Our Exclusive Q and A with Ben Aaronovitch

This is your brain on magic.

Ben Aaronovitch

We recently approached international bestselling author Ben Aaronovitch about the possibility of doing a Q and A, very much expecting a polite ‘no’ in response. So when he kindly agreed, we were thrilled!

Thinking about how best to compile some really good questions for Ben, the answer was obvious: we would ask our library patrons to send in their questions for Ben. The questions we received ranged widely — from enquiries about the Rivers of London series, to examples of how to do research, to experiences writing for Doctor Who.

So, below we now present our interview with Ben Aaronovitch. In our opinion, he was hugely entertaining, insightful and really funny to interview and we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. We wish to extend our most heartfelt thanks to Ben, and of course to our users for supplying the questions. Enjoy!


False value / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Peter Grant is facing fatherhood, and an uncertain future, with equal amounts of panic and enthusiasm. Rather than sit around, he takes a job with émigré Silicon Valley tech genius Terrence Skinner’s brand new London start up – the Serious Cybernetics Company. Drawn into the orbit of Old Street’s famous “silicon roundabout”, Peter must learn how to blend in with people who are both civilians and geekier than he is. Compared to his last job, Peter thinks it should be a doddle. But magic is not finished with Mama Grant’s favourite son.” (Catalogue)

The October man / Aaronovitch, Ben
“If you thought magic was confined to one country-think again. Trier: famous for wine, Romans, and being Germany’s oldest city. When a man is found dead with his body impossibly covered in a fungal rot, the local authorities know they are out of their depth. But fortunately this is Germany, where there are procedures for everything. Enter Tobias Winter, an investigator for the Abteilung KDA, the branch of the German Federal Criminal Police which handles the supernatural.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Rivers of London [3] : black mould / Aaronovitch, Ben
“Something dark and slimy is dripping through the walls of suburban London. Not the usual stuff that smells funny and can be hell on the lungs, this mould is possessed by some dark power full of bad intentions. Looks like it’s another case for London’s one and only trainee wizard cop, Police Constable Peter Grant, and his reluctant partner, Sahra Guleed.  Black Mould ties directly into the Rivers of London continuity, set between Foxglove Summer and The Hanging Tree.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Overdrive cover Remembrance of the Daleks, Ben Aaronovitch (ebook)
“With unfinished business to attend to, the Seventh Doctor returns to where it all began: Coal Hill School in 1963. Last time he was here, the Doctor left something behind – a powerful Time Lord artefact that could unlock the secrets of time travel. Can the Doctor retrieve it before two rival factions of Daleks track it down? And even if he can, how will the Doctor prevent the whole of London becoming a war zone as the Daleks meet in explosive confrontation?” (Adapted from Overdrive description)

For more information on Ben Aaronovitch’s books visit his website. And again, a big thank you to Ben!

Everything Ben Aaronovitch on our Catalogue

A quick guide to our Catalogue

Recently we had to say goodbye to our Classic and Easyfind catalogues after many years of faithful service, and had an upgrade for remaining catalogue. Now that these changes are complete, we thought we’d introduce you properly to our sole remaining catalogue and the new features we gained with the latest update — as well as features that mirror well-loved functionality from our old catalogues.

To do this, we’ve created a Catalogue Quick Guide to get you started (below). It covers search options, how to check your account online, save your borrowing history, limit results by branch location and more.

Have a browse, and if there’s a feature you miss or would like help with, you can get in touch with us below:

Email us — enquiries@wcl.govt.nz


PDF version — Catalogue Guide (mobile/desktop)

Mobile devices

If you use our catalogue on your mobile device, things look slightly different again. Here’s a special guide to the mobile version:


PDF version — Catalogue Guide (mobile/desktop)

From the Rare Book Collection : Terentius Comico Carmine

Selected from our Rare Book Collection is this beautiful 1503 illustrated edition of Terentius Comico Carmine, a collection of comedies by the Roman playwright Publius Terentius Afer


