Monday, 30 May 2016
I hate the horrendously long flights we in the Southern Hemisphere are forced to endure every time we opt to go somewhere in the world other than Fiji, Samoa or Australia. I despise every aspect of the endless excursion. I detest those who clamber on board with two or three bulky items of cabin luggage, take up all the overhead locker space and then to add insult to injury proceed to invade my elbow room. I cannot understand why no matter how hard I try, I always seem to be sitting behind the large, noisy male traveler who decides to recline his seat and take his sleeping pill just as the weak, tepid coffee I am yearning for is about to be served. And if he is somehow magically absent for the first twelve hours of the journey, I am invariably placed in front of the undisciplined five year old who plays a game of kicking the back of my seat for several hours or the toddler with sticky fingers intent upon climbing on top of my head, he who only falls asleep as Singapore appears on the horizon. I even detest those who would make friends with me, relate the whole of their life’s story and show me the many photographs of their grandchildren they have stored on their phones. I simply want to sit simmering with discontent composing letters of complaint to the airline in my head. After more than forty years of regular long haul travel I have not as yet adjusted to it. It most definitely brings out the worst in me and I have to try extremely hard not only to refrain from being unpleasant to fellow travelers but also to the helpful airline staff intent upon making my journey as agreeable as possible. The upcoming nightmare is to be twenty eight hours in total and includes several hours meandering Hong Kong airport trying to avoid the bargains. I am definitely not a good traveler.
Friday, 27 May 2016
The news that we over 65s are to be issued with a new travel concession card came completely out of the blue as far as I was concerned. Georgina mentioned that emails had been sent out alerting all of us. I didn’t get one and neither did all those computerless souls in the city. However, clearly some people did because a helpful Chinese lady with little English was trying very hard to convey this fact to me the other day when I was in danger of coming to blows with the bus driver. I was in conflict with the driver only because apparently my travel card was now `blocked’. Why? `Probably because you haven’t been tagging off properly,’ the driver advised and then said I should sit down or he would charge me the full fare. Feeling about fourteen years old I sat down beside my new Chinese friend who proudly showed me her new SuperGoldTravelCard. Later, Mary with whom I had coffee that morning showed me hers and said I should apply for one and be sure to take my Super Gold Card with me. I said that I thought I had lost it, the only card I had was orange. The next day I dutifully went to Newmarket Station with my Orange Super Card and my driving license and waited in a queue for seventeen minutes before being told that Auckland Transport could not accept my Orange Super Card and would only accept Gold Cards. I explained that I had looked everywhere for the Gold Card but was unable to find it. The woman at the Help Desk shrugged unhelpfully and said then I should try to get a new one issued. But I was sure it had been superseded by the Orange Card. She did not agree. I went home and searched everywhere for the elusive Gold Card without success. I could almost recall throwing it away when the Orange Card arrived in the mail. The following day I went to Britomart Station and started all over again only to be told exactly the same thing. Before my blocked travel card could be unblocked and I could be issued with the by now much coveted new SuperGoldTravelCard I had first to produce my original Gold Card. I walked home in a very bad mood,not daring to approach a bus, did another search and then rang WINZ who had issued the card. Bridget from WINZ was puzzled and could not understand why Auckland Transport would not accept the Orange Card. It was a valid card she said. She advised me to try a different Transport Centre. Transport Centres are not exactly thick on the ground in Auckland so I went back to Newmarket Station again and joined a different queue where I waited a long time alongside other over 65s with similar problems. There were almost enough of us to start a small support group. We were quite unable to change the mind of the by now more than frustrated staff member with the sign on her jacket that said, `Let Me Help You.’ Under no circumstances was Auckland Transport ever going to accept Orange Cards no matter which Government Agency had first issued them and no we could not speak to her superior - she WAS the superior! We had to produce Gold Cards before we could be helped . So I went home again and rang Auckland Transport to make a complaint. A very nice woman sounded almost as devastated as I was when I told my tale of woe. She agreed that sending elderly citizens all over the city on foot in search of a Centre that would issue a new travel card, was a very bad look. She took all my details and was certainly going to look into the matter. I began to feel slightly mollified at this modicum of success. The fight had entailed a great deal of effort so I poured a large gin and tonic and decided to go to bed early and load reading matter for travel onto my Kindle. As I groped around in the bedside cupboard for the Kindle, an odd thing happened. A slim plastic card slipped through my hand and onto the floor; I had found the Gold Card!
