Thursday, May 31, 2012


In my younger days I often heard the term CRUSTY OLD BUGGER! I didn’t think much of it and in the glow of my joyful love of life; I dismissed it and laughed at ‘inappropriate’ times. Time flowed like a flood under a wooden bridge and all of a sudden the term has taken on a real meaning.
Do you remember when you had skin that was almost battle resistant? Nothing could harm or cause injury (OK---slightly exaggerated).
Now that I have left behind the wonderful days of my youth, I have begun to understand the now what I see as the ‘horrible’ term.
Spots have started to appear and I am sure that my skin is thinner, making me less resistant to attack form a range of enemies. I could really get down to gory details, but I have probably lost all of my younger readers by now and utterly put my blogging at risk, but I must continue. Don’t take me too seriously though and if you can’t laugh at yourself, then carry on being a miserable old bugger as well as a ‘crusty’ one.
Yesterday, I had to go to the eye clinic at Greenlane. I didn’t know that it had moved and changed its policy about walk-up appointments--- well actually not having an appointment at all. Now you are supposed to get your doctor to refer you. However they will still see people (yes it’s free in NZ and it is an excellent service) but there is usually a waiting period. I was lucky---- a wonderful nurse who is the most qualified nurse in NZ for her particular position (sorry—I can’t spell her title) knew me from past visits. She saw me straight away and all I had to do was endure a trainee having a look at my weird eyes. Actually, I didn’t mind at all--- hey, anything to help with training new doctors!
What was my eye complaint? Well, it seems that I secrete (it gets yucky here, so turn back now my friends, if you feel faint) a bit more oil form some glands in the eye near the lids--- Hell,  that is a terrible description, but you can see where I am going. These ‘oils’ form a CRUSTY crystal-like build-up that feels like sandpaper in your eyes.  There is a name for this condition---Blepharitis---wow---- bet you are wondering how I knew how to spell that one---- I can copy silly.
So how do I fix this condition? Why--- I massage my lids and place hot compresses to melt the crystals and I can use Johnson’s baby shampoo (diluted of course) to wash out my eyes.
Oh well--- now I am truly understanding of the term CRUSTY.



I love my idiot-proof crockpot (slow cooker)

I have had a crockpot and two slow cookers for many years. I won’t get into the difference other than to say that I think the crock pot is a true slow way of cooking--- we often put our one on for 12 hours and the food is magnificent. The slow cooker does a similar (almost) job in half the time.
 There is no better cure for the Monday blues, especially on a cold day, than to come home to a soup that has been cooking all day. You can make some toast or scones (biscuits in the USA) and the blues will disappear once you sit down to a wonderful nourishing and cheap soup.
Here’s a recipe that is idiot-proof! The quantities are almost irrelevant. There are only three ingredients. For the more adventurous amongst you--- add whatever else you wish.
Take 3-5 bacon bones (more if you wish). I microwaved them for 3 minutes first, but you don’t have to.
Add them to the crockpot along with a cup of yellow split peas (once again any sort will do) and a couple of cups of deskinned pumpkin,  chopped up into cubes.
 Now just add as much boiling water to take the mixture to its maximum level.
 Let it cook all day while you are at work. Don’t add salt until you taste it later as the bacon bones tend to be quite salty.
If you don’t like the scum, just place paper towels on the top, lift and the scum is gone. I do it twice.


HEADLINES---NZ is invading Austrlaia--- backwards!

It has often been said that ‘THE WORD IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD.’
We are about to find out. Are we to believe that a strange outflow of skills from Australia are about to become NZ’s? Is it true that many Australian jobs in the newspaper world are going to shift to NZ?
Hell, fellow Kiwi’s---is this our chance to even up the playing field? Just think of the possibilities. We will be in charge of editorial policy and all that this entails. The Aussies will learn the truths and realities of the world--- one centred on NZ
 I can smell the fear from here, safely ensconced in my lounge.  The idea is a panacea for my ills today. Yes I am not well, but I rose to read the papers and --- oh my goodness!
My feelings go out to those Australians who will lose their jobs.
Yes I don’t really believe my words as printed above. What a tosser of an idea. What monetary driven idiot thought that one up? I am completely behind the objections of my Aussie coussies. I suspect that editorial policy has for ages been driven from outside NZ, but this latest proposal takes the cake. Wake up and smell other than the mining fumes my Aussie friends and DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN! Hell--- if you lose, we in NZ don’t necessarily gain--- not at your expense I hope!

We must stop this government's attack on education

The worm has turned. We are now seeing in unbelievable clarity the aims of the Government when it comes to education. Nothing is more important to them than the ‘fiscal underpinning’ of a wide scope of their policies.
We know that we are in tough times, but to cut and bend and God knows what else the very basis of what can lead to an economic recovery--- that is a good education system is in itself fiscally irresponsible.
 The end result of this will be an increase in the outflow to Australia. The only good thing about that is that there will be a dilution of the Australian accent. (Sorry, Aussie friends--- but you have been making too many sheep jokes lately)
WE are already losing many of our best ‘brains,’ but now we will see ‘those who grow and extend’ our young brains joining the exodus, namely our teachers.
BUT---- teachers will not give up. This time (Usually their ire is prodded, re conditions and pay) they will have a large group of parents on the side of the teachers.
Just where the hell does the government think that they find these so-called super-teachers’ who can handle a class of 29 plus. They do not exist in the numbers needed to lend any credence to the claims made by the government. I am not using a capital ‘G’ for government because they represent a ‘small-minded ‘g’overnemnt)
Once again, I challenge the government or anyone else to try out teaching--- OK We will let you observe, because, I wouldn’t expect a non-trained teacher to enter the classroom in a teaching role--- a six hour teaching role--- not just one period. I would be worried about their mental safety under conditions other than that of an observatory role.
Mr Key, English and Ms Parata, you have unleashed a ‘spirit’ that will not be contained. Think again--- Ooops--- you are doing that, but each time you come up with a policy that is even more short-sighted or stupid.
Go the NZEI, Parents, Principals Associations and PPTA!

