Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The woman goes fishing, and fishes!

The following column was a result of my wife starting to fish, and catching fish, including a couple of substantial salmon from the Otago Harbour. I haven't been able to verify all the facts in the piece, though several of them can be seen online. 

Fisherwomen. 28 July 1993

I've come across an advertisement for a fishing book which proclaims that the author’s wife goes fishing, and fishes! The sentence speaks of a woman performing a stunt contrary to her nature.

When did fishing become a pastime only the stern a sex enjoyed? Never.

Cleopatra was known as a keen and successful angler. When Mark Antony tried to kid her that he was a good fisherman, she hired a diver to put a salted fish on his line, to the Roman general’s ridicule (or the Roman’s general ridicule).

Documents show Empress Zinga of Japan, who was born in the first century, bending a needle to make it into a hook, using grains of rice as bait, the threads of her garments as a line, and standing in the middle of the river to catch a trout (and catching one).

And one of the first books on angling in English was written (sorry guys) not by a man, but by a nun in a convent: Dame Juliana Berners, Prioress of Sopwell. Her Treatise of Fishing with an Angle was printed in 1496, and contains details about fishing and tackle and the making of flies that only an experienced fisherwoman could know.

Some scattered examples from our own fishing history: the May 1st, 1937, issue of The New Zealand Fishing and Shooting Gazette reported that Mrs F.L. Smith beat her husband's catches by 6.81 kilos.

Blue Marlin, courtesy Pixibay
Big deal, you might say, until you realise her total catch between March 19th and April 4th was 11 fish weighing 1304 kg - averaging 118 kilo fish (for those who didn't have their calculators handy). And during two weeks in March, Mrs Ashley Dodd caught three mako and 11 striped marlin, weighing a total of 1648 kg. (She could probably swing a husband over her shoulder too.)

In 1929, in the Bay of Islands, an English ‘girl angler,’ Miss Dorothy Ap Roger, made a name for herself by landing a monster marlin. It was the biggest fish of the day amongst those caught by a dozen anglers.

The girl angler’s line at only been in the water a few minutes when she felt something attacking her bait. She allowed the line to run out some distance then struck. A ‘monster striped marlin’ was hooked.

The marlin weighed in at 171.5 kg, the largest of its kind caught during the season. That's like humping 17 sacks of potatoes from the supermarket at once - without a trolley.

Miss Ap Roger was obviously some ‘girl.’ She showed no surprise at catching this monster, but the reporter couldn't keep his chauvinistic pen from adding, ‘The young lady fished as though she been at it for years, and the onlookers were amazed at the way she handled the rod.’

They shouldn't have been - she was only participating in a sport in which women have long been as able, if not is visible as men.
The world's biggest annual game fishing tournament is held New Zealand's Bay of Islands - for women.

And many overseas fisherwoman are outstanding in their field: Marsha Bierman, from Miami, has landed more than 1000 sailfish and marlin in her 20 year career. She doesn't use heavy rods, reels, or a special fighting chair tilt and her fish. Instead, with harnesses, she practices stand up fishing, using her strength and stamina to bring the fish in.

When it comes to fly-fishing men may be the ones most visible, but United States statistics are proving (horrors!) that they're not as good at it as women. Fly-fishing requires grace and subtlety; women tend to out-fish men at the sport because of their lighter touch. Ouch.

Fish aren't known to be partial as to the sex of the one who hooks them, though certain males think they should be.

Men's attitude problem remains. When a friend of mine put up the sign on her bathroom wall, Women can do anything, it was immediately - and anonymously - altered by one of the three males in her house, to Women can't do anything.

When some males see the phrase Women can fish, these males (whose brain cells otherwise well connected) still say, no they can't.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Covers and paperbacks

It's been a year of biting the bullet.

When I say 'year' I'm including 2018, since that's when most of what I'm going to talk about happened.

Each time since 2014 when I uploaded a new book to Kindle I intended to produce a paperback version as well. And I got myself an account at CreateSpace to do this, but somehow held back from going through with the whole process. Formatting an ebook seemed a piece of cake by contrast with preparing a book for print. The thing that was my main sticking point was sorting out the cover.

Recently, CreateSpace went out of existence and Kindle (KDP) took over the print on demand process. I decided this was it: time to take the plunge. I worked my way through everything that I thought needed to be done and then checked with my older son, who's the IT whiz in our family. Immediately he pointed out a bunch of things that weren't going to look good unless I reformatted and improved the fonts and shifted pages around and got rid of things that weren't appropriate for the paperback version. Phew.

He came over to my house and wrote me out a check list as a reference for when I did the other three books. It proved immensely helpful, and for the most part I managed to reformat the remaining three books on my own. Even doing the covers.

The first paperback, Diary of a Prostate Wimp, was published in the second half of last year, while my wife was in England. The first time we spoke on WhatsApp after I'd published the paperback, she told me she'd ordered a copy. (So at least there was one sale...!)

