06 June 2018

Frugality 3

Yet a few more contributions on frugality from friends. As before I've cut out names to give the comments anonymity. And each contribution is a different colour - keep them coming - we will end up with a book!

Couple of memories of being ‘frugal or needs must’….G’s mum bought second hand jerseys, my mum too, and unravelled and washed the wool and re-knit one for their children.

We ate a lot of rice meals and if there was some rice left over, it was spread out on a tray and put outside in the sun, then baked in the oven. Sprinkle some salt on and was a tasty treat. My parents were in concentration camps for 3 and a half years so food was never wasted and we had to eat everything on our plate before we left the table. An orange was a luxury as was an egg ! Bought warm coats from ‘Op shop’ and made coats for the kids.

G’s mum was a twin and one of 11 in a 3 bedroom house on the farm. She slept all her life, until she was married, on the verandah with her twin. In winter they put down a canvas blind and in summer there was a creeper on the verandah which provided a bit of shade. At one time there were 3 in the bed. Didn’t feel deprived as there were many in the same boat.

Also made soap for many years.

I read your latest blog. I'm slightly older than Barry - I was 80 last year - and can remember some things from 1939, including clearly my father's enlistment in August 1940. He had Huguenot French ancestors and (my mother later said) was disgusted by the 'Fall of France' in June, so the Aussies (and Kiwis and Canadians) set off to stiffen the opposition to the Nazis.

   The thing about adversity (including economic stricture and consequent frugality) is that if everyone is in the same boat, nobody minds much. Being 'middle class' (in economic terms) is comfortable - we were all in it together. I've long held that you only need enough (money) - too little or too much makes you unhappy.

   Both my parents worked in banks (rival banks) during the Great Depression and both stressed on us the dangers of debt. Dad used to say "Don't let the wool firms get their hooks into you; don't let them get a lien over your livestock. Neither of my parents would borrow money, hence in 1948 when everyone was buying new Holdens, they bought a 1937 Plymouth.

   During the war, I remember stick-on soles for shoes and toe- and heel clips. Later I had hand-me-down uniforms for boarding school. We lived in a town from  1945 until 1950 and In 1947 my brother (older) got a paper round.  Father said he would pay half if my brother paid off the other half from his earnings, which he did. The newsagent was also the bike shop. I never had a new bike until my current family gave me one so I could ride with my teenage children. 
Comment from BarryS - I never had a new bike until I was 80 and purchased it myself so that I could keep up with a great-gandmother in my bike group.

I enjoyed reading about your experiences. D also had me turning collars and resewing sheets. I admit I no longer do either.

What your blog does remind me off is the housing shortage in Sydney after the war. Mum and Dad had a flat in Bondi Junction when I was born. The landlady did not like babies and, when I was about six weeks old, she relet the flat when Mum was out shopping. She put our belongings on the landing. Mum spent the day in the park waiting for Dad to come home from work. She had the cat in a string bag. We did not find a home for about a year. Instead we did what today they call surfcouching. At one friend’s home, I slept in a bottom drawer placed on the floor. Finally, a friend of Dad’s family rented them a sub

Comment from BarryS - I had a friend during my late teens. He and his wife were struggling financially and had their first baby sleeping in the bottom drawer - the family joke was that when the baby cried they shut the drawer!

Enjoy your blogs immensely and yes I too have a frugality story. My Grandfather was an engineer at the Manawatu Knitting Mills and maybe that is where I got my inventiveness. I still miss him and would love to have a chat now that I have been through life.

But during the depression as a Xmas gift my Grandfather received from his work a roll of navy coloured cloth. With this my Grandmother was able to sew an entire outfit for each of their 5 children at the time. Same pattern with variations for gender and of course to fit the 3 to 16 year olds.

Needless to say that clothing myself and siblings was always done by Mum to make us different. Mum (smallest) hated those ‘same same’ clothes.

This would have been taken about 1929 at a guess. Sadly now all gone – and all but one of the next five too.

I get the impression that some of the frugal habits of our forebears are still alive and well today. And I also wonder if the children of today could benefit from reading this series of blogs on making do. bls

13 May 2018

Music Critic Comments on Nudity at the Chamber Music Concert - a Vignette from the 80s


It was not often that we sat in the first few rows at the Founders Theatre in Hamilton, NZ.. That night back in the late 1980s a visiting Trio from the South Island was playing, three males, two young and the leader not so young, playing, and it seemed right to sit closer and our friends thought so too. So we all stretched out along a row about five back from the front.

The first item after the intermission was a melodious Schubert trio; we sat relaxed and in wonder. Until, for me that is, the leader turned a page of his music score during the second movement. Positioned slightly to the left of the leader it was possible to see the face of his score. I started slightly as he turned the page. A nude! Was I seeing correctly?

