One way to blank out the world is to de-clutter, and downstairs, 25 years of papers awaited the shredder.  Up first, old letters,  some humbling, others hateful. I’d written a column for the Listener which upset those who, to put it mildly, disliked Jews - and the  confluence of  dog-eared hate mail along with the slaughter in  a Pittsburgh synagogue  was disturbing. Worse was to come.  The Otago Daily Times reported  a racist  taunt  aimed at  a Southland Philipino family visiting  Wellington.  A woman greeted them by saying:  ‘This country is for white people only…"  So 1950s, but then racism, like rust, never sleeps.

 

The Trials of Tandem Travelling

“Where is that little fecking orange pill?  You repacked – where did you put it?”

Picture this scenario: You’re at a large Asian Airport after a difficult flight from Auckland. The plane was packed to the gunnels, dominated by groups travelling in packs and a child kicked your back consistently through the 10-hour trip from hell. Now you are searching through your luggage with a panicked urgency.

Continue reading

Fonda memories

Not long ago Jane Fonda visited New Zealand for a special one night appearance where she was interviewed about her life on stage in front of a full house. I was there. Way up in the back row applauding wildly. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. At 71, I’m a bit embarrassed to confess that I am a “fan”. But I am.

Continue reading

Going back

Six years had passed and in that time another member of the family had died. It was time to pretend the gruelling flight to England would be better this time. It wasn’t. And nor was saying goodbye again, wondering if it would be the last time. But in-between was lots of fun which included tramping over Yorkshire moors and staying in villages and market towns, endless  reminiscences and just enjoying one another’s company. 

Continue reading

Left field thinking

If you’re ever short of a laugh or two – try this Listener brain teaser on your friends:

‘You have a wolf, a goat and a cabbage and you need to get all three across a river in one piece. You have a boat, but it’s so small that it can fit only you and one of the items and you can’t leave the wolf and the goat, or the goat and the cabbage alone together. How do you get them all across?’

Most of us failed – though we got past the first stage. Our friends did the same, but succeeded with repeated and hilarious solutions as they grappled with the question:

Continue reading

The not-so-unstable Coalition

What is it about coalition politics of the Left which so upsets the Nats and the Party’s media partisans. Can’t be disappointment at the electoral loss surely – that’s just peevishness.  Could it be envy that the upstarts are in power? But that can’t be true, for the Coalition has the Greens.  Or is it simply because of the power of fresh ideas when National had very few.

Continue reading

Miscellany – October

Doesn’t seem to matter where you are in the world, there’s often another Kiwi close at hand. Even in the ‘60s long before mass travel a friend arrived in London and, walking down Earl’s Court Road one day, bumped into the last person he expected to see – a high school classmate.

Continue reading

On being curious

The worst part of being curious about the world around us is wishing you weren’t so nosey. Take ‘world leaders,’ for instance. Trump and Putin come to mind immediately, but let’s not be too exclusive. Erdogan, Netanyahu, Duterte and Kim Jong-Un are screaming to be let in to the upper echelons of the international Mongrel Mob. And there are countless other certifiable leaders begging to be awarded their patches.

Continue reading

At last – liberation!

One of the advantages of skirting sixty is arriving at a vast fashion plateau, where peer pressures recede into the misty distance of the 1950s, when our mothers dreaded a hole in our socks.

What a relief it is to window shop today and see tortured blue jeans with unmatched patches, or with gaping holes without patches, and jackets turned inside out with threads hanging off artfully fraying seams!  What a joy, to go home and rip apart an old coat taking the scissors to its sleeves, tearing out the shoulder pads and pinning a 1950s rhinestone brooch on its sagging lapel above our heart.

Continue reading