Writing a novel is not for the faint-hearted. It involves a great deal of hard work, frustration, research, and tolerance from a wife, husband or partner. The job is never easy, nor finished quickly. There is always an improvement that can be made to the grammar used, be it for descriptive purposes or simply for clarity and conciseness. And the best writers today use simple, clear and concise language not cloaked in ornate or quaint sentences. Nor should those sentences be long and cumbersome lest the reader is obliged to do a double take simply in order to understand the meaning within those many lines. Yet another important consideration for an author is to ensure he has an interesting plot and a credible one too. I believe I have met the above criteria.
I commenced The Benefactor’s Son in late 2019 after completing Almost Persuaded which I self-published. I wanted both a local New Zealand and an international flavour to the story for Benefactor. I have achieved that. In my mind too, were voices telling me to use some recent or current events upon which to build a plot. Readers would easily relate to the Hong Kong riots, China’s aggressive stance, and tales of what may have happened to those involved in any form of insurrection, both on the streets and behind the scenes. My fascination with stories of spies and the networks built around their existence, the distrust of inferiors and superiors within the same organisation, and the cold-war mentality that exists today between the West, and China and Russia, spurred me to begin my latest book. It is now complete and in the process of editing, cover design and publication.
China, Arms Trading, Human Trafficking–a brief synopsis of The Benefactor’s Son.
The genre of The Benefactor’s Son would fall somewhere between mystery and suspense.
The opening chapter sets the scene in Hong Kong during the demonstrations against China’s decision to ignore the agreement with Britain to retain the one country, two systems policy. Harry Trimble is questioned by police as to the reason for his visit. His father the benefactor, had visited the colony many times prior to his recent death and had met with David White, father of Sue, Harry’s love interest whom he had dated while both were at Canterbury University. David White too, had died recently.
The story moves to Christchurch, London, Zurich, Beirut, Berlin, and Paris with a multitude of unpleasant events, always with China in the background.
There is a chilling discovery at the end of the story just prior to a planned wedding between Sue and Harry in Christchurch.
They say you cannot tell a book by its cover, and this is true if the title and cover picture do not give a potential reader any indication of the delights or otherwise that lie within.
My original cover design indicated a deep, dark mystery, with a road to who knew where. Nothing in the title or any description, enlightened the browsing customer. This has now been addressed with a bright new format together with a brief hint about the subject. A reprint is underway.
The subject matter in Almost Persuaded is equally as relevant today, as it was in 2016 when I began to research drugs, about which I knew little, and gang involvement about which I knew only a little more. News media is renowned for headlining those issues sure to attract reader or viewer attention, and local New Zealand gangs are continuing to feature as purveyors of deadly and addictive substances with no regard for the health and wellbeing of their customers. From time to time, a gang member will leave his former life and repent, be it simply coming to the realisation he can, with his background of gaol terms and living an unclean, unlawful and downright un-Christian lifestyle; now act as an adviser to those who may benefit from his knowledge. But gang membership has been on the increase in recent years, and not only that, global connections are also being set up for the supply of drugs. Some gangs relocate themselves to areas more advantageous to their lifestyle and customer bases, arriving unwelcome in smaller towns. The 501 gang deportees from Australia, though not large in number, have added to the problem.
No doubt the New Zealand election issues for the October 2023 elections will be dominated by law and order, including the much-publicised ram raids by young offenders. So the debate will include the question marks that hang over these young offenders; the penalties that can be applied and the home life they lead; the reasons for the offending, including drilling back to parental control or lack of it. In other words, the root causes need to be addressed. Sadly, these are so numerous, making the necessary changes far-reaching and difficult. Thus, possible action on many fronts becomes a huge social debate in itself. The political parties in opposition will make a meal out of the figures and point accusing fingers at the ruling party; all political posturing that will add nothing to assist in arriving at a solution.
The narrative in Almost Persuaded will remain relative for some time to come.
