Vai

The video is out.

You can buy it here or here on line, or ask your local dealer to get it for you.

I think you should.

Vai is a “portmanteau” film made by a group of female Pacific filmmakers, filmed on seven Pacific islands, and In New Zealand. It is about the journey of empowerment through culture over the lifetime of one woman, Vai. The theme of water, it’s ubiquity, it’s power, spiritual significance, connectivity and adaptability is a metaphor throughout the movie for the feminine and for the feminist principle.

Vai

One review includes this comment:

The filmmakers developed the script together but nevertheless, the consistency in their interpretation of her character is remarkable. Fierce, stubborn, passionate and strongly connected to her environment wherever she is, she (Vai) pushes at the limits of what women are expected to be at the same time as embodying the traditional feminine values of the region.

There is another very good review here.

Another here. So far I’ve only found very positive reviews.

One of my daughters is one of the directors, so you might expect me to say that her segment was among the best parts of the film, but I am not alone in that opinion. I have heard that said and seen it written by others.

For anyone not familiar with the diversity of cultures around the Pacific, the movie may seem a little bewildering at times because there are not too many specifically scripted explanations of the significance of what is happening in a cultural context. It is all decipherable in context, however, and the one thing viewers need to be aware of is that these cultural differences exist.

One importantly positive aspect is that despite the film being in segments that relate the experiences of the lead character (whose name varies slightly but always translates as “water” in the language used) and despite the character being portrayed by eight different actors of different cultures and different ages, it is easy to follow who she is each time.

What impressed me most is how beautifully this film was shot, with some exquisite camera work and direction, especially considering the limited budget and even more limited time available for rehearsal and shooting. More than one promising young director was involved in making this movie. And some very promising young first time actors also.

Eight and a half stars out of ten, seven if you discount the bit my daughter is responsible for.

ūüôā

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Ghost in the Screen

Sitting here waiting for the page to load, the screen a white blank,  I notice a faint, fuzzy shadow move across from right to left.  I watched for a while as it traversed the screen then moved up and down.  Even now as I type the shadow meanders about.  It did not take long to figure out the cause. An insect is inside the monitor, wandering around on the back of the screen. It must be carrying a slight static charge, enough to affect the display.  Another phenomenon probably exclusive to the tropics.  but what to do about it?

Everything is going slow again.¬† I have used up my monthly quota of gigabytes with about a week to go.¬† I ran out last night in the middle of a not particularly worthwhile offering on Netflix.¬† It was almost a case of “Thank heavens. Now I don’t have to sit through the rest of this rubbish”.¬† I should have quit as soon as I had the gauge of the show.

I really need to be more discerning.  If I had bailed out sooner I might have been able to watch something else for a while.  There is actually quite a lot to choose from at present.

A very good western that is not quite what one might expect from the genre was “The Homesman”. Tommy Lee Jones emulates the darker side of the Coen Brothers quite effectively.¬† He can direct and act.¬† Not often I don’t foresee the plot twist these days.¬† That one took me by surprise.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2 was just as silly, and just as enjoyable as the first.  But then I think I may have a thing for gorgeous green girls.  Or am I thinking of frogs?

Speaking of green, I am pretty sure I have located Eric.¬† He was not here in the donga when I returned after the Christmas break.¬† However, it sure sounds like him under the house. I am pleased to hear him under there.¬† For one thing it means he is safe and happy, and for another it probably means I probably don’t have a snake.

The new clinic nurse, who recently moved in across the road does.  She found a shed snakeskin yesterday and has put me on alert to catch its owner when it next shows itself.  Happy to help.  I am not crawling under the house to find it though. It will have to come out.

I wouldn’t really mind having a snake around, but I don’t know if Zeus will be all macho if he sees one and try to catch it.¬† And the locals would want to kill it.

Anyway that was not what I was intending to write about.  The insect distracted me.

I shall start again.

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My Autobiography – Loosely Based on a True Story. Part One.

I have been waiting for a few key people to die before I really get started on my autobiography, so that I don’t get sued.¬† They are taking their time about it.¬† If they don’t get on with it soon I may beat them out the door.¬† In the meantime I shall have to stick with the relative safety of what I recall of my early childhood and younger days.