Publius Terentius Afer (better known simply as ‘Terence’) was born into slavery in North Africa around 185 BC and was sold as a child to a Roman senator who took him back to Italy. His owner educated him and became so impressed with his wit and intelligence that he granted him his freedom.  Terence went on to write six plays based on the Greek Attic style of comedy, all of which survive to the present day. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, his plays survived as hand-written manuscripts which were preserved in monasteries for hundreds of years through the Dark Ages and into Medieval period. Following Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the movable-type printing press in the mid 15th century, Terence’s works were among the first plays to be printed in Europe. This copy was published by Johann Grüninger in Strasbourg at the very start of the 16th Century. Though today part of France, at the time the city was principally German speaking and was the centre of the early European printing industry.  

The protestant religious reformer Martin Luther became a great admirer of Terence and frequently mentioned his insights into human nature in his own writing. One famous Terence quote which has inspired many is Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto, or,  “I am human, so nothing human is alien to me”. Luther also suggested that his plays could be useful for teaching morals and ethics to youth. What makes this somewhat surprising is that Luther was known for his socially conservative views but Terence’s work is often bawdy with no shortage of risqué content.  His work Hecyra (aka The Mother in Law) of which three pages are shown here, is a good example of this. The play follows a young man who falls in love with a prostitute and includes drunken debauchery,  sex, domestic violence, and a farcical case of mistaken identity which wouldn’t be out of place in a Christmas pantomime…. but everything works out happily in the end.

Amusingly, the first two attempted performances of the play during the Classical period both ended somewhat disastrously. The first was in 165 BC when shortly before it was supposed to begin, a rumor spread that a tightrope-walker and boxers were about to perform and the theatre was suddenly swamped by people expecting to see circus acts. The second in 160 BC was cancelled after the theater was again overrun, this time by drunk gladiator supporters. It was finally performed successfully on its third attempt later the same year. Another curiosity is that it was long thought that a musical phrase which accompanies a single line of the text in Hecyra was the only remaining written description of the entire body of ancient Roman music. However, its authenticity is now disputed and it may have had 10th Century origins. 

Terence’s newfound popularity during the Renaissance followed the spread of the reformation to England and his work had a notable influence on Shakespeare nearly a century after the publication of this edition. One intriguing thought is the possibility that another copy of this edition could have ended up in Shakespeare’s own library. This now-500+ year old volume came into our collection after being  gifted to the institution shortly after the municipal library was founded in 1893. At some point the volume was rebound in vellum, a hard-wearing cream-colored covering made from calf skin which (unlike leather), does not go through a tanning process but is stretched and dried without significant chemical treatment. With the Central Library currently closed, the book is being carefully stored in a custom-made acid-free enclosure in a temperature and humidity controlled room at the Wellington City Archives.

Home with Ghosts: Scary Stories Online (Part One)

How do you tell a ghost story in the age of lockdown?

In a world of pandemics, it can be easy to think that ghost stories aren’t really needed. After all, isn’t reality scary enough? But it’s precisely this fear that ghost stories are designed for: as anthropology professor Tok Thompson explains, “ghost stories deal with a lot of issues — not just whether or not one believes in ghosts, but also questions of the past that haunt us, perhaps past injustices that haven’t been taken care of.”

They’re also remarkably adaptable, making the transition from oral storytelling to novels and periodicals, then to cinema, television and the internet. And in a world where so many people are physically isolated, ghost stories have the benefit of “bringing their listeners closer to each other” — even if it is via Zoom or YouTube.

That brings us to Home with Ghosts! Below you’ll find four fantastic ghost stories from a range of authors — each one designed to scare, disturb, puzzle or haunt. For more, follow Home with Ghosts: Scary Stories Online on Facebook, and stay tuned for the latest installment!


Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts

Book: Blood of the Sun
Publisher: Raw Dog Screaming Press

If the beautiful and haunting cover of Blood of the Sun looks familiar, there’s a reason: it’s the third book in the excellent Path of Ra series. Blood of the Sun is due to be released later in 2020, and re-joins Penny and Matiu Yee as they fight to hold back chaos across Auckland’s volcanic skyline. The series has been described as a blend of “near-future noir and horror” and will thrill and scare you in equal measure.

