Friday, 14 August 2015

Captain Gordon Vette

I’m proud to have been a friend of Gordon Vette. He was one of the first people I met when I came to New Zealand in the early nineteen seventies and to be honest at the time I thought he was what my mother would have called `a bit flash’ . For one thing he was way too good-looking, he had the kind of tan girls like me drooled over and he wore a lot of gold around his neck. At the time he seemed to be dallying between wives but there was a positive and personable woman in his life called Eleanor. Later we attended their wedding. I rapidly grew very fond of them both and together Eleanor and I investigated new -fangled supermarkets in suburbs with what seemed to me extraordinary names, and hurtled frequently into the depths of the countryside for ladies’ lunches given by one or other of her many friends. Today the husband and I went to Gordon Vette’s funeral at Holy Trinity Cathedral in Parnell. Hours later I’m still shedding tears for the passing of a truly remarkable man. Not that he was devoid of faults of course. You’d only have to ask Eleanor and she’d gladly list them for you - and probably wife Charmain could also catalogue one or two. Those speaking at today’s celebration of his outstanding life naturally dwelt a great deal on the epic Erebus saga. He was a senior Air New Zealand captain in late 1979 when the accident occurred with the loss of two hundred and fifty seven lives. The speed with which the initial inquiry began to point to `pilot error’ seriously alarmed Gordon because he had total faith in the competence and capability of Captain Jim Collins. So he embarked upon a fact finding exercise that was ultimately to cost him a great deal financially including his career and many former friends. Impervious to pressure from all quarters of the establishment to abandon the fight, Gordon doggedly fought on. Due to his efforts and subsequent work in visual perception in sector white out, ground proximity warning systems have since been developed that make flying a great deal safer for all of us and he has received world -wide acclaim. We were close to Gordon during the crusade for truth and witnessed first- hand the effect it had upon his life and marveled that at no stage did he consider giving up. Gordon’s health eventually suffered and some years ago he had a stroke that robbed him of the power of speech and made his day to day world smaller. Gordon Vette the man, however, was in no way diminished by it and that came as no surprise to those close to him. Today, coming out from the cathedral into the sunlight, we witnessed the enormous regard with which this man is now held. Out of nowhere half a dozen silver triangles were suddenly there soaring above us, outlined between showers in an all at once azure sky, roaring their presence and issuing vapour trails. A significant fly past formation of planes worthy of that which might acknowledge a sovereign’s birthday. Their presence overhead brought a substantial lump to the throat. Yes, I’m definitely proud to have known Captain Vette.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Observing Birthdays.

'It pays to be observant of family birthdays and that seems to become as important to the over seventies as it is to the under sevens. The husband had a birthday a day or two ago and was very anxious that it not be overlooked. Having made a slight blunder a few days earlier by presenting him with his Michelin guide to France in advance of the great day I found I had some groveling to do on the anniversary itself. He was delighted with the rather unique cards (two of them) from number one son, Patrick who strangely simply dropped them in the mailbox and didn’t even stop off for refreshment – pressure of work he said later. He was elated to receive emails from two out of three children and overjoyed with the gift box that arrived via daughter domiciled in London and through the good offices of `My Goodness – Express & Impress’ on the North Shore. Not only was the box itself a work of art, but treat after treat tumbled out of it – wine, birthday cake, chocolate and assorted gourmet snacks piled high on the kitchen bench. `I’m having the box,’ I pronounced just in case he was thinking of consigning it to the downstairs rubbish room where all kinds of things get consigned these days on account of the lack of space. He hadn’t heard me though and examined the wine label as he bit into the first Lime Zinger biscuit. Well he is very hard of hearing these days. As it neared one pm it became clearer than ever that he was expecting to be taken out to lunch and he kept mentioning Cibo because it’s at the end of the street. He told me that three times. In the end we compromised and I took him to La Cigale for a glass of wine and a Dijon Chicken Pie and salad. Well I’m not perfect. Later in the afternoon John the violinist dropped by to wish him a happy birthday and regale us with stories of playing at the recent coronation of the King of Tonga. All in all a very pleasant day and neither of us mentioned the glaring absence of any birthday greeting from number two son. I toyed with muttering something about him no doubt being extraordinarily busy and that in any case hadn’t there been a major typhoon in his part of the world. In the end though I thought it better to say nothing at all.

