Sunday, December 29, 2013


This poem was published in 'over and out from down under'' and it seems to have developed a life of its own. It was read in eleven different countries in 2009 and every New Year I get e mails from people in really out of the way places telling me somebody read it att heir New Year celebrations, or asking permission to perform it at Poetry readings, although t was unplaced when Irfead it at the Waimate Womens Institute Eistedfodd.

So here it is again with greetings to everybody.

Waitaki hogmanay

All day to-morrow caravans and cars
will drive through out gate and
make a circle round the green
like the wagon train in westerns.

Awnings will spread, children scatter
to take up games laid down last summer
except Jason and Dulcie
who will stroll to the beach because
now they are fifteen
he shaves twice a week
and her breasts are budding'

We will set  trestles under the oak tree
for drinks and salads and things
ladies bring on plates,
not forgetting sausages, steaks
and fillets of fresh salmon
wrapped in foil,

Fred's new barbecue has a grill,
hot plates, a rotisserie and
an oven for warming bread
Men will gather to admire but
talk about bonfires on beaches
and sausages on sticks.

"Has anyone seen Dulcie?"
her mother will ask.

At ten o'çlock Alice and Bert will tune their guitars
Mothers will send children to wash hands.

'Where the bloody hell is Jason?"
his father will snarl.

At midnight we will sing Áuld Lang Syne'
and toast the new year, absent friends,
whitebait, salmon, sea run trout
and anything else we can think of.

Anglers from the next camp
will come first footing and when
there are no more bottles or cans
we will make tea and toast the dawn.

Jason and Dulcie will stroll
back from the beach,
 last nights stars
still bright in their eyes.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Yesterday, while the weather was still warm I sat on my tiny verandha waiting for the postman. Some of my neighbours stopped by on their way to their letter boxes. Georgie, who regularly delivers delicious salmon or trout caught by her husband, and Mary who sings country and western songs to residents at the hospice in Oamaru. The Rural delivery van drove up to my crub bearing several packages and a big box of flowers. In the box alongside the gerberas, statice, roses and lilies was a little  box and a card from the florist apologising for late delivery of my birthday bouquet. inside the box were six delicious chocolates hand made by Bennetts of Mangowai. My neighbours and I sat in the sun and shared them. Thank you to Regent florist for such a gracious touch, and I can recommend anyone touring North Auckland to stop at Mangowai  and sample their chocolates.

Yetserday morning I drove to Geraldine because I wanted to finish my Christmas shopping at a truly New Zealand store.  To get there I drove up  State Highway 1 until you I reached the . Highway 79 turnoff. About 199 metres along Highway 79 on the right hand side is The Tin Shed. The goods on sale here are not cheap, but they are good value, I bought possum and merino blend wool socks for my sons, and lovely enamel jewelery for daughters in law and grand daughters.  There were hand knitted woolen jerseys mostly under $300. and lovely soft hats and gloves.For myself I bought a tube of manuka honey hand cream. There was a big stock of beauty preparations and New Zealand designed garments.

As I said not cheap but good value and everything New Zealand made, And the extra touch? As well as Christmas wrapping my purchases wrapping the ladies in the shop offer tea and coffee to shoppers. There is a picnic table outside, and a pet donkey.

Then there are the people at Slightly Foxed book shop in Oamaru. They wrap each purchase  n brown paper and tie it with string.

And the other day in the precinct in Oamaru I was looking in the souvenr shop  something special for  a daughter in law (they are all special).
"We don;t have anything like that." said the lady in charge, "But Helen, in the shop upstairs makes and designs jewellery. She might have something,"
And Helen upstairs certainly did. I bought a lovely handmade necklace of polished purple and white conglomerate stone set in silver.

I have always defined angels as ordinary people getting on with their own lives who stop and give a touch of extra help when they see someone in need. They are to be found all over the place and revive my belief that most people are decent, kind and helpful.


Thursday, December 19, 2013


Hastings High School. 1938 to 1942, We were the first of the Beeby Brats;'The Proficency Examnaton had been aboilshed and we were the first to enter High School as of right. With determination and enthusiasm our teachers set about preparing us for Life. Instead of teaching us how to pass exams with a minimum of thought we learned:-

Girls might pass University Entrance but career choices were limited,
 A strean became Teachers and Nurses until they married.
B stream became shotrhand typists until they marries.
Home and Vocational stream  worked in shops or factories until they got pregnant and had to get married.

A stream girls learned English, Latin. French, Mathermatics, Science History and because they were going to get married they also learned Cookery. Dressnaking and Homecraft.

In Cookery we learned how to maintain, control and cook on   a coal range
We learned to test the heat of ovens by putting a square of paper into the oven and timing how long it took to brown. Immediately for scones, three minutes for sponges , five minutes for fruitcakes or roasts.
We learned to cook said scones, sponges and roasts.
 to soften butter to spread on sandwiches
 to cream butter and sugar using a wooden spoon
how to clean up,
In form IV  we learned about the essential food groups\ We would lose our teeth if we did not drink milk, we would lose our eyesight if we did not eat green vegetables and we would never have babies if we did not eat wholemeal bread.

