Category Archives: Children

Six Word Saturday Again

Six word Saturday button

 Six Word Saturday  – the idea is to describe your life or a day therein in six words.  So it’s a challenge but fun.  If you want to participate please just click the link.   So

Went to the beach with Lotte.

As it was such a lovely day here, bright sunshine and warmth that we have had so rarely in our summer so far, I decided to meet with a friend and take our dogs for a walk.

Lotte and Major

Best friends

Close to where I live is this amazing surf beach and part of it is designated for dogs.  It is not blocked off in any way and the dogs, people, children (oh they are people too aren’t they) surfers, swimmers etc all mix and mingle.

There was a great mixture of dogs today, from Major (the Afghan) down to a tiny Chihuahua and every size in between – there were German Shepherds playing with Basset Hounds, Poodles and Bichons in amongst the Ridgebacks and Labradors and a once white West Highland Terrier that was rolling in the sand with a Griffon.  They all had such a great time and I am sorry that I left my phone in the car while I was on the beach.

All the dogs  enjoy the freedom afforded to them here.  Fortunately Lotte doesn’t like going into the water but her best friend does.  Can you imagine the state that an Afghan Hound gets into?  Running into the sea and then rolling in the sand.  Luckily I always have a towel for Lotte in the car and so it came in very useful for Major today.

Then round to a very casual cafe on the beach.  It is housed in part of what  used to be an Air Force base.  I think they have taken over part of the submarine mining depot barracks.  In any event it is well worth the drive and particularly on such a great day.

Chocolate Fish Cafe

Photo - Google Images

They have an unusual range of chairs.  Each has a different saying on it.  One I saw today said:

Woman drove me to drink

Photo - Google Images

Sorry no photos from me today.  Didn’t know this was what today’s blog was going to be about.

Our dogs will love and admire the meanest of us, and feed our colossal vanity with their uncritical homage.
Agnes Repplier
, American essayist. 1855-1950.

Thoughts for today

Baby in rose

(c) Anne Geddes

Have you heard of Anne Geddes?  She is an Australian-born photographer  who now lives and works in New Zealand.  She is one of the most respected and successful professional photographers in the world.  First released in New Zealand and Australia, her award-winning photographs of babies and flowers have become classic icons celebrating birth and life.  These photographs now appear in a range of bestselling books, calendars, greeting cards, stationery, photo albums, and many other fine products.

Today I should like to share with you this power point presentation that I received from a friend.  I have seen it a couple of times already and you probably have too.  But it is well worth taking another look.  Please click here to enjoy Paradox.

“A person’s a person no matter how small”
From Horton Hears a Who! by Dr Seuss

Book cover Horton Hears a Who

Excess Baggage

When I lived in Scotland I would occasionally take the children home to my parents for a few days when my husband was going to be away on business.  We often took the late flight because it was so much cheaper.  The airlines would move planes around at night to reposition them for the next morning and so there were always planes going from Glasgow to London and we took advantage of the cheap flights.

Baggage labelOnce when my son was only a few months old the airline employee weighed him in his carry-cot and  put an excess baggage label on the carry cot.  I can’t remember all these years later whether they charged me for him.  I suspect they didn’t because they were repositioning the plane anyway.  This has been a joke in our family for many years.  My baby ‘excess baggage’.

So when I saw the title of a blog from K8edid entitled “Excess Baggage – a Tale of Two Sisters” I thought this was going to be a story in much the same vein.  Alas, it was not so.  In reading this post I wept at the cruelty dished out to these two little girls and wonder how anybody could treat children in this manner.

However, I am not so naive as to believe this doesn’t happen.  Here in New Zealand we have one of the worst  records of child abuse in the western world.  Daily we hear of children being abused and even murdered by the very people they should expect to care for them.

