Slow Boat…

Posted on Jun 28, 2017 | 0 comments

I walked up Cuba Mall and then up onto Cuba and began to think I’d made a mistake.  I stopped a young woman who smiled and obligingly took off her earphones.  ‘Am I on the track for Slow Boat Records?’ I asked, ‘I’m beginning to think I might have walked past.’

She smiled.  ‘No, it’s up there, see the yellow sign?’  She saw I was relieved and then said, ‘If you’re looking for Slow Boat you must have good taste in music, I go in there all the time.’ And with a grin and a wave, she was off.

I wanted to ask Slow Boat if they had any sheet music of old songs eg Dylan, Kristofferson, Bette Midler (eg The Rose) and so on and so on. I know this is my son’s generation songs but no law that says they can’t be mine as well.

Anyway, I can now play a select number of chords (3 lots of 3) with my left hand and can (almost) tap out the melody of a song at the same time as playing the chords.  You very quickly learn to hear how vocal line notes go (eg sound better) with some chords rather than others. I also learned that a lot of lyricists only know (eg invent), the melody line and its their producer who gets some musicians in to do the left hand stuff.  That cheered me up.

The big thing I learned over the last four months is that its okay to play just for my own satisfaction.  If I make mistakes or fumble, that’s okay.  That if I don’t get pleasure out of something then I don’t have to make myself do it.  In fact there is no ‘have to’, there’s is only if it doesn’t make me smile then do something else.  That doesn’t mean I eschew practice, I am a fan of practice, am a long fan of rehearsal and its benefits.  So I will practise endlessly if I like what I’m trying to do.  I have two goals.  One is to play songs I like.  The other is to practise them until I can (more or less) get to the end without faltering.  And over all I have to get pleasure from it, feel a sense of achievement.  Smile.

So I entered Slow Boat and was fishing around the shelves in a hopeless kind of way when I was approached by a member of staff.  Smiling.  ‘Can I help?’ she said.

Out it poured.

‘Oh dear,’ she said, ‘I know exactly what you mean.  I had a pile of sheet music of old songs and took some along to the Salvation Army yesterday.  But, ‘ she said, before I could burst into loud sobs, ‘there’s still a pile in my boot.  Have you got email?’

I had email and a phone number.  I stretched out my hand, ‘Renée,’ I said, ‘thank you.’

‘Ondine,’ she said, taking my hand, ‘it’s a pleasure.  I’m pleased to give them to someone who really wants them.’

So I walked out of Slow Boat thinking, well go that river of Pop, Nick Bollinger wrote about.  He was right.  Somewhere in that river there’s a place for me.  And I think Slow Boat Records on Cuba might be the arrow pointing the way.


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Just wondering…

Posted on Jun 21, 2017 | 1 comment

I’m thinking of the money that has been spent, is being spent and will be spent on the boat race in Florida, thinking of the money that’s being spent on the British Isles Rugby tour,  of the money for the flash lunch held by the Auckland City Council when most invitees would have been happy with a far more modest offering.

Then there’s the CEOs who will get their huge pay rises in a month or so, there’s the money spent on asking people to vote for a particular party in the next election, there’s all this hoohaa over the Christchurch Cathedral – like a plain wooden building wouldn’t be okay for this Christ person?

There’s District and City Councils, who, it appears, can’t be bothered organising  their own, so we have to pay for their meals.  What makes these councillors so special?  They get paid just like everyone else, the majority of whom organise their own lunches.

I’m thinking of the botch-up of a government department’s new online system which will now have to be done again – more money down the drain.  None of the people involved will have lost a cent of their wages. And another department mixes up who should get what amounts of money in the Health System but oh, don’t worry, you lot who got more than you should have, you can keep it.

Oh and yes, the payout the absent-minded National MP Todd Barclay made with help from the then PM.

Steam rising…is there one rule for the haves and one for the have-nots?  Better ask a police officer.

And then I think of the kid sleeping in a car, the five-year-old blind girl and her family who were sent away, the old woman who goes to bed at 6pm because she can’t afford electricity, the woman who does three jobs so she can get enough money to pay the rent and buy food for herself and her two kids.  I think of the men who labour on farms, for a pittance because, it is said, part of their wages is the pleasure of living in a cold unheated house miles from anywhere.  I think of the polluted rivers and the fees being paid to select boarding schools.

Then I get told there’s no class system in this country?  Give me a break…





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All anyone wants…

Posted on Jun 14, 2017 | 0 comments

is somewhere to live,

somewhere to work,

someone to love,

something to hope for.

Norman Kirk’s words echo like the faint sound of a bell heard in a dark room.  Not because he didn’t mean them, or because he wasn’t right, but because, at this moment in time, whether you’re for Labour, National, Green, NZ First, United, Act, or Opportunities Party, there is no-one saying these words because if they did they might have to do something about them.

Words get all dressed up in other clothes.  Any time the Minister for Education say, or Housing, or Environment, is asked a question, whatever the question, the answer is, ‘We’ve put in lots of millions of dollars and we have a plan,’ or ‘if you vote us in we will put umpteen million dollars into fixing this – or even that.’

