Books about journeys have long inspired road trips – how about taking some Kiwi ones this summer? KIRAN DASS explores a few places to visit.
Frank Sargeson's Bach – Takapuna, Auckland
On Esmonde Rd, Takapuna, you'll find intact the writer Frank Sargeson's no-frills bach where he penned some of his most-loved stories.
It is run as a kind of literary museum by a trust, where visitors can take free guided tours to soak up the atmosphere where literary magic was created. Sargeson loved the quiet, secluded seaside spot where he could just knuckle down and write, lovingly tend to his vegetable patch and cook for and entertain his writer friends. [Ed's note: so hard to imagine the quiet and seclusion now given it's a main, regularly congested, main road.]
Writer Kevin Ireland has said of the bach "that tiny fibrolite dwelling, set in the subsistence garden that Frank cultivated like a small farm became a literary kingdom". It was here that he took in and mentored the writer Janet Frame, who used his garden shed (since demolished) as a writing space.
Sargeson himself said of the bach that it was "nothing more than a small one-roomed hut in a quiet street ending in a no-man's land of mangrove mud-flats that belonged to the inner harbour. It was very decayed with weather-boards falling off".
Inside, you'll find it still has his collection of paintings on the wall, stacks of books including many copies of Landfall journal, his old Olivetti typewriter on which he typed on green paper. If you nip across to Takapuna Library, you can view their Sargeson-related ephemera, which includes news clippings, photographs and audio visual materials related to the bach.
James K Baxter/Airini Beautrais' Jerusalem, Whanganui
Poet James K Baxter had ideals of utopia when, in the 1970s, he established the commune Jerusalem (Hiruharama), nestled on the majestic Te Awa Whanganui.
A culturally and historically rich and significant area, it was also the site where Suzanne Aubert established the congregation of the Sisters of Compassion. Baxter wanted to create a welcoming community for the young and the restless and Jerusalem attracted a colourful array of people from middle-class dropouts, drifters, travellers, the unemployed, addicts and the disaffected. There's a strong arts heritage to explore in Whanganui with local crafts, more than 15 galleries, mid-20th century architecture, mosaics and sculpture. Baxter is buried on nearby tribal land. Poet Airini Beautrais's 2017 poetry collection Flow: Whanganui River Poems has since explored the mysterious aura of the river which was granted the status of a legal person, as part of the Whanganui River Claims Settlement in 2017.
Janet Frame House - Oamaru
"Life at Oamaru with all its variety of new experiences was a wonderful adventure," wrote writer Janet Frame. "I wanted an imagination that would inhabit a world of fact, descend like a shining light upon the ordinary life of Eden Street."
At 56 Eden St, Oamaru, you will find Frame's childhood home where the Frame family lived between 1931 and 1943. There's a strong evocation here of the childhood depicted in Frame's seminal autobiography An Angel At My Table. Inside, the modest house, which is run by a dedicated trust, has a warm and homely atmosphere and you'll find the dining room still has the original lino and the bedrooms remain unchanged. The quaint garden, where visitors can picnic, is lovingly maintained.
Mansfield Garden - Hamilton Gardens, Hamilton
We know the classic Katherine Mansfield House and Garden at 25 Tinakori Rd in Wellington's Thorndon, but this exquisite new addition to the lovely Hamilton Gardens boasts a life-size replica villa, lily pond, tennis courts and piano. Conjuring the garden described in the iconic Mansfield short story
The Garden Party
, about a family preparing to throw a lavish party in their garden, this luxurious setting has been designed with a refined elegance.
Ronald Hugh Morrieson – Hawera
How about a literary destination with a difference? On the corner of Regent St in Hawera, South Taranaki, once stood the home where iconic writer and raconteur Ronald Hugh Morrieson lived in his entire life until his death in 1972. Now, it is where you will find the town's KFC after the house, built by Morrieson's grandfather, was pulled down in 1993 to make way for the fast-food restaurant.
Morrieson's explored the macabre, seedy underbelly of small town New Zealand and most of his books have been made into films. Locals unsuccessfully tried to persuade the South Taranaki District Council to stop the demolition of the landmark family home but perhaps larrikin Morrieson - who wrote The Scarecrow, Came a Hot Friday and Pallet on the Floor - might have appreciated the perverse irony!
Writer Dame Fiona Kidman was also born in this town. While you're in Hawera you could visit the Elvis Presley Museum, run by KD, an avid Presley fan who has been collecting Presley's records and associated memorabilia and ephemera since the late 1959.