Sunday, 29 November 2015


It is absolutely clear how highly regarded Jonah Lomu was, not only in New Zealand but all around the world – he’s in Madame Tussauds after all along with Princess Diana, Marlene Dietrich and Winston Churchill. And why not? It is more than evident that his sporting prowess brought a great deal of joy and happiness to thousands and he undoubtedly deserves his position there. Since his recent sad and untimely death there has been an outpouring of grief throughout New Zealand. The various memorial services in his honour have been overflowing with mourners and today the service at Eden Park was broadcast live by Radio New Zealand. I would not want to take any of that away from Jonah, his family and his numerous devoted fans. It does make me wonder afresh, however, about the manner in which we prioritise the significance of our home grown heroes. The passing of Jerry Collins earlier this year generated a similar turmoil of anguish and unbridled media frenzy where even the TV news anchors found it difficult to control their grief as they faced the camera and spoke in trembling voices of what he had meant to them. Such public displays of sorrow are not everyday events in this country. For instance no similar community lamentation was evident following the death of Captain Charles Upham (VC & Bar) when he died nearly twenty years ago. For those of you who might not have heard of him, Charles Upham was a New Zealand soldier who was twice awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. In fact, he features among an astonishingly elite group there being only two others who have ever done so. He has been described as the most highly decorated Commonwealth soldier of that particular war. The Germans described him as `dangerous’ and when he was taken prisoner he was sent to Colditz Castle. I won’t bore you with a long list of his exploits and extraordinary gallantry but I will mention that it was King George VI who had invested Upham with his first Victoria Cross at Buckingham Palace in May 1945 and when the recommendation was made for a second one the King couldn’t help noting that it was `very unusual indeed’ and then added, `Does he really deserve it?’ Major-General Kippenberger firmly replied, `In my respectful opinion Sir, Upham has won the VC several times over!’ So you could be forgiven for thinking that such a man might go down in local folklore as someone deserving of our joint esteem and approbation. Not so! Charles Upham died in November 1994 and his funeral in Christchurch Cathedral was conducted with full military honours. The BBC broadcast part of the service live though sadly Radio New Zealand did not. In fact his death, unlike Jonah’s and Jerry’s, was barely noticed in this country even though it was later marked by a memorial service in London’s St Martin-in-the-Fields Church and attended by representatives for the Royal Family. All these years later I still can’t help feeling that it’s a pity New Zealand could not have made a better effort to note his passing. He just wasn’t the right kind of hero I suppose.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015


I have to admit to being pedantic (well to be honest the husband calls it nit picking). I can get overly concerned with very minor matters (he says obsessed). Today it was something in the Herald’s Viva Magazine Supplement and simply concerned advertising – page 19 if we’re going to be totally precise about it. There was the half page of expensive advertising about underwear/lingerie that was available now so definitely no room for hesitation. It urged the reader to `spring-clean the lingerie and sleepwear draw’ in order to ensure that only the finest lace and silk should touch the skin. I stared at it for a full two minutes - `draw’? Really? Aha I thought to myself at last – they mean drawer of course. Of course they did. Silly old me to get so fixated about it. But unfortunately it was exactly the kind of minor slip (oops!) that is likely to keep me awake at night. Right up there with the TV newsreader talking about errant parents who not only half beat their kids to death but also fail to provide the necessaries of life. Necessaries? Could not that be better expressed as Necessities? Clearly not because even the best of them have now caught this particular word malaise. And while we are discussing expressions that grate upon the ear, I will add to the list those upmarket `high end’ downtown hotels who blatantly and embarrassingly advertise that they are now taking bookings for `High Tea’ - do they really not understand that there is nothing high and mighty about High Tea and that this particular repast is something eaten with great gusto between five and six pm by farm workers and coal miners in the motherland from whence it originated? My fourth form English teacher, Miss K Smith, I am certain, would feel just as incensed as I do.

Friday, 20 November 2015


Unusually alarming piece of driving witnessed in central Auckland today at 12.20pm when a grey Fiat Punto (Registration EEZ 492) hurtled through the decidedly red lights controlling the Lorne Street, Victoria Street East intersection as we were crossing the road – to then park neatly at the bus stop! Oh how I longed for several buses to arrive but of course none did. Neither the safety of pedestrians nor indeed other vehicles was uppermost in this extraordinarily errant driver’s mind, preoccupied as he was with leaping from his vehicle and careering through cars and bicycles in order to disappear into the depths of the Look Sharp Store opposite. I can only hope that his intended purchase was an urgent one and it may have been of course – but clearly he was having difficulty locating it because he was gone so long we got bored with waiting for his return. We were going to advise him of the road rules. For once you see even the husband was outraged and that doesn’t often happen.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Little Bit of Mammogram Mayhem