We will fix up the health system, we will fix housing, we will fix education, is the cry but they never tell us how, just parrot, again, how much they have, or will, put into that area.

No-one from any party ever says,  all anyone wants is somewhere to live, somewhere to work, someone to love, something to hope for.  And we will see that they get it.

You know why they don’t say it?  Because the words are too simple (haven’t been written by a speech writer or vetted by one of the spin doctors) , too powerful (can’t be too upfront, have to be vague, have to waffle and talk about the money we’ve put in or will put in), too scary (we might lose our seat if we say things that anyone can understand at first hearing).  These are words a child could understand.  If we say such simple words the voters will think we’re stupid, we have to talk the talk, the fudge, the techno crap, that the people we pay high wages to, tell us we must because the polls say that what people want.  This is why they don’t say these words.

So I think we should say them.  We should front up.  Stand on street corners.  Stand up on the grass in front of parliament, on Queen Street, on every damn street corner in this country and say, very loudly, to everyone we meet…they might not  be able to supply someone to love but they can definitely do the rest.  All it takes is the will to do so.  And if they do the three then the fourth will follow.  So – all together now…

All we want is…

somewhere to live

somewhere to work

someone to love

something to hope for.

Seventeen words my friends, seventeen words in this year 2017, that’s all it will take.  Because if we don’t say them, who the hell will?




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Walk on in the sunshine sing a little sunshine song dah dah dah…

Posted on Jun 7, 2017 | 1 comment

I caught myself singing loudly along with something on the radio.  Not a song I knew the words to so la-la-la-ing was doing the trick.  I thought how good it is to be able to sing.  And even better, not to care whether one’s voice is ‘good’ or ‘bad’.  Just singing for the pleasure of it.

When we are kids we sing a lot,  We sing songs because we like to make the sounds, we sing lines we have made up between various object or toys, so a chair can sing to a table or a path can talk to a letter-box.  Sometimes our songs are quenched by the adults around us but they can’t take the urge away entirely.

We sneak little songs in, sometimes quietly in our heads, sometimes out loud.  At school, we sit at a desk or table, and we work, answer questions, sometimes talk, laugh, and sometimes inside we sing to keep out spirits up.

We discover other people’s songs, we start to grow likings for some songs over others.  It’s a mysterious process this and there’s no telling why we like one sound better than another but we do.   Or why our friends don’t happen to like the same sounds we do.  They’re probably asking the same thing about us.

We discover lyrics.  And we begin to realise how important they can be.  So we compare and contrast and love them or not.  We read them, think about them, even try to write them, or play them.

We listen to others singing but we forget to sing ourselves.  Life’s too busy, our voices are raspy, we don;t feel comfortable singing with others in case they think our voice is no good.  And gradually we forget to sing at all.  We listen to others but we forget that we can do it too.

I was out among a crowd of people the other night and a friend came up to me to say hello.  We talked about our current activities and she said she was in a choir. ‘I can’t sing now,’ she said, ‘and neither can the others, but we love singing so we get together and sing.’  I loved that.

I made a promise to myself,  that whatever I sound like (and I have a damaged vocal chord so you can imagine I don’t sound great), I will still sing.  If I hear a song on the radio I will sing along.  If I watch a singer or musician on youtube I will sing along.  And whether neither of these things happen I will still sing.

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In defence of bad piano players…

Posted on May 31, 2017 | 2 comments

How many times have you said or heard someone else say, ‘Why do they bother?’  You’ve just listened to an excruciating rendition of Mozart’s 65th Prelude in W Minor (or whatever and his sister probably wrote it anyway) simply because you happened to see a friend and stopped to talk (not gossip, heavens no) outside a house and inadvertently listened to some poor schmuck who thinks they’re David Dolan (or whoever).

To us bad players this attitude comes as no surprise.  The only surprise might be that we don’t care.  We’re trying to find a chord progression for God’s sake, then we’re trying to play a chord progression, make the damn thing flow like it was no problem, that it just rippled from our fingers like water rippling down a brook (yes we write bad similes too, okay?).

I tell you it’s not easy.  Even when we find a simple chord progression for the left hand we still have to think what the fuck we’re going to do with the right hand.  Knit?  Paint?  Perhaps bake a batch of biscuits?   No sense letting it lie idle, then you’ll really have something to grizzle about.

We are a happy breed though, us bad players.  Whether its guitar or piano, drums or cello, we bravely keep on.  Lost in our dream of one day, one day, playing a melody over a chord progression that actually works.  While it might sound like we’re in a dark wood palely loitering, we are actually improvising which good players do as well.   Improvisation is a word that covers a lot of fiddling about.  It can mean you’re going somewhere.   It can mean you are working something out.  Or it can mean I don’t know where the hell I’m going with this but I’m going to do it till I get somewhere even if its nowhere.

