ANZAC Weekend

Well it is a wild and wet Monday here in Tamaki Makaurau , but it’s ok because today is a holiday – hooray.  There are few things nicer than knowing you can stay snuggled in bed when the weather outside is bad.  Luckily the Anzac celebrations took place on Saturday, which was a beautiful day.  When I was a kid you would always hear about some poor old digger catching pneumonia from attending the Dawn Parade in atrocious weather.

ANZAC Day has never been a big deal in my family.  My great grandfather was actually in the Royal Navy at Gallipoli.  So he got to see what a debacle the whole thing was.  Needless to say he was never a fan of Winston Churchill’s.

My grandfather served in the Pacific, two of his brothers went to Northern Africa (where one died)  and one was a conscientious objector.  And two stayed home to look after the farm.  So you could say most aspects of the war time experience were covered.  But Anzac Day was never observed.

Partly because when I was young, it was still a very formal affair and there was no way it was considered appropriate for children to take part, or have people wearing medals they hadn’t earned etc etc.  Then it all started to change, and I think for the better, where it became a real reflection on the futility and waste of war.

We do seem to do it differently to the Aussies.  Our  Anzac days seem more reflective theirs more about the glorification.  I suppose that also illustrates our cultural differences as well.

They not only have Anzac Day but they also observe Remembrance Day on the 11th of November.  I was in Melbourne a couple of years ago, where at 11.11am everyone went silent for a minute.  I had no idea what was going on.  And was in fact quite perplexed – surely one day to remember war is enough?

This year being the 100 year anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, it has all become a very big deal, and I don’t like it.  Not because I want to diminish in anyway the sacrifices and losses of those who have served in our armed forces, and their families, and not because I don’t think our history is important, but because the whole theme is Lest We Forget, and I think we have absolutely forgotten how stupid war can be.

Alastair Paulin at the Nelson Mail says it far far better than I can

One of the excellent points he makes is  ” in confirming the troop deployment, the PM shouted at the opposition that “This is the time to stand up and be counted. Get some guts and join the right side.” But as Gallipoli showed, being on the right side counts for nothing if the strategy is flawed or the goals unachievable.”

And while I am referencing really good writing, I loved this article by Kurt Bayer, about the battle from the Turkish perspective.  After all their soldiers were actually defending their country from an international foreign invasion.

It has always amazed me at how gracious the Turkish people have been at letting hoards of Kiwis and Aussies visit a battle site, where so many Turkish lives were lost.  Would we be quite so accommodating if  if 1000’s of young Japanese people took over Darwin every year on the 19th of February?

I think we do owe Turkey an apology – irrespective of all the dodgy things Turkey has done – including the terrible Armenian massacre.  But sorry does seem to be the hardest thing for our PM to say.  So I won’t be holding my breath.

Anyway as I said it was a beautiful day on Saturday and we went up to the Lodge, to do some cleaning.  Thank God Brett is the cleaning meister.  I am 100% sure our renting the place out would not work so well if it wasn’t for his amazing skills with a cloth and some Mr Muscle.  The Lodge has actually been booked out quite a bit lately as we have had some guys from Drill Force NZ staying.  They are doing exploratory drilling for wells for market gardens in the area.  I am actually going to share their website, because who knows when you might need some drilling done?  And they are a great group of people to deal with

I expect that with market gardens and avocado farms going in, the area will look quite different in a few years time, but our cunning plan to have a fun and stylish place to stay will still be very relevant.  Brett is the ideas man, that is for sure and he really has some great ones.

I on the other hand, are really excited about my feijoa wine scheme.  I am sure by next year I will have done enough research and sampling to establish how to make the stuff.  And I am working very hard on luring Hamish up for some of his technical expertise.  Hamish the Lodge account has enough in it to buy the kit you need (a modest one – not full strength industrial just yet) and cover your travel expenses.  I am just not sure about your requirement to sample Veuve Clicquot on a regular basis – something to do with the size of the bubbles apparently.  But I am not the expert that you are, obviously.

Well my Dragons just keep surprising and delighting.  But another big win for them this week, with them plucking the chooks despite a thunder storm and not being picked to win.  Apparently it is not appropriate to tell Brett all about my love for the boys each and every night while we are in bed.  Who knew?  Well I do now

My Warriors once again stole defeat from the jaws of victory, but I have every confidence they will come right.  They have plenty of great players and they will be giving it every they have got.  I know that.