Almost Persuaded is the title of a song in the country and western genre, written in 1966 by Glenn Sutton and Billy Sherrill and first recorded by David Houston. Subsequent recordings were made by Etta James, Tammy Wynette, Beth Rowley and George Jones and, no doubt, by others too. The lyrics are catchy, telling a story of a bar room meeting and a brief infatuation. There is then a realisation that infidelity is contrary to wedding vows, triggered by a reflection of the wedding ring in the eyes of the other party. Etta James’ 1967 recording is my favourite. Etta’s raunchy voice, with a great backing band and singers, is a stand-out performance compared to the other recordings sung in a more relaxed and mellow country and western manner.
Almost Persuaded is also the title of my first novel, now completed and going to print in the next few weeks. About three years in the making, it began as a short story, quickly transitioning into a full-blown fictional book. Ideas then began to sprout in my mind – still without a clear pathway to a finale – but sufficient to press on to that minimum 70,000 – odd word threshold between a novel and a novelette. My first blog, GENESIS – In the beginning was published here nearly two years ago, at which stage, I was 48,000 words down the track with the novel.
An artistic person generally derives great pleasure from his, or her, finished article and possibly a sense of prowess, whilst underway with the artistic creation. It may seem strange but writing, for me, falls into the same category. I have enjoyed crafting chapter after chapter, pausing for some research, pausing again for contemplation on the credibility of the plot. From then on, it is the continuation of the seemingly endless task of ensuring words flow well, dialogue is interesting and the story is strong enough to keep the reader engaged to the end. I believe Almost Persuaded has the right mix of fiction, fact, love, violence and contemporary social issues to stimulate and entertain.
What is the novel all about?
Without giving too much away, a brief teaser to be used on the back cover of the finished book reads: Colin Foster walks out of his secure but boring job as an insurance broker following the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011. His beautiful wife Mag, is devastated and hastens him into making a decision that turns out to be an unwise choice of temporary work. He deceives her into believing it is legitimate employment but far from it; Colin is drawn into a world of violence and intrigue.
Needless to say, Colin’s experiences of violence and intrigue is a fascinating insight into the world of drug-dealing, police efforts to track down dealers and the devastating effects of drug abuse on individuals and families. Woven into the story are some interesting and unusual characters. Through these characters, I found it possible to expound my own outlook on many facets of life today and some of my fears and opinions.
One of the most difficult decisions a new author must make is whether to publish conventionally (provided one can find a willing publisher), or self-publish. I have chosen the latter. As a result, I will have the satisfaction of being in control of marketing and distribution. This move is really all about my DIY obsession which has its roots in my childhood days of the late 1940’s and 1950’s when scarcity – of everything- was the norm. We just used what we could find to do the job and did it all ourselves.
The long, lonely hours an author devotes to his craft, he hopes will be rewarded with accolades, or monetary gain; a pat on the back or merely an affirmative and encouraging comment might be all he gets, and maybe, all he needs to spur him on to continue writing, otherwise he may be Almost Persuaded to give it up altogether.
If you are interested in purchasing the book when released, please email me at: email@example.com
I am not sure of the price per book at this stage – it will be below my actual cost, known once printing is complete as I do not seek to profit from this venture – so that pat on the back might well be adequate inducement to continue.
Electric vehicles are beginning to make their presence felt. In 2018, the International Energy Agency estimated there were around 3.2 million electric cars globally. In the same year, 70 million conventional cars were manufactured. In New Zealand, we have 10,000 EV’s with a government target of 64,000 by 2021 – just 2 years away.
The UK and France are planning to have no petrol or diesel vehicles on the roads by 2040. Volvo will manufacture no more petrol or diesel cars from this year and other car manufacturers are rapidly increasing their EV output of the three options namely; standard battery electric vehicles (EV’s or BEV’s), hybrid electric vehicles (HEV’s), and plug-in hybrids (PHEV’s). A BEV has charging time and range issues, and the HEV and PHEV has space issues, two motors and thus more to go wrong. All EV’s are expensive – too costly for the average motorist – so why is the world blindly going down this track and gambling on future battery technology improvement? It is not because there are no alternatives – in fact there are – one of which will be discussed later.
