Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gotchya by your short---well--- texts

If you are in a gang or involved in any sort if criminal activity it seems that the police will have you by your text messages. I feel quite relieved to know that technology can now be used to turn the texts of criminals into evidence.
The gang shooting in Wairoa recently was set up by text messaging between members of the gang. I wonder if the same tactics are also employed to catch some of the ‘fat cats’ who have been ripping us off for many years. 
It really does seem that ‘Big Brother’ is watching and I am not too concerned if the end result is shoving at those who would hurt us one way or another.

Teachers--- when do they get to teach?

I am in a unique position to observe, work alongside and get to know many teachers. I see them at work and in their ‘breaks’. I see them at the end of the week or near the end of the term and wonder how they pick themselves up and deliver to the students day after day, without going into melt-down. I have the utmost respect for them.
Sometimes, the public and the media do not see them in quite the same way. They see them protesting about conditions and salary but they do not see the effort so many teachers put in for their children. We hear about ‘bad or underperforming teachers’ and outcome the performance pay and other sticks with which to beat down or pay teachers less.
I wish that the public could see what I see. I wish that they could see the new pressures teachers are facing. If it is not some ‘new’ programme or reporting system, appraisal, or registration procedures, then it is the increasingly deficit driven behaviours that the students bring with them into our schools.
The teacher then takes on the role of councillor (in spite of being told that this is not their job) or social worker and often the role of surrogate parent. Teachers are in our schools to teach but the nature of society and the lack of preparedness so many students have when they arrive in our schools means that the primary focus of a teacher is blended in to multiple roles.
As a young teacher I knew that I needed to spend time in preparation and marking after school, but over the years many new responsibilities have been added, necessitating numerous after school meetings and ‘call in’ times in the holidays. Only after these demands on teacher times have been satisfied, can the teacher get on and take time to prepare and deliver.
I take my hat off to teachers and wonder how many young ones are going to see that things are not quite what they were led to believe during their training. For a while their youthful zeal and commitment will carry them--- then they will see that there are other opportunities out there that will entice them away.
Take time to get to know your children’s’ teachers and know that they are under increasing pressure--- and don’t be surprised if you see a new face at the parents’ meeting.
Value our incredible teachers.

"TALK TO ME' Chapter 5

 I slept in next morning--- until Spot set up her whining.  Jasmine had done her usual. She walks past the pen where Spot often spends the night and must have scattered the rubbish bag again, leaving some scraps of food tantalizingly close to Spot. Of course that is a bit on the nose for her, as she can’t reach them, hence the hissy fit.
    ‘OK you two---- Knock it off.  Let me shower and have some breakfast. I let Spot out of her pen and go for my shower. By the time I finish and put the kettle on, heat the hotplate, fry the eggs and left-over potatoes, turn the news on; this time the  BBC news and settle down on the couch, I suddenly wonder why Spot is quiet. She’s outside on the deck chewing at something. I hope like hell it’s not a rat. God---- I k now she’s a ratter by nature, but I hate cleaning up the remnants.
    ‘What’s that you’ve got girl?’  She gives me that, aren’t I clever look and continues with her prose. I take a closer look. ‘Who gave you that?’  I said.’  It’s one of those bones you can buy form the pet shops. Harmless, but who gave it to her. I don’t remember the partner saying anything about buying one. I must ask later.
    Spot wasn’t too interested in her usual food after chewing on the bone for half an hour. It felt quite warm, so I thought I would take advantage of the nice morning and take Spot for a walk at the bay. Hopefully the ladies would be there. Saturday mornings were also good because there were often a lot more dogs there. As far as Spot is concerned, the more the better. Her strike rate for finding like-minded nutters goes up exponentially.  Ten minutes later, we pulled in the car-park. There were quite a few cars. I mange dot score the last car park, alongside Marge’s wagon.
    ‘Off you go naughty one.’  Spot launched herself out the front window as soon as the gap permitted. She was off without a backward glance and headed towards the group of walkers accompanying Marge. By the time I had caught up, Spot had managed to run back three times to hurry me along and steal a ball from someone who had been trying to train their puppy to retrieve,  The chances of me rescuing it any time soon were remote, unless something else attracted her attention. It did. Sammy appeared and it was all on. The ball dropped and Spot grabbed the long lead. The two dogs began their duet--- Spot leads and Sammy follows, His two owners, Tania and Janice, watched on, bemused that such a small dog could take over their larger pooch.
