Watching The Inauguration was to see American society pulling itself apart. At one level it celebrated the new President and his administration. Commentators, appalled at their collective lack of experience, labelled them fittingly - a kakistocracy - government by the least qualified and unscrupulous. On another level, two sides shaped up on the streets and journalists noted their deep mutual loathing. Is the answer once more blowing in the wind?

Beached whales – and bravery…

First,  an early morning recollection from the day before: a friend describing a  short story  which captured  the pitiful cries of whale calves separated from their beached mothers. Then this: on a country road where  the occasional car usually dawdled, most now zipped along at highway speeds.

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Another year, another Waitangi

Waitangi weekend again – and a man was close to tears.  Nothing unusual there.  It’s what the place does to  some.   What was different this year was that the man was Pakeha – no let’s  pass over  that pejorative for another description: he was white.

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Charlotte Bronte said it long ago

With hope borne of nothing more than a fresh year, I dream on: That we all woke up to the inequity that has passed for national values for too many years. The reckless obsession with the glittering lights of our economy, dairying and tourism, illustrate how self-interest has overtaken public interest as a legitimate goal. I couldn’t resist showing, with minor deletions, Charlotte Bronte’s view of this clash of values in Shirley, published in 1849:

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Miscellany – January

Wonder  who this could possibly be…

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”
— John Bright

2016 ‘Word of the Year’  chose its 2016  ‘Word Of The Year’ soon after the  celebrations  for the New Year died down. The site  aims to  select a word which  it feels embodies a major theme  ‘resonating deeply in the cultural consciousness over the past 12 months’.

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When a polly makes you smile…

Well, it was a long time coming but John Key finally put a smile on my face. Okay, I’m prejudiced but I still think he was by far New Zealand’s most mediocre leader. So why was he so popular? Was he popular? Television news certainly thought so; the PMs smiling face was on the screen daily whether the events he attended were newsworthy or not. Television, and the media generally, loved him.

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Curious words – Max Cryer

From Max Cryer’s  CURIOUS English words and phrases – the truth behind the expressions we use:


 The Google internet search engine was invented by  Larry Page and  Sergey Brin in 1998. The name was chosen because it evoked the  similar word,  ‘googol’  – which is a real word – a mathematical term denoting a figure followed by 100 zeros.

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A different, better New Year…?

 We bought our diaries the other day.  (I know – riveting – but stay with me!) The ‘other day’ was unfashionably late,   nearing the end of  the first week of the  New Year.   Just a few days earlier, crowds all over the world had gathered to celebrate the arrival of 2017. Like most of us  they   made their resolutions  –  and  like most of us, probably  forgot them the next day.

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My books and other animals…


Old friends should never be treated like this: interned in sunless corners,  jammed upright  until their spines crumble; bandaged,  but with half their pages  inexplicably  missing.My  books were freed recently by the arrival  of our  exuberant Westie wallpaperer and so ended up in piles all over the  house.  But in them  we  found   reunions everywhere. 

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The silent spectator at the awards….


We are in the  great hall of Auckland Grammar, tip-toeing up the stairs to  the balcony overlooking the  stage and the ground floor.    In the belly of the  domed hall,  some 2,000 students wriggle  in tightly organised rows,  their collective chatter sounding  like some  human beehive.

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