Book: Keeping up with the Goal Posts.
Author: Christabel Jackson.
Reviewer: John C. Ross.
Christabel's memoir is a good read. She's had an impressively unorthodox and enterprising life, seeing, and making good use of, new opportunities, each time the goalposts shifted, and she's written about it all in a fresh and lively fashion. She's kept journals all her life to draw upon.
She was born in 1945, as Christabel Little, the second of three children, all girls, of Richard (Dick) and Bessy (Betty) Little, who had an apple and pear orchard at Mahana, west of Nelson.
In the harvest-season, once they were old enough, the girls worked in the orchard and packing-shed, alongside the seasonal workers. Otherwise, they had marvellous school holidays, here and there in the upper South Island, sometimes with other families. She developed a love of the outdoors, and of tramping.
She mostly enjoyed her schooling, and went on to complete a B.Sc. at Victoria University in Wellington.
At age 22, she married Simon Jackson, and they bought a run-down old house in Norway St, in the Aro Valley area. They spent months renovating it, with friends helping, and establishing a terraced garden, and Christabel first got involved in learning weaving.
She accompanied Simon to London, where he took on a computing job at the British Library, and she linked up with a weaving school in Highbury, as a cleaner and trainee.
The marriage broke up.
Six weeks in Guatemala proved amazing, observing the Maya people's rich weaving designs and colour schemes.
Back in London, she applied for a job with the International Voluntary Service as an advisor for the weaving industry in Lesotho.
Lesotho, once known as Basutoland, is a small independent country within South Africa, in a high-hilly area, to which the Basotho people had retreated when the Afrikaaners appropriated their traditional lands.
Christabel's brief was to spend three months in each of a series of weaving workshops, to train the women workers in more effective techniques. In practice, she spent time in just two such workshops, and after her two-year IVS contract ran out she stayed on, in all spending 27 years working in Lesotho.
Her half-share of the cash from selling the Norway St property enabled her to set up her own weaving company. After some years, however, her position became unviable, so she sold it.
Instead, she spent 10 years helping local village people develop planter-box gardens, within rings of stones, or, where possible, deep-trench gardens, which made huge differences to their being able to feed their families properly.
At age 62, in 2007, grown weary, she came back to New Zealand, buying a house in Ōtaki, where she's been ever since.
She's established an elaborate garden, revived old friendships, and made new friends, including myself.
It's the well-captured living detail that makes all this a good read — activities, people, as individuals or groups, and her interactions with them, depicted places, and happenings -backed up with a number of well-captioned black-and-white photos.
The book is available from The Railway Bookshop, shop 3, 21-23 Main St, Ōtaki. Telephone 06 364 8942.