    Marge had a strained look on her face. “God--- you look terrible,’ I said. I suppose on reflection that it’s not a great thing to say to a lady in her late fifties.
    ‘And good morning to you too Garry. I hope you slept well too and how’s your day? I hardly got to sleep. Butch kept barking. I would go and check through the curtains, but there was nothing there. I know he barks when a cat walks along the porch, but that’s usually enough to make it go. Maybe it was the wind.’
    ‘That guy rang you again, last night. I was listening. Sometimes I wonder if he’s been watching us for ages. Look at all those cars here now—how do we know he’s not doing it now?’
    ‘The thought has crossed my mind a lot over the last twenty-four hours Marge.’
    Cecelia stopped in her tracks.  ‘You know what? I had this weird feeling that I was followed home last night. After I left the car park here, a white van followed. I didn’t pay any attention at the time but when it turned into my street, I kept on going. I’m not sure what made me do that---- just a feeling. Well---- anyway---- I went through the mall--- sorry I still call it that----and it finally turned away, when I went past the library. I can tell you, by the time I got home; I was a bit of a wreck. I rang my daughter and she came over and told me I was a silly old lady---- the bitch. I’m not so sure now.’
    ‘Look we shouldn’t underestimate what’s happening here,’ Shirley said as Spot and Sammy came flying past, Sammy’s lead in Spot’s mouth. They ran, scything their way towards two other walkers, entrapping them in the lead. A few loud curses later and they were away further down the pathway, just missing a man walking about fifty metres ahead.
    ‘Those two are bloody lethal with that lead,’ Marge said. ‘It’s affecting you too then, Shirley?’
    ‘Of course---- look--- a man died, Marge. That’s damned serious in my books.’
    ‘Killed more like--- we saw those cuts. I can’t get them out of my mind. Victim Support helped, but it keeps coming back to me, especially at night. It doesn’t help when I think about what we are hearing on Garry’s show either. How’s it going for you Garry?’
    ‘It’s not so much during the show, cause it all happens so quickly,’ I replied. ‘It’s later, when I’m alone. Or driving--- I’m getting a bit like you. I keep looking in my rear-view mirror. You’ve heard what he says. Shit--- I wish he’d stop ringing, but the bosses all think it’s great for the ratings---- cynical bastards.’
    ‘Are you on tonight? --- cause if you are, you can expect a lot of calls. There was something about it in the paper. My daughter says it’s even on her Facebook.’
    ‘Yeah Cecelia----  I’m going in early cause I know Jean--- that’s the one who normally gives me grief. She wants to talk to me about it with the manager. God--- she sounded excited. It’s not her who has to talk to the creep, when he rings in--- well not for long anyway.’
    ‘Maybe we should ring you online and rark you up a bit,’ Shirley said.
    ‘There’s enough of that happening without my mates doing that,’ I said, almost angrily.
    ‘Oops--- sorry Garry. You’re right of course. Some of those twits that ring in are enough to get me going, and I’m just listening, not having to respond. I don’t know how you do it really.’
    By now we had wandered about half way around the lagoon.  I was conscious of everyone we passed.  Was he the one, I thought as we manoeuvred our dogs around him. He glared at us. That’s not so unusual--- some people out for a walk get a little intimated by the sight of four or more exuberant dogs crossing their paths. We continued around the lagoon, before returning to the car park. I left them then because I needed to get to the butcher so my partner cold put something in the slow cooker for the next day. Once again I arrived home and the house was empty.
    I checked the mail on the table: Bills, bills and more bills, plus a plain white unaddressed envelope.  While Spot went looking for Jasmine, I opened the envelope.  A handwritten note fluttered to the floor.  It read ‘Be nice to me tonight.’  Well it wasn’t my partner’s writing.  Who would---- Oh no---- surely not? The thought that ‘Todd’ had put it in our letter box had me grabbing for the card Detective Alex had left me. I dialled is number.
