Saturday, December 22, 2012


On the thirteenth day of Xmas
my love sold on Trade Me

12 Drummers Drumming
      kids who had found drum kits under the tree very early Christmas morning left there by Santas who should have had more sense..

22 Pipers Piping
       most fom Otago's Scottish Pipe Bands, some from an Irish band and a couple from    Waitaki BoysHigh School.

30 Lords a leaping into Oamaru Hartbour to escape the drummers and pipers.

36 ladies dancing; Eighteen practising River Dance, Fourteen doing a Highland Fling above crossed swords and four poi dancing and doing Hornpipes at the same time.

40 maids a milking; cows, goats, llamas and sheep; farmers' daughter working furiously because their mothers are dancing, their fathers leaping and the Fonterra tanker is due any moment.

35 swans a swimming; black swans, naturally this being the Antipodes.

42 geese a laying, not one being the goose that laid the golden egg, it having been culled centuries ago, but if those ladies ever stop dancing, or their daughter finish milking, goose eggs make great pavlova!

40  G-O-O-O-LD RINGS The Olympics are three years away.

36 calling birds making more noise than drummers and pipers combined.

30 french hens, laying les oufs pour les omelettes for the lords to eat when they stop leaping.

22 turtle doves cooing like mad and doing unspeakable things under their perches.

No partridges, sorry my love ate them all and spewed up over the pear trees.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


My personal income us quite a long way below that imaginary line which is supposed to divide supporters of Key, English & co from the poor. I live in a fishing crib which was a workman's hut when the Waitaki Hydro scheme was being built. My car is 20 years old, But I don't feel poor. I have kind neighbours and we help each other out according to our abilities. It is a very pleasant life..

This morning I received a little video from Rose Ward, one of my Loutro friends. I have pasted it on to my Facebook wall for others to share because I think it says a lot about human values.

We have all read and heard about the people who live on rubbish heaps and make a living from scavenging, well this community (I think it is Brazillian but I could be wrong) still scavenge, but they have turned their piece of the rubbish dump into a suburb, with trees and little shanty houses AND

they have made instruments out of rubbish so their children can learn music AND

the children's orchestra is playing at symphony concerts!

They call themselves The Landfilharmonic.

And in my opinion they are having a richer life than the celebrity billionnairs on their umpteenth marriage who have to go into detox regularly.

Just shows we don't need a high income to have a rich life.

Sunday, December 9, 2012


I always thought of Shakespeare's Tempest as a comedy but Thomas Ade's grand opera made me think again, Ade's is a very English composer and conductor and his music for The Tempest was exactly that, tempestuous, full of discords and clashes. The libretto, was adapted from the Shakespeare play by Meredith Oakes, but I am a phillistine, English libretto in a grand opera grates on my ear.

But the singing was magnificent, especially Audrey Lunar as Ariel who had to screech incredibly high notes yet kept in tune while flitting about above the stage, she never really comes down to earth.. Ariel and Caliban were undoubtedly creatures of a non human world, yet they showed their humanity brilliantly, especially Caliban.

The set of Prospero's Island was a recreation of Las Scala Opera House in the nineteenth century. The chorus was unidentified. In the play they are spirits of air and water. In the opera they could have been the audience of La Scala, in opulent costume, strolling about in a dreamlike trance.

The costumes were opulent. Prospero's tattooes, newly applied for every performance were a work of art in themselves.

We left the Cinema after three hours thirty minutes, feeling rather stunned, with a lot to think about' where modern music is going ' the brilliant stage effects possible with to-days technology; and what was Shakespeare really getting at in this play?

Saturday, December 8, 2012


What a lovely idea, a summer wedding in the open air at Wilton's Bush. Trouble is, nobody told the weatherman and he sent a cold southerly. But it was a nice wedding, nevertheless. The overriding theme was Simplicity, a do it ourselves affair with just the two families and very close friends.

The bride looked beautiful in the wedding dress she had found on Trade Me, a simple Grecian style chiffon with gold shoulder brooches; cost $10.00 including the shoes! Her bouquet was a sheath of day lillies out of the groom's sister in law's garden. The groom's eldest brother took the photographs.

Instead of an organ and church aisle the bride and her father walked to the wedding site to the music of a string qhartet, four retired people who play at weddings for pleasure.  Instead of Lohengrin they
played 'I can't help falling in love with you' because bride and groom are both Elvis fans. Lunch time joggers passing by smiled and waved.But it was so cold both bridesmaid and flower girl, aged eight, were shivering. Somebody crept forward and wrapped young Jessica in their own windbreaker.

Afterwards we all headed to the Petone Working Men's Club, ate sandwiches, scones and chocolate wedding cake.

Remember the story of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas?' Well this wedding reminded me of that, all the expensive trimmings were stripped away and we were left with what a wedding day should have; happiness, love and memories, in spite of the weather.

Monday, November 5, 2012


Sunday was one of Otago's rare warm days. but at 2/00pm I drove into town and shut myself up in the cinema with about twenty other people. The reason? At 2.45 Movie World would be screening the first opera of the new season. We very nearly missed out, attendance had been poor but letters to the management, and persuading some newcomers that Grand Opera was worth watching saved Oamaru from becoming a total cultural desert.

Grand Opera is no longer a place where fat sopranos and ageing tenors screech eternal devotion.  The Metropolitan Operas are a delight to listen to and to watch, with singers who look and act their parts.
L'Elisir D'Amore by Donizetti is a comedy in Bel Canto style, i.e. lots of , arias, duets, choruses. brilliant stage sets and costumes abd a host of sly visual puns which help carry the cimedy.

At Movie World 3 in Oamaru we saw and heard all this on their big screen, which meant we got a better view than the live audiences at the Met. As well as that we were taken back stage to see the scebe shifters at work. We listened to the chef who produces the meals eaten onstage. They must not ibterfere with the singer's vocal chords. And the costume designers who do incredible research into the times in whuch the operas are set. When soprano Anna Trebchenko dons her top hat she is asserting her authority as a land owner, as early nineteenth century women did. 

The whole thing was brilliant to listen to and a visual treat as well.

An aquaintance made a jibe about me 'wasting money' and thought the singers 'should get a real job.' She did not specify what 'real' jobs were, loading Supermarket shelves perhaps, or writing John Key's speeches? Well the Theatre in general and especially Grand Opera keeps thousands employed in highly skilled work. There are the orchestras, usually sixty to one hundred people; the stage hands  unseen people who creep around huge stages in sneakers;shifting huge sets built by skilled carpebters; there are embroiderers; costume makers, animal trainers. The logistics involved in producing and staging an opera season could make the army blanch, There are thousands of people involved in real and skilled jobs that do not entail killing, rape or torture, well only if it's in the story.

I think that is better than sending half trained boys to fight in Afghanistan..


Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Don't get me wrong, I love my sons. I also love my daughters in law, even the exes whom I still regard with friendship. They have a place in the family as mothers of my grand shildren.

Grandchildren I realise are from a generation so remote from mine that Icannot beging to understand them. I follow their lives with interest, affection for the children they were,  but at times I look at what they do with horror.

What brought this on? One of my grand daughters posted on Facebook a comment about her relationship with her mother. I would dearly like to tell the grand daughter off in no uncertain terms, but that would involve revealing matters that I consider private on nobody's elses' business.

As I said, my sons's wives are a splendid group of young women. I love them all.

and now for something completely different

Nearly seventy years aso, as the young wife of a United States Marine, I was bemused by the peculiar practise of 'Trick or Treat' where children, mainly middle and blue collar class, were allowed to troop unsupervised around neighbouroods, knocking on doors, begging for or rather demanding candy.

Responsible maagazines and journals condemned the practice as dangerous because children were often unsupervised. It was not really part of the then American Culture. I agreed with them. Also the basic premise of 'Trick or Treat' was the children demanded candy and if they did not get it they played some really nasty tricks, pissing on front doors, defecating in letter boxes were two of them.

