Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Kia ora Kōanga (gidday Spring)!

Cherry blossoms herald a new season

Craig every second Tuesday

Kia ora and gidday everyone.

Well, Spring has sprung here in London and across the northern hemisphere, and Miss Seven and my daily nature walks are becoming increasingly flower-filled,. I've always quite liked winter - growing up playing soccer (football) in New Zealand, I have many fond memories of wintry days with friends and teammates - but it's also always lovely to see the turning of the seasons towards summer. The whole idea of Spring as a time of renewal and new growth ain't bad either, for the old headspace, even as we all keep trudging through some strange old times globally. 

Take time to stop and smell the ... crocuses...

Back home in Aotearoa (New Zealand), Kōanga is the Māori word for Spring. Though of course, being southern hemisphere it occurs at a different time of year (September to November). After a few years in the UK, as well as several summers in the States, I'm now used to the seasons being opposite to what I grew up with. But as a kid, the start of Spring was always a special time on a few fronts. The first day of Spring for us was my sister's birthday, Father's Day in New Zealand is in early Spring, and I had several other mates' have early Spring birthdays. 

We always used to joke about all the 'Spring lambs', though as I got older I realised that September minus nine months was around the time of a lot of Christmas parties and holiday/summer cheer! 

Daffodils provide a splash of colour as winter wanes

Spring is also a time of planting, so we've started putting some things in the ground in our wee allotment for an autumn harvest. This year along with various vegetables, we put in a flower bed (summer/autumn flowers) for the bees. Part of the Māori word for Spring, Kōanga is the word ‘kō’, which means a digging implement: Spring is the time to dig the soil. It felt good to get out the hoe, garden fork and trowel last week and get my hands in the soil. 

There's something about gardens. My parents were big gardeners, and I didn't really get it as a kid - though I liked the greenery and plants, but I didn't understand why they enjoyed spending so much time in the garden, tending to it, and tweaking things throughout the seasons. I think I understand more now. During the COVID pandemic, having our wee garden has - along with our daily nature walks - been something that has helped keep us (somewhat) sane. The connection to nature, while living in a big city. The physical work. Seeing things grow and change. 

Plant seeds, pull weeds. 

A gardening idea that applies more broadly to life in general. 

Back home, the Māori have a saying, "Takē Kōanga, whakapiri Ngahuru" (absent at planting time, close by at harvest) referring to people who disappear during the hard work of planting in Spring, but show up when food is abundant at the Autumn harvest. None of us really want to be like that, do we? 

So what seeds are you going to plant this Spring? Not just in your garden ... 

What can we do now, that will have positive effects later? 

While the New Year is a cliched time for reflection and new beginnings, new goals etc, why not start something now that you've wanted to be doing for a while? Spring clean your life. 

I have a few things on my agenda - writing and otherwise. I guess we'll have to see how well I do with the planting and tending and then we'll see whether there's a good harvest or not in a few months time, or more. 

In the meantime, Spring also seems to be a good time for new crime novels, with some really terrific books hitting the shelves in March and April. I've been blessed to read several in advance, and others have caught my eye because of the author or strong recommendations from people I trust. So if you like crime fiction, as I'm sure most of you reading this blog do, here are a few March recommendations to add to your reading pile for the warmer months. 

Out today, a fabulous rural noir novel from a fresh new voice, Eli Cranor. Blending the small-town high school football setting, ala Friday Night Lights, with a gritty tale of an abused young man struggling to keep his violence on the field and a coach seeking redemption, this is powerful stuff. 

New Zealand author Vanda Symon's Detective Sam Shephard books are among my favourite series, with a headstrong heroine battling who's just wonderful to follow. But Symon may have raised her very high bar even further with this dark standalone where the lives of three overlooked people - an office worker, a teenage sex worker, and a homeless man - collide. An exceptional, tense thriller that delves into issues of homelessness, misogyny, loyalty, grief and loss, and how we can be surrounded by people we don’t really ‘see’.

Like Symon, Crime Writers of Color co-founder Kellye Garrett swerves from an engaging series heroine to a darker standalone. In LIKE A SISTER, she brings an urban, single black woman's take on psychological thrillers and 'domestic noir', as grad student Lena Scott tries to unravel the death of reality TV star Desiree Pierce, her half-sister. A masterful tale that pulses with rich veins of sarcastic humour and explores ideas around race and celebrity.

The fourth and (sadly) final - for now - tale in Melbourne author Emma Viskic's superb series starring profoundly deaf private eye Caleb Zelic. Now an expectant father, Caleb is back putting himself and his most precious relationships at risk when an anonymous text alerts him to the whereabouts of his missing drug addict brother Ant. Shots are fired, a body is found. A rehab community on an isolated island. Viskic delivers a taut tale that doesn’t scrimp on character and place. Twisty storytelling pulsing with humanity; a novel carried on prose that sings.

Here's one I'm about to dive into, and is very highly anticipated. I've enjoyed several of Cuban-American author Segura's past crime tales, and have been hearing so many GREAT things about SECRET IDENTITY from lots of American authors and readers I trust. Ian Rankin also raved about it recently. Touted as "a rollicking literary mystery set in the world of comic books", SECRET IDENTITY takes readers into a story of secrets, lies, and murder in the 1970s comic book scene. Tantalising, eh?

Following on from a tense, London-set hostage thriller (THE SECRETS OF STRANGERS) shortlisted for multiple awards, Ugandan-born author Charity Norman now ‘returns home’, taking readers deep into the small towns and wild landscapes of central Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand - where she's lived for much of the past 20 years. REMEMBER ME is an eloquent, heart-breaking tale that meshes family drama with rural suspense as a middle-aged woman returns from overseas to care for her ailing father, only for past secrets and tragedies to come horribly to light. 

Scotland-based storyteller DV Bishop (himself a former comics editor) takes readers back to Renaissance Florence in this very good sequel to last year's CITY OF VENGEANCE, the first in his historical mystery series starring the fascinating Cesare Aldo, an officer of the feared Otto di Guardia e Balia court who is keeping his own dangerous secrets. This time Aldo must investigate a violent death in a convent. Bishop soaks readers into the atmosphere of 16th century Florence while delivering a captivating mystery.

So there you have it - seven Spring reads to help your TBR pile grow, along with a few flower photos to brighten up your scrolling. However you are spending your Spring, I hope you have a good few months. 

Until next time, ka kita ano. 

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 
Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I've been ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Nāu te rourou, nāku te rourou, ka ora ai te iwi

(With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive)


  1. Spring: my very favorite season. Today felt like the first true day of spring: playing disc golf, temp about 68F to 70F, light breeze, many shrubs starting to leaf out, almost all the early flowering trees in bloom, whites and pinks and scarlets seemingly everywhere. Spring always puts a spring in my step!

  2. I can't wait to get back to our farm and watch Barbara attack the garden...under proper supervision, of course. :)

    1. supervisor is in important role. stay well-hydrated in the Spring and Summer sunshine!