I realised I didn’t take any photos worth sharing this week.  A bag of feijoas photo anyone?  But here are some photos I took on my morning run around West Haven marina a couple of weeks ago, and it certainly was a lovely way to start the day.

IMG_2463 IMG_2465 IMG_2466


I cried in a pie shop

A lovely and sad piece of writing that made me all teary

Mama Said

Today was not a good day.

The day started at 2.30am. It’s never a good idea to start your day at 2.30am.

The littliest one screamed in my ear. I was in a deep sleep. I was dreaming about Idris Elba. I did not want the things that were happening in that dream to end.

I put the baby on my boob and succumbed to the pain. It’s always painful on that side. Sometimes I think my right breast is possessed. That’s probably a sign that I’m not getting enough sleep.

Mercifully it is a quick feed. I can’t be bothered putting the baby back in his cot. He somehow wasn’t even in his cot anyway so I figure it’s ok for him to keep snuggling into me. I haven’t seen my husband in many, many years. I assume he is in the spare room bed with our toddler.


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Trees of 40 fruit – sorry , couldn’t think of a clever heading

Well our citrus do look rather sad compared to that don’t they?

Brett Francis

Up at the Lodge we’ve planted six citrus trees.  Two weeks later when were next up there they were just sticks desperate for water.  So we then spent more money than the trees cost (including the new ones we had to buy to replace the ones we couldn’t save) putting in an irrigation system and a lot of time spraying and putting down slug/snail bait.  See photo below – impressive isn’t it…..

What is impressive are Sam Van Aken’s Trees of 40 fruit.  For most of the year, the Trees of 40 Fruit looks fairly plain and green. But in the spring, the trees blossom into an explosion of pinks, whites, crimsons and purples. Then from July through October, they produce 40 different types of stone fruit: apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, plums and almonds.  If you watch his TED talk you’ll hear him describe the trees as; artwork, research project…

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Running and Driving and Resting and I have a Cunning Plan

I ran another of my 10km RunAuckland series runs today.  It was completely different weather wise to my first run.  In short it was a cracker of a day.  We got to run around the park at Te Atatu North and it was lovely, and I did it in under an hour – just.  Success.

View across to the city before my run

There were a couple of things I learned this time around.

  • I run better if it isn’t pouring with rain and I don’t have lakes to navigate -who knew?
  • I need to do this series next year because then I will be in the 50-59 age group and my results will look way better.  So that is great motivation for me to keep running for at least another year – yes my deviousness knows no bounds
  • A nice sunny day means lots more runners so you have to be extra careful not to get in anyone’s way – not always my strongest suit
  • It is impossible to look good in those photos they take of you running, unless sweaty mess is your thing and in that scenario I am awesome

Following my run Billie and I drove up to the Lodge for a spot of cleaning and checking in.  We have got some people booked in for this week, so we needed to make sure it was spic and span and also to check out our gum tree. The prevailing wind at Tapora is a westerly, but occasionally an easterly comes through and when it does look out.  It can cause some damage.  Earlier this week one blew in and managed to knock out our silver dollar gum.   Sad Silver Dollar GumIt is less than half the size it was, and I am not even going to mention the damage that Brett’s Cock (weather vane) sustained.  (because I promised him when I started blogging there would be some no go areas) There was some good news however, the feijoas had well and truly been shaken down, so it was very easy to collect some to bring home for a feijoa crumble tonight, which was fabulous even if I do say so myself. Actually I am seriously considering making feijoa wine.  I think I might try and lure Mr Hamish Mack, poet, wine maker and wonderful human being up to the Lodge next year and leave him without any means of getting home until some sweet sweet feijoa wine is produced. Some people might call this slavery, I prefer to think of it as a) a cunning plan b) demonstrating the real spirit of John Key’s NZ “empowering” others to work very hard for the benefit of a few. Anyway Hamish, what are you and the Mack family up to next Easter?   I know of a lovely place for you to stay.

