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 | Comments Off on Take the leap…

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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Politics on Main Street

Posted on Dec 14, 2016 | Comments Off on Politics on Main Street

‘That’ll be ten dollars and twenty cents, Sir.’

‘But they’re on special.’

‘Only if you have your card, Sir.’

‘I don’t believe in cards.’

The checkout operator and I look at each other.  She’s about a hundred years younger than me but we are as one in our opinion of this comment.

‘Use mine,’ I pushed my card along the counter.

He frowned.  ‘Isn’t that cheating?’

I took my card back.  We waited. Then he sighed deeply..’Okay thanks.’

I was very tempted but in the interests of the queue I pushed the card back.  He said, ‘John Key’s not the first you know..since Gareth threw his hat in the ring they’re scattering like flies…Cunliffe, Shearer… and I hear McCully’s on the way.  There’ll be others.’

‘Who’s Gareth?’ said the checkout operator.

The guy frowned, shook his head, and walked off.

‘Don’t get mixed up with the Gareth who’s a greenie,’ I said, ‘or the Gareth who composes music, this is the one who’s got lots of money and rides a motor-bike.’

‘So like Key but rides a motor-bike?’

‘Well this Gareth thinks cats should be allowed to die out – I don’t know how John feels about them.’

‘So does he ride a Harley?  Which gang does he ride for? That’ll be forty-two dollars, sixty cents thanks. I’ll look him up. Have a nice day.’

‘Yes but Phil Goff rides a motor-bike,’ someone on the path leading to the library said as I came along.  ‘And he’s one of the ones that left,’ someone else pointed out.  Then she said, ‘Hey, what do you reckon?  Will he hold a referendum on legalising cannabis?’

“if he’s got any sense,’ someone else said.  ‘I’m told he’s into the environment, leafy green things, all that stuff.’

‘Yeah but motor-bikes and cannabis,’ said someone doubtfully.

There was a knot of people on the footpath outside the Post Office.  ‘Did you hear?’ A guy sitting on a mobility scooter said, ‘this chap called Gareth and Phil Goff are going to have a race and whoever wins gets to be PM.’

‘Really?’ said a woman buying a raffle ticket for a trailer-load of groceries, ‘I thought Gareth was against using petrol-driven vehicles?’

‘That’s a different Gareth,’ said the man on the mobility scooter, ‘this is the one who writes music.’

‘Nah,’ said a passing college kid, ‘it’s the one who wants to get rid of cats.’

‘Jesus,’ said the man on the mobility scooter, ‘he needn’t think he’s getting his hands on my Ginger.’

Down by the pub a man was writing on the notice board.  ‘Meeting here tonight to discuss this rooster called Gareth,’ he said to me.  ‘Apparently he’s going to legalise cannabis and feed it to cats.  Bit of a waste I reckon. You coming?’

‘Sorry,’ I said, ‘previous engagement.’

As I turned into my drive I heard someone over the fence at Nga PuraPura, ‘All I’m saying,’ he said, ‘is it’s beyond a coincidence.  That’s all.’  He waited a bit and as I disappeared round the corner of my house I heard him say, ‘Sam Lotu-Liga?  Has he?  Really?  One of my kids wants to learn to ride a motor-bike.  Maybe I better let him.’













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On the other hand…

Posted on Dec 7, 2016 | 1 comment

I was out in the garden when a giant black Hillux pulled up.  A woman got out  holding some scissors high in her hand much like the original Crusaders held the giant cross when they marched into Constantinople.

‘What are you doing?’  I said.  Ask a silly question why don’t you, Renée?

‘My mother died seventeen years ago,’ she said, ‘so every year on the anniversary of her death I put a vase of beautiful roses on her table.’

‘They’re my roses,’ I said.

‘Yes but you’ve got plenty.’

‘Did you think of asking?’ I said.

She looked astonished.  It was very well done.  Probably got A+ in Drama Class.  ‘But they’re hanging over the fence,’ she said.

‘Bugger off,’ I said.  ‘Next time ask.’

A bit rude.  And I didn’t believe her story about her mother – not at all.  It was all she could think up when I  challenged her.  She was probably going to take them to someone and say they were from her own garden.  Grump, grump, grump.

A little kid came and knocked on the door about a month ago and said could she please have a few flowers to make a bouquet for the teacher.  All the kids were bringing a few and they were going to make a big bunch and they’d all made cards.  ‘Five would be good,’ she said.

So I took her round and she chose the flowers and I cut them and after I’d wrapped them up in some tissue, she said, ‘Thank you very much, you’ve been very kind.’   I heard her mother’s voice in those words and probably her grandmother’s.

