This month Chris Horan explores the ravages of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Geoff Lealand offers his view of this year’s Academy Awards, and beautiful Nelson features with stories of its worst fires in 60 years. Max Cryer tells us in his book on superstitions, why witches don’t like…  onions. And there’s a surprise find – a 1989 Metro Poll of its readers which among other things, shows how far to the Right we swung in the 1980s and how much we lost…

Apartheid’s good old days….really?

It’s a risky business looking beneath the surface of the social media midden, but hard to resist when the subject is close to your heart. I lived and worked in South Africa in 1963-64, where the reality of apartheid became a shocking formative experience for me. I’ve since keenly followed the politics of author Alan Paton’s ‘Cry The Beloved Country’, his lament for the arrival of a  rigidly segregated  country.

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Soggy pants flight

“Six o’clock!” she cried and the bedsheets undid. “We’ll miss the bus. Won’t catch the plane!”

So she ran and he ran and they ran, until they came… to the wristwatch which, glowing with a smug luminosity on the bedside table, told them: “It’s only five o’clock”.

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Max’s Dogs – Top dog or Underdog

Dog JacketTop dog or underdog

Dogs in any grouping – a wild pack or even just a domestic group – have an ‘alpha’ who is dominant.  The term shifted to the popular sport of  dog-fighting – with two references, one actual and one predicted.  During the fight the superior dog  could be seen on top.  If a particular dog had a track record of achieving this supremacy, those taking bets on a forthcoming fight would refer to that participant as a ‘top dog’ while a newcomer, or fighter with an unimpressive track record, would be the ‘under-dog’. 

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The virtues of gratitude

 How quickly 2018 passed, Time  now to pause, look back  and reflect on your priorities in  this brand New Year!

Personally  I‘ve looked at the gains and achievements of the past year.  From that I’ve also  tried to  find, and focus on a theme for the year ahead. There’s already an element here which needs more priority  – and it lies in the simple but neglected word,  gratitude.

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Starlings…

There she was – laid out like a trophy on the back lawn. First I thought it was a Tui, my favourite bird. Ashamedly, I was relieved to find it was just a starling.

Just a Starling – didn’t it have just as much a right to live, free from urban predators? I knew immediately who the culprit was – ‘Daisy’, our over-fed house cat. The self-satisfied – ‘what me?’ – look on her face was more than sufficient to establish guilt. 

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Gozzy’s Dilemma

The locals are restless. The roads are full of camper vans. There are so many people going up Mount Roy and Isthmus Peak that toilets have been put on the tops, to be helicopter serviced at our expense. The final blow, they’ve put trial traffic lights on Albert Town bridge over the Clutha. When you see traffic lights you know things have gone to the dogs. Even my dog, Gozzy, knows you can have too much of a good thing.

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Who said that first? – Hear no evil, see no evil

It’s doubtful that anyone ever said it in English before the end of the 17th century. The concept of ‘see not evil, ‘hear not evil’, ‘speak not evil’ related back to Confucius in China, several hundred years BC, and then travelled to Japan, where it was known for centuries as a moral maxim. By a trick of the Japanese language, the maxim eventually became known world-wide.

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Climate change – fact and fiction

So as the end of last year approached and perhaps with thoughts of the End of Days, Dr Google was on hand to offer the latest reports on the impacts of climate change. In seconds I found I was in a crowd – 335,000,000 to be exact. 373,000 – in 30 seconds. That came as a shock but that’s the impact of war – on this occasion the Infowars raging on google and other search engines about this issue.

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Last year’s political performances…

This is my one-eyed look at last year’s political performances. I should have known better than to expect more than half-million-dollar ‘affordable’ houses from a Labour government. And the big policy announcement? Six hundred more teacher’s aides for special needs children. Surely that’s merely an admission that the ideological straight-jacket of inclusion has never suited all children.

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