This is not written to entertain anyone. That comes later when I revise it and start making things up.  In the meantime I am just jotting down some dot points to jog my memory so I can expand more fully some of the stories later on.  It is pretty random at this stage.

Draft 1.  My Autobiography, Part 1: The Early Years.

Chapter 1:   England and Beyond.

Around 1:15 in the early morning of January 16 1952, my grandmother woke my father from his no-doubt sound sleep to tell him that he was now the father of a baby boy.¬† Dad didn’t need to ask how she knew this.¬† She is Irish.¬† Later that day he visited Woking Hospital and learned that his mother was correct both about the time and my gender.

That was me.  Born.

That is how the story was told to me.¬† ¬†Once, many years later, over a teacup she was reading, my Irish Nanna told me she had the sight, and she thought I did too.¬† She was pretty guilty about it because it rather clashed with how she was raised a Catholic.¬† That is why I know she really believed it.¬† Because it made her feel guilty.¬† Me, I have my own theories on how some people seem able to work out what’s going on when others can’t.¬† It involves the subconscious processing power of the brain.¬† If tea leaves or some other form of pattern recognition process helps, well who am I to argue.¬† At least not with my grandmother.

Only last week  I put extra food in the slow cooker one morning because I had a feeling I would have guests that evening.  Sure enough two tourists I had met two days before turned up.  They had to turn back on the Canning Stock Route after one had a bike accident in the sand dunes.  They were most surprised when I told them I had been expecting them and I had a hot meal ready for them.  But I am digressing sixty two years ahead already.

Now read on:

By describing to older relatives the houses, events, pets and locations that I recalled,  I have been able to place my earliest memories to when I was three years old or younger.

Some of them are pretty hazy, like waving bye-bye to my dad, held in Mum’s arms outside a house I could partly describe.¬† Others are very clear images even now.¬† ¬† Why I remember particular things I don’t know.

I remember:

My cousin Dawn and I both sitting on a potty beside each other, in front of a blazing fire at my paternal grandparents’ house.

The very first time I wiped my own bum all by myself.¬† Mum had left me on the loo and gone next door.¬† Such pride.¬† I had to go over next door to tell her and everyone else about my achievement.¬† ¬†I don’t think Mum was all that impressed.

My Irish Great Grandmother, Granny Coffee (nee O’Brien) sitting on a high backed chair like a queen on a throne in an ill-lit room and giving me a ten shilling note.¬† The only memory I have of her.

Fireworks and a bonfire in the snow.

Silver threepenny bits in Christmas pudding that flamed as it was served.  The only time my Irish grandmother ever used alcohol was that little bit of Brandy on the Christmas pudding.

The pine smell of Christmas. A teddy bear.¬† A koala made of kangaroo skin from Aunty Berys in Australia.¬† I gave them both away to a collection for poor kids when I was 15.¬† Many years later I saw the koala, or one exactly like it – even down to the worn patches – in an antique shop.¬† I couldn’t afford to buy it back.

Picking blackberries. Scratched hands.  Blackberry and apple pie.

Rhubarb.  Custard, Lemon Curd.  Cherry pie.  Counting stones to see who got the most.  Nanna always made sure it was me.

The huge copper in which Nanna did the laundry.  The mangle which squeezed the wet clothes dry when you turned the handle.  Blue in the rinse water.

Riding on the back of Nanna’s bike as she took me to work at her cleaning job.

Hiding under the table with my mother when some chap came around to collect half a crown that mum didn’t have.¬† It seemed half a crown was a lot of money. Grandad Ayres gave me one whenever we visited.¬† ¬†Once he asked me “Double or nothing?” I asked what that meant and he explained that if he tossed the coin and it came down heads, I would get two half crowns.¬† If it came down tails he would keep it.¬† I knew I was onto a sure thing because granddad would never let me leave without my half crown.¬† So I agreed.¬† He tossed. I lost.¬† He kept the half crown and then gave me the best advice I’d ever had from an adult. “Never gamble son”.¬† The sting of it stuck.¬† I have never been keen to part with money on a bet.

