Tuesday, September 05, 2017

A quirky memoir of growing up in 1960’s New Zealand

A Parallel Universe

A quirky memoir of growing up in 1960’s New Zealand

Mary Egan Publishing, release date August 2017; RRP $30.

Earthquakes in New Zealand have always been a reminder of its geological idiosyncrasies, and occasionally when the earth moved, so did our little house on Christchurch’s sandy suburban fringe.

My father – declared a near-genius by my mother – was a mechanical engineer, collector and inventor of such useful items as industrial tile cutters, lawnmower sharpeners, a hovering conveyance platform, a collapsible boat and an ingenious multi-chicken decapitator – to name but a few.

My mother, on the other hand, was a complicated woman with Jekyll and Hyde tendencies, a creative bent and certain knowledge that civilisation was irrevocably doomed. There was much talk of ending up in the nut house.

Living on a shoestring required creative recycling and reimagining.

Disappointingly for my mother, her Ten Toothsome Ways with Gourmet Offal were not a success.

‘We didn’t appreciate how lucky we were’, she said. Trying to lip-read Mr Ed through a shopfront window wasn’t my idea of lucky. Owning a television wasn’t hers, but she was prepared to reconsider when New Zealand got colour. Fortunately my father couldn’t wait for something that might never happen; instead, we became the proud owners of a black-and-white nineteen inch legless Idiot Box.

No more sing-songs around the piano, reading a book after dinner or lengthy debates on the merits of cod liver oil as a laxative. The world and one corner of our lounge had just become a brighter place.

Editor’s note: Cheryl Nicol was born in Christchurch, New Zealand in 1955 and gained the benefit of hindsight somewhere around 1996. Besides A Parallel Universe, she has published two historical biographies as well as international prize-winning humorous short fiction. After three decades lost in Australia Cheryl has re-embraced Kiwi life and now lives on a few acres in North Canterbury with her husband and an assortment of animals which mostly belong to the neighbours.

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