We have a truly sorry record :

  • Mikara Reti: 5-month-old boy suffered severe blunt-force blow and died on January 11. Trent Hapuku, 22, due to be tried for manslaughter.
  • Serenity Scott: 5-month-old girl died on April 28 of severe, non-accidental brain injuries. No one charged.
  • Baby Afoa: 1-week-old, Otahuhu. Found in makeshift grave in Otahuhu on June 2. Mother Kulukora Akau’ola, 22, charged with murder. Christian Afoa, 29, of Mangere, admitted disposing of body.
  • Baby boy: 1-year-old, suffered serious head injuries and died on November  5. Police are investigating.
  • Sahara Baker-Koro 5 years old raped and murdered by her mother’s ex-partner,
  • A 9 year old girl found by Police hiding in a cupboard starving, dehydrated and covered in injuries. The father has been charged and pleaded guilty “to representative charges of neglect of and cruelty to a child, and a representative charge of assault on a child.”  The mother has pleaded guilty to 25 charges of abuse.

And so it goes on.  What do we have to do to stop this?

I do hope that K8edid did not mind my bringing her story to light again.  I really feel for her and her sister and abhor and condemn the perpetrator of the abuse doled out to these little girls.   Growing up in a safe and sheltered environment I was unaware that others did not have this safety in their homes.  I heard from a close friend today about the beatings her father used to give her for relatively minor transgressions.  Her mother stood by and said nothing.

As a mother it is inconceivable that I would stand by and do nothing; but it’s easy to judge when one is not involved.

So this is my rant for another day.

The Year of the Child

Did you know that 1979 had been the International Year of the Child?  I had forgotten that until I came across a book my daughter bought me that year because of my love of poetry.

Book - I Like This Poem

The book is a compilation of poems chosen by children for other children.  When the book was put together in 1979 it was “the only collection of poems in existence, chosen by children”.  Kay Webb, Editor.  I wonder if it still is.

Webb goes on to say that the poems were winnowed from over 1,000 ‘enthusiastic recommendations made by children’.  Of course, many poems were submitted more than once and the most popular, Walter de la Mare, AA Milne, Lewis Carroll, Robert Lewis Stevenson among others, were submitted over and over.

The children were asked when making a submission, to also tell why they liked that particular poem and their responses are telling.

The book is divided into age sections – the 6/7 year olds say things like ‘it makes me laugh’ ‘because it would be funny if that happened’ ‘because I like owls and pussy cats’.  The 8 year olds go a little more into detail ‘because it gives me pictures in my mind’ ‘because we have a cat just like Macavity and he is a thief too’.

An 11 year old commenting on his choice “Pleasant Sounds” by John Clarke says ‘because each little picture in the poem seems to have its special sound.  I think it’s a very comforting poem….I have noticed when I have been saying the lines out loud, there seemed a sound echoing itself later in the line.  Strange – but it could just be imagination’  Great from an 11 year old child.

Do you know Walter de la Mare’s Silver –
“Slowly silently now the moon
Walks the night in her silver shoon;
This way and that, she peers and sees
Silver fruit upon silver trees….”

A 13-year-old comments ‘This poem describes moonlight how I imagine it, all slow and silent but with just a bit of movement which is the harvest mouse.”  Isn’t it great that already that child was seeing the beauty in the words and the pictures they created?

And so on through the choices of the 14 and 15 year olds.  Obviously these are more sophisticated choices and include such poems as “Ozymandias” by Shelley, “The Listeners” by Walter de la Mare (still one of my all time favourites), “Memorabilia” by Robert Browning and then “Anthem for Doomed Youth”.  Wilfred Owen’s poem would of course, resonate/appeal to teenagers with it’s clever, clever use of words to paint the horror of war.  Our commenting child says “..because it’s beautiful rhythm and the way Owen has used words .. I love the ‘stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle’ because all the rs really do suggest gunfire, as does ‘stuttering’. ”  Her comment is one of the longest in the book and goes on to say “The poem is so sad and so lovely, and my favourite.  When I am feeling cross with someone, or ill-tempered with the world in general, I read it and it reminds me that some have gone through hell, and perhaps my troubles are smaller than I previously thought.”  Great insight from a 15-year-old girl.