All the books are now available in the printed version, and it's been encouraging to see the interest in the books as opposed to their electronic cousins.

Having achieved this, I felt it was time to do something about the cover for Grimhilda! The original e-book cover was adapted from the poster for the stage production - Grimhilda! had started out life as a musical. My son and I had sat down one evening, taken the poster version, got rid of some elements, improved others, and generally made it more presentable. No disrespect to the original artist but the poster wasn't up to scratch for the wider world of book covers.

The cover my son and I made was good, but not excellent, but it sufficed for the first four years of the book's life online. I always knew I wanted to redo it, but I never seemed to have the cash in hand to get a good artist (such as the guy who did the original cover for my third book, The Disenchanted Wizard) to make a good job of it.

There was no option: if I wanted a new cover I'd have to do it myself. And early this month (January 2019) I sat down, worked my way through Canva and produced a cover that I was much happier with. It's more striking, looks more like a proper cover (!) and hopefully is more eye-catching altogether.

Grimhilda! new cover
It was made from a variety of elements: the background only came to my attention after I'd tried a bunch of other options, such as finding something on Pixabay. It turned out none of the photographs I looked at there were going to work, but they gave me ideas for what could work.

I settled on the background, and then looked for a graphic that would connect to the title character. There were plenty of these, but most of them didn't belong with the rest of the cover. Thankfully, in the end I found the one of the witch on the broomstick, and she fitted perfectly. On the earlier cover my son had found a similar graphic that he applied over the snowy background as a shadow of the witch flying overhead. Very neat.

Today I revised the cover again...the author name seemed to stick out in a way that wasn't comfortable and the quote at the bottom of the page just cluttered things up - apart from not being readable on anything small.

Hopefully now I'm done with this cover for the time being. Might be time to tackle one of the other ones I'm not so happy about!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Men, do you know you have a prostate gland?

British men largely unaware of the role of the prostate says a heading to a short article I came across today.

I'm not surprised by this in the slightest. It was only when my doctor - some years ago now - suggested having a PSA test regularly that I even knew I had a prostate. Is that possible? Had I been nearly 50 years on this planet without knowing about this vital part of my male anatomy?

Maybe my prostate had been mentioned in passing, but when you have an internal organ that behaves itself and does the job it's supposed to do without quibble, then you pretty much ignore it. We all know we've got hearts, because we can feel them pumping, or because the heart manages to get into all sorts of common expressions: Have a heart, brokenhearted, he's got a big heart, my heart longs for you, and so on.

We know we have a brain, even though we can't feel it, because the same thing applies: the brain comes into our everyday speech, and reinforces its part in our lives. Use your brain, you great useless piece of leftover spittle. 

But the prostate? Off the top of my head, I can't think of any common, everyday expression that involves the prostate. Worse, it's easy to get it mixed up with another word, prostrate, which has nothing to do with it, and which we sometimes use when we're talking about a person lying down. Or prostrating themselves before someone who's their superior. (Not something Western people tend to do much...at least not in public.)

Otherwise the prostate doesn't get a mention, until your PSA climbs the charts (which it shouldn't) and you're sent off to the hospital for a prostate biopsy. A prostate biopsy, for most gentlemen, is not fun, though a friend of mine (who shares my birthday, as it happens) claimed he came through his biopsy without bother. Plainly he's tougher than I am. 

I learned a lot about prostates when I had problems with not being able to pee, and when my PSA count started to skyrocket. I learned more about biopsies when I had one and it caused other problems. Later, at the encouragement of a fellow-sufferer, I wrote a book about it: Diary of a Prostate Wimp. (Which incidentally, is the only book of mine that I can claim has been a bestseller, mainly because it was on Amazon's top twenty list for books relating to Urology a few times...!)

What I'm saying to any male who reads this: be grateful to your prostate. Be grateful that for most of your life it will work perfectly well. Be even more grateful that these days it's possible to have prostate cancer and survive. I know several guys who've been there and are still functioning well.

But guys, if your doctor says to you, we need to keep an eye on your PSA count, make sure you do. It may save your life.

PS: The majority of men who have a PSA test and a biopsy will prove to have no cancer. Cancer is not a given. I didn't have it. 

PSS: Talking about prostrating oneself, in a Korean TV series we watched some while back, the less important employees bowed to their superiors continually. It was quite disconcerting. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Banks and bouncers

The following column originally appeared in Column 8 on the 21st July, 1993. Like a number of my columns, it's a bit of a riff on an idea that drags in a bunch of possibly unrelated issues. The BleedUsSlow Cup (generally known to rugby fans as the Bledisloe Cup.) It's fought over between Australian and New Zealand teams - mostly annually. 

