Lessons from a Baby

January 25, 2018

William Wordsworth marvelled that he might learn from his toddler son. ’Could I but teach the hundredth part, Of what from thee I learn’ he wondered in “Anecdote for Fathers”. (It’s not his best work. In fact it’s rather droll, but then I find a lot of his stuff just so).  We can learn all sorts of things from kids. But it’s babies that have been teaching me a thing or two lately. Babies are the litmus test of whether you belong. Or, as perhaps I should more accurately posit it, babies tell you where you belong. The lesson is partly a reflection of our times (men dare not risk approaching someone elses child) and an instruction to a middle aged father and grandfather as to where he really stands. The lesson has a context and therein lies the rub. The context in this case is a community quick to profess it’s a family and that we are all family together. All siblings in one big happy communal rumpus room. It’s a sentiment which is not disagreeable, even when it’s expressed in hollow, strained terms. In fact it’s a sentiment I welcome having moved from another part of town, and it’s a message I don’t press against, hoping perhaps there might be some truth in it. Indeed, wanting there to be some truth in it. Read more

The Road to Broken Hill – Again

January 13, 2018

22 December 2017


We got away at 1505 which was pretty much when we planned to launch. The anticipated holiday traffic did not materialise, at last at that time of the day and we have a clear run tino the Blue Mountains, our only challenge to speak of being rain approaching Lithgow which slowed us to 40 km/h. That would have been helpful a bit pater on our approach into Bathurst when a roll down a hill when I allowed the car to creep up to 118 was pinged by Mr Plod. Hid friendly warning about roos on the road softened nothing.

The usual commitment to the highway was given over to the camera and made a few stops to take pictures. It’s a conscious effort since, once I am behind the wheel its pretty hard to pull over unless its for fuel or bladder. But the steaming heat of the coast makes for some spectacular cloud and the sunset is peachy so we stop for the colours. Read more

Hello Texas

December 24, 2015

IMG_5639Before the food cart drags itself up behind its vanguard aroma and I allow myself to be distracted by Jermaine Clement in ‘People Places Things’ I’ll jot a few notes in some sort of acknowledgment to penmanship I have neglected and which urgently needs resuscitating. And yes, that is ‘aroma’ which you read. It’s an experience of the senses after all, this fifteen hour haul through to Dallas, with Jefferson Airplane appropriately in my headphones,  an aromatic hint of dinner, while the seat thrums in response to the airframe being pushed through that frigid air out there.  We are on our way to Texas, a transit point on a journey through to Toronto. A year ago we were thawing out in Africa as we descended to the lush skirt  of Kilimanjaro. Now we fly to colder climes and look forward to catching up with family. And seeing places I have not seen before.   Read more

A Conversation with Joanna

November 15, 2012

Well here I am again. No, don’t get up, two visits in less than two years is not that unusual.  Okay, I did commit to coming back earlier though, so forgive me my tardiness. I ran down here this morning from Tekapo and have arrived to a gorgeous clear day, though there is a forecast of rain so I am not wasting time. Your letters are all clear of loose paint and the surface is wiped over with metho and I am about to break out the brushes.  The silence is filled with so many triggers of memories. The smell of the damp earth, daisies (that have escaped the lawnmower) a lamp bleating for its mother, the constant chorus of thrushes, the throaty bleat of an anxious ewe and the high trill of larks bring me straight back to a place a ten year old boy reveled in. But I hope you are not offended when I say my heart is no longer here. With the exception of this piece of hallowed ground I hasten to add. I arrive and drop my bucket of gear and find myself on my knees, overcome for a moment. You know there is just a piece of my heart here. But the loves of my life are elsewhere these days and that is where my heart goes.

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Farm Orientation

July 11, 2011

old-house_290.jpgSunday Morning

It’s dark and the sound of light snoring drifts through the old stone house. Every now and then a sleeping bag rustles as a body shifts. The rain has eased but the wind is up and the percussion on the tin roof continues. I guess its about 5 o’clock and get up and go for a walk. It’s a fresh breeze blowing out of the north east for which I am thankful – from the south and it would be a much cooler story.  Rod has set up some LED lights in the outhouses so my visit there is less an adventure in the dark than some in the past.

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Congenital Heart Disease

June 30, 2011


My heart is swollen with the
Pulmonary joy of friendship
Threatening to
Rupture and disarm me.

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January 8, 2011

headstone.jpgI have a sister that never left home even though she was born in 1972.  I dropped by last week and paid her a visit. I always do if I am ‘home’, even if travelling through in the middle of the night.  You can do that when you are family, calling in at rude hours.  She never complains.  Sometimes the chat is silent. Families are good at that too – communicating with silences that is. But this time Steve was with me and I felt a bit self-conscious about talking in front of him, even though he is the dearest friend and knows me well. Even saying hello seemed a bit awkward.  So I stuck my hands in my pockets and shuffled my feet, got a bit emotional and after an awkward silence moved on.   Next time I am back I will bring some paint for things are a bit weathered at her place and I would like to think people know there are folk who care. We can have a chat as the paint is brushed and I can take my time.  I nodded to old Jim nearby, said hello to John (Joanna’s former babysitter), dipped me lid at Rodney whose truck once fell off a mountain and whose mother is no longer able to deliver him the weekly flowers, her last delivery now dry and broken stalks. She hangs out just a short walk away. We stood with David, mentor and friend, and gazed in silence over the countryside. He and his parents look out over Joanna as do many others I know. It’s getting to be quite a community up there on the hill. Sadly some of them have no voice but I am always pleased at what Joanna has to say. She tells those who would mull these things that she is ‘a child of the covenant’, speaking of a sure hope of eternal and unfailing commitment by her creator that, though her mortal remains look over a corner of Otago, she lives on in His presence and in that ‘presence there is a fullness of joy’. She is a great encourager that Joanna, sister of mine.

1969 – an Age of Innocence?

September 12, 2010

mumanddad290.jpgFunny how these pictures keep drawing you back (pun alert). To an age of innocence, which is not how anyone would usually describe 1969. Mind you I am not entirely convinced the date on the picture is correct – I like to think I would have been drawing my Dad in this way in 1965 or 66 perhaps, not 1969.  By 1969 I am sure he would have wondered at the floppy eared, sparse hair, Three Mile Island rabbit rendition of him. I think more highly of him than that! Read more

A Retro Trip

September 5, 2010

sketch290.jpgThe travel of the mind is easily the most seductive. And the most dangerous. I am writing a biography of a man I once knew. Still do actually, though he ‘crossed the Jordan’ in 1996. If I was to be honest with myself I have not been prepared for the emotional dislocation that has happened as I have pored over more than 1000 pieces of his personal correspondence with more than 1000 still to be read. Read more

The Invisible Story

April 9, 2010

monty290.jpgMeet Monty. One of many nephews. Can’t recall the date – but about 1996 or thereabouts.

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