When the concert and the applause concluded at the end of the evening I leaned across towards Pat, a friend a couple of seats to my right. Had he seen the page in question? No, he hadn’t and what was it I was talking about. I told him. He snorted his derision. Had I been asleep dreaming or was I just obsessed with sex? This was all said within hearing of the surrounding people who were, by now, filing out of the concert. This was getting awkward and repeating my assertion was only going to make it worse. Catherine was looking daggers. Did I have to be embarrassing her too?

Just then I noticed the local music critic, Geoff Fairburn, making his way forward to the stage where the music stands still stood. “Come on,” I asserted, “Geoff Fairburn is going to look at the music.” There was no turning back now. Maybe I had been dreaming. What if I was to be proved wrong?

Geoff was a tall man and needed a walking stick to get about. He leaned across the orchestra pit and, with his walking stick, hooked the violinist's music stand towards the edge of the stage where he could reach the music scores. He turned to me. Was I interested in a particular score? What the hell was it? I made a stab for Schubert and he passed it to me. By now I was surrounded by several of my friends and others who similarly were interested. Like a well-thumbed bodice ripper the score fell open on the page in question. One side of the page had stuck to it a very alluring and full-frontal nude from some magazine. A schoolgirl in the surrounding group shrieked and I snapped it shut and passed it to Geoff to replace on the stand. By now, of course, he was examining the Beethoven score.

We all dispersed. Pat was in the crowd and I made sure that he knew that I hadn’t been dreaming. We discussed the purposes of these supplements to the musical score over coffee and headed to our respective homes and dreams.

A day or two later, Geoff reviewed the concert in the Waikato Times. I paraphrase him. It had been a good concert he maintained; good programme too. The high spot, he said, had been the sweet little bit in the second movement of the Schubert. Only in Hamilton.

05 April 2018

Easter Resurrection for Ancient Kayaker - Waikato River

On and off, we'd been discussing this project - kayaking from Hamilton to Port Waikato a journey down the Waikato River of some 110 kilometres. So this Easter two of my sons and I decided that it was all on. Dad's cunning plan was to use his downriver racer a fast but unstable kayak that he hadn't been in for about five years. It was a way of being able to keep up with the young ones - something that amused them, now in their fifties. I even tried to get used to balancing the craft a few times before Easter. The day before we started David and I located his car and my trailer at the mouth of the river in optimistic anticipation of getting that far!

From left David, Grandad and Warren readying to leave Hamilton (Photo: CatherineS)

Heading Off Downstream on the Waikato River (Photo: CatherineS)

On the morning of Good Friday we set off. Progress was good and within a few hours we were past Huntly having averaged about 8.5 kph and a maximum of over 12 kph on the faster parts of the river. I thought I was going well until I asked David if I could raft up beside him for a bite to eat and a rest - the signs were starting to show. But when we separated I wasn't a paddle width away from him when I turned upside down. Warren picked up my floating gear while David towed me and my kayak to shore - at least I'd done the kayaker thing and retained my paddle! Away we went again but somewhere just beyond Meremere I upended again. This time the rescue and landing was more difficult - willows everywhere. However we managed and afterwards David had a look into the Whangamarino wetland entrance while Warren and I made it to Mercer where we were well looked after in the local hotel/motel. They even made us a very welcome cuppa tea. And the woman there was soooo impressed when I told her I was ninety five. I did fess up to my real four score years but admitted that I was feeling more like ninety five that evening.

Next morning we set off again at about 0830 with me a bit nervously probing the water downstream. Progress was a little slower as the river was now slowing a bit.  Later we explored some of the delta islands and were fascinated by the array of structures that comprised whitebait stands, duck shooting maimai and residences - a hundred or more would not be an exaggeration. Some of the many channels were a bit narrow and some contained faster water as the tide was running out.  A combination of wind against tide made for some (smallish) waves. It was here that grandads problems began.The problem was that we had to cross several channels of the river and the waves and current had me doing more slap-support paddling than progressive paddling.

I managed to tip upside down five more times. So my cunning plan of the fast kayak failed me (or I failed it) but after the several rescues of grandad and his gear we eventually we made it across to the true left of the river and down to Port Waikato - and from there to home and the anxious Catherine who seemed pleased to see us safely home. I was pleased to have finished the job - not without some embarrassment though. The weather for the whole trip could not have been better. I couldn't blame the conditions for my tipping problems at all, just the loss of skill over the years. And the guys reckoned that I didn't have enough for breakfast either. It was a great expedition and great company. We saw lots of wildlife including many very large carp - fortunately none of them big enough to be man-eaters! The big tuna knew better than to try.

12 March 2018

Reunion of Octogenarian Mountaineers in the Southern Alps - Torlesse / Arthur's Pass / Waimakariri

After Dave died we decided to have a memorial get together in some of the old haunts. I arrived in Christchurch on the afternoon of the 1st March to be met by Jim Wilson in Babs and taken out to Monks Spur where Ann (known as Madame Marmalade) fed us and we mourned the earthquaked wreck of Shag Rock at the mouth of the estuary below, now known as the 'Shag Pile' - and watched the flocks of godwits below doing circuits of the estuary in preparation for their epic flight north.