   ‘Detective Alex---- No time for niceties. ‘Alex--- it’s Garry. I think that creep has just left me a message.’
    ‘What--- while you were away from the studio--- that’s not unusual.’
    ‘No you got it wrong--- he left it here--- at my house, well in the letterbox.’
    ‘OK--- don’t touch it any more--- I’m coming up--- what’s your address again, I’m not in the office.’
    I gave him directions and put the kettle on. BY the time it had boiled a car pulled up in the drive. Alex came to the door, smiling as if to say--- Aren’t I clever getting here this quick? Once inside he carefully placed the envelope in a sealed plastic bag.
    ‘I doubt there will be any prints on this, but we have to try. The watch should be here soon. This just kicks things up a notch or two. I wonder if any of your friends have received anything like this.’
    ‘No one mentioned anything this morning--- I just left them, down at the park.’
    ‘What--- are you still going down there?  I really think you should give the area a wide berth until we get to grips with this.’ Alex said. He looked far more serious than I seen him so far.
   ‘Look--- Sure I’m a bit creep-out about this, but stuffed if I’m gonna let him get to me that much--- anyway---what about my mates there?’
    ‘I suppose there’s safety in numbers. How about we all meet and nut out a few sensible strategies. From what I’ve seen--- you’re all a pretty down to earth lot and those dogs would be hard to get past if someone tried it on.’
    ‘I’m not sure I would go that far, but you’d be surprised if you know which ones were the [protective dogs.’
    ‘Right Garry--- what time are you heading to the lagoon this afternoon?’
    ‘I’m not--- they will be there on their own--- I’m on the four til midnight shift today and I’m going in a bit early to talk to the boss—actually both of them are there today—they have a meeting.’
    ‘OK--- you’ve got my number Garry--- use it if you need to. I’m going to a meeting too. Your situation is attracting a lot of attention.’
    ‘Oh--- by the way Alex---I prefer dealing with you. Your side-kick is a bit of an arsehole or is it good cop, bad cop bullshit going on?’
   ‘You never know Garry,’ Alex said as he left, but I’m sure I noticed a wink.

'ROSKILL' Chapter 4


   James and Lucy both rose earlier than normal. They sensed that things were not good between their parents. They were unnerved by the rare event of their parent’s serious fight. After a quick breakfast of wheat-bix and toast, they made an excuse that they wanted to take a bus to the zoo, explaining that they could use it as a way of checking out the bus for the trip to school the following week.
   'Just watch out for those little gangsters,' Moana said. Although she still had concerns about the safety of her children, she also realized that she could not watch them twenty-four-seven. For the moment, she needed to concentrate on her husband. By eight thirty James and Lucy had caught the bus into the city, where they hoped to find out how to connect with a service going near the zoo, along Great North Road.
    Moana looked up from her second coffee for the morning as John came in to the kitchen. He looked decidedly bedraggled and guilty. She had thought a great deal about what she was going to say. She was determined not to have a verbal slanging match, but she wanted to be sure that last night was a one-off. Even she could forgive him for a single lapse.
   'John-----what were you on last night?' she began. 'I know damn well it wasn’t alcohol. What sort of example is that to your teenage children?'
   'There’s nothing to worry about, hun,' John said unconvincingly.
   'Well, I think there is. Is that the way your new employers and workmates are going to be-----me waiting at home, wondering what state you will return in each night. Once I start work next week, I need to know that our family are all doing their bit---that includes you,' Moana said, surprisingly calm.
   'Actually-----it wasn’t my workmates I was with. I finished that after lunch. I met by chance with some old university mates who live up here now.'
   Moana kept her thoughts to herself. What university mates? He had never mentioned them in the past. Although far from satisfied with his explanation, she decided to drop it----for now.  But there would be many more questions if anything like last night happened again.
   'OK dear------but please let’s not have it happen again.  God knows------I’m not perfect,' she said, thinking of her farewell party at her old workplace.
   John sat down and reached for some toast that Moana had made earlier. He didn’t complain that it was cold or that marmalade wasn’t exactly his favourite spread.
They were silent for a few moments, before they heard someone knocking on the back door. Officer Alex came in when they called out.
   'I was just passing and thought I’d drop in,' he said, eyeing the toast.
