Sunday, 24 April 2016
Today’s Anzac Day commemoration did not start particularly well for The Husband and myself . It had been our intention to go to the Dawn Service but, as last year and the year before, we failed to get out of bed in time to do so. The eleven am Civic Service would have to suffice and even then we found ourselves hurrying along Parnell Road at a somewhat painful pace. We arrived well after the March of the Veterans onto the Court of Honour, when all the good vantage spots had already been taken, just in time to breathlessly join in the first verse of `Abide With Me’ which was not what we had intended. The overall timing of events seemed to have gone somewhat awry for the programme organisers as well. Several dramatic Fly Pasts originating mysteriously from a point on Auckland’s North Shore, roared overhead in some disorder to drown not only prayers offered by the Most Reverend Patrick Dunn, Roman Catholic Bishop of Auckland, but more importantly as far as I was concerned much of Katherine Mansfield’s poem for her brother Chummie who died in France in 1915. `By the remembered stream my brother stands, waiting for me with berries in his hands…’ a barely discernable final verse. It was both warm and windy for The Lord’s Prayer and disparate groups of small children played chasey around the legs of the crowd, rolled on the grass and asked of various accompanying adults whether it was finished yet. Better behaved six year old fairies in pink or lavender gauze skirts looked on disapprovingly and seemed as shocked as I was by the boy on a scooter who `beep beeped’ his way up and down the concourse throughout. The wreath laying took so long that I began to long for a scooter of my own but at last, with the enthusiastic aid of the Salvation Army Band we all sang `Oh God Our Help In Ages Past’, listened to more prayers and were silenced by the playing of The Last Post, the reading of The Ode and the sounding of The Reveille. An astonishingly well dressed piper played The Lament. Some of us sang the anthems of Australia and New Zealand, though most of us stared at the ground and shuffled our feet in a slightly embarrassed manner the way All Black teams do at really important matches. It was time to look for a place to have coffee on the way home but of course all the cafes along Parnell Road were now far too busy serving service goers who had escaped early, and in the end we found ourselves drinking short blacks in our own courtyard after a warm and windy walk back. It was only then that I remembered it had been my intention this year to wear my father’s medals, freshly polished for the occasion, lying in a pristine and eager row on the bedside table.
Friday, 15 April 2016
On Friday evening The Husband and I went to Sails, courtesy of oldest son, Patrick The IT Person (who used to be Patrick The Violinist). John Still The Violinist came with us. We had a lovely cosy corner table and were able to almost touch the yachts of the Rich Folk that bobbed up and down nearby. It was a Tasting Menu we were to experience and we were all looking forward to it, especially Patrick who is partial to Tasting Menus and still maintains that the one we had a week or two ago at Number Five was the best he had experienced in years. The restaurant was busy; well it was Friday I suppose but the staff were unflustered and charming which was nice. We started with WHIPPED GOATS'CURD a tasty concoction with beetroot, date and walnut and progressed to YELLOW FIN TUNA which was quite delicious! This was followed by SPICED CALAMARI - indeed lovely and then came SAVEUR DUCK BREAST which was sensational.....and just when I thought I could not manage another mouthful, the HAWKES BAY LAMB appeared before me....again it was superb! The sweet course was RHUBARB BRULEE and.....hand made CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES. By the time we staggered outside into the briskly chilly night air we were too full to engage in much car park conversation. Patrick still said that he reckoned Number Five produced the better food but The Husband and I told him he was dreaming - in our opinion SAILS came out the winner. John The Violinist agreed with us though added he had not yet tried Number Five. It was a lovely, lovely evening - splendid food, splendid wine, splendid company! A HUGE thank you to oldest son, Patrick The IT Person.