Next morning we caught up with Mike White at Darfield where I sussed out the Selwyn Gallery for a possible exhibition next year - get in line with the rest seemed to be the advice. Mealtime was at Darfield too, although we had difficulty finding the right place for our desired fried wedges after standing in a queue for too long in the wrong shop.

We picked up the key to the Kowai River paddock gate from the Brookfield Station owner but soon found ourselves floundering in a ford just through the gate. After an hour of wheel spinning, pushing shoving and pulling in the cold calf deep water, then levering and probing with logs and branches, Mike finally found a length of sash cord and managed to make the difference to our efforts and get Babs out with a backwards tow - even if we did manage to snap the rope. A researcher from Canterbury University even waded in to help. Along the way to the Hayward Memorial hut we collected a bag of mushrooms and feasted on these at dinner, accompanied by a bottle of Torlesse Pinot Noir.

Torlesse wine - of course

The plan the next day was to traverse Red Peak, Back Peak and descend via Mt Torlesse. All went well until we had penetrated the scrub and reached the upper limits of the vegetation and our drive. Here we decided that to proceed (at our age - all 80+s) would be to risk another night out - we'd had enough of these over our years! And so we descended to the hut where we had a comfortable night again. We were unanimous in blaming the difficult route, the impenetrable scrub and ferocious bluffs for our defeat. Nothing to do with our age of course.
Mike , Jim and BLS

Red Peak (over the hut) from the Loo - we can say we climbed the Pyramid

On the way down valley the next morning we stopped for the obligatory riverstone hearth boiling of the billy and managed it without any disputes about whose fire it was. Once again we collected a generous bag of mushrooms for Jim and I at the Pass. At the notorious car-engulfing stream Mike departed for home to resume care of his visiting English relatives. Jim and I felt for him and the complexities of his life! At the Rough Creek Shambles (RCS) hut we partook of a hot outdoor bath and the local robin came inside and hopped about looking for a feed, even pecking at my feet as I was eating!

The Boiling of the Billy

Once again
on riverstone hearth
flood whitened
finger bones of trees
feed hot flames
about my black-skinned billy
rolling to a boil
in the smoke-blue air
of an empty valley.


The Traditional Brew - Jim and Mike

The morning of the 5th March had dubious weather but we managed to get over very foggy Arthur's Pass and down to Aitkens where it started to rain heavily. The mist and the fact that neither of us had been to Pfiefer Bivi before, made us choose to go back to the Canterbury side. Lets try the Crow Hut we thought. The mushrooms at Klondyke Corner were spectacular. Among the beech forest we counted groups of 50 and 60 Amanita muscaria. Valuing our lives we didn't collect any for eating. However we continued up the Waimak towards the Crow River. Along the way Jim wondered if he'd picked up any matches at the hut, the RCS. Don't worry I suggested - I had my emergency kit and it had a good supply of matches.

We spied the comfy little Anti-Crow Hut across the river and thought it might make a better place to stop - less likelihood of tourists too. So we crossed the Waimak to the hut where we decided that a brew was in order. Yes Jim hadn't brought any matches and yes I'd brought mine, but none of them would work. Terrible! No brew and, more importantly, no way to cook our food. And no tourist trampers to cadge a match from. So we packed up and headed back down the two hours to Klondyke. And so back to the RCS for another night of good food and after dinner goodies stretched out before the warm fireplace.

Mr Robin - inside

Amanita muscaria - a small group!

Jim and Ann's secret brewing spot

Toxicologist's Dream


More Fungi

And Yet More Fungi

Tuesday was our day for returning so after a poetry reading to recollect the 'good old days' we tidied up RCS and departed eastwards. At the Waimak bridge we walked upstream on O'Malley's Track to a special fireplace established by Jim and Ann for yet another brew. This was not so easy. Along the way there were hundreds more mushrooms - some of the magical variety and many others besides - most of which required the special attention of my camera.

Finally we called on Mike and Lyn at Mandeville where we re-lived the events of the past six days and Mike gifted us some of his harvested honey. Then on to Monk's Spur and the next day to my cancelled flight (lightning strike) back to Hamilton. Good old AirNZ managed to get me home to Catherine (Princess Plum) less than a couple of hours late.

14 January 2018

David Julian Elphick 1935-2018 - Recollections

Very early in 2018 an old climbing mate, Dave Elphick, from over 60 years ago, died in UK. His death set me musing about our past. I've cut and pasted it here as a tribute to him.

"Where to begin with you, Dave?  I've thought a bit about it and think it best to just start at the beginning.

After Pat Barcham mentioned that you, Jim Wilson and Mike White were looking for a climber to make a four – "Quartet" – you and I decided to do a familiarization trip together. The plan was to climb Rolleston and descend the Jellicoe Ridge as far as we could towards the Waimakariri River. We didn't quite make it to Mt Stewart (only Guinevere) and only just made our way down the bluffs into the lower Crow. In the dark we stumbled down the lower Waimak to Klondyke Corner and up to the Pass. It was a hell of a long day.