And now 22  32 years later, (thanks Jenny at SkiingMama for the correction) I wonder where all those children are.  I wonder what they have done with those years and what they have become.  No doubt some have become writers and maybe even published writers.  But in any event, early in their lives they became aware of and learned to appreciate well written poetry.  And I hope that some of what they learned in reading the poems has stayed with them through the years, and perhaps given them comfort and guidance when needed.

And I shall leave you today with a poem that was one of my son’s favourites from the time I first recited it to him when he was very young

“There’s a breathless hush on the Close tonight,
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!”
From Vitae Lampada by Sir Henry Newbolt.

My son used to be able to quote all the verses, I wonder if he still can? As a small child he liked the rhythm of the words and so found it easy to learn them.

I really love this little book.  It’s falling apart; pages are loose but it holds many of my favourite verses and I shall keep sticking it together forever – or at least until I am no longer here and my children have to decide what to do with my books and other belongings.

Taken for Granted

Those of us lucky to have been born and raised in first world countries accept that education is a given.  But imagine what it is like in some other countries where people are not offered education in any form and where some have to fight to obtain even the most basic education.

Yesterday I went to the Wellington premier of the movie The First Grader.  as a fund raiser for my favourite charity The Mary Potter Hospice.

The movie tells the story of a Kikuyu man who had been a soldier during the Mau Mau Uprising against British Rule in Kenya.  This was a bloody period between 1952 and 1960.   The movie showed flash backs to the time when he was captured and tortured by the British.

The story centres around this old man – 84-year-old Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge.  The Kenyan Government announced free education for all in 2003 and this old man decided to take up the offer.  But hundreds of children were jostling for a few places in the school nearest to his  village and his application was rejected.  He was desperate to learn to read at this late stage in his life and  felt he must have the chance at the education so long denied to him and his generation—even if it means sitting in a classroom alongside six-year-old children.   As he said he fought for freedom and now he feels entitled.

Moved by his pleas (he attended and tried to apply several times after walking from  his even more remote village) the Head Teacher takes on the establishment and the parents of some of the children to allow him to attend the school.  Maruge is eventually enrolled and proved to be an apt pupil, so much so that in 2005 he became Head Boy of the school.

Kimani Ng’ang’a Maruge made headlines in media around the world and still holds the Guinness Book of Records record  as the world’s oldest primary school pupil. He said he thought that he was born in 1920 but of course, there were no records kept.

In 2006 he was invited to attend and address the United Nations on the importance of free primary education for all.

This is an inspiring movie, but also a challenging and thought provoking one.  I remember as a teenager and a young wife and mother, hearing about the Mau Mau uprising but of course, only from the British point of view.  In this movie we see that the British were not strangers to the use of  torture to gain their way.  I need to do some more research on this period to gain a better understanding of what actually went on.

But back to education.  Our young people, and I speak particularly of the young in New Zealand here, take the fact that the education is there,  free and available to everybody.  Many leave school with only a very rudimentary knowledge of even the basic reading and writing skills. Some people do go back to complete their studies as adult pupils, taking advantage of evening classes and there are a few schools that offer adult education where adults learn alongside the other pupils.  But not many.

How shaming then is it, that this elderly man wanted so much to be educated even just enough to read, that he was prepared to sit in class with babies?

When Maruge died in 2009 there were many tributes paid to him.  Click here for one from another wordpress blogger.

PM John Key and children

PM John Key and children

Here in New Zealand (and I think in the US too), September was National Literacy month.  This picture shows a meeting in the Beehive*  between our Prime Minister and a group of young school children.

In an interview at the time, he said:

“I am simply not prepared to tolerate up to one in five New Zealand children leaving our schools without the literacy and numeracy skills they need to succeed”  Rt Hon John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand.