We are desperate to seek an easy solution, or at least a part-solution or slow-down of CO2 emissions and thus, global warming. One of these is to just eliminate the internal combustion engine. Not so easy though, particularly as transport is only one of the major contributors to emissions. The burning of fossil fuels in factories and generation of electricity are huge contributors, with lessor emissions from landfills, grazing animals and the loss of forests that would otherwise store CO2 . Since 1990, there has been a 20% increase in yearly emissions – a situation that cannot be allowed to continue.
The average man and woman has an in-built reluctance to change. The “good things in life” are for us to enjoy so why let go of them – even if we are damaging the future – we are living the good life. Someone else will make the necessary sacrifices – won’t they? And why is our government not doing more? The answer to that is easy; voter loss. The essential, serious issues just don’t get addressed for that reason. The recent riots in France are an example of government action, made with the best of intentions for the country’s economy and welfare, falling foul with the public. The diesel price increase was intended to fund investment in renewables as a strong response to global warming, in conjunction with the closure of all coal-fired power stations and 14 of the country’s 58 nuclear reactors by 2022. President Macron, despite back-tracking on the diesel price, may not now have any political future. And what lead does this give to any country in the world, serious about tackling global warming?
Such measures that France endeavoured to take would be political suicide in anything other than a dictatorship. It is apparent then, that the only politically safe route is by taking very small steps, like the banning of single-use plastic bags in New Zealand from 1st January this year. This is but a very minor move towards the plastic ‘problem’, but hopefully a beacon to light the way forward to further bans on other plastics. Sadly though, the small steps are not enough. Time is running out to fix the problems before it is too late.
We now have to ask the question of whether oil prices will be a determining factor in the continuation of fossil fuel use, including the use of plastics, being a by-product of the petroleum industry.
Since shale oil production ramped up in the USA, the oil ‘balance of power’ has changed. In late 2015, the U.S. exported the first crude oil since the 1970’s from the port of Corpus Christi to Italy. Other exports followed. The International Energy Agency have stated that “U.S. shale in the past decade is one of the biggest game changes in oil production history.” It is the largest addition ever, to world energy. So much for the Peak Oil scenario. The U.S. is set to become a net energy exporter by 2022. With President Trump a skeptic of global warming, and the massive amount of fossil fuel in his back-yard, it will be difficult to convince the U.S. public to get serious about electric cars. And oil prices will remain at levels that are not going to encourage alternatives.
A further determinant is the way Saudi Arabia views the future of oil. The country proposed an IPO of their state oil giant – Aramco, recently. This has now been put on hold despite a huge spend on preparation of a prospectus for a listing that has been estimated at US$1 to $2 trillion market value. The Saudis had seen the listing as a fast way of generating billions of new dollars for domestic programmes. Were they earlier of the opinion oil was a resource with income moving to the downside? And now, in this world of rapid technological change, have they decided all the oil revenues from Aramco for the foreseeable future, will provide them with sufficient income for those domestic programmes? Does this mean they do not now fear electric vehicle expansion of the scale that will interfere with their goose that lays their golden eggs?
We may conclude then, that the world oil price will not be a major determinant to a wholesale change to EV’s. However, local taxes on energy may assist the process, though this, as we have seen in France, can be fraught with problems too.
Not enough of us are concerned sufficiently about global warming and have the wealth to purchase that expensive Tesla at $100,000-plus or even a family Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in for $61,000. Solving the global warming problem will not come entirely from government intervention. Ruling parties must therefore just lead the public gently in the right direction. Incentives to reduce emissions from factories and power plants and legislation to minimise plastics use and maximise recycling are the obvious ways forward.
Oil consumption is forecast to continue to rise. Cars and heavy transport – shipping too – will not see a wholesale conversion to other forms of propulsion in the near term. And with the popularity of air travel rising, aviation fuel will be in hot demand. You can bank on it that lithium will not replace aviation fuel to propel A380s and Boeing 787s.
