The Book Blog

December 2, 2009

Visit to Nijmegen in the Netherlands – ESPR – the European Society for Periodical Research

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 10:34 am

Chris Atton (a SCOB fellow-traveller), Linda Gunn and Alistair McCleery went to Nijmegen in the Netherlands at the end of November for the inaugural meeting of ESPR (the European Society for Periodical Research). The meeting was funded as part of a generous award from the NWO (Dutch Research Council) to the consortium of which Edinburgh Napier was a member. The consortium in turn had its origins in a panel at ESSE9 in Aarhus at which Alistair had given a paper based on Linda and his British Academy-funded project on Scottish literary magazines and devolution. Chris added his considerable expertise in and long publication history on music magazines and contributor-generated periodicals. A fruitful two days was spent – as the rain lashed the brickwork of the Nijmegen Faculty Club – discussing the scope, organisation and future activities of the society. And within that some time was spent on the search for an acronym transferable across European linguistic borders. Any advance on ESPRIT? Edinburgh Napier is taking responsibility for organising the first general conference of the society in late 2010. The call for papers will be issued in January.


March 17, 2009

Dr Linda Fleming-16th -19th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 12:18 pm
Tags: , , – for images related to this research trip


Well it had to happen eventually – my interviewee for today cancelled on me – or at least he postponed, which makes my last 3 days here just a bit busier than I’d like. This morning was spent in the archives listening to some oral histories and getting out of bed for this task wasn’t easy today – I think I’m flagging a bit.  The woman whose history I listened to woke me up however, I wonder if she is still around (she was interviewed over 10 years ago); she is quite a character and at one point in the interview describes herself as ‘a reader’. Of course, these interviews did not have an agenda of books and reading –and there is no more mention of this – so I’ll always have to wonder. But she is fulsome on her experience of coming to New Zealand from Scotland in 1948 and describes this as her ‘destiny’. With more time, I might have been tempted to track her down. When I got the news that the afternoon was unexpectedly free, I decided to have a walk up (this is the operative word!) to Dunedin’s Northern Cemetery where all of the city’s past Scottish worthies are planted. I took the scenic route via the university, but got a bit lost and it occurred to me that as I walked on totally by myself up a steep and winding road– that this maybe wasn’t such a good idea…  The district immediately around the uni is student bedsit land, and as you would expect, it’s a bit lacking in the home beautiful stakes. It’s such a shame really because these are lovely old houses – Linda G – you would love them! Many are weatherboard, and adorned with Victorian iron fretwork. Unfortunately most have that, ‘let to many not careful tenants’ look about them and the whole district feels – well frankly, a bit eerie. It will likely be different when all the students return next week and add their shabby chic colour, but for the moment the decay is all too evident – I even saw the eponymous abandoned fridge in one front garden. Having spoken with a few Dunedians about it – they recognise that this looks bad for their city, as it is so close to the centre, but students the world over will be students… I didn’t make it to the cemetery and likely won’t on this visit. Indeed, there are many things I won’t have time for on this visit…In meantime am signing off as have early start and cannot miss that bus!


17th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.



Today took me to Mosgiel, which is a sort of satellite town of Dunedin with a population of a little under 10,000. It was once home to a large woollen mill. In the post war period, many employees of the mill were new immigrants from Scotland. After my interview with a lovely man who settled in New Zealand in the 1960s, I had time to spare before my bus back to the city was due. I had a look round and found a public library, a second-hand bookshop, and a book- exchange. In the latter –The Crafty Book Exchange — books can be swapped for a charge of between $2 -2.50NZ, or purchased for between $5 and $6.  Certainly, this is very much cheaper than the cost of new paperbacks in this country. The most popular titles are of the family saga type of tale. The shop assistant cited Maeve Binchy as a particular favourite read of customers, and her own preference for Catherine Cookson, or ‘tales of old Britain’ as she put it. This exchange has been going for 27 years quite successfully. It has been hot – hotter than usual for Dunedin today, the students are also back in town and the city was looking lively and very attractive – I wish I had more time here…


18th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.


Today has been another day of desperately trying to fit too much in to the 9-5. Another interview about reading, this time with a retired Presbyterian minister; I need not have feared the Rev I.M. Jolly however, he was a charming and generous man and very well read on a wide range of non-fiction. His lighter reading is the Scots’ Magazine, which can be purchased easily in Dunedin. The interview took place in  the First Presbyterian Church and this gave me the opportunity to look round this landmark building, which is a good deal less austere than the kirks I recall from my Ayrshire childhood, when I masqueraded as a child of the parish in order to get on the Sunday School outing! It is, in fact, rather beautiful. By chance on my walk round to this appointment, I happened on the ‘Carnegie Building’, which until the 1970s housed the Dunedin public library – it’s not hard to spot really as the brick work is emblazoned with thistles! This evening I had dinner with Keith Maslen who lectured at the University of Otago until his retirement; he is now an Honorary Fellow and still keeping busy. Keith has done some excellent research on the Naseby Atheneum, which once flourished in 19th century gold rush Otago. He has been generously supportive of my work here. Tomorrow is my last day here, and I go tired but happy…


19th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.