The choice element seems to have gone now. In the forties a householder would chose a trick or a treat and then reward the children with candy, the treat might be a song or the trick some kind of riddle. Nowadays the children seem to perform nothing, just demand a treat OR ELSE.

All Hallows' Eve has ancient, pre Christian roots stemming from the thought that  souls of dead people returned to earth for that one night. It amuses me that the less religious we become the more we celebrate pagan superstitions. Of course, like Christmas and Easter Halloween has become a bonanza for business.

So if kids wantr to dress up in fancy costumes from the Warehouse and play spooks O.K. but why let gangs of children roam about demanding treats that are going to rot their teeth ? Parents need to do some thinking.  

Monday, October 29, 2012


Once a year the Glenavy Womenb's Institute has a nmystery bus tour. This year's included a curling session in the indoor rink near Naseby.  Think lawn bowls on ice. the very comfortable lounge upstairs,  we watched a short instructional video which explained the rules of Curling.Then we went downstairs for  practice goes before dividing into teams and playing a full match.

Warm scarves, caps and gloves were available at the entrance to the curling rinks. As we entered the cold hit us. We donned felted overshoes which were supposed to stop us sliding on the ice. I was careful about stgepping on to the rink, but the ice surface was not as slippery as I expected.

The curling stone was heavier than a ten pin bowling bal, the starting point several steps behind the coloured circles painted on the ice. A player sets one foot in the block and bends one knee, scrapes the stone along the ice to gain momentum to send it whizzing down the rink. Mine did not even pass the start line, but I experienced the feeling of standing on ice and pushing the stone. That was enough for me. I went back to comparative warmth upstairs and watched through the balcony windows as the others played a full match, sending the stones whizzing, following along with brooms ready to sweep a path across the ice.

After an hour they came upstairs for lunch, their cheeks glowing, eyes sparkling, full of enthusiastim.

Around the walls of the lounge were little banners from dozens of countries where curling is an organised sport. I imagine the centre will become as popular as the adjacent ski fields, especially when their luge is completed. I could also imagine families finding the centre useful for a summer break, they could enjoy a day in the cold. 

Monday, October 15, 2012


You paid $50.00 for a book? my neighbout exclaimed.

Yes I did. It was for a real book, hard covered with buckram binding,beautiful marbleised end papers,set in 12 point minion on quality paper, its jacket a work of art in itself and it is the latest Terry Pratchett.  'Dodger' is supposed to be a Young Adult novel. but like all his books has a level that shpild appeal to any intelligent oldie.

Dodger is set in Dickensian London, or rather Dickens and London are in Dodger who is a Tosher. Mudlarks are children who scavenged between tides on the river Thames. Toshers did the same in the sewers. The story is set before private houses linked their w.c.s to the sewers. The Dodger himself is of course the artful character of Olivcer Twist. Fagin is a kindly Jewish watch and jewellery maker. Sweeney Todd is a shell shocked veteran from Waterloo and the Peninsular. Robert Peel and his copperknob cops play a part and the social extremes of the Victorian age are brilliantly shown.

Dodger rescues a young woman who is being beaten by two thugs during a thunder storm. She has escaped from her brutal husband, and the adults who help her are regretful, but the law says they must hand her back to her 'owner' the husband. Dodger of course fixes things, and the reader learns a great deal of social and political history. It is dedicated to Henry Mayhew the founding editor of Punch.

Dodger by Terry Pratchett
978  0 385  61927  1
published in Great Britain 2012

My copy is going to son Eric, the other Pratchett fan in my family.

WHAT A LIFE  is the second book of REX THOMPSON. His first, FLYING HIGH, was mainly about leaving his Ashurst farm and learning to fly in WW2. What a Life is mainly about growing up in the shadow od the Tararua ranges, learning to shoot and hunt, in those ranges. It is a wonderfully detailed reminiscence of tramping the high ridges as a teenager along with his brothers, told clearly but without pretensions to 'literary style' and it is a delightful read.

What a Life by Rex Thompson
978 1 877449 4

This will go to at least one of my teen age grandsons

Stuart Nunn lives in Gloucestershire in a lovely English village called Chipping Sodbury (don't you dare laugh.) Last April Stuart, as well as preparing athlestes for the Olympics, wrote a poem a day and published them in APRIL, a chap book of poems which cover glimpses of his magical country side. like the snakeshead fritilleries pictured on his cover, reminiscenses, like following the Queen's Commonwealth tour in 1954.

April a month's poems by Stuart Nunn
printed and typeset by BLURB

And this one is not going to anybody. It's mine and I shall keep it.

And finally a piece of news that makes a poet feel good.

In 2009 Sviatko Associates published my fourth set of poems 'Over and Out From Down Under,'
I was heading for Crete and Ireland an wanted something I could give away. Most of the first printing was given to people in Crete, I even left one for Sergeant Anastakakis, and poets I met in Belfast, Dublin and Liverpool. I used some of them as Christmas cards too, they were cheaper than good quality cards. Then the e mails began arriving, my poem Waitaki Hogmannay had been read at gatherings in England, Crete, France, Australia, several United States, as well as N.Z. of course. The local U3A read it at one of their meetingsd. And Mirabile dictu! some of their members wanted to buy copies.

Now modern technology is wonderful. The printer, Bocarda Print Ltd in Petone keeps everything they print stored somewhere in cyberspace and within a week a box of 'Over & Out etc." arrived in my post box at the mouth of the Waitaki river.

These are available at $5.00 from me, just send an e mail to

I hope my next slim volume will be out in time for Christmas.

Over and Out Froim Down Under
by Waiata Dawn Davies
Published 2009 ny SVIATKO ASSOCIATES
918 0 473 15851 4

Sunday, October 14, 2012


   My friend Marlin told me her story about becoming a solo mother when she was young, when the Phillipines was a staging post for soldiers going to the Vietnam war. It happens in every war doesn't it.

. She wishes she could trace the son she had then to tell him it was not her wish to give him away, and she is proud of his achievements.  

Marlin is one of those wonderfully nurturing women who takes care of everybody who comes into her orbit. She has a beautiful garden and she picks me up after Yoga every Friday, feeds me lunch and we then play Scrabble before I head back to my crib. She is a formidable Scrabble player.

If Marlin's son reads this he can send me an e mail and I shall put him in touch with her.          
    My name is Marlin and I come from the Philippines. I have lived in New Zealand for nearly 23 years. I married a Kiwi but have got no children since I married late.

Way back in 1972, when I was 25 years old I became an unwed mother. My mother, afraid anyone will know, decided to hide me in a Catholic convent in Manilla. All my older sisters did not want to help for reasons of their own. Since I couldn’t turn to anyone else to help me, I was helpless.

I had a son whom I named Jerome Gonzales. I signed adoption papers that said I have no rights to the child nor to contact him in the future which was in the Philippine laws.

I have started a search for my son in 1997, when a Kiwi co-employee encouraged me to seek help as she had a child too and her search was successful.

Unfortunately the New Zealand Adoption Authorities informed me they couldn’t help me as they have no connection with the U.S. authorities, where my son is.

When I visited the Phillipines for the first time, I visited the place where I had my son and gathered a few details about him from the Mother Superior. She didn’t of course give me all the information for obvious reasons. The adoptive parents must have instructed them they didn’t wish me to make contact some day.

The following are the pertinent details about my son:

1.    His first name is Ian.

2.    He is living with his adoptive parents in the East Coast.

3.    His birth date is November 10, 1972.

4.    He is very musical.

5.    He had graduated in college and working with an international company.

6.    As I can remember he had very chinky eyes, like a Chinese person.

7.    His adoptive parents worked with the Philoppine U.S. Embassy in Manilla at that time.

8.    Also they adopted again, a baby girl about a year or two after my son’s adoption.

9.    The adoptive parents are apparently very proud of my son who is a very intelligent boy.

P.S. I tried to engage the help of an agency in the U.S, but since they cannot extract an answer from the sisters in Manilla, the agency returned my money.





