Advent 4

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That’s it.  I have reached the end of the year.  I have bought gifts to take with me to Invercargill.  Tomorrow I leave on the bus to see my family and share Christmas Day with them.

It is part of the silliness of this season that the War on Christmas has migrated to New Zealand.  When asked her opinion on saying “Merry Christmas” the Race Relations Conciliator, Came Susan Devoy, said she had no ruling to make and New Zealanders were quite capable of making up their own mind.  Some reporters and opinion makers have declared she was stopping us from saying “Merry Christmas” as it was culturally offensive.

As far as I can make out she said no such thing.  It has nothing to do with your offense if I wish you a Merry Christmas.  Nobody is going to stop me from saying it.  Nor will it stop me from saying “Season’s Greetings”, “Festive Greetings”, or even “Happy Holidays”, if I feel like saying it.  It comes from me, a Christian in a secular society which values everyone.

Nor am I offended by “Happy Diwali” graffitied outside an Indian restaurant, or “Happy Eid” written in flowers on the lawn of a house a Muslim family was renting.  The greeting comes from the heart of the person expressing it.

I am less likely to say “Happy Hanukkah” or “Chag Shameach”.  There is only one Synagogue in Dunedin and their impact on local society is individual.

So at the end of Advent, and nearly the end of the year I would like to wish any reader a . . .


Let’s work together to make 2016 more fun, and more fabulous, than 2015!


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And that was the Easter that was for 2015.

A visit over the long weekend down to see my mother in Invercargill.  I tried to do some tidying up at home.  A bit Grimm’s Fairy Tale.  Once I had filled the rubbish bin there was not much more I could do.

Stayed with Southern Dave again and did a bit of family catch up.  At the last moment I rummaged through the shelves for something to take with me and pulled Hellboy: Oddest Jobs edited by Mike Mignola from the shelves.  It proved to be an excellent anthology of short stories to travel with.  The constant figure in these stories is Hellboy, a monster, a demon, a constant indefeatable champion for humanity.  They were a delight to read, and I would like to track down the earlier anthologies Odd Jobs and Odder Jobs.  I’m sure that they will have the same taste for comic book horror and superheroes.

I returned from Invercargill with loot, Southern Dave found me books:

  • Light in Dark Isles, by Alexander Don, NZ Presbyterian book on mission to the New Hebrides in 1918, lots of period writing
  • By Love Serve: The Story of the Order of Deaconesses of the Presbyterian Church of NZ, by J. D. Salmond, another one for my Presbyterian bookshelves
  • Spirit in a Strange Land: a selection of New Zealand spiritual verse, edited by Paul Morris, Harry Ricketts & Mike Grimshaw.  Excellent to have my own copy of this, my original thoughts on looking at this collection, some years ago, was that NZ poets view religion with a powerful hermeneutic of suspicion. I will be interested to see if that sense is still dominant in the collection.
  • Enduring Legacy: Charles Brasch, patron, poet and collector, edited by Donald Kerr, another book about Brasch for my collection at Manono House.

From mum, an easter egg and and a jar of relish from the Centre Street Dairy; and from my sister in law, a selection of Mama Jo’s Homemade Jams and Pickles: apricot, black berry, gooseberry and mixed berries jams, and capsicum and mango relish.  I have some serious sampling to do!

Changing Perceptions of the Treaty 1840-2040

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February the Sixth is Waitangi Day, a national holiday for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.  I never know what to do with this day off work.  Fortunately this year Lachy Paterson from the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture was doing a presentation at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery.  I was glad to support him and go along and listen.  What looked like to be a small audience soon filled up with perhaps a couple of hundred people in attendance.

The Treaty of Waitangi is a dangerous topic for a lecture.  It is always in the news.  There are usually politicians involved, and protests.  It’s the document that marks the birth of the New Zealand nation.  Everyone has an opinion on it.  And, the lecturer forgot his reading glasses!

The Treaty claims are a result of the existence of the Treaty.  The Waitangi Tribunal hears the claims on the grounds Has a breach of Treaty principles occured or not.  It exists now as a legal document, the interpretation of experts on law.

Originally it was a political tool to gain sovereignty, a gray document rather than a black and white document.  The first settlers were bicultural out of necessity.  There were more of the Maori than there were of the settlers.  The settler government wanted the Maori to surrender their sovereignty at the expense of rangatiratanga (chieftainship).  They wanted to acculturate Maori into Pakeha society.

