Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Visitor

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.
Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains
as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden
in every cell of our bodies.
Shirley Abbott, magazine editor and writer
1934 –

I have written before about this old lady who seems to inhabit my house alongside Lotte and me.  I haven’t invited her in, but wherever I go she is there before me.  When I go into the bathroom she is looking at me where the mirror is supposed to be.  I pass along the hall and there she is again.  She’s in the bedroom, the living room and at the front door.  I don’t know who she is or why she is living in my house.

Cross Old Woman

She doesn’t even appear to be happy that she is getting free board and lodging without having been invited.  And she has never heard the expression that guests are like fish – great on the first day, getting a little stale on the second and definitely off by the third.

So why is she here?  And today I even saw her at a friend’s house.  Is she stalking me? She was in the car on the way home getting a free ride.  But the most worrying thing is that I am the only one who ever sees her.  When I ask a family member they tell me that they can only see me.  So what’s going on here?

Seriously though, I remember somebody saying to my late husband when we decided to get married “Look at her mother.  That’s how she will look when she is older.”  And goodness me, that is coming true.  I always thought that I looked like my father but not any more.

And I hear myself saying some of the things she used to say and even doing things her way.  So is it genetics or learned behaviour?  I haven’t lived in the same house as Mother for 55 years and  she has been dead for 16 of those years.  Added to that I haven’t even lived in the same country for most of my adult life, so where does this come from? (Yes I know, grammatically incorrect but it reads better this way).

And then looking at the next generation.  I see my own daughter saying and doing things in the same way that my Mother used to and that I now do.  So like the family face some other things are passed down through the generations.

And the family face – here’s the first verse of the poem by Thomas Hardy (1840-1928):

I am the family face;
Flesh perishes, I live on,
Projecting trait and trace
Through time to times anon,
And leaping from place to place
Over oblivion.

So where is this rambling post taking me?  I don’t know but know it must end here.

“And now
as the water cascades and tumbles
over the rocks in its rush
down to join the river
so my thoughts tumble around my brain
looking for an outlet
or a safe place to stop.”
Judith Baxter, Blogger, Mother, Grandmother and Friend 1938 –

Mother’s Day 2012

Today is Mother’s Day here in New Zealand and this has long been my favourite quote:

A baby said to god “I hear you are sending me to earth tomorrow.  How am I going to live there being so small and helpless?”
God said “Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you”
The child then said “But here in heaven I don’t have to do anything but sing, smile and be happy”.
God said “Your angel will sing and smile for you and you will feel your angel’s love for you and you will be happy.”
And the child said “But who will protect me?”
And god said “Your angel will protect you even if it means risking its own life”
Then the child said “If I am to leave heaven please tell me my angel’s name”
And god said “You will simply call her Mum.”

I wish you all a happy Mothers’ Day wherever you are, and really hope that the above resonates with you as it does with me.

I have said before that I had a very happy childhood, and while I know that many of you didn’t I know that you will be the best mothers you can be.


Oh Good, It’s Saturday

Six word Saturday button

It’s Saturday again so here we go.  If you would like to participate please either click on the picture above or click this link.


After a couple of ho hum days, we woke this morning to brilliant sunshine.  As is my usual practice, I spent a couple of hours lounging in bed reading.  I was spoiled with coffee and toast before I got up.


Then it was off to the market for vegetables.  Once again, I bought too many but I do have a good friend with whom I can share.  So we now both have vegetables in our fridges, enough for the week.

Hot chocolate

The vegetable shopping was followed by hot chocolate and Danish at a local cafe.  Then it was off to discover new parts of this city where I have lived for the last 30 plus years, but where I keep finding areas of which I know nothing.

Today we discovered Truby King House and Park.  Sir Frederic Truby King CMG generally known as Truby King, was a New Zealand health reformer and Director of Child Welfare. He is best known as the founder of the Plunket Society aimed at improving the health and well being of mothers and infants.

