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Festivals and the love of books

Nicky Pellegrino and Jenni Ogden in conversation at the Waiheke Literary Festival, November, 2015.


Writers and Readers festivals are pure bliss for those of us who love books. I have been to many throughout the world; in fact if we are traveling anywhere I check out book festivals (and music and wine and food festivals) in case by tweaking our dates we can go to more. I think it is the buzz of being in the midst of so many others who love the same things as you do. But NZ hosts festivals every bit as wonderful as overseas festivals. I particularly love the Auckland Writers Festival, which is massive but incredibly well-organised and very friendly. World-class writers (including world class NZ and Australian writers) are guest speakers, and this year they sold over 63,000 tickets to events. WOMAD NZ in the beautiful New Plymouth is a wonderful weekend of music from many countries in a fabulous atmosphere and held in an incredible venue.  Read More 
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Wild Dogs

Saw two different packs of Wild Dogs in Botswana, and one group decided to sleep under a tree within metres of our tent.
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Birds

John saw over 200 birds, many spectacular, that he had never seen before (and he is an avid birder, twitcher, whatever). I saw them too! This Giant Kingfisher we spotted while being punted along the Choebe river near Kasane in Botswana, was one of them.
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Masai

Masai Mara (and we did see two crossings during the Great Migration in Masai Mara)
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Good Mama

Another photo...
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Afreeca!!

When I first set up this website, I mentioned African safaris as one of the things to do after "retirement" from one's long-time career. I had been to South Africa and to two amazing private game parks before, but had a long-time desire to go on a camping safari. Last month John and I camped in Kenya, and Botswana and also spent a week at Kruger, and a couple of days at Victoria Falls. Phenomenal!  Read More 
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Auckland Writers Festival Free Event

Join me at the Auckland Writers Festival on Sunday, May 18th, 11.30-12.30 at the Aotea Centre as I talk about three of my most fascinating neuropsychology cases. It’s a FREE session! Click for link​a> Read More 
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Dance So There Is A Tomorrow!

Dance 'til you drop
I posted this last year just before Valentine's Day on "Psychology Today" and it struck a chord (no pun intended!) for many people. So I thought I'd share it this Valentine's Day with my own readers. (Unfortunately there is no Beatles dance here on our island this time, and with all the hype about it being their 50th anniversary in the USA, there should be.)

February 14th is Valentine’s Day, and perhaps you will go dancing. It is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and on the beautiful island off the coast of New Zealand that I call home, the population increases from the usual 800 residents to a few thousand, as campers and hikers and holiday-makers come to relax and enjoy the bush, beach and sea. This summer, there was a new activity; a Beatles dance. Now they weren’t THE Beatles of course, but they were a great substitute. It was a raging success: a hot night, a beautiful location, and everybody danced and danced and danced. Not waltzes and foxtrots, but freestyle. Partners, no partner, it didn’t matter. The average age of the dancers, I would guess, was around 55, with a range from 12 to 80. Because everyone was so intent on dancing, and singing along with the songs from their own teenage and young adult years, the consumption of alcohol was considerably reduced, compared to a non-dancing social occasion. Many people were dressed in seventies gear, and we all know that as soon as we dress differently, we act differently and feel differently.

I wonder how many of the dancers knew they were engaging in the one physical activity that seems to beat all others in staving off cognitive decline and delaying the onset of dementia? A research article published in 2003 suggested just that (The New England Journal of Medicine, 2003, Volume 348, pp 2508-2516).
The long-term Bronx Aging Study, which began in 1980, looked at the leisure activities of 469 community dwellers aged 75 to 85 years with no signs of dementia when they were enrolled, to see if either physical or cognitive leisure activities delayed cognitive decline and dementia. A number of cognitive activities, including reading, playing board games, doing crossword puzzles at least four times a week, and playing musical instruments were associated with a lower risk of developing dementia over the next five or so years, but the only physical activity that decreased the risk of dementia was frequent dancing. Frequent dancing reduced the likelihood of developing dementia by a mind-boggling 76%, which was higher than any other cognitive or physical activity studied. Physical activities that did not appear to delay dementia onset included walking, bicycling and swimming. This was an observational rather than a carefully controlled study, with many inter-related factors to take account of, so one can’t take this as the last word on the matter. And there were physical activities, such as golf and tennis, that were not included because fewer than 10% of the senior citizens participated in them. Read More 
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