Authors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts have several other titles available, including Murray’s Taine McKenna Adventures and Rabarts’ Children of Bane series. The pair have also worked together on several excellent anthologies, including At the Edge and Baby Teeth: Bite Sized Tales of Terror.

Hounds of the Underworld (Path of Ra Book One) / Rabarts, Dan
“On the verge of losing her laboratory, Pandora Yee lands her first contract as scientific consult to the police department. And with 17 murder cases on the go, the inspector is happy to leave her to it. Only she’s going to need to get around, and that means her slightly unhinged adopted brother, Matiu, will be doing the driving. But something about the case spooks Matiu…” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


Andi C. Buchanan

Book: From a Shadow Grave
Publisher: Paper Road Press

It’s been over 10 years since Andi C. Buchanan’s first short story was published in Antipodean SF, and since that time they’ve gone on to produce not only a powerful collection of short fiction (including “Girls Who Do Not Drown”) but also the novella From a Shadow Grave.

From a Shadow Grave begins with the 1931 murder of Phyllis Symons, branching out to describe three alternative scenarios for Phyllis’ life. It’s this emotional and structural bravery that led to Buchanan’s recent success at the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, where they received the award for Best Novella/Novelette!

From a shadow grave / Buchanan, A. C.
“Wellington, 1931. Seventeen-year-old Phyllis Symons’ body is discovered in the Mt Victoria tunnel construction site. Eighty years later, Aroha Brooke is determined to save her life. Urban legend meets urban fantasy in this compelling alternate history by award-winning author Andi C. Buchanan.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

 


Madison Hamill

Book: Specimen: Personal Essays
Publisher: Victoria University Press

Author and editor Madison Hamill’s debut collection Specimen was launched in March 2020, making it one of the first books to find itself released amid COVID-related lockdown. Despite this setback, Hamill’s work has been consistently popular at Wellington City Libraries–and no wonder: reviews of Specimen have described it as brave, precise and hilarious.

While Specimen is Hamill’s debut collection, her work can also be found at The Pantograph Punch, Scum, The Spinoff and more.

Specimen : personal essays / Hamill, Madison
“A father rollerblading to church in his ministerial robes, a university student in a leotard sprinting through fog, a trespass notice from Pak’nSave, a beautiful unborn goat in a jar … In scenarios ranging from the mundane to the surreal, Madison Hamill looks back at her younger selves with a sharp eye. Was she good or evil? Ignorant or enlightened? What parts of herself did she give up in order to forge ahead in school, church, work, and relationships, with a self that made sense to others?” (Catalogue)


Anna Kirtlan

Book: Ghost Bus: Tales from Wellington’s Dark Side
Publisher: Anna Kirtlan

You know that you’re onto something when your work is described as “a creepy love letter to Wellington”, and that’s just how Writers Plot summarised the spooky (and often hilarious) Ghost Bus: Tales from Wellington’s Dark Side. The title short story features not only the recent bus-pocalypse, but also the very real experience of riding on crowded public transport at the end of a long day.

Kirtlan’s previous work has also included Which Way is Starboard Again?, a book about learning to sail and overcoming anxiety and panic attacks in the midst of the South Pacific. Check it out below!

Which way is starboard again? : overcoming fears & facing challenges sailing the South Pacific / Kirtlan, Anna
“Many New Zealanders sail the South Pacific but not many do it with as little boating experience as uncoordinated, impractical, directionally challenged, desk-bound type Anna Kirtlan. Not only does she have to learn to sail, and navigate, from scratch, she also has to overcome recurrences of the anxiety and panic attacks that plagued her teen and early adult years.” (Adapted from Catalogue)

Dining out in Wellington during the era of shrimp cocktails and deep-fried camembert

Today Wellingtonians are spoilt  for choice when it comes to dining out in the city with a huge range of different cuisines to try and restaurants which cover every  budget. But what was the restaurant scene like nearly 40 years ago? This booklet now on Wellington City Recollect gives you some idea as to what going out for dinner in Wellington was like in the early-mid 1980s.