My garden in front of my little house is small and crammed with roses, irises, love-in-a-mist, candytuft, geums, borage, nasturtiums, sweet peas, swan plants and lots of others.  It is perhaps a little over-exuberant for such a small plot.  It takes work to keep it happy.  There’s a fence between it and the footpath but you can’t see the fence much at the moment because roses are all over it.  Nearly everyone who goes past says hello or Kia ora when they see me.  They stop and sniff my flowers, say what a nice day it is. Some take photos.  ‘Just to show my Mum,’ they’ll sing out, or ‘Want to show my partner the colour.’

There’s a blind woman who goes for a walk every day and if I’m out there I’ll call out so she knows I’m around. ‘Hello Renée,’ she says, ‘is David there?’  This is because she came past one day and said, ‘Who’s with you?’ And I said, “David, my son, David.’

So then they talked for a bit then another day Tim was just leaving and I said, ‘Hi, this is Tim, another son.’ So she talked to Tim for a while.’  And now she asks after him as well.  One day she heard a man’s voice in the garden and said, ‘Who’s that?  Is that you David?  Tim?’

He said, ‘Not it’s the young spunky chap from the Hardware shop,’ and he laughed to show it was a joke and she laughed too.

Sometimes people come to the fence and say, ‘You’re Renée aren’t you.’  I never know whether to say yes or say, ‘No I’m her sister, Renée’s in Dubrovnik at the moment. Can I take a message?’  Usually I say yes.  And then they remind me of something I’ve written that spoke to them and then, then, they  tell me their story and I listen and think what arses we humans are to each other at times.  How much does it take to be kind?

I’m a fine one to talk.  I refused to give that woman some roses.  Would it have hurt me?  Even though she lied?  No.  The truth is I got snotty because she didn’t ask properly.  Also coming prepared with the scissors was a little bit off.  Or a hell of a lot off.

I thought of that fourteen-year-old boy, just last week, who came along, looked around, didn’t see me working at the kitchen bench which has windows that face the road.  What’s he up to?  I watched him search gently through the  Blackberry Nip buds, choose one, gave a quick snip with his fingers, turn away and as a girl around his age came along he handed her the rose.  She held it to her nose, smiled at him and they walked off together.  Instead of rushing out and demanding to know why he stole my rose, I just  stood by the bench and hoped like hell life went well for them and that this first tentative romantic gesture would be a lovely memory as they went their separate ways.

I think, all appearances to the contrary, I must be a romantic at heart.  Probably superficial and shallow too – I mean I like reading books that make me laugh?  Whatever the genre?  And – I’ve used the same cheap shampoo for ten years because it’s called Drama Clean?

And because it was the scissors, darlings, it was the scissors




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Seething with apocalyptic intent…

Posted on Dec 3, 2016 | Comments Off on Seething with apocalyptic intent…

The other day a guy leaned over the fence and said to me, ‘Wanna go to a dance?’
‘I don’t bat for your team,’ I said and continued digging.
‘I’m not looking for a night of hot sex,’ he said, ‘I just want to dance with someone who knows how to dance.’
I laughed so much I had to hold onto the spade so I wouldn’t fall over.

I fell over on the path about three months ago. There was nothing on the path I could have tripped on, I just fell. I landed heavily. Then realised there was no-one around. All the adults, schoolchildren, posties, couriers, who usually pass by in droves had gone to ground. There were no neighbours in sight. If I was going to get up I would have to do it by myself. I felt like I’d broken something but the only way to find that out for sure was to get up. I slid a little further down the path where there was a stake in the garden propping up a bush rose called Iceberg Burgundy.

Lots of fucks and shits later I was on my knees and then with a giant haul that made me yell Jesus Shit, I was up. I stood hanging onto the stake until I started breathing again then very slowly hobbled inside. So now I don’t garden unless I have the spade which is a good supporter and has the benefit of a handle I can grab if I think I’m going to fall when overcome by laughter. Or any other time.

According to The Spinoff, the Guardian called Margaret Drabble’s Dark Flood Rises, a ‘quiet meditation on old age’ and goes on to say that it ‘seethes with apocalyptic intent’.

I’m not sure what ‘apocalyptic intent’ means but it sounds just like the kind of book that will send the literary community into a frenzy, possibly of apocalyptic intent, probably because they will pretend they understand what it means – they won’t read the book of course – why would they they read the book?  They’ve read The Spinoff’’s quote of what the Guardian said.  The Spinoff will probably join in this frenzy of apocalyptic intent and call it The Spinoff Best Book of their Best Books of 2016.   Or maybe they’ll just seethe etc etc…

I think Margaret Drabble’s bloody lucky to have time for quiet meditations about anything let alone old age. Old age is shit and anyone who tells you different is lying.