Sunday, September 23, 2012

Empirical teaching on a stormy day

Last Monday was one of those days which bustle up from Antarctica and inflict their weather on us without consultation.

Sunday had been balmy and springlike, but on Monday morning there was an e mail from Glenavy School, the weather forecast was for gales and storms, don't bother coming in. So I snuggled down by my fire and listened to the southerly gale hooting through with thunder, lightning, rain, hail sleet and anything else it could find to throw at us.

When I reported to Glenavy school on Tuesday the children were bubbling with excitement about the storm. There were books and stories available on the shelf but the high excitement was because their teachers had taken them out into the storm!

They showed me photographs of them, all wrapped up in wet weather gear, and scarves and jerseys and underneath the photographs were the children's impressions of being out in a storm; exciting stuff.

Tangimoana was not at school that day so she drew this picture of what she saw from her bedroom window.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I had my characters all worked out.

Ivor had suggested I make the main male character a helicopter pilot running a deer recovery operwation in the High Country.

My main female character would be a United States Army Colonel.

But about five thousand words in to my first draft a neighbout pointed out that I had the setting wrong. There are no feral deer in the mountains of our east coast. I would have to set it in Fiordland.

I did a bit of fiddling and then as I had them telling each other their back story they really switched things around.

HE says he was a sergeant in the Ready Reaction Force, N.Z. Army. o.k. I said, but your name, Kyle Blaze is American.

You got it wrong, he told me. My mother is from California, she met my Dad when he was backpacking through the States on his gap year. Three years later he went back and they got married. He actally grew up in Temuka.

So choose yourself a Kiwi sounding name. I told him.

Then the Colonel butted in like the bossy female she is. You can call me Blaze and the sergeant can be Glover, we'll just switch. And while you're about it can't you make me a bit younger or Kyle a bit older? Ten years is a hell of an age gap.

I'm writing a thriller, not a romance I told them.

Then I want to hunt deer in his helicopter she said.

No way. He said.

I've got my pilot's license and I can use a rifle. After all, I am a U.S. Army Colonel.
They were still arguing when the rain started.

Sunday, September 2, 2012


My sister Patricia, aged 91 years, died last week.She had s good life. drove trucks for the Army in WW2, married Stan and raised four fine children, passing on the gene for red hair which she inherited from my father.

I searched on line for the cheapest air fare to Wellington and found Jetstar with only carry on luggage. The flight up was without incident, the small plane comfortable and so I booked my return flight with them.

Pat's funeral was exactly the way she would have liked, reverend but not religious. We sang her favourite songs and her grandchildren carried her casket out to 'We'll meet again,' Her choice I think. Her children and my childrem met with the easy friendship of cousins.

Thursday I went shopping with senior daughter in law and in the evening the Davies had a family dinner at the Petone Working Men's club. On Friday eldest son, Frank, drove me to Alicetown from where we caught the airport bus,free to pensioners, thanks to our gold cards. I reported to Jeststar.

"That flight's been cancelled. You can rebook on the same flight to morrow, or we can refund your fair. There is an Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch at 5 o'clock."

We joined the Air New Zealand line until a staff member came down and told us the 5p.m. flight was full. So we went back home. Frank booked me on to an Air New Zealand flight for Saturday morning while I tried to contact daughter in law Audrey who was to meet my plane and hand over my car so I could drive back to the Kaik. In my in-box was a note from Jetstar saying my flight had been cancelled. It had been sent at 11.30 a.m. when I was already in the airport. at their counter. I sent a reply pointing this out.

MEANWHILE Frank in his office was shouting,


He explained later, if one shouts or swears it trips the automated tape and the caller goes straight to a humen operator. I was booked on the 10.30 Air New Zealand flight to Christchurch.

I rang Son Terry in Christchurch. He and wife, Audrey and son Carlwyn were booked to fly to Auckland by Jetstar on Friday evening, but by a lucky coincidence their flight had been cancelled and they were flying out on Saturday evening, so Terry would pick me up in Christchurch.

Son Eric picked me up from Frank's and drove me to Wellington Airport. We had a lovely scenic flight down and I headed home to my crib at the Kaik. Only to find a message from Carlwyn, they were stranded in Auckland. Their Jetstar flight had been cancelled.
My main social activity this week end has been hearing the experiences of other people who have had similar experiences with Jetstar.

To their credit they offered me a $100.00 travel voucher. but from now on I shall fly with Air New Zealand.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


I lived the first ten twelve years of my life in small communities, like Levin and Feilding. Then in 1937 we moved to a real metyropolis; Hastings in Hawkes Bay. Would you believe there were twelve thousand people living there; two primary schools and a high school, plus a separate school for Cath0olic kids.

And there so many amenities, like footpaths for pedestrians, a milk treatment station where farm milk was pasterurised and bottled before delivery to residents' houses, and a gas works where coal was burned and gas extracted for reticulation through the area, a camping ground, another park with a aviary, and another with a band rotunda, also the wonderful Municipal Theatre, which was awarded a prize when it did not fall down in the catostrophic earthquake on Fenruary 3, 1931. In another part of this building was the Assembly rooms, where a good rpoportion of Hastings's 12,000 people could attend functions like the Masonic Ball and the Hunt Club Ball.

And every week my Dad set our rubbish bin outside our gate from where it was emptied into the borough rubbnish truck and taken to the dump.And all these amenities were p[rovided out of rates as a matter of course.

As well as these amenities the population of Hastings enjoyed things like Blossom Day Parades, where the first Marching Team took part in 1938.

Hastings was a pretty good town to grow up in.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Gareth Morgan is an interesting man, he does unconventional things, and I enjoy subscribing to his newletter. Maybe he is planning to enter politics, as is everybody's right, I wish him luck.

This week his newsletter reviewed his latest book, The Great Kahungs, and his ideas about what sort of monetary system we should have.

He appears to be advocating scrapping all benefits, unemployment, widows, national superannuation, working for families etc and in their place paying a universal dividend to everybody.This universal income would be as well as whatever an individual earned from wages, salary or speculation.

It sounds great and he obviously has put a lot of thought in to it. Look up his web page if you want to read further, or better still buy his book. (I can't afford it at the moment.}

In 1922 a Canadian bicycle engineer had thoughts along the same line. The state of Alberta adopted his idea and the Social Credit Party ruled there for quite a time. The important thing about Major Douglas's Universal Dividend was that it was paid from money created by the reserve bank, and did not come into existence as an interest bearing debt. In 1933 George Forbes' government set up the Reserve Bank, but somehow the idea of paying money directly to the pwople was lost.

If saome brave parliament adopted Gareth Morgan's sceme of paying everyone a living wage it should be issued from the Reserve Bank debt free and circulated.


New Zealand nearly had a Social Credit Government in 1957 and Keith Holyoake destroyed it with two words, 'Funny Money.'A smart slogan will beat serious research any time.

The average Kiwiis too intellectually lazy to think issues out, or to research new ideas. Most of them would rather grizzle about politics while they watch football or synchronised gymnastics over a beer.

The few who do think a little say, "But printing money would increase inflation." Probably it would because a lot of lazy people would live on the universal dividend without bothering to put something into the economy, like work. But there are a lot of people like that now drawing a dole or a benefit.

When Douglas Credit ideas came to New Zealand people tried to keep it apolitical. They wanted it to be part of the country's political infrastructure, so they tried to interest all political parties. Labout was interested until it took power. National and Labour are too entrenched to be ousted by a new party, but perhaps enough people in both parties could explore Gareth Morgan's idea. and stop wittering along party lines.

Friday, August 10, 2012


I had fun writing this story around the time of the 1996 Wellington Festival. You will probably recognise the main characters. but the storyy is totally fictional.

