|The beach at Sumner|
On my first visit to New Zealand I arranged to meet Margaret and was warned that she was quite formidable - I was extremely nervous. But the woman I met was shy, warm, utterly dedicated to Mansfield studies, with a rigorous mind and an excellent built-in bullshit detector. Neil and I stayed for a week in Margaret’s garage (converted to guest room!) And at the end of it she had decided, very firmly, that I was the person who was going to write the definitive Katherine Mansfield biography. On my last evening, she produced a beautiful mother of pearl brooch, shaped like a feather and told me that it had belonged to Katherine and that she wanted me to have it. I refused point blank, to accept such a valuable gift, particularly as I didn’t have a publishing contract at the time and didn’t know whether the biography would ever be written. But the following morning, as we left, I discovered that she had surreptitiously given it to Neil to give to me.
The little brooch put me under an obligation - every time I wavered and was on the point of giving up, it looked at me like a little mother of pearl eye and insisted that I carry on. So it is really due to Margaret and her gift that the book ever got written at all. Her own book Recollecting Mansfield, an account of her sometimes hilarious experiences on the trail of KM’s manuscripts, is an excellent read. The brooch has been on load to the Katherine Mansfield Birthplace Trust for an exhibition, the Material Mansfield.
So today is my final stroll along the beach. And a last look at the earthquake damage. Nearer the epicentre, one road has been moved across by 12 feet. On either side of it, trees have been felled along the line of the fault and the ground torn apart. The forces of nature are unimaginably powerful.
|Fault line through the hedge.|
|Telegraph road used to be dead straight.|