Banks and bouncers

Bledisloe Cup
courtesy Hpeterswald
Some time ago I promised I’d write about banks and bouncers. And seeing a bouncer being choosy about the cup crowd entering his pub doorway last Friday night reminded me. (Here, this should raise my mana a little; I actually watched all of the BleedUsSlow Cup – and got excited about it.)

Have you noticed the new trend in our main shopping area? Everywhere you turn, banks and bars. Both these institutions are eating up retail space, instead of loitering round back streets where they belong.

Furthermore, one bank has turned into a bar, and another bank and bar are cohabiting. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the pre-cup crowd confused one with the other.

That might not be a bad thing: banks could do worse that taking on the look of a bar, and vice versa.

In the matter of bouncers, for instance. When the teller sees someone whose cheques continually bounce come in the door, she just calls on the fullback at the doorway, ‘A moment of your time, Bill.’ And when Bill arrives, ‘Show this bankrupt the street, will you?’

You’d expect bank bouncers to deal with a better class of customer, having none of the confusion which with bar bouncers must contend.

On the surface a bouncer needs nothing more than muscle and an assortment of fierce looks towards unwanted clientele. But discernment is required. The worthy were once distinguishable from the unworthy by their state of dress. Now scruffy and up-to-date are much the same.

The feller who turns up with his shirt hanging out front and back, with baggy pants and no socks – his girlfriend wearing her singlet over her sweat shirt and her hair in three vibrant colours – may be an acceptable customer. Equally you can’t automatically let in the besuited.

This would also apply in a bank, of course. The besuited might be the pauper and the scruff the one with the money.

When bars become like banks they’ll need to install automatic barpersons. We have this in part already, with drink-dispensing machines – the idea just needs a little extension.

Bar personnel do little besides race around all night pouring drinks, grabbing bags of chips and taking money. A modern machine could handle the job easily. (Barmen who lend an ear to garrulous soaks only appear in the movies.)

Automatic barpeople would fit into the walls of your average bar. The customer slots in his bar card with its own PAN (personal alcohol number); the machine pours into his glass the exact amount of liquor the licensee desires – and there’s no problem with change.

Humans might still be seen behind the bar, but their job would no longer be sweaty and hectic.

Banks, on the other hand, need to take over something that’s prospered in bars – live bands.

Instead of piped music, inducing the customer to soporificity, we’d have live bands performing (and beginning to work in the daytime like normal people). They’d probably need to go upmarket, and change their image from ragged and hairy to couth and cleanshaven (I will not be applying).

Bands encourage customers to linger – necessary in the midst of banks’ fierce competition for people’s money. Picture yourself walking into a bank and hearing your favourite band playing heavy metal or rap or string quartets – depending on the kind of image the bank wishes to portray. Isn’t that more exciting than posters full of percentages?

Not only that, customers could relax in banks after work, discussing their finances, and maybe being allowed to count their money. Tellers who’ve been made redundant by automation could return to work as cooks and waiters, and serve meals.

In fact, if banks and bars joined forces and occupied the same buildings, they’d save on overheads, save on staff, and provide interesting alternative venues.

A three sheets in the wind customer might mix up his PIN and PAN and pour dollars into his glass. Bill the Bouncer would take his elbow, guide his feet along the white line, and quietly open an investment account.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Unjust leadership?

The following column appeared on the 14th July, 1993. Considering our current Labour Government, strong on promises and weak on action, we don't seem to be much better off. And the hints of socialism are everywhere amongst their policies.

Unjust leadership? 

After a friend asked me if I knew the opposite phrase to ‘distaff side’ (‘spear side,’ we discovered), she took up my last column’s complaints about Mr Bolger, and said, ‘But who would you put in his place?’ I had no answer.

In spite of the possibilities of electoral reform, we’re still left with the problem of being unable to vote in a party’s leader.

We want leadership in this country, there’s no doubt; but not at all costs. Arrogant leadership of the Muldoon-Lange-Bolger style we can do without.

With the choices we face at present, perhaps it is time (given that it is suffrage year) to have someone on the distaff side: a Prime Ministress.  But the present field is pretty narrow: would we really want the Obsessive Housekeeper, or She Whose EconomicPolicies Must Be Obeyed?

Metropolitan Anthony
I’ve been reading a little book I picked up in the Regent book sale, Man and God, by Metropolitan Anthony (his name has nothing to do with a railway station: Metropolitan is an Orthodox church title, similar to archbishop).

This man clearly identifies one of the problems New Zealand is facing at present, though stating it in a different context.

He says when society defines man (including setting up an Ideal Abstract Man as ‘the pattern for the future’), we always meet – whatever the case, whatever the kind of dictatorship or pressure group – with something which the Russian writer, Solzhenitsyn, in his book Cancer Ward, defined in the following way.