'Headlocking' ---a potentially fatal game!

From time to time, we hear of a ‘game’ that is doing the rounds with our young people. These ‘games’ come and go and most are part of what it means to be a teenager. Most are possibly fairly harmless and apart from the occasional injury, no harm is done, other than to the nerves of the teachers on duty in our schools. However, every so often we hear of a game that is potentially fatal.
The report in today’s NZ Herald about a young boy from an Auckland Secondary school is an example of what can go terribly wrong. He is lucky to be alive and the ‘headlocking’ game must be stamped out. It is another example of the more extreme risk taking behaviours that teenagers like to be involved in. They may even be pressured to take part, in order to earn ‘kudos’ and gain acceptance.
How we handle issues like this is crucial to their being eliminated from our playgrounds and schools. Do we make a big fuss of it in assemblies and other mass gatherings? Do we highlight it in the media? A similar argument can be made for the problem of how much we discuss suicide. So there is a continuum about how we handle sensitive and dangerous issues.
One of the best ways to get any message through with teenagers is for them to take some ownership. Firstly, gather a group of ‘influential’ or ‘in-group’ young people. You may be surprised as to whom the students are in such a group--- the best way--- ask the kids.
Take this group and present them with the information around the issue, in this case, ‘Headlocking.’ Let them have a discussion with minimal adult interference. I am not saying --- leave them to it. They will know who they want to be the ‘adult’ convener. You may get a few surprises there. (That person can also have some ‘supervision’ to make sure things go ‘safely and appropriately.’
Encourage this group to do some research and then invite them to come up with ‘how they wish to get their collective message across about the issue.
If the school has a radio station (yes some do or are planning such a venture) or any other way of selling the message, then use it. Don’t forget that the group will become ‘ambassadors’ of common sense on a lot of issues.
I believe that such an approach will be far more effective than the ‘force-feeding’ we so often use, with the less than good results.
An example of such an approach is the PSSP programme in Auckland schools.
I shall write about that in another blog.

More chapters coming, but---

I am waiting for readers to catch up on the earlier chapters of my books before I release more. You may need to roll back quite a few blogs to get to them. I shall fix that problem at some stage. There must be a way fo organizing my blogs to make it easier for you, but I don't know of it. Perhaps one of you can tell me

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I'm going to slow down on ROSKILL and TALK TO ME but not---

Yes, now that I am going to be re-launching COASTAL YARNS and ROSKILL and printing TALK TO ME, I shall be slowing down in my chapter by chapter release of these books. You will be able to buy them from my new website when it is up and running. I will put up chapters, but I will wait until they have had more hits.
BUT--- I will keep THE RIVER ALWAYS FLOWS coming. I am totally having fun with it. 
I will keep you posted about the website.