 Homecraft we learned how to polish wooden furniture. silver cutlery and brass tapsto sweep and mop floors,to prepare household linen for Monday's wash, this included advice on soaking our home made sanitary pads in cold water before boiling them in the copper.
 to use a mangle to press sheets
to iron handkerchiefs, pillowcases, tablecloths, tea towels, shirts and dresses
We practised bathing babies using a celluloid doll, testing its bath water with our elbow to check that it was not too hot.

Dressmaking we learned to make blouses  dresses and baby clothes using french seams, flat seams, turned hems.
We learned to turn collars when the top layers frayed so our future husbands would always look neat.
to darn socks
to hand make button holes
to sew on buttons, domes.and hooks and eyes/

We were certainly well prepared for life. Trouble was it was someone else's life. Nobody predicted washing machines, disposable nappies ,microwave ovens,automatic cars or chainstore clothes made in China.

Monday, November 11, 2013


          My neighbour, the philosophy graduate, says my characters are dull, they have no passion. That is why my books don't sell. Astute questioning about the wife beating All Black, the motor bike riding priest and Black Fern revealed that my neighbour had not actually read the books. But he did have a point. Sex scenes embarrass me..

          I thought I was doing all right at romantic comedy, in ART WEEK my main character is married to a serial philanderer and in THORNY GLEN I almost got the two main characters in to bed together, but I got the giggles and sent the hero to sleep;

.        Obviously in spite of two marriages and eight children my knowledge is deficient, probably because I grew up believing  that what goes on behind bedroom doors, or the back seat of a car, is personal and private. Things have changed in the literary world since Jane Austen's day so I loaded my kindle with a lot of 99cent novels and started researching what made popular novels .passionate.

       .I wish I had known about these novels when we were bringing up our boys, they havemuch  moreu7seful  information than any  sex manual I have encountered..

 Take kissing for example:

Where to start, forehead. ears or chin are good starting places.
How to use the tongue - Where to lick, or nibble, or suck!

As for the act itself:

The hero's boxer shorts are suddenly too tight.  The heroine wets her thong so they discard their clothes.
There is a lot of heavy breathing because internal muscles that I never knew existed, are being exercised.
Both parties do a lot of moaning and grunting.
The heroine squirms a lot and at the moment of orgasm  screams the hero's name.
The hero goes on grunting, probably worried about whether the cheap condom will hold out.
All this happens a number of times on a variety of surfaces; the back seat of the car with him on top; the expensive granite bench top of his apartment kitchen, again with him on top; the shagpile  fireside rug in his or her apartment, with her on top, any part of his or her office; against that wall he is always leaning on and finally in his or her bed, several times. Whew!

HEROES the guys with sexy names like Kurt, Deke. Zac are all at least 6 foot eighteen inches tall, they have shoulders like prop forwards and don't smell of anything but woodsy  cologne, even if the story is set in the twelfth century where people did not bathe or shower.. 
Probably because of their height they lean against anything available; walls, doorways, buildings, and when a heroine enters their brains cease to function because of loss of oxygen. Or maybe that is because if defective eyesight. Their eyes change colour when they experience passion, anger, arousal, lust, anything.
They are martial arts champions and a lot of them can cook.

Unless they are British Aristocrats, who inherit their wealth. they are self made billionaires,  but they buy cheap condoms with a suspiciously high failure rate. They apparently do not read the 'use by' date on the packet .Consequently casual encounters leave heroines nauseated, but of course Kurt, or Deke etc will do the right thing. Unplanned Fatherhood awakens all sorts of tender emotions.

HEROINES usually have red hair, and are thin, but curvy with great legs. Their eyes are the colour of sapphires or emeralds and grow sultry or somnolent in moments of great lust. They might look delicate, but their internal musculature can cope with multiple orgasms induced by the hero's foreplay.

Unlike the arrogant heroes heroines often have low self esteem  because a domineering parent, a cheating lover or a super model sibling has destroyed their belief in themselves. The hero rebuilds that belief, using those faulty condoms of course.

But is all this sexual activity real passion? I don't think so.

Thursday, November 7, 2013


Music by Tchaikovsky,
 story from a novel by Alexandr Pushkin,
 production by the New York Metropolitan Opera,
 screened at the Lighthouse Cinema, Oamaru,
 watched by the usual small group of Opera lovers.

Act One: a farm in the Russian countryside owned by the widowed mother of two teen age daughters. Olga and Tatiana. They are celebrating the harvest with vigorous country dances, songs and games..
Enter the 'Boy next door', Lenski with his city friend Eugene Onegin. Lenski is in love with Olga while Tatiana is enraptured by Eugene, who is bored by all the country revelry. Tatiana writes a love letter to Onegin which he returns and tells her that she is a delightful girl, but he is not interested.
Act Two: Tatiana's birthday party begins with a quadrille. Lenski and Onegin arrive. Tatiana is flustered. Onegin is bored, and just for the fun of annoying his friend Lenski. Onegin flirts with Olga.
Scene 2 is very dramatic, pistols at dawn and Lenski dies, Onegin has to flee Russia. (Good Riddance!)
Act three: St Petersburg The ballet is upper class ballroom  Tatiana has grown up and married a Prince, a lovely urbane man, the only person in St Petersburg society who does not cut Onegin dead;
Of course when he sees Tatiana in sumptuous clothes, decked in jewels on the arm of a real prince he realises that she is the real love of his life.
Too late! The meet on the riverbank in a snow storm and she tells him to get lost. Great singing but he gets what he deserves. Eugene Onegin is a supercilious, social climbing twit.