Maori may not have understood what they were signing on to.  Some opted in, part of a new world order, the coalition of the willing.  Others accepted the gift of a blanket when they signed on.

After the signing of the Treaty Pakeha settlers flooded into the country in great numbers.  The Crown enforced Common Sense laws.  (It made common sense to them!)  The Crown understood that Maori had signed away their systems of government to British sovereignty.  The settler parliament was less involved with Treaty issues than the Governor’s office.  As the numbers game changed Maori became economically marginalised.  The Treaty became superfluous in assimilating Maori into the new state.  Famously Judge Prendergast declares it non-constitutional in 1877.  The colonial imperative was overwhelming.

Then Lord and Lady Bledisloe came to Waitangi.  In 1934 the first commemoration of Waitangi day was held.  They gifted the site to the nation.  With the government uninterested in the Treaty Maori picked it up.  The Maori Seat MPs, from the Ratana movement, lobbied the Labour Government to establish the Waitangi Day Act in 1960.  Matiu Rata under the fourth Labour Government pushed through the Treaty of Waitangi Act in 1985 to establish the Waitangi Tribunal and look at land claims going back to the 1840s.  When Maori youth took up the cause they moved quickly from the slogan The Treaty is a Fraud to Honour the Treaty.  The Treaty is a polical document.

A document for the future? If it continues to be relevant.  There are more Maori in Parliament under MMP, and more tribal organisations.  The Treaty is less a focus for Maori protest.  It has become part of our political and social understanding.  Sometimes when I hear a government making policy I wonder if the policy is unpopular enough that it can be challenged under the Treaty of Waitangi.  More often are the times when Maori partners with the Crown raise their voices in protest.  The Treaty does not disappoint me.  Long live kaitiakitanga!

The future?  Waitangi Day is entrenched in our calendar.  The Treaty will remain the founding document of the nation into the republic era when it comes.  Wishful thinking says that historic claims will be settled in the next five years (yeah, right!)  We are not yet in the post-Treaty age.  It continues to have meaning.


Burt 2013: Offerings to the God of Speed

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Burt Munro Challenge 2013I’m back from the Burt Munro Challenge.  Since Invercargill is my ancestral town, travelling down on the back of my brother’s bike makes this a good opportunity for a family gathering.  We are more likely to have my brother visiting from Wellington than for Christmas.  I still make the effort to be there for Christmas.

Of course in a global sense my family town is more likely to be in Aberdeenshire or on the Merseyside.  That’s another story.  I’m not likely to see these places.  I’m not global traveller.

Since the movie The World’s Fastest Indian the Burt Munro Challenge has been a success.  It’s more than just a rally, it’s motorbike racing and competition on show.  This year it was over four days with a hill climb up Bluff hill, races on the sand at Oreti Beach, speedway at Teretonga, and street races in Wyndham.  The locals get in behind it and support it.  This makes it successful.

The beach race was memorable, a circuit half a mile long and back done fifty times to memorialise Burt’s achievement.  When the checkered flag went down to signal the first bike across the finish line, then the wind picked up.  Within half a minute it was blowing so strongly it was raising the sand on the beach.  Everyone fled.  We were sitting in the marrow grass on the sand dunes.  It was no protection.  We made our way down onto the beach and joined the procession.  With the sand in my face I could not see.  The best protection was to put my bike helmet on.  With the helmet on I had to swallow the sand in my mouth because the helmet obscured my mouth.  The road from Oreti Beach back to Invercargill is between the sand dunes.  At the bikes on the sealed road I looked back.  About 10 metres back toward the beach the vehicles leaving the beach were no longer visible.  They emerged out of the cloud of the sand storm.

The capricious weather only makes such an occasion stick in the mind.  It is something for people say ‘do you remember’.

The other memory of the Burt Munro Challenge of 2013 will be Alan Kempster, The Biker of the Year for the Challenge.  Also known as Bone-aparte and Arfer Racing and the Left-Side Story.  An accident 20 years ago left his right leg a stump and his right arm ripped off at the shoulder.  He lived because the rider behind him had one of the original brick-like cellphones and physically held him together until the called ambulance arrived.  He returned in later years to bike-riding and competes under the number ½.  While his handicap meant he struggled against the elements in the beach race, he was in his element at the street races and was doing better than some two-legged riders.  He is Australian and his bike was provided by Honda Southland.  It had to be specially re-wired so the controls could be operated from the left handlebar.  Between the races at Oreti Beach and Wyndham over two days he drove up to Balclutha where he been invited to address a school assembly.  This is someone who I would like to see coming back to compete at Burt in future years.