     I froze as Dad approached me. He hugged me but I remained limp, unable to make the leap in my fuzzed out brain about the events of the last day. I didn’t pinch myself--- I’d been doing that all day and here I was--- still in an upside-down world. Maybe Dad could make some sense of my predicament.
     It wasn’t just my surprise that fed my next question --- it was also anger. ‘What the crap are you doing here---?  I---where---oh shit!’
     Dad moved away and pointed to two plastic chairs. Mick hadn’t said anything so far. He looked even more dumbfounded than me. ‘I guess you’ve been wondering where I went---- then in a sense you know, or perhaps it’s when?’ Dad said.
     ‘You guess!—shit Dad--- you disappear, Mum dies’---I stopped. The look of absolute horror was enough for me to melt a bit. ‘Of course, you wouldn’t know would you? You’ve been here I suppose. How the hell did you---- and then me--- and---damn--- Just tell me what the hell’s going on.’
     Yeah---- Tom’s right, Sam---you can’t disappear like you did and then-----God--- I’m stuffed if I even know what to ask now,’ Mick said.
     Dad glanced at the open door and said to the guards, ‘Leave us for a while guys. They aren’t going anywhere.’ He searched our faces, almost sending silent plea to understand. From where I was, I could almost feel a fear and sadness in him.
     ‘I won’t try to say I understand why or how we all arrived here-----it’s a bit beyond me---- let’s say that there’s a plan behind all this and it has something to do with the people you were with a while ago. That man you call Luden is more than he appears.’
     ‘We’ve figured out that much Dad, but how did you get mixed up with those Reclaimers? It feels like there’s a war going on here and as far as this place--- it’s not the New Plymouth we knew. It’s buggered--- where’s everyone gone?’
     ‘Slow down son. I know you have every right to be pissed off with me. Hell I left that day and you haven’t seen me since---- can’t say I’m all that pleased with things either. I didn’t mean to go that day. I was only going to town and then next minute---- well--- I’m here and that’s been for the last six months.’ He stopped. ‘Mum’s dead----how?’  He looked like he was going to break, then he steeled himself. This was not the dad I knew.
     ‘Six months---- bloody hell Sam,’ Mick said. ‘This time thing is really playing tricks on us. We’ve been here about ten hours--- I think--- I don’t know anymore.’
     Dad switched off his sad face. He was starting to confuse me. ‘I know how you feel Mick. You and Tom have a great deal to find out about this place. You must be wondering how I ended up with the Reclaimers--- well, it’s all a matter of survival. I ran into them--- when I first arrived and they seemed to know about the time travel thing. Actually, they’re scarred shitless of it. They see it as something that is a threat to them, alongside that Luden guy, that is.’
     Our conversation was rudely interrupted by one of the New Police charging through the door. ‘We’ve got to move sir! --- Now--- let’s get this lot out--- the jail has been attacked and they’ve broken all of the prisoners out and now they’re on the way here!’
     Three heavily armed men joined us and in seconds we were being escorted to the back of the building where a large truck that had been converted into a makeshift armed carrier was about to leave. Outside the door four similar vehicles were already speeding away.
     The back of the carrier was cramped and it smelled of decay---human or vegetative? ---- I didn’t want to know. As we drove out and followed the other vehicles, gun fire shattered the night again. ‘They’re aiming at out tyres!’ one of the guards yelled above the straining engine. The odd ping informed us that their shots weren’t totally accurate.
     ‘Good-----our escorts have arrived. That’ll give us some space,’ Dad said. We could hear motorbikes alongside us and someone was returning fire.
     ‘Where are we going Dad? Or should I ask—when?’
     ‘I know where you’re coming from Tom. I think that we may be heading towards one of our other strongholds. It’s getting too hot for us around here now that most of our ‘birds’ have lost their feathers.’
     I noticed Ted’s smirk. He didn’t seem to want any attention from the guards so he had been quiet since our capture. My head was still full of questions about Dad’s involvement with the Reclaimers. I decided that now wasn’t the time. I was also damn tired and I must have dozed off.
     When I woke up I could see that the sun had risen. I don’t know how I had managed to sleep, given that the vehicle was grinding along a bumpy as hell road. Apart from one of the guards who was keeping watch, the other passengers were still asleep. He winked at me. ‘Back from the dead boy?’ We’ll be there soon.’
     ‘Where’s there then?’ I asked a little belligerently. HIs answer was to look at my sleeping dad and say, ‘If it wasn’t for his highness there, I don’t think you would like how I want to answer you.’ I got the picture. He was a nasty looking brute, covered with what could have been ‘gang-related’ tattoos on his neck.
     ‘I don’t know why he mixed-up with pricks like you,’ I replied. Man, I was really pushing it. His face turned bright red and he raised his fist to lay into me, but stopped when Dad shouted, ‘I wouldn’t do that Erick---! Not if you don’t want to take charge of the latrines at the next safe house.’
     Dad turned to me. ‘Hey--- Tom, I won’t always be around when you wind these guys up, so shut it.’ Normally I would have gone into a big sulk when Dad talked like that, but the situation I was in, wasn’t like ‘back then.’ I rested against the vibrating wall of the vehicle, feeling every bump and rut. Erick left me alone and tuned his attention to my dad.
     ‘I take it we’re heading for the mountain house then?’
     ‘Yes, but from there I’m not sure what will happen. It’s easier to defend and we get good reception that far up---not sure about the cold though,’ Dad said. I wasn’t used to my dad being this confident. Where had the guy gone who pissed Mum off endlessly? He had changed and I wasn’t so sure I liked the new Dad.
     ‘Tom--- we need to talk when we get a chance----you too Mick. There’s a lot you don’t understand; about me and this world you find yourself in.’
     ‘You always were good at the understatement Sam,’ Mick said as he rubbed his eyes. The vehicle wasn’t only stinky--- it was decidedly dirty and dusty.
      The vehicle felt like it was going up a steep incline. The driver changed down a gear, then another, muttering. ‘This road hasn’t had maintenance for ages. Mind you it always was narrow.’
     ‘Tom--- do you remember the mountain house--- you know the one with the café and the great view over the province?’ Dad asked; his voice gentle for a change.
     ‘Yeah I do. I always loved going there, especially in the winter when it had snowed.’ I felt a twinge of nostalgia as the vision of the roaring fire and toasted marshmallows came to mind. We had stayed at the nearby accommodation. Those times were well and truly gone though. I could feel the mood becoming sombre again as the vehicle finally came to a stop.
     The back door was thrown open and men wearing bulky coats pointed guns at us. The look on their faces told us that they were none too pleased at their sudden evacuation from New Plymouth.
     ‘Is this it then? Dad asked; his voice once again assuming an air of authority and further perplexing me. Where are rest of the garrison?’
     A sergeant stepped forward. ‘There’s more coming sir--- they just contacted us. It seems that the rabble have overrun new Plymouth and captured one hell of a lot of weapons.’
     I was sure I saw a shiver run down my dad’s arm. I’d seen that before when he was under pressure, usually from Mum. I wondered what he had gotten himself into. He had a crap load of questions coming his way. Now was not the time though.
     The sergeant took centre stage again. ‘I see you’ve brought some low-lives with you. Mmmm--- I feel like having some fun. There’s nothing like making these scum sing, if you know what I mean,’ he added viciously.
     ‘Dad’s face changed again. I never liked being in the same room when he had that look. ‘That’s one of the reason we have never been able to come to an accommodation with the ‘scum’ as you call them--- attitudes like yours. If the boot’s going to be on the other foot around Taranaki then don’t expect them to treat you well. These prisoners will not be harmed.’ He stood firmly in the centre of the guards, daring them to challenge him. No one did, but I observed a few glances between the men.
     We were taken to a cellar that had been used to store firewood in the distant past. It was cold and cheerless, but it was dry. A few minutes after we had been shoved inside, the door reopened and a guard brought in some blankets. He left, leaving us wondering what was next on the agenda. It wasn’t one that we had any control over.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Go and try teaching Mr Key and MS Parata!

I wish that John Key and Ms Parata would go and try teaching and see what a ‘few extra’ kids in a classroom would be like. They have no idea of the real world of teaching. They quote dubious research that backs up that it is teacher quality rather than class size that is most influential on educational outcomes.
It is easy to make research fit political objectives. Why can’t they just ‘fess up’ and admit that the only goal they aspire to is to cut spending. No amount of platitudes and straight out lies can cover up the real aim of tier policies. Hell--- they have had to backtrack several times lately, once they feel the wrath form principals and teachers at the chalk board.
The National Government is wreaking havoc and risks undoing hard won gains for our children that have taken years to achieve. If they think that teachers are going to meekly accept their dangerous change in conditions for teachers and students, then they will soon find out that they have woken the most potent alliance in New Zealand society--- teachers and parents united!

New totals--- I'll have nice red wine!

I'm up to 13,450 today. Pity I don't have the Adsense attached now but ---thems the breaks eh. My website is progressing--- Cost heaps but if you all buy some of my books I will be OK--- I hope.