But the music is great.

Now I must download the novel and read it.


Thursday, October 3, 2013


     The great thing about e books is

1.  They are portable   Instead of spending $50 on a weighty airport novel we can now load an e book with hundreds of titles, some free, many costing less than $1.

2   Readers can change the font size to suit conditions. A lot of expensive airport novels are in small print. Cabin lighting and fading eyesight do not make for easy reading.On an e reader we just press a button and enlarge the print..

3.   Many 99 cent downloads deliver cracking good stories, in many different genres, so with e books our experience of all kinds of literature can broaden at very little cost.


      When I fly I like to read light escape stories which take my mind off the fact I am miles above the ground, strapped into a small seat, inside a metal tube, surrounded by fuel tanks with the electric cables running through while I breath reconditioned air. 
     So before flying overseas I down load a selection of fiction; romantic, historical, thriller and crime to my Kindle reader. I have found a few lemons, but at $0'99 who cares? On the other hand I have found some real gems. I have learned a great deal about story lines, plotting, character conventions from books I would normally not bother buying.
     And believe me I have learned a great deal. I wish I had access to the books when my eight sons were growing up. They contain more information about sex than any manual I encountered then.
Sex scenes have certainly changed since I was growing up:-
  1. I now know exactly what a 'blow job' is,  how and why to administer it in the back of a taxi..
  2. the location of at least six unusual erogenous zones ,e.g. the backs of knees.
  3. ten new ways to use one's tongue in foreplay.
  4. fifty interesting, although physically improbable, positions.
Extremely interesting and infinitely more factual than the maternal advice offered to brides in the nineteen forties: i.e. It's all very unpleasant but don't take any notice. That's what men are like!

Friday, September 27, 2013


     My neighbour Don, the Philosophy graduate, knocked on my door before 7 a.m. this morning.He had experienced an epiphany. a Eureka! moment and he wanted to pass it on.

     ""They've started already!" he declared, "Those B***** (people with peculiar sexual habits) at Auckland Yacht Club! They've already got billions out of us taxpayers and now they've got their fists out for another 1.3 BILLION to fund the next challenge, because they lost the cup and they won't be getting all the boat building business they were expecting.".

     " Ï've got an idea for a story for you."

     Neighbour Don is an exremely intelligent man, widely read and a great raconteur, but his skills are verbal, he chooses not to slog through hours of writing like I do. This is the story line he gave me:

     "You are a writer. You have been researching and following the crews on Emirates New Zealand and  Oracle. You have spent four years gathering information and have nearly completed THE GREAT NEW ZEALAND NOVEL When it hits the bookstores it will earn millions.. That's from the film rights alone. The final chapter was to have been the triumph in San Francisco.

      "But we lost and your book is down the gurgler. So you send a demand to Trade and Industry for 1.3 billion dollars to reimburse you for all your wasted expenditure and lost revenue." He stomped off , springer spaniel at his heels, heading for the beach.

       He has a point. Yachting is a great sport, but what went on in San Francisco was entertainment not sport. Those who invested in Team New Zealand were taking a gamble. They lost. If I bet $10 on a racehorse and it loses I do not expect the TAB to refund my stake do I?

      But I hope some of our gifted young writers do write something fictional based on Team New Zealand. What about a whodunnit based on the plotting behind the scenes; Nicky Harger please get busy.

     Or a folk tale, Team New Zealand  a crew of divinely handsome heroes, like King Arthu's lot. They train and practice until they sail that yacht with the superb efficiency of a formula one racing car. They counter the mutterings and plottings of the villainous Oracle gang who are all descended from Cinderlla's stepmother

     At the last race the yachts are bow to bow when Oracle, using some dastardly ploy while sniggering into their moustaches, stops Team New Zealand dead in the water. Without hesitation Dean Barker and his merry men leap overboard, settle the yacht on to their superbly muscled shoulders and walk on the waters of  San Francisco Bay to the finish line,  calling a cheery greeting to Oracle as they stroll past.

  Pity Margaret Mahey is no longer with us.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Hollywood café, North Beach

    Hyatt North Beach has no dining room. It does serve expensive room service meals ordered by clicking a cursor on your TV screen .

   There is a Starbucks at one corner,

                BUT ACROSS THE ROAD                 

                                                     HOLLYWOOD CAFE!

is, open from 6.30 to 11.45 a.m. People stand in line even in drenching California fog, waiting to write their name on the waiting list alongside their preference for seating I (inside) O (outside) or E (either).
   The staff wears casual yellow Tshirts and jeans. Some are clearing dishes and wiping tables, others are refilling coffee cups, taking orders and carrying food from the small kitchen. It is remarkably quiet, yet cheerful.

several pages in a leather folder. reads like a roster of dead film stars.

the James Dean  is bacon, two poached eggs, a bowl of fresh banana, mango, pineapple, oranges. grapes, blueberries; a side plate of fresh toast and as much coffee as you like.

The Clark Gable  is the same but the bacon has been cooked in  some kind of honey sauce.