Hamish, I would pick them.  You would just have to make something drinkable and alcoholic out of them

It takes 90 minutes to get to and from the Lodge so that was quite a bit of driving.  Brett was facilitating a workshop today, so I had to do cleaning all on my own.  Which can happen but isn’t recommended (by me anyway) So by the time we got home both Billie and I were a bit weary.  Billie is in fact making a contribution to this blog by giving a demonstration of just how weary we both felt (feel)

Billie is exhausted
Billie is exhausted

Actually what amazes me with this particular pose is that she was like this for about 5 minutes.  Surely not that comfortable.  But she seemed to like it. So another week has raced by, Sunday night always seems to arrive far too quickly.  But my Dragons had another win.  Well done Dragons.  Loving your work.  They seem to have plenty of happy fans at the moment, some of these are the same people who were so scathing about them just a few weeks before.  Meanwhile the Warriors had a loss, but they are going to do just fine this season.  After all being a fan means being there for the ups and the downs.  And both the Warriors and the Dragons like keeping their fans on their toes and testing their cardiac fitness.

Weekend In Whangarei and please stay John Campbell

Last weekend I didn’t just get to run up and down hills, there was also an overnight stay in Whangarei.  For those who don’t know it is New Zealand’s northernmost city and home to about 54 000 people.  It is also the place where my McConnell ancestors first settled in the 1860’s.  Can I just say that if I was leaving Glasgow to start a new life, I also would be looking for a place that was nice and warm.  So I commend their efforts.

I have been visiting Whangarei off and on for the last 40 years and I have to say on this trip I was really impressed.  I have always loved Whangarei anyway, but I don’t think anyone could have really accused it of being that exciting or vibrant a place.  I think that it probably has always struggled with being the main service town for one of the poorest regions in New Zealand.  Well now it looks like some effort and money is being spent on the old girl and she looks and feels a lot better for it.

We went along the Town Basin walkway on Sunday morning, I thoroughly recommend it.  Here are some of the photos I took.  I think they convey better than I can with words how lovely it was.Canopy Bridge


WakaEel trap sculpture IMG_2461 IMG_2459 IMG_2460

Well done Whangarei, looking forward to seeing what you have got up to when I next visit.  But please just bite the bullet and go ahead with the Hunderdtwasser Art Gallery.  Yes it will cost money and you will have detractors but you won’t regret it once it is done.

While discussing biting the bullet, the powers that be at Media Works have decided to bite the bullet and get rid of the Campbell Live show and replace it with something else that will score better ratings and make them and their share holders more money.  Which as a private company they are perfectly entitled to do.  But it stinks and sucks and lots of other bad words.  It makes me so incredibly cross.  In this country that seems to be becoming more about almighty dollar and crushing the poor, weak and unfortunate so you can get what you want,  Campbell Live seemed to be one of those shows that still gave a damn.  It wasn’t perfect.  Sometimes I would turn it off, and no I didn’t watch it all the time.  But did I follow what was being covered on Facebook and check in regularly – absolutely.  Will I watch or engage with it’s replacement, absolutely not. Will Media Works care, of course not

I did read two excellent pieces about the issue and I thought they were worth sharing.  Brian Edwards and Simon Wilson are able to express what in Natty speak just comes out as raving gibberish.  Well worth a read.

I actually didn’t realise I had a big girlie crush on John Campbell until I heard that the show was going to be cancelled.  I actually got teary, and Brett did tell me I had to stop tweeting and generally social mediaing it up about how sad and upset I was.  Apparently a problem shared isn’t a problem halved it is just a problem freaking annoying everyone else.  But honestly I never signed up for a world where Paul Henry and Mike Hoskings are going to be my go to guys for the news.  Anyway Billie and I did our bit, I signed the petition and we took our photo in front of Mr JC on Friday night.  And after all if that doesn’t melt Julie Christies cold heart nothing will (not holding my breath actually)

Billie and Me and John

However the week has not all been a disaster.  The Warriors had a great win, and Manu Vatuvei got to celebrate playing his 200th game for the Warriors with 2 tries.  Amazing achievement Manu.

Now Dragons please make this middle aged lady who has suffered a heart break this week, very happy with a win over the Doggies,




Running on a South Pacific Island

This Good Friday I ran in the 8km Wild Woman Waiheke.  This is an event organised by a group of woman who trail run together in Waiheke and it is also a fund raiser for the local hospice.