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
I have had lots of really lovely messages - the most recent ones, from my brother's primary school days at St. Joseph’s. Very many thanks to Anthony Salter, George Elliot and Hedley Davison who so vividly recall the early interest in ornithology that began to govern his life. Your messages mean a great deal.
Monday, 23 May 2016
I was recently enormously wounded by savage comments placed upon my blog post first recording my brother’s death (see Bernard Hendy, A Much Loved Brother – 2nd April 2016). I could suddenly quite understand why the young react so badly to internet abuse. A friend’s husband observed that it was in all probability simply the work of a `Troll' and to forget about it. But at the time I understood little about this particular on line phenomena and it was hard to simply put the incident aside. Wikipedia defines a Social Media Troll as someone who posts inflammatory comments within an on-line community such as a forum or blog with the primary intent of provoking the reader into an emotional response. In recent years the phrase seems to have shifted from its original meaning and has acquired a much more sinister edge. Further reading reveals that the attack upon the tribute to my poor brother was in no way isolated or special. Defacing Facebook or blog memorial pages to the recently deceased is now almost commonplace. Unsurprisingly, some people simply like to persecute others when they are possibly at their most vulnerable. The basic intent is to wound and elicit anger and now I know from experience that these efforts can be remarkably successful. It doesn’t take a brilliant mind to reach the conclusion that the average on line Troll is an on line Bully does it?
Friday, 20 May 2016
To Bernard’s childhood friends, and all who knew us when we were growing up in York Road – thank you for your words of kindness. He actually died in early April whilst on holiday in Africa, was cremated there and his ashes taken back to Scotland where he had been living for a number of years. There is to be a memorial service for him in Edinburgh on Sunday 5th June which we will be attending. I too have not been able to find any formal notices of his death – and so far the only tributes I know of to his life have been those I placed on this blog, the first shortly after he died. (see Bernard Hendy, A Much Loved Brother) The comments left by a relative are regrettable and distressing. However, in the weeks to come I am certain there will be more tributes made to Bernard and a great many more positive comments – he was much loved.
Wednesday, 18 May 2016
Jessica, who is certainly not naïve and speaks from a background of three decades of clinical psychology, was busy explaining to me over a cappuccino and a shared slice of lemon drizzle cake, that she viewed me as gullible in some respects. I asked her three times what exactly she was referring to and she looked slightly nervous before venturing that there were times when I behaved like a simpleton. `Take this business of Internet Trolls,’ she was now throwing caution to the winds and I knew I was going to end up being offended. I had just explained to her that I had been forced to Google the definition of the term Internet Troll only days ago when somebody suggested I might be one. The problem seemed to be that I had inadvisedly posted a supportive comment of our illustrious Prime Minister, Mr. John Key, into the very heart of a discussion regarding his many failings. The unanticipated savagery that followed had startled me. Later, with the definition of `Troll’ safely under my belt I was still wondering why it was OK for them to berate me for expressing a barely political viewpoint but definitely not OK for me to behave in an even vaguely similar manner. A nasty incident but nevertheless one that had afforded a modicum of technical learning; as a result I had absorbed some interesting facts about Trolls. I watched Jessica dispose of the remaining Lemon Drizzle crumbs with her forefinger and asked her if she knew what a RIP Troll was. She nodded but I was going to explain anyway. `An especially spiteful version of the beast,’ I said somewhat self- importantly, as one does as the holder of new information, `They like to place malicious comments on tributes to the dead – their aim seems to be simply to cause pain to others.’ She shrugged and said that it was certainly easy to heap emotional hurt upon the newly bereaved and added that such spite often came from unexpected quarters –an erstwhile friend or a neighbor, sometimes even a relative. There was a slightly awkward silence and she added that venomous individuals were everywhere, not just on the internet – they lurked in the corners of even the most ordinary families. We were in agreement once more. We ordered more coffee.