The Audrey Hepburn is pancakes and syrup with fresh fruit. I did not get around to eating the
Vivien Leigh

The inside pages offer a plethora of sausages, corn cakes, waffles but I was just too busy enjoying James Dean to read any further.

   So if anyone is thinking about returning in 2017 for that billionnaires' shell game on San Francisco Bay, the Hyatt is a nice hotel, clean and hospitable with a swimming pool on the third floor, Fishermans wharf is within walking distance and the Hollywood Café is worth the cost of the trip. Forget about the yachts.

Sunday, July 7, 2013



The pretty girl clutching a clipboard approached as I sat in late afternoon sun on Pier 39.
Was I willing to take part in a survey?

What was my main purpose in visiting San Francisco?

 She was about twenty, had attended High School in Berkley and she had never heard of City Lights Bookstore, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg. Jack Kerouac, the Beat poets. Perhaps education is being dumbed down after all.

Next day I rode a number 30 bus up Columbus Avenue from Fishermen’s wharf to Stockton, walked two blocks and there it was - City Lights Bookstore celebrating its sixtieth birthday. People at the traffic lights waited while a Green Street Mortuary Marching Band jazzed by and cafe sitters at sidewalk tables applauded. A jazz ensemble played under a marquee in Jack Kerouac Alley as the world converged on City Lights, which is not a multi storied emporium with sliding doors and regiments of checkout stands. Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a champion of people sized communities and City Lights is in the same three level building it started in. Over sixty years it has become one of the most famous bookstores in the world, but there are no branches anywhere else. If anyone wants to shop in a City Lights bookstore they have to come to San Francisco, although I buy books on line from their newsletter and read about events taking place when City Lights authors go on the road to publicise their books.

I walked up the two front steps through the narrow door, past the check out desk where two pretty girls wearing City Lights T shirts and flowers in their hair were busy zapping bar codes, popping books into paper bags and smiling. The windows beside the entrance held photographs of City Lights and staff over the years.  I slithered through the line of waiting book buyers, was careful not to stumble on the two steps up into the main room which is a maze of shelves full of books I am unlikely to find in Barnes and Noble or Waterstones, certainly not at Paper Plus or Whitcoulls. City Lights encourages dissidence and real talent.

This is the store which was charged with indecency for publishing Howl by Allen Ginsberg. It still stocks it. This is the store that nurtured the Beat poets, Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs et al. Up the narrow stairs on the third floor is the area dedicated to the Beats. It has a performance area and aging friends who were students in the fifties tell me of sitting on the floor there, in air hazy with ‘California Green’, listening to young Kerouac, and Ginsberg and others. It is one of the famous places of the Literary world, ranking with Dove Cottage and those daffodils, or Westminster Bridge.

But downstairs the aisles are narrow and on this Sunday it was crowded. Every chair, there were not many, was occupied by somebody reading. Lawrence Ferlinghetti himself strolled through the store, greeting and being greeted. A couple of Ferlinghetti lookalikes sauntered about outside.
 I saw several Ginsberg lookalikes from his bushy beard days, and one William S Burroughs.  At least two people were leading ‘The Dog That Trots Down the Street and Sees Reality, ‘one was a small poodle, the other a mutt whose mother was probably courted by several Labradors, airdales, a spaniel and uncounted collies.

 Ferlinghetti’s gifts to us were on a table at the foot of the stairs, beautiful wall charts of poems from City Lights publications of the past sixty years, not just his own. I chose his “Buddha in the Woodpile”.

Outside on Columbus Avenue people strolled about and I heard just about every language on earth, except Maori. Two French girls exclaimed as they identified poets in the early photos. “Voila! Cést Ginsberg! Vraiment!”  An Islamic man, head-scarfed wife two steps behind, made his way through the throng. I heard French, German, Chinese, American. Irish, Queen’s English.
 Suddenly a fire engine, siren hooting, followed by a paddy wagon pulled up outside the store. Two firemen sauntered inside, moments later they came out leading a scruffy type who climbed into the back of the paddy wagon. Street Theatre?  I could not recall a poem about an incident like this. Maybe it was a recreation of Allen Ginsberg charged with indecency because he wrote ‘Howl!’ and set the poetry world alight.

It was a lovely afternoon. I decided to walk back to my hotel. Columbus Avenue led straight to Fishermen’s Wharf. What could go wrong?

 My stupid sense of direction could. Two hours later I was outside the Bank of America on Montgomery, it was raining, my feet hurt, the light was fading and I could barely decipher the street names on my map.

“You lost?”asked a concerned voice, and there stood one of those angels I keep meeting; tall, tanned, immaculate, he could feature in my next romantic novel, but meantime my next blog should be about the kind teacher of English who had lived in Christchurch for three years, who organised a taxi when there were none around, fed me chocolate and waved goodbye as my taxi sped off. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013




          Plymouth, Massachusetts, population 55,000, calls itself ‘America’s Home Town.’ The pilgrims landed herein 1649, stepping ashore on to Plymouth Rock which lies enshrined under pillars and a cupola in Greek revival style. A replica of the Mayflower is moored in the harbour. Plimouth Plantation is a re-creation of the original settlement where actors play the roles of actual pilgrims, demonstrating the way they lived, what they grew in their gardens, how they dressed and spoke. Plimouth Plantation makes and sells beautiful furniture made with seventeenth century tools. In the restaurant visitors can eat traditional food, lobster, turkey, pumpkin pie, cooked to seventeenth century recipes. There is an active conservation programme gathering and breeding antique plants and animals. New Zealand sent cows and rabbits when we culled them from Enderby Island.