Sunday, 10 April 2016
I imagine that the Principal and Board of one particular Auckland school will be wishing that their aspiring thespians had made a different choice for the first entertainment programme of the year. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers perhaps or even Oklahoma. Something tried and trusted and not featuring props with sharp edges. It’s not every evening of the week that two of your students end up in A&E with neck injuries after all and with the best will in the world incidents like that take some explaining. It’s stressful for everyone involved, particularly the Props Manager – presumably it was he who held charge of the razor blunting duct tape. From what I gather from the oh so reliable Herald On Sunday it is possible that despite what has occurred in the very first shadow of the spanking new Health & Safety Act, those who are merely teachers may not be deemed responsible for the unfortunate accident. No indeed, it is only the Principal Himself and his Board of Trustees that can be sued for hundreds of thousands. Well that’s a relief isn’t it? And furthermore, the Board members cannot be sued individually because they are volunteers so added respite all round! We all wait with baited breath to see what will happen next, just as we did at the birth of the Anti-Smacking Act when we were assured that of course parents were not going to be held to account through our Justice System for dealing with a recalcitrant toddler in the time honoured fashion we all understand. But until the New Act went through its protracted shaking down period that was not quite what happened as we all, undoubtedly, recall. So all of us now sitting on Boards & Committees of one kind or another, those that are astonished to find themselves brushing ever so slightly against this New and Malevolent Act that has been put in place for our Ultimate Good, wait uneasily to see what happens next. Well it was possibly never a good idea to have anything to do with The Demon Barber was it?
Thursday, 7 April 2016
From the moment we tumbled into the Nespresso Shop on the corner of Queen Street and bought the Pixie Clips Machine on the very eve of Christmas 2015, I fell precipitously in love! We even stopped going up the road for our morning coffee breaks, sitting at home instead and telling each other the coffee was better anyhow. Well it very nearly was. So when the water tank sprung a leak you can imagine our joint consternation. But all was not lost because even though it was Easter Sunday and I was quite positive there would be nobody at the end of the Technical Help Line, I was wrong and by Monday morning we had received a brand new water tank delivered courtesy of CourierPost NZ. Not only did it arrive at the speed of light it was actually left in the mail box as per my instructions. Now there’s a first! The only problem was that when I came to check it out I was aghast to find that this replacement tank actually leaked more than the original one. So distressed was I at this disagreeable turn of events that I just sat and moped for a week or two and we went back to morning coffee breaks in Parnell Road. Yesterday, however, I took the Bull by the Proverbial and re-rang the Technical Help Line and this time I was promised a Loan Machine whilst my own one was in for servicing. It was a while, and admittedly with the help of Consumer NZ and Good Friend Georgina before I realized that a Loan Machine was not really what I wanted. I wanted a New Machine. In fact Good Friend Georgina had already impressed upon me that was not only what I wanted, but what I actually needed and must have. The first problem seemed to be that there was no telephone number to be found for the Nespresso Shop on the corner of Queen Street and the second problem was that there was no email address either. One could be forgiven for deciding that they were not in fact Retailers. Consumer NZ put me right about this though and said they were almost certainly Retailers and as such I should at least `keep them in the loop’ as to what was going so wrong with my beloved Pixie Clips. So, armed with this information I took the bus into the City and spoke with Tom the Manager. He was almost as appalled and amazed as I had been myself because a three month old Pixie Clips simply should not spring leaks he told me. He would give me a spanking new one – in fact it was his first suggestion. As we did the paperwork I asked him why there was no telephone number for his Queen Street Corner shop and he said they didn’t need one because if there was a problem they were contacted by the Help Line by email. `But are you not a Retailer?’ I asked him and he murmured something as he bent over the computer. I thought it was just a tinsy bit odd but did not pursue the matter further. When I got home with my brand new machine I found to my further consternation that the Loan Machine had already been delivered most efficiently by CourierPost NZ. It sits in its huge blue plastic container on the kitchen bench. Retailers or not, you simply cannot fault these Nespresso People for the prompt service they at present provide.
Wednesday, 6 April 2016
DESIGN WAREHOUSE in The Strand, Parnell, in Auckland give very good service I have to say. Our courtyard furniture bought from them when we first downsized to this miniscule apartment, is now four years old so not altogether in the first flush of newness. A year ago one of the six chairs showed some slight cracking in the backrest slats and when I returned it they replaced it with a new one immediately and without question. There was no talk of warranties or third degree interrogation about who had been sitting on it – such as could it have been an overweight Father Bear- (it wasn't). More recently the rather splendid canvas sun umbrella began to show signs of insurrection by way of its hoisting cord arrangement; it was fraying. It became more and more difficult to winch it up. When I popped into the showroom to tell them, not only did they agree to look at it right away, they even sent a staff member up the road to collect it! Within twenty four hours it had been repaired, returned and re-erected for the very reasonable sum of twenty five dollars. That’s definitely good old fashioned service!