     Nice to see you all made it,’ Luden began in a hushed tone. ‘I hope you have the lookouts placed where we discussed they should be at the last meeting.’ He looked pointedly at a large man in the shadows.
     ‘We--- won’t be---- making the same mistake twice,’ the man said awkwardly. I wondered at his strange speech.
     Luden offered an explanation. ‘This is Tama. He arrived here form the back country about three months ago. Tama is in charge of security for our meetings, but last time we lost two of our people as we left. It’s them who we are planning to rescue tonight.’ Tama glanced at the ground, seeking to avoid the accusing eyes of the men and women gathered.
     ‘I don’t know how many times we have to remind you Tama, that no one’s blaming you for that night. It seems that we have a mole in our organization, just like we have infiltrated the Reclaimers and New Police.’ Luden turned to address the meeting as a whole. ‘That’s my point for tonight. I can’t stress the importance enough of getting the two men back. We think they are in that new facility they’ve converted from a bank in the old main street. It’s a solid structure, but we’ve been working towards a way in from the neighbouring building. We’ve been secretly tunnelling under the storage area at the back. That is where our men are imprisoned. We’ve heard from our sources that they won’t be able to put up with much more of the treatment they are receiving. One of them is sure to break soon.’
     Tama shuffled nervously, attracting the attention of those around him. ‘Look, Tama---maybe you shouldn’t be going on the raid tonight. We know that your brother is one of the men we’re after. Stand down man and just look after our backs.’
     ‘No way----I can’t—sit around while you’re-- risking your asses for one of my family. I’m--- going – whether you like it or not.’
     Tama’s words silenced the meeting. Luden nodded in Tama’s direction and continued. ‘Right--- we leave here in three groups of five. There’s no reason to make it more--- we’ll get in the way of one another and with the element of surprise on our side, we should be able to in and out in a matter of minutes. Everyone’s got their orders so let’s go. MIck and Tom--- I want you to stay here with the others and after we’ve been gone for about ten minutes, you’ll be taken to another safe house until we can work out our next move.’
     I doubted that anything Luden said was going to surprise me anymore. I resigned myself to a continuance of the day’s crazy events, not just one, but a series of ‘dreamable’ fantasies.
      The building slowly emptied as the three groups left. Soon I was alone with Mick and two ‘minders.’ Ted was one of them and neither he nor Grumpy  looked too happy. Both radiated resentment at being left to look after Mick and I. Grumpy soon made his feelings apparent. ‘Come on you two. If we must babysit you, then I’d rather get it over and done with so we can return to real work.’
     Mick reacted immediately. ‘Look asshole---!  We didn’t ask for any of this so how about you lose the bloody attitude. If you don’t, I’ll kick that sorry excuse for a butt you sit on and piss off back to where we came from.’ Mick must have realised pretty quickly the hopelessness of our situation because he switched tack. ‘OK---How about we start again eh? You take us to wherever it is then you can get back to the stuff you want to do. If I was any use, I’d be with you, but I think I better stay with the boy.’
     Ted took the opportunity to soothe Grumpy’s mood. ‘He’s right Grum--- I mean Peter. ‘
     Grumpy changed in an instant. ‘Stay with the Grumpy--- I know it suits me and actually, it sort of works for me in other ways too.’
     With the tension dissipating, we waited for a few minutes. We were alone after the remainder of the group had melted into the darkness. Outside, the rain started. At first it was a gentle whispering sound on the roof and then turning into a constant torrent. It was going to be a miserable night as neither of us had anything resembling crap weather gear. We slunk out not the tempest, and within seconds we were drenched. Thankfully it wasn’t cold. In fact the rain was warm. Just a few minutes ago, we were trying to get as close to the drum fire as possible, but here we were in a tropical downpour. Mick noticed too and he yelled out to Ted and Grumpy. ‘What’s with this Singapore weather? One minute it’s bloody cold and now--- this!’
     Ted laughed and motioned for us to shut up He signalled—‘later.’ We worked our way further from the port area and were soon at the edge of the older city, near some huge tanks. If anyone was about, they were keeping their heads down. Just as I was thinking that we were going to drown in the deluge or caught up in the ever increasing torrents of water sweeping past us down the steep street, the rain suddenly stopped. The silence was a total contrast to the sounds that had accompanied our journey so far.
     A flash of bright light pierced the darkening sky followed by a rumbling booming sound that put stop to the silence. Ted looked anxiously towards the town centre. ‘That would be our boys doing their thing. Some would have broken through in the tunnel. I helped dig some of that,’ he said proudly. He encouraged us to move on further away from the scene of the explosion. On this side of the town, there was no sign of guards, but we could hear a vehicle starting up from a nearby building. It coughed twice before struggling into life and then chugged past us as we hid behind a huge pile of rubbish. From the smell of the mess, it appeared to be an attempt to tidy up a rough area of the town.
     An alarm began blaring from the scene of the explosion and a few small arms weapons added to the noise, but a more unusual sound punctuated what was becoming a boisterous mêlée. My face must have shown my confusion.
     ‘I don’t think you have heard one like this fire before, have you?’ Grumpy offered as he pointed to his weapon. ‘It’s a version of what you used to call a stun-gun, but this one kills on the high setting and has a much bigger range---sort of sounds like those old Star War movies you used to watch.’ Grumpy almost sounded friendly.
     By now, hardly anything surprised me so I smiled and followed Ted as he called us forward to the last building before the town merged into an ugly no- man’s land again. He kept looking back over his shoulder as the sound of the distant battle grew louder. Even from our position we could hear the odd scream. ‘I don’t think that we are having it all our way somehow,’ Ted opined. ‘Best we get to our next safe house.’ Above us I was sure that I heard that sound I had noticed when we first left the tree place. Grumpy did too.
     ‘Damn--- they’ve got a ‘bird’ up again. The sooner we take them out of the picture, the better. Our life will be a lot safer.’ Grumpy aimed his weapon in the direction of the whistling sound and let loose a pulse of purple light. The ray searched the sky and a popping noise ended the intrusion. ‘Yes’, Grumpy whispered, looking around to see if the central control for the New Police had sent any of their men to find us. ‘I may have got it, but the message would have gone through as to our whereabouts. We better get out of here fast.’
     We had moved along another twenty metres before we heard the unmistakeable sound of the vehicle we had observed earlier returning, this time moving at speed. To make matters worse it sported a powerful spotlight that sent a probing beam across our pathway. ‘Down!’ Ted ordered.
     I fell to the ground and was swallowed up by the reeking mud. I wished for the warm rain to fall again, but for now I had to remain immobile, as the vehicle shuddered to a stop about ten metres from us. At least three figures climbed out of the vehicle and spread out while the light probed the now completely darkened landscape. A swish of purple light soon fixed that, but it also gave away the position of the weapon’s owner. Gunshot rang out. The New Police obviously had older weapons at their disposal.
     I heard Grumpy scream out as he was riddled with bullets. I lay, rooted in the revolting mud. ‘Run!’ Ted yelled. It was hopeless. I had no desire to meet Grumpy’s fate. What the hell was I to do---act like a hero? No, I shouted out.
     ‘Stop--- I’m only a kid!’ Stupid or cowardly--- it worked.
      ‘Stand up boy and you’ll be safe. Anyone with other ideas can kiss their asses’ goodbye.’ The voice belonged to a large man, almost on top of me. He leaned down and pulled me up. ‘Now who have we here then?’
     Ted and Mick surrendered. It was either that or sharing Grumpy’s fate. The will to resist had gone and in the beam of the searchlight, I could see that Ted was way beyond being scarred. Perhaps it was just as well I didn’t know what he knew. Not that I got much time to adjust to my new situation. I was bundled into the back to the vehicle. Mick and Ted were thrown in after me and two men with guns pointed at us, sat watching. It was definitely shut-the-stuff-up time. There was no escape, and anyway--- where to? Mick pressed his knee up against my leg as if to say--- I’m here.
     The jolting of the vehicle did nothing for our comfort level. We were soon back in the main street, heading down towards the far end of the area where the shops still existed, if you could call a couple of dozen untidy excuses for a shop that name. A truck rushed past us, heading towards the sound of the continuing melee not far from the main street. I had the feeling that it wasn’t going well for Luden and his band.
     Our journey came to an end when we pulled up in front of a large old building that was surrounded by barbed wire fencing and blocks of concrete. Several men barred our entrance to a roller door that was slowly opening, revealing yet more men holding guns aimed at us. More reason not to try anything stupid.
     Once again we were dragged out of the vehicle. I shouted at the men. ‘I’m coming--- don’t bloody pull!’ I received a vicious kick for my troubles. ‘You’ll talk when we say kid--- get the message?’ I did.
    Several men dressed in the New Police gear accompanied each of us. Grumpy’s body was taken to another part of the building while we were locked in a room with bars for windows, allowing a nasty wind to penetrate the space. The door slammed shut, with a small observation slot remaining open. A face appeared and even from my position, I could see a pair of eyes widen in shock. The door opened again and I started at the guy--- he was dressed in a uniform that cried out--- officer. He was also my dad.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