          July 4th, 2007 began with clear skies. About 9:30 we strolled down to find a shady spot where we could set our folding chairs. Mothers pushed strollers, fathers carried toddlers on their shoulders, families of three or four generations converged on the parade route and by 10.00 a.m. it was lined with people in chairs, children, picnic hampers and American flags. Soft drink vendors pushed carts, souvenir sellers did a brisk trade in flags and balloons.

This was no Hollywood production parade with seventy six trombones and choreographed marchers. It began with sirens and horns as down the road came fifty engines from Plymouth and a dozen adjacent towns; towering behemoths which could hoist firemen to blazes in high places; smaller, specialised vehicles and  finally vintage fire trucks with hoses and running boards. Sirens sounded, bells clanged and firemen tossed candy to the children while spectators cheered and clapped. After the Plymouth parade these fire engines would travel to other nearby towns and lead their parades. 

Next Indian and Harley Davidson motor bikes roared by followed by quieter Yamahas and Hondas, all flying the stars and stripes.  The riders were middle aged with paunches and grizzled beards but their bikes were pristine. Vintage cars followed, from gas guzzling Chryslers and Pontiacs to Model T Fords.

Only then did we see and hear a marching band, trumpets, trombones, sousaphones and drums from Plymouth High School giving the beat for U.S veterans headed by John Talcott 99 years old. As well as being the oldest veteran he was the marshal who through the year had planned and organised this parade. He marched part of the way then rode in a vintage open topped automobile and his sailor uniform still fitted him..

For the next hour we clapped and cheered and laughed as a wonderful parade of American life and history passed, exuberant as a Sousa March. High School marching bands led floats decorated by local firms, trade unions, service clubs, churches and individuals. One truck was hung with saucepans, skillets, pot hole covers, metal gates. A percussionist belted out music on them as he hung in safety harness above the road. Unicyclists tossed candy to children. Beauty Queens sprayed water over spectators to relieve the muggy heat. It was all very informal but great fun. Children dashed about collecting the candies tossed from the floats.  Most of them grabbed and gobbled on the spot but I saw one boy who would dash out, collect brimming handfuls then carefully stow them in a shopping bag on his grand mother’s wheel chair. Over the hour I estimate he collected enough to keep his family in candy until the next July 4th.

Although the town was bedecked with American flags a lot of flag wavers were also wearing ‘Bring our boys home from Iraq NOW’ badges and nobody seemed to mind.

Saturday, June 29, 2013


I had set my glasses on the bedside table beside my Kindle reader and  overnight they vanished. I hunted everywhere, felt through every drawer, every corner, every crevice, they must have fallen down behind the bed and I could not reach my fat hands down far enough to search. Without them I could not see the numbers on the phone or read a menu.

 Julinda at the lobby desk suggested I buy a replacement at Walgreens and the concierge wrote directions in very big writing,





            I followed the directions and found Wallgreens, an enormous market which seemed to sell everything, bananas at $1 each baby goods, toiletries, souvenirs, and every kind of eye glass known to man, rimless, horn rimmed, coloured frame,  sunglasses, driving glasses, ski goggles,. I tried on reading glasses and for $32 bought a pair that put my world into focus.

            Wirh my restored vision I walked out and saw a Starbucks sign next door. I got into line behind three slender young women in breast hugging sweat shirts and jeans with sequins all over the back pockets.  Their main expression to each other was ‘Oh my Gahd, He/she or they didn’t!!!” as we moved slowly towards the counter.

I ordered latte with a breakfast bun, a large cinnamon pin wheel. Simple? No, what size latte did I want;, l, what kind of milk; full cream, fat free or soy?. Did I want my bun warmed, butter or margarine? The young Latino man at the counter could give the police lessons in interrogation.. He wrote my name on a cardboard coffee cup, whizzed my bun through the microwave and waved me on to the coffee area.

 I joined the crowd watching a Scandinavian goddess, high priestess of the coffee machine. Her performance would have looked good on stage with the Bolshoi as she ,ground  coffee, transferred the grounds into a tiny wire basket so gracefully that not a grain was lost. She tamped down the grounds, swung the basket under the appropriate spout on the machine, As the coffee gurgles into a cup with someone’s name on it the ballerina/high priestess poured milk into a jug, offe3red it to the frother, then united coffee  and froth in the paper cup, anointed it with a plastic lid and called the name written on the cup. I was strongly tempted to applaud, shout bravo. Instead I studied the advertising around the walls. with my Walgreen’s glasses.; frappochino showed a gondolier in Venice, a neatly chalked blackboard invited us to a free tasting of brewed clover next Thursday between 2 and 3 p.m.
 The high priestess called my name, I collected my coffee sipped it as I ate my bun sitting at a tiny table in the sun.

Back at the hotel, room maid Peggy had located my glasses. They had fallen into a gap behind the bedhead.