If you like farce go to Waiata's Witterings for 'Something on the Air', and let me know what you thought of it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


In a city, not a big one, far away from the waitaki. the planners of a Polytech decided to expand. Problem was there was no land available. the city was more a series of villages. So the Polytech decided they would build on the place where students parked their cars. Up wnet the building.
"Hold on a minute." said the local residents "If you build there where will students park their cars?"
A knowledgable lady came out from a nearby big city and said,
"You must realise cars are not the way of the future. Students can catch buses. There are plenty of buses passing this site every hour."
"But," the residents objected, "You are building a school of automotiuve engineering. The students will need their cars."
For a time local residents found they could not use their own cars because students' cars blocked the driveways and garage entrances. Eventually residents won the right to have their street designated RESIDENT PARKING ONLY.
The stufents were not happy and yesterday one of my sons who lives in the Residents Parking only zone, saw a group of students tearing out the signs and parking their cars. When my son protested he was told to 'F**** off, Grandpa. You're f******* interfering with our f******* rights,' and other items of civilised discussion common amongst elightened tertiary level students.

Unfortunately for the students my son got his camera and photographed several of them pulling down the parking signs, then he rang the City Council AND the Polytec.

But the school of automotive engineering is still there, students are still parking their cars in the Resident Parking area. If cars are not the way of the future why is the Polytech teaching students about them?

Sunday, August 5, 2012


I drove up to Christchurch on Wednesday morning in time to lunch with daughter in law Audrey and get driven to Hagley Park. Margaret's memorial service waa in the 'Geo dome' an erection on the geodesic principal Buckminster Fuller first designed about 1938.

When I entered I was handed a programme and told,
"The first two rows are for speakers, the next three rows are for Governors Bay people, otherwise sit anywhere you like. I sat about eight rows back from the stage and had an excellent view of everything. I think everybody in Governors Bay must have attended, not only that the prople of Governors Bay provided afternoon tea for the more than six hundred people who attended.

The children's choir and the cathedral choristers crept and took their seats in the front rows, Louise Deans was MC and the service flowed perfectly. Tessa Duder gave the first eulogy, a biuography of Margaret's life, followed by her grandchildren sharing memories of their grandmother. Gasvin Bishop and Kate di Goldi spoke in tribute of working with her followed by a video clip of 'Down the Back of the Chair'.

The Children's Choir sang a selection of her words set to music by Phillip Norman.

Sue Collyer and Louise Easter, in rainbow wigs, told anesdotes about being librarians working with Margaret Mahey. The Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage sent a representativce to speak for the Government. We watched another clip of Margaret reading 'Ghosts' and two choristers from Cathedral Grammar sang 'Pie Jesu' perfectly as her granddaughters carried her ashes out of the dome.

The recessional was 'Dance all around the world,' by Blerta with words by Margaret Mahey.

That was how Christchurch farewelled her, but it was not the only farewell. Auckland held a memorial service, probably other places did too. And in Libraries and schools all over the country Margaret Mahey stories were read in memory.

She deserved it. She worked incredibly hard at writing and encouraging children to love books, and she won the respect of everybody whose lives she touched.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Yes. the opening ceremolny of the Olympics was brilliant. So it should be when so much money was spent on it, but I spent Sunday afternoon at a much smaller, and more enjoyable celebrationm, viz, the annual Eisteddfod of the Waimate Federation of Women's Institutes, and it did not cost the Government (taxpayer) one cent.

At 12.30 I climbed the outside staircase of the Regent Hall in Waimate, pulled open the glass door and joined a throng of middle aged women who all seemed to be busy taking off their clothes! Others were carrying bits of scenery and stage props up the stairs. I found Glenavy's corner where I was greeted by a little white duck and an old grey mare. Bridal gowns and guardsmen's dress uniforms hung from window rails,

At one o'clock exactly everybody stopped talking, Performers for the first items lined up,the eisteddfod began, and ran like the provcerbial clockwork, because everything was superbly organised. The nine branches of the Waimate Federation had been practising their entries for months,as well as making making the costumes. These branches are not from big towns, Waimate is the biggest of several clusters of sttlements and farms. like Glenavy, Studholme or Blue Cliffs. Their populations number in the tens, hundreds ar most.

Three groups competed in the 'Musical Animal Song' section, every performance was polished, differed from the others and was fun to watch. Six of us entered for Poetry. I borrowed fishinbg gear and read Waitaki Hogmannay, but the best, in my opinion was the apronned housewife watching a T.V. chef programme, and reckoning she could do what he did, reminding us about cooking for shearers, unexpected visitors and all the things demanded of country women cooks, all recited in rhyming couplets. It was brilliant.

Choral items, besides the musical animal song were rounds and a hymn, and despite their grey hair the performers had young, tuneful voices. They were a pleasure to listen to and items ranged from Wesleyan Hymns to ABBA, most unaccompanmied, but one with ukulele and another with piano.

Eight of us sight read Jenny Joseph's 'Warning.' Each with slightly different interpretations.

The drama section was re-enacting a television commercial. Sorry I do not have a television, so the thirty second dramas nid not say much to me. but they were funny and carefully staged.

As for Music and Movement, we are all a bit beyond leaping about in Leotards, but Glenavy capitalised on that. Six women 'of a certain age' gathered on stage to 'twist and shout'. got carried away and finished with cricked backs, huffing, puffing and collapsing ijn heaps without missing a beat. The other memorable group, Waihauranga, gave a marching display, watched by 'ERII' and 'Kate and Wills'. Do cities still have marching girls? That sport began in New Zealand. it was fun.

And finally the tableaus. The rules specified a wedding scene and there were strict times for setting the stage, holding the scene. and clearing it. In one the bride was about to throw the bouquet, another the bride had knocked the three tiered cake over. Each tableau told a little stpory in absolute stillness.

At the end of the afternoon the performers gathered on stage for masased singing.

And that, folks was a winter afternoon in Waimate. More fun than watching sport on T.V.

Friday, July 27, 2012


One of the mosr interesting books I have ever read was written more than two thousand years ago, and no, it is not the Bible. In translation it is titled 'The Art of War' and was written by a Cbinese strategist It is still used as a text book in military colleges to-day and I suspect modern politicians use its principles to win their campaigns.

For instance 'Distract your enemy from your real objective.'

In WWII the allies went to a lot of trouble to persuade the Germans that they would invade France at Calais, Cherbourg, anywhere but Normandy.

The current government is doing a lot of things which ordinary people would not sanction. What are they bickering about? Gay marriage, a non issue for any government. Civil union has been legal here for years. If a same sex couple wants a nuptial mass that should be between them and their church, surely. Marriage celebrants conduct civil union ceremonies, there are plenty of secular venues. Whether a same sex couple seal their union in a church or their own back garden is none of the Government's business.

But it makes a fine smoke screen when the government is selling off our electricity companies, and offering to let us buy some of them. Really? but they are ours in the first place. The powers that be do not want us to look too deeply at that, so they offer taxpayers the chance to buy our own property at a price that puts it our of reach of most New Zealanders, distracting us from their theft by offering us a loyalty bonus if we keep the shares a specified length of time.

And what is the media doing? Running polls about whether gay marriage should be allowed.


Monday, July 23, 2012


I came across Margaret Mahey's name when one of my slow learning pupils picked up 'Lion in the Meadow,'read it, roared with joy and read it again and again to anyone who would listen. I met Margaret Mahey at a readinbg conference in 1975, a shy, ungainly young woman until she had to speak. She had the power to make the ordinary world magical, she could put dragons into matchboxes, make humdrum characters exotic and turn learning to read into a magical adventure. Over the years I have met her at conferences, attended her lectures, and read every story of hers I could get hold of.
And when I have been overrsees I have rather enjoyed seeing the awe in other writers' eyes when I can say,
"Margaret Mahey? Of course I have met her." She was an icon cel;ebrated in more countries than just New Zealand.

In my teaching days I regularly put her story 'The Road to School'into a student teacher's hands and said 'Read this. It will tell you what education is all about.'

In the road to school a four year old boy goes to school with his brother, 'just for the morning', as they walk to school they meet 'Little Grey Whirling Fellow' who gives them a little phial of dust. At the bridge over a stream a bog women gives them a tiny bottle of water and a man who has been changed into a tree by a witch gives them a seed.