But we'd started before that. On the way to Arthurs Pass, at Springfield, while we waited for the train engine to shunt things about we went for a run – in our mountaineering boots. We both knew how to run and some 20 minutes later had the measure of each other. Back to the climb. 

Long Whisper
(for David Elphick)

We traverse the skyline
plunge down the last ridge

now cloud from the west
shuts down the stars

water from the last crossing
warms in our boots

brings a niggle of river gravel
even talk chafes at the edges

and the gravity of a long day
drags heavy on shutters of vision

we stumble moonless down valley
bump shoulders  again and again

feel the long whisper of water
the comfort of mountain talk.

Soon we were planning our first big trip into the Southern Alps. Preparing the gear and food we enthusiastically gave ourselves nicknames – after our heroes. There was Andre (.. Roche the French climber) – you, Dave; Jim was Willy after the German Himalayan climber, Willy Merkl; Mike became Heinrich after Heinrich Harrer – the Eiger climber; and I ended up as Herr Schmid after the Schmid brothers. The names have stuck for over sixty years!

Dave on Red Lion Traverse

Dave on Summit of Red Lion Peak

Our first long trip was into the Arrowsmiths and the Rakaia. There were many climbs but one with you stands out. You and I decided to climb Red Lion but, because of the big schrund below Red Lion Col decided to traverse to the col from Full Moon Saddle (ah, those place names) – we climbed both Red Lion peaks but the big memory is of that traverse – one of the steepest I remember – cutting steps all the way – even with crampons – and worst of all the flying rocks – the ones we heard and never saw. And then on the return was the schrund below Red Lion Col – we definitely didn't want to go back across the face beneath Pascoe's 'piece de resistance'. So we jumped the schrund! You went first and I followed onto the lower lip. It was quite a drop and you managed to get a chip of ice in the eye. I bandage you up and you managed to do the next few days – and eventually down the Evans Glacier with one eye – not easy.

Dave on the Crux of Hicks

Dave sussing the Crux on Hicks

Next year our big effort was up the La Perouse Glacier behind Mt Cook. We had some wonderful climbs there but the one that stands out for me was our first ascent of the North Face of Hicks (or David's Dome as it was called). You led the crux of the climb and, sharing the lead, we struggled on (in good weather) reaching the top in time to see the lights of the Hermitage down below in the evening gloom. All night we shivered side by side in the cold as a storm developed, and struck at dawn. It amazed me that we managed to get down. For days all of us had cursed your long length of rappelling line and then at the crux of the descent amid hail and wind you pulled it out of your pack and saved our lives. We just made it back to the snow cave before we expired! Our journey back over the main divide to the Hermitage and the waitress from Bondi Beach was an epic in itself.

Our next season was ambitious – we planned to pack our gear over Teichelmann and climb everything in the Balfour! It was not to be. We were chased out of the Linda by a frightening ice avalanche and then the weather closed in. Just as it was clearing many days later we were summoned to help rescue another climber from the bottom of a crevasse. You and I were lowered into it and there, on the bedrock of the glacier, you splinted his broken femur. It all ended well and you were mentioned in dispatches for the amazing job you'd done. We had even greater ambitions for the following year – everything was directed towards one climb – a traverse of Tasman to Cook. It was not to be – having traversed Lendenfeldt we were turned back by the huge schrund on the north shoulder of Tasman. There were other climbs Dave. We had a great climb with Jim and Ivan, climbing Aspiring in a two-day weekend from Christchurch – one of those crazy things we set ourselves.

Dave at Chancellor Hut

Terry and Dave in Christchurch - This Time Dave Was Stonkered
You really get to know people when you live with them. I got to know you in huts, in tents, shivering together on mountain-tops and glacial moraines – to say nothing of the ice faces, gorges, dry riverbeds and aspiring ridges. You were a great companion during all those formative times – organized - prepared - disciplined – safe – energetic – thorough – generous and always seeking and striving. I often thought it was your thoroughness and intensity that held you back in some ways – probably from a good career in medicine.  But these characteristics served you well in your distinguished career in male psychiatric nursing. Like the other members of our 'Quartet' I loved you like a brother – and then suddenly you had to leave your three brothers - and your sisters of course.  Great journey, Dave."

17 December 2017

Visitor Heroes from the Past - Geoffrey Winthrop Young - Raymond Priestley - Heinrich Harrer

I have some very good memories of the mid to late-50s in Christchurch when, as a keen budding climber, I was a regular attendee at the meetings of the CMC (Canterbury Mountaineering Club) and a little later, the NZAC (New Zealand Alpine Club). These years were soon after WW2 and the club leaders were very aware of the times lost to those dreadful years of war. They seized on any visiting notables to talk to the membership. I'm not sure if this sort of activity still exists today but it certainly made an impression on me - meeting people of fame or with links to our heroes of the past - I believe that heroes are mistakenly underrated these days. There were others too but here are some memories of three fleeting visitors from those formative days.