Last day, and a mad dash to get things done; another interview in a house high on a hill overlooking the very impressive port of Dunedin, a very quick meeting at the University, and sadly, a failure to get to the Hocken library before last orders! My interviewee today is a Gaelic speaker – but she only learned after she’d emigrated to New Zealand!          There was once a flourishing Gaelic Society in the city – but no more.  I’ve been out for dinner tonight, cooked by my Kiwi pal Julie, ably assisted by young chef Scott – I was also introduced to their flock of sheep! I’ve packed my case (sort of) and am now looking forward to my holidays in New South Wales – so sign off for now.



February 16, 2009

15th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 4:40 pm

Linda Fleming continues:

Today has been a bit of a lazy day and not much to report except that I’ve at last found a shopping emporium that meets my discerning tastes…and so have spent a bit of money – don’t ask! I did spend some time in the public library however, and discovered that ‘light’ fiction here is not entirely free. It’s a nominal charge mind you, of 50 cents per book. The librarian tells me this is a legacy of past attitudes with regard to the purpose of public libraries. These chargeable books include romances, westerns and thrillers. I’ve asked if someone can contact me by email with any figures re the demographics of Dunedin’s library membership. The very helpful librarian I spoke with, tells me that the service is anticipating that membership might increase if economic conditions continue to deteriorate. I was planning to visit the Burns exhibition currently on in the top floor of the library, but it was such a nice day – 22 degrees and sunny. I had a wander round and took some photos on my mobile phone camera instead – this is how I happened on shopping – as you do!  But I did see my first copy of the People’s Friend on my travels! From sunshine to rain – I’m back at my studio just in time as it is pouring! The question now is – what to have for dinner? I’m a bit challenged by microwave cooking, although I did manage to produce an omelette, problem was this was supposed to be scrambled eggs…I am missing my personal chef who when he reads this will be shaking his head in disgust! Tomorrow I have another interview and another session in the archives lined up – it will be a long and busy day.

14th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 4:38 pm

Linda Fleming continues:


And happy Valentine’s Day to you! The Otago Daily Times tells me that certain high-class eateries are booked solid in Dunedin and the florists are ignoring the credit crunch. My own true valentine left me a message on Skype this morning, but as the jet lag has at last abated and my body clock has made the adjustment, I actually slept in this morning and didn’t turn my computer on before I made a dash for the Hocken archives.  Well he tried…the romantic gesture was lost, but if he reads this – I did appreciate it anyway! The Hocken has more limited hours than we are used to in the UK, and are only open on a Saturday from 9-12. They are an excellent research facility however, and I do wish I had more time to spend there.  This morning I spent reading some manuscript memoirs of a woman born in Scotland, probably c1890; she immigrated to New Zealand as a child and never returned to the UK. She notes in her writing that WW2 was one of the factors that prevented a planned return. Immigrants at the turn of the 20th century did pretty well burn their boats when they embarked on this voyage. For this woman the journey entailed 6 weeks at sea, during which time she had a birthday – her special present was a bible given to her by a returning New Zealander, who happened to be an Anglican Bishop. When I was turfed out of the Hocken, it was my plan to visit the university library – but the sun had come out and I could smell the coffee. I found a wee place with a sunny courtyard at the back of the shop and sat there for quite a while with coffee and book – it was just too tempting an opportunity. This evening my kiwi pal, Julie, took me round the parts of Dunedin that are difficult to get to on foot or public transport, these included a place called Signal Hill, where there is a monument to the early Presbyterian pioneers – most interesting. It includes busts of a man (who looks like an Old Testament prophet) holding a bible, and a woman holding a spindle. We also visited the world’s steepest street – Baldwin Street, which has to be seen to be believed. I walked half way up, before remembering I had backless shoes on – in this footwear, walking down was harder than walking up!  We were joined by Julie’s son Andrew, and her mother, Margaret, – a long time member of the Dunedin Burns Club. We had dinner out and I must commend Andrew who ran (not walked) up the steepest street, and not once – but twice! And… accomplished this feat after eating a Mississippi Mud Pie that would have fed New Zealand – amazing!