Electric vehicles have their downsides, many of which are common knowledge but worth repeating and enlarging upon here. They are factors that work against purchase and ownership and include; lack of public charging points and the time taken to charge. Fast charging can cause battery harm. There is also the range anxiety problem. Imagine taking a BEV to an outback New Zealand farm only to find the battery is flat on the way home due to excessive aircon or heater use. A local farmer may tow you to his homestead and plug your BEV in to his power supply but there would be time enough to carry out the shearing of his entire flock of 200 ewes before your BEV was fully charged. Like the battery-powered scooters on our streets, electric cars can sneak up on you quietly and cause bodily harm. EV batteries are, for the most part, lithium-ion, in modules. Tesla Model 3 has 7,104 battery cells in 16 modules weighing 540kg. Lithium-ion batteries pose a disposal problem and have an environmental impact. Millions of depleted batteries in landfills WILL eventually, be a major environmental problem. Another worry is that two thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt – an essential component in these batteries, comes from the politically unstable country of Congo. The demand for lithium and cobalt will increase in tandem with any surge in EV production. Prices could rise accordingly and/or supplies could fail. For plug-in hybrids, there is the need for two engines thus adding to complexity. Finally, the large capital cost of replacement batteries will seriously depress the sale value of a high-mileage vehicle.
An alternative, with fewer downsides than those attributable to EV’s and which emits zero pollution, has been under development for some years and is close to market release – energy from compressed air. The leader in this technology is Motor Development International (MDI). Mono and dual energy engines have been produced for a number of new car models, trucks and other commercial vehicles. The technology uses safe compressed air tanks as “batteries” with the ability to refill 20,000 times at 2 to 3 minutes per fill. There are no manufacture and disposal problems as with conventional batteries. There is a Mode 1 motor that uses nothing but the compressed air in the air tanks and a Mode 2 dual energy system with a burner capable of heating air from the tanks to triple the available range.
MDI have already licenced the manufacture and sale of vehicles and power generation equipment and storage in various parts of the world. The idea is that turnkey factories are established in the licensed areas to utilise local labour. The ultra-compact factory model then produces and sells direct to the end-user, resulting in a very low-cost vehicle compared to those produced conventionally. Around 80% of the vehicle is built on site thus reducing import taxes and the remaining 20% is sourced from the central purchasing office for cost economies of scale.
In addition to vehicle manufacture, MDI have developed power generation equipment and storage batteries called Airwalls – tanks that will last 30 years. Like the cars, compressed air tanks act as energy storage, are cheaper than lithium batteries, have no disposal issues and can take thousands of fills. Solar, wind power or power from the grid can be utilised to fill either large or small energy storage tanks for commercial or domestic applications.
MDI, based in Luxemburg, have a number of partnerships including with Tata Motors, India, who have committed to produce an air-powered vehicle within the next 2 years, KLM, Texilis and Veolia who have been trialling a 7Kw motor in innovative waste removal vehicles for some years. The Luxemburg company might also be the only vehicle manufacturer with such an intense commitment to ecology – from manufacture to recycling.
For more information on the compressed air revolution, see:
The effects of stress can be felt in many ways. Those weeks, then days before Christmas can be the most frustrating times of the year. It’s not just the worry of choosing presents for, in my case, 4 children, their spouses, 10 grandchildren and a sensible and non-demanding wife who, and I say this at the risk of diminishing the impact of my story, willingly shoulders the bulk of the burden on decision-making and the actual purchase of presents for the small city of people I have been responsible for bringing into this world. It is all the other issues too, associated with the festive season compounded by the fact that the year comes to an abrupt end just 7 days after the BIG day.
Some folk I know simply take themselves off grid a good week before Christmas to avoid the madness. They essentially go bush to preserve their sanity. The rest of us attend all the social events, catch up socially with friends, rush to finish painting the spare room, furiously tidy the garden, mow the lawns, visit elderly relatives out of sheer guilt and bring home a Christmas tree in the back of the car cursing those prickly branches flapping around our neck whilst distributing pine needles all over the car interior together with sticky sap on hands and leather car seats. We then find there is extra food to purchase which results in additional trips on crowded roads and perilous parking in congested car parks. At this stage going off grid is enticing but one cannot simply walk away from those lovely children to whom Christmas is a day of happiness, giving and receiving.