He and his wife Isabella lived in an absolutely idyllic spot perched high above Wellington with unobstructed views over what then would have been countryside to the ocean.  Today it looks out of busy suburbs to the airport and beyond.  But the view still included the sea and it is quite spectacular.  The Wellington City Council now owns and maintains the grounds and the house.

Truby King House

The house is tenanted today – lucky tenants to enjoy that view.

But I want to share with you our walk today.  King’s house, a quite ordinary large single story wooden villa, that sits in 10 acres of bush and parklands.  A feature of the property is the fine examples of brickwork, in paths, pillars and arches around the park.

Brick archway

These brick archways abound in the gardens of the King House.

Another example of the amazing brickwork throughout the gardens.

King Garden

More brickwork

MausaleumThere is a brick mausoleum  with the trademark brick
steps and path leading to it.

Having wandered around these gardens for about an hour this afternoon it was time to take ourselves back to the present where most of us have tiny gardens, if in fact we have a garden.  But we can enjoy King’s garden as much as he did during his lifetime.  Gardening was his passion and it is easy to see in the way in which the grounds are laid out, the thought that has gone into the planting, and although it is now 74 years since his death his legacy to this country lives on in the Plunket Society and to this city in the house and grounds he bequeathed to the people of Wellington.

I dream of hiking into my old age.
I want to be able even then to pack my load and take off slowly but steadily
along the trail.
Marlyn Doan

The Right to Choose

There are some things that I care about, somethings that I don’t and a few that I  care strongly about.  One of these is the right to die with dignity.

Now I don’t want to upset anybody with this post.  I have friends who are bitterly opposed to a change to the law that would allow one to make an end of life choice under certain circumstances.

Here in New Zealand this is a hotly debated subject.  There have been a number of cases where people have been charged with assisting suicide and in some cases have served jail sentences.

Currently, we have an Member of Parliament who proposes to introduce  an “end of life choice” private member’s bill to Parliament in about a month’s time.  According to the NZ Parliament website “Members’ bills are bills introduced by Members who are not Ministers. Every second Wednesday the House gives precedence to Local, Private, and Members’ bills. On these days Members’ bills are debated.

Only six Members’ bills awaiting first reading can be on the Order Paper on each Members’ day. When a space on the Order Paper becomes available, a ballot is held to decide which Members’ bill(s) will be introduced. Members enter bills in the ballot by lodging notices of intention on the day of the ballot.”

Maryann Street the proposer of the Bill has stated that the bill aims to provide end-of-life choices for people with terminal illness and irrecoverable conditions which make life impossible.   She emphasised the inclusion of protections within the proposed legislations for those wanting to die and those involved in the process.

The patient had to be of sound mind when making the choice and protected from coercion. This would be attested by doctors. There was also protection against the decision being overturned if the person was later unable to express their view.

“Similarly there must be protection against criminal liability-protection for family members who are asked, like Sean Davison** to do the unthinkable.”

**People who had lived autonomous lives should also be allowed to be autonomous during the end of their lives, she said.

In 2010 Davison, 50, a microbiologist based in Cape Town, South Africa, was charged with attempting to murder his terminally ill mother Patricia Elizabeth Davison, 85, a former medical practitioner, in 2006. The charge of murder was later withdrawn and he pleaded guilty to a charge of procuring and inciting attempted suicide.

The charges apparently stemmed from various emails and manuscripts Davison wrote about nursing his mother for her final three months. She died on October 25, 2006 at her home in Broad Bay on the Otago Peninsula (NZ)

Davison recounted how his mother had tried to starve herself to death but was still alive after 33 days. She was in pain and discomfort and asked him and others repeatedly to help her die.  He described giving her a drink of water containing crushed morphine tablets.

In her “living will”, Patricia, a retired doctor and psychologist, wrote to her four children: “My quality of life can only deteriorate. I do not wish for a protracted, disagreeable death and I think I can count on all of you in supporting me in this.”

The other side of the argument here in NZ is currently being led by John Kleinsman, the director of the Nathaniel Centre.  He is reported as saying

“I don’t think there is any law that can adequately protect against the risks. In fact the law would remove the most protective barrier.”