Raymond Priestley

Raymond Priestley in Antarctica 1912

I have quite good memories of somewhat frantic activity among CMC elders. They heard that Raymond Priestley was coming to Christchurch as a guest of the American Deep Freeze Operation for a visit to Antarctica soon after they set up their base at McMurdo. He must have been about 70 at the time and had been the VC of both Melbourne and Birmingham Universities. I didn't know who he was but I was advised that here was a chance to make contact with the past. Priestley had been a member (one of the last surviving members) of Scotts last expedition south. He was introduced and without any notes or slides he just stood and gave a wonderful talk.

He wasn't part of the bid for the South Pole but part of what was called the six-man "Northern Party". They had explored the area about Cape Adare and areas south of there towards Scott Base. The "Terra Nova" had failed to pick them up at a place called "Inexpressible Island"because of pack ice. They were marooned there for the winter with limited supplies and managed to survive by eating seals and penguins they had slaughtered near their snow cave. As a treat every so often they would eat the brains of a slaughtered seal - yum yum. They survived a very bleak winter and rescued themselves in the spring, travelling over the sea ice to Scott's hut where they discovered that Scott and his companions had failed to return the previous autumn.

Prior to Scotts departure for the Pole, Priestley had traveled eastwards along the Ross Ice Shelf in the Terra Nova and, at the Bay of Whales, had discovered Amundsen preparing for his successful journey to the South Pole. Before going North to Cape Adare they returned to tell Scott of Amundsen's presence. I was enthralled and riveted listening to his story.

Notice at Cave Site on Inexpressible Island

Over one hundred years later - one of Priestley's dinner remains

In 2009, with Catherine, I was lucky to revisit Antarctica and, as part of this, we visited Inexpressible Island - there on the rocks next to where the Northern Party had survived their long winter we found the skulls of seals with their skull caps opened - the remains of several of Priestley's treats! They had been there for for over 100 years.


Heinrich Harrer

Heinrich Harrer and Friend

Heinrich Harrer was an Austrian mountaineer, famous for having been part of the first 1938 successful Austro-German first ascent of the the North Face of the Eiger - the last of the unclimbed north (cold) faces in the European Alps. Two parties of two, one German and one Austrian, met on the lower face and decided to join forces for the ascent, one of mountaineerings great feats. For this he was honoured and photographed with Adolf Hitler.

Later, during WW2, he escaped from a POW internment camp and travelled to Tibet where he became close adviser and confidant of the Dalai Lama - all recounted in his well known book 'Seven Years in Tibet'.

He came and spoke to the NZAC, mainly about the Eiger climb and I still vividly recall hearing him describe in his 'Germanic' accent how, on the Eiger, after doing the "... Hinterstoiser Traverse, I braced myself against a rock overhang while Heckmier, my climbing partner climbed onto my shoulders in his crampons to overcome the obstacle and continue our climb." I'm not so sure what the NZ climbing fraternity thought of this sort of self-sacrifice.

One of our leading climbers, Norman Hardie, introduced me to him after the talk - my main and embarrassing recollection was of being of so overcome as to be almost speechless.


Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Geoffrey Winthrop Young

Another interesting climber was the very proper Englishman, Geoffrey Winthrop Young who also visited NZ and talked at the NZAC in the mid 1950s. He was a conscientious objector during WW1 and lost a leg while serving in a field ambulance. He designed a prosthetic leg (or rather several, to cope with different mountain terrains) and ten years later climbed the Matterhorn - earlier he had done many remarkable climbs in the European Alps. He wrote what was regarded as 'the' textbook on climbing - 'Mountain Craft'. It even detailed the correct etiquette for overtaking another person on a mountain path. My main recollection was of his very dapper green silk cravat!

I came across him in a book I was reading recently, "Into the Silence", where I discovered he was involved in the early planning for the 1922 and 1924 Everest expeditions and was a mentor and climbing friend of Mallory - also his best man and godfather to one of his children. He had a great reputation as a speaker.


I mention these occasional 'heroes' because of the great inspiration they provided and the equally great memories they still provide in the written word. I am certain that exposure to people such as these can do nothing but good. Most kids these days seem to have have famous sports people to look up to. And I wonder if these heroes realise how important is their behaviour and demeanour and how influential it can be to so many of the younger generation. And biographies and autobiographies can be so important. And so too is the ability to read!

14 November 2017

A Child's Grace - Bruce Mason

Granddad and Hannah

I once came across a poem by Bruce Mason, one of New Zealand's well known playwrights. He wrote, among many other plays, "The End of the Golden Weather" and "The Pohutukawa Tree" in the late 1950s, both quintessential New Zealand plays.  The poem was published in Kapiti Poems in 1994 - after Bruce Mason's death.

