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.