Monday, June 17, 2013


Getting there is not easy. Turn seaward from SH1, cross the railway line and drive down the cliff on a winding lane as narrow as the road to salvation. In winter be careful in the car park, it is full of puddles so step carefully. And the wind off the sea tastes of Antrctica. There are no signs or hoarding, everybody knows it is Fleur's place.

She bought an abandoned fish plant on the jetty at Moeraki, added what looks like an old schoolroom from post WW1 days, corrugated iron with sash windows,  and built a restaurant. She had some battles. Bureaucracy did not like her buying her fresh fish from boats coming to her jetty. She fought them because her idea of a harbour side restaurant did not include serving fish that had been packaged and frozen weeks before then transported the length of the South Island. Fleur won., she buys her fish from fishermen who bring it to her jetty.

The abandoned fish plant is now her kitchen, The restaurant has an understated 'Beach combers' theme.with  none of the clanging metal furniture and ersatz decorations rife in tourist spots. Winter sunlight pours through the windows and reflects from scrubbed wooden tables, a variety of very old, sturdy wooden chairs, A wooden staircase that might have been salvaged from a Victorian homestead winds above the bar to a mezzanine floor which opens on to a deck, complete with authentic ship's wheel, and a panorama no billionaire could afford to buy. We sat in the warm and stared through  French doors to Moeraki Bay, North to a hazy outline of Banks Peninsular and East to the Great Southern Ocean.

Fleur brought us that day's menu, freshly written every day. She had only two soles left, but there was plenty of blue cod, caught that morning. Joe decided on scollops, Kim and I had blue cod. While we waited for the main course we nibbled fresh, fresh bread dipping it into a dishes of olive oil with a bay leaf at the bottom, a pesto that had never seen the inside of a jar, and a fish spread.

Our cod fillets were so fresh I could taste the brine. They were wrapped in bacon and served on a bed of very fresh vegetable, broccoli, silver beet, potato. It came with a spoon so we could sup every drop of the mornay sauce. And our cutlery included bone handled desert knives; not plastic, real bone, ivory yellow and warm to the touch.

We did not really need desert, but Kim wanted crème brulee so Joe had chocolate sponge with ice cream and I had cheese, an assortment of tasty blue veins that I could not afford to buy in any supermarket. What we could not finish was packed into a clip top box for me to take home.

The atmosphere was leisurely and quiet, no banging trays, no crashing plates, no shouted orders. The restaurant was busy, but the staff served everybody cheerfully and efficiently. After our superb lunch we drank tea. Tea that was brewed in a china teapot and we poured it into lovely antique bone china teacups. The kind that have 'Royal Worcester' or 'Spode'  on the bottom and my mother's generation kept in a glass fronted cabinet in the sitting room and only used when we had company.

As we were leaving Fleur introduced us to the fisherman who had caught our cod that morning.

I could go on for pages talking about Fleur, whom I respect and admire tremendously. Fleur's Place is a superb little restaurant with genuine character. Fleur herself does not put on an act, she has earned a place in the world by being supremely good at what she does, and by being her own person.


Saturday, May 25, 2013




                Perhaps it was my argument with the train, maybe it was that old shrew Anno Domini creeping up, but suddenly, for no discernible reason I collided with a massive writers block; arthritic fingers, sore joints a mind  full of mush. My beautifully ordered little routines just refused to come out and play, the hour of creative writing first thing in the morning ran under my bed and hid, The editing  scheduled for afternoons cowered in a corner, caterpillars gobbling my winter broccoli reared up and sniggered, my new waterblaster kicked up more grime than it banished. I could not even solve the cryptic crossword.

 So I surrendered to temptation, like an alcoholic falling off the wagon, or a chocoholic at the sweet counter. I read voraciously, anything I could get m y hands on ; loaded my kindle with 99 cent mysteries and romances; haunted the library; skimmed through the Warehouse snatching bargain price books.

Ice Princess by Camilla Blackberg was on the $10 table. Scandinavian whodunits are dark and gritty, many layered but they also show subtle flashes of comic brilliance.

The main character in The Ice Princess is a female detective nearing middle age, the main theme is child abuse and its effects. A minor theme is a developing attraction between the detective and a colleague. She invites him to dinner, spends the afternoon preparing, cleaning her flat cooking the meal .  Everything goes well until they are about to hop into her bed when an appalling thought hits her.


Here she is with a sexy male and she is clad in her everyday, white cotton sloggies.

I discovered sloggies two years ago in Dublin. They are the most comfortable knickers I have ever worn. When I came home I searched the internet for a source in New Zealand without luck until  I asked at the rather expensive lingerie shop here in Oamaru. They have racks full of them.

I have long passed the age where I am likely to leap into bed with anything more exciting than a good book so I shall continue to wear my sloggies, black, white or flesh coloured, on all occasions. We are quite an exclusive little coterie, Oamaru sloggie wearers; the petrol pump lady; the florist’s mother in law and others, almost like Masons used to be, signalling our membership with a subtle smile of recognition, or the smirk that we wore with our Witches Britches in the seventies, remember?.

And the Ice Princess is a thumping good read.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


When I retired in 1990 Schools had just about got things right. There was a big move towards Developmental Education, classes were getting smaller, Teachers were being encouraged to keep up to date in their professional training.