It was a stunning day, and just being up in the morning and taking the ferry meant it was already worth the entry fee. I took the Explorer Ferry which I was super impressed with.  Nice boat, good crew and half the price of Fullers.  I really hope they can keep the service running.

Heading to Waiheke at 7:30 am
Heading to Waiheke at 7:30 am
Leaving the City
Leaving the City


When we arrived on the Island we were greeted by a shuttle bus driver holding a sign Wild Women, which he did agree he didn’t get to do every day.  He was actually gearing up to be busy this weekend because it was Easter and the Waiheke Jazz Festival was on as well.

I thought that because it started at the Onetangi Sports Grounds it would entail a nice flat run along the beach.  I was wrong.  I really should have been alerted that it was going to entail some bush running, because we had to have a Kauri die back briefing.  FYI Waiheke Island Kauris do not have this disease at the moment and they want to keep it that way.

We also got to do a warm up before we started – facilitated by Rahman who proved he was in touch with his inner Wild Woman by rocking his tutu.  Fabulous.


The run actually consisted of going up into the hills and running along bush tracks.  It was wonderful and completely different to anything I had done before.  But seeing as I can fall over and hurt myself on the streets of Pt Chev, it was did prove very challenging.  I am ok at the uppy hill thing, but going down narrow tracks with scoria and tree roots was a bit scary.  However I managed to get through without falling over.  Success.

Hilly hill
Hilly hill – I was running up around here evading Maori War Parties and tree roots

Another cool thing about the run was because there weren’t that many of us doing it, a lot of the time I was running completely on my own.  Which meant in between thinking, I can’t breathe, and Holy crap I hope I don’t slip over (being Good Friday, the Lords’ name was used quite a lot) I also spent quite a bit of time thinking how successful I would be at evading a Maori war party.  I decided that if it was a very old and fat Maori I might have had a chance, otherwise I was a goner.  So then I was looking for places I could hide in the undergrowth that would hide me and my bright running gears.  Actually it was a wonder I didn’t slip over with all that thinking going on.  But it is interesting where your mind goes as you try to distract yourself from the fact you have run for what felt like for ever and have only reached the 4km mark.

I digress, (you may have noticed that is a regular occurrence by the way) but I blame the imagination overload re raiding war parties on my father.  When we used to go down to the mangroves to get oysters or go fishing, quite a lot of time would be spent evading Tojo.  The Japanese soldier who may have been lost since the Second World War and was just looking for someone to take prisoner.

When I finally finished the run, which did take an hour, and I was happy with that time to be honest.  I got to run past a group of cheer leaders – the Wild Children – who had already done their 1 and 3 km runs, and then got a glass of bubbles.  Of course there was plenty of water and fruit as well.  And being Waiheke there were wonderful organic treats for sale, including Cheesus scones and Jesus scones (hot cross bun flavoured), as well as a free sausage sizzle that the rugby club arranged.

My kind of refreshments
My kind of refreshments

Absolutely a fantastic way to start my Easter weekend, and on the lovely ferry ride back I reflected that I have a few things to be grateful for

  • I am fit enough to run around some hills for an hour without expiring (ok maybe not everyone’s definition of running but one foot was put in front of the other)
  • I live in a wonderful part of the world where I can jump on a ferry and go to a beautiful South Pacific Island for the morning
  • There are so many good people out there who organise these events
  • How good it is for the soul to be around positive people who are out having a go and encouraging others to do the same
  • The amazing weather we have enjoyed this Easter
  • I can look forward to doing it next year, as long as I don’t hurt myself or get taken prisoner by a marauding war party



Creative Writing Class

Today I attended my final The Creative Hub Creative Writing Class.  It was an 8 week course that Brett signed me up for.  I can quite honestly say I did not enjoy the first class, but as time as gone on I have really grown to enjoy the classes and I have gained a great deal out of them.  In fact I can go from saying it was the worst present ever (and I have) to one of my best.  Thank you Brett.

One of the big realisations for me over the last eight weeks is you know what?  I run – that make me a runner.  I write, I am a writer.  I am not a world champion at either of these, but I do it because I enjoy it, it makes me happy, no one gets hurt in the process,  and I feel really good about when it is done.  Surely reason enough for any activity.  And when the World Gin Appreciation Olympics are on, let me know because that is something I do think I could excel at.  No classes required, although gladly attended.

