Gerard Hindmarsh: Swamp Fever

Great book, which will forever link in my mind to the days of love and sunshine we spent together as a family in Golden Bay earlier this month.

I found it fascinating on several levels. Firstly, it is mostly set in the countryside I read it in. I even read at the dinner table (er that would be on the ground outside the tent in this case), a practice which usually evokes my strong disapproval should anyone else attempt it. I had a sense of linkage with the area both as I read Hindmarsh's book and as I travelled through Golden Bay. Sure enough, when I checked some family history back at home, my great great great grandparents bought land up the Aorere Valley in the 1850s. He was an agricultural labourer for Courage(s?) brewery in Alton, Hampshire, before they emigrated. Later his children made cider commercially in Stoke, (Nelson, near the freezing works and the old apple packing shed down Saxtons Road, now subsumed into that awfully bland motorway).

I was also intrigued to get a closer glimpse into the thought processes of this 1970s hippie. This is the era where comfortably off people dropped out of conventional work and marriage patterns and claimed they wanted a new world order. This is the era where many long haired students of the left later found neoliberal politics and plaumped for a status quo where they were very comfortable while the wealth gap widened significantly in New Zealand. Hindmarsh observes at one point that: "Rogernomics had its influences, sometimes painful but often better in the long term" (p.157). At the end, he describes at length the horrid and ineffectual bureacracy which passes for upkeep of our roads. I think he ought to consider how the two are related. Rogernomics had as one of its central tenets (as far as I can understand anyway) that contracting out to the private sector will always be more efficient than employing within the state sector.

Hindmarsh's stories of the history of Golden Bay, his descriptions of swamps and their enemies, his telling of stories relating to the slow and thorny integration of hippies and conservative old timers in Golden Bay - all these are a great read. I think his reflections on the way we interfere in nature according to passing fashions are quite perceptive and wise. Like the whales which were once cut up for human needs and now there are big parties of enthusiasts to save beached whales and the doc workers get training in looking out for small children unattended while their parents falls in love with a beached whale. He looks at fashions in interefering with swamps in more detail and I loved it all. I want to get hold of his book on his family in d'Urville Island now.

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