Old age is shit because everyone moans about me. They blame me for using up all the Health dollars, they blame me for getting the pension, or if you’re a National Party voter, Government Superannuation. Everyone blames me for having the temerity to think I earned it and when I say I still pay tax and I still pay ACC because I’m still Self-Employed’ they say anyone at my age shouldn’t be working and taking a job away from a younger more deserving person. This is probably when I have a wee seethe with murderous intent instead of apocalyptic.

There are lots of experts who know everything about being old even though they’re not. They get interviewed on RNZ. I’ve learned to turn the damn thing off when they start because I don’t want to have a high blood pressure event. This is what it was called when I went to Hospital a few years ago with blood pressure 212 over something because the tablets didn’t suit me. Never mind. We’ll try some other tablets.  We don’t want you to have another event do we?

I’d like to still walk properly and not get aches and pains, not have had cancer and not have to take even more tablets and be a Drain on the Health System but I didn’t get asked, OK?

Now I looked at the guy over the fence, thought of us both falling over on the floor at the RSA and shook my head. He shrugged philosophically. “Love your garden,’ he said, and walked on.

Whoever said Old Age is not for Sissies didn’t add that it’s not for Brave people either. Old age is not a choice anyone would make – it just happens because you don’t die yet.





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December 1 and no wind – hallelujah…

Posted on Dec 2, 2016 | Comments Off on December 1 and no wind – hallelujah…

November had ended for this year.  And so have the patches.  I think my memoir is ready to be edited/bits added/some deleted/additions/who knows.  For the moment they are not available to be read.

It is the month of the year when annoying things happen.  Equinoctial gales, aches and pains, all happen in November.  Today December 1 has been a beautiful sunny day, no wind, and Miriam came and sorted out some things on the blog (and the computer), and we’ve organised a new look which will happen at some stage soon.

The garden is a little over-exuberant for this small space but I will get out tomorrow morning and see what needs to be done.  I am very pleased with the tomatoes this season.  Unlike last year, when they all languished and drooped and finally gave up the ghost (is this from Hamlet or Macbeth?), this year they are hardy and luxuriant and although the ones in pots had to be moved out of the wind to stand crouched against the house, they look good.  My back’s not so resilient.  But I love going to bed early and reading so all good.

I’ve had 9 strawberries so far and more to come.  The celery has decided to be lively, and the roses and irises are out in force.  There are so many Monarchs this year because last year lots of swan plant seeds got thrown in and have kept  growing and now every day there are at least two monarchs flirting around the Granny’s Bonnets or the Borage.

A beautiful evening and very quiet here in Otaki.  I think everyone (well nearly) is sitting rejoicing that November is over – the winds have gone – let the fun begin.


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Time out

Posted on Jul 22, 2015 | Comments Off on Time out

Kia ora everyone, I’m taking a couple of weeks off, so will be with you again in August, Renée

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Bring on the baking soda

Posted on Jul 15, 2015 | Comments Off on Bring on the baking soda

There’s a lot of repeating going on.  The Labour Party is copying NZ First which copied the attitudes of 19th century White New Zealanders to Chinese goldminers.  

Then they were called The Yellow Peril, now they’re called Overseas buyers.  

Easier to blame the ones with Chinese names for Auckland’s over-heated housing market.   Beats blaming the Auckland City Council’s housing strategy.  

And Chinese are easier to spot.  Who cares if their great-great grandparents settled here and successive generations have lived here, paid taxes, have done so for generations, and that they buy houses too?  

If overseas buyers who happen to be Chinese are buying up large in the housing market, is it right that because of their actions, small kids who were born here, just like their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are subjected to the kind of bullying that their great-grandparents, grandparents, parents were subjected to?  

If I asked anyone they would say no of course it’s not right and of course they wouldn’t do anything that would lead to that kind of behaviour.  But I’ve never met anyone who says they voted for John Key either. 






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That’s a good question

Posted on Jul 8, 2015 | Comments Off on That’s a good question

Turn on the radio, go online, watch (if you have the stamina) TV, and count how many times someone being interviewed says, ‘That’s a good question.’  

Which means, ‘thank god, I can answer this and show off my erudite knowledge of the market, farming, or reproductive  advances in flies.   Or I might not even answer it all especially if it’s about housing or Christchurch.  

It’s become a matter of honour to say it at least once in every interview.  Along with starting nearly every sentence with So.

‘So all I said was take your bloody hand off my bloody gate in the nicest possible way and he took offence.  Now I’m a peaceable man…’

‘So why then did you grab your shovel and hit him with it?’