I like the idea of a grace now and then to acknowledge the production of a fine meal and remind us that it doesn't 'just happen'. But not necessarily with the religious connotations.

This fits the bill so I memorised it and trot it out now and again.

A quintessential New Zealand grace, perhaps.

Here it is as it was in Kapiti Poems.


When our daughter was eight years, she visited friends who said grace, and she asked why we as a family did not. We explained. She then asked her father if he would write one just for her. Here it is.

Diana Mason

A Child’s Grace

From air and soil,
From bees and sun,
From others’ toil,
My bread is won.

And when I bite,
The soil, the air,
The bees and light
Are still all there.

So I must think
Each day afresh,
How food and drink
Became my flesh.

And then I’ll see
The great big sun
The earth, the bee
And me, all one.

Bruce Mason

10 October 2017

Frugality 2

My blog on frugality produced some interesting replies - so, with permission, I'm including the replies of two of my cousins, both about the same age as me. Seems like those frugal habits were extended throughout the WW2 and several years thereafter - even until now. And one cousin makes the good point that some of these stories are more about necessity than frugality. And it wasn't just inherited from the Smith ancestors. I'm sure everyone will have stories like these.

Depression Times

From my Father's side cousin

"Really enjoyed your last two blogs, especially the recent one regarding frugal times. I can very much relate to just about everything you touched on.  Then I began to think well we are much the same age, I think you can give me only a few weeks, as I reached the big eight zero today, so you must also have done a few weeks ago.   Haven't really thought about it much until today, and yes that's a lota years.  Don't feel any different, but I guess it is a gradual process.

I can really remember the whare etc that you spoke of on the outskirts of Hastings, and both your Father and Mother.  Dad used to speak of his childhood, when they all had to put the cardboard in their shoes, each day to attend school. Granny Smith having to visit the greengrocer each day at closing time to retrieve what was being thrown out, to feed her family. Rhubarb quite wilted, that she would strip to make the most delicious rhubarb pies etc etc. Times were certainly tough.

Yes I also recall, like Catherine, the sheets being rejoined down the middle, (how I used to hate that ridge across  the middle, when lying on it) never complained though. Then Mum used to make pillowcases out of the very outside edges, when the middle was finally worn out. Not to mention the grey army blankets, with the brass eyelets in the ends, as children we had on our beds, although yes they were warm blankets.

Yes, I remember Uncle R and Aunty I doing exactly the same thing with the hessian, and dyeing it a burgundy colour, resewing it, and then laying it through most of the house, though it was the hallway, that I recall most, as it had this habit of stretching, as children we thought by always walking on the bumps, would flatten it out.  Of course it never did !! [The story I remember about Aunty I was that she had to hand milk 15 dairy cows on the morning of her wedding day. BLS]

Then the veggie gardens they all had to have, homemade biscuits, jam and preserves.  What was a chocolate biscuit...as a treat we would have a few sultanas on a plate. No such thing as sweets.  Those horrible ration books, that they had to live by. As children we knew nothing else eh, so just accepted it, guess our parents had to as well, though children of today, I really don't think they could cope, only having known the good life.  Just hope they will never have to.

Your other blog showing much younger photos of yourself, I could relate to very well, as that is how I remembered you.  Although even younger than that, but you still had the same features, of the school boy, in his catholic school uniform, dark navy jersey, with a stripe around the V neck and navy shorts, always very serious, I do not recall you smiling all that much as a child. [Just thinking about things. BLS]

Oh dear, have rambled on here a bit, still I won't edit it, as you may enjoy reading it.  I guess there would be so many more memories, if we all were to sit and think for a bit eh...

Anyway for now, thanks for the memories Barry."

And from my Mother's side cousin

"Meant to reply earlier....frugality was on both sides of your family. I too had cardboard in my shoes to 'see the season out, my shoes that became too small went to the bootmaker and came back as 'peeptoes'! My undies were made out of flour bags that had been boiled to fade the coloured brand marks. The boys shirts were made from dad's old shirts after the whiskers on his double chin had worn his collars out and had already been turned and the second side worn out too. Worn sheets were cut down the middle and turned outside to inside and flat seamed down the middle. Socks were darned until the soles comprised of one big darn. Mum did all the haircuts with the dreaded hand clippers. No car, fridge or washing machine until I was about 10- 12 yrs.
Even now I am not past rubbing a bit of doubtful meat with vinegar before cooking it, an observation from those early years. Mum made her own soap with fat she got from farmers and rendered down on the stovetop and used it for the dishes and hand washing. They were not frugal, it was the way it had to be and they got a lot of satisfaction from managing. I think we, like you, learned from them and used it our advantage in later years even though times were not so tough.  Your blogs are enjoyed but not acknowledged.   Love and best wishes to you both."