One of the central characters has this said about him: ‘He had the greatest possible love and consideration of mankind, and this is why he hated so fiercely every human being – because they disfigured this ideal so horribly.

There is an echo here of Jenny Shipley, or Roger Douglas. Leaders who appear to have more love for their ideal State, where properly managed finances will supposedly bring proper social order, than for the individuals within it.

As M. Anthony points out, such leaders’ ideals are always focused on the future. Consequently the real people they are dealing with here and now have to be ‘transformed, changed and remoulded.’ Unfortunately, past experience ‘shows that many bones crack and many things have to be changed by force and even violence.’ (The communist revolution is one example.)

Individual people are disregarded in this kind of social change; people are only seen collectively.

Here in New Zealand it is easy to see those who commit benefit fraud as one group who blaspheme the great god Economy. It is also easy to lump the Poor together as one large unpalatable porridge.

Within our leaders’ world view, the poor eventually disappear not because of Recovery but because they have no means of surviving. Crime becomes their only hope and they are committed to prison. The prisons become totally overloaded, and finally something more permanent is done..?

Not in New Zealand?

We need a distaff side to our spear side policies: humanity as well as economy. We need policies that see people not as abstractions, but as unique wondrous creatures, each one called by name ‘out of (the) nothingness from which we were drawn by the will of God.’ (Anthony again.)

Arrogant and unjust rulership tends to arise when we leave God out, and though many of my readers won’t agree, New Zealand still needs God.

And New Zealand leaders need to see people as God sees them: perhaps not going so far as counting the hairs on their heads, but at least knowing that individuals make up the crowd.

Honours List

Honours List - Column 8: June 23 1993 

I am still simmering! It’s over a week now since the Honours List was published, and yet again my name did not appear on it!!

I realise Her Majesty had an ‘orrible year, because she kept telling us so, but is that any reason to continually overlook one of her loyal subjects? What do I have to do to gain Her acknowledgement?

I have worked for the State (being in insurance for five years) and allowed my brain to be on tap at the City Council. I delivered Her Royal Mail at two different times in my career. Like Her forebear Henry the Eighth, I’m a minor composer, writing my first song worth remembering when I was only a teenager.

I have written countless songs since then, some of which have been performed.

While accompanying four opera singers, I played the piano for thousands of schoolchildren around New Zealand, even continuing to play after the lid of the grand piano at Tokomairiro High School fell on my thumb – mid-aria.

I have accompany a pre-Dame Kiri. She condescendingly told me (and I put it down to her youth) that everyone makes mistakes sometimes. (I assume she meant in the way I played the music, rather than in my choice of singer.)

I have listened to more music than all the 19th century composers wrote in total, much of it with my full attention. It has been music that ran the gamut from the extremely incomprehensible (like that by John Cage, who was opaque in everything he did) to the totally sublime.

I have sold goods door to door, and collected money door to door, so you could easily count me as being a community worker.

I wrote my first play before I was out of my teens, and two later ones which I destroyed, since, like Brahms, I didn’t want my juvenalia undermining the fruit of my later genius (which is still to bud).

I have submitted over 300 articles to various publishers not only in this country, but in the United Kingdom (of Her Majesty) and the United States. Two-thirds of them have been published. (And not all in this column, either.)

You’d think in the midst of Her Majestic year she would have noticed one of those, surely? Furthermore, I have read more books than are sold at the Regent Book sale each year, many of them from cover to cover.

Like Paul’s adopted son, Timothy, I have been a Christian since my youth up. I have worked twice for my church in paid capacities, quite apart from the countless hours I’ve spent shifting other member’s furniture from one house to another, and attending pot luck meals, and listening to those who are going through difficult patches.

I have watched thousands of movies, and untold hours of television (which is why I’ve watched thousands of movies). That any person should endure so much and still be ignored each year is beyond my comprehension.

I have enjoyed book-keeping, endured economics, delight in English, and been bewildered by maths – at times. I have studied Trachtenberg’s system of multiplication, the one he conceived in prison without any paper. I can read some Italian, German and Modern Cool.

I live in a house with four teenagers, amongst others. When I remind them that I used to carry each one in the crook of my arm they give that teenage ‘look.’

With all these credentials (and many more that I can’t fit in due to space restrictions), I ask you: Why wasn’t my name in the Honours List this year?

Friday, December 28, 2018

Fourth Column


This column comes from the days of the 1995 Americas' Cup, when New Zealand, my home country, grabbed the thing off the people who'd had it for far too long. One of our local lunatics gave it a thump, but its was put back into shipshape order before the next outing.


Occasionally people ask me where I get my ideas from. There's no great secret: it's a matter of picking up opportunities, just like salesmen do when trying to sell something.

And it really isn't hard to get ideas - I sat in the car one night waiting to collect my wife from work and came up with several possibilities. The problem is to know what to do with the ideas once you've got 'em!