Menu for ‘Camelot’

Called The Menu Guide,  it was published in late 1982 by Henry Newrick and his firm Newrick Associates Ltd. Its cover price of $4.95 was relatively high for the time (approximately $18 in 2020 terms) but the booklet also included a set of discount coupons for diners to use at a selection of restaurants, one of the first times that a hospitality discount coupon scheme had been used in Wellington. A full and complete listing of almost every restaurant operating at the time was included in the introduction but establishments could pay to have a larger advertisement placed in the main body of the booklet in the form of a menu and it is these which offer a fascinating insight into our dining-out past.

Menu for ‘Bacchus’

This was at a time when traditional ‘family’ and ‘fine dining’ establishments started to be joined by new ‘ethnic’ restaurants as Wellingtonians’ culinary tastes expanded. Most of the fine dining restaurants were of course, French, while family restaurants all shared the common dominant theme of steak and chips.

Although the prices listed appear ridiculously low by today’s standards, how do they compare when inflation adjusted? The menu for Camelot, a popular family restaurant in Brandon Street which sported a ‘Ye Olde King Arthur’ theme, indicates that average prices were probably a bit higher than today; their $9.70 T-bone steak served with a mushroom sauce would be hitting $34 in 2020. Meanwhile, Des Britten’s legendary The Coachman offered grilled prawns at the eye-watering equivalent of $63. The Bacchus restaurant seemed to take the approach that if you needed to know their prices, you probably couldn’t afford to eat there (suffice to say that deep pockets were needed).

Though new ethnic cuisine restaurants were starting to appear, choice was still limited. Chinese restaurants serving a ‘Kiwi-fied’ version of Chinese food had been part of the city’s dining scene for generations, but these were now joined by Greek and Indian restaurants reflecting the long-standing presence of these ethnic communities in Wellington. South-east Asian eateries were virtually non-existent (the long-standing Indonesian restaurant Toko Baru being one of the few exceptions), middle-eastern restaurants were yet to be seen and it would be another decade before the doner kebab made its first appearance.

Menu for the ‘Mexican Cantina’

However, one new ethnic restaurant is included which really shook up the local scene; the Mexican Cantina in Edward Street. This gave many Wellingtonians their first taste of guacamole and nachos at a time when it wasn’t yet possible to buy corn chips or taco shells at the supermarket.  The ‘Mex’ took the approach of keeping their prices low, the food simple (though exotic to most taste-buds) and packing customers in. Popular with students, waiting crowds would often be spilling out the door while chugging on their B.Y.O supplies (alcohol licences were difficult and expensive to obtain for most restaurants). With no reservation system in place, groups would have to write their details on a blackboard and wait until their listing got to the top at which point their name would be yelled out over the noise of diners indicating their table was ready.

Possibly influenced by the success of the ‘Mex’, Manuel’s  — which operated out of the Broderick Inn in Johnsonville — also adopted a Mexican theme, but amusingly kept their menu as ‘family’ orientated as possible with not a pinch of cumin, dollop of sour cream or a kidney bean to be seen…

Menu for ‘Manuel’s Family Restaurant’

Music & Film is back in the CBD at our new Te Awe Library!

Exciting news for Film & Music lovers with large sections of the Wellington Central Library Audio Visual collection now available once again at our newest CBD library, Te Awe, on Panama and Brandon streets.

Some of our DVD collection, as well as a very small CD collection, were previously located in the Arapaki Branch on Manners Street following the closure of the Central Library building. We have added lots of core film titles to the DVDs, greatly expanded the CD collection, and brought them all together in a fresh new location, a cosy corner upstairs at the spacious new Te Awe library.

We have also curated a core collection of ‘Essential Listening’ & ‘Essential Viewing’ titles from our large Central AV collection, many of which are unavailable on streaming services in New Zealand. Watch out for our new blue stickers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

All our ‘Essential Viewing’ & Essential Listening’ titles are taken from titles such as 1001 movies you must see before you die, ‘1001 albums you must hear before you die’ & Nick Bollinger’s 100 essential New Zealand albums. They are also tagged on our catalogue. Just type in ‘Essential Film Viewing’, ‘Essential Television Viewing’ & ‘Essential Listening’ as a search and you can check them out from home, your device, or on our online catalogues in the library.

