabetes or hemophilia.

Launched in the year 2000, Tenacious is the largest wooden sailing ship to come out of the United Kingdom in the last hundred years.  At over 200 feet long, she carries over three thousand square feet of canvas in her sails.

The Tenacious was built to help meet the huge demand for voyages that followed the success of Lord Nelson, the first ship ever built to enable physically disadvantaged people to take part in the romance of the sea.  Funded by the UK Lottery Foundation, plus private donations, she is owned by a registered charity, the Jubilee Sailing Trust. She is a hard-working ship -- more than 85% of her time is spent at sea, and to date she had carried 13,000 people, including 1400 who were confined to wheelchairs.

And how does a man or woman in a wheelchair help to set the sails? By being hoisted up the mast -- a highlight for many who have sailed with her.  Moving around the deck is easy, too, as aisles are wide, and lifts help get people from one level to another.  Important signs are in Braille, and directional arrows are engraved on handrails.

Before arriving at Papeete, the ship called at Costa Rica, the Marquesas Islands, Bora Bora and Moorea.  Right now, they are on the way to Australia, where the ship will be dry-docked for maintenance in Melbourne.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tupaia a Tahitian bestseller

On June 25, a signing was held at the wonderful Odyssey bookstore in Papeete, Tahiti.

There I had the pleasure of meeting Liliana Meslin, owner of 'Ura Publishing, which produced the beautiful French edition of Tupaia.

Not only was she charming, but she had the great news that Tupaia is a local bestseller.  As one of the many people who turned up to talk to me commented, the book has given Tahitians their own great hero.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

How old should a president be?

What the writing community would think ....

From the New York Times

For Presidents, Age
Is Not Just a Number

“One of the mixed blessings of being 20 and 21 and even 23,” Joan Didion wrote, “is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.”

But of course it has. Whether we are 20 — or 2 or 91 — we feel, by and large, what billions of others have felt at that same age. Writers know this. Our great books are filled with universal observations about our every year, their desperations and delights.

All of us age more or less in step — you, me and our two presumptive nominees for president. Donald J. Trump, who turned 70 last week, would no doubt recognize himself in the words of Isaac Bashevis Singer, who wrote, “A man of 70 should know what he wants.”

Still, not every passage can speak to every person. Hillary Clinton began her second bid for president at an age when such mountainous ambition is generally in decline. In a magazine article titled “Life at Sixty-Seven,” Theodore Dreiser wrote, “Fame, success, power, $500 million, world leadership — well, if they should arrive, I might not exactly take to cover, but as for lying awake nights craving them as in my youth I did — well, I really don’t care to any more.”

Nonetheless, the simple fact remains that age informs who we are. That fact is as relatable to our presidents as it is to the rest of us. And as we wait to see how age might shape a Trump or Clinton presidency, here is a sampling of observations about age that speak to the experiences of our last eight presidents.
  1. Photo
    Credit Illustrations by Lauren Tamaki
  2. Barack Obama was months shy of 46 when he announced his candidacy for president.
    At 46 one must be a miser; only have time for essentials.
    —Virginia Woolf, “The Diary of Virginia Woolf,” March 22, 1928
  3. Photo
  4. Bill Clinton was 51 when news of his affair with Monica Lewinsky broke.
    At fifty-one you had to keep running just to escape the avalanche of your own past.
    —Stephen King, “Needful Things”
  5. Photo
  6. Jimmy Carter was 54 when, in a bid to put a finger on the nation’s problems, he gave his “Malaise” speech.
    At fifty-four, he thinks a lot of things, he believes a few, but what can he really claim to know?
    —Julian Barnes, “Arthur & George”
  7. Photo
  8. George W. Bush was almost 57 when he commenced his attack on Iraq.
    Fifty-seven; it’s a critical age … Desire is much the same as it ever was but satisfaction brings in its revenges.
    —Hjalmar Söderberg, “Doctor Glas”
  9. Photo
  10. Richard Nixon was 61 when he resigned as president.
    I might, at sixty-one years of age, have been a little inclined to stay at home.
    —Daniel Defoe, “The Further Adventures of Robinson Crusoe”
  11. Photo
  12. Gerald Ford was about to turn 62 when he slipped on a staircase in Austria; from then on he was lampooned as clumsy.
    He was turning sixty-two, not an age of life-altering shocks but only of subtle diminishments.
    —Paul Theroux, “The Lower River”

  13. Photo
  14. George H. W. Bush was 66 when he chose to upend Republican orthodoxy and raise taxes.
    At sixty-six I am more rebellious than I was at 16. Now I know the whole structure must topple, must be razed.
    —Henry Miller, “Art and Outrage”
  15. Photo
  16. Ronald Reagan was 70 when he survived an assassination attempt.
    You must take living so seriously
    That even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees
    And not for your children, either,
    But because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
    Because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
    —Nazım Hikmet, “On Living”
    Joshua Prager, the author of “100 Years: Wisdom From Famous Writers on Every Year of Your Life,” is writing a book on Roe v. Wade.
    Lauren Tamaki is a designer and illustrator.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Do you use the Oxford comma?

For the initiated, an Oxford comma is the comma before the word 'and' in a list.

As in:  Potatoes, leeks, onions, and lettuces are all vegetables.

Personally, I don't like it.  Lots of people don't.  But writers have to live with the house styles of their publishers, and so I have countenanced it on many occasions.

And a video laying out its origin and popularity has gone viral ....