We might even write a song.  The notes we’re playing might very well be a song.  Not a good song.  I won’t go that far.   Doesn’t matter how long it takes to work it out.   Leonard Cohen took years to write his songs.  Probably improvised the hell out of the keys before he wrote Hallelujah, or You Want it Darker? And Robert Allen Zimmerman probably improvised like crazy before he became Bob Dylan and wrote When I paint my Masterpiece or The times they are a-changing.

Obviously they actually got somewhere with their improvising when they wrote these songs but look at it this way.  How many times did they improvise like Armageddon was coming tomorrow and come up with nothing?  How many times did Michelangelo paint the Sistine chapel before he got what he wanted?  Huh?

We bad players are simply following in the steps of the Great Improvisors.  True, we might stop before we get to their celestial heights or we might go on heroically playing the same damn chord progression forever.  So what?

Look at it this way.  There were, I have no doubt, lots of jeering comments when those poor buggers started carrying great bricks to build the pyramids.  Or naysayers saying nay when the equally poor buggers started trudging up and down with bags of cement to build the Pantheon.  Did the person who thought of these creations worry?  Let the jeers bother them?  Of course not.  Did Rosa Luxemberg,   Emma Goldman  or Helen Kelly ever stop their battling on behalf of the workers because people said unkind things about them?

All of these illustrious ones are examples of improvisations that finally got somewhere.  The pyramids were made, the pantheon met its target date.  We might have to wait a bit before Helen or Rosa or Emma and let’s not forget Sonja Davies’s dreams come true but there are other people improvising on their golden examples.

While I might have drawn what some might say are fairly tenuous links between these heroic ones and bad piano players the point is that none of them stopped what they were doing because they were called bad players did they?  No of course not. They just kept on improvising.

Go for it, that’s what I say.




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Old people are…

Posted on May 24, 2017 | 2 comments


Boozers, losers, out of jail bruisers. Jockeys, cockies, once were great soccies. Litterers, knitters, reliable house sitters. Miners, diners, intelligent signers. Gardeners, cooks, some who write books. Piano and guitar players, definitely some Gays.  Singers, clingers, ringers and wingers. Wealthy, stealthy, against all odds healthy. Runners, gunners, dedicated punners. Winners and players, sinners and swayers. Rich, poor, curious, bored. Patient, walker, creepy grey stalker. Painters, fainters, always some ranters. Fat, skinny, tall, short. New, old, borrowed, bought. Fraught, taught, occasionally sought. Preachers, teachers, some who make Features. Bad-tempered, kind, clear-sighted, blind. Some bold, some rolled, some polled, some sold. Doctors, nurses, lecturers, bursars.  Bouncers, prancers, dedicated dancers.  Happy, sad, conniving, bad.  Lout, devout, chock full of doubt. Whingers, Ginjas, society’s fringes.   Packers, actors, determined hackers.  Loving, hating, dating, waiting…


Old people are selfish, loaded with money and investments, deliberately hanging on in their five-bedroom house in Remuera or Parnell, grabbing the government superannuation when they could well afford to live without it.

They stuff up the health system, clog the footpaths, get in the way of cyclists by walking across pedestrian crossings. They dodder, they’re slow, they peer at things and they can’t hear properly and when you shout at them they prod you with their umbrella. When you suggest they get a hearing aid they say they can’t afford them.  I mean what do they do with the government super?

They don’t need a lot to eat.  So why do they take so long in the supermarket?  They dawdle, pick up things, put them down, complain they can’t reach the top shelf.  They tut-tut at the price of things and ask the man at the meat freezer if they can have two soup bones instead of six or a smaller slice of lamb’s fry.  Ugh.  Lamb’s fry?  Only old people would even dream of eating that wet slimy dark stuff that’s got a horrible little skin all over it that you have to peel off before you cook it.  I suggested to one old woman that she use Quinoa instead of meat and you’d think I’d told her to drink disinfectant.  Actually I’ve only used it once myself but I’ll use it again at some stage.  Got lots of vitamins in it apparently.

Old people don’t mind waiting, why should they?  They’ve got nothing to do.  They can wait while you serve someone younger.  They adore being called ‘Love,’ and why the hell should they mind when you call them Mrs?  They’re all married aren’t they?  And what does it matter anyway?

They limp and whine about ramps and put on a drama when they have to walk up stairs. I mean if they can’t climb up a few stairs then they should stay home.  They should walk quicker, get their heart rate up, hold their shoulders back and stop complaining about uneven footpaths.  They’re the same footpaths that were there when they were young, they were okay then weren’t they?  So they’re okay now.

It’s all in the mind.  I just don’t think they’ve got enough to do.  All this hooha  about home help and then they complain that these hardworking cleaners only do the middle of the room.  Not because they’re no good at housework but because they have too many old women who want their housework done.  As for saying that the government should increase the hourly rate I mean housework is not rocket science is it?  I can understand some people need help but really, dusting a room’s not going to kill them is it?  If they can’t see properly then they just need to take it slower.  Take all day if they want.  What else have they got to do?

Its as clear as my just-cleaned pane of glass.  Simply a matter of using your brains.   All this bitching and carping, fussing and fretting about being old is simply a waste of time.  It’s all in the mind.  If you don’t think you’re old then you won’t be.  I have made up my mind.   I am never going to be old.