   'Sit down Alex and I’ll make you a nice coffee with our new machine. I’ve wanted to try it out, but things have been a bit chaotic around here,' she added, glancing accusingly at her husband. 
   'Yes-----I heard about your encounter with those thugs again, at the mall. We haven’t managed to find them as yet,' Alex replied, unaware of the underlying tension in the kitchen. 'Where are the kids anyway?'
   'They’ve gone off to the zoo together and will check out the bus for school too while they're at it. It’s nice to see them almost getting on for a change,' Moana added.
   'I’ve been invited to a Neighbourhood Watch meeting tomorrow night at Kathleen’s next door, so make sure you’re there too,' Alex said between mouthfuls of toast and marmalade.
   'Yes---I like Kathleen,' Moana replied. 'She seems to know what’s going on around here too.'
   'What’s going to happen to those kids who attacked James in the mall?' John asked, pleased that he was no longer the centre of attention.
   'I wish I could say something to allay your fears a bit, but unfortunately Youth Justice takes ages to act and even then the result is rarely what the victims would like. If they go ahead and have a conference, would you be willing to face those guys?' Alex asked.
   'Why the hell should we, Alex?' John responded. 'It’s not us who made this problem---stuff them!'
   'So you know who these guys are and where they live?' Moana interrupted in an attempt to divert her husband’s anger.
   'Well-----yes we do, but so far they’ve eluded our attempts to find them and you can be sure their parents or guardians aren’t exactly helpful,' Alex said.
His answer did nothing to calm John.
   'The parents are a bloody waste of space. It’s a damn pity you can’t charge them for what their kids do,' John said before walking out the back door. He sat in the back yard and lit up a smoke, much to Moana’s annoyance.
   'He looks a bit under the weather,' Alex observed.
   'You can say that again,' Moana said, almost letting him know her true thoughts about her husband.
   'I better go then,' Alex said. 'See you tomorrow night at Kathleen’s.
   John came back in few minutes later. He seemed to have calmed down.
   'It'll be interesting what we find out tomorrow night but I suspect there’s not much we can do. I bet the parents of those kids don’t come,' John said.
   'Are you going into work today, dear?'
   'No need to. Maybe we can go out for lunch?' John suggested. 'Once you start work, there’ll be less chance for that.'
   At the zoo, James and Lucy watched as the lions were being fed.
   'I wish those wannabe gangsters were in the cage with them,' Lucy said as she watched the lions devouring the meat.
They had spent the morning wandering around the zoo and as the temperature rose they sought out some shade to eat their hot chips, purchased from the nearby food outlet. 
   'Hey let’s go for a wander around the school, yeah?' James suggested. 'It's just over the road and it looked like it was open when we got off the bus.'
   'Sure------why not,' Lucy replied.
   When they approached the gate one of the staff was getting out of his car.
   'Hi Sir,' James said in a friendly manner. 'We are starting here next week. Is it OK if we have a bit of a look round?'
The teacher smiled and told them that there would be a tour of the school in the few minutes for some of the new students who would be starting and asked them if they would like to join. When they agreed, he took them to an area where about ten other new students were gathered.
   'It’s cool not having to wear a uniform,' James said as he noticed the array of dress style worn by the others.
   'Yeah Mum said that we can go shopping tomorrow at Farmers for a few more bits and pieces cause there’s a sale on there,' Lucy said. 'Mmmm------but looking at what this lot are wearing---makes me wonder. They certainly ain’t wearing The Warehouse clothing.'
   'Hell---I reckon it looks more like op shop stuff,' James said laughing.
'Shush--- don’t make life hard for us before we even start,' Lucy whispered.
   'Welcome everyone. My name is Mr Kent. I’m the Year Eleven Dean. I’m going to give you a tour and be available to answer any questions.
Over the next hour, the group were shown around the school along with the Performing Arts Centre on the school grounds. They met some of the teachers and the principal who were preparing for the school year.
   By the end of the tour, James and Lucy knew several of the other new students. They exchanged cell phone numbers and by the time they were half way home, text messages were flowing between the new friends. They were so engrossed in texting that they overshot their bus stop by two stops.