* Note – The Beehive is the name we use for the Executive Wing of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings.  It does rather resemble a beehive doesn’t it?

The Beehive

Via Wikipedia

So what do we have to do to get this desire to learn ingrained into our young people.  Oh I know that many learn and do well.  My grandchildren are lucky in that they live in homes surrounded by books; hear adult conversation about things other than what’s on TV today and are generally encouraged to do well.  But what of the others?  These are the children and young people we should be concentrating on.  It’s no longer enough to say they must go to school every day.  In some areas the classes are large (some 30 or 35 children) and so undoubtedly some will fall off the edge.  I feel that there should be more help for the learning challenged kids.  Education of our young should/must be a bigger priority than it has been up to now.

read write think

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.”
Bill Beattie
, American manager and coach

Flat Packs

One of the bloggers that I follow is Hallysan at Photographic Memories.  In a recent blog acknowledging an award, she had to give us seven things about herself.  One was that she was good with her hands and that caused me to comment that I was not and flat packs send me into a spin.

I remember one particular time when a flat pack was in order.  I had arrived in London in time for Christmas and was staying with my sister.  A few days before Christmas Day a flat-pack arrived by courier.  My sister had ordered a toy kitchen for one of her grand-daughters.

We opened the package and saw how many pieces needed to be put together, so in the hope that her son would turn up in the next few days, we closed the box and put it aside.

The days passed and Christmas Eve arrived but her son didn’t, so we were faced with putting this toy together.  The first warning read “Not to be assembled by anyone under 10 years” (or words to that effect).  Then there were the usual warnings about small items and small children but hey – we were two adult, grown-up Grandmothers.  We could do this!

My sister is much better with her hands than am I – in fact both sisters are and it would be hard to find anyone who wasn’t.  So she would put the pieces together ie build the kitchen and I would read the instructions and pass the requisite screws, screwdriver, stickers, parts etc.  We were doing very well until I turned over two pages in the instruction book.  Yes, there was a book and it had been translated into English from Chinese, we think by Goofy and his pals.  It made hilarious reading.  I wish I had known the Good Greatsby then and his command of Chinglish it would have been very useful.

Imagine this.  Two adult women surrounded by pieces of a toy kitchen, screws, stickers etc and having no idea how to put it all together.  Hours passed in discussion on how to do this, interspersed with shrieks of laughter when first one thing and then another either didn’t fit or hallelujah it did fit!

Then telephone calls to nieces and nephews in London, to family and friends in New Zealand and to elder sister in Los Angeles.  They all shared in the hilarity and passed comment and advice while we tried to put this danged thing together.

My mobile phone bill reached an all-time high and we did too.  Eventually, a rather wobbly kitchen was put together but my nephew commented the next day that one of the panels was in upside down or round the wrong way, but the four-year-old for whom it was intended loved it anyway.

So no more flat packs for me.  I enjoyed the exercise of putting it together but oh dear me, at the end of it we were left with about thirty extra screws.  I wonder where they were meant to go?  And I never enquired as to how long the kitchen stayed upright.  I left shortly after Christmas and it never came up in conversation again.


As I have said before sisters are the best friends and they are also the best people with whom to share such an experience.

“A hug is a great gift – one size fits all, and it’s easy to exchange.”
Author Unknown














And no bells ring..

I like my new telephone, my computer works just fine, my calculator is perfect, but Lord, I miss my mind!  ~Author Unknown


9 months old and defunct

How quickly we have all become dependent on the trappings of modern day living.  Particularly our mobile phones that we take with us everywhere.

I can still remember the original mobile phone I had.  It was as large as a brick and had its own carry case that I slung over my shoulder.  I wish I had a photo of that one.  We also both had car-phones – tres chic and frightfully avant-garde.

On Friday I dropped my latest phone into a deep puddle of water as I was getting out of the car.  It didn’t seem to do it much harm.  I dried it and it appeared to work just fine.  However, on Saturday afternoon when driving it gave a strange popping noise and died.  I don’t really know how well it was working up until then because several people told me they called me during the time  I thought it was still working.

