Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wonderful Sounds (South Island holiday)

Sometimes it is a mistake to revisit places that you once called home.
If you have moved on, ploughed fresh furrows you did so for very good reasons. If you lived life to the full in that place there are bound to be a few regrets when leaving and a twinge or two when you return. No regrets, is a good maxim for life but not a very honest one.
We left the Marlborough Sounds in the late seventies, now we were to return on a trip of nostalgia. Maureen booked a bach that would give us three days in a peaceful bay in the Queen Charlotte Sound. My decision to recall some of the ‘not so good’ memories would dispel any regrets and it was with this intention we boarded the Cook Strait ferry for passage to the South Island.
It is April 1976 and the day of our final departure from the Sounds. You know it’s going to be rough in the strait when the crew start fixing shutters over the forward windows. As the Aratika nosed anxiously out of the relative calm of Tory Channel the first huge wave hits. Half way across the Strait another monster smashes into the stern with such force, the steel vehicle doors twist. For our family, two toddlers and a baby it was the trip from hell. The sailing took twice the usual travelling time and then we were stuck on board for another three hours while engineers tried to release the damaged doors.
March 2010, We could not have asked for a better Cook Straight crossing. There was hardly a ripple on that sometimes notoriously rough piece of water. The Sounds followed suite, dead calm, the only waves being the surprisingly passive wake from our passenger ferry.
1976 Picton was nothing more than a sleepy hollow. Oxleys Hotel, the main watering hole offered traditional Kiwi fare. There were a couple of other non-descript restaurants and a chicken take-away. Water transport included a three-day-a-week mail-boat and, a couple of water taxis. Most vehicles coming off the ferry ignored the town and headed south to Blenheim and the Christchurch highway.
2010 Picton is an exciting gateway to the Sounds. The character facade of Oxleys has been cleverly and tastefully integrated into a modern three storey accommodation complex. The quality of boats and launches speaks of opulence with a touch of one-upmanship. Older timber hulled work horses of three decades ago have been replaced by luxurious sea-going thoroughbreds with flying bridges and state of the art twin four stroke outboards. Travellers now appreciate the uniqueness of the sounds and many launch companies vie for the tourist dollar.
A number of the tourist enterprises of our day, Furneaux Lodge, Portage and Curious Cove (which we owned), are still in business. We look back on mostly good, sometimes bad days. The winters were our quiet time, wonderful except for the frequent storms. The insurance company hated us. Most years meant a claim for damaged buildings and lost boats. I remember one blow being so strong a frail lady guest went into orbit.

Remembering the fickle Sounds weather, it was prudent to check the forecast. ‘Fine for a couple of days then strong Southerlies’. They say Wellington is windy; the Sounds will out-blow it anytime.
The first two days are sunny and very warm the water is like a mill pond. We have found the perfect bay with bush backdrop, sandy beach, peace and quiet, just cicadas for company (they start up at 8am). This is heaven; the regrets are nagging a bit. Maureen is boasting about catching two fish this morning. I’m on the deck ignoring her and watching a fast moving black cloud. The temperature drops dramatically, the cloud looks ominous. I move the boat off the beach while Maureen clears the deck and shuts doors and windows. Here it comes, a southerly blast across from Port Underwood over the Tory channel and straight into our Bay. Violent, angry waves with white horses force small boats to seek shelter. Huge willy-whirls rise like dust storms off the water. Wellington City cops the bulk of the storm but the Sounds get a good battering. For Maureen and me it brings back memories, but no regrets.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Overheard in the bedroom

The deep, guttural laugh was coming from the large patterned trunk at the base of the bed.
‘And what is so amusing’? questioned the Tallboy, who was standing on the wall opposite the window.
‘I got him again,’ chuckled the Box Ottoman, ‘last night when he came back from paying a little call, he left all the lights off, fumbled for the bedroom door, walked too close to the bottom of the bed and whamo !! I got him again’.
‘You certainly did’, said the Dressing table, not wanting to be left out of the conversation, ‘The last time I heard that kind of language was when he was demonstrating the John Clease silly walk to his kids……’
The drapes, who had just been hanging around, were drawn into the conversation, ‘Oh yes, I remember, I do remember, he did that high kick thing, swung round too fast and broke two toes on the……..’
‘Tell us’, interjected the Bedside cabinet,
‘I am telling you!!’
‘No,’ boomed the Tallboy, ‘he means it was the Tellus, he kicked the Tellus vacuum cleaner, it was right behind him, talk about bend it like Beckham, he fell on the floor in agony, the kids fell on the floor laughing and the Mistress had to drive him up to A and E.
‘Funnily enough,’ boasted the Ottoman, keen to get the story off his chest, ‘Funnily enough, I do believe the Mister broke his little toe last night, in fact,’ he continued, ‘the way he was hopping around on one foot he would have done justice to dancing with the stars’.
‘He probably saw stars’, reflected the Full length Mirror.
‘I could have helped’, a muffled comment from the Bed Cover,
‘How?’ they chorused,
‘I could have removed his hurt’.
‘What rubbish,’ retorted the Ottoman, ‘You are just a plain old Bed Cover’
‘That’s all you know, you…you… box of stuffed blankets’, Bed Cover, knew she‘d fluffed it and tried again, ‘You blanket box of …er stuff…’
The Drapes pulled themselves together and sided with the Bed Cover
‘There’s nothing plain about that cover’, they protested, ‘she matches us beautifully, we go together, everyone likes us, the pillows are always chatting about how alike we are….’
‘You’ve heard pillow talk’? mumbled the Tallboy, adjusting his drawers.
‘We certainly have and they say that Ottoman is as useless as those fancy coloured, round pouf thingies that the mistress insists on putting on top of them.
‘You’re a pouf’ said Ottoman,
‘Well’, interrupted the Dressing table, ‘I am afraid I have to agree with Drapes and Bedcover. My drawers are full to bursting, the Mistress is always trying to keep the Mister’s clothes tidy but he fires them into me, willy nilly, socks all miss matched, pullovers folded the wrong way, bits of paper, loose change and golf tees stuffed into my little top drawers. I tell you the poor lady is fighting a loosing battle’.
‘What’s your point?’, an indignant Ottoman.
‘My point is that you have all that inner space pathetically half loaded with a couple of old, never used blankets, you are more ornament than use and you are quite capable of taking your share of my overcrowded drawers…. And, as the Mister discovered, your feet stick out!!’
‘You are forgetting,’ said Ottoman, almost blowing his lid, ‘You are all forgetting, that I am beautiful’.
The whole bedroom was in an uproar, the dining table and chairs could hear the laughter from the other end of the house. The full length mirror got all misty, the Dressing table laughed so hard two of her knobs fell off and the books got shaken off the Bedside cabinet
It was Tallboy who managed to calm the situation.
‘Listen, you guys, it seems to me that this has got completely out of hand. It all started when Bedcover made a highly questionable statement, so we will give her an opportunity to explain herself and then perhaps we can settle back to normal.’ ‘Bedcover,’ Tallboys voice of authority, ‘Can you please furnish us with a plausible explanation as to how exactly you are able to take away the Mister’s hurt?’
‘I’m a counterpane’!!