More on bullying in our schools.

Bullying is an insidious fact of life in most school, from early entrance right through to secondary schools. Some schools boast zero-tolerance policies and the Ministry of Education supports a raft of programmes in our schools with mixed results. Why is it that after years of commentary and schemes to lesson bullying that we have actually made little progress?
Firstly, as I have said in other blogs, schools reflect the societies in which they exist. If bullying in its many forms is tolerated in other institutions and in our homes, then why would schools be any different? Take a look at family structures and workplace reality and the examples of bullying will abound.
“A new student arrives halfway through the term in her year ten. If she is shy and not obviously in the so called ‘in-group,’ life can be hell. If she looks even slightly different, then she is immediately at risk from other students who will see her as a natural target. Kids can be so cruel to one another. They spend many hours thinking about avoiding unwanted attention from other students and one way to achieve this is to focus on someone ‘different.’ It takes the focus off them and gives them an artificial sense of worth and belonging to ‘the group.’ My heart goes out to the ‘new arrival,’ who finds her/himself in this position. For busy teachers, these kids are often missed, despite their ever vigilant observations of their students. I hate to say it, but girls are more prone to this ‘isolation bullying.”
This ‘isolation bullying’ is mirrored in the work force and regularly goes unchallenged from the employers and management. Why then would it be any different in our schools? At least schools attempt negate the worst forms of bullying but they are fighting a losing battle, with the advent of social media sourced bullying.
Teachers, youth workers, nurses, counsellors, deans and school management spend a huge amount of their time on the implications of social media sourced bullying, most of which occurs outside school time and beyond the watchful eyes of parents. Most Parents wouldn’t have a clue what their kids are up to online and through texting. Students can be looking at you (teachers and parents) while they are texting with their little fingers, busily creating chaos with a smile on their faces. That bullying text can go around dozens of phones in a matter of minutes, destroying the happiness of another victim.
It is this speed that can potentially do so much damage. Our teenagers (and younger) are not so resilient that they can ‘ignore such’ cyber-attacks. One can no longer say---‘just ignore them dear--- they are only words.’ I doubt that this advice ever gave any solace to the recipient of any form of bullying. Now, a piece of gossip can be the talk of the ‘jungle-yard’ of our schools in a matter of hours. Teachers and support staff can do nothing to prevent such actions; we can only try to mitigate the damage.
Schools try to fight back. They make rules about the possession of cell phones at school, but they are fighting a losing battle. As to the use of computers and sites like YouTube and Facebook--- well that is way beyond the school’s control. What we now have is a form of ‘cyber-terrorism.’ What company, making huge amounts of money is going to help make their businesses safer for our young people? They will publicise some safety policies by creating mechanisms to ‘report cyber bullying’, but they are fighting a losing battle; one that they help to unleash in the first place.
We must ask---- has the horse bolted and are we going to be faced with even more technology that is ‘made for bullying?’ I would hope that the effort put into planning ever-new devises could be balanced with a counter effort to create an inbuilt ability on the part of the yet-to-be designed devises, to block messages of hate, intolerance and other nasty characteristics. But I suspect I am once again being my naive self, when it comes to human nature.
I am not a pessimist. I believe that we have the capacity to face the challenge of bullying, but we have to start by looking at our ‘adult selves’ and the messages we project. One can always hope!