There was a silver birch tree in our front garden at the Balmoral Estate, Woking.  i loved its white bark.  I visited the house in 2008 with my Aunt Anne. The tree is gone.  The old lady who lived there wanted to know why I was photographing her house.

Snow so deep Dad’s car was just a white mound.¬† I made a tunnel in the snow.

I remember an uncle’s wood shed, his saw-horses, axes, files and saws.¬† The delightful smell of rotting sawdust that I still love.¬† They had a big black dog and I still love dog smell too.¬† I must have liked it there. There was an open space and woods behind their house.¬† We walked the dog and explored.

Picking bluebells in the woods and catching sticklebacks in a stream with my aunts, who were not that much older than I, though they seemed so much older at the time.  Collecting acorns.

Conkers.  A Horse Chestnut on a string.

A shady lane walking with my aunts as a girl rode by on a horse.  The horse dropped its doos right near me. I liked that smell too.  And the spring smell of the woods.

Walking round Horsell Common.  There was a huge pond which I was told was a bomb crater.  It had a wrecked fighter plane in it.   There had been a war not long ago. Right here.  Later, somewhere else, I saw areas of broken houses and piles of bricks that Dad said had been houses that were bombed. There was a war there too.

Being told that Horsell Common was where the Martians had landed and not yet being aware that some stories are true and others are not.

That pond on the common had frogs in it.  That is where my interest in frogs began.

Waiting outside the Cricketers Arms while Dad talked to a man about a dog.  He brought me out a glass of lemonade sometimes.  I waited patiently but I never ever saw a dog.

Fishing in the Basingstoke Canal.¬† A cousin singing an Elvis song, – I’m All Shook Up.¬† We used floats that bobbed on the surface.¬† I don’t remember catching anything but I was really interested to see the canal locks in action.¬† I watched a small motor boat be lowered from one lock to the next.¬† There was duckweed on the water.

Playing with my cousins David and John.  They had a cool collection of military Dinky toys, and toy soldiers.

On a double decker bus singing Last Train to San Fernando¬†and some other song of which I can now only remember the line¬†¬†I’m only a poor man how much can I take?¬† ¬†I thought the line referred to how much money was the singer allowed to have.

Lonnie Donnegan. Skiffle groups.

Sitting upstairs on the bus at the front, pretending to be the driver.  I also seem to vaguely recall holding up the bus once for someone to get on, until my mother explained to the conductor that I was talking about my imaginary friend.  Or perhaps I only recall this because I have been told the story a few times.  Either way, it really happened.

I had an invisible friend, not an imaginary one.¬† Apparently I passed on some pretty interesting stories that he told me.¬† I can’t remember what he looked like, but he was adult.¬† I believe he was Irish and may have been one of the Sidh.¬† Sometimes I am pretty sure he is real.¬† Just really good at not being seen when he didn’t want to be.¬† Plainly I could see him, or I would not have been talking about him.¬† I did, therefore he was.

I remember buying a Minnie Mouse shaped ice lolly from the man with a horse-drawn ice cream cart.¬† It cost a penny, which was very expensive in those days.¬† My mother complained.¬† Disney.¬† I recall the coin was enormous in my hand.¬† ¬†I also recall I didn’t want the Minnie Mouse one, I wanted Donald Duck, but Minnie was all that was left.¬† Someone else got the last Donald Duck.¬† I saw it and I thought it had a much better shape than the Minnie. Funny what you remember.¬† I don’t even know what flavour they were.

I remember pedalling my jeep to the corner sweet shop to buy sweets I paid for with farthings from the money pouch on the holster belt of my cowboy outfit.  Farthings were a much more manageable sized coin and everyone gave them to me to put in my pouch.  I learned that four of them were equivalent to a whole penny.  Sweets were sold by the ounce and it seemed to me that a few farthings bought quite a lot of sweets.

Trebor Chews,¬† Lemon Drops, Smarties, Rowntree’s Wine Gums.¬† Licorice Allsorts.

I remember painting my grandparents’ garage door with an old paintbrush and a bucket of water dyed with laundry blue.¬† The garage door never changed colour no matter how many coats I applied.¬† I wondered why my grandad wanted me to do it.