   'Oh hell,’-----James said to his sister. 'Look we are almost at those other shops on Dominion Road Extension.'
They got off the bus and started to walk towards the motorway near the mountain.
   'Hey----let’s walk up there and have a look at the view.' Lucy said as they passed the entrance to the reserve.
   'You sure you’re up to it?' James teased. 'It looks pretty high to me and your short legs may not manage it.'
   'Since when you been Mr Fitness, you faggot,' Lucy shot back.
   'Who’re you calling faggot, you little twat?' James yelled as he rushed past Lucy and headed for the top of Mt Roskill.
   James reached the top and waited for his sister, ready with another string of insults. After five minutes, he began to wonder why she had taken so long.
   'God-----she’s not that slow, surely', he muttered. He waited another five minutes before deciding that she had given up and made her own way home.
   The sound of a distant scream jolted him back to his senses. He had heard that high pitched, annoying scream on many occasions. It belonged to his sister. James ran from the summit, almost tumbling over himself in his panic. He knew that Lucy would never scream unless there was something seriously wrong; not in public at least. Lucy screamed again.
   'Leave me alone you bloody creeps!  My brother is coming!'
James finally sighted his sister. She was backing away from three hooded boys as they advanced towards her. He knew who they were in an instant.
   'Oh boy----here we go again!' James yelled, as he rushed at the first of the boys. The impact knocked the boy to the ground and before he could get up, James administered a quick kick to the boy’s stomach, causing him to curl up in a ball, the wind taken out of him for a while. The fight went out of the boy and he lay still, hoping that James had finished, or his friends would come to his assistance.
   James turned his attentions to the other two boys.
   'You cowards never learn do ya!' he shouted angrily. 'You seem to like picking on girls, don’t you!'
One of the boys pulled out a knife and began to circle James, while the other one tried to get in a position to threaten him from behind.
   'No, you don’t, you bastard!' Lucy yelled. She picked up a rock left over from the construction gang that was working on the cycle path in the distance.
She took ain and hurled it at the boy, connecting with his shoulder. The boy turned on her, ready to attack. He didn’t get the chance as Lucy let fly with another rock. This time the rock hit the boy on his hand, eliciting a pained yell.
   James had his own problem, as his assailant thrust the knife towards him in an attempt to slash and cut. He ducked again as the knife wielder came at him front-on, this time succeeding in slashing James’s upper arm. He felt a burning sensation as the knife cut, followed by a wet feeling as the blood flowed freely down his arm.
  'This guy means business, James thought, as the boy came at him again. He could see his sister in his periphery vision as she maintained her attack on her tormentor. He renewed his efforts to avoid the knife and looked for some sort of weapon to defend himself.
   The men working on the stone walls alongside the cycleway had watched the initial assault by the boys on Lucy and the subsequent attempt by James to intervene. The dropped their tools and headed towards the battle.
   When the two boys noticed the three workmen, they turned and ran, leaving their injured friend lying on the ground. He tried to rise but once he realized that escape was not possible he stayed on the ground, moaning about being attacked by a crazy guy.
   'You just stay there, kid------we saw what you and your mates tried to do,' one of the workmen said.  'Joe-----call the cops on that new phone of yours and make yourself useful for a change.'
   'Hey, are you hurt boy?' Joe asked as he took out his cell phone. He looked stupidly at his phone then appealed to his mates for help.
   'Actually I’ve never use it yet-----stuffed if I know how this one works. It’s not like my old one.'
   Lucy came to his rescue.
   'Let me see, sir------yes it’s a Nokia, just like mine---- see?' she said, proudly showing hers.   'Just unlock it like this and push 111.'
   'Let me see that cut of yours, boy,' the older workman said kindly. 'I don’t think it’s anything serious, but who knows how dirty that knife the creep had was.'
   'What about him then?' James said, pointing to the boy on the ground. 'I think I may have hurt him when I was trying to rescue my sister from those shits.'
   'Perhaps he has learnt the hard way not to bother you in future then eh?  Maybe we don’t need the cops. I know the family of one of those who ran away. He looks suspiciously like one of my nephews. It’s hard to tell when they wear that hoody crap thing.'
   'Don’t ring the cops, uncle,' the boy on the ground pleaded.