"K and his sisters had an old bike. When the tube in the tyre had too many 'patches' it was eventually discarded and replaced with rolled up newspapers. My brothers never had a bike until they got paper runs at the age of nine. Dad paid the deposit on a bike so they could get the job and they had to pay their wages to the bike shop each week.
Also remember mum unravelling dad's old hand knitted jerseys that had shrunk or worn thin and using it to knit our jerseys."

A few more stories like this and we could start a book! Now there is an idea.

And here is the story, from an earlier blog, about how we used to make our own outrigger canoes back in the Kaponga days.

"One adventurous undertaking was to make outrigger canoes out of used sheets of corrugated iron.  The front of the canoe was made out of the sheet of iron bent up over a short plank and nailed to it and the back section was the other end of the sheet bent and nailed about a rectangular piece of wood (about 400 x 250mm).  The whole thing was waterproofed by melting tar off the road over a fire and pouring it into the seams of the 'boat'.  The 'outrigger' part was a plank nailed across the canoe and extended out to a kerosene tin on one side.  These canoes worked well on a dam just up from Kaponga on the Kaupokunui Stream." The edges of the tin were a bit sharp!

Any more stories anyone?

10 September 2017

Diana, Princess of Wales: Learning of her Death when in Tonga.

Recently there has been quite a bit about Diana, Princess of Wales, because it has been the 20th anniversary of her tragic death in France. Several people have proffered the information that they can remember the exact when and where of learning about her death - as many people can about
the deaths of people like US President, John F Kennedy. Me too, so here is my story about learning of her death.

Approaching Ata Island
Catherine, the prisoner, on Ata Island

Catherine and I joined Jim and Ann Wilson in Tonga for a bit of cruising about the islands in the southern group aboard "Karoro", their yacht. On a particular day we made our way towards an island where we anticipated spending the night anchored just offshore. Jim and Ann were cooking that night and suggested that we go ashore for a walk. This we did, landing on a nice beach and walked towards the other end of the beach where we could see a jetty and a motor boat. One of the men saw us coming and started walking towards us. He was a huge Tongan and although he was speaking good English his voice was so thick that we couldn't understand what he was saying. So he indicated that we should follow him and started walking back to their boat. When he turned away from us we began to get some idea of where we were. On the back of his blue overalls was stencilled "His Majesty's Prison, Tonga". When we arrived at the motor boat another Tongan was sorting supplies. He explained that we were indeed on a Tongan penitentiary island and that we would have to leave. But he quickly changed the subject and asked if we had TV on our yacht. No, we laughed, Karoro was a small yacht, comfortable, but for economical cruising. Jim would be appalled at the idea of TV on his yacht. "Why?" we asked. The superintendent explained that he had just heard that Princess Diana had been seriously injured in a car crash and that he was interested in any news.

We asked, as it was getting late in the day and we were surrounded by coral heads where we were anchored, if we could leave the following morning. He agreed but warned us not to allow anyone aboard the yacht. That night it was the ladies turn to sleep on deck. We gave them each a heavy spanner with which to repel any invaders.

21 August 2017

Fiordland (NZ) in Winter with Real Adventures - New Zealand - without sandflies!

Well, the title is not quite true - I think I was bitten by two sandflies in the eight days we were in Fiordland. The secret is to go in winter when the namu are frozen, stunned by hail or have been drowned. Anyway in response to an invitation from my little (big) brother, John, we extended the invite on to Rosemary, Catherines sister, and her husband Jim. Together with several of John and Chris's friends we formed a happy group. The other passengers were great - you always meet like-minded people on these Real Adventures type trips.

Milford Wanderer in Fiordland

Cruising in Breaksea Sound
The first day had us cruising down the Doubtful Sound, out to sea for three hours and finally anchoring in Breaksea Sound near the northern entrance to Dusky Sound. Catherine and I were delighted to find John as the cook - he had been cook on our journey to Antarctica several years ago - this boded well for our inner needs and he didn't let us down. I found common ground too (through our climbing experiences) with Richard, our nature guide. That night Catherine and I slept in our warm cabins with not a movement from the ship.

The next morning we landed in Wet Jacket Arm where the first moose had been released in NZ. We inspected the campsite of hunters and had a short wander in the bush - no moose were to be seen - no wonder with all the happy chatter - mainly the women of course who know nothing about the silence needed for successful hunting! After lunch we cruised down the Acheron Passage (Cook's exit passage from Dusky nearly 250 years ago) and into Dusky Sound. Our next call was into Sportsman Cove a delightful narrow entranced area where we shut the engines to enjoy the total peace of the place. That night we slumbered in Duck Cove.

At Richard Henry's Punga Kiwi Enclosure - created ~130 yrs ago

On a Beach on Pigeon Island

Over the next day or so we visited Pickersgill Harbour where Cook moored the 'Resolution' while he and the crew rested after their 123 day journey from the Cape of Good Hope. It was with some emotion that we observed the moss and fern covered 244 year-old stumps of trees cleared by Cook's men as they prepared the site for Wales's astronomical observations - he accurately placed NZ on the global map for the first time. The whole of Dusky is redolent with names and stories of Cook's visit. One such name is that of a student of Linnaeus, Sparrman a young Swedish botanist, who made the first non-Maori ascent of a peak in NZ. A group of us repeated it in 2005. More about our climb here.