At school when the teacher mentions 'deserts' in the geography lesson the classroom becomes a dersert, full of mystery and adventure. Later the water bottle turns the classroom into an ocean full of mermaids, pirates and pearls. Finally the seed grows into a forest of exotic birds and animals.

The teacher in the story met each inmterruption to his teaching plan with,
"Well we shall certainly learn from this."
Children love the story, but it has a deep lesson for adults about what teaching should do if it is to become education, about the magic of a child's imagination.

Ther world looks grey to me this morning, why has such a bright spirit left the world and I, ten years older, am still grinding through it?

I hope teachers are searching their book rooms and putting 'The Pirate's Mother', Down the Back of the Chair', and all those wonderful, wacky, stories she wrote back on the shelves.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I drove to Dunedin from my crib this morning. The sea views along the way are spectacular. The occasion? It was 'Meet the Fellows'The four Arts Fellows for Otago University talked about what they did and what they hoped to achieve during their term and after.
And here I apologise, I forgot to write down the name of the chairman who managed the whole show extremely well, opening with a quote from Charles Brasch about Universities helping people push the boundaries, then he let each Fellow talk with a minimum of leading questions.

The first was Robbie Ellis, Music Fellow. He is creating a piece for symphony orchestra, pipe organ and drum kit, He is a well groomed, personable young man who spoke well about letting the musicians who perform the work (in his words)'really go to town on it'. He wants to expand his audience by making his work accessible to interested people.

Then James Norcliffe, children's writing fellow, told us that living in Robert Lord' s cottage he had "gained three children's books and lost 1 1\2 stone." He is writing a story about a fantasy writer who is writing a story, His researches turned up some interesting facts about the lob lolly pine, and he likes to have the whole story in his head before he write, but he found that while walking from the Lord cottage to the University, all sorts of ideas kept occurring to him.

2012 Burns Fellow, Emma Neale, who organises Poets Corner in the O.D.T. and is a formidable poet and writer herself,is working on a sequence of related poems. She keeps her audience (readers) in mind as a way of working out what she thinks about the world.

Nick Austen describes himself as a studio based artist is looking for a way to bind his collection of ideas.He says, "Ï would like to be an artist who can make work from a dream."

The afternoon was interesting,four artists, two of them very young,describing their work with passion and intelligence.

The audience's questions were predictable, "How did an artist know when a work was finished?"Did they have difficulty letting go of ownership?"careful questions which gave Fellows a chance to expand their ideas.

Now the last question was so convoluted and , to me, REPUGNANT, I might not have it exactly right.The 'lady'asking the question reminded the Fellows that the 'Professional Classes'had made their fellowships possible, and how would they maintain their role in sustaining a functioning society?'

Professional Classes was mentioned at least four times. The inference being that only professional classes can appreciate the arts and support it.

Really? I wanted to ask her - what about that Scottish ploughman after whom the Poetry Fellowship is named; or that London stable boy who wrote The Eve of St Agnes and other poems of pristine beauty; or those four teenagers who turned music on its head? Does learning to spend one's life drilling teeth, extracting appendixes, designing things,finding loopholes in legal documents, does that qualify one to pass judgment on a poem, a symphony, a painting, a book?

She did not speak like a 'ten pound pom' but that is how her words came across.

I was brought up in the days when people believed New Zealand was the 'social laboratory of the world' building a classless functioning society.

Friday, July 20, 2012


Glenavy Womens Institute held its annual progressive dinner last Wednesday. My friend Glenn sent her husband around to pick me up so I would not have to drive in the dark, and the countryside here is dark at night.

The first course was soup and nibbles in Clenavy, a choice of tomato or real home grown vegetable soup with little garlic bread sticks and different flat breads. Then on to Hermene's for mains, choice of baked trout, spicy beef stew, different kinds of chicken with mashed ot baked potatos, salad, cauliflower, broccoli,roast parsnips and carrots, peas and delicious gravy. Then while we waited for the mains to move down and make room for dessert,Hermenes husband took us out to inspect his cow shed. If you want to read more about it look up Thorny Glen on Kindle. Talk on the evening was the new set up over near Morven where robots milk cows on demand. Some go to the milking shed three times a day, and their favourite milking time is 1-3 A.M.! talk has it that this set up has increased milk yield per cow by five per cent.

Then on to Sheilah's home for desert and real coffee. We took our pick from apple crumble, floating island, carrot cake, ice cream and other deserts too sweet to mention with a huge jug of real cream waiting on the table, Main topic of interest here was our host's coffee table, a slab of matai set on solid twisted roots.

We finished the evening with a cake auction, and again if you want to know more look up Thorny Glen on Kindle. The Glenavy Women's Institute raised $200 for nedical research from the auction.

That is one example of country fun. On Sunday 29th July there is an Eistedfodd in Waimate. watch this space.

Thank you to the thirty people who clicked on to my last short story in Waiata's Witterings. I have just posted another one called The Writers' Tale there if you are interested.

Monday, July 16, 2012


A couple of years ago I entered a competition in Writers' Magazine to write a monologue. I didn't get anywhere but I had fun doing it. The longest sentence I had ever read was in Takahe, by one Harry Johnston. His sentence of 800 words was an auctioneer's spiel.

My monologue was also an auctioneer's spiel and it told a story as the auctioneer rattled on through 1700 words. Nobody wanted it. I thought it was rather funny.

So I have posted to my other blog, and I hope somebody reads it and enjoys, or hates it, enough to post a comment. It is a bit deflating when I know there have been more than 10,000 page clicks on Peripatetic Pensioner and only 79 have posted a comment.

As for the next e book. I have made a start, SHE is a colonel in the U,S. Army (retired) HE is eight years younger than she is, also retired from the army, runs a helicopter hunting and deer recovery business in (where else?) High Country Otago. I would like to make him an ex sergeant, I have great respect for them, but if he has been a helicopter pilot he would probably carry a commission.
Comments and suggestions welcome. The suggestion of a helicopter pilot comes from my son Ivor.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


Although I appreciate Oamaru's 'Opera House' it is not an opera house. The stage is small, there is an echo from the back wall, no real opera orchestra would want to play in the tiny orchestra pit. It is a theatre, built more than a century ago, renovated at great cost and because it is here Oamaru can attract events usually only staged in cities. Such an event was the concert by California Youth Symphony and Christchurch Youth Orchestra. The youngest performer is thirteen, the eldest players eighteen.

We arrived early, because the poster in the library said '7p.m.' , but the Oamaru Mail got it wrong and advertised '7.30'. Worse,  'Oh, they're not coming here!' a volunteer at the Opera House told phone enquirers.  So we came early and stared at the uninhabited stage for forty minutes.  delicate metal chairs, music stands and a conductors' podium.

At 7.30 precisely the California Youth Symphony, one hundred and eighteen teenagers, boys in black tie suits, girls in long black skirts, walked on stage. In spite of having travelled down from Christchurch that day, after playing a concert the evening before, they must have made time to familiarise themselves with the Opera House stage because they knew exactly where they should be sitting there was no confusion. They sat like statues through introductory speeches. The young concert master, Ryan Lucas Luo gave the 'A'but instruments were already in tune.  The conductor
Leo Eylar looked little older than the players, raised his baton and Ravel's La Valse began, played with assurance and discipline. Then Leo Eylar paid tribute to the Opera House, changing the planned 'Billy the Kid suite' to the orchestral suit from 'Rosenkavalier' composed about the time the opera house was built.

During the intermission the Christchurch Youth Orchestra came on stage and practised their arpeggios in the way our National Orchestra used to. The Californians had been slender,dark haired,  mostly Asian. Christchurch Youth Orchestra was well built., fair skinned, mainly blonds and red heads. When concert master, Natalie Jones, turned her back to the audience to give the 'A' we were treated to the sight of a trim little figure in black trousers which demolished the calumny about New Zealand women having big bums. Conductor Luke di Somma raised his baton. What did we expect from a bunch of school kids who had lived through hundreds of earthquakes? We got 'From The Depths Sound The Great Sea Gongs.' Farr is not an easy composer, either to play or to listen to. His rhythms and harmonics are unconventional. But this 'bunch of schoolkids' gave us a listening experience that I think Farr would have had in mind when he wrote the piece. The music surged and meshed, the percussion demanded that we listen. It was fantastically good. (and I am not a Farr fan.)