   'So it’s you. I think you better start talking, fast, or you’re gonna feel first mine then your Dad’s boot up your arse,' Joe threatened.
'It’s not my fault. He made me do it,' the boy said. 'He’s run away from home since the other night when he broke that window of these stuck-up fullas and tried to stab him in the mall.'
   'That’s no stuck-up fulla that was fighting off your brother then is it? Looks like you three met your match and now you got yourselves in deep shit.'
   'Come on boys,' Joe said to his workmates. 'Let’s call it a day, eh and take this lot home. We can fix up this young fulla’s cut and do some serious talking to the other guy’s Dad-----my brother.'
   Joe invited James and Lucy to sit in the front of the Ute with him, while the other two workmen sat in the back with the nephew, who had recovered from his encounter with James. Joe drove the short distance to his brother’s house near Mt Roskill Grammar. When they arrived, they found Joe’s sister in-law working in the front garden. She waved, until she saw the look on her son’s face.
   'Hi Joe------what the hell has he been doing now? He hasn’t been home for two days and as for that useless brother----if his father gets hold of him------we just don’t know what to do.'
   'Hi ya, Janine. Sione here has been up to mischief. Luckily I was around so I brought him home. His brother wounded this guy here,' he said pointing to James.
   ‘Come in---let’s have a look eh?’ Janine said, ushering the group into the large kitchen and family room.
   'Mmmm----just a fairly shallow cut. I’ll soon have that cleaned up,' Janine said as she cleaned the wound and applied some Detol.
She then turned her attention to her son.
   'What have you got to say for yourself? Isn’t it bad enough that Corey and that damned mate of his are always in trouble? The bloody cops were here twice in the last twenty four hours looking for him. I reckon they probably want a chat with you too,' Janine said, barely holding off from hitting her son.
   'I better take my workmates back to their homes now, Janine,' Joe said. 'You stay home now---- you hear?’ he added for Sione’s benefit.
   'Wait, ------not before Sione has something to say to these two----hey, I don’t even know your names,' Janine said.
   'I’m James Campton and this is my sister, Lucy.
   'Well, ------what have you got to say, Sione?'
   'I’m sorry James. I didn’t want to do any of those things. Them two made me go with them,' Sione said in a quiet voice.
   'If I see you on the streets again causing trouble, you’re gonna feel this boot up ya arse. Is that clear enough?' Joe said as he prepared to leave.
   'Before you go, James and Lucy, how about you bring your Mum and Dad here tomorrow night for a feed, eh? 'I’d like to make amends, a bit, for your trouble,' Janine said.
James looked at his sister, who nodded her agreement.
   'OK Mrs-------oops I don’t know your name,' James said slightly embarrassed.
'It's Mrs Finau----here’s my number and address, so you can get your Mum to ring.'
   On the way back to James and Lucy’s house Joe told them how he was worried about his two nephews.
   'I’m afraid the older nephew has it coming to him because he’s over seventeen, but it’s not too late for Sione. Maybe you can be friends and keep each other out of trouble eh?'
   'I dunno----I guess he seems nice enough when he's not acting tough and it might stop all that crap happening with his brother too,' James said hopefully.
     When they arrived at James and Lucy's house, the front door was open, but the car wasn’t in the drive.
   'Maybe I better come and meet your parents, cause they’ll be worried about your cut and being late,' Joe suggested.
   'Thanks, sir,' Lucy said.
   'How about you call me Joe eh?'
   'Dad will shoot me if I do that, sir,' James said seriously.  His Dad was a stickler for manners.
   'OK then. Let’s go in and talk to your parents then.
    Before they reached the front steps, Moana came out with a worried look on her face.
   'Where have you been, then?' Moana asked anxiously, casting a look in Joes’ direction. 'I hope you haven’t been creating trouble, James.'
   'They have done nothing wrong, Mrs Campton. They’re the victims here,' Joe said, much to James’s relief.
   After Moana had heard of the afternoon’s events, she was less anxious and once informed about the invitation from Janine, she asked Joe in for a cup of tea.
   'I hope that husband of mine gets home soon. He should have been back an hour ago. My scones should be ready now so we may as well scoff them.’