Just passing through…..a life’s journey.

New Zealand writer Peter Wells (died 18 Feb 2019) signed off with a book about his own death titled “Hello Darkness”. It follows the last year and 4 months of his life, after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in November 2017. The book broke new ground in that much of it was written on his own Facebook page and the writing was accompanied by his own photographs.

But that is typical Wells. He has always been a breaker of new ground, of being a leader and not a follower. He was one of New Zealand’s first openly gay writers and was writing about gay topics as far back as the 1980’s. In 1998 he was co-founder of the “Auckland Writers Festival” and also co-founded in 2016 “Samesame But Different” – New Zealand’s first LGBTQI Writers Festival. His goal was for the festival to be “an exciting event that makes people think about sexuality, difference and community, stretches their understanding, gives them a few laughs and creates a slightly magic space for two days in February.” This years festival finished on February 10th. It was Well’s 4th and last.

He was a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, but from the 1980’s onward also made films and documentaries predominantly about historical and/or gay themes.

His own blog site says this on his profile page…. “Peter Wells writes books and makes films. His films include idiosyncratic documentaries about conserving at-risk architecture like a flamboyant 1929 picture palace, or a shoe-obsessed gay man who tells his life story through women’s shoes (made with friend and fellow film-maker Garth Maxwell). He co-wrote and co-directed ‘Desperate Remedies’, a feature film described as ‘Jane Austen on acid’. His books include award winning short stories and novels. ‘Iridescence’, for example, about an Englishman with a secret hiding in Victorian Napier. His memoir Long Loop Home looked back at his New Zealand childhood with the wry glance of loss and affection.”

All of which brings me around to my reason for writing about him. Whilst he was without doubt a talented writer and film maker – my reason for writing about Wells is his connection to Hawke’s Bay – where I live. He lived for some time in a house on Napier Hill where he wrote what became known as his “Napier Trilogy” – comprising of his highly rated book “The Hungry Heart” – about William Colenso, the very knowledgeable clergyman/missionary who was also a printer, botanist, explorer and politician – but who was also a recluse, “Journey to a Hanging” which was a racially charged book about the horrific death of the Reverend Carl Sylvius Völkner in 1865…killed by Kereopa Te Rau, a Maori leader, who was found guilty of killing, beheading, eating the eyes and drinking the blood of Völkner and was subsequently hanged for the crime, and finally “Dear Oliver” – subtitled “Uncovering a Pakeha History” – which was a book written about his own family history, followed back in time in snippets of historical memories. It was hailed as a masterclass in writing history.

He was also partly responsible for the birth of the appreciation of Art Deco architecture in Napier and the start of what has become a phenomenally popular annual event “Napier Art Deco Festival” with his 1985 documentary film “Newest City on the Globe” which he wrote and directed and in doing so brought the architectural splendour of Art Deco Napier to the world. Shortly after this film was released, film crews from the USA visited Napier to record in this Art Deco jewel of the south pacific. After that Napier was no longer a secret tourist backwater.

The first Napier Art Deco Weekend Festival was in 1989 and with each passing year the event grows bigger and bigger and is celebrated by locals and tourists/art deco aficionado’s from all over the world.

For all this and more – Peter Wells – we salute you.

If you want to find out more about the man and his work, Links to Peter Wells blog, his Wikipedia page, the Auckland Writers Festival, the Samesame but Different site and the Napier Art Deco Trust web page are below.

http://www.peterwellsblog.com/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Wells_(writer)

http://www.writersfestival.co.nz/

http://www.samesamebutdifferent.co.nz/

https://www.artdeconapier.com/

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Book Review – Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom (book one from my random book list).

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Tuesdays with Morrie was top of the pile of my randomly selected books. At first glance I wasn`t too excited at the prospects of reading the book as it appeared to me to be about a young man watching an old man die.

Morrie Schwartz – the old man in question – was Mitch Albom`s college professor from twenty years earlier. At college Morrie and Mitch`connected` on both an intellectual and an emotional level. Both had a healthy respect for the other and Morrie saw in Mitch someone who could achieve great things in the future.

At graduation, Mitch gives Morrie a briefcase with his initials on it as a thank you gift for being a great teacher – one of those special teachers who is passionate about their subject and their pupils and go the extra mile to help in what ever way they can. Mitch promises Morrie that he will keep in touch. He doesn’t. Like most of us, he gets swept along in his own life and doesn’t really think much about keeping his promise to his old professor. He gets a job – probably not the one that he ought to have been destined for, chases the dollar and lives life in the fast lane.

Almost twenty years pass and by chance, Mitch finds out that Morrie has a terminal illness – doesn’t have long left to live – and decides to finally keep his promise and go visit him.

Mitch feels awkward at first, having not thought about Morrie for all these years, but when he arrives at Morrie`s home, he is greeted like an old friend and the ice is soon broken. As they chat away, the years fall away. At the end of the visit, Mitch says he’ll be back again and Morrie decides to give him a lesson in life….The Meaning of Life. Every Tuesday for the next 13 weeks Mitch and Morrie spend time together and through Morrie’s teachings, Mitch starts to question his own priorities…..the job he has…..the lifestyle he leads.

Over the following weeks Mitch and Morrie discuss all sorts of things and never once does Morrie complain about the discomfort he is in, nor does he lament on his imminent death. He accepts things as they are, relishes in the chance to share his knowledge again, and teaches Mitch that in the end “love is all we need” – to quote John Lennon.

It’s a very touching story and one that can teach us all about setting our priorities and what’s really important in life….and death.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the book immensely and hopefully have leared a few lessons in life from it. I don’t mind admitting that I also shed a tear or two along the way.

It is a sad story, yet at the same time a beautiful one. If I was to score the book out of a possible maximum of five points, I`d have to give it at least a four. Not bad for a book I didn`t want to read in the first place.