Police only solve about 8% of burglaries in Auckland, so----

If you live in the wonderful city of Auckland, ‘City of Sails,’ you better have good ‘contents’ insurance because there is little likelihood of the police ever solving a crime against you and your property. The NZ Herald this morning quoted 8% as the successful prosecution rate for burglary in our fair city.
The figures for solving ‘more serious crime’ were much better; 100% for murder and over 60% for assault and other serious crime. So what happens when your house is the target for one of these low-life thieves? You will be extremely lucky if the police come when you ring them and even then, the chances of anyone actually been caught and taken to court are next to nothing.
Why is this? The official answer is that the police are concentrating on more serious crime. That is not good enough! Surely if we catch criminals at this so-called lower end crime, then they may not go on to commit the higher end crimes. The excuse is often given that it is a question of ‘funding.’
Successive governments have promised action, but they rarely do more than tinker around the edges, fudging the figures to make themselves look good to the elaborate. Any real drop in some crime figures is more to do with the changing demographic figures for NZ society--- that is--- we are an aging society and the connection is one of---older people commit less crime. No government can claim this as ‘their’ success.
The bottom line is that people are sick of inaction and they are starting to find their own solutions. They are finding out who ‘broke in to their homes,’ and posting pictures on sites like YouTube. This requires some expense on their part but ‘naming and shaming’ is being used to expose these creeps who have assailed us for so long. The technological means are there for us to use, and they are becoming increasingly easier to find and use. Specialist firms will be coming up with ‘easy to use’ and installation methods of surveillance. Then it is a matter of identifying the perpetrators and letting us all know who they are.
Will this lead to a backlash from civil rights spokespersons? I am sure it will, because there is a delicate balance between protecting your rights and those of possible criminals. I am certain there will be mistakes and that will raise the ire of the afore mentioned group, but the vast majority of us are sick of the strong possibility of coming home from an event or outing, to find our homes ransacked and devoid of our precious belongings, some of which cannot be replaced  through insurance. Yesterday Sonny-Bill Williams (a famous NZ rugby player) was a victim—so it affects us all.
Of course, those living in lower socio-economic areas will not be able to employ the electronic surveillance technology to the same extent and they will continue to be victims. Perhaps stronger neighbourhood- watch groups will be helpful. My area of Auckland has a very strong group.
At governmental level, the question must be asked: How do we prioritise spending to address the high level of crime? Like decisions around health and education spending, there is no easy answer. Any real improvement needs to be funded and that raises the electorally dangerous question of raising taxes! We don’t want to hear politicians using promises to ‘break the back of criminal activity,’ wish harsher punishments and longer prison terms, but then conveniently not actually commit to real action once they have captured the treasury benches..
So--- until they do---- we will find ways to protect our homes and families. As technology becomes more accessible, then expect more of this ‘take it into my own hands’ response to an old problem.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Finally--- my new website is being designed!

Yes, finally I have met with my website designer. We are on track for getting a new domain name (only slightly different) and once I have started reprinting my books, I will be up and running. I may have to make some changes to the covers and possibly get new ISBN numbers, but that won’t take long. I will be only having small print runs to start off, but if the books sell, I will be able to cut the price as the more I print, the cheaper it is per book. I will be upfront about that so you will know I am not ripping anyone off; that’s not my style.
I will be slowing down the release of my books online through my blog. Don’t you reckon you have had a fair amount of freebies?  My books will be available using the PayPal link on the website, anywhere in the world.
I am looking forward to feeling more positive about the self-publishing experience. I sure have learnt heaps. From now on it will be more under my control, with help when and where I need it. I look forward to you all buying my books and continuing to read my blogs.

Piha---damn silly directions!

In the interest of keeping a peaceful neighbourhood, I decided to take Perdy to Piha--- the beach of ‘Piha Rescue’ fame, or to put it another way, ‘As seen on TV.’  Perdy knew something was different once we headed off in a direction quite new to her. However, even though I have been to Piha many times, I simply got lost.
When I passed the Titirangi (Don’t you love our place names, my overseas readers?)  I was faced with the directions at the first roundabout. That was OPK, but ZI was soon confused as to whether I was on the correct road. I asked a nice man walking his doggie (Perdy asked his dog too, because they were definitely communicating) and got the right pathway.
It has to be said, that for a beach as famous as Piha, the direction signage is not good enough. Hey ‘people who are in charge of signage!’---- get your act together and make the signs more user friendly. That means make sure that drivers are well warned before they come to turn-offs etc.  Surely I’m not the only thicko here and I’m a native Kiwi and have lived in Auckland for most of my life.
OK--- rant over. Perdy was in heaven. She loved running along the black sand and meeting new dogs. It’s always the same. You meet new dogs and have a chat with every owner. What a cool place to live or have a holiday---- Piha, especially North Piha is very dog friendly. Was Perdy exhausted after her outing----?   Of course not. She demanded her usual 3pm walk down at Onehunga Bay. Finally, I think she is stuffed. Mmmm--- Ham Hock and split- pea soup for dinner with home-made scones.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

An interesting discussion.

The annual budget was presented in Parliament today and it was the usual story--- cigarettes went up yet again. This of course had been expected and simply follows the trend both major parties have rolled out year after year.
There are those in our community, even hardened smokers who actually agree with the stronger measures taken to marginalize those addicted to tobacco products. The Government is the winner as they reap ever increasing amounts of tax revenue. This is not necessarily a bad thing as the tax take can then be turned to others aspects of Government expenditure, including alleviating some of the damage done by smoking.
I was having a discussion with a dear friend who smokes. He was a little angry at the continuing rise in the price for what is his addiction. I tried to put myself in his shoes. He made the claim that smokers are a target for the government simply because they are less in number than ‘fat people,’ including me of course. I think he was saying that the anti-smoking issue it is less dangerous electorally than that of dealing with the problem of obesity. I thought about that for a while.
He is correct in that assumption if not accidentally cynical. It is true that the overweight and obese are and are going to be an increasing drain on the health budget. As smokers diminish in numbers, his argument makes even more sense. Perhaps a time is coming when the effects of obesity and its accompanying costs to the health sector are going to swamp the resources of our hospitals. I am talking about the ‘diabetes epidemic’ that is getting worse by the day and other weight-related afflictions.
Why then he asks, doesn’t the government focus on the ‘fatties’ and the bad food that they (we) are so fond of. I tried to point out that this discussion has begun and that unless the problem is addressed, the problem of smokers is going to look tiny compared to the bourgeoning issue of our collective expanding waists.
Food for thought, maybe?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Guilty as charged!