Friday, 7 August 2015


Downsizing from a family home that was on the large side to what is euphemistically termed `city fringe living’ can be challenging.  Well, let’s say such a move brings with it a range of differing experiences.  For me, one of them in recent months has been serving on the Residents’ Committee.   New Zealand thrives on committees of all kinds and over the years I have played a part in a number of them, usually making enemies left, right and centre without even trying.  However, I am proud to report that so far, with this particular group I have managed to make no obvious ones.
Working on a Residents’ Committee can be more time consuming than is at first imagined because all the minor tasks that keep a complex functioning smoothly can be individually onerous.   Nevertheless someone has to be on hand to ensure the contractor who has been approached for the roof upgrade can actually access the roof at a time acceptable to him.   Getting him to come in the first place has been a major triumph – courtesy of my fearless Committee Colleague from Unit F in Row One who courageously offered to `find an alternative quote’ when the initial, in fact the only quote so far appeared to be perhaps a little on the high side.   So naturally, none of us are keen to upset potential contractor number two in any way if it can be avoided.   If seven am on Sunday morning suits him then so be it.
Updating the Pet Register is another vital initiative that is essential to the smooth operation of this particular group, and I have recently discovered, to many other similar ones.   There are Rules around owning pets, a fact that had completely escaped me as in more recent years we have ceased to fall into that particular category.   When we were animal owners we sought approval from nobody except our own clamouring children.  We simply acquired three cats, two rats, a tribe of mice and guinea pigs, two rabbits and several goats as and when we chose without care or concern for our neighbours.  Looking back, some of those living around us certainly objected to the goats who regularly tore free from their tetherings and had feasts and fun in the gardens of others.    Pet ownership works quite differently in a more confined community.   Only unit owners may own animals.  Tenants may not.  The problem is that more than often tenants are unaware of this particular tenet and are most unwilling to part with a much loved pet and even – horror of horrors – disregard the Rule!   Enter the Cavalry of the Residents’ Committee.  
Short term parking is another bone of contention.  Several P120 spaces have been made available specifically for ease of visiting tradespeople and the occasional elderly weekend lunch guest.   They are most definitely not intended for those who simply can’t be bothered relocate their vehicle to its proper place overnight.   Another problem for the Residents’ Committee, each of whom could now easily become in danger of turning neighbours into  enemies.
Yes, all these seemingly trivial tribulations add up to sizeable snags to which somebody is charged with finding a solution.  Time consuming to say the least and so when  any random resident dares to raise their head and venture a Complaint about the manner in which the Committee is dealing with this day to day business they are often greeted with a degree of impatience and testiness they might not have quite expected.

Saturday, 1 August 2015


Have you ever found the habits of others not only odd, but at times almost stomach wrenching?    There were times when I truly dreaded dinner invitations from a certain friend whose three cats were allowed to walk the kitchen benches without restraint, sampling the food as they did so.  
Another had to me what was an abysmal habit of recycling paper table napkins if she thought they had a deserving design or their colour appealed to her.  Oh the agony of evaluating last week’s splodges of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and yesterday’s spots of Tabasco.
Perhaps worst of all - does anyone recall the era of yesterday’s mothers whose uninhibited  spitting on embroidered handkerchiefs to wipe the grubby faces of their offspring alarmed all under-fives within arm’s reach?   How readily the half-forgotten but distinctive aroma of drying saliva on cotton springs from the deepest recesses of memory to once more repel and disgust.