Trouble is brewing

When I heard that Notre Dame Cathedral was burning, I could not help but feel a portent that trouble is brewing.
Having spent many years in Rotorua, much of the time at the family home on Lake Tarawera, it took my mind back to the view from our lakeside windows. We lived on a small bay with expansive views over the lake and on out to the three peaks of Mount Tarawera.

My old Manx Grandma didn’t like visiting Tarawera. It scared her. Being
extremely superstitious, like many folk from the Isle of Man, the stories of the 1886 eruption seemed very ominous and the mountain looked menacing and ever-present in her mind. It did not make it any better when she stumbled upon a coffee-table book which told the story of the mountain erupting and of the ghost canoe that appeared to forewarn of imminent disaster.

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It is time to get back in the game

Listening, thinking… and blinking.

It is time for Simon Bridges to start speaking and acting and, most importantly, to stop blinking.

We all played the game when we were kids “Simon says touch your head”  or “Simon says sit down. Stand up.” And if you followed an order without it being prefixed by “Simon says” you were eliminated from the game.

Apparently it has its roots in Ancient Rome. Originally called “Cicero dicit fac hoc”–Latin for “Cicero says do this.” Back in the times of Rome, when revered statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero said to do something, you did it.

It seems that it had absolutely nothing to do with Simon Bridges, in fact poor Simon doesn’t seem to know how to play the game. He seems more comfortable playing that other childhood favourite “Statues”. You know the one, where the game controller lets the players move around and they must freeze the minute he or she calls out “Statue!” The catch to the game is that the players can move freely if the controller isn’t watching. However, Simon doesn’t know how the game works and the statues are running riot.

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One of my favourite childhood books was banned in 1964

Washday at the Pa

When I was a kid, one of my favourite books was Washday at the Pa. Even today, when I do my sheets and big weekly wash, everyone who knows me knows that I am having Washday at the Pa. Mum still has washday at the Pa and it is never seen as a chore – rather a day when the bed is clean and crisp, smells like sunlight and the towels are fresh from blowing in the breeze all day long.

I love washday at the Pa. When my kids were little, so did they. When bed time came around, it was easy to get them to scurry off to bed without a grizzle… The pillowcases freshly ironed, the sheets tightly tucked and crease free and the sleep that followed was restful and sound.
When the book was banned, I was shocked.

I had grown up with Maori kids who lived in houses like the one in the book, and they always seemed to be laughing and happy. I knew Pakeha kids who slept on potato sacks and lived in muddy fields – and they were mostly cheerful and bright.
Yet Washday at the Pa was banned. After complaints, the then Minister for Education announced:

‘The objections mainly refer to the family’s living conditions, which are said to be untypical. They were not intended to be regarded as completely typical… However, it is clear that the publication has given offence, and I have therefore decided that it be withdrawn from the schools’

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Who is afraid of Jacinda Ardern?

My… Prime Minister, what big teeth you have…

Cindy is excited. She is the most popular girl in school! Since being elected class president, Cindy has hosted all of the important parties, even a very fancy Fancy Dress. Her invitations to all of the most important parties have quite overwhelmed her. She has to bring along her best chum Gaylord to look after her very best dolly. It is just, well, just FABULOUS!

Life is just so busy, and she hasn’t even had a chance to bring out her very special tea set to have dinner with the Queen!
Cindy is worried though. Oh, how she is worried! So much to do and so little time. Between taking away people’s guns, freedom of speech and freedom to access the internet, she gets very little time to play with her dolly. Luckily though, her playmate Gaylord is at hand, ready to take care of her dolly and her tea set.

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The lonely righteous man

Photoshopped image credit: Boondecker

It is pouring with rain. The rugby field is a quagmire. The other players have retreated to the warmth of the locker room. Even the spectators have gathered up their umbrellas and scarves and are leaving the stands. It is now a rugby match where one man stands alone. He believes in what he does; he believes that his way of playing the game is right.

Earlier in the day, the lone player was faced with a problem. He was a purist. He knew the rules of the game and did not feel that the rules should be bent or changed. His Rule Book had taught him that there was no such thing as a medal for “trying” or bending the rules. No, his Rule Book was the first Rule Book of the game and he still stood by what it spelt out to him in words that made sense to him.

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Barefoot Cindy has an axe

Photoshopped image credit: Rick H

We all know the fear of the axe. Older Kiwis remember well chopping wood ready for winter and the hard work it takes to chop the firewood that fuels the fire that keeps us warm in the long winter months.
We never needed to be told to be careful. We just knew. It was instinctive.