Not all like me…






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Do you know what it means to miss leafy greens…

Posted on May 10, 2017 | 0 comments

I am missing being able to go out to the garden and just pick whatever I want for the pot.  All the seedlings I put in are growing and I could probably nick a few lettuce leaves but the spinach and silver beet will be a while yet.  Every year at this lull time I try silverbeet from the supermarket and every year after I’ve steamed it, I take a mouthful and then sit and look at the rest.   So with apologies to Eddie deLange & Louis Alter who wrote the song and to Louis Armstrong who made it so popular, here’s another version.

Do you know what it means to miss leafy greens

To look at your plate and sigh

I know that its wrong

But the feeling’s getting stronger

Everything seems awry


Been listening to blues

and wondering who

thought this silver beet was okay

Cost me a bomb and most of it is useless

And what is left tastes like glue


Lettuces and rocket,

parsley in my pocket

Wattie’s frozen – or canned?

Maybe rice?   Would make it nice?

Or pasta with cheese and ham?


Do you know what it means to miss leafy greens

To look at your plate and sigh

I know that its wrong

but the feeling’s getting stronger

Oh how I miss leafy greens – (out of the garden, oooh yes…)


















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A landscape of shining leaves

Posted on May 3, 2017 | 0 comments

I was thinking of autumn and remembered this poem by Elizabeth Smither.  I emailed her and asked if I could put it on my blog and she said yes, so here it is…

A landscape of shining leaves

All the way from the airport the autumn sun
touches leaves. They are the dominant feature,

one leaf, one tree. Then they are everywhere.
Little blazing shields, little stalwart soldiers.

Morals that are so pure they blaze
the sunlight back into the air

like a moment a child masters
a difficult piece on the flute or the piano

or a singer strikes like a bird call
an evasive blurry note. When

all the moral deeds of human beings
(in a new sub-species of science fiction)

are extracted from even the weariest bodies
and carried to become leaves on trees.

Elizabeth Smither

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Two Things

Posted on Apr 26, 2017 | 0 comments

Why are the the spaces and lines on written music identified by different letters depending which stave they’re written on?   In the top one, the lines are egbdf and the spaces are face.  In the bottom one the lines are gbdfa and the spaces, aceg.  Why?  To make it harder?  To discourage people learning?   To keep reading music confined to a select few?

The scales, cdefgab are the same wherever you range on the piano.  If someone says play c and e and you play these two notes, you can choose any octave on the piano.  So why, when they’re written down between five lines and four spaces (and occasionally a ledger line) are the notes on  the top five lines and spaces identified by different letters from the bottom lines and spaces?

Some centuries ago, did some monk decree that reading music should be made harder so the the peasants couldn’t do it?  Or did he just wake up in a bad mood and think, ‘Right.  Here’s a way to drive logical thinking people crazy. And to keep the reading of music confined to a select few.’

I have tried and failed to think of a reason.  And while it’s not an insurmountable problem, not at all, a bit (or perhaps a little longer than that) of concentration and its done, but it’s illogical, unnecessary, and kids are completely put off.  They learn the top lot and are all set to play with two hands and then they’ve got to learn a different way of identifying the notes – and when they ask you why, you have to shrug and say, ‘Beats me.  It just is.’  Which is highly unsatisfactory for everyone.

And the second thing is more a cautionary note than a query.  There’s a lot of talk, discussion, re helping people who want to commit suicide.  I wonder if the same time and attention is given to those left to pick up the pieces?  When I wrote Wednesday To Come I didn’t expect that one of the outcomes would be that people felt that they now had someone who could identify with their feelings of loss, pain, anger, and shame.  Only those close to the person who kills him or herself know what its like to be ignored, whispered about, blamed, left to struggle on as best they can.  Among these people who approached and still approach me are those to whom it happened a couple of months ago, and those to whom it happened twenty years or more ago.  Time does not always heal.  The shadows that are cast are long and last  forever.

So just a cautionary note – in all the well-meaning and heartfelt attempts to care for those who are contemplating this act, among all the words extolling the beauty, virtue and kindness of those who committed this act, spare a thought and perhaps a word or a hug for those who are left.





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Gin and Coconut

Posted on Apr 12, 2017 | 1 comment

Theatre is a risky profession on all sorts of levels.  So many things can go wrong.  Listening to the report of the two boys who got their throats cut during a performance of Sweeney Todd, reminded me that when you step out on a stage you can never be sure what’s going to happen.

When the Catholic Church loaned us the little pedal organ they had stored in the loft of the church, we  promised to love, honour and obey it, forever.  We borrowed it because the play was Mervyn Thompson’s O Temperance and the old organ was perfect for the time and the temperance choruses.  Luckily, we had someone who had the physical stamina to pedal furiously while playing them.  At the party on the last night, later in the evening, after the organ-player had been drinking gin and dessiccated coconut (a Wairoa thing – don’t ask), decided to favour us with s dance.   If she’d just stuck to gin it would have been all right.  Or even gin and icing sugar which the props person was drinking.   Or the sherry and tonic, favoured by the oldest committee member.   There had been a craze for Vodka and Mint Sauce but that seemed to have died off.