He launched a scathing attack on the Government’s inadequate funding of palliative care,  saying it was driving people to assisted suicide. If people could be assured of death without agony the voluntary euthanasia debate would be redundant, he said.

“Until every New Zealander has access to high quality palliative care I think it’s unethical to introduce euthanasia. Choosing to die can never be fully voluntary in a society that doesn’t provide palliative care options.”

Kleinsman also criticised rest home care, saying rest homes needed to “lift their game”.

Other considerations in the debate included societal changes such as the increase in elder abuse, and families living long distances from elderly or disabled relatives who believed they were a burden which encouraged life-ending decisions.

“Relaxing the law is fraught with possibilities for abuse. The right to die would very quickly become a duty to die.”  He said.

So where to you stand on this question?  Personally, I support the right to an end of life choice.  Having seen many people at the end of their lives, existing but not living I think it is important that people of sound mind, be given the opportunity to decide when enough is enough.  I certainly hope that my family will respect my desire to die with dignity; not being forced to live a vegetative life, being force-fed or worse still, being in pain and knowing that this is how I have to exist until a merciful god or other intervention decides it is time for me to leave.

My children are in no doubt how I feel on this subject.  It will be hotly debated for many months and maybe years to come here even if the bill is entered into Parliament.  I suspect it will be a conscience choice for Members of Parliament if it comes to a vote, rather than a party line.  I shall be following this bill with interest.

Poetry or Doggerel?

Many years ago when my children were young, I used to read and recite poetry to them, rather than nursery rhymes.  One of their favourites was Vitiae Lampada, Sir Henry Newbolt’s famous poem.  Do you know this one?

“There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote
“Play up! play up! and play the game..”

For the rest of this poem click here.

In Britain in the late 19th century and the early 20th century there was  a blind devotion to Britain and her Empire and yet there was an ethos that the playing of the game was better than winning.   There was also the powerful social phenomenon of the ‘Basically Sound Chap’.  Rudyard Kipling was one,  so was John Buchan and so of course, was Henry Newbolt.  This poem then might almost be regarded as the anthem of the Basically Sound Chaps.  The stiff upper lip was his trademark but today the BSC would probably be regarded as politically incorrect; he had no female equivalent and he often did not get along very well with women.

When I first tried my hand at poetry, it was very simply rhyming verse and in fact I considered it (and still do) doggerel.

Doggerel?  “Doggerel is a derogatory term for verse considered of little literary value. The word probably derived from dog, suggesting either ugliness, puppyish clumsiness, or unpalatability (as in food fit only for dogs). “Doggerel” is attested to have been used as an adjective since the fourteenth century and a noun since at least 1630.” via Wikipedia.

My first attempt at writing poetry followed a wedding in a small ski resort here in New Zealand.  It was headed The Party with Apologies to Noel Coward”  And it started

“We went to this marvellous party
All manner of people were there
We drove through the rain
To toast Robin and Elaine
A chance to let down our hair…”

I went on to name all of the people who were present that weekend and if I say so myself, it was quite clever.  But it was definitely doggerel.

When we arrived back in New Zealand from a very brief sojourn in Montreal, my children each went back to the schools they had attended before and quickly settled back into the life of New Zealand children.  However there was one person that made this re-immersion difficult and that was a teacher at my son’s school.

Having asked the children to write an essay on what they had done during the school holidays, she shot down my very young son (he was only about 7 or 8 years old) by saying that they weren’t interested in his tales about travelling to far distant places.  How cruel is that from a school teacher.

Another time, she asked the boys to tell her the name of their favourite poem.  Imagine my son’s dismay when she dismissed Sir Henry Newbolt’s Vitiae Lampada as doggerel.  He of course, didn’t know this word and was very upset.

It transpired that this young woman teacher had chosen to teach in a boys only school even though she really didn’t like young boys.  Go figure, as we say now.

So if this great poem is doggerel, then maybe I am in good company with my scratchings.