I remember picking plums with Grandad, and him telling me they were Victorias.¬† He said Nanna made him send some to the Queen at Buckingham Palace every year, because the song says “Send her Victorias”.¬† I didn’t get it.

Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.¬† Forever associated with that potting shed at my other Grandad’s place.¬† It had been a Bomb Shelter in the back garden and was now used as a toolshed and storage for flowerpots.¬†The dim light and dusty petrichor smell.

Picking peas and digging potatoes with my other Grandad.  The smell of  freshly dug potatoes (and the taste of them cooked) also lives in my memory.   New potatoes.

Shucking peas with the other Nanna. The taste of raw peas.

Cold sausages and cold cooked new potatoes. With butter.

Crying over cooked liver because I simply could not eat it without gagging (I love it now).   Sent to bed with no dinner and served cold liver next morning for breakfast.  More tears.  Nanna sneaking by and eating it for me.  Mum suspicious.

I seem to recall spending a lot more time with my paternal grandparents than my mother’s parents.

I remember having for a short time a pet grass snake that Dad caught on Horsell Common.¬† I learned that there were other dangerous snakes called Adders, or Vipers.¬† So I should leave strange snakes alone.¬† There is a tortoise floating in my memory too, but I am not sure if it was mine or a neighbour’s.¬† I think the latter, because it slept or hibernated in a glasshouse and I don’t believe we had one.

I had two goldfish called Wally and Sammy that we brought home from a fair in plastic bags.  I remember getting lost at the fair and the panic I felt until I found my parents. Or they found me.

Wally and Sammy had a glass fishbowl to live in.  I left them with my Aunt when we went to New Zealand.  She wrote me a letter to tell me when they died.

I remember toys and books that would be worth a small fortune if I still had them.¬† A Muffin the Mule marionette, Dinky toys, Matchbox toys, an electric train set of the London Underground.¬† I never understood why the set didn’t come with tunnels.¬† It was, after all, supposed to be under ground.¬† ¬†A battery powered army tank.¬† A rubber band powered submarine that went up and down in the bath.¬† A tin ray gun that fired sparks.¬† A wigwam.¬† A wind up monkey that played cymbals.¬† A bow and arrow with rubber suction cup tips on the arrows. A little milk truck with tiny crates of bottles, some white and full of milk, some clear. Empties.¬† I remember one of the empties had a bubble in it that spoiled the illusion.¬† A toy shop in which all the jars and packets of fruit and vegetables were actually tiny sweets.¬† It even had little scales and weights for measuring out the groceries.

A yoyo I couldn’t do anything with.

I remember Noddy books and Rupert Bear.

 

Rupert was smart.  Noddy was a bit silly.

Tessie Bear gave me a squishy feeling when she gave Noddy a hug.

I thought Mr Golly was so nice to give Noddy his first job.

noddy and mr golly

I never really trusted BigEars. He seemed rather grumpy and judgemental, though I could not have expressed it that way then.

The Rag and Bone Man came round with his horse and cart swapping stuff for Mum’s rubbish.¬† I never understood why.

I remember the first time I saw floaters in my eyes. It was bedtime and the light was dim.¬† The floaters seemed to drift downwards.¬† I told my mother it was raining in my room.¬† She told me not to be silly.¬† I knew then I could see things other people couldn’t.

I remember watching the track on a gramophone record roll into the centre of the record.  I pondered for a long time about where it went.  I concluded at last that it went under the label, through the hole in the middle and continued on the other side.  Nothing I have learned since disproves this theory.

The record label said Capitol.  I was sure it was spelt wrong.  It looked wrong.  See? I was smart.

Mum packing me a tiny suitcase and putting me out on the front doorstep to wait for the man from the Naughty Boys Home to come and take me away.¬† ¬†Tearfully begging forgiveness and promising to be good if she let me back in.¬† Waiting in fear until she did.¬† I don’t remember what I did wrong.

My parents once drove me past some huge creepy looking old brick building and told me it was the naughty boys home.¬† I didn’t want to go there.

