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Real Life

Interview: Former Weekly Columnist Valerie Davies

Known as ‘the woman who brought us all up’, our former Weekly columnist has found a new way to share her invaluable insights.

By Aroha Awarau
From 1973 to 1985, former Weekly writer Valerie Davies wrote a groundbreaking column in the magazine about solo parenting.
A solo mother herself, Valerie moved to New Zealand with her two children in 1970 from Hong Kong with a suitcase full of cutlery, hopes and dreams.
After 12 years at the Weekly Valerie went on to become a life coach, counsellor and author before starting her blog.
She was a true trailblazer, who championed solo parents before the Domestic Purpose Benefit, during a time when they had no voice and were often harshly criticised by the community. Her work was so respected that former MP Judith Tizard once described her as "the woman who brought us all up".
Fast forward to today, the 75-year-old is still captivating readers with her insights – but within a whole new medium.
The grandmother of four writes a popular online blog with hundreds of followers from around the world who are entertained and moved by Valerie's entries. Even many of her old Weekly readers are following her and continue to be inspired by her world view.
"It feels like this is my second career," Valerie says at her seaside home in Leigh, a small settlement located one hour's drive north of Auckland.
"The blog is about personal anecdotes, philosophy, gardening, history, flowers. It's about everything that I love in my life. This is a new medium for me to write about my insights and I find that very satisfying."
The UK-born writer was a captain in the British army and living in Hong Kong when her first marriage ended. With two children to raise on her own, Valerie took up a career in journalism, becoming the women's editor at the South China Morning Post. She moved to New Zealand because of its climate and lifestyle in 1970, with her two children Victoria and James, who were aged five and six.
"I knew no-one, with no money, no job, and no home and had to start from scratch in a new country. We arrived with three suitcases in which I'd packed sheets and cutlery to start a new home."
Once she had settled in, Valerie forged a successful writing career. She found work at the now defunct Auckland Star, where she met and fell in love with fellow journalist Pat Booth, one of the country's most respected investigative reporters. His eight-year crusade resulted in Arthur Allan Thomas, an innocent man wrongly jailed for double murder, receiving a full royal pardon and he also helped reveal an international drug ring during the notorious Mr Asia investigations.
Valerie says that at the time a romance in the newsroom was frowned upon, and she transferred to the Weekly in 1973 as a writer.
One day, former Weekly editor Jean Wishart gave Valerie a letter from a concerned reader, which was the start of Valerie's column.
"Jean had received a heartwrenching letter from a solo mother. She flicked me the letter and said 'You're a solo mum – you may be able to help'," she explains.
"I started to investigate and realised I needed to write an article about this. When it was published we received lots of letters from other solo parents, saying they had finally been given a voice."
Valerie with Pat, Victoria and James in 1975, just months before Arthur Allan Thomas' trial and acquittal.
She began writing the popular weekly solo parenting column in 1973 and when she married Pat in 1975, she changed it to focus on families.
She left the Weekly in 1985, and has since written books, as well as trained to be a life coach and counsellor.
Her daughter, Victoria Carter, encouraged her mother to start writing an online blog two years ago as an opportunity to connect to a whole new audience. She now has more than 850 followers.
"I love that the feedback from your audience is immediate and you can interact with each other," says Valerie. "In the blogging world people don't criticise. If they don't like what they're reading, they'll just go and read someone else."
The blog focuses on Valerie's life, which has been full of adventure. As a child she lived through the British Blitz, and, as an adult, once awoke to find a man with a stocking over his head in her bedroom during her husband's fight to free Arthur Allan Thomas. There was also the time she found the wheels of her car had been tampered with to cause an accident during the Mr Asia drug ring investigation.
But her most poignant experience was when Valerie was 10 years old. Her father was in the British army and straight after World War II the family were stationed in Bergen-Belsen, one of the worst concentration camps in Germany.
"That experience gave me depth and perspective. Those memories are a part of me."
The 75-year-old is still captivating readers with her insights.
Today, Valerie lives in an exquisite cottage in Leigh and spends her time tending to her garden, spending time with her four grandchildren and being the main caregiver to her 85-year-old husband. But she says the true highlight of her day is writing her blog.
"The message I try to portray is that life is good and to be kind to each other," she explains. "It's given me a constant buzz. Writing makes me happy. I can't imagine my life now without having a blog."

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