….I’ve been to a marvellous party
I must say the fun was intense;
We all had to do
What the people we knew
Might be doing a hundred years hence.
We talked about growing old gracefully,
And Elsie—who’s seventy-four—
Said, “A) It’s a question of being sincere,
And B) If you’re supple you’ve got nothing to fear”—
Then she swung upside-down from a chandelier!
And I couldn’t have liked it more!
From “I’ve Been To a Marvellous Party”
Sir Noel Coward, English playwright, director, actor
and singer 1889 – 1973.

Just Thinking

“Friendship makes prosperity more shining
and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it.”
Cicero, 44 B.C.

It’s a Wet, Windy Wellington Wednesday night and I have plenty of thoughts running around my brain but nothing cohesive to put into a blog.  Oh how often I have started a blog with similar words over the past couple of weeks!

As it is Wednesday I have just returned from dinner with two of my grandsons.  It was rather special because neither of the parents were there and so I had the boys to myself.  James, the eldest at 17, has now moved through the monosyllabic stage and talks to his Granma about many things.  He kept me entertained while I prepared dinner for the three of us.  He still is undecided what he will do when he leaves school at the end of this year and is investigating several things but none with any great intensity.

His younger brother is getting over his knee operation and spends most of his time lying on the bed watching TV or sending messages via text or email to his many friends.  Strangely at 16 he hasn’t been monosyllabic in fact, if anything, he has always talked too much.  But he is still sad that he has had to leave his school in Auckland to be at home while he recuperates.

Then on the way home I tuned into A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor.  I have written about this before and how I really enjoy this programme.  for the uninitiated it is set in a fictional town Lake Woebegon  where “the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are above average.”  Tonight it passed the time very pleasantly while I drove through the rain with several stops for road works.  The road I use to come home from my son’s house is State Highway One and they (whoever they are) are constantly working on this road.  Hardly ever do I come home without encountering road works somewhere.

Earlier in the day I sent Andy onto his next destination.  Patti at A New Day Dawns gets to host Andy in Virginia Beach.  I do hope the weather is better for him there than it has been while he has been with us.  We have had some really glorious and warm days but we have also had many days of rain.  And the last couple of days have been ghastly!  So farewell Andy; travel well and take care.

What else?  I had a conversation with a man in the supermarket car park.  He was objecting vociferously about people parking badly and making it difficult for others.  Although why he was carrying on in this way was hard to tell.  There was plenty of parking available for all.  Well perhaps he was miffed because he couldn’t park really close to the store and so had to get his nice shiny shoes all wet.  And why he chose to tell me his problems is beyond me, although I have said before that I talk to people and they usually end up telling me their life stories.  But today I didn’t want to stand in the rain learning anything at all about this miserable man.

And now it is 11 pm.  Time for all good women to take themselves off to bed with a final cup of coffee, a good book and their trusty companion.

Lotte in bed

Goodnight from Lotte

Farewell Andy

Today was our last day with Andy the Armadillo.  Andy came into Lenore Diane’s life by way of a white elephant exchange. Read Lenore’s post here.

Andy left Lenore in Georgia (I think) to move on to Florida to meet Katy, from there he went to Georgette in Texas and then he arrived here in New Zealand, , tired after his very long journey, .

While he has been here he has visited several places and has become a friend not only of my grandsons (oh really G did you have to tell them that?) but also my friends and all the staff at the hospice.  I hope he has enjoyed himself as much as we have enjoyed having him.

Andy arriving at the Hospice

Checking he is in the right place

Tomorrow we shall bid him farewell but we have many photos of him to remind us of the little chap.

Through the looking glass

Andy through the looking glass

We spent the weekend at a friend’s house and after I put on my makeup, Andy decided to see what I was looking at.

Andy on the rim of the bath

Andy considers taking a bath

We then went into the bathroom where Andy spied the bath and wondered whether it would be like swimming in the swamps.  Please forgive my ignorance when I ask are swamps the armadillos usual habitat?

Andy on the scales

How much do I weigh?

Then he wandered onto the scales.  He didn’t think much of my comments yesterday about weighing myself.