Mood of Dusky

We visited the site of Richard Henry's efforts on Pigeon Island (worthy of an entire book) and walked across Anchor Island to Luncheon Cove where the first NZ sealing gang had been placed in 1792. Less than 20 years after Cook! They had also built a house and the first ship built in NZ.  At Facile Harbour we also observed the site of NZ's first shipwreck in 1795 - the 'Endeavour' with 244 people on board - they completed the ship in Luncheon Cove and many of them rescued themselves in it - they named her the 'Providence'. The ballast stones of the 'Endeavour', made of Sydney sandstone, are still visible in the shallow water of Facile Harbour.

Catherine examining dinner - Rosie's not so sure.

JohnS capturing Albatross en route to Chalky Inlet

Lighthouse at Puysegur Point

Ambling on a Beach near Spit Island
We cruised down to Chalky Inlet where we visited North and South Ports and the wreck of the 'Stella'. At the head of Long Sound those who wished had a good kayak about the coast in perfect conditions. At the seaward end of the sound we walked to Puysegur Point and the historic Spit Island both on calm sunny days - the latter, one of the highlights of the trip. Here Ngai Tahu and the so-called 'Lost Tribe' of Ngati Mamoe had their final showdown.

Finally we all helicoptered out to the power station at Lake Manapouri - an absolutely fabulous flight with the ground below covered in snow and ice.

What a trip. I'd recommend it to anyone - the exposure to open seas is minimal but one can never be guaranteed good weather. We had some rainy days but rain is not the problem - it is mainly the wind and swell. But the crew amend the program to suit the conditions - what more can you do. Another part of our paradise called Aotearoa. And full of amazing history.

04 August 2017

Frugality - and other stories.

Some of us are of an age where we can quote from the days soon after the 'great depression' and the effects hard living had on the attitudes of our parents  and onwards to ourselves.

From my own perspective I recall my mother when she went shopping inserting  cardboard cutouts into the bottom of her shoes to cover the holes in her soles. After WW2 I remember my father salvaging wood from old farm houses to build extra rooms onto a two roomed "whare" on the outskirts of Hastings, so that we would not have to spend another winter in a couple of army huts. My job was to extract and straighten nails from his boards. That was in 1947 and the house improvements are still standing. I still keep old nails and screws and it is amazing how often they rescue some repair.

And my sister, Katie, recently reminded me of the new 'carpets' our parents laid in our house in Hornby, Christchurch. There was a proper carpet in the lounge for visitors but for the rest of the house another carpet was manufactured. My father obtained a supply of empty hessian sugar bags. These were carefully unpicked and resewed into a floor covering and then dyed a burgundy colour. After drying they were tacked down onto either underfelt or layered paper.  The 'carpet' didn't last too long and Katie remembers my mother trying to darn the carpet tears like socks!

This all sounds a bit rugged so long into my past but not so long ago I remember coming across a woman in Northern Australia living in a 'daub and wattle' (wattle sticks and clay daubed hessian walls) shack with a clay floor. No, she wasn't Aboriginal or from English stock but, from her accent, of German origin.

In those immediate post-WW2 times there were few refrigerators and my father, who was an electrician, constructed a food preserving cupboard with an ozone generator (I can still remember the seaside smell of it) - I think he obtained the plan from and American magazine popular at the time - "Popular Mechanics'. I see that they are still to be purchased today.

I remember him also making a crystal set and eventually a one valve radio - before the days of transistors! And then there was a battery operated 'shocking machine' he made with a couple of coils and an iron core and vibrator. You held onto metal rods and tried to see how much shocking you could stand (the trick was to turn it up so high with the core insertion that you couldn't let go) - how we didn't turn into little sadists escapes me but maybe we did!

Someone I am very fond of often quotes her childhood experiences of being taught how to refurbish worn sheets by cutting them longitudinally down the middle and re-sewing the edges together with a  French seam to reverse the wear. She does not relate later bisecting the sheets midway down and reversing them, top and tail! She still turns my shirt collars when they become worn.

At her home there was a debate about the lighting. Her father, an electrical engineer, insisted on all unused lights being turned off all the time to save power - whereas in the home of their friends, whose father was a mechanical engineer, the lights were left on to conserve the mechanics of the switching mechanism. She keeps up the family battle cry about controlling lighting in our house to this day; good conservationist that she is.

She also recalls, that along with her siblings, having to repaint old second hand netting that was used to surround the tennis court her father had made out of crushed ant bed which was commonly used in Brisbane at the time.

It is all very much in the past. It had its influence on our lives and attitudes. More often for the better, I think.