I remember the milkman coming round with an electric powered cart.  I wondered how he made it go so I took a look while he was talking to my grandmother and mother.  I deduced that if I pulled down the handle, it would move.  I tried it. The cart jerked forward and all the bottles rattled.  I let go immediately, and the cart stopped.  It scared the daylights out of me.  No one seemed to notice and as I calmed down I felt a little pride in my reasoning powers.  I had figured it out by myself.

Soft drinks delivered by the crate in a truck.  The scent and taste of orangeade.

Orange juice in waxed cardboard boxes.

The scary face in the woodgrain of the toilet door at my Maternal Grandparents’ house.¬† I can still see it.¬† ¬†My first remembered experience of pareidolia.¬† But to me then, it was a face in the door.¬† I was afraid of it but could not stop looking.

Fantasia and the terrifying Night on Bald Mountain scene.¬† My Dad told me his horror childhood film had been¬†The Wizard of Oz, particularly¬†the flying monkeys scene, but I don’t recall that being very scary when I saw it.¬† I just liked the movie transition to colour and the green flames in Oz.¬† Green flames seemed really cool.¬† I didn’t understand the story at all.

Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Robin Hood, Zorro.  Andy Pandy.

Feeling sick after a trip to Brighton (?) and throwing up all over the kitchen floor after Nanna made me drink lemonade.  She always knew what to do.

A hot bread poultice on a festering sore on my knee.¬† ¬†The distinct phenol and oil of wintergreen scent of thick, pink¬†Germolene ointment, from a round tin.¬† ¬†Germolene cured everything a poultice couldn’t deal with.¬† Or maybe a poultice cured everything Germolene couldn’t handle.¬† In any case, both together were a powerful combination.

Being put to bed in a strange room upstairs at Nanna and Grandad’s place when it was still daylight.¬† Unable to sleep,¬† watching from the window and seeing my mother go out.¬† Wondering where she was going and if she was coming back.¬† The clock’s tick tock as I lay in my bed waiting for sleep and darkness – which in summer could be as late as ten pm.

A Christmas party in an aircraft hangar where my dad worked.¬† There were trestle tables of food and drink, and an enormous plane.¬† Father Christmas gave me something.¬† I don’t remember what.¬† Maybe that submarine.

I had a sailor suit which formerly belonged to Prince Charles, given to my mother by a friend or relative who worked at the Palace.   It was too tight and I hated it. I only remember wearing it once to some wedding or similar event.   There is a photo somewhere of me wearing it.

I collected tokens of some sort from a cereal packet. We posted them away and soon after in the mail I received a toy telescope.

One kid who lived near my grandparents’ home in Russell Road, Horsell, I think his name was Billy Cotton, had a new pedal car in the shape of a racing car.¬† It had a bonnet that opened and an engine with little spark plugs and wires and everything.¬† It was so cool.¬† He challenged me to a race around the block, certain he would win because his was a racing car.¬† My jeep was lighter to pedal and I won easily.¬† ¬†My First Victory.¬† After that his didn’t seem so cool.

My aunts playing hopscotch on squares drawn on the pavement with a piece of brick.  Me not understanding what was happening or why they were doing it.

I remember watching ants on a dog turd by the brick wall on the pavement outside my Grandparents’ house.¬† It was fascinating to watch them.¬† I wondered why they found a dog turd so interesting.¬† It smelt.¬† A few days later I saw the turd had turned white and crumbly.¬† I wondered how that happened.

I wondered about a lot of things.¬† Like where were the ladders that my mother and aunts talked about?¬† “Oh I have a ladder and I only just bought them”.¬† What?

What was a stroke, and why did you whisper about it. Did it have anything to do with stroking cats and dogs?

We visited one of Mum’s uncles who didn’t even have water in his house. There was a pump in his front garden with a handle that went up and down.¬† I couldn’t move it.

My first day at school.

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That kid in the sleeveless pullover could be me.¬† It’s not, but I looked exactly like that.¬† I even seem to remember school being like in that photo.¬† Big low tables. The smell of paint and crayons.

I wasn’t at school long in England but I seem to remember being able to read my Noddy and Rupert¬† books even before I went to school.¬† I do know I that in NZ I thought the Janet and John books I was introduced to at Ohariu valley School were pretty lame in comparison.¬† But then I met Dr Seuss in Palmerston North.¬† But I digress once more. That is later.