She danced something purporting to be a flamenco dance.  Needless to say any relationship to real flamenco was only in the mind of the dancer.  Anyway during one of her Carmen Amaya spinning top turns she banged into the organ and naturally blamed the organ.  She bashed her glass on it and told it it shouldn’t have been standing in her way.  Then she slowly slid down the back of it and disappeared from sight.  The rest of us who had been watching (who wouldn’t?) in stunned disbelief from our first sight of the glass jar of dessiccated coconut, rushed to the organ and inspected it closely, patted it all over and someone even got a rug and cuddled it (end of run party – funny things happen, get a grip).  The organ was okay.  The woman came to eventually and said, ‘Something banged into me.  Where’s my glass?’  So she was okay.  But the jar of coconut had vanished.

Once I was props for a production where at some stage in the play, one of the characters had to throw a little clay figure onto the floor and break it. (Note:  I think the play was The Caretaker).   So I got to and made umpteen clay figures.  Blobs with rolls really.  I was very pleased with myself.  Should I make some extras for rehearsals?

‘No need,’ the director said, ‘he’s so clumsy, only has to look at a thing and it breaks.  He broke one of the stained glass windows in the Anglican church a week ago when he was taking a photograph of it’.

I put a little note on my props table, Clean and Sweep up Blob, as a nightly reminder.  The first night the guy picked up the blob with rolls and threw it at the floor.  It made a noise like the SAS was storming the theatre but it didn’t break.  The actor said, Fuck me.’  But Pinter wasn’t in the audience so that was all right.  I understand he didn’t take kindly to any changes made to his lines.  Over the three week season none of the blobs with rolls broke.  I think it must be some sort of record.  I can’t remember what I did with the two cartons of blobs but they’re not in the garage so I must have got rid of them somewhere.

Then there was the famous (in Wairoa) incident during the first night of Noel Cowards’s Blithe Spirit.  Time has mercifully blotted out my fury, but at one stage Madame Arcati (the medium) was doing her stuff when a figure in a long grey dress walked from one side of the set to the other.  To say Madame Arcati was put off her stride is like saying that someone is upset when their house is flooded.   It barely touches on the range of emotion suffered.

‘Jesus Christ,’ she yelled, ‘Holy Mother,’ and, crossing herself vigorously, picked up the crystal ball and  rushed off stage, leaving the other actors staring at each other until one of them with more presence of mind but less brainpower, said brightly, ‘It’s been a rather surprising day.  A  pig walked round the corner of my house when I was out in the garden.  I got a shock I can tell you.’

The audience, thinking this was part of the play, roared with laughter, and if Noel Coward had been in the audience, I hope he would have too.   By this time I was backstage hissing instructions at Madame Arcati, along the lines of, ‘I don’t give a fuck how many fucking ghosts there are, just get out there and finish the bloody scene.’

So Madame Arcati came back on and said, ‘There’s no-one there,’ sat down and continued the scene.

And no, we never found the woman in the long grey dress.  A bit odd.  But that’s theatre.








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Take the leap…

Posted on Apr 5, 2017 | 0 comments

One day a woman who’d been wanting to paint for years, who, because of circumstances  had not had any  training, who led a very busy life, woke up and thought, yes.  She got up, had a shower, turned the washing machine on, made breakfast for her husband and herself, washed the dishes, hung out the washing, sat at the table, drank a cup of coffee.  Smiled.

Then she grabbed her bag, got into the car, drove up town to the paint shop, bought brushes and acrylic paint, then back home where she fished around in the shed and found a couple of pieces of hardboard.  She propped the pieces of hardboard up against the wall, opened the tins of paint, stirred them, then picked up a brush, began painting a picture, began the journey

Around about the same time another woman saw a woman running past her place.  She’d seen her before because she ran past most mornings.  The woman watching supposed she was in training for something.  Or did she run for the fun and the freedom of it?   As she went off to work, the woman wondered what it was like, that freedom.  One day she saw a pair of track shoes in an op shop.  $5.  She tried them on.  They fitted and were in good nick.  She handed over the money and took them home where they sat in the bedroom for a couple of days.  Then one morning she woke up, thought, okay.  Okay.

But it wasn’t until the next night that she set the alarm for a bit earlier, got up, pulled on some scraggy old trackpants, found some socks, put on the track shoes, crept through the quiet house, locked the door behind her, opened the gate, went out on the footpath and began to run.  The first time was awkward and she felt a fool but she liked how she felt after, and even though her muscles  grizzled a bit,  that feeling was there for the rest of the day.  Every day for a month she went out and the runs got longer and less awkward and one day she passed that first woman who yelled, ‘The park, Saturday, ten o’clock, see you there.’  She smiled, nodded, stopped feeling foolish and started feeling free.

So the message is clear darlings, just do it.









