The enchanted forest of Deans: Books made me

I am entranced by Deans books illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.

There is something odd about their images – a touch of Mannerism, something of Aubrey Beardsley. They have a particular flair for gorgeous costumes.

Deans book of fairy tales

Deans book of nursery rhymes

The illustrations of Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone on the  March House Books blog says:

Janet and Anne are probably best remembered for their illustrations for Dodie Smith’s classic novel, The hundred and one Dalmatians, but they illustrated literally dozens if not hundreds of books. The twins worked on every picture together, passing illustrations backwards and forwards until both were satisfied, Janet concentrated on animals while Anne was the expert on period costume. Early commissions included editions of Heidi, Gulliver’s Travels and the water babies, all for the Heirloom Library.


The new ghost signs of Christchurch

Mark Spurgeon’s Preserve documents ghost signs in Christchurch and beyond.

You’ll have seen examples like these on Madras Street.

But there are other ghost signs now. Signs for places that no longer exist. Temple Courts on Durham Street North is gone, but its sign stands on.

There are signs of signs to be found amidst any demolition area.


And ghosts of signs that have moved or gone.



My Dad and Helen Shapiro


My Dad popped up in the Greymouth Star last week. In 1962, he was a 15-year-old Reefton schoolboy and he won a competition to go to Wellington and celebrate Helen Shapiro’s 16th birthday with her.

It is one of those family stories that has always intrigued me, after seeing some photos of Dad and a rather lofty Christchurch girl meeting Helen. I asked him a few questions:

Why did you want to meet Helen Shapiro?

I won a newspaper competition. You had to write and say why you would like to meet her and go to her 16th birthday. A girl from Christchurch and me were the winners.

Your first plane trip and your first trip to Wellington? How was that?

Quite amazing, 15 years old never been on a plane before, DC3 Westport to Wellington. I travelled from Reefton to Westport by bus and called on my cousin Barb. She immediately thought I had left home so phoned my Mum to verify my story.

How was Helen Shapiro’s party?

Lots of media and old people, I was 15.
Plenty of food and cake, lots of photos. At this time Helen was no 1 in the UK and before the Beatles had hit the big time.

Most people will know Helen from the corking song Walking back to happiness, so here’s that classic – and a clip of Helen singing Immer die boys on German tv in 1962.