Andy on the path

An armadillo must watch where he walks

In order for me to get fit for the Golden Door later this month, Lotte and I have been taking long walks, up and down hills around our neighbourhood and of course, Andy has come too.


What are we waiting for?

He quite likes being carried in my pocket but his favourite means of transport is without doubt the car.

Lotte and Andy in the car

Can you move over please to make room for me.

Lotte will probably be happy to get her seat back after he has gone but I am sure she will miss him too.

Lotte and Andy sleeping

There’s room on this chair for two

We hope that Patti enjoys her time with Andy as much as we have; I have already warned her to get in a good supply of jelly beans – they seem to be his favourite food.

Andy on the desk

Wonder how a little armadillo can open that jar.

“A friend is someone who understands your past,
believes in your future and
accepts you just the way you are”

Musing on Monday

Years ago when I first visited the Golden Door I was weighed when I checked in and again when I was leaving.  I have no memory of what the weight was but I do remember one of the staff members saying that weight is set on a man-made scale and it is better to rely on how we feel and how we look rather than the scales.  Since that time I don’t  weigh myself and use his suggestion of how I feel and noticing if my clothes are getting a little tight.  Then I know  I need to take a look at what I am eating and the amount of exercise I am (or am not) doing.  They will weigh me going in and out of the Golden Door at the end of the month, but once again I will not ask them to tell me what I weigh.

On the subject of weight, and looking for something to write about in my blog,  I found an article in the Daily Mail Online today about the fattest man in the world.  Apparently, Keith Martin who is 42 years old weighed 58 stones and if my calculations are correct that equals 812 lbs.  Using the conversion rate of 1 stone = 14 lbs. He is reported to have eaten 20,000 calories a day.  He is now eating 1,500 calories each day.

Of course he has not been able to leave his home and he said in an interview that he specifically remembers the last time he left the house was on 9/11.  He also says his condition has driven him to the brink of suicide and now desperately is trying to lose weight.  In this he is getting lots of help from professionals who visit him regularly.

What a desperately unhappy young man this is.  His sister apparently lives with him and cares for him, but she has been getting hate mail about his problem, because apparently she shops and cooks for him.  Maybe what is needed is some education for both of these people.

Looking back to when I was growing up following the Second World War, there were few fat people and obesity was never mentioned.  Did we know the word then?  Food was rationed for several years following the end of the war but people were adequately fed.   Petrol too was rationed and private cars were few and far between, so people were forced to exercise. Father cycled to work each day and so kept fit.

Mother had no need to go to the gym (or the Golden Door) because she walked to the shops each day and carried the groceries home in two bags, perfectly balanced she used to say.

Washing was hung on the line to dry so there was plenty of bending and stretching.  I also remember as a young child, she took the rugs out, hung them over the washing line and beat them to get the dust out of them.

Sweeping the stairs is another thing that is clearly embedded in my mind.  Tea leaves were saved and were scattered on the stair treads and then swept down from one step to the next.  Again plenty of bending and stretching and the tea leaves seemed to attract the dust so that at the bottom of the staircase all the dust could be swept into a dustpan and deposited in the rubbish bin.

Houses were heated by open fires and so the fireplace had to be cleared and cleaned each day (bending and stretching) and coal had to be brought in regularly (weight-bearing exercises).

Later when we moved and the house had fitted carpets, quite a rare thing in the late 1940s early 1950s,  Mother had an upright Hoover vacuum cleaner that weighed a ton (in my estimation anyway) that she lugged around the house, up and down stairs so she got her anaerobic exercise without really being aware of it.

Then when I was a young mother we put our babies in their prams and walked to the shops most days for our groceries.  We lived at the foot of a steep hill which had to be climbed to get to the village.  So I had exercise a plenty.  And nobody even mentioned going to the gym or to a health resort.

I am not suggesting that we go back to that way of living, or even that life was better then, but I suggest that most of us were much more healthy than we are today.

And if that young man doesn’t pay serious attention to his health and what he is eating, he wont live to share his memories with his children and grandchildren.  Hopefully with the help he is receiving he will bring his weight and his life back under control.