But Christmas too, can ring the guilt bells – not merely due to overeating, over drinking and over spending but the whole gamut of pollution and saving the planet scenarios come into play. There are the vast amounts of plastics purchased, particularly in children’s toys. The packaging is plastic and polystyrene – mostly non-recyclable. Many toys are broken and discarded on the first day of use. My toys in the 1940’s and 1950’s were all wood and metal. Child-proof and virtually hammer-proof.
A morning cappuccino is always eagerly awaited in our household following the digestion or part-digestion of breakfast. Our old coffee grinder and coffee maker are, like me, showing the symptoms of old age. (At this point, it would be wise to not elaborate on personal details). Nevertheless, friends and family have been waxing lyrical about the latest coffee-pod machines with a milk-frothing unit attached – a modern marvel of engineering simplicity but with a major downside for the environment. The pods, containing a little shot of coffee grinds is made of plastic and aluminium which I believe are essentially non-recyclable. There are collection depots and the sellers state that these can be recycled but the promotion videos and pamphlets are vague on the precise means by which this recycling is supposedly done. I believe the pods are merely chopped into small pieces and used as road fill. In my book, that does not qualify as true recycling.
With all this in mind, I contemplated an upgrade to another conventional new machine – not of the pod variety. It was at this stage that the “Yes But” gremlin, who lurks deep in the bowels of inner consciousness came forth with, “yes but everyone is using them and your small addition will make no difference to world pollution”. I slapped him down with a, “how dare you intrude on my worldly thoughts with only the good of mankind to the forefront of my current thinking”. He persisted, much to my disgust with a very loud – almost audible “well”, which I was unable to ignore. Just then, the “Will I Won’t I” gremlin rose from the depths of somewhere else. She; and all “Will I Won’t I” gremlins are female, was on a see-saw with a concubine on the other end programmed to respond sharply in the negative at each positive utterance on the upswing. The seesaw rose and fell for some considerable time. It was never about to stop on the level as one of the pair had to dismount at some stage sending the other crashing to the ground. At this juncture, sanity resumed and a cup of tea was consumed with relish whilst a decision was awaited. It was a hung jury for about 24 hours.
The trip to the retailer was made alone, with the gremlins still audible though now fading out like a hearing-aid test. Just inside the main entrance, Nespresso had set up a Christmas promotion manned by a large female who, I assumed sold cream cakes on her days-off. The promotion was compelling but cunning in its structure. There was a $50 “cash-back” but the purchaser was bound to take a quantity of pods in order to “qualify”. The pods were a necessity and the manufacturer had thus made a further sale and was in the possession too, of my email address for continuing “promotions”. My irrational decision was made.
In 1956, as a young schoolboy, I hung out to dry on the clothesline, 3 plastic bags that had been used that day for wrapping lunches for my sisters and myself. They were far better than the paper bags used earlier. A rubber band held the plastic bags together – no zip locks or seal easy’s – keeping the sandwiches within, soft and fresh. The bags were washed and reused many times.
My toys were all wooden or metal. My mechano set, (Lego is the new substitute), was all metal with nuts and bolts as the fasteners. Food packaging was in glass, paper or cardboard. Regular milk and bread deliveries were to our gate. Milk was poured, by the milkman, into a metal “billy” with a tight-fitting lid. The billy was washed and re-used time and again for, probably, 10 years. The milk was full cream, unpasteurised and tasty – no choices of lactose-free, low fat, calcium-enriched; just good old-fashioned milk. Over the period of the use of the billy, our family would have purchased and disposed of, around 1,300 plastic bottles, had they been available then.
But in a mere 60 years, all hell has broken loose on our planet. We are drowning in plastic – more so in third world countries where the infrastructure is not in place to deal with waste. But the oceans too are awash with the stuff. Henderson Island in the eastern South Pacific and a part of the Pitcairn Group is covered by 18 tonnes of plastic, washed up on its tiny beaches. The island is a World Heritage listed site, uninhabited and attracting a constant bombardment of plastic, much of which is being covered with sand from wave action, with fresh spoilage arriving on top daily.
