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.