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.