Following the first class I was so traumatised I couldn’t verbalise what torture it was.  I had to write it down, and that actually was when it all started to click for me.  I enjoyed writing my unsolicited feedback for my tutor more than the homework we were set.  So every week our tutor would receive my homework – that alone is a miracle, and my reflection on what occurred.  I know he was thrilled (no I don’t know that, but I wasn’t banned so we will call that approval)

Anyway below is my first reflection.  I also want to say a big thank you to the lovely people in my writing class who were all so supportive, clever and kind.  Happy writing.

I had to have a sneaky sav before my first class to give me the courage to attend
I had to have a sneaky sav before my first class to give me the courage to attend

Where our heroine is sent to a creative writing class as a surprise birthday gift, and receives her first task.

The wise and reasonable but obviously deluded man at the front of the room directs us to write a brief chronology of our lives, noting events with the most significant emotional force.  At this point our heroine realises this is not the same as being booked on a spa day and wonders how she can extricate herself out of the situation short of faking a heart attack.

Here’s the thing, you don’t ask a woman in her 50th year to put together a brief chronology of her life and ask her to note events with most significant emotional force.  It just isn’t polite or indeed necessary, especially when you have only just met her and you are in mixed company as well.

One does not survive a strong will mother; an equally strong willed but with more ink and piercings 20 something daughter; 3 husbands ­ 2 fair to middling ­ 1 quite magnificent but with a touch of OCD and a propensity to come up with good ideas that aren’t very good, like gifting his wife a creative writing course; saving your sister Julie from getting eaten by pigs and burning down the house, not on the same day admittedly, but I was busy; autoimmune disease, ok it is just a thyroid issue but autoimmune sounds more serious; weakness for gin and sav and hot gay men; a decided lack of any sort of work ethic and a Micawberish need to spend above one’s means; you just do not survive if you have to reflect and/or write about these things. Life is lived by saying tomorrow is another day and paying close attention to when it is the next gin o’clock.

I do this exercise however because I have only been in the class for half an hour and I know I really should make some kind of effort. My husband did buy me this course for a present after all and I should be grateful even though I am feeling quite chagrined, and possibly a bit liverish, ­ although that may be due to the sneaky sav I had just before class.

But when I hit the lows of realising I mentioned the ownership of my two poodles before the birth of my daughter. (Please God never let her find that out, although I am pretty sure she suspects it) And that saving sister Julie from the pigs and burning down the house but not on the same day is the most heroic thing I have ever done or likely to do, and that was by age 6.  I feel it really can’t get any worse.

The knife gets twisted in a bit more however, we are directed to think about how our lives would be if some of the events were different.  Really you want us to go there? Unbelievable.  There just isn’t enough gin in Pt Chev for that kind of crazy.

Then it gets better ­ no it doesn’t.  Homework is given.  I can now redraft the events of my life in such a way that it follows the narrative structure of a heroes journey. Then send it in to our wise and reasonable and obviously deluded tutor, within 5 days so he can give us feedback.  Which really means I get to stew on and hate on my sorry character’s life, who is actually just me because it will take me months to work through -what if I had only got married twice, let alone come up with a character.

So now for the next 5 days I will spend too much time thinking about Homer and the Odyssey, and maybe a bit about Thor ­the Chris Hemsworth version, because that is as clever as I can get about heroes, and it will distract me from my real task. Actually didn’t Odysseus have issues with pigs and fires?

At this point the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach becomes a churning cancer causing mess.  All I can think is I can’t wait to get out of here.  Wait till I get home and see my lovely birthday present surprising, what the hell were you thinking, when did I ever say I wanted to do something like this husband.

I drive home on autopilot musing among other things, what I will say to people when they ask me how my class was.  Husband number one, why?  And will I ever come to terms with the 20 something’s tattoos.

“How was the class”
My lovely (but slightly OCD husband) asks when I get home, as I rummage in the fridge for alcohol and sweet treats.
“Ok, kind of confronting I guess”
“What did you have to do”?
“Write down stuff about my life”
“That doesn’t sound very confronting”
“Well it fucking was,and next time you get a good idea for a birthday present, book me a spa day”

A not so sneaky sav before attending my final class
A not so sneaky sav before attending my final class