 I have been out of the classroom for a long time and my only experience of today's schools has been with a wonderful little country school over at Glenavy and reports from my Grandchildren's parents who have some very valid concerns..

According to this morning's radio a lot of money is about to be spent training parents to 'modify children's classroom behaviour.' Evidently parents in economically deprived areas need help in teaching their children how to behave. If our Government is going to spend money training parents to 'improve children's classroom behaviour.' Is it going to consider:

Bringing back Plunket nurses who can help mothers learn about the feeding and care of young children so that by the time they go to school they are intelligent and physically healthy?

Cutting class sizes so teachers can construct a learning environment geared to the needs of their pupils. Fifteen maximum?

Run courses in child development and educational theory so that parents know what to expect? Mothers especially need to get off the competitive bandwagon and not push their children to perform too far above their age just to bolster their own ego.

But maybe the classrooms need to change rather than the children in them..

There are some classrooms where children's behaviour is an indicator of something amiss. Is the government going to spend money training parents to teach children to 'behave' when they should be looking at fixing the system?

How important is School in the communities where parents are deemed to be in need of training? Somewhere the kids go to while Mum and Dad try to earn a decent wage?

What is the underlying structure of our Education system? There are underlying and unchanging principles about learning that seem to have turned into whipping boys for politicians.

What are the purposes of what is in the School Curriculum? Do we want a population which accepts shoddy conditions without protest? Should we be training school children to obey authority without question? to believe that the rich and powerful are somehow better than we are?

I believe Education is too important to be mucked about with by Politicians. .


Saturday, March 30, 2013


Is Lawrence Ferlinghetti's newest collection ( published byNew Directions ) which arrived from City Lights Bookstore last week. The title is an aeronautical term denoting the time after one loses oxygen and before one passes out. Ferlinghetti uses it as a metaphor for American History

It is also a great metaphor for life itself, Instead of drifting and dreaming of all the great things God will give us in the next world should we not be making the most of our conscious lives here and now?

I experienced a moment of useful consciousness last Thursday when I looked but did not register what I saw and drove on to the railway line. The blast of the train horn when I was half way across alerted me, I used my 'Time of Useful Consciousness' to tramp on my accelerator and move the car forward a yard or two, so the train hit the boot of my car and not me. When I stepped out of my car unscathed, but facing the way I had come, one of the good samaritans people who helped me said, "You should go and buy a Lotto ticket."

If the train driver had not used his moment when he saw me on the line and realised a crash was inevitable, to blast his horn very loud, I would not be here.

So that moment of useful consciousness is really important.

And after the crash I was surrounded by angels, one in a blue lace dress, several in holiday wear, two in police uniform, all very human, who helped me shift the car, make a statement to the police and drove me home.

Angels aren't those silly creatures with wings. They are very human beings who just happen to be passing. I find that comforting.

Monday, March 25, 2013


On Sunday afternoon neighbour Glenys and I drove into Oamaru for our regular dose of clture = Metropolitan Opera on a big screen. This time it was AIDA composed by Verdi to mark the opening of the Suez Canal. I always knew it was the grandest of the grand operas. I knew the music and had seen photographs. One of our regular opera goers told us she had seen AIDA on the Sydney Domain and the triumphal march had real elephants

The music and singing were superb, Yes the Soprano and Mezzo soprano were big ladies, but sumptuous costuming disguised that and their voices were even bigger. The whole opera was rivetting but in particular Act 11, where Radames returns from conquering Ethiopia, preceded by soldiers, slaves, captives, horses. Phaero and his daughter sit on thrones in front of massive walls. I can see why people say AIDA should be performed outside it needs acres of stage.. The chorus was magnificent, the dancers wonderful and the trumpets lifted the hair on the back of my neck.

 I kept wondering. is there any greater human achievement than this melding of music, dance and drama? Maybe music is what makes mankind divine.

Friday, March 22, 2013


So George Lowe has died. He was the last of them, the boys with whom I learned Latin at Hastings High School from 1938 to 1942. We did not know it then but we were a unique generation.

We were born in the 1920s. The high point of our fathers' lives had been travelling to France and fighting at Passchendale. They returned, married our mothers, begot us and endured the Great Depression.

But although our parents had left school at twelve, they were determined that their children would have a high school education. I remember the day in 1937 when our Standard 6 teacher, Mr Collinge, interrupted our Arithmetic lesson to tell us.
 "You have all been granted Proficiency. You won't have to sit the exam. Well done!"

 Notice he did not tell us Proficiency, had been abolished and the school leaving age had been raised from twelve to fifteen. He made us feel we had achieved something special. He took us for a hike to Cape Kidnappers to celebrate.

So the following February a wave of children who had expected to deliver telegrams,  work in the canning factory,serve in a shop, or stay home and help in the orchard hit the High Schools. Were they ready for us? I like to think so, because that experience of High School was like the opening of a door into a world crammed with undreamed of possibnilities and all that was required  from us was effort.

Every morning at Assembly we listened to music, over four years we heard everything from the Hallelujah Chorus to In the Mood. We learned to read in Latin and French; about the 93 elements and how they combined to make compounds; about Archimedes shouting 'Eureka!. as he ran naked through the streets of Athens and Isaac Newton sitting under an apple tree in Cambridge.