Details on the library’s location and hours are on the Te Awe branch page. See you there!

When ‘Herbert Gardens’ was actually the Herberts’ garden

Many Wellingtonians will be familiar with Herbert Gardens, a striking mid-century modernist apartment building located at 186 The Terrace, next to the top end of Boulcott Street leading to the motorway on-ramp.  It was designed by the architectural firm of Biggs, Power and Clark in the early 1960s and built between 1963 and 1965.

Herbert Gardens (c. 1980), photo by Charles Fearnley

One can only imagine the impact the building had when it opened; at the time of construction the Terrace was still dotted from end to end with wooden colonial villas and only two modern office buildings (Shell House and Massey House) had been completed.   This was also an era when the inner-city population was in rapid decline as people moved out to the suburbs, shops were closed on weekends, ‘six o’clock closing’ was still in force and Wellington’s first and only so-called ‘supermarket’ was little more than a medium-sized grocery store on Willis Street.  With that in mind, the development firm of Winchester Developments Ltd took on a degree of risk in believing that there would be enough people interested in European-style apartment living at a time when inner-city culture and atmosphere was anything but ‘vibrant’. The name the developers decided to give to their venture commemorated the former owners of the large house which once existed on the site and (as the name suggests) their well-known and much-loved garden. 

Bowen Hospital, c. 1970. Photo by Charles Fearnley

Dr William E Herbert was born in central Otago in 1872. He studied at both Otago University and the famous medical school at Edinburgh University before settling in Wellington where he established a small private practice as well as working at Wellington Hospital. After a visit to the United States where he was impressed with what he saw as a much more efficient way of delivering health care, he formed a business partnership with Dr Henry Hardwick-Smith and in 1912 they established what was then Wellington’s first ‘modern’ private hospital in Bowen Street. Though the hospital buildings were demolished in the early 1970s for the construction of the Treasury headquarters, the original name of the institution continues to live on after Bowen Hospital became a charitable trust and relocated to Crofton Downs.  It was during the 1920s that William and his wife Florence moved into the large mansion at 186 The Terrace which had been owned by her parents, her father being the wealthy businessman and hotelier, Hamilton Gilmer. Likely built in the 1880s, it was located at the front of a one-acre section with the back of the land parcel dropping down into a natural valley where the Kumutoto river flowed and which later became known as Herbert Gully.  They set about landscaping and planting the section behind the house and transforming it into what was regarded as one of the finest private gardens in inner-Wellington. The Herberts had long been involved with charity and philanthropic causes, raising large sums of money to build Wellington’s children’s hospital and to purchase some of NZ’s first radiotherapy machines used for treating cancer, so it followed that they would use and showcase their garden for charitable purposes. 

In early 1934, The Social Review reported such an event; a garden party raising funds for Wellington Free Kindergarten.  Highlights included a fashion show featuring new work by the local clothing designer Mary Garden, a performance by a dance group and a display of “relaxation exercises  demonstrated in a reclining position”.  Though her husband died unexpectedly in 1933, ‘Florrie’ Herbert remained living in the house, outliving her husband by almost 30 years until her death in 1961. Soon after the mansion was demolished and planning and construction of the apartment building began.

The northern portal of the Terrace Tunnel under construction, 1975, just a few meters south of where the gardens were once located.

Photos from this period in the late 1960s  show the original gardens still existing and though they were in a state of disrepair, they would have provided a quiet outdoor area for the apartment building’s early residents. However, it was to be a short-lived peace; almost exactly the same time as the building was completed, the final route of the Wellington Urban Motorway was confirmed. Most of what remained of the gardens were compulsorily acquired by the National Roads Board and in the mid 1970s they were dug out to create the section of the motorway which leads to the northern portal of the Terrace Tunnel. However, now clad in regenerating native bush, a small section of the original garden remains for residents of the apartments to enjoy to this day.