For the last item the orchestras combined, literally. They helped each other cram nearly one hundred and fifty musicians, their instruments, their music stands, on to the stage. Natalie Jones gave the 'A' ,Luke  di Somma conducted and when Tchaikovsky's Overture to Romeo and Juliet finished stolid old Oamaru rose to its feet and cheered.

Outside in the late night fog, buses waited to take both orchestras back to Christchurch. The Californians will fly out to-day.

Think about it. Those young musicians probably had less than a week to rehearse playing together. I have heard a lot of great orchestras play Tchaikovsky, but I swear none of them were better than the combined youth orchestras of California and Christchurch in the  Oamaru 'Opera House' last night.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


I can't go overseas this winter, it's not the cost of air travel, it's the price of travel insurance which at my age puts premiums into the mega basket.  Strolling around exotic airports won't happen. I won't meet my writer friends in Loutro, or drink coffee at the Irish Writers' centre and I had to turn down the invitation to 2012 Wordsstorm Festival in Darwin. I shall try to be there in 2014. That gives me something to look forward to.

In the meantime I have been making notes for the next book.

The setting A settlement on the banks of a major south island river.

The narrator Here I have choices; a feral cat could see everything going on, but her vocabulary migfht be rather limited; the alpha cow in the dairy herd next door perhaps, but her views could be a bit moody. It's difficult to narrate from the eye of God when I don't believe in him, but I am creating the characters so I could create God.

Main Character I am spoiled for choice here.
  • A retired nuclear phycisist kiwi who has returned to N.Z. because her conscience won't let her design weapons any more. She uses laundered money to buy a dairy farm..
  • A Phillipine farm worker, qualified vet but cannot practice because he cannot afford the fees to qualify in N.Z.
  • An Australian hiding under the witness protection programme. His brain is so addled with drugs he keeps forgetting his cover story. He is looking for 'lerve' forgetting he has had to abandon wife in Oz and a de facto in Dunsandel.
The main action  The settlement was originally holiday cribs for salmon fishers, but with the squeeze in the economy some owners have sold their houses in the city and retired to the settlement. Others have put their cribs on the market and they are being bought for nefarious purposes, like P labs, dumping grounds for psychiatric patients, witness protection hideaways.

And having just finished 'Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas' I am going to write the most outrageous fiction I possibly can. My outrageously gifted grand daughter, Rhiannon, sent me a page from the redwinged blackbird blog starting me on this train of thought. The topic? How to tell if a woman is lying when she tells you she is on the pill. Appears WOTP blink frequently, up to twelve times per minute, and are attracted to men with rugged features, so a male's come on speech should include
  • confession that he likes to climb active volcanos
  • owns and flies a private jet to travel to exotic, primitive places, with active volcanoes of course
  • a custom of sending explicit texts.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012


Dunedin, as well as being the home of binge drinking university students has a rugged quality to it. The same students live in freezing cold flats, maybe that is why they set fire to sofas in the street. In the words of Australian writer, Nino Culotta. they're a weird mob. This photo was taken from the memorial to Maori and early settlers on the hills above the harbourIt has vistas, and two interesting statues.The actual city clings around shores. Its CBD spreads from the Octagon, a charming place with a statue of Robert Burns surrounded by neo-classical buildings. divided by one of the city's busiest arteries, the there is a tendency for suburbs to creep along valleys and their access roads tend to get snow blocked in winter. Dunedin is lovely in the summer though, with long, long sunny days..

The Otago Daily Times, one of the longest publishing newspapers in the county, publishes in Dunedin. It is a morning paper, but if I want the ODT delivered to my home I have to wait for the Rural Delivery van and it does not deliver until afternoon. So the Oamaru Mail, and afternoon paper, printed in Ashburton is delivered hours before the ODT, So I skip over to Glenavy, on the Canterbury side of the Waitaki river, and buy the ODT there. It's worth the drive, especially on Monday when Emma Neale publishes the Poetry Corner, poems by writers south of the Waitaki River. And Tremain's cartoons are succinct, pertinent and funny.

Would I live there? Absolutely not.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


 'IT'S TIME WE KICKED RELIGION OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOLS said the heading. My grand daughter, Rhiannon. shared the link,, to the article by Richard Boock

I could not agree more.

 It is time, high time we kicked the god squad out.
The Education Act (1870) specified that schools in public (tax payer funded) New Zealand should be  free, secular and compulsory and for nearly one hundred years the god squad openly flouted that law by introducing the Nelson System where volunteers would enter public schools and tell 'Bible Stories' for one half hour per week.

Sometimes a school would refuse to allow the volunteers in. At the next school committee election enough new members, usually from minor protestant congregations, were appointed to overturn the school's decision.

Harmless? Those untrained, messianic volunteers preached enough hell fire and damnation to give vulnerable children nightmares. One earnest 'Christian' woman told my Standard 2 class I was going to hell for eternity because I 'did not believe in God.' All she knew about my religious beliefs was that I opposed the Nelson System.


If Colonel Sanders. organised hundreds of volunteers to go into schools once a week and tell  children stories about finger licking goodness, seven miraculous herbs and spices, teach a few jingles where would be the harm even if they tell kids people who do not buy KFC will die of malnutrition?

Or Black Power sent their volunteers in to teach that were really good guys?

The current 'parents can opt out'  regulations only masks the arrogance of Bible in Schools.
Before a school decides to allow religious instruction in its classrooms parents should be consulted and each parent should make a positive decision about whether or not their child takes part. In other words religious education should be voluntary, and out of school hours, preferably off school premises.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


3.ll a.m. Wednesday morning.
For two days  I have been trying to get on line, convinced that both my computers had contracted some terminal virus and it was probably my fault. So I switched off and went to bed. At 3 a.m. I woke up, turned on the computer and there it was, purring at me.

It seems that the broad band connection for which I pay through the proverbial nasal organ just cannot handle the traffic and so unimportant customers, like writers who depend on Internet connection to do business, get left off.  Isn't it wonderful how Private Business handles everything so much more efficiently that the Public Service used to. I don't think.

It is now 3.30 a.m. and my inner voice, the one that tells stories and writes poems is protesting that I should not be working on Northern Hemisohere time. So Goodnight all.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Irene Nemirovskiy wrote novels in France before WW2. She died in Auschwitz in 1944 aged 42.An English friend alerted me to 'Suite Francaise' her final, uncompleted novel about the German invasion and occupation of France, published by Vintage Books and so skilfully translated by Sandra Smith that it has lost none of its French flavour. Her characters are the bourgoidee. the French middle class, the shopkeepers. the notaries, the petty nobility and the rich farmers.

Nemirovsky planned a series of four novels, the first, Storm in June tells of Parisiens fleeing Paris, their cars loaded with possessions, the chaos along the roads; the fifteen year old who runs away to join the fighting, his brother a priest who is murdered by the children he is escorting because he will not let them plunder an abandonned chateau.

 'Dolce' is set in a small village in occupied France. The occupation force is not a bunch of fanatical Nazis. They are young men who have had to leave wives. families and occupations. The officers are billeted in the chateaus, the soldiers make friends with the village children. Every character is meticulously and mercilessly drawn, from the Vicomtesse, who runs a sxhool for orphanned girls, parrotting the sayings of Marechal Petain, the Angellier household where the mother in law forbids her daughter in law to play the piano while her husband is a prisoner of war. The same huband had married his wife for her money and kept a mistresas in Dijon. When the Germans first occupy the village all doors are shut, as they were against fleeing Parieians weeks before.But when shopkeepers see the invaders have money they open their shops , with a hefty raise in prices of course.

