Outside the Auckland Town Hall there’s a statue of ‘Robbie’, Auckland’s most influential - and certainly its most colourful mayor. He saved the sparkling waters of our Waitemata from a proposed Brown’s Island sewerage scheme, which would have pumped raw sewage off the island into the harbour. Then he implemented his own sewerage scheme, in the Manukau Harbour using revolutionary oxidation ponds pioneered in California. Robbie pulled off this feat with passion, zeal - and a quality no local politician seems to have these days: imagination.

That statue seems as if it is rallying Aucklanders to rise up to save their harbour which is threatened by the Auckland Council’s plans to provide a 90 metre long extension to Queen’s Wharf - for cruise ships. Already 4,000 have signed a petition opposing the move, and questioning the economic benefits. It all says we’d like access to Queen’s Wharf back the way it used to be 100 years ago…

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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