Friday, May 27, 2011


The local ad rag splashed a story across its front page this week which had been discussed, but not analysed on radio the previous week. A mother was apalled that her school age daughter had been able to have an abortion without her (the mother's ) knowledge. It was all very emotive with photographs of a madonna like teenage mother cuddling her toddler, a foetus and headlines about the PARENT'S RIGHT TO KNOW'.
In an ideal world I would agree. But in an ideal world daughters under sixteen would not get pregnant. Here are some facts about the real as oppsed the the ideal world.
I taught High School a way back in the days when teachers were forbidden, on pain of dismissal, to mention that three letter word to their pupils. Imagine my surprise when I was in the maternity ward, and in the next bed was a fourteen year old girl I had taught in Form 4 English a few weeks before. She had a nice baby boy. No visitors came to see her. And I am ashamed to say I just did not know how to respond when she remarked to me, in all innocence, "I thought if you did it with your brother you wouldn't have a baby." and she went, with the baby, back to the home where he brother, father of her child was still living.

Teachers were forbidden to mention SEX in classrooms but there was no such prohibition on staffroom talk and over the years I heard some horrific stories. Mainly they involved young girls in the power of their brothers, their fathers, their uncles, their solo mothers' boyfriends. They involved girls being kicked to induce abortion, mothers who ignored what their husbands and/or sons were doing to their daughters for the sake of peace. Imagine a girl from a home like that being told, 'but of course we must tell your mother before you have the abortion.'

New Zealand is not a nice society, some awful things go on and are concealed. My experiences are from fifty years back, now at least children have access to knowledge and school counsellors, not enough and not yet highly trained enough can help children in trouble. If the journalist who wrote the 'Parent's Right to Know' article had done a proper job of investigative journalism perhaps the headline could have been, 'Why did this girl have to keep abortion secret from her mother?'

Some enlightened schools have units where teen age mothers can finish their schooling as well as learn to care for their babies. I applaud them.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I am currently between cars, so when Dunedin Hospital informed me I had an appointment for a bone density scan on May 19 I booked a bus to collect me from home, take me to Dunedin Hospital and deliver me home again, cost $75.00.
"The bus will pick you up between 8.00 and 8.30," the booking clerk at La Gonda tearooms told me.
By 8.35 I was worried No bus had arrived and Kaik Road was bare for its 3.29k length. I rang La Gonda.
"He's very busy this morning, but he'll be there," assured a laconic Otago accent. At 9.15 when I rang again a slightly more cultured voice took over. She could find no record of my booking, and Bruce the bus driver was long gone.I quoted the number on my receipt for $75.00. There was a hurried rustling of paper and some sotto voce discussion. The ubiquitous THEY had not entered my booking on Bruce's pick up list, and La Gonda could not offer any solution to my problem except to assure me that my $75.00 would be refunded.
My neighbour who owns a 4 wheel drive automatic offered me the use of it.By the time I reached Oamaru I was simmering. So I stopped and called into La Gonda. A plump female of uncertain age, scarlet highlights covering thinning black hair, like a bald man's 'combover' accosted me with a welcoming smile that ended a milimetre beyond her lips.
"I have a hospital appointment at one o'clock in Dunedin. The bus I booked failed to pick me up. I want to know what you are going to do about it."
Her expression reminded me of the way Sergeant Anastatakis looked when he saw me coming into his Kissamos cop shop, a 'where can I hide' look. But a large, youngish (at my age anyone under sixty is young} moustache rescued her. He held up his phone,
"I was just trying to ring you," he told me. Yes the booking office had made a mistake and had not told Bruce I needed to be picked up. The $75.00 would be refunded. The moustache had rung Merv Aitcheson who would pick me up, deliver me to Dunedin Hospital and bring me home again. Cost $122.00.
"I don't want a refund," I told him, in the voice that used to make form 4B at Rotorua High tremble. "I need to be at Dunedin Hospital at 1 o'clock. La Gonda made the mistake, La Gonda should fix it."
And La Gonda did. At 11.o'clock Merv picked me up in his brand new Toyota 8 seater whose high wheel base and wrap around windows gave a wonderful view of the Otago scenery. He delivered me to Dunedin Hospital in plenty of time. The hospital has a system similar to the Travellers' Aide desks in American airports. I was escorted to the bone density department by a pleasant woman almost my age. And the lady doing my bone scan had done a lot of hiking in Crete. While I was positioned on the table, in a pose reminiscent of birthing, we chatted about Xania, Sfakia and Loutro, and we parted with hugs. Merv was waiting and we drove back to Oamaru. On the way we chatted about the difference between people who get no joy from their jobs and those who are committed to doing the best job they can. The former are not just in low paid drudge jobs. Merv had personal experience of company directors who got no pleasure from their work, only from the power that went with the jobs, like being able to click their fingers at waiters. Yet that delightful lady who helped me find my way around Dunedin Hospital was probably an unpaid volunteer.

I know Merv from previous excursions with the Women's Institute. He and his partner run Oamaru Tours Ltd and they have an encyclopedic knowledge of interesting places all over Otago. I will probably join one of his tours to Stewart Island later this year. Back in Oamaru he dropped me beside my neighbour's car in the carpark where it had been all day at a cost of $2.00; so Oamaru does give something back from those obscene rates it charges - cheap parking. And Sally at New World smiled as she packed my groceries, she had probably been on her feet all day, but she really gave the impression she was enjoying her job.