An estimated 10% to 12% of the global population relies on fishing and aquaculture for their livelihood. Demand for seafood is increasing at a time when more and more plastic is entering the oceans. At the base of the food-chain are phytoplankton whose energy is from photosynthesis, just like plants. Zooplankton feed on phytoplankton but also consume microplastics – the latter being a by-product of larger plastic waste broken down under UV exposure. Zooplankton are eaten by larger zooplankton, fish and larger fish, and on down the chain. The greatest risk to humans is from eating shellfish and small fish which are eaten whole – microplastics and all! Fish, mammals and seabirds are dying in agony with stomachs full of all manner of plastic bits and pieces. Dolphins, turtles and whales are trapped in nets cast adrift from fishing vessels or caught up in ropes and lines that do not degrade. Some beaches are knee-deep in plastic waste. Our land- fills will remain clogged with non-degradable cast-offs for centuries. What sort of a world have we made for our children and their children? The film “Plastic Ocean” is a must-see.
We are all to blame. We embrace the madness – buying single corn cobs wrapped in plastic, tomatoes, bags of fruit, in fact almost anything we buy will have a plastic content. Our children’s toys are all plastic and often broken and discarded within a very short time after purchase. The current furore over plastic supermarket bags is to be applauded – but it is only a very small part of the problem. Manufacturers, retailers; in fact, any businesses producing and selling products are only concerned with image, presentation, consumer appeal, growing turnover and profit. In most instances, shiny plastic packaging is seen as adding to the product attraction. The cycle needs to be broken so that producers look for alternatives.
I am aware of one excellent example of a company making a difference. Ethique in Christchurch, New Zealand, make an excellent range of solid shampoo and beauty bars all packaged in biodegradable wrappers that can be added to the compost bin. So far, in their short history, they claim to have prevented more than 150,000 plastic bottles from being made and disposed of.
My grandchildren seem to be well informed on the growing plastic waste problems. I applaud the efforts the education system is making to enlighten students on this, and global warming. They will be living in this world beset with many serious issues a great deal longer than I will now. I am confident that their generation will seriously address and make the necessary changes; and I can only hope it will not be too late.
There are some future events that will make the task for the next generation even more difficult. A growing number of countries and some car manufacturers are setting dates for an end to the use and production of petrol and diesel vehicles. Replacements are expected to be electric transportation in its various forms of pure electric or hybrid. The decline in oil use will be dramatic. So what will happen to all the oil still undersea, in the deserts, shale extracted by fracking, oil sands and arctic oil? It is still debatable whether we have reached Peak Oil (maximum production possible). Some experts predict there is no imminent peak, despite daily world production of around 96M barrels of oil and liquid fuel. The petrochemical industry has a high degree of flexibility in the feedstock it consumes. Natural gas consumption is rising rapidly and hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) are a by-product. The olefins in HGL contain ethylene and butylene which can be used as a direct input into plastics manufacturing so it may follow that the reduced oil useage for transport in developed countries will result in increased production of input chemicals for plastic. This may mean even cheaper plastic raw materials and lead to a further incentive for widespread plastic use.
These dangers highlight the need for drastic action. Capitalist societies dominate the world today and I include China who, despite state control, are able to manufacture, package and export vast quantities of goods at prices few can compete with. Plastics are diverse and their use in all its forms, will continue unchecked until legislation is introduced to limit, restrict or outlaw its non-recyclable cousins. Is this, though, enough? How do we stop a discarded soft drink bottle from washing down the drain during a downpour and out to sea? Can we ever outlaw plastic production?
That skinny little schoolboy pegging out the sandwich bags on the clothesline 62 years ago had no idea, at that time, what was in store in the years ahead.
My next blog will address some myths about electric cars.
My apologies to our PM Jacinda. I now realise she is just one of a majority of Kiwis that have decided the T is dead and is replaced by the D. The New Zealand alphabet now officially comprises only 25 letters. It is patently obvious that we seem unable to make the effort to bring our tongues forward just a little bit to form the letter T. So we have the following (sorry Jacinda):
Da Governmend have formed a daxashun commiddee do look indo da possibilidy of removing GSD on all liddel boddles of domado sauce and framed and unframed pichers and cheese and budder and elecdric car badderies.