Friday, April 16, 2010



I would rather be hit by a tram
Than eat a plate full of spam
Sickly, Putrid, Absolutely Mucky
Definitely not food, more like a sham
Awful, ghastly, completely yucky.
Don’t give it to Sadam
A weapon of mass destruction is spam.
With spam Hitler would have won the war
It tastes like wet cardboard and wool from a lamb
Once sampled you will never ask for more.
Strangely Pale Abstract Meat
That’s spam
To make it they use a very old ram
Mix in cold cabbage and dead elephant feet
Then force it at gun point into a can

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Queen under Locke and Key

The “Head of State Referenda Bill” has been introduced into Parliament by Keith Locke of the Green Party. Politics and the Monarchy may never be the same again….

I shall not make a pun out of Mr Locke and our Prime Minister, Mr Key.
Although I am sorely tempted to unlock a treasure chest of amusing anecdotes about doors, if I did you would probably think me more un-hinged than you first imagined. Any writer who resorts to making pathetic puns about names like Locke and Key is a absolute knob. Even if I was short of writing material and in a complete jamb, I would never handle myself in such a manner.

Having put every ones mind’s at rest regarding the blatant and most annoying use of puns I happily shut the gate on the subject … Oh sorry! quite inadvertently I have used the word ‘gate’ which probably has a lock and key and is therefore a pun…silly me.

You can call me a right royal dip-stick, which brings me back to the aforementioned Mr Locke who is probably not a dip-stick but appears determined to see the demise of our English Royals. He has tried to introduce a private members bill to Parliament, it is called ‘The Head of State Referenda Bill’ which is a bit of a mouth full. A shorter version was suggested but Mr Locke objected to calling it ‘The English Bill’ for obvious reasons. (Bill English is deputy leader for the opposition)
Mr Locke wants the dissolution of the Monarchy, Mr Key prefers to retain the status quo.
According to recent surveys, New Zealand is about 50/50 on the proposal.
Reminds me of an old Goon’s script, where Spike Milligan as ‘Bluebottle’ has decided to go into business with ‘Colonel Bloodnock’ (Peter Sellers). The conversation goes something like this…
‘We will share the profits, 50/50’.
‘No’ protests Bluebottle, ‘Half or nothing, you cheating swine’.

I digress; the question is, should we dismiss our British birthright in the form of the Royal Family when everyone is well aware that Prince Charles was very fond of the Goons. (Oh I’m in a silly mood today!)
Seriously folks, consider for a moment our English heritage. We speak the same language, we have the same type of parliament, English law is the basis and structure for our legal system, even our local council administrations are run on a well proven British model. Think of the ramifications. Not many people are aware that the word Republic spelt backwards, brings out the word ‘Cilbuper’; is that what we really want?
Get rid of the Monarchy and say goodbye to any more chances of our sports people coming fourth in Commonwealth Games events. Knighthoods would be stopped, The Governor General would lose his highly paid job.
The Queen is accepted and respected, she loves corgis and has visited New Zealand a couple of times. How many of us have sat mesmerised as she delivers her riveting Christmas Day speech? Or gasped as her husband, Prince Phillip, once again successfully inserts his size eleven Hush Puppies into his own mouth.
I am amazed that Mr Locke, a dyed in the wool Greeny, has been so eager to dismiss the first in line to the British throne. Was it not, Prince Charles who baffled his subjects by becoming a raving tree-hugger in the seventies. And the people laughed at him, pointed at his sticky out ears and ridiculed his tendency to greenness. Come on Mr Locke be happy that your Private Members Bill has disappeared. (I’d be happy if my power bill did the same) Take a look around, get with it, we live in an enlightened age, New Zealander’s have grown to accept Queens.