At the end of 1957, my parents emigrated to New Zealand.

When I found out, I followed.

No, seriously,  just kidding.  They took me with them.

We travelled from London by train overnight to Glasgow to embark as assisted immigrants on the TSS Captain Cook.  I remember the Johnny Walker statue at Waterloo station in London , and wondering why he was famous.  Also why he was dressed in that silly fashion.  Tearful farewells from the adults.  I just thought it was an adventure.  Oh, lets get on with it.

I was sorry though, that I had to leave Wally and Sammy behind.

But I had a new Rupert Bear Annual from Aunty Doris to read on the way.

rupert1956

Some time in the night Dad told me we were in a different country now, called Scotland.

Salty porridge in Glasgow.

The TSS Captain Cook

Being on a real ship. The smell of bunker oil, paint and ocean.

Separated in a cabin on one side of the ship along with all the women, girls,  and small children.  Men and older boys on the other side.  I was the only boy in a cabin of maybe six. All the rest were women and girls.

My hand jammed in a door when I tried to go into the cabin when someone was changing.   Pain and swelling.  Tears.  A visit to the infirmary to be sure nothing was broken.   Bandaged.

Some stupid girl in a bra.  As if I cared to look.

A storm.  Everyone locked in and not allowed out on deck.  Being sick.  Falling out of the top bunk and being relegated to the bottom one.  The shame of it.

Lifejackets and lifeboat drill.

I enjoyed the meals in the dining room.¬† I don’t remember being served anything I didn’t like.¬† There was a distinct smell of eggs and steam and fish and white sauce.¬† ¬†There was a similar but different delicious steamy hot food smell in the galley when I wandered in there later on my explorations.¬† ¬†The kids menu was not the same as the adult sittings.

Sneaking down to the crew-only afterdeck at the stern, which seemed to me to be only just above sea-level.¬† Watching the waves rise higher than where I was standing.¬† Awe at how much water was out there.¬† Making friends with the sailors. No one minded I was there.¬† When I look at the photo of the ship the deck doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as low as I remember.

I found my way to the galley.¬† The cook (there must have been more than one!) was friendly and told me he would cook me something special if I brought him all the flying fish that landed on the afterdeck.¬† He gave me a bag.¬† I remember seeing fish come flying over the ship’s side and flopping about on the deck.¬† I gathered lots of fish.¬† I am pretty sure someone was helping me collect them.¬† That part is hazy.¬† The cook gave me fish and chips and cream scones.¬† Maybe not both at the same time.¬† I am pretty sure I went there quite often whenever I could escape.¬† I probably stank of fish every time mum found me and herded me back.¬† What a give away.

My mother was really irate every time I disappeared.  I disappeared a lot.  There were some pretty cool places a small boy could get to on a ship and be hard to find.

I was only five. I was curious.  An explorer.  It was an adventure.  I can see now why my mother was so pissed off.   At the time it seemed to me she was being most unreasonable about it.  That ship was the absolute best time of my short little life so far.  Watching the sea roll by was never boring.

Roses lime cordial in icy cold water from a water cooler and with clinking ice that had bubbles trapped in it, and which had just the faintest hint of a metallic taste when you crunched it between your teeth.

Hot salt-water baths.  Not enough fresh on board to waste on baths.  Another strange steamy smell. Odd smelling soap that lathered in salty water.

Shark fins in the harbour at Curacao.  A crocodile in the river leading up to the Panama Canal.   Gun towers around the Pepsi Cola factory where we went on a day tour.  Beggars in the street. Shoe-shine boys.

The Crossing the Line ceremony at the equator for which my mother cut up my favourite Disney tablecloth to make me a costume.¬† It was wasted. I didn’t win a prize.

I took it so very seriously when as part of ceremony I was awarded a certificate that said I now had free and safe passage throughout the whole of Davy Jones’ realm.¬† I believed it implicitly.¬† Ever since then I have felt at home in or on the sea.¬† No matter what crap has happened to me at sea – and quite a lot has – I have always been calm and self assured, and handled it.¬† I am at home with the sea.¬† I have never doubted that this equanimity is entirely because of what I was told when I was only five.