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Linear One

Posted on Mar 29, 2017 | 1 comment

I began writing this poem some years ago after my first duet with cancer.  I have played around with it over the years, as one does, and here is its current incarnation.  I wrote it for my granddaughter, Abbie Marie, who works in this area, and I dedicate it to everyone who has/is having this experience…

Linear One

(For Abbie Marie)

Sing, girl, sing – over there is a smiling mask
for sad days, a solemn one for happy nights.
Wear them for all occasions, wear them for fun.

Sing of the large dome, its measured descent, hands
stretched to grasp yours, of voices – soft, the light
of the shadow that lingers at the far end of the room.

Sing about death and faith and blood and the pathway
along which the full moon will come soft-slippered,
sip red-lipped wine from a bowl of thin glass.

Sing as you contemplate the masks that come and go
one for this, one for that. Give someone a mask and
they’ll tell the truth? In this room, songs will do.


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High as a kite

Posted on Mar 22, 2017 | 1 comment

Yes, it’s Otaki Kite Festival this weekend but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I got the piano just over a month ago.  No, I can’t play a Chopin Prelude, but I do a pretty good demo of scales.  The thing is, as you probably all know, you not only have to learn to read the hieroglyphics on the page and synchronise them with the notes on the piano, you have to use the correct fingers to do it. ‘If you don’t,’ a friend of mine said, ‘you’ll run out of fingers.’   Ha, I thought, but, as usual, friends are right.

Now I’ve learned to recognise the notes on the line and the notes in the spaces, and you’d think that would be enough.  But no – I have to learn the value of each note.  And I have to make myself use the correct finger?

‘Okay,’ I said, ‘let me get this straight. I have to identify the key I’m playing in, I have to read the notes on the lines and in the spaces, I have to give them the correct value, and do it with the right bloody finger?’ These comments were addressed to the piano so of course there was no answer.

This is what is called practice.  That’s the noun.  The verb is practise.   The people from outer space who correct my spelling, seem to want me to use the verb as a noun but then they also voted in Trump so sucks to them.

‘I practised for five years before I played a whole piece of music,’ said someone.

Apart from the obvious (if I adopt this way of thinking I might never get to play a tune) I have decided that I will practise and at the same time also attempt to learn a tune.  I’ve done it before on the ukulele.  I know that if I just keep going something recognisable will emerge.   I am a fan of rehearsal so practising’s not a problem but I also like to see results so any little step forward is a cause for celebration.

Getting the correct fingering is a real test of concentration.  I have one finger which is so damn lazy it just wants to lie around making no effort at all and leaving it to the ones on either side. I’ve met people like this and no doubt you have too but I’m not allowing a finger to get away with it.  I think this finger needs to be sent to boot camp so if anyone knows of a piece of music for second finger, left hand, please give me the title.  However, as you know and I know, muscle memory will kick in eventually.

When I think that a month ago I knew absolutely nothing and now I know a tiny something, that’s progress isn’t it?  Miniscule, yes, but I only have to please me, and I’m smiling, so something is working, right?









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Millions of Strawberries by Genevieve Taggard

Posted on Mar 15, 2017 | Comments Off on Millions of Strawberries by Genevieve Taggard

I was given a clutch of books this week and in one was this poem by Genevieve Taggard.  Instantly I remembered picking blackberries in Greenmeadows with Val and Jim and eating blackberries and picking more and eating more…and eating more…those days when every summer’s day was hot and the skies were endless blue and we were free to roam.  We had a bucket and when we came home without it, I had to go back and find it.  I found it, ate some more blackberries, threw some in the bucket to pacify Mum and then trundled home as the sun was going down and the light in the sky was all shades of pink with a few thin blue streaks and I was so tired I could hardly eat my tea and only had a token wash before I fell into bed and dreamed of eating my way through the blackberries…

Millions of Strawberries

Marcia and I went over the curve

Eating our way down

Jewels of strawberries we didn’t deserve,

Eating our way down.

Till our hands were sticky and our lips painted

And over us the hot day fainted, and we saw snakes,

And got scratched,

And a lust overcame us for the red unmatched

Small buds of berries,

Till we lay down –

Eating our way down –

And rolled in the berries like two little dogs.


In the late gold

And gnats hummed

And it was cold

And home we went, without a berry,

Painted red and brown,

Eating our way down.



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If ego comes can alter be far away?

Posted on Mar 8, 2017 | Comments Off on If ego comes can alter be far away?

I note in the local paper that one of our local elected officers says, Unless your position requires you to communicate with a particular audience or you have an ego that makes you write a blog or a tweet, it’s (writing a column) not something you get to do.’

I wondered what you need to stand for public office?  A retiring nature and a liking for solitude?

And I wondered how many of the citizens this officer represents write tweets or blogs?

I don’t mind if someone accuses me of having an ego.   I’m a human being, of course I have an ego.   Although what the accusation implies is that my ego has got our of control because I write a blog.

Ego – (1) a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.  (2) The part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and sense of personal identity.  And (3) the metaphysical explanation?  A conscious thinking subject.

So an ego’s not a bad thing to have really.  And remember, once upon a time we had party lines, we’ve always had gossip, and now we have tweets or blogs.