Learning English collection comes to Arapaki Manners Library

Two sets of whaite shelves facing each other, displaying books about learning English.

Books for learning English are now available to borrow from our CBD branch, Arapaki on Manners Street. The collection supports the learning needs of people of all ages who are learning to read and write, and people who are learning English as a secondary language. The collection provides materials which can be used in addition to English courses and as an aid to self-study.

The types of books available include: graded readers, dictionaries, grammar and vocabulary courses, business English material, academic English material and books on the New Zealand lifestyle for new immigrants. We also have supplementary material for English Language courses, such as IELTS (International English Language Testing System), TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), and OET (Occupational English Test).

Our collection is divided into three levels, indicated by a coloured dot on the book’s cover or spine. Level One books are for beginners and they have a yellow dot. Level Two books are for intermediate learners and they have a blue dot. Level Three books are for advanced learners who are at the exam level, and they have a purple dot.

As well as Arapaki, many of our other branches also hold Learning English collections. You can find the collections at: Johnsonville, Karori, Kilbirnie, Miramar, Newtown, and Tawa branches. We also have a free online database for library members called Road to IELTS. It is is an online preparation and practice resource for IELTS, the International English Language Testing System, with general and academic modules.

The Signing of Te Tiriti, Wellington, 29 April 1840

Did you know that as well as being signed in Waitangi on 6 February 1840 the Treaty of Waitangi was also signed in other parts of Aotearoa throughout that year?

Ngā mihi ki a koutou katoa i tēnei wā COVID-19.

He pānui tēnei – ānei ngā rauemi ā-ipurangi mā koutou e kimi, mā koutou e tuku i ō koutou kāinga.

Usually our libraries commemorate the signing of Te Tiriti/Treaty of Waitangi in Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington, 29 April 1840, through special events, displays, and the lending of relevant books or audio-visual material on the kaupapa of Te Tiriti. 

Unfortunately our bricks and mortar libraries are currently closed due to the COVID-19 crisis. However our Māori Specialist Librarian, Ann Reweti, has put together a comprehensive selection of rauemi/resources about Te Tiriti and its signing in Te Whanganui-a-Tara in 1840. These can be accessed through our website or the internet and we are very pleased to provide online links in this special blog.

Lockdown is the perfect time to learn more about our local history and how modern day Wellington and New Zealand have been shaped by our unique past, and the relationships between mana whenua and the crown. Take some time to have a look at these wonderful resources  – for a concise overview of history, places where treaty copies were signed, and lists of signatories to the treaties in each of eight locations –  from the comfort of your own kāinga/home.

NZHistory.govt.nz – Treaty of Waitangi information includes the following topics: the Treaty in brief; English and te reo Māori texts; signings and locations of eight treaty documents; Tiriti timeline; biographies of Tiriti participants.

Te Ara – always presents a good New Zealand story for any discussion –  and there are three video reconstructions around the the signing of Te Tiriti.

Bridget William Book Treaty of Waitangi Collection – This amazing collection of ebooks is available on our Wellington City Libraries ELibrary page. You will need your library card and pin number to access these full-text scholarly works.

NZETC (New Zealand Electronic Text Centre) – These links will take you to the full text versions of the following books:

Early newspaper articles weave some thoughts of Te Tiriti:

Papers Past – Access to New Zealand newspapers from 1843-1845.  

Times Digital Archive (1785-1985) – Full text and searchable, every page of every issue. You will need your library card and pin number to access these.

Other useful resources, including videos:

British Parliamentary Papers: Colonies

The Waitangi Collection: Nz On Screen

National Library Of New Zealand: He Tohu and He Tohu Kōrero snippets

Te Tiriti Based Futures And Anti-racism 2020  – An online conference, 21-30 March, 2020. Includes Jen Margaret and  Julia Whaipooti.  

There are also fantastic audio tapes available from RNZ:

And don’t forget, you can always see the Treaty itself in Wellington at the National Library of New Zealand.