13th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 4:37 pm

Linda Fleming continues:


Black Friday then! I haven’t been able to set up any interviews for today, but perhaps this is no bad thing given the date, something was bound to have gone wrong! And no matter really, as there’s plenty to be getting on with. I spent the morning in the archives of the Otago Settlers’ Museum, listening to some of their existing oral histories. I always enjoy doing this. Sadly, some very good interviews are not matched by the transcripts. It occurred to me that paper transcripts are not much good for researchers such as me anyway. The way forward I think is for more detailed index sheets in electronic format that can be word searched. I have so little time to do this, that speed and ease of finding are very important. For this oral history project in any case, voice is very important; so far the Scottishness of interviewees’ voices has varied a good deal – they generally become more Scottish after a couple of hours with me though! I am resigned to the fact that I won’t get everything done that I hoped. I had a late lunch with a couple of ‘kiwis’ in a café opposite Dunedin Railway Station. This station is, I’m told, the most photographed building in New Zealand. I’m not surprised – it is chocolate box perfect in appearance. This lovingly preserved and restored Victorian building now runs tourist trains only however, rail travel being something of a challenge in this hilly city. I mentioned my rendezvous in a café – there are more coffee shops in Dunedin that I have ever seen in one urban space. The lovely thing is that most are independents. I’ve only spotted one of the Starbucks variety so far; and even McDonalds has a ‘McCafe’ – no kidding! They are all equipped with newspapers rather than wifi, which makes for a pleasant change. The day was rounded off when I attended a free event hosted by the Dunedin Burns Club. It was a concert followed by ‘supper’, tea and sandwiches and a bit of very authentic looking haggis for the more adventurous. As a child of Burns country origin, I can die happy now, as I’ve heard a distinctly Anglo-New Zealand voice addressing the haggis! The highlight of the evening was a sword dance by Kylie and Penny… It’s 10 pm now, and the weekend starts tomorrow, however there is no rest for the wicked Fleming…

12th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 4:35 pm

Linda Fleming continues:


Another day, another interview, this time with a lovely woman called Margaret Ritchie, whose husband, Ron, does the best tomato sandwiches in the southern hemisphere – fabulous tomatoes picked straight from the garden. New Zealanders are extremely fond of their gardens, which if you ignore the yucca type plants (named flax trees) are very traditional British in their landscaping – I haven’t seen too much of the gravel stuff we seem to chuck about our backyards these days either. I must check out the gardening section in the bookshop before I leave. Margaret was rather more reflective on her experience of migration than my previous interviewees. She admitted to having been very homesick for a long time, and even now, she still likes to read about Scotland and to have a Scottish themed calendar each year. This is the first year since she arrived in New Zealand in the 1950s that she hasn’t been sent one from home. Such a scenario is not uncommon amongst older migrants, as their family and friends back home age, the links to a Scottish homeland become more tenuous. Whilst shopping, if anyone sees a nice ‘Scottish’ calendar still available now that 2009 is well under way, please do get it for me, and I’ll reimburse on my return. I’d like to send this on for her. I’ve been watching a bit of Maori TV of an evening. The land issue for Maoris is a political hot potato here, I’m sort of wishing that I’d managed to get a Maori-Scots interviewee, I expect there are not a few such people around in Otago.

11th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 4:34 pm

Linda Fleming continues:


Another interview today, this time on the far reaches of Dunedin suburbia, in a place quaintly named after more Scottish heritage – Waverly.  This clearly is an affluent locale – the Newton Mearns if you like of this particular city conurbation. The interview was with Stan Kirkpatrick some time merchant mariner, Battle of the Atlantic veteran, printing company sales executive, actor, teacher, and TV weatherman! Not a life short of experience then! Stan settled in Dunedin in 1952 and has never been back to the UK, and has no regrets about this. He owns more books than the average Carnegie library. This was a long interview, with a break for lunch – the hospitality I have had in Dunedin has been first class. Having taken a taxi there due to the absence of a bus at any time near to my morning appointment, I did make it back to my accommodation on public transport – but I had a bit of a wait for it, and stood on a windy hill looking at a horizon empty of any traffic for quite a while. I’ve been a bit stymied by technology too whilst here; the broadband connection I have doesn’t like to do too many things at once, and it’s taking a while to download interviews on to my laptop from the digital recorder, and longer to burn them to CD. Alas too – there will be no more photies; in my experience there is always something that gets left behind on trips abroad, this time it is the charger for the digital camera – I see it in my minds eye left near to my still open suitcase – but it never made it into the packing of the thing… I’ll be taking photos on my mobile phone camera though, which is another thing that has a mind of its own out here. I keep being shunted from one telecom provider to another, some work, some don’t. Today it is Vodafone but tomorrow, like all else here, it may be something completely different…

10th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 4:32 pm

Linda Fleming continues:

I am gutted – I missed Coronation Street tonight! It is on channel one here for an hour 3 times a week – nae luck! And all I was doing was a bit of washing. The changeable Dunedin weather has left me a bit short of the wet weather clothing. Never mind, Corrie is about a year behind what is being shown in the UK, and I’m not that homesick. I’ve had plenty calls from home on Skype, including some from my son complete with webcam. Today I made a trip to the district of Musselburgh to interview a most interesting woman called Mary Ronnie who was once head of library services in these parts, and following this New Zealand’s National Librarian for a number of years. I spent most of the day with her and was treated to lunch – a fab mince pie of the type you can’t buy from Greggs! Mary moved to New Zealand as an 11 year old, but had some time back in Scotlandin 1960 where she helped set up the library in Castlemilk in Glasgow. I’ve been interested in this library since I interviewed one of the pioneer residents of Castlemilk about a year ago. But I had to come to the other side of the world to meet one of the pioneer librarians! This example provides a rather nice vignette of the circularity of Scottish Diaspora culture. My trip to Musselburgh was on a local bus – a very empty local bus, and I’ve discovered that for all the famed eco- consciousness in New Zealand, the locals really don’t do buses. My current landlord tells me that the pressure is on with increased parking charges and the like, but Otago residents are loathe to give up their motor cars and not likely to capitulate any time soon. Tomorrow I’m off to another interview – for this one I may have to concede defeat and take a taxi, it’s right on the edge of Dunedin and really too long a walk even for intrepid Fleming…

February 9, 2009

Dr Linda Fleming- 9th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 10:04 am

9th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.


Linda Fleming continues:


Last night there was a huge orange moon in the skies over Dunedin. This apparently is because of the fires going on in South Australia – I didn’t hear any howling however, which is reassuring. It’s a driech day here, pouring with rain and decidedly temperate, but as I’m indoors all day in makes no difference for me.  I started today in the research area of the Settlers’ Museum, where they have quite an extensive collection of oral histories. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised that the research facilities have shorter opening hours than the museum itself and close at 1 pm. So this morning only allowed me time to look through the abstracts and index sheets. I have managed to identify quite a few interviews done with Scots born New Zealanders however, and will be back to listen to these interviews next week. The museum has a number of fixed exhibits, but also some special exhibitions. Amongst these is one about the voyage taken by 19th century migrants from the UK. This is replete with sounds of seasickness retching – very attractive indeed and realistic, given the voyage took 3 months. It rather puts my jet lag into perspective.  The rest of my week will be taken up with my own interviews for the Scottish Readers Remember project,  and I’ve hit my first snag – my interviewee for tomorrow is not answering her phone – so it looks like I’ll just have to turn up at her house and hope she’s remembered that I am coming from Scotland! This lady lives in ‘Musselburgh’ – Otago Musselburgh that is. This is a suburb, so I’ll likely have an adventure on a bus tomorrow morning.  This afternoon I visited the local public library, which is bang in the centre of Dunedin. I will be back, but for today, I just had a browse along the shelves and a look at what seems to be popular here. Non-genre fiction is called ‘free fiction’ in this library, which is a very democratic way of describing it, I think;  and the genre stuff resembles that which we have at home. Very prominent though is a bigger than average shelf of science fiction and fantasy novels, which appear to be very popular in this part of the world. The library could probably do with a bit of TLC, it has a very 1970s carpet! On the other hand, it was heartening to come into a space and meet bookshelves rather than a bank of PCs, and it did seem quite busy with people of all ages.

Dr Linda Fleming – 8th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.

Filed under: Research trips — fhartree @ 10:03 am

8th February 2009 Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand.


Linda Fleming continues:


Last night I picked up an email from a prospective interviewee, who when I first contacted her, turned out to be of Scottish descent, but not born in Scotland and born way after 1945. This meant she was not eligible to give an interview for the Scottish Readers Remember project. However, she sent me such engaging emails I stayed in touch. Today she took me out to her home in the suburbs of Dunedin and for a drive around the Otago peninsula. I was treated to delicious ice cream in Portobello! And have seen the Pacific ocean for the first time – it is such an amazing colour! It has been 32 degrees here today and all the surfers were out in strength. I had a lovely day, and it’s a shame I have to work tomorrow – must remember I am not here on holiday! The day ended when her husband Hugh invited me along to see him addressing the haggis at a tourist event. So, I sat at the back with a lot of American tourists who are just off a cruise ship – I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself – but how people did stare whenever I opened my mouth to speak! Hugh does these gigs on a regular basis and they come complete with a piper and some New Zealanders dressed up as comic Scots complete with red wigs and Tam o’Shanters – no place like home eh! The event ended with some haggis and whisky – but I passed on these treats and am back at the motel doing my duty on this blog. It’s 10 pm and the sun has gone to bed and so must I…tomorrow I am off to visit the Otago Settlers’ Museum and hope to have a look at some of their oral history collection, as well as view the exhibits, I’m looking forward to this. And Sarah B– if you are reading this – I will check out the museum shop and report back on my return!

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