Guilty—yes she is this time or I am. Perdy decided to go out the cat door at 5.30 this morning. I was in the shower and I heard her barking her head off. “Damn,” I thought, “that’s gonna bring our phantom complainant out of the woodwork.”
I completed my shower and had my breakfast. By this time the birthday girl (yip--- she’s 2 today) was sitting quietly inside after having her second breakfast.
I left for work at 6.50 and there it was--- a note jammed in the front gate. As usual there was no indication of who had penned it. As usual it contained threats about ringing dog control and the SPCA.
The writer was correct in her (I still think I know who wrote it) accusations this time and I shall make sure that Miss Perdy does not get out and sing to the neighbourhood. I am not an irresponsible dog owner or a cruel one like she said last time.
Hell, if the lady would only leave contact details, I would apologise to her and make amends. Yes, I would offer her one or both of my books and I would tell her what I am trying to do to alleviate the problem. Unfortunately, it is very hard to do this when the complainant is so bloody cowardly not to come and chat face to face. I’m hardly a scary monster and I won’t even let Perdy bite her.

It's OK if you are a cat up a tree!

The 111 system is for emergencies--- right? It’s OK to ring that number (911 in other countries). Picture this then.  Your cat gets stuck up a tree and you start to panic because your little pussy is in trouble. You try to coax her down, trying all of her favourite treats and you even climb halfway up the offending tree to conduct your own rescue. Thankfully, you come to your senses and return to earth. This means you t6actfully withdraw and take you panic back inside. You watch from the window, but no--- pussy is still ensconced up the tree and letting the neighbourhood know that she is indeed distressed.
You have a flash--- next minute you are on the phone, ringing 111. Lo and behold--- ten minutes later a big red truck with large strong men (and one woman) arrives and they were up the tree and down with a struggling little pussy in their hands before you knew it. Off they went and all was normal again, until next time that is.

So when the neighbour comes rushing over last night to inform me that their two year old daughter had somehow locked herself in the bedroom and was in a distressed state--- well one would think that after trying to get her out, by talking calmly to her to undo the ‘locking’ in order to get out and that attempt failing miserably, one would start to think of the cat experience. If they would come for a cat, then one would assume that a child would be pretty damn high in their priorities.
Well, no--- the 111 call fell on deaf ears. The controller was quite insistent that the solution lay with the upset parents and neighbours. Minutes passed while we considered our options. We even tried to bash the door open, but no luck. We pocked, twisted and cajoled the lock, but no--- deadlocks are a stupid device for a bedroom. The previous tenants must have had some ruling about ‘privacy.’ Understandable maybe, but the ramifications for a two year old are quite serious.
 I was concerned that the child was going to really start panicking and I did my best to calm the parents so that there would not be any transferring of their helplessness. Eventually they found a locksmith to come and let the girl out and I made sure that they did not blame or punish her. All ended well but one must be left with the question--- Hey you can come for a cat, but not for a child---? Get your bloody priorities right, call centre! I hope they are actually in NZ.

The hidden agenda

If teachers had a sense of mistrust in the government’s plans for education, they can only have reached even lower levels with the release of ‘papers’ in the last few days. These papers show that the government has had an agenda of cutting frontline teachers since 2009 but the election of 2011 forced them to ‘go underground’ with their plans. They knew that the electorate would punish them at the upcoming 2011 elections if these aims were made public.
It is no surprise that we now learn of these cost cutting proposals and we can only assume that no matter what the public tells them, they are going to go ahead with their plans. We can expect to see larger classes, less resources and more ‘smoke screens’ that will amount to nothing more than taking from one sector of the educational sector and then  tout gains made from such cuts as ‘new spending.’
The Minister of Education is nothing more than a ‘flogging boy.’ She seems at times a little uncomfortable with the announcements and plays with words, all of which have been firmly placed in her mouth by Treasury or other Government ministers. The Government certainly chose well when they made Ms Parata the Minister of ‘do as you’re told’ Education.
It’s going to be a long two years until the next election. Will the public have understood the message by then or will National come up with more platitudes framed as the ‘saviour of education on new Zealand.’ We never learn and the government continues with its plans. It won’t be too long before our excellent schools become nothing more than second rate institutions, forever playing catch-up. If you think the achievement standards for our school leavers are bad now--- well close your eyes--- you won’t like what you see in the future.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