Hobbit-spotting for Labour Day

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Happy Labour Day, I hope the Trickle-down Fairy brought you something nice, or not, as the case may be.

It’s a public holiday so I get to listen to Matinee Idle on National Radio.  This may count as a form punishment, or possibly musical masochism.  I can hear the grass grow and it’s keeping me awake at night!  The gym was open earlier so I got a cardio session in before lunch-time.

Sunday across town to church.  I was asked if I could take the opening prayers.  The minister was away and it relieved one of our retired ministers from taking the whole service.  I must have done a good job of the prayers as several people complemented me on them.

I thought I could walk to Mornington on Thursday for an induction service.  Not a good idea, the rain was wretched, coming down like a monsoon.  It was about to get lost when I was on the edge of Mornington which a rabbit warren of streets.  Fortunately that was the time when I was spotted by a nice warm van going the same way.  I got a ride and arrived on time, still soaking wet, which greatly impressed some people.

Barbecue on Saturday on Caversham Heights.  The rain held off and I proved to be reasonably good at barbecuing meat.  If it’s still bleeding turn it over and move it closer to the hottest spot on the barbecue plate.

Current mood: rain and hail

Anzac Day musings

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It’s Anzac Day.  I’m spending the day at home.  For those who attended dawn services and other services to honour Australia and New Zealand’s war dead then I hope that Father Anzac brings you lots of presents.  I did not attend a service for the day.  It feels like ancestor worship to me, to honour the fallen in battle, those who went out on life’s great adventure, to secure their place in empire, and came back changed men and women.  New Zealand was not born as a nation in those fields of battle.  I am ambivalent to that debt.

In the meantime I am waiting for the news report that will officially confirm the death of a friend in unusual circumstances at Karitane.  I expect to write on that at length in the next few days.

I’m interested to see that there have been a couple of hits looking for my Lamborough project.  I was keeping the details of that to myself at the moment.  I hope to spend some time today continuing my documentation on the city.  Leave a comment, or contact me, if you want to hear more on that project.

Post-Anniversary Day

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No gym on Monday for Otago Anniversary Day.  I stayed at home for most of the day.  The weather was fine so I spent some of the morning on the porch outside the front door of Manono House reading Absolute Midnight, the third book of the Abarat series by Clive Barker.  It was enjoyable enough that I wanted to finish it in one attempt.  In this title the baby-murdering Empress of Midnight wants to plunge all the islands of the Abarat into eternal darkness.  I don’t know where Barker can take this series after this one.  There are two more titles to follow it.  The first I imagine will be a couple of years away as he is quite involved painting illustrations for the series.  He has already given the fantasy world that he has created for the series quite a battering.  I wonder if he can rebuild the world after this book?  And in what shape?

Later that day I visited the Warehouse to buy a new electric jug.  I took it back the next day for a refund because it leaked.  Since then I thought it would make better sense to use up my loyalty points and order one online.  I’m waiting for the chain of shops the loyalty card goes through to get one in.  They will contact me.  The plastic jug I’m using is so old the spout is beginning to crumble.  I’ve probably ingested enough plastic from it for the good of my health.

Lenten Study was in the evening and we were discussing ‘church’.  There is a general agreement that there is a difference between ‘the church’ (negative, institutional, external, isolated, physical) and ‘church’ (the work of the people).  The discussion was lively.

Politics in the New Zealand government is have sanity issues, i.e., it’s not showing any.  On Infotainment Tonight (commonly called any News programme on television) today it was reported that the majority of our diplomats around the world have signed a letter critical of the government’s plans to cut spending on foreign affairs.  They claim it will reduce New Zealand’s credibility in international diplomacy, and it affects opportunities for looking at foreign affairs as a career choice.  This has come in the same week as one minister of government told the opposition leader that his choice of Finland as a model for New Zealand to follow was country of criminals, suicides and abusers of women.   This is not a verbatim quote.

It seems in New Zealand Home for left-wingers is no longer England, but whichever part of Scandanavia they favour at the moment.  The minister (on the right-wing of government) who made the quote says it was meant at the expense opposition in good humour, and not at the Finnish people.  Finland doesn’t seem to see it in good humour, at least in one comedian’s reply.  It strikes me as funny as Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson’s comments on which to do with strikers, also claimed in be in good humour.  Even as we speak I imagine Nokia Black-Ops Agents are planning to irradicate the minister’s thoracic cavity with radiation from his cellphone, ‘the little bit of Finland he keeps next to his heart’.

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