In the increasing prosperity of those times we acquired bikes, second hand boneshakers, but we rode those bikes between Hastings and Napier  to go sailing in the idle along dinghies our fathers helped us build.

I don't think anyone from the 1938 Form 3A was surprised when we learned that the other New Zealander on Everest was our  quiet fair haired class mate, George Lowe.

Friday, February 22, 2013


My niece in Massachussetts sent me an extract from the New Zealand Herald about our Minister for Education  Evidently Ms Parata  is considering a return to basic Arithmetic in the Primary Schools syllabus.

She needs to study  history, then engage her brain before she sets her mouth in motion.

In 1949-50, when I was a student at Ardmore Teachers Training College ourMaths tutor, Ernest Duncan, taught us and anybody else who would listen about Numbers and how to organise them so  it was easy to understand the processes. The same Ernest Duncan left New Zealand to lecture in the United States, It took twenty years for his ideas to be accepted here. He organised the New School Mathematics programme and brilliant advisers like Joan Paske in Wellington devised programmes for teachers to put into effect. There were charismatic advisers like Nan Tiddy and school inspectors; like Kelvin Smythe who helped teachers put into practise what research showed about children's learning.

At the same time Duncan and the other lecturers at Ardmore were teaching us about child development, how a young brain works, the stages of understanding involved.

 Ms Parata herself needs to  go back to basics and learn about how children's brains  develop. Children are not sheep to  be fed through the drafting yards of rote learning. They are not in a race against other nationalities.  Right now our children are living the only life they will have, they should be developing ideas and concepts which will help them live that life with confidence. Telling them they are three seconds behind in answering an algorithm is not the way.

1. CHILDREN LEARN THROUGH PLAY.  At each stage of development every child practices the next stage through play. (Professor Brian Sutton-Smith Queens University New York; one of our New Zealanders who escaped our puritannical regulated culture).

2. CHILDREN NEED FREE PLAY WITH CONCRETE (REAL) MATERIALS. Piaget, Cuisennaire and dozens of others have preached this for decades. Children need loads of physical experience, running, jumping, dancing, throwing, catching, dropping,and talking about what they are doing ; That is the way they develop Mathematical concepts.

3. CHILDREN NEED TO DEVELOP A SENSE OF RHYTHM AND BALANCE.  That way they eventually recognise the patterns which make learning, Arithmetic especially. logical and easy.

4. CHILDREN NEED PARENTS WHO UNDERSTAND THEIR DEVELOPMENT, who don't see schooling at a mindless race.They need to be involved and their children's teachers need to accept them as allies. .

ALSO Schools need small classes, fifteen max. and young, well trained teachers. Many  enlightened ideas about child development have withered because penny pinching governments refuse to spend the money needed for educational improvement.


Monday, February 4, 2013


My Twelve year olf grand daughter gave me a book for Christmas. The Swerve, How the Renaissance Began by Stephen Greenblatt (Vintage) ISBN9780099572442 tells about the poem by Lucretius, a Roman Poet who died in 55BC called On the Nature of Things.Greenblatt tells a rivetting story about a fifteenth century book hunter,Poggio Bracciolini, seeking old manuscripts in a monastery in Germany.  When he finds an ancient parchment he recognises it as a copy of A Roman poem which St Jerome tried to supress in the 4th century, yet it was known and quoted in spite of the Inquisition.

According to the ba ck cover Poggio found 'a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas - that the universe functioned without the aid og gods, that religioud fear was damaging human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion. These ideas fuelled the Renaissance, inspiring Boticelly, shaping the thought of Montaigne, Darwin (his grandfather owned a copy) and Einstein.

)f course, after reading 'The Swerve' which is a superb stue story that reads like high quality fiction, I had to get 'On the Nature of Things'.  My copy, translated by Sir Robert Allison, was published by Arghur L Humphries in 1919.

Books 1 and 2, Atoms and the Void. Spenser translated whole chunks of it into The Faerie Queen.So did Shakespeare and Byron. . Lucretius rather contradicts the Big Bang, and intelligent design. There are atoms of infinite shape and number, and the void Over enormous stretches of time atoms swerve and meet and form new shapes, thus the universe evolves.

Books 3 and 4 Psychology, Sensation and Thought. Lucretius was a believer in  the teachings of Epicurus. .This life is all we have, there is  no afterlife.

If you are wondering how all this knowledge was lost for so many centuries ask the Pope, he and his precedents have a great deal to answer for.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Paul Allen is the 48th richest billionnaire in the world' He is one of the founders of Microsof, but has left the partnership..

He owns a yacht, the Octopus, 127 metres long, with helipads, 2 submarines, a tennis court and it is bigger than the frigate Denis Patrick Davies served in during World War 11.

It docked in Timaru Harbour on Friday. I am tempted to drive up and look at it.

Why am I telling you this?  A couple of neighbours reckon that Paul Allen should not spend all that money on a pleasure craft when people are out of work.

Well I would rather see shipbuilders, engineers, electricians, welders, upholsterers fitters, painters, sailorsand all in employment building a yacht than building weapons and vessels of war. And if the rich do not spend their money how is it going to circulate or trickle down ?

I hope the Octopus has a library with a lot of real books in it. Now there's a thought, a novel to beguile a billionnaire who has everything.