     I looked stupid in the guards’ uniform. I’m quite tall for my age, but the uniform made me look like a scarecrow with oversized floppy clothing. If anyone took a close look, I was stuffed.  Too late for that now, I thought as we headed out across the no man’s land between us and the town. By the time we skirted the guard-house, it was dark. Man--- this place must leak like a sieve when it comes to keeping unwanted people out.
     The lights from windows barely made an impact on the blackness of the town streets. Curtains were firmly closed and apart form the odd dog barking, the whole place seemed like a locked up tomb. This was not the New Plymouth I knew and loved. It was then that I realized that the ugly area outside town was nothing more than cleared housing and retail businesses, leaving a grey colourless landscape, devoid of life. We had yet to pass any shops.
     Luden led us through streets that were unrecognizable. Every second or third house was in the process of being demolished. Finally we approached what served as a town centre, but even here, the signs of devastation were obvious. Some buildings had all the character of a bomb site. Perhaps that was exactly what they were. Luden knocked cautiously on a door and a moment later a face appeared form an adjoining window. The door opened and a young man in his mid-twenties beckoned us in, looking furtively along the street before he shut the door.
     ‘Haven’t seen you for a few weeks, Luden,’ he said as he ushered us through to the back of the shop. He was not alone. Sitting around a table were two other men, both older than him. They didn’t get up but they made room for us all and dragged a few chairs to the table. One disappeared, muttering something about ‘unexpected guests.’
     ‘Don’t worry about grumpy--- he gets his tits in a tangle at the drop of hat,’ our host said. ‘I’m Ted--- from Pukekohe--- been here since those bastards took over.’
     Luden laughed, not something we had heard too much of. Then he got straight to the point of our visit. Come to think of it, I wasn’t quite sure why we had come either. “How many of our people are locked up at the moment?’ he said.
     Ted stared at the wall. Fat lot of good that was going to do him I thought. ‘It’s not just our people, Luden, the sods have brought in farmers from the outlying regions near the mountain and further afield. From what we can tell there are no other reason than them trying to live away from the town. The Reclaimers want total control, and since we have hit their capabilities real hard lately, they’ve upped the ante.’
     ‘What’s this I’m hearing about screaming coming from the cells? Luden added seriously.
     Ted’s face took on an angry look. ‘It’s true. They’re trying to get information about who it is in town that has been helping the farmers and others trying to make a new life. The harder we hit them, the worse it becomes for anyone captured. We’ve got to get them out of there Luden.’
     Luden nodded and sat quietly observing something in the fire. As the flames flickered slightly in response to a breeze invading the chimney, he seemed to come to a conclusion. ‘Well we didn’t come here for a nice friendly chat around the fire. That can only happen when things change for the better and that means no prisoners and the Reclaimers leaving us alone and sharing this land with us---- that’s the least we can offer.’ Luden was on a roll and I was beginning to get a picture of New Zealand in the future---- now---- whatever. Damn, I just wanted to go home to another uncertain future.
     ‘How many of us can you muster in the next hour or so Ted,’ Luden asked.
     ‘That’s quite easy actually, Luden. We have a meeting planned in about thirty minutes and they all bring their weapons for training purposes. Do you know the old warehouse down by the port---well that’s where we are meeting. I know it’s close to the New Police station headquarters, but that’s why we meet there. We hope that they would never suspect that we would meet right under their bloody noses. All up, I reckon we should have about fifty there tonight.’
     ‘Right then--- we should leave two at a time. Tom, you go with Ted and I’ll follow on behind with grumpy. Better have our food and cuppa first though. We don’t want to piss him off any further. Besides I’m hungry.
     We ate in silence as we watching an old television; one that had been old and past it’s used by date back in ‘my time.’ Ted explained that the Reclaimers had been forced to go back in time and use the old system of broadcasting. Trouble was, the signal only reached as far as the town and a few kilometres beyond. Satellite transmissions were a thing of the past, along with working satellites. The war had well and truly stuffed them up, according to Luden. The so-called news was nothing more than Reclaimers propaganda and New Police ‘public safety notices.’ It was enough to make me want to go to sleep. Luden must have noticed.
     ‘You better not let your brain go to sleep son. One false step and they’ll be onto us. We can never be sure where the remaining sensors are, so be careful eh?’ he said in a slightly softer tone.
     The food grumpy brought back was simply bread and a spicy spread. ‘What’s this---?  It tastes pretty good.’
     ‘I wouldn’t ask if I was you, Luden replied, ‘Although you could say that it is something we introduced when we came.’
      That got me thinking again about some of the references I had heard to the alien thing. ‘Came from where?’ I said a bit snappily. I think I had put Luden on the spot.
     ‘Not from as far away as you would think, Tom. Perhaps it is more like when we are from.’ How about we save this for another time, excuse the pun, but we have more urgent matters to attend to.’  Luden opened the front door and led me out into the dark street. He checked to see if there was anyone about. ‘Right--- no speaking unless you absolutely have to and then, make sure it’s a whisper.’
     We headed for the old disused railway that ran to the port area and stayed in the shadows. At times, the vegetation forced us onto the tracks, adding to the danger of been observed in the open. I recognised some of the old houses we passed as ones I had visited with my Mum a few times. I also remembered staying at a cousins house and playing in the nearby sand hills. I would have been quite happy to carry on reminiscing as we trudged along, but Luden suddenly stopped, bringing me back or was it forward to our present. Damn--- My head was all over the place.
     ‘Be quiet--- there’s someone up ahead. We better watch form here for a while until we know who it is.’ Luden pushed me down into the long Kikuyu grass. It was cold and wet from the heavy due that had settled in the last few hours. ‘I think it’s Ted and Mick, but I want to be sure,’ Luden said as he peered into the gloom. After what felt like an eternity, he stood up and whistled. I thought it was as poor excuse for a call sign.
      An answering reply floated across the distance between us and the others. ‘Right—let’s go,’ Luden ordered and we crept closer to the shadows ahead of us. Mick gave me a nudge as we caught up with them.
     ‘The next few minutes are the most dangerous,’ Luden said as he searched for any sign of activity near the port. ‘I don’t want us to shoot anyone unless we are directly threatened. We don’t want to be knocking off our own guys either.’
     I had this crazy thought about running back to the tree where my sister was hiding and then finding a way back home. Trouble was, I had no idea about how I was going to achieve that, given our manner of our arrival.  What was I to do--- crash another truck and hope? Might as well go with the present, or past. Shit--- my head was a mess, not a pain, just a confused sorry bloody mess.
     I noticed other dark figures, dressed similarly to us, other than the better fit, crouching behind a low wall, shielding them from a large warehouse, almost next to the first wharf. One by one, they snaked across the gap between the wall and a side door, which opened intermittently to allow the men entry. Finally it was Luden and my turn to make a run for it. We arrived, panting and the door closed behind us. At the far end of the sprawling building I could see a gathering of people, all gathered around a large drum, which provided some rudimentary heating. Once they recognised Luden they stopped their quiet chatter and waited for him to speak. He was obviously the boss here.