‘So that’s a good question.’

‘So do you have an answer?’

‘That’s a good question. Did I know he was from IRD?’

‘That’s a good question.  Did you?’

‘So he shoved a card at me which said IRD but anyone can do that, can’t they?’

‘Good question.  So what is the outcome?  Technically this was assault wasn’t it?’

‘Now that’s a very good question.’






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A new political party

Posted on Jun 30, 2015 | Comments Off on A new political party

Hello, my name is Colin, I want to start a new political party and I thought I’d run my ideas past you in case you’d like to join.

I have plenty of money and I have a track record so I will be the one who stands for parliament and chairs the board.  I didn’t see why I should have a board, more trouble than they’re worth I thought, but my legal advisers, to whom I pay heaps as well as sending them a blog and a new photo of me every day for a treat,  advised me that having a board is a good look.  ‘A good look, Colin,’ they said.

I will call my political party, Fresh Ultra-Konservative party, or FUK, for short.  I think this will attract the younger voters.

I am expecting that a lot of you will want to join FUK but warn you that I will be running a few tests on prospective FUKers.

You will have to swear that you are pure of heart and pure-minded, that you are good, that you will never have sex with your Manager and that if by chance, in a moment of inattention you do, you will pay said Manager a goodly sum on the understanding they will never say a word.  If you have never ever had sex in your life that would count in your favour.  You would be inducted as a Board member by me  but you will have to sign a vow of silence.

All FUKers must enjoy wearing suits and rolling round in the grass, especially in the spring when the daffodils are out and the dear little calves and sheep are frisking and shitting everywhere.  We can discuss important issues about whether the earth is round or flat and what the FUK it matters because I’ve got lots of money and if you get a load of shit all over your good suit when we’re discussing these weighty matters, I will pay for the dry cleaning.  The side effect will be that you will get used to rolling in shit when you’re with me but of course you will have to sign a piece of paper promising never to talk about this.

The FUK party will uphold values, I haven’t exactly decided what they are yet except for one important one.  All FUKers must swear to support their leader, Me.  There will be no drinking or sex or anything, we are not that kind of party.  Yes of course I can do it because I formed this party, so what I say goes.  And if anyone disagrees I will just give them a few thou and ask them to sign a vow of silence.

I don’t have to swear to uphold anything because I formed the  Party and I have a lot of money, so it’s only fair. 

I have to warn you that at the moment I don’t have any office staff or indeed an office, because I have paid everyone off and they have signed a vow of silence.  

But if you think you’d like to be a FUKer, that this party is for you then write to me at the Fresh Ultra Conservative (FUK), PO Box, Colin Rules, and we can start the process.

Yours, (see you in the Sauna),




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That old magic…

Posted on Jun 24, 2015 | Comments Off on That old magic…

Kia ora koutou,

This last weekend of heavy rain, wind, power outages, flooding, made me remember all over again what a great pleasurable yummy thing reading is.  

Outside was vile, I didn’t know if the power would go out or not.  The first month I lived here there was a similar storm and the power was off for two and a half days.  This time I didn’t have to wrap myself up in rugs, light the candles, but I turned to the same source of comfort.  

Immediately the darkness, the cold, the howl of the wind, gave way to some very old friends which I have on my iPad library.   Me and AS Byatt (see her eulogy for Georgette Heyer) and thousands and thousands of others have read away their daily problems, their heartaches and sorrows,  their pains and tribulations, by losing themselves between once the covers of one of her Regency novels.  One suspends disbelief and simply sinks into the story and admires the humour in the writing.  When the gale is singing opera,  when thunder and lightning are rock and rolling,  I don’t want to read about the problems of the world.   I know about the problems of the world.  When I’m worried that the lights and power are going to go out I want to go into a world that is definitely not founded in reality, a world which makes me laugh, makes me read on, and where I know, unlike real life, is sure to give me a happy ending where the lights, albeit lamps and lanterns, go on when they’re lit.  

I dipped into Harvey McQueen’s This Piece of Earth for the 50th time.  I read parts of Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers, for the 1000th time, I read some poems in Janis Freegard’s Kingdom Animalia: The Escapades of Linnaeus that I particularly like, I read Antigone  and Macbeth (the weather was a perfect backdrop), and on and on I went, dipping and reading, reading and dipping, that old magic cast its spell. 

The power didn’t go off at my place this time but what the storm did was remind me yet again of the rush of pleasure, the awe, the happiness that was like nothing else I knew when I realised for the first time ever that stories could go on for the whole length of a book.  I was eight or nine.  Up till then I’d only read short stories.   Yes, I dipped into Emily of New Moon this weekend too.


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