I wonder how big an ego I have to have to write a play or a novel?  Cook a new recipe?  Make a garden?   Send a request to RNZ Saturday Night Listener’s Requests?   Elkie Brooks, Pearl’s a Singer?  Thank you, Paul…ps need to get out of my comfort range – have you got Jesus was a Capricorn/He ate organic food?  Kris Kristoffersen.

Maybe it’s my alter ego (secondary or alternative personality)?  What a good idea.  I can blame everything on my alter ego.  She does all these things while I sit reflecting on life, the chaos theory or whether I’m a fox or a hedgehog.   See?  Not really my fault at all.

An ego’s a good thing.   So make the most of it.  You’ve got a secret dream?   What have you got to lose?  Go for it.

The first time’s the worst.

Like a lot of things really.





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Sorry, Ms or Mr MP, you failed your drug test…

Posted on Mar 1, 2017 | Comments Off on Sorry, Ms or Mr MP, you failed your drug test…

Drug-testing is a good thing and its such a good thing  I think the scope should be widened.  For example it should include Doctors, Lawyers, Police Commissioners, Mayors, Members of Parliament, Priests, Parsons, Councillors, Judges, Teachers, Tele-marketers and Trades Council Members.  To name a few.

All these have important jobs, they need to be bright and alert and focused.  They are making decisions to do with the lives of human beings eg you and me.  Now I don’t know about you but sometimes when I see an MP talking about climate change and water quality without looking worried, I start to wonder what the hell they’re on.  Or the teacher who tells me their students love their classes?  Go to the drug counsellor immediately.

A doctor who says to his patients no you can’t have an Xray but you can have a shovelful of hard drugs so when the pain gets worse you can swallow a fistful.  You’ll be a little foggy?  Well, yes, unfortunately that does mean you won’t be allowed to work because the drugs will show up on the drug tests and you’ll lose your job.  So you’ll have to go to WINZ and they’ll do a drug test and refuse you a benefit because you’ve failed their drug tests.  Yes I understand you won’t be able to pay the rent and you’ll have to sleep in your car and I’m very sorry. but those are the rules.

And don’t get me started on working in orchards or wineries.  Who tests the bosses?  Oh?  They don’t climb trees?  Yes I see, and paying the miserable hourly rate is no hassle?  You can be drugged to the eyeballs but you still know the difference between a living wage and a barely able to exist one? And then there’s the living conditions – crammed into bunkhouses, one shower between too many people – these are anecdotal stories but if the PM can do it…

I wonder about MPs who stay on…and on, grimly clinging to power (and the money and perks) when its clear they need to give up space to someone younger.  But the younger one might make mistakes?  Yes?  Your point is?

And now the PM says that the reason orchardists and farmers can’t employ young New Zealanders is because they fail drug tests and then it turns out that the numbers show only a small percentage fail drug tests so I can’t help wondering what the PM’s on?

And there’s adult cyclists who ride on footpaths, truck drivers who pass little old ladies in yellow cars doing 80K in an 80K area?  Huh?   Yes, it was me who gave you the fingers, ok mate?  And it was me who yelled, ‘Go and have a lovely drug test.’  I might not have put it quite like that but the meaning was very clear.






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Putting and taking…

Posted on Feb 22, 2017 | 1 comment


I don’t know about you but I can feel every muscle and bone in my body relaxing after two fine days in a row. The garden is drinking it in and I might get some tomatoes actually ripen on the vine.

This morning a friend and I finally got my house into order. It didn’t take as long as thinking about it. I had to wait till I finished a job because that entailed ignoring the books lying everywhere and when I finished on Monday I simply couldn’t be bothered.

Besides I’d plonked a table leg on my right foot which has been blue and is now going black. It is not sore now.  Work is a great thing. I didn’t have time to think about it very much. Apart from registering that I couldn’t wear the strap sandals I like and having to settle for some large old shoes I use for gardening, I hardly noticed it – I was more interested in what I had to.

Now, after a couple of hours putting and taking, the house is settling. I won’t say its preening but all is in place. My workroom is unnaturally tidy but that’s okay – it won’t last long. The Oxford and the Roget’s are lying tidily together on my work table and the little red jar of pens stands eager for someone, anyone to take out one of the pens.

The piano arrived last Thursday and looks right at home. The tuner came on Friday. I looked up piano tuners – Kapiti – and there she was, almost on my doorstep. She was great. Got busy with her box of tricks and tuned it. It’s a Sames. I looked them up and Sames pianos were made in the UK (Scotland perhaps) from about 1890 to 1930 and are nearly all uprights. They are usually reliable and restore well, so the information said. It might not be up to a recital (my good luck) but it will do me fine.

I am not ambitious. I’ll be happy if I can play We shall not be moved, or, We shall overcome. These songs usually make me cry, especially at funerals, but hopefully will not do that if I ever get to play them on the piano. The sight of a a pianist sobbing her way through We will not be moved, would not be a great look.


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The Piano

Posted on Feb 15, 2017 | 1 comment

I think that title might have been used before but that was then, this is now.

