A Ridiculous Fuss?
Hi, Peter, I’ve been emailed a few questions by a reporter — Tina White.
Go ahead, boy. We’ll give it a go at answering them.
On 21st October 2011, Tina White wrote:
‘Hi Mr Leyland,
I write the weekly Memory Lane feature in the Manawatu Standard (about Manawatu people, places and events of the past). At the moment I'm writing about Local History Week, October 31-Nov 6.
The story will appear in the Standard on Saturday, October 29, just before History Week starts. I will be at the book launch for Mr Peter Leyland's book of Palmerston North memoirs, on the Tuesday. In the meantime I was wondering if I could ask you a few brief questions so that I can tell the readers just a bit about Mr Peter Leyland and his book. Here is what I'd like to know:
Question 1. Archivist Lesley Courtney tells me that Mr Leyland is the Palmerston North library's oldest member, at 100 years of age. Was he born and bred in or around Palmerston North?’
I was born in Wanganui on 21st January, 1911, and after a brief stay there we shifted through to Palmerston North. I first lived in the old house at 139 College Street. It's still there but due to changes in street numbering — they did that twice — it’s now 309. After my wife died the authorities took a dim view of an old bachelor of 100 living alone, what with insurance issues, and health and doctors and all that. There was a bit of a fuss. So I've been very fortunate. Philip and Yvonne have taken me in, and I've got a good bed, and get a good feed.
‘Question 2. Has Mr Leyland kept a diary for much of his life, to be able to remember anecdotes and events?’
I've NEVER been a writer! Someone, probably a parent, tried hard to get me to keep a diary. One year I started one, and that was after a lot of pressure, but it never came to anything. New Year was all I got out of it — then it was finished. But I do like to read. I enjoy other people's work and words. But I'm really a talker, a windbag of sorts. Of course, some peoples rely on word of mouth to pass on their history and I'm more like that.
‘Question 3. When did Mr Leyland decide to write the book?’
Ha, ha! That question makes me laugh. I NEVER decided to write the book. If anything, because I'm averse to writing, I decided NOT to write the book. It has all happened around me, but never mind, here we are, in the middle of it, and, of course, I've got my personal scribe.
‘Question 4. How long did it take the two of you to compile the book?’
I don't keep a diary, so I don't rightly know. John, you can answer that question.
Okay, I expected you’d load that onto me, so I’ve planned an answer:
The compilation took about 8 months. The process was simple. We would talk. I made notes and then wrote the stories up using a conversational format, and added illustrations from old newspapers, archival photos etc. I then read each story to Peter, either face to face or over the phone. Peter would comment, approve, make suggestions, and I would edit accordingly. These drafts were then emailed to friends and family members to proofread. This grew to involve people in Australia, America and UK. I wrote an introduction, and complied an index. My partner, Kathi Powley, then edited the whole book several times to ensure the meaning was clear, and to suggest improvements to the layout and presentation. So, the whole thing turned into a co-operative effort.
On to question 5. Tina writes: ‘I haven't so far seen the book itself, but I've seen a photocopy of the index, which is the most complete index I've ever seen in a book of memoirs. This must have been a massive job. What decided you to include this index (which by the way, makes fun reading in itself, and makes me keen to read the book!)’
That's all quite interesting, but it's another question for you to answer.
Why am I not surprised? I’ve written this:
The addition of an index was done at the suggestion of Robyn Wilson, PN archivist. Once I got into it I determined to make it exhaustive. In my opinion it is better to have too much than too little. There is no compulsion to read it. The indexing grew out of my utter frustration at the so-called 'indexes' that cower at the end of otherwise good books. They often leave you disgruntled and you come away from them empty handed.
That’ll do fine.
Finally, Peter. Question 6. ‘I wonder if Mr Leyland could just describe his feelings about having the book published, and about the coming book launch, which is eagerly awaited here in Palmerston North.’
Well, to a 100-year-old man it's all a bit amusing, and I don't see myself as an author, no matter what the National Library says. But if that's what they decided, who am I to disagree? I just told the stories — told it like it was. In some ways it's almost like a bit of nonsense, a ridiculous fuss, but here we are in the middle of it, and I have to ask myself, who is to blame?
I'm glad the Library folk are taking it seriously. It is all about our history. If people are interested, then that can be their pleasure. It's out there. There's nothing much I can do about it now. It's something that has 'just happened'.
Tina concludes with: ‘I hope you won't mind my asking you to speak on behalf of Mr Leyland, and I would really be grateful if you could get the answers back to me as soon as possible. As you'll understand, my deadline is just a few days away. Thank you very much, Tina White.’
It’s all a ridiculous fuss about a few stories. And me, an author? Brings a smile.
You smile, I’ll type and send.
Okay, you go for it. Now, I actually had a good night last night. Easier breathing