Despite our declining grasp of the basics of our first language, there is some pressure being brought to bear to ramp up the use and teaching of Te Reo. The Maori language should never be left to fade into the past. I am sympathetic to its retention and “limited” teaching. We do, after all, live in a country where the early settlers gave names to places, rivers and mountains and those names are still used today. We owe it to ourselves, and to Maori, to pronounce these words correctly and have a basic understanding. Surely, though, our schools should teach pupils to speak, spell and write English in the proper manner and this be given absolute priority. Some are speaking up about it, including yours truly, and others that do too, are feeling the brunt of much adverse criticism. Don Brash took some flack recently for daring to say that he shouldn’t be forced to listen to words he didn’t understand namely the use of Te Reo on Radio New Zealand which is primarily an English language broadcast.
A Maori language school Te Wananga O Aotearoa Te Kuratini O Nga Waka has just signed a long-term lease for a building in Christchurch to be used to teach the unemployed Te Reo Maori. What a great aid for the pupils to secure future employment – eh! This Trust receives annual Government funding of $135 million.
Le meilleur endroit pour vivre en Novelle Zealande
I do believe Akaroa is the best place to live in New Zealand. It was on a visit here in 1956 with my parents that I expressed the desire to own a property in this delightful French-themed village. 60 years later, it happened. Just prior to, and shortly after retiring from 9 to 5 work, Nicky and I considered a move north for greater warmth and a respite from the Christchurch winters. Absence from family and friends and the familiarity of the place of our birth, eventually ruled this out. For two years we viewed property after property in Akaroa most of which were just baches and unsuitable for full-time or near full-time occupation. Agents endeavoured to sell us leaky homes, many others were in urgent need of major maintenance, but finally, our patience was rewarded and our Lighthouse Road property now ticks most boxes. It is sheltered, warm, has great views and no lawns to cut. The garden is small but productive. We have 8 citrus trees, a peach and a feijoa plus a few vegetables. Bellbirds sing all day and at this time of the year, we hear the Shining Cuckoo calling after his flight all the way from Australia.
It is hard to believe the amount of work we have achieved on the property in just one year. A new retaining wall has been constructed, most of the interior painted white over light-absorbing grey walls, lights replaced, a new hot water cylinder installed and the garden extensively revamped. A very wet winter has morphed into a record-breaking hot and dry November and December. Water temperature in the harbour has been up to 21degrees. As a result, we have been swimming regularly at the Glen; sometimes twice in a day. Not since I was a teenager have I ventured in to the sea in November. The warmer seas around New Zealand are destined to cause stronger winds and possibly heavy rain to parts of the country. No doubt, the West Coast of the South Island will receive more with the east likely to remain dry and windy.
Akaroa is a vibrant place to live. The community are active and currently there is a focus on raising sufficient funds to build a new Health Hub, sorely needed to replace the old hospital. For some years, the local medical rooms were a couple of huts on the hospital site. A further temporary move has been made to a pleasant house on Rue Jolie close to the Gaiety Theatre while tenders have been called for construction of the new Health Hub. It is hoped building will commence soon.
With the holiday season in full swing, our little town is bursting at the seams made worse by the regular cruise ship visits – sometimes two large vessels per day – disgorging up to 5,000 visitors on to the local wharf. Many take a bus to Christchurch and beyond. Some take a local tour while others are content to wander the streets and cram into the little craft shops that appear to be doing very well from the influx. And, I must add, the local shops are stocked with good, well-priced products, only the odd one with tacky souvenirs that prompted the local Press newspaper to label Akaroa as “Tackaroa”. Personally, Nicky and I have purchased quite a number of Christmas and birthday presents locally. While on the subject of visitors, the growing number flowing into the town is causing some problems. Toilet facilities are inadequate, rubbish bins overflow and camper vans clog the narrow main street. The wharf is in need of repairs that have been costed well in excess of the levy charged to the cruise ship travel companies. Surely a reasonable