An adventurous life

Doing it with Doris

by Kate Turkington

(Penguin)

In this memoir, well-known broadcaster, travel writer and journalist Kate Turkington relates not only the lasting influence on her life of her mother, the eponymous Doris, but the many journeys, adventures and encounters inspired by her mother’s philosophy. The main tenets of this were “if you want something to happen, then make it happen”, “it’s up to you” and “have a go”. Both Kate and her sister Rita took these words to heart, as the present book amply testifies.

While Kate herself has travelled widely and vividly recounts some of these journeys, she also tells the stories of several of her companions and friends. A particularly fascinating section is devoted to Rita’s letters about her life on the “great bird-shaped [island] that is Papua New Guinea”.


Here Rita comes across members of various tribes and differing customs. In some areas, Kate recounts: “faces and bodies were marked with tribal tattoos in elaborate patterns; in other areas, scars and weals were woven into significant designs all over the body. Noses were decorated with flat discs of bone, or pierced with large, horizontal bones, and ears were stretched and elongated.”

Kate’s own journeys are often no less exotic and her descriptions are lively and eloquent. Here she wonderfully captures the ceaseless movement of Katmandu: “The street life is chaotic and fascinating. Sacred cows with garlands round their necks have right of way and wander through the rain-filled potholes, sublimely (for, after all, they are sacred cows) oblivious of the fumes of bus exhaust, or the noise of pounding generators, accelerating Kawasakis and honking trucks.”

As she remarks in a chapter entitled The Wonder of It …, Kate has never lost her sense of wonder and this she conveys with great zest.

Entertaining and full of vitality, Doing It With Doris offers many colourful accounts of unfamiliar places and is often moving in its descriptions of emotional and spiritual experiences.

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