This is the fourth column I've started this week. With four columns sketched out you'll appreciate I haven't lacked ideas, just the right approach. Half way through saying something, I've begun to wonder: do I really know as much about this as I'd like to think I do?

I've said in the past, I'm not a journalist. And I'm not objective. Although I try to get my facts right I'd sooner manage without any facts at all.

That's where the difference comes between an opinionated person like myself and a real journalist. Real journalists have their facts right before they commit themselves to paper. I'm not always even sure which ones are my facts.

In fact I tried to be very factual this week, but my opinions kept tripping me up.

New Zealand's team celebrating their win in 1995
I started to write about the Americas' Cup - but I wasn't sure whether I had the apostrophe in the right place, or if there really was a dash in NZ-L20.

Actually I'm glad it's all over. Never in the field of human conflict was so much hype given to so many by so few. (Until I checked, I'd always thought the original quotation used the word "endeavour" instead of "conflict". Whew! Well, that will do as the fact for this week's column.)

I was going to write about riots, (or is it right about wriots?) both at home and abroad, and injustice (this has nothing to do with the America's Cup) - but such a theme required more space than I have here, (and possibly more brains).

More problems arose when I wanted to right about the Write to Silence matter. But because I was going to comment on what seemed to me to be a very contentious legal area, and one in which lawyers might well have a field day, I thought I'd better give my lawyer a call first. (And got his answerphone.)

I wanted to write about sceptics, and evolution (separately). But reducing these dinosaur issues down to homo sapiens size proved difficult. I could combine them, of course, and say I'm sceptical about evolution.

I've also had in mind to write both about banks, and bouncers. For those of you who immediately jumped to the conclusion that I was going to advise banks to employ bouncers, I wasn't, though it occurs to me that might yet be an idea to follow up.

When it comes to being as opinionated and dogmatic as I am, you see, settling down to getting the right column off the ground can be a tricky matter.

My apologies if you've felt that you've wended your way through this maze, and found no prize at the end. However, consider this column as a trailer, like they have at the movies or on tv, whetting your appetite for controversies to come.

Hmmm...I've just been checking my facts again, and find I've confused fourth column with fifth estate - or vice versa. I'll get it write somewhere along the line.  

Saturday, December 22, 2018


Published in Column 8 on the 30th June 1993

Once upon a time weather-forecasters’ predictions had some likelihood of coming true. Not much anymore. I suggest, disillusioned weathermen try their hand at something easier: predicting the degree of increase in the word torrent that will gush out of the Beehive prior to the coming election.

We live with an abundance of words. Walk along the streets of any city or town and you’ll be overwhelmed by words, myriad eye-catching, purse-opening, mind-arresting words. They’re an integral part of urban scenery, in greater profusion than plate-glass windows, parking meters, and closing-down sales.

After constant exposure, our brains cease to discriminate amongst the excess. Urban words have only two or three micro-seconds to make their mark before they’re consigned to the long-term memory – perhaps only ever to reappear in our dotage.

Urban words become like squabbling siblings on a shopping spree whom harassed parents try to ignore.

I’ve nothing against words, even urban ones. In fact I quite like most of them. But they tend to take over. (They’ve even hedge in on what used to be the sole province of numbers: registration plates. Now we’re more likely to see a car called SPEED than SP9876.)

Sooner or later there’s going to be a reaction against this plethora of words. Words need space, and don’t like being crunched up against each other. (Numbers cope with crunching much better.) They need time to be absorbed, and shouldn’t be flashed at us like a thousand thousand winking indicators.

For politicians to weigh down the next few months with words is unlikely to make us sit up and take notice.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
I came across a delightful story about Coleridge (the Ancient Mariner man). He tells of talking throughout dinner to a man who listened carefully to him, and said nothing. The man constantly nodded his head, and Coleridge concluded he was very intelligent.

Towards the end of the dinner, some apple dumplings were placed on the table. The man had no sooner seen them than he burst forth with – “Them’s the jockies for me!!” The Book of Proverbs makes the comment: “Even a fool when he keeps his mouth closed is considered wise.”

Politicians could learn something from that. As word-using people they should know, but don’t, that ten clear words are better than a thousand befogged ones.

The coming election makes me consider that it would be wiser for politicians to keep their mouths more closed than open in these final few months. Then their words might not embarrass them later. (How they can at present sit comfortably on their parliamentary sheepskins and not wriggle out [of] guilt when their “promises” are thrown back in their faces is beyond me.)

If they said nothing prior to election time, we might be inclined to elect them anyway – just to find out what they were going to be up to.

We’d certainly find them more truthful. People who don’t normally open their mouths can hardly be called liars when they do.

Their silence might even appear as wisdom, wisdom they wish we thought they had. To maintain this aura of sapience would require them to keep their mouths closed even after they were elected, and that could only be a good thing.

