Posts by Paul Smith

October miscellany

Our Kiwi friend loves her new home in Australia’s Sunshine Coast except that… one morning when she opened the doors to another glorious day, she saw  this on her back deck… a python. It basked on the desk railing, all 3-4 metres of it, and sent our friend scurrying back inside.

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‘NO JUNK MAIL!’

Apart from people, letterboxes are the most pedestrian sights on any street.  Without a  second glance we walk past  every one except our own, which is perhaps the way things should be.  But like everything else  post-digital, letter boxes are no longer the proud receptacles of mail – handwritten letters, invitations, birthday  cards and their  more sombre messages of condolence.

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Among his souvenirs.. new shoes

To say he had a beard would be an understatement- his whole face bristled with pepper and salt whiskers so thick they looked like an uncut hedge. In one of Auckland’s coldest winter spells, he wore a coat which had seen too many winters and was at least two sizes too big for him. And then there were his shoes, or perhaps one of  them. It  remained  staunchly unflappable while  the other had  clearly given up the pretense of being a shoe,  and its uppers flopped open with every step he took.

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Democracies in retreat…

Last year Freedom House, the much respected freedom watchdog issued one of its most compelling reports:  Democracy in Crisis. The global report warned that democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades.

So what was its call to arms this year?  Democracy in Retreat.

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Two men, two wives, six daughters and…

Two men, two wives, six daughters between them.   So in their conversation, a liberal  sprinkling of domestic chit-chat –  the kind you’d also  imagine women having over a cuppa. Except  that these were two  old blokes  who’d notched up a  century of marriage between them.

And blokes  talk about sport, who should have won the one day cricket final at Lords,  politics –  and of course the good old days. There’s a pause between  all this chaff and then this:

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Loneliness in Godzone

Picture this: An 80-year-old grandfather of four children – three boys and one girl – is picked up from his central city flat by his only son every Sunday. He drives him through suburban streets which he can now barely recognise. The once lush avenues of bungalows and villas seem gap-toothed here and there. Or they sport towering new townhouses which block sunlight from their neighbours.

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When was the first time you felt old?

When was the first time you felt, umm… elderly? Well okay – old? It’s not as if it’s something that  happens often because we live in a self-made reality, now and in the past.

But it’s right there if we bother to look: on the car radio Magic FM specialises in music for the ‘oldies’ – that same music which revolutionised the music world when we were in the Swinging Sixties, is now a commercially viable lullaby for early baby boomers.

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Rangitoto’s ‘blood-red skies’

It’s there.

It’s always been there.

And I, like so many other Aucklanders looked on it as an iconic sight, simultaneously  everyday – and spectacular.  Like Mt Eden where we  could climb any time for  360 degree views of  Auckland. Or  humble Mt Roskill where  as kids  we  hurtled over sheep ruts in  wooden sledges.  Or  gracious  Cornwall Park and  One Tree Hill,  (now better known as None Tree Hill).

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Once upon a war…

Who says  the elderly aren’t  worth listening to?  Just think of some of the gems they  can casually reveal in conversations about what it was like when they were schoolkids.  Here’s one:

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