Anyway, the upshot is that even though this phone is only 9 months old, if it gets wet it isn’t covered under warranty.  So off to buy a replacement.

I have shied away from these smart phones saying I only needed mine to make and receive calls and texts to and from grandsons, to use as a phone book and very occasionally to take photos.


Several hours later the deed is done and I am back home.  In a couple of days I shall be the proud possessor of a new iphone with all the bells and whistles, most of which I will probably never use.  Oh how we are all seduced by modern technology.

And from a particular favourite of my children when they were growing up:

“Two old chairs, and half a candle,
One old jug without a handle
These were all his worldly goods
In the middle of the woods,
These were all the worldly goods
Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò,
Of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò.”
From Edward Lear‘s
‘The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bongy-Bo.

The Yongy Bongy Bo

From my book published in 1966 - the original published in 1894

Related articles

Thursday Lunch

“The caterpillar dies so the butterfly could be born.
And, yet, the caterpillar lives in the butterfly and they are but one.
So, when I die, it will be that I have been transformed from the caterpillar of earth to the butterfly of the universe.”
John Harricharan, award winning author, lecturer and businessman.

MPH Logo

Today I went to the hospice to serve lunch for the first Thursday in several weeks.  Firstly, a friend’s husband died and she needed my support, then there was a memorial service for another friend who died last year and last week I had the lurgy so I couldn’t take my germs to the patients (or the staff).

All of the patients were new to me.  They don’t seem to stay in the hospice for any length of time, but rather come for a few days or a week and then go home, to return again at a later date.  Quite often they are there to have their medication sorted out or perhaps just to give their carers a much-needed break.

So I had to introduce myself to all of them.

One patient was surrounded by her two daughters and some of their small children.  That was a noisy room with children laughing and competing with each other for Granny’s attention. Apparently, another daughter is about to give birth any time so she wasn’t visiting today.

Another patient was celebrating with her husband.  They had just heard that their daughter had given birth to their eleventh grandson – he was one hour old.  The grandfather had been to see mother and child and reported to his wife (and me who happened to be in her room) that all was well.  The baby was strong and thriving and the mother was radiant.

How lovely to think that as these two lives are coming to an end, other new lives are just beginning.

And when I came home I read this post from Winsomebella and I thought again how great life is.  I think grandparents have the best of all worlds.  They have these small people to love, to nurture and to assist in so many ways.  Many grandparents in today’s world also have the responsibility of sharing the raising of these children.  I have responsibility for my grandchildren only until they are returned to their parents.

And I thought of how quickly the years pass and how these little folk grow and become their own people.  They change, they mature, they learn and they repay all the love, kindness and help given to them by their grandparents many, many times over.  I only wish my late husband had stayed around with us long enough to see his grandsons grow into the strong young men they are each becoming.

“To be a really brilliant grandmother remember what it was about your own that you loved most, then imitate her.”
Judith Baxter – 1938 –














The First Time I Saw Paris

Pont Alexandre

Via Wikipedia

“The last time I saw Paris
Her heart was warm and gay
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street cafe
The last time I saw Paris
Her trees were dressed for spring
And lovers walked beneath those trees
And birds found songs to sing..”

I woke up this morning thinking of Paris.  Did I dream of it in the night or was it just a random thought.  And then I opened this post from Hallysan at Photographic Memories and just knew that I had to write about that city today.

I have been to Paris several times over the years and really love it.

I have touched on seeing Charles Aznavour in Paris, but let’s go back to the beginning.

As a 15-year-old school girl and part of the French class, I was given the opportunity to visit Paris.  I was so excited.  I had barely even been out of London then – oh the usual annual holidays to the seaside but really no further than Southend-on-Sea.  Money was short at home but somehow my parents managed to let me go on the trip.  I probably begged and hassled them until they gave in.  Seriously though, they wanted the best opportunities for their girls.

