Focus on: Meemee Phipps  

Focus on: Meemee Phipps

Meemee Phipps is a self-employed writer and illustrator who lives in Cambridge.

Where were you born: In Alor Star, the capital of Kedah, a northern state in Malaysia

Where did you go to school: In Penang and Singapore.

Did you go to university/tertiary institution? if so, what did you study:
Studied Art and Design at Bournemouth Art College now called The University of Bournemouth and Poole, and Chinese and Japanese (double major) at Auckland University. I also did Italian at the University in Perugia and Japanese at Osaka Gaidai.

Present hometown: Cambridge

Tell us a bit about your family: I have a son Tristan in Auckland who has two girls, Ava 12 and Elska 8. He works for Vista Entertainment which is a web design company specialising in cinema worldwide. His wife Nia works for the Film Commission, after an earlier career as an actress in three art house films and with Loading Docs. My daughter Melanie lives in Portland Oregon, where she has her own business as a graphic designer and henna artist.

Do you have pets: I have always had animals. My present fur baby is Zhuzhu, a bichon/shizu cross with great charm and attitude.    She’s nearly 12 but behaves like a 2-year-old. I think she will go on forever. If not, and I have told her this – her successor will be a rabbit. I don’t think she’s impressed.

Favourite movie: Fiddler on the Roof. I think it is perfectly balanced, with all the ingredients of a truly great movie – humour, music, pathos and enduring love. Beautifully acted.

Favourite singer or band: Freddie Mercury and Queen.

Name one of your top 10 favourite New Zealanders: Edmund Hillary. What a super person he was.

Favourite bird: I adore small birds and love quite a few – the fantail, tomtit, wax eye and we don’t have them here – but I saw one in France – the humming moth which is a variation of the hummingbird but about the size of my thumb nail. I saw one and stared at it for so long that I got cross-eyed. It was the same colour as the lavender it was sucking from. It was a wonder.

Best moment ever:   Perhaps my first visit to the Vatican when I was 21 and very religious or perhaps sitting in my first orchestra at 20.

Favourite sport:   When I was younger, it was skiing.  Now of course it’s just daily walks with Zhuzhu and a weekly session of yoga. I am a participator, not a watcher.

Best sporting moment ever: Every moment I was slaloming downhill.

Best place visited: This is so very hard, as there have been so many best places. I can’t ever say which is best. Each place has its own special beauty, its own glorious offering.

Favourite food: Japanese for sure. The spices of other parts of Asia can sometimes be overpowering as I get older. But basically, I prefer Asian food best.

What’s your signature dish: Hainanese Chicken Rice. It is a simple classic which is the favourite of my family.

Hobbies: Music. I first sat in the college orchestra in England when I was 20 years old. When the conductor lifted his baton and the orchestra struck up the first notes, I instantly fell in love. I also play with Borach Mor, a Scottish dance band based here in Cambridge though our players come from Tuakau, Te Puke, Hamilton and Tamahere. Great fun of a different sort.

I also used to paint a lot, having had an exhibition in Sapporo when I lived there in the 70s and running a gallery in Chef Boutonne 20 years ago. Nowadays I spin and knit for myself and my granddaughters.

Anything else you would like to add:   I used to have some businesses. Nothing big, I guess I was one of those middle-class housewives playing at self-sufficiency. I had Ma Healion’s Euphorium which supplied 104 supermarkets throughout NZ with herbs, spices, fruit leathers and herbal drinks.   Started a couple of restaurants, one in Wellington and one in Jinan, China which was a great mistake. I called it the Kiwi Corner and we served a Western menu, but it bombed.

The reason why we went up to Auckland was because of the scow, the Te Aroha, which my husband bought the week he met me. We ran it for eight years.  I also studied fresco painting when I lived in Italy which was wonderfully gratifying.  So, I did some of that for money when living in France. And oh yes, I was also a DJ in Sapporo just as the Japanese young went crazy over Soul music. That was my one moment of fame when young people travelled from nearby towns on Saturday nights to dance at my club and I was billed as Nu Jirando no subarashi Mimi-san!

See: Spinning yarns

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