Christmas 1

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I’m back from holiday.  I spent two weeks in the merged household that makes up my family in Invercargill.  It was a household full of people.  The youngest two were leaving for studies in Auckland.  Their first big move out of the family.  A lot of energy was going into preparations into driving up the island.  Then a caravan of family friends and their children came and stayed.  Other family from Te Anau and Central Otago came and were welcome.

It was overwhelming.  I was promised a ride back to Dunedin.  It was getting further set back.  In the end I booked on the bus, a chance to claim a week by myself.

The eating was excellent, with big long feasts around the dinner table every night.  I was plied with beer without asking late into the evening.  A matins walk to the toilet in the early hours was necessary most nights.  There was little chance for walking, if I planned to walk anywhere a ride was quickly provided.  Since in Dunedin I walk daily to and from work in all weather I suspect that this was the cause of my leg cramping at the end of the holiday.  I am quickly back into my practice.

Simple gifts for me:

  • Forest & Bird ‘Natures voice’ New Zealand Conservation Diary 2016
  • Farmers Voucher, which I spent on a new pair of sleep pants.  I left a pair in Invercargill
  • Two jars of home-made gooseberry and orange jam from NannyJo
  • A jar of home-made mustard
  • A set of six carved elephants that belonged to Auntie Winnie.  When I got home I realised that they fit in perfectly with my little nativity under the Christmas tree, a choir of little elephants serenading the baby Jesus – why isn’t this in the gospels?

Let me put in a plug for the Argyle Cottage Garden.  It is worth a visit, a folly, a duckpond and St. Mary’s Anglican Church moved from Kaitangata to be a wedding chapel and a community church.  It felt like a little bit of Narnia translocated to Waianiwa.

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 New Zealand Conservation Diary 2016 – available from Forest & Bird – Online Shop

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 . . .

MERRY ECZEMAS!!!

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

Easter

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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!

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.

Thank You For Flying Air Pig Island

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The first thing I noticed about flying was the tupperware smell of cabin air.  Immediately on boarding.  A few minutes into flight and it had cleared out my sinuses.  All that recycled air! no wonder sharing germs and viruses is a risk of flying.

I look out the window and wonder why we aren’t falling out of the sky.  Especially as we fly over deep water.  I don’t want to fall.  Once will be enough.

Then we watch the air safety video.  I’m left wondering if this is the way we now see ourselves as New Zealanders.  I can’t take it seriously.  Why should any other flyer?

Hobbit-spotting

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I’m off to Wellington tomorrow because I want to attend the International Jousting Tournament at Harcourt Park in Upper Hutt.  I went some years ago and it was an enjoyable day.  Also it allows me to visit my brother The Ghost Who Walks and meet his partner-in-law’s family on that side.  Maybe I might meet other people I know while I’m there.  I have not made any plans.

Life does lifelike things that involve committees.  So far this year I have been to meetings for Interfaith, the Good Friday Procession of the Cross, and Pastoral Care at Opoho Parish.  Life goes on around me and people are changing.  Perhaps if it remains interesting in that perspective and no catastrophic dramas occur then I will be happy.

Catch you later!

Hobbit-spotting

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WordPress tells me that this has been the 34th time I have used this title.

I’m looking at my diary now.  There have been a week of events to report.

  • I went to Te Tumu at Maori Studies at the University for the launch of Mana, Maori and Christianity.
  • At the weekend I travelled to Invercargill for the annual meeting of Presbytery.  I was an overnight visit and I didn’t see enough people as I would have liked.  I heard through the grapevine that my mother in Invercargill is not so much unwell as in advanced old age and not seeking the help that she should.  That’s a bit of a worry.  I phoned her while I was there but did not see her in person.  We are both looking forward to the beginning of the Metropolitan Operas in November.  As for Presbytery, I don’t know if enough business was discussed to make it worth the amount of travel involved.  I did spend some time at the Queens Gardens, a childhood landmark.
  • Irish and Scots Studies had a lecture by a visiting professor from Glasgow on Robert Burns in the 21st Century.  Move over, Buck Rogers, the Bard is back and as bad as ever!
  • Theology and Public Issues talked about fair trade.

Those were the high points.  The weekend looks good too.  I can think of three evens on which I can look in.

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