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Elizabeth Preston with her new children's book, Nana Bet's Big Trip. Photo: GORDON PREECE

Ngatea nonagenarian writes children’s tale

An accidental fall down a flight of stairs led Elizabeth Preston to write Nana Bet’s Big Trip.
The 91-year-old great-grandmother from Ngātea told The Profile her children’s book was about how her trip to Wellington to meet her sixth great-granddaughter Georgina in February was cut short.
“My son [Peter] who lives in Nelson, who’s the grandfather of the great grandchild, they rent this house when they go to Wellington to see their family and they said to me when you come upstairs you use your [walking] stick,” she said.
Elizabeth, who is a retired primary school teacher, said after a visit to a bird park she needed to use the stairs but thought she would be ok holding onto the rail.
“I got up as far as the landing, went to reach the balustrade and I think it might’ve run out instead of going round the landing then I tumbled backwards down the stairs, bump bump, bump, to the bottom” she said.
“I was conscious, I remember the fall.”
Elizabeth said she was then rushed to Wellington Hospital where she discovered she had broken two ribs.
“That didn’t worry me,” she said.
“Luckily as one of my sons said to me there’s a lot of people who would survive it like young people but not little old ladies in their 90s.”
Elizabeth said she remained in Wellington Hospital for two days before she was transported by a Life Flight plane to Thames hospital where she stayed for ten days to recover.
It was here she put her experience into words.
“I had no intentions when I left home that I would be writing a book about it but because of how things turned out, I didn’t get very long in Wellington,” she said.
“I started [writing] and it had vehicles, mobility scooters, airplanes, ambulances, so I thought that would keep children interested.
“It didn’t take me very long to write but it was about 1000 words so a granddaughter, [Adele], shortened it so it’s useful for a six year-old to read.”
Elizabeth said other family members helped her process the book and she was “very proud” of them.
“I asked my daughter-in-law [Sue Preston] if she would do the illustrations for me, she’s a very good artist, and then one day she said I think we’ll do scribble pictures,” she said.
“My grandson [David Preston] who trained as a graphic designer also designed the book, so it’s been a family effort.”
Elizabeth said she had sold around 50 books around Ngātea to mostly family and friends for $25 and planned to sell “as many as she could”.
“I’ve got one little great granddaughter [Chloe] who is six and her mother has to sit down everyday and read it to her,” she said.
“Some have bought three or four books to give to their families.”
The book concludes with special thanks to Thames and Wellington Hospital staff, St John, Life Flight and Wellington Free Ambulance.
“I’m just an ordinary great-grandmother who’s had a bit of adventure and enjoyed writing a book about it,” Elizabeth said.
DETAILS: For book purchases contact Elizabeth, Ph 07 867 7578.