In the meantime, the parliamentary minute of silence could be extended to a good half hour each day. The sheer discipline would be beneficial to all concerned.

And the flood of obscure, ambiguous, ill-defined words might then dry up.

After All

Back in the days when I wrote a weekly column, I produced this one, called 'After All'. It came out in 1993, so the references are to a former Government. However, the issues it discusses (with tongue mostly in cheek) have barely changed a jot.

After All 

Mr Bolger’s condescending response to the report on child poverty should have been expected.
His dulcet tones in the subsequent radio interviews were intended to melt the heart of the hardest cynic. His assurances that he knew what the poor were suffering should have convinced us all of our ignorance on the subject.
Jim Bolger
Mr Bolger is Prime Minister, after all. If the Prime Minister doesn’t know what’s going on, who does? The ministresses of social welfare, or of finance?
After all, if the Government is going to pay attention to what people say, especially church people (who are really pretty much on the periphery of society, aren’t they?), then what sort of wimpy Government would they be?
The purpose of a Government is to Govern, after all, to lead, to pass more laws than the Pharisees, to make enormous changes and expect everybody to follow, to fill the newspapers and television with ads that nobody understands let alone cares about, to spend millions of dollars on changing vast structure so that businessmen can run the country like one big business.
Of course, when the Opposition finally gains power – as it probably will because we’re all so sick of this lot – it will change it all back again.
After all, an Opposition’s purpose is to Oppose. In Opposition they really don’t have anything to do all day except come up with mischievous schemes to upset the Government, such as telling us that most of the National Members are millionaires.
Well, they are, after all, aren’t they? I mean if you add the figures up the right way, you can make anybody look like a millionaire; you can even make the poor look well off.
Isn’t that what the Government is attempting to do, by reminding us over and over of the wonderful recovery we’re all part of? How can we refuse to believe the evidence?
Not that it matters what you believe, anyway. What’s a Government for, after all? It’s not there to be nice to us, it’s not there to pay attention to petitions, submissions or reports. It’s not there to listen to the ‘groundswell of current opinion’ (it considers the swell as swill and treats it accordingly). It’s not there to talk Truth but Governspeak. It’s not there to find ways to balance the books that will please everybody – in fact the fewer people this Government pleases the better a Government it believes itself to be.
It is there, however, to say that it’s ‘responsible in seeking to target very large sums of money to those New Zealanders most in need’: $2 a week extra family support, for example, according to the Guinness Book of Records New Zealand All-time Boring Budget.
And even more, the Government hates to think that someone might be getting more than their share, especially if they have the nerve to be on a benefit. That’s why they’ve given themselves the right to investigate our bank accounts, and take money directly out of them if need be.
It isn’t our money, after all, or the bank’s (who now charge us not only for taking our money out, but also when we don’t put enough in); it’s the Government’s money. They gave it out in the first place, and they printed it.
After all, if they give money to us when we aren’t working, we’ll only go and spend it on irrelevant things like rent, and possibly, if there’s anything left over, on frivolities like food and (good grief!) clothing.
We’re only scum after all – the Government knows that if six o’clock closing was reintroduced we’d be back in there like pigs at a trough. We’ve never learnt anything.
Worst of all, we’ve never learnt that if we give our prime public servants plenty of power, law by law they’ll gradually turn the lot of us into slaves.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Crowl or Crawl

Courtesy Pixabay

Trawling through Evernote, I came across a piece I wrote in 2007. It was published on an internet site that faded away through not being able to pay its writers on time...Since it's a piece poking fun at blogs and their writers, I thought it could do with another airing:

Crowl or Crawl

In one of those idle moments when the brain is parked in a lay-by, I typed my surname into the search engine on Blogger.com. I shouldn’t have been surprised that a number of people had typed ‘crowl’ instead of ‘crawl’ and had never noticed (who apart from me proof-reads their blog scribblings?), but seeing my name leap out from some of the most random writing on the planet was disconcerting.

It even turns up in foreign language texts. Is it a slang word that crosses borders? Many blog writers don’t have too cosy a relationship with grammar and spelling. We can excuse those for whom English is a second language: “I want to know does search engines crowl websites without submission. Should website important to submit to Search engines. I have some website for promotion so I want to know that Search engine will not crowl without submission.”  

At least I hope this is a writer for whom English is a second language.   

The next writer, however, has style: “I'm detached. I don't want to do anything with this ugly politics anymore. If I'm lucky I'll find a hole in some quiet corner of the world and crowl there and continue my research on Machine Translation and live my own life and don't care a bit about anything that happens anywhere. If I see a needy, I'll help. But I'll forget dying African kids, and greedy thiefs of higher society... Let them do anything they want.”

