|“Oh Bugger it! Why don’t we just go and live there?” Next morning we left our home behind and set off on the first leg of our great antipodean adventure.This is the story of a ‘grown-up gap-year’ spent in New Zealand. A melting-pot of recollections, reflections and abundant digressions, it is, by turns, tangentially informative, subjectively insightful and forthrightly irreverent. The author recounts, with frequent characteristically acerbic asides, the trials and tribulations, highs, lows and flat spots of stepping ‘outside the box’ and thirty years back in time, into a new life on the other side of the world. Along the way, he touches upon a diversity of nebulously related topics, amongst which teaching, long-distance walking, bureaucracy and drinking beer are recurrent themes. Anyone who has ever harboured a desire to seek out distant horizons will relate to the inherent urge to ‘up and go’ encapsulated in this account. Anyone who has never felt such wanderlust may find themselves re-evaluating their perspectives. Reading this book is unlikely to change your life but it just might change the way you think about it.
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|Godfrey Wilkinson grew up in Lichfield, Staffordshire in the English Midlands: a city with a proud cultural heritage and an established tradition of landlocked introspection.In his mid-50s, after some 30-odd years as a Secondary School teacher (with occasional forays into the real world of Business and Commerce), he decided to get off the grid and realise a long-held ambition to experience the New Zealand dream. His occasional newsletters prompted friends to say, “You should write a book about it.” So he did. He currently lives with his wife, Jayne, and their New Zealand sheepdog, above a taverna overlooking the harbour of a small Greek fishing village.
Beyond drudgery: there is life after teaching
The title of the book is in Māori (‘Whā Kaupeka’) and then repeated in English (‘Four seasons in New Zealand’). Some chapter titles are in English and others in Māori indicating the emphasis of each section, I briefly offer the translation of the Māori words (with thanks to maoridictionary.co.nz): Pae Tawhiti (cast far away), Ngahuru (Autumn), Hōtoke (Winter), Kōanga (Spring) and Raumati (Summer). The attention to, and respect for Māori culture is one of the many strengths of this book.
In part personal memoir, drinking diary, nature journal, walker's log, cultural commentary and social polemic, this book is entertaining, informative and thought provoking. The author and his wife, both experienced teachers jaundiced with teaching policy and practice in the UK, decided to emigrate to New Zealand. The book is, in part an account of their experience. It captures, with humour, the frustrations of dealing with bureaucracies managing emi/immigration, house sale and purchase and employment in two countries at opposite ends of the globe. The acerbic eye of the author looks back in anger on the KPI driven world of English education managed by acquiescent careerists, and initially enthuses about the simple candour of staff-pupil relationships on the other side of the world. It is also an account of a long-distance walk undertaken by the author with two friends and his dog. The Cleveland Way is a 110 mile walk in North Yorkshire, England. The book is unified by the way it encounters the natural, cultural and historical worlds of both locations; these are well researched and expressed in an easy and accessible manner. The text is liberally punctuated with 'drinks breaks’ which the author manages with eloquent ease, savouring the new and relishing the familiar. The pains of emigration are not ignored, sadness and sorrow are economically yet powerfully expressed. Family ties and memories of England recur regularly throughout: humorously, for example, in the author’s early naturalist experiments that disturbed the, rhythms of family life, and poignantly in the references to his father. The book ends as it began with a refusal to accept life-numbing work conditions and a quest for adventure. The strength of this book is its clarity, and full-on engagement with the complexities and challenges of living fulsomely in the moment.