Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Veteran bookseller Murray Gray really likes this one

As Happy as Larry.
Our Journey to Kiwi Valley. By Kathy Park.

"I have followed this book for a few years now. It first appeared on my Going West list as a possible launch in 2010 but was, at that stage, still an unedited manuscript but one with considerable appeal as the narrative was so personal, so honest and the author so humble about her achievement.
Kathy, with the help of Peter Dowling at Oratia Media, subjected the text to a vigorous text and copy edit to bring the large unwieldy manuscript to a tidy 364pp plus photographs.

Her observations are succinct and her awareness of her environment acute. 'There was very much an air of desperation and votility floating over the crowd, and it rose around us like a dust cloud created by a mob of cattle on the move.' She is writing about being immersed in a market in Indonesia that she and her husband, Larry had drifted into by mistake.

But whatever the title on the cover this is Kathy Parks' story. It is the story of an extraordinary wanderlust and sense of place.
From her early childhood on a Waikato farm, with brothers and a father who loved cars, she tells of her life and education. In the late seventies Kathy is off to Australia where she meets Larry and they build there first house truck and spend 5 years traveling the outback.

The 80's saw them back in New Zealand and ... 'my life had multiplied: I still had my guitar and pack but had added a husband, a daughter and a shipping container full of stuff'. There was an old Chevy truck stored in the basement garage at Kathy's' parents' house and this Larry rebuilt as a beautiful hand crafted home. Some years spent house trucking followed before the idea of a Traveling Farmyard and Children's Circus was born. Those years growing up on a farm became productive!

The whole rig became part of the 1990 celebrations that toured the Aoteroa as part of this event. Larry's exceptional skill as a builder and engineer evident with the final iteration of the traveling farmyard.

Good fortune, or may be good luck, lead the family to Waitakere City as it was then. Even more good fortune lead to the Corban Estate in Henderson where they grounded for a while Larry rebuilt the truck and trailer unit.

After some more touring the 'farmyard ' and a successful move into some corporate work the Park family realised their dream by settling on land in Henderson Valley on the edge of Waitakere City and on 9 March 2000, Bob Harvey, the Mayor, opened Kiwi Valley. This was a major step for the family. At last their own land and able to showcase the entire menagerie without having to drive and unpack.

Although a successful enterprise, the costs made it a nightmare of juggling income streams, mortgages and the increasing wage bills meant some years of financial stress; not helped by IRD or a unusual vague accountant.

I visited Kiwi Valley last week and was impressed with the activity of the place and the enthusiastic children having a ball with the animals and people that are still part of the business. Kathy Park is an exceptional woman whose determination is inspiring. All the problems I have with a small bookshop seem a minor inconveniences compared to the struggles that Kathy has taken on and beaten. This is an inspiring account of life lived to the full and of the family that created a way of life we may all admire and want for ourselves."

On sale at Gone West Books, next to Village Kebabs in Titirangi.

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