“The more you eat, the less flavor;
the less you eat, the more flavor.”
Chinese Proverb

Thanks and an Opera


First I would like to celebrate a milestone and say thanks to my loyal followers.  Today I reached the heady total of 150 yes, one hundred and fifty followers.

“I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks.”
William Shakespeare

For many of the blogs I follow this is a small number but when I first started on this blogging journey some 14 months ago I wasn’t sure that I would gain even one follower.  So I am overwhelmed by this total.

I have written before on my love of opera.  Recently I wrote about Manon at The Met and other operas I have seen in that series.

Here in New Zealand we have a very professional  world class opera company.  The company (NBR New Zealand Opera) puts on two or three performances each year, with singers brought in from around the world to support and encourage our own ‘home grown’ talent.

RigolettoThe next performance is to be Verdi’s Rigoletto directed by Australian Lindy Hume who was last here in 2007 to direct Lucia di Lammermoor.  The NBR New Zealand Opera’s Director of Music, Wyn Davies, conducts a stellar cast, including Warwick Fyfe in the title role, Emma Pearson as his daughter Gilda and Rafael Rojas as the cynical womaniser, the Duke of Mantua.

The Supper Club

NBR NZ Opera’s The Supper Club

NZ Opera has a so -called Supper Club which is part of the NBR New Zealand Opera’s sponsorship programme.  This allows entry-level sponsorship of the opera at a level we can afford.  In return we get early notice of upcoming operas, tickets and invitations to special events at which we meet some of the singers from here and overseas.  Tonight was one such event.

Over wine and beautiful finger food, we got to meet all three principals of Rigoletto.  And as a special treat they all sang for us.

The Wellington function is always held in Logan Brown‘s a first class restaurant housed in an old bank building and the banking chamber is perfect for the acoustics required for opera.  There are never more than 30 invited guests and so it is quite an intimate occasion and as we are so very close to the performers, we get to see all the facial actions which we won’t see in the theatre.

The Opera performs in both Wellington and Auckland with each centre having its own chorus.  So the Director has the added challenge of getting two choruses working individually with the stars. There are to be only four performances in Wellington and the cast is busily rehearsing for the opening night which is to be May 19th.  I am really looking forward to this production and so watch this space!

Grand opera is the most powerful of stage appeals and that almost entirely through the beauty of music.

Dear Diary

Six word Saturday button

It’s Saturday again so here we go.  If you would like to participate please either click on the picture above or click this link.


I am blonde (well really more white than blonde now) and I do enjoy blonde jokes, so I am sharing this with you.  I hope it makes you laugh on this sunny but chilly Saturday.  And spare a thought for that Bob – he must be a saint!

Cooking and cleaning

Magnet on my fridge


It’s fun to cook for Bob. Today I made angel food cake. The recipe said beat 12 eggs separately. The neighbours were nice enough to loan me the extra bowls.

He wanted fruit salad for supper. The recipe said serve without dressing.  So I didn’t dress. What a surprise when he brought a friend home for supper.

A good day for rice. The recipe said wash thoroughly before steaming the rice. It seemed kind of silly but I took a bath anyway. I can’t say it improved the rice any.

Today he asked for salad again; I tried a new recipe. It said prepare ingredients; lay on a bed of lettuce one hour before serving. He asked me why I was rolling around in the garden.

I found an easy recipe for cookies. It said put the ingredients in a bowl and beat it. There must have been something wrong with this recipe. When I got back, everything was the same as when I left

He did the shopping today and brought home a chicken. He asked me to dress it for Sunday. I don’t have any clothes that fit it, and for some reason he keeps counting to ten.

I wanted to serve roast but all I had was hamburger. Suddenly I had a flash of genius… I put the hamburger in the oven and set the controls for roast. It still came out hamburger, much to my disappointment.

GOOD NIGHT DEAR DIARY. This has been a very exciting week! I am eager for tomorrow to come so I can try out a new recipe. If I can talk him into buying a bigger oven, I would like to surprise him with a chocolate moose.