I remember going to have the passport photos taken and then after a couple of weeks, going to Petty France to pick up the passport. This is where the Passport Office was located all those years ago.  The Passport Office was relocated in 2002.

I clearly remember turning up to school in school uniform to board the bus.  I think we probably wore our uniform for the whole time we were away.  It was June 1953 – how very long ago and you ask can anybody really be that old?  We were very smug watching the other girls going into the school grounds and envying us.  So we were off.  The bus (which we called a coach at the time) took us to Dover and then we were on the Cross Channel Ferry to Calais.  What excitement.  Can you imagine the 20 or so 15-year-olds going on a ferry ride for the first time?  I wonder how our teacher and her one assistant coped.

I don’t remember where we spent the night but I am sure we didn’t drive on to Paris that night – it’s some 470 miles.

We arrived in Paris – that glorious city and what a marvel to my young eyes.    Cars travelling on the wrong side of the road, smart people moving around, we passed the sights of Paris which I had only read about up to then.  And then we arrived at our lodgings. This was a school closed for the summer holidays.  We were shown into a long dormitory with curtains around each bed.  What an adventure.  I had never stayed away from home before.  But what a commotion when the teacher discovered that the custodian, an old man by my standards, was to sleep in the dormitory too.  She couldn’t have that and so set about finding us some other accommodation. Not easy as people had begun to take trips after the war that had recently ended.

I don’t know how she managed but three of us were put into a small hotel and pretty much left to our own devices for the next couple of hours.  Across from the hotel was a fire station and we watched these gorgeous young men going about their business.  I have always had a thing about firemen since.

We stayed in that hotel for the time we were in Paris.  We were taken to the Louvre and I shall never forget the first glimpse of the Mona Lisa, that wonderful painting by Da Vinci.  I have been back several times just to revisit it.  We, of course, went up the Eiffel Tower, saw but couldn’t enter the Moulin Rouge.  We visited Notre Dame and Les Invalides.  We traversed Pont Alexandre and the Champs Elysee.

Champs Elysees

Champs Elysees via Wikipedia

On one glorious day, we had a trip to Giverny and saw the works of Claude Monet.  This was my first introduction to this wonderful painter and over the years I have collected many prints of his work.  Perhaps one day when I win the lottery…

Water Garden at Giverny

Via Wikipedia

Then, all too soon, the trip was over and it was back to dull, dreary London.  It was still dull and dreary after the long war we had just survived.  But the trip had sown in me the love of Paris and I returned, as I have said several times later.

I believed in love at first sight then (and still do) and that city totally captivated this 15-year-old and has held her in thrall ever since.  I most certainly do Love Paris and as I have said, I have returned several times over the years.

Perhaps another post?

“In Paris you learn wit, in London you learn to crush your social rivals and in Florence you learn poise”   Virgil Thompson, American composer,
1896 – 1989










Who Put You In the Driver’s Seat?

The reason we left Scotland and started our nomadic life (of sorts) is because my late husband worked for an international car rental company whose tagline was”Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat.”  Are you old enough to remember this?  Click here for an ad of the times.

And when thinking of this it came to me that the men in our family Always want to be in the driver’s seat when driving the car.  When my husband was alive he always picked up the car keys when we were leaving the house – even if the keys were to my car.  Once he had his licence, my son assumed that he would drive us if his father were not around.

My son and son-in-law do the same thing still.  And this week, my grandson picked up my car keys.  But he didn’t get to drive as my car isn’t insured for anybody under 25.

I wondered whether this was a male thing generally or just peculiar to our family.

When I queried several friends they agreed that this was what happens in their families.  So why I have to ask myself.  And have no answer.

  • Do men think nobody else capable of driving?
  • Do they think we can’t find our way, with or without a map/satnav?
  • Does it give them a feeling of power?

Perhaps you have an answer.

If everything comes your way
You are in the wrong lane”  Unknown.