Perhaps the next writer was too troubled by his angst to notice where his fingers were flying: “I woke up and I looked into the mirror and standing there was someone else...Not me. I have to say that I really didn't like what I saw. What happened with the VERY confident guy that used to stare back at me and say: "Today will be a great day!!"???  I really don't know...What I saw there, in the mirror, was a fraction of what I used to see...My walk has fallen into a crowl...I didn’t want to fall straight into a halt... If that happens I might as well just curl and die...I have never been so close to His will and then everything just piled up trying to tumble me to my knees and admit defeat... But I think I've got some news for ya...I won't give up and I will be at the centre of His will! God...I know things won't be easy... Help me...I think I might be losing my mind...”

Of course, losing your mind, let alone feeling you’ve fallen out with God, may well be the result of falling into a crowl.

And more on the religious life of the teenager: “Today—Monday, July 10, 2006—was a day of relaxation. We slept in and had pancakes for breakfast and then had morning worship and Pray the Bible. After lunch we had Salvationism class (which was really eye-opening to what we need to change in the world). The girls got into an in-depth discussion on today’s RevoDevos of Exodus 19 and 20 and the Ten Commandments and the Articles of War. After dinner we had a Salvationist Missionary/Teacher visit us and talk to us about her 10 month adventure in China. It was extremely inspiring to get out there and do missions. Last night the girls decided to go to Starbucks and then have a “discussion” and because of that the boys decided they wanted a “boy’s night out” as well. As soon as the boys left campus we girls went to Cozy’s for our second dinner. Side note: Thai food is good.”

I began to wonder if many people pronounce ‘crawl’ as ‘crowl’ and have a mistaken view of its spelling. “It seems like my blog has been forgotten again. But in the past 2.5 weeks I was glad if I had the energy to crowl into bed when I got home.”  

Or: “I don't dispute her assessment. It's pretty evident that the forces that brought Summers down were not monolithic and many people found themselves in a firm opposition to him due to a variety of reasons. But still, it doesn't dispel the gloom that comes from the realization that if even such a powerful man as Larry Summers had to crowl acquiescently, rather than stood by his remarks, and was still brought down, the perspectives of simple mortals are that bleak.” 

You have to wonder how a person who uses words like ‘monolithic’ and ‘acquiescently’ appears to have no idea about tense. 

Someone who may be teaching dressmaking writes the following: “At the top that blob like thing would be a pinned on flower of some sort. At the bottom, the sides would be runched up and have ties. The effect given is kind of like a crowl neck, only at the bottom.   More of that crowl neck effect, but just a little tighter, so it wouldn’t be overly exaggerated.   Split sleeves. A sheer see-through material overtop the bottom material, adding a bit of extra length.”  I’ve always had a ‘crowl neck’ of course, but it’s usually at the top, rather than the bottom.  

Here’s someone on the history of swimming: “The first literatures about swimming are dated since the 2000 B.C. However it wasn't since the 1800 the first competitions started taking place in Europe. Back then the most popular style was the breaststroke. The most popular and fast style, the front crowl, was first introduced in the so called civilized world, by John Arthur Trudgen, in 1878 who saw it from the natives Americans.”  

Oh, communication, wherefore art thou?

And finally a person who hasn’t yet discovered the shift key: “what an amazing moment.  i tripped and fell today. i ripped my jeans, skinned my knees and killed my toe...it hurts real bad.  everyone looked at me, good thing kate was with me, its always more sad when someone is alone and they fall. but i owned it and it was pretty much amazing. it almost made me late to crowl the warrior king's final. that wouldnt have been good. he was wearing jeans today and it was pretty awkward. but you dont know him so you probably dont really care. well sara knows him. im sure she will agree that its awkward.”

I’m sure she will….and not just the falling over.

All these are unedited extracts from blogs. My thanks to the people who unwittingly offered their writings...

Friday, November 30, 2018

A comprehensive catalogue

When I first started writing, I was advised by my course tutor to focus on writing articles rather than fiction, since articles actually paid good money. I took this advice, and the articles did pay; not heaps, necessarily, but a reasonable amount.

One of the books I read during this time was Writing Articles that Sell by G J Matson. The book was one of five smallish books that came as part of the writing course. It was a book I read and re-read, and it proved its worth.

I've just come across an extract from it that I copied back in 1993 in which he discusses the need to keep cuttings or clippings of articles and newspaper notes. These clippings were useful not just for article ideas, but as backup material for when you did write articles. Evernote serves the same purpose for me now, though I don't write much in the way of articles anymore. And of course it's vastly more easy to catalogue and search. I do write blog posts, of course, and the 'clippings' are useful for that too.

Anyway here is Matson talking about his cataloguing system:

This [initial] classifying was a crude arrangement, and the titles of the various folders, as near as I can remember them now, were Anniversaries, Natural History, Stage and Cinema, Religion, Celebrities, Unusual Experiences, History, Geography, Science, Art, Literature, Domestic Law, Handicrafts, Customs, Political and Miscellaneous. As soon as a folder became uncomfortably full, I divided the cuttings again, this time into foolscap envelopes. Thus Natural History was divided into Ants, Dogs, Elephants, Grouse, Mice, Rabbits and so on. 