I have been busy looking at pianos, put in bids on one, got to $53 and then was outbid. I put in a bid on another and in fifty cent leaps got up to $3.50 and then Chris and Zuzu told me about a piano which was being given away.  I would have to pay cartage but I was going to have to pay cartage anyway.  They had seen it and Zuzu rang up to see if it was still available.  It was but Sunday was the only day the guy had off so I said I’d be in touch Monday.

Then I realised that I still had the bid in on the $3.50 one and if no-one outbid me I would have two pianos.  Now one will call for some putting and taking in my little sitting room and although I’m fairly good at making furniture work I might have met my match if I had two pianos to place in it.

I checked my phone constantly.  Someone, anyone, put in a fifty cent bid. Please.  Like, fifty cents is not much to ask, is it?

Then, hallelujah someone outbid me,  it went up to $4 and I was able to breathe again.  I’d be no good in the Futures market, folks, I couldn’t stand the strain.

So on Monday Zuzu rang up, it’s all arranged, the piano arrives on Thursday.  Everyone I’ve told, except for three people, has said, ‘But, where will you put it?’

These three did variations on, ‘How wonderful,’  ‘You’ll love it’, ‘Great idea,’ and all thought I would have no trouble rearranging the sitting room to accommodate it.  A mere bagatelle.

So will I put the dining table back in the dining room which I’m using as a workroom?  I’ll still have to use it as a workroom but use the table as a workspace as well as for eating meals.  If I do that I’ll have to put the table I’m currently using as a desk into the spare room.  One friend wants me to simply move things about in the sitting room so I have everything there that’s in the room right now and still accommodate the piano.  But I like a bit of space showing.

What I’ll do for a start is stick the dining table in the middle of the room and live with it for a while.  By the time I’ve tripped over it a few times on my way to the toilet at night, I’ll have more of an idea where to put it.

We live in exciting times…


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No, don’t play Misty for me – I’ll play it for you…

Posted on Feb 8, 2017 | Comments Off on No, don’t play Misty for me – I’ll play it for you…

I had my first ever piano lesson this morning.  I feel like someone has opened a door and invited me into a room where I’ve always wanted to be.

Margarette, who plays the piano, offered me some lessons when I saw her at a party in December and told her I wanted to learn to read music in 2017 as one of my New Year resolutions.

Today she gave me a book plus some advice on which little icons  mean what. Using the correct finger on the correct key is important because otherwise ‘you’ll run out of fingers.’

I haven’t got a piano yet – have been looking at keyboards but am more attracted to the real thing.  Am on the case so we’ll see what happens.

I have no ambition other than learning to read music and knowing what keys, fingers, I should be playing. So don’t expect a recital any day soon.

But – if I can learn to read music and play some simple tunes, I’ll be happy.

And – if you have a dream, no matter how out of sight or outrageous it might be, just tell everyone you meet you want to do it and someone will offer to help.

This is a short blog because I must go and do my practice.



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Happy times

Posted on Dec 21, 2016 | Comments Off on Happy times

Kia ora koutou, have a great time over Christmas and New Year.  Make your New Year Resolutions – and don’t worry if you can’t keep them exactly.  My resolutions are to learn to read music (about time) and to write a crime novel.   I have to get my memoir up to scratch by January 31 but I like that sort of job.  So happily (or otherwise) occupied.  Whenever I use the word otherwise I think of Jane Kenyon and her poem, Otherwise.  Look it up.

In the meantime, here’s my recipe for Anzac Biscuits – among all the cream and chocolate of Christmas these are a great down to earth bite.  This particular recipe was given to me by Ella McLeod who was in the same ward in Hutt Hospital when I came to from that first breast cancer op 18 years ago.  We became friends and  she discovered I taught  Your Life, Your Story workshops.  She wanted to write her memoir for family and frtiends and she did and it’s on my shelf.

I discovered she made absolutely delicious Anzac biscuits.  I had never quite got them right and now I never (or hardly ever) have a failure.  It’s the splash of boiling water that does it.  When I look through the pages of my stained and untidy recipe book there are so many recipes which have been given to me by friends and family members – a few I’ve copied from magazines but in the main this is a record of cooks and bakers who happened to be friends or a family member.  Stained, marked, looking just a little bit the worse for wear, filled with names of people I know, or knew, or never knew because they were dead when I was given their recipe, this book is the one I turn to at this time of the year.

Anzac Biscuits (Ella’s recipe)

Set oven to 180C
Prepare trays


115 grams butter melted with 2T Golden Syrup
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup coconut
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Baking Soda

When mixed add a splash of boiling water to make the mixture tacky.
Put teaspoonfuls on tray. Groove with fork if you like. Bake around 25-30 minutes until nicely browned. Put on rack until cool then store in airtight container.

Occasionally I add a cup of raisins to the mix which makes a slightly more chewier texture.

Have a great Christmas time and whether you’re in the company of friends and/or whanau, or sitting alone in a room or garden, may 2017 bring you everything your heart desires.  Or maybe three-quarters of it?

Ma te wa,


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