That is how important an affirmation can be.

And I had one in writing.  Signed by King Neptune himself.  The ocean was mine.

tss-captain-cook

 

Mrs Porter.

Some time back I happened to see a vintage episode of  The Protectors, which featured  NZ actress Nyree Dawn Porter, as the Contessa Caroline di Contini.  She played opposite Robert Vaughn.  I remember her too in other TV programmes of the sixties, notably The Forsyte Saga.   I looked her up on IMDB and learned she had died in 2001.

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Nyree DP is of course Ngaire Porter from Napier.  She and Diana Rigg (and Miss Peachy at school) were the stuff of adolescent fantasies in my early teenage years.

Oh. And Raquel Welch.

Alas,  I never met Nyree Dawn Porter.  I did, however, meet her mother.

Ms Nyree Dawn Porter’s dad was a butcher up on Bluff Hill, in Napier.¬† ¬†His shop was on the corner just a short distance from Gladstone Road, where we lived when I was a nine or ten year old kid.¬† Mum bought our meat from him.

Mr Porter had died by the time I returned to Napier in 1978 to take up a position as City Health Inspector.

However Mrs Porter, Ngaire’s mum, ¬†was alive.¬† She still lived in the family home¬†up on Bluff Hill.¬† Though I didn’t know at first that she was the mother of a celebrity,¬† I subsequently got to know¬†Mrs Porter¬†quite well. ¬†A really nice lady, though to put it kindly, perhaps she was just a little dotty.

One day some time in my first weeks on the job, John Fraser, my boss, came to me with a strange gleam in his eye and told me he had a nuisance complaint for me to attend to up on Bluff Hill.  A Mrs Porter had phoned to say she was plagued by giant rats.  I could see the others in the office suppressing smirks, and suspected some kind of joke was being played on the new guy.   Nonetheless, off I went up Shakespeare Road.

Mrs Porter proved to be a most delightful old lady.  She served me tea and home made cake.  She was plainly overjoyed to have a visitor and kept me chatting for quite a while.  It was clear she was  lonely and just needed a bit of company.

Eventually we got down to business and she told me about the giant rats she had seen in her backyard, under the fruit trees.   I asked her to describe them, and they did indeed sound fearsomely big.  She was adamant they did not look a bit like cats, when I suggested it.

I had a brainwave and asked if they had fluffy tails or naked, scaly tails.

“Fluffy”.

So I took a possum trap up and set it in her garden.  Sure enough over a week or so we caught several possums.  The mystery of the giant rats was solved.  However, this led to the discovery of homing possums.  But I digress.  Another story.  More about that later.

It turned out that Mrs Porter was a regular caller to the Council, and was considered by Council staff to be somewhat of a nuisance herself.  The others all thought I was crazy to take her and her complaints seriously.  I never saw it that way.  Maybe we Council officers had more time in those days, but I felt she was a ratepayer who need something from the Council, even if it was only an occasional visit, and some kind reassurance.   I saw myself as being there to help however I could.

Every fortnight or so , Mrs Porter would call in with some worry or another, and she came to understand that at least one person at the Council would listen to her.  Me.  I knew these problems genuinely preyed on her mind.  I also learned that she took me quite seriously and slept better once I had given some bland assurance or explanation (usually invented) about whatever was causing her concern.  It was a great relationship we developed.  I had a little old grandmother substitute to visit, who plied me with tea and cake, and she had someone to talk to now and then who actually cared.

One day Mrs Porter phoned me in a most agitated state. ¬†“The neighbours are stealing my section,” she said, “and they are hiding it in the phone booth down the road”. ¬†This I had to see. ¬†I went straight up.

One side of Mrs Porter’s property was a 10 metre or so cliff. ¬†She overlooked her next door neighbour on that side . ¬†Looking down I could see a trench starting at the neighbours’ place and terminating in a large pile of dirt and clay by the telephone box on Shakespeare Road below. ¬†Mrs Porter ¬†thought the neighbours were digging into the bank under her section.

After the usual cup of tea I told her to leave everything to me, and I would sort it out.  I returned to the office, phoned the post office and explained why I was calling.  I asked when the trench work would be finished and if they would be reinstating the verge.  The said they would, and it would be completed by the next day.