Saturday, 2 April 2016
This morning, while I was mindlessly traversing the aisles of our nearest supermarket at an ungodly hour on account of an adjustment in the summer-winter clock, my only sibling, my beloved younger brother, died whilst on holiday in Africa. He suddenly dropped dead it seems from a heart attack whilst I hovered over frozen peas and spinach, deliberated on their individual merits and compared prices. In the very last seconds of his earthly life I was very possibly queuing at the check-out counter, impatiently behind the Indian corner-dairy owners who always shop at hours unearthly despite summer-winter time variations. The news that his life had ended came an hour or so later by email from his son and left me in total disbelief. How could it possibly be that someone so charming and charismatic could simply vanish into the ether? We were brought up as Roman Catholics he and I so surely his existence can’t end just like that? After all, he was once an altar boy; doesn’t that count for something? We had a relationship that was very much based on love-hate and our feelings towards each other were never irrelevant or inconsequential. We could talk for hours and not tire of the fact that a lot of the time our conversation went round in circles. Bernard and I were brought up in abject poverty, the kind of miserable and wretched neediness that doesn’t exist anymore except in the underclasses of developing countries. We inhabited a world that makes Coronation Street look decidedly middle class. Our father died when we were four and eleven and subsequently the privation and distress went to an entirely new level as our uneducated, half literate, well meaning mother went on to do the best she could for us which was not very much. As we grew older my brother was much more forgiving of her than I was. We lived in an area of largely industrialised Thameside where we were surrounded by the Decent Poor. We featured at the very bottom of the social heap because of hints of `Diddicai’ or `Pikey’ family roots and the Decent Poor looked down on us. I can’t say I blame them – when the neighours were beginning to think about installing inside toilets with attached shower facilities, we were still hauling in the zinc bath from its place on the outside wall every Saturday night for one thing. Bernard was convinced he was unpopular with other boys’ families because he smelled bad. With our father gone I became my brother’s bullying older sister who had both loved him dearly and wished him harm from his first intrusion into my life. Left in charge of him whilst our mother worked cleaning other people’s houses, I compelled him to eat slugs, chew marbles, beg in the street for pennies for a non-existent charity, and dress up as a girl called Wendy in a pink crepe paper fairy costume I made specifically for the purpose. At the same time if any other child dared to criticize him I was ferocious in my defense and this merciless aggression on his behalf continued into his early teens when I once famously attacked three of his classmates who had unwisely risked upsetting him, sending the horrified trio bolting for cover. If necessary I would have killed for him. Bernard had a checkered and volatile early life, frequent brushes with The Law and a tendency to stray far from the truth. He was a husband and father by the time he was eighteen and there were times when he could have done better in both these roles. He and I shared a compulsion. As we grew older neither of us could accept the reality of our vastly underprivileged start in life and so invented one substitute family after another, each more implausible than the last. Bernard’s second wife Irene was probably the best thing that ever happened to him. With her he was able to progress some of his dreams and become the person he really wanted to be. It was in some degree due to luck but also to Irene’s hard work and diligence that they together made a great deal of money and his long obsession with the Scottish Highlands was realized when he bought a Victorian mansion at Cape Wrath and turned it into a family home complete with enough power-showered bathrooms to utterly astound our former neighbours. Money changed his basic personality very little. It was true he could now buy whatever he wished – and he did so, but essentially he remained the same. Without money he had always been unerringly generous and with money he simply became more so. He always remained the captivating and magnetic individual who could entertain with stories, many of which were quite untrue, for hour upon hour. He remained the man that he always had been, the best and the worst of brothers. He definitely knew I loved him but he died without knowing how enormously proud of him I was because I never told him so and I think I should have done. Essentially life is short and when Death reaches out the separation and the silence seem so complete that we can never make too much of the ties and relationships we have with the living.