Friday, 13 May 2016
Not quite so newly-wed Kathy Bem rang suddenly at six pm on Thursday evening and although I rarely answer the landline, I happened to be passing it so I did. It was the eve of not quite so new Husband Jossi’s 94th birthday and she suggested that the four of us do something special in recognition of the event. Husband Gordie (or Gordon – or even Hank for those who insist) had just suggested that he and I try once more for lunch at Beirut in Fort Street where he was determined to sample the slow cooked goat. He had been acutely disappointed a week or so back when we turned up on a Saturday only to find the place closed. This time I took the precaution of reserving a table for four – a quiet table. The Husband said that Kathy & Jossi would never find the place, and even if they did they would find the parking challenging to which I replied that as there were three parking buildings in Fort Street I found that very hard to believe. In the end The Bems arrived sensibly by taxi which had not occurred to either of us, the Birthday Boy looking very dapper indeed. Unlike the rest of us, Jossi who spent many years living in Israel, exposed to Arab cuisine immediately understood the possibilities offered on the menu and before very long we had a range of very tasty delicacies on the table along with a splendid bottle of wine. The Husband wondered if the slow cooked goat might be amongst the repast but he soon stopped wondering when he began to tuck in because the food was very good indeed, the tastes unexpectedly complex. It was all so good in fact that we sat there much longer than we had intended, the only blight on the outing being a rather loud group of Very Important looking Young Men with suntans who arrived for a late lunch laced with copious quantities of alcohol and soon began to laugh raucously at each gem of wisdom that tumbled from their lips. We moved into the bar area for a dazzling dessert lit with a candle accompanied by coffee. We stayed until almost four pm and as we left we all agreed that Beirut was worth a second visit. Even The Husband, still lamenting the loss of the slow cooked goat, only mentioned it once on the way home.
Monday, 9 May 2016
Human beings are infinitely complex. Always capable of surprising us. Take Fred West for example. By all accounts the neighbours found him to be a most affable chap, always happy to be called upon to change a fuse, always ready to give handyman advice. When he was on remand even the `Appropriate Adult’ assigned to his case fell victim to his charms. Clearly no-one in the immediate neighbourhood guessed there might be bodies under Fred’s new patio…well even those living in the house maintain they didn’t have a clue and that’s taking into account that you might not altogether believe Rose! Goes to show that you can’t really know what goes on in the lives of others no matter how much you might believe you do. Fair enough I suppose because which of us really wants to be told that benign and lovely Old Aunt Agnes was perhaps not always such a sweetie and regularly took to her kids with a cricket bat or that lovely old Uncle Ken was reprimanded more than once for taking too much interest in Brownie Packs as they built their camp fires and practiced semaphore. Airbrushing away unacceptable aspects of the past is not exactly uncommon; we are all guilty of it. And it’s certainly easy to re-assure yourself that you hold the Truth. One simple way is to firmly believe what isn’t true – another way is to refuse to believe what is true. In essence it can often take considerable knowledge simply to appreciate the extent of our personal ignorance.
Wednesday, 4 May 2016
My beloved brother has now been gone for over a month and the dust that begins to settle upon his memory lies deeper in some places than in others. He was a conspicuously charismatic individual, unquestionably more than skilled in the art of engaging groups large and small with his wit and natural ability to weave compelling stories from the fabric of his life. His occasional embellishments and amplifications often startled those listeners who knew him best whilst greatly amusing those who knew him less than they thought they did. The outcome always being that no-one could accuse him of not telling a good tale! His habit of displaying different facets of himself in differing situations could also serve to confuse at times ensuring that only those closest to him were ever aware of the pressures and anxieties in his life. Fundamentally he was a man of many parts but he was also essentially a man who lacked enemies, instead gathering one friend and admirer after another. There was a kind of naiveté about him that often led him to expect more of others than they were prepared to give, more loyalty and allegiance than was practically possible. In the final analysis, however, it is very hard indeed to find someone who did not hold him in the greatest possible affection and regard. I am proud to have been his sister.