I phoned Mrs Porter and told her that the neighbours had not realised what they were doing, they were very sorry, and had promised to put everything back by the next day.  It just seemed more fun than explaining the mundane facts about trenching for cables.

Sure enough, next day Mrs P phoned, very excited, to tell me that they had done just as I had promised, and everything was back to normal.  She was effusive in her thanks, and from then on I could do no wrong.  The others mocked me for my occasional calls to visit her, and for humouring her more wacky ideas, but I did not mind.

One day I returned from a visit to Bluff Hill, and handed around a large bag of almonds.

Everyone helped themselves and munched away.

“Where did you get these?”

“Mrs Porter gave them to me. ¬†Her family give them to her. ¬†She can’t eat them because she has false teeth”.

(Pause for effect).

“So she just sucks off the chocolate”.

They all realised I had not been eating any.

I did enjoy the consternation that followed.

In fact I had bought the nuts at the Healtheries shop.   But I liked my story better.

The best tales never get old.  Especially the true ones.

Mrs Porter was one of my three special little old ladies in Napier.

(I first recorded this story here).

Wandering Star

 

I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star
Wheels are made for rollin’
Mules are made to pack
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back
 
I was born under a wandrin’ star
Mud can make you prisoner, and the plains can bake you dry
Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry
Home is made for comin’ from, for dreams of goin’ to
Which with any luck will never come true
I was born under a wandrin’ star
I was born under a wandrin’ star
 
Do I know where hell is?
Hell is in hello
Heaven is goodbye for ever, it’s time for me to go
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin’ wandrin’ star
 
When I get to heaven, tie me to a tree
Or I’ll begin to roam, and soon you know where I will be
I was born under a wandrin’ star
A wandrin’ wandrin’ star

Songwriters: Alan Jay Lerner / Frederick Loewe

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Wayside

My blog entries have slowed to meanderings and I have fallen by the wayside.¬† Re-reading my old posts, especially some of those on my first blog,¬† made me realise that sometimes in my writing I was almost achieving what I once aspired to, but I am not any more.¬† An old friend’s Facebook posts recently have driven home that she is a better writer than I and indeed a better person with a more interesting and worthwhile story to tell.¬† She should be writing a blog.

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Tui in a Kowhai Tree

I feel I am at a dead end.  My life has been one of neophilia and hodophilia, the love of new things and of travelling to new places.  I believed, or told myself,  each new adventure in a new location was also a way to do something good.  Maybe it was.  Maybe it was actually just running away from old places.  Most of the major moves I have made have been after events I would rather forget.

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Battle Hill Stream

That raises another disturbing thought.¬† I spend a lot of time remembering things I would rather not, and trying to remember things I cannot.¬† Odd.¬† Mnemophobia is a word that means both the¬†fear¬†of memories of past¬†events and fearing memory loss caused by mental illness such as Alzheimer’s.¬† ¬†The irony of the duality in that word, and in my current frame of mind, is not lost on me.¬† I have already written that one of my greatest fears is Alzheimer’s.¬† I have also written, sometimes obliquely, of the memories I wish I did not have.¬† ¬† Then I remind myself that I am writing this blog principally for some future me so I might remember.

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Owharoa Waterfall, Karangahake Gorge

I watched  Hunt for the Wilderpeople on Google Play last night.   I really liked the movie.  I never read the Barry Crump novel on which it was based, but Taika Waititi made a gun movie from it.  Not flawless, but  so very very kiwi and so very entertaining.  One of few films that can make me laugh out loud, and one of many that can make me weep.  What was interesting was that it was not the poignant heart-rending scenes that caused the latter reaction, but two simple things Рor perhaps three; Kiwi humour in a kiwi accent, and the New Zealand bush.  This made me realise something.  I think I may be homesick.

I pondered this for a while and this morning I think I have pretty much come to the conclusion that as soon as I have a few more grand stashed away, I am going home to retire.  Maybe next year.

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Roadside Grass near Thames, Coromandel

These are four of my favourite New Zealand photos.  Each a pleasant memory.