Suite Francaise is what I call a dense rtead. The narrative is woven into a broad tapestry describing the French countryside, the lives of people living there, the structure of their society. and even reading in tranlation I found it fasscination and beautiful. 'Suite Francaise' is the French 'War and Peace' but never finished because its author was snuffed out by the insane philosophies of the time.

War and Peace for WW2n


Thursday, May 17, 2012


 I am not complaining about the fact that more people in Russia and the United Kingdom have bought my enovels than in of New Zealand. Nor am I complaining about the total disinterest of Oamaru in the workshop on e publishing organised by Waitaki Writers recently. In fact I am not complaining at all about living here, it is what I chose to do. The convolutions of small town infrastructure are grist to a writer's mill, whether is be  murder,petty politics, or just eavesdropping on the uninformed gossip about celebrities as I wait in line at the supermarket.

But I am concerned about the e mail that popped into my in box this morning.

 For two years Oamaru Cinema has tried to interest Oamaru in the wonderful screenings of New York Metropolitan Grand Operas. The seasons are well publicised in a free booklet with great colour photographs. Operas are lengthy, Gotterdammerung takes six hours - so 3 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon seemed a perfect time. But over the last two years the attendance has not changed, the same 6 to 10 old faithfuls have attended. And we are old. Now Phil, manager at Oamaru World Cinema tells us that there will probably not be a 2012-13 season because the small audiences mean the operas are showing at a loss.

When I discuss it with Oamaru residents I get these excuses:-
'I'm not into Opera'
'Which ones have you seen?'
So how can  she know what opera is like?

"Oh it's too expensive."
The man who said that was wheeling a trolley full of Lion Brown cartons out of New World.
$28 is for the extended screening time - an Opera takes twice as long as an ordinary movie. And on screen we see and hear what people in New York pay huindreds of dollars per seat for.

'I was watching the Rugby on T.V.' Well maybe that is an excuse.

So it looks as thoiugh Oamaru will lose it's slot in the Metropolitan season. Smaller towns, like Geraldine and Petone will still have theirs.



Monday, May 14, 2012


This morning I helped room 2 with reading. The seven year olds had a reader about Dinosaus which they read competently because they have developed a lot of the peripheral skills that cannot be taught, they have to develop as children become more and more competent readers. Like Jed, from the Phillipines, who can detect when a word does not sound right, and try another word from context, like 'floor' did not sound right in the context of his story so he stopped, thought and tried 'flood.'He had to master some complex reasoning to get that, but he did it all himself.

Then some eight year olds brought out a School Journal to read with me. We almost did not get it read, we were giggling so much. It was a story from those marvellous days in the seventies when being politically and socially incorrect was almost required behaviour! The story, 'I Hate Wellington', is about Sam (gender neutral name) whose father has been transferred from Auckland to Wellington. Father designs toilet paper, waterproof toilet paper, invisible toilet paper, solar powered toilet paper, re-usable toilet paper (!!!) . Eventually Father gets a new job, in the Beehive, and Sam decides Wellington is O.K. It was hilarious.

So. if anybody who has not entered a classroom since they were in school themselves talks about Education being dumbed down, or children not learning the basics, I shall take great delight in telling them they are talking crap. That should get the eight year olds laughting - they love scatalogical terminology.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


My novel 'Art Week' about the struggles a gifted painter had to incorporate Art into the primary school curriculum twenty years ago  appeared on Amazon Kindle last week.
On Monday I had a wonderful session at our local primary school with my young friends from Room one. and saw how Art had developed over twenty years since I retired.

Gone were the scungy powdered tempera paints, To-day's children paint with acrylics on cartridge paper. The chuldren I worked with had been taught not to use the same brush for different colours, to wipe surplus paint off the brush, not to drip paint.

Their teacher, Mrs Prescott, inspired them with a topic that spoke directly to their imagination. Their topic this term is The History of the District, and of course Waitaki Valley was once the home of dinosaurs.
Mrs Prescott told them,
"Imagine that you have discovered a new kind of dinosaur, that nobody has ever seen before. You are going to paint it."
My part was easy. My questions had to call out of their imaginations what they already knew about disnosaues.  Two legs or four? Long neck" Coud it fly? did it have tusks? I asked as the brown splodges on their papers took shape, legs, arms, horns, scales, tusks were added.

The fisnished paintings did not look much like conventional dinosaurs, but these were their own dinosaurs, created in their own imaginations. They were wonderful. And their was a lot of thinking about science going on as they painted.

The children showed me how to work the rack in the corner of the Art Area. It is a steel contraption which holds paintings while they dry.

I have always maintained that children's obsession with dinosaurs has a deep psychological significance, just as my generation was obsessed with ghosts and bogeys. I doubr if Mrs Prescott's class will have deep psychological hang ups , because they have put their monsters on to paper and faced them And had real fun doing it.

Friday, May 4, 2012


I did not know a lot about Russia before I went there. They had some great writers, like Tolstoy, Pusgkin Gogol. Also great musicians,like Tchaikovski and Rimsky Korsakove. One of the lovely surprises was a visit to the Diorama at Borodino. After the Revolution this huge painting was dismantled and discarded, but eventuially it was rescued and now tourists can visit, standing inside a circular building and look at what the Battle of Borodino was like; Magic! My neighbour Glenys lent me her copy of 'Carmen' which she bought when visiting the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Carmen is the first grand opera I ever saw, and I knew the music because way back in the thirties I sang with a children's choir and we sang the Children's chorus. Shortly after the war Wellington Amateur Opera produced Carmen. Then I saw it translated to an American production plant with a black cast, Harry Belafonte sang Don Jose and Dorothy Dandridge sang Carmen. Carmen Jones started as a movie and has developed into a stage production. A couple of years ago Daughter in Law, Susan and I went to see Otago University's production of Carmen. That was as good as any opera I have seen overseas. Carmenis without doubt my favourite opera. Why? Because it is dramatically real, the music is melodic and singable, the scenes are opulent. In the Met production the singers are young and look their part, especially Elina Garanga as Carmen. Teddy Tahu Rhodes not only sings brilliantly (well he would wouldn't he} but he does a wonderful, finger clicking flamenco. Enough of opera, back to the grindstone. Next Saturday I am taking a workshop on publishing to the web for Waitaki Writers. One piece of advice from John Locke, not the philosopher, is to identify a niche of people who would buy your books. My niche? Well they seem to be middle aged to elderly married women. Trouble is they don't like computers and don't buy e readers!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I retired from teaching in 1990 and I wrote a novel set in a New Zealand Primasry School Of course it didn't even get off any publishers' slush pile. But a lot of people kept helping me edit it, prune it, change it. Daughter in law Anna typed it and burned it on to a disk. Then I wrote 'Thorny Glen' just to see if I could self publish it on Kindle and actually sell a few copiues. It worked, so I have resurrected 'Art Week'. Son Joe formatted it for me and son Terry helped me design a cover and post it. Cassino V'llande is a talented painter who ia a teacher in a small New Zealand town. She is married to Kevin, an unemployed philanderer. Over 65,000 words she reviews her life, her marriage and her optrions. Art Week is available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents U.S. And John Locke says I don't have to apologise for self publishing. According to him self publishers who offer their books at 99 cents are not showing vanity. Mainstream writers who sell at US$10 or more have to prove they are ten times as good! BTW Art Week is definitely not autobiographical. but you might recornise some of the characters.

Saturday, April 28, 2012


My in box this morning held a query from a lady who had lived at Annalong farm for two years, and actually slept in the 'priest's room. Her husband had worked on the gardens, which are a pleasure to look at.she wanted to know more of the history of the farm, and I am sorry to say I have been so busy exploring Croatia, Crete and Dublin I have not learned much about this interesting bit of our history. My knowledge of the farm itself is restricted to one visit there with Glenavy Women's Institute. We were told that the original owners were three brothers names Quinn. Their father had been a rent collector in Ireland. The brothers had stolen the collected rents and fled to Liverpool, then to Australia and finally to New Zealand. They took up land in Canterbury near the Makakihi river, on the left going south. There they made a good living making bricks. A lot of Canterbury's brick buildings are made of bricks from Annalong and they are stamped with the Quinn name. Perhaps there are others who have more knowledge than I have?