Some years ago, I watched a short video of a kid with an axe. It took me a few goes before I could watch it. I held back from the screen; I retreated and felt so horrified at what I was seeing that I could not bear to watch any more.

Eventually, I bit the bullet and watched through the entire 2 minutes. And it took a hell of a lot of courage to do so.

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Mr Gormsby… we need you!

NZ On Screen Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby

I own the complete set of “Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby”. I watch the episodes every time I start to lose faith in New Zealand.

That series restores my sense of humour and makes me smile at the idiocy that is overwhelming us. Those 7 periods with Mr Gormsby are an opportunity to reflect on how far we have come in 14 years – and how far we have fallen.

The first time I met Mr Gormsby, I saw in him a teacher I once had, a man I once knew and a relative. He was someone we all knew, all shuddered at and all sat starstruck by, as he weaved his web of dark humour and drew us into his lair of satire.

Like the students at Tepapawai College, I shared the shock and horror of first meeting this extraordinary, controversial and rather, well, scary personality. I felt the pain and embarrassment of the teachers.

But within 5 minutes into the first episode, I was head over heels in love with his quirky and exaggerated New Zealand persona. I first watched it in Australia. I was visiting some friends and they sat, mouths open, blank- faced and aghast. I was suddenly back home and they? Well, they were dumbstruck.

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Who will pay the Ferryman?

When I taught adults in a mature learning setting, I suggested that our own view of a situation was what influences our perception of the same facts and the same scenario.

I cited the tale of the flooded river. The bridge was washed away and a young woman was left on one side of the river, her fiancé on the other. She desperately wished to get across the river to her beloved, but the only way was by ferry and there was only one ferry.

She approached the owner of the ferry and explained her situation. He said that he would ferry her across, on the condition that she slept with him.

Horrified, she left and sought the aid of her fiance’s best friend who shook his head and replied, “I don’t want to get involved. It is not my problem.”

After some time passed, she returned to the ferryman and accepted his offer. He ferried her across the river and she ran into the embrace of her beloved.

She burst into tears and confessed the price that she had paid the ferryman.

He was horrified and declared that she was no longer part of his life and he did not wish to ever see her again.

In order, from the worst to the least bad, how would you place the key players?

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Life is a bar of soap

A school camp and a trip to Cape Reinga, Horeke and Waitangi.

I was so excited to be heading off in the 1960s on a school excursion in to the wilds of the Far North of New Zealand.

We were in a supermarket in Pukekohe and I, as a young 10 year old girl, spotted a bar of Palmolive soap, in a wondrous box, festooned with images of beautiful women and silky smooth complexions.

I had to have that bar of soap.

I begged my parents to let me have that bar of soap. I wanted it so badly. The box was so pretty and the smell so wonderful. But it was expensive.

My Mother said “Yes”. My Father said “No.”

I recollect the argument about that bar of soap and my Mother said “let her have it.”

I was so happy.

Against my father’s wishes, the bar of soap went in to the trolley.

Then I said the worst thing I could possibly say.

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Smith’s dream is now a nightmare

In 1971, C K Stead wrote the futuristic novel Smith’s Dream. It centred around the hero Smith, who, faced with a neo-fascist takeover of New Zealand, managed to flee to Coromandel to escape the horror of what was happening in his life and to his country.

He is a left wing sympathiser and is recruited to help the Resistance Movement to overcome the authoritarian Prime Minister Volkner and the US-run troops who have essentially taken control. The reader is almost asked to make the mental leap and ask him or herself to consider how far would an average New Zealander go if things went “bugger up”. Would they do nothing, or would they fight back?

It is hard to summarise a book of this calibre into a few sentences, but suffice to say, it has preyed on my mind over the past weeks. C K Stead created a horrific view of a futuristic New Zealand. But did he get it wrong?

As it stands, he wrote of a right-wing government, an alliance with America, suppression of free speech, free movement and free choice. New Zealand was under martial law.

Today, are we facing a left-wing government, suppression of free speech and free choice, and a distancing from America?

I re-read this book about a year ago when Ms Ardern was elected. I had not read it since my school days and I was struck by the portrayal of Smith as a troubled soul with nowhere to run and nowhere to hide, who finally had to find somewhere to run and hide in order to stay himself, to preserve his sanity and his life.

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