A few of the subjects, selected from my collection at random, may be of interest: Air Mails, Antipathies, Basket Making, Bibles, Careers for Boys, Chiropody, Corks, Dew Ponds, Duels, Entertaining with Table Napkins, Foolhardy Feats, Giants and Dwarfs, Handwriting, Horse Brasses, Icebergs, Jest-books, Keeping Cool, Lighting, London Oddities, Marbles, Miniatures, Newspapers, Noses, Olive Harvests, Pacifism, Peat, Queen Elizabeth I, Refrigerators, Rings, Safe Deposits, Seaweed, Teasels, Unclaimed Fortunes, Valentine Day, Wassailing, Yom Kippur and Zebras. It will be seen from these examples that the range of subjects covered is a very wide one. It is because I collect cuttings on every subject I possibly can. It pays me to do it – and it will pay you.

What a marvellously diverse list! I had both folders and foolscap envelopes in my much less organised system at one point, so I must have paid some attention to Mr Matson, though I can't say I ever went quite so wide in my choice of subjects. I think his point was that you can write about anything if you have the background information to get you started. 

These days, we'd probably categorize Foolhardy Feats under The Darwin Awards. And if you don't know what a Teasel is, it's apparently a tall prickly Eurasian plant with spiny purple flower heads. It seems a slightly curious subject to write about, but perhaps they were more common in gardens back when Matson's book was written. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

The need for exercise...or not

This may be a revised version of one of my Column 8 pieces, though it seems mostly to be as originally written. 

Practice makes perfect. If you don't use it, you'll lose it. So they say.
Some time ago a member of our family purchased a set of exercise DVDs with the aim of building up her/his muscles. I'm not allowed to be more specific about which family member it was, but the DVDs gave a real boost in the physical department.
She/he disciplined him/herself, getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to chug through those demanding exercises - while the demonstrator chauntered through a flow of esteem-building speeches.
Various other members of the family gave the exercises a go - with varying degrees of success. Still, I don't think any set of DVDs has ever had more use in our house. Certainly the original purchaser got value for money.
While everyone else tackled the exercises, I didn't. I was still walking to work every morning: a sufficient, demanding-enough exercise, and pleasant. A good way to allow the early-morning-family-arousing-stresses to flit off like startled sparrows. I use to run most of the way, but my legs had begun to find pounding down the hills jarred the hips and knees.
Still, the walk was enough to keep me fit, I said.
If so, why did I find my knees creaked more when I knelt - and it was more difficult hoisting myself up again? (If I could rouse the body to such a level of enthusiasm as to want to get up again.)
Why did the floor seem further away when I bent to pick up bits of paper or safety pins? And why did it take three attempts to grasp them?
Why did I have to sit a little further back from the steering wheel than before, and find the pedals further away? Why did the plate on the meal table seem not quite where it used to be? (‘There's many a slip twixt cup and lip’ was finally starting to make sense.)
Why did I feel like a formerly deft and agile adolescent struggling with clumsy-making growth spurts?
Lack of exercise.
My family has been nagging - sorry, encouraging - me, for some time, to do some exercise. (There's particular concern that they can't see the telly if I'm standing just to one side of it.) So the other night I began the exercises, in company with a couple of other family members who'd done them before, and wanted to get back into them again.
I enjoyed the exercises which required me to lie on the floor, because at least I didn't have to keep my body vertical at the same time, but I wasn't too fussed about the exercises that seemed akin to some of the spine-dislocating, hip-unhinging and bone-crackling one of my children does in modern dancing.
I know these exercises will do me good.  (I used to have a best friend who was always telling me things he suggested would do me good.)  I know that if I play difficult music on the piano, and work at it, even if I can't play it up to speed, I'll have fingers that move when I want them to, instead of fingers that ice-skate across the keys because they can't be bothered to dig their nails in.
I know if I'd kept at that memory course that now sits gathering dust on the shelf, I'd be remembering all the names of the people I want to remember - including the name of my grandson which had gone completely from my mind when I woke last Saturday.
And I know if I write a blog post a day, (inspired or not), I'll produce new ones with half the sweat and strain they usually require.
I think.
But I don't like doing these exercises. They make me feel a hundred and fifty, they make me feel as though I'm no longer capable of any physical effort - and I am! I really am!! - they make me feel that if I have to hear that trainer's voice one more time burbling visualisation babble I'll smash his fancy face in.
Apparently Henry Ford didn't say history is bunk, he claimed exercise was. "If you're healthy," he said, "you don't need it. If you're sick, you shouldn't take it."
How (ouch! oooof!) true.