Friday, April 20, 2012


Next Wednesday we will commemorate yet another cock up by military 'geniuses'who wasted thousands of young lives in badly planned campaigns then passed them off as victories. Napoleon's retreat from Moscow, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Battle of the Somme, Gallipoli, Dunkirk, Singapore,Korea, Vietnam,Cambodia, Somalia,Iraq, Afghanistan. In 2002 I visited Turkey, we spent an afternoon on the Gallipoli peninsular and listened to our tour guide, Ian Dunwoodie, tell us the facts, right there where it all happened; about the troops being landed in the wrong place, How the British officers drank tea on their warship out at sea while the troops were bring slaughtered. If you have the stomach read the books. Meanwhile, a young Turkish Colonel, realising that his regiment (I think it was the 57th) was all that stood between Constantinople and the invading army, deployed his men in trenches along the hill and told them they would have to hang on until reinforcements arrived and that they would probably die.The trenches are still there. The regiment was killed holding the line as their colonel ordered. He went on to become Kemal Ataturk, who led Turkey into the 20th century. On Gallipoli now there is an Anzac cemetery, A French cemetery, a Canadian cemetery, a British cemetery and at least four very large Turkish cemeteries. I cannot think of April 25th as anything glorious.What quarrel did New Zealand have with the Turkey? And twentyfive years later I myself heard a New Zealand politician, who had been a conscientious objector in WW1 telling us, 'Where Britain goes we go.'as he introduced conscription and sent another generation of young men to be slaughtered and I have read the names of boys I went to school with on their gravestones in Crete. Military Intelligence? Is there such a thing?

Thursday, April 19, 2012


Sorry, my pictures of Gallipoli, taken on a visit to Turkey ten years ago are on a disk that won't play on this computer, but here is a poem I wrote, In Crete,at the foot of the Imbros gorge is a place wherethe guide books swear apparitions of dead soldiers appear on May 31st every year. APPARITIONS Every Anzac Day just before sunrise standing behind old men in wheel chairs. I see boys in short pants and long socks Hoping the war would not end before they had their chance to go. I see Ralph who fell under a train on his way to camp. I see Jock, tall,blond and musical missing in Crete. I see Graeme the freckled clown who made great puns in Latin shot down over Germany. And all the others so full of potential who never achieved anything but their names on the Cenotaph.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


According to Dorothy Parker they are 'cheque enclosed; but nobody uses cheques anymore. The e mail I got this morning is even more beautiful. It was from radio NZ, ', , ,your short story'Night Flight from Bangkok'will be broadcast at 10.45 a.m. 24th March.' At last another of my ugly babies has come to term and is about to be born. I wrote this one in a hurry for a farewell dinner in Loutro. The central incident is true and one of my Loutro friends told me 'We were still giggling when we landed at Gatwick. So next Tuesday I shall rush away from Glenavy school at 10.30 and drive over the Waitaki Bridge, down Kaik Road for 3.29 kilometres, dash into my crib, turn on the radio and coo over my latest ugly baby. Then I shall probably finish formatting the cover of 'Árt Week.' The complete manuscript went to son Joe yesterday for final formatting, just to make sure the careless formatting of Thorny Glen is not repeated. and hopefully it will be up on Kindle before May 1st. And Radio NZ, the programmers, the actors, the editors, the sound engineers who bring us those mid morning short stories I LOVE YOU ALL!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I live in paradise, a tiny cottage at the mouth of the Waitaki River at exactly 45 degrees south. The community has a history which begins with the Public Works project of building hydro dams across the upper reaches of the Waitaki, When the project finished the workmen's huts were sold to enthusiastic fishermen, A generous farmer gave ten acres of land for them to set beside the river and use as week end getaways. Over the years the fishermen themselves improved the cottages, built streets, paid for electricity to be connected and water to be reticulated, A small committee of crib owners administers the essential infrastructure, like paying rates and electricity.Crib owners pay ground rent for the 600 square feet of land they occupy, When paths need mending, or windbreaks need pruning everybody turns up with shovels and rakes and helps. This committee reports to the community as a whole each Easter. It is informal,and up to now has worked well. Often as crib owners reached retirement age they would sell their house in town and move into their crib. Gardens have grown, and through the whole community is this common interest in fishing. Conversation usually begins with where salmon are lurking, what pools sea run trout have been seen in, the effects of didymo (rock snot) on trout, the big one that got away yesterday. There is usually a waiting list of people wanting to purchase any cribs that come on the market. I bought mine ten years ago. I agreed that I would purchase a fishing licence each year. About the second year Mennieres syndrome struck and I had to give up fishing, people prone to giddy spells don't stroll around on river banks. But I still bought a fishing license.About my fifth year here somebody demanded that when we paid our annual rent we should produce our fishing licence. In other words somebody on our informal little committee did not trust people to honour the agreement we had made. Last year the committee passed a motion at one of their meetings saying that elderly crib owners who no longer fished did not need to produce a fishing licence.But this year, after the Annual General Meeting, the requirement was back in place. A few of us, retired people who have held responsible positions over our working lives, are concerned because what was an informal group has somehow turned itself into a local government and seems to have no concept of how such a body should run. Meetings are informal, speakers interrupt people who are trying to make a point. They do not speak to the chair, in fact I have attended meetings where speakers were ignored while the discussion roamed far away from the point supposedly under discussion. Motions are'passed'without proper procedures, no notice of motion posted ahead of the meeting, no seconder, no proper vote count, but somehow the motion becomes law.When I was away in Crete two years ago another crib owner inspected the repairs I was having done in my absence, then inspected the contents of my home, and on my return berated me for 'living in squalor', An oak tree planted to commemorate Elizabeth 11's coronation was poisoned then destroyed because 'the leaves made a mess.' I no longer attend the A.G.Ms, they are meaningless. I pay my rates and ground rent, and I still buy a fishing license because I agreed to do that when I came. But I will not produce it when I make my next payment to the camp treasurer. And I am tempted to post this remark by Daniel Defoe on the community notice board: NATURE HAS LEFT THIS TINCTURE IN THE BLOOD THAT ALL MEN WOULD BE TYRANTS IF THEY COULD.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Living as I do in a settlement of mainly retired people funerals are a part of life and not unexpected. Last week we farewelled Russell His partner Mary conducted the service and the Country and Western Music Club provided the music,not po faced hymns but the rollicking songs Russell had loved.Eulogies were anecdotes from friends and throughout a proiector showed scenes from Russell's long life: driving tractors on farms,lorries on back country roads flying old aeroplanes and always fishing. It was a cheerful farewell to a man who had lived a long adventurous life. But we do have contact with young people. Grandchildren come to visit in school holidays. Crib owners bring their children at week ends. We oldies watch them grow, every year taller and cleverer. It has been a special pleasure to watch the two boys next door to me grow from gap toothed juniors to charming young men who would cut my lawns.The eldest boy, Nick, took to the fishing culture with enthusiasm and would spend week ends here fixing up his quad bike and heading to the river mouth. This season he caught a salmon. It has been a good year for salmon here and Nick's catch was weighed and entered in the register. The heaviest fish would be awarded the trophy. There is also a trophy for the biggest trout. Last Wednesday we were horrified to learn that Nick, sixteen years old, tall, handsome, popular, had hung himself. On Friday crib owners came in from all over to attend our annual general meeting. The chairman paid tribute to residents, who had died this year, and then passed on to awarding the fishing trophies. Nick had won the trophy for the heaviest salmon caught this season. If he had known would that have been enough for him to snap out of his depression? He could have been here, fixing up his blue quad bike and headng to the river to cast for trout. Instead a sad little convoy of cars has set off towards the town, driving into the misty rain and my glasses keep fogging up.