Radiographers in some parts of New Zealand, the husband had informed me, were dissatisfied with their working environment or maybe it was their pay rates. To be honest I paid little attention to this riveting piece of news because it is ten years since I relinquished my position as a practice manager in an after- hours, emergency medical facility and so I had long since also abandoned getting uptight and excited about `Contracts’ and `Conditions’. In fact I have even stopped shuddering at the thought of a call from the Nurses’ Union and they once struck terror into my heart. So, to get to the point, I thought making an appointment for my annual mammogram would be a non event. Ideally it should be made around Christmas time because that’s the way I remembered to do it. Usually the upmarket, efficient and caring facility just off Mountain Road that I have been visiting for thirty years works five or six weeks in advance so ringing up early in November was sensible. As it happened there had been a cancellation and I could have an appointment within days; excellent! I was unprepared for the lecture I received from the radiographer as she began to prepare me for the procedure and then suddenly decided it wasn’t a good idea. `Why not?’ I wanted to know and she said that my previous mammogram had been early in January and to repeat the procedure within a year just `was not good practice’ and I should return in January, a few weeks hence. I explained that having psyched myself up during the preceding evening there was very little chance of me taking that particular piece of advice. Could she elaborate on the contra-indications for doing the procedure today as planned? She repeated that it was `just not good practice’ and I told her persuasively that as I had a strong family history of breast cancer I appreciated her advice but I had quite made up my mind to go ahead. She asked if I had ever had any breast operation and when I told her that I had she searched for the scar and failing to find it, said she found it difficult to believe me. What was the name of my surgeon. When I told her she shrugged and said she had never heard of him. I admitted the surgery had been a long time ago, had proved the lump concerned was benign and in the interim the surgeon had died but at one time he had most definitely carried out breast operations. She clearly began to see me as a mammogram junkie and advised me that a surfeit of radiation of any kind was a bad thing and I think it was then that said again that my mind was made up and there was no chance of me taking her advice. It was at that point that she raised her hands to her head in a gesture of alarm and consternation and said she could no longer deal with me. Then she fled the room. It took a while to understand that I was now officially a `difficult patient’ because this particular radiographer was a woman I had seen a number of times over the years and she had always seemed to be a normal, helpful health professional. I had been attending the clinic for decades and had never previously been seen as anything other than a perfectly average patient. A second radiographer was sent to cope with me and she approached only a little fearfully before making a few jolly comments as the process was completed. Later on when relating this strange incident to the husband he again reminded me that some radiographers were in dispute with their employers and until their hourly rates improved there might emerge a whole procession of patients too difficult to deal with such as myself. Odd, isn’t it how contract negotiations can make some employees extraordinarily sensitive?

Saturday, 14 November 2015

A Contemplation of Paris

That last post - `a little bit of Paris in Auckland' is suddenly so trite, unimportant and I wish I hadn't written it. We were in Paris recently, the husband, the daughter and I, sitting in the sunshine outside a slightly sleepy cafe, sipping on white wine and picking at a lunch platter. Paris in late September sunshine, a city at its best and even at the time we each of us agreed that it compared so very favourably with cloudy, rainy, chilly London where the coffee is distinctly variable and the lunch platters a sad sight to behold.

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Little Bit of Paris In Auckland

Well after an absence of each other’s company for months Philippa and I have now lunched together twice in one week, though Tuesday’s repast at The Lunchroom in Queen Street we both agreed we would not dwell upon unduly. Rarely had either of us experienced such unpalatable and leathery omelettes and over the years we had, between us, consumed a fair number of omelettes one way or another. However, enough of egg dishes because today we took off to Le Garde Manger at the top end of Queen Street – yes, that precipitous incline opposite Myers Park where the twenty four hour Chinese Takeaway outlets and Tattooists vie for recognition alongside massage parlours and mystics. There nestled amongst the faintly disreputable you will find Le Garde Manger looking strangely eccentric and a little like a meeting place for Resistance members in 1943. Because it was Saturday we decided to take the men which pleased the husband though Philippa’s Barrie, who is recovering from open heart surgery was less enthusiastic and, because he is afflicted with a similar hearing loss to the husband, wondered if he would be able to hear. We sat the aurally challenged pair down opposite each other and both became cheerful when the request for the background music to be turned down actually resulted in it being turned down immediately. They were able to discuss medicine to their hearts’ content, including their own current conditions as they worked their way through three courses (Duck Rilettes, Fish of the Day and a divine Lemon Meringue Concoction). Later on they even moved forward and discussed golf so Philippa’s interestingly swollen forearm barely got a glance and I decided, even though Barrie is a rheumatologist and I felt sure would be fascinated, against bringing up the topic of the pain in my right hip. Anyway, to get back to the point of this particular post, we all agreed that the menu at Le Garde Manger was definitely worth revisiting. Next time I might adopt a more Forties look with sunglasses, trenchcoat and an interesting scarf.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

So Over Rugby

I’m so glad the world cup is over. I’m so very definitely over rugby! The way this country becomes a seething mass of hysteria as far as sport (and rugby in particular) is concerned is actually embarrassing. Being something of an insomniac I have a radio on all night at low volume by my side of the bed because talkback stations can come up with some creditable discussion at three am when Bruce from Wanganui or Callum from Invercargill ring in. In recent days, however, I have been tuned firmly to the BBC world service because the nauseating dialogue about possible drop kicks was just too much to bear. Yesterday morning the post match frenzy was still bubbling away so I hastily refound the BBC – just in time to Helen Clark (ex prime minister of New Zealand for those in far flung places who might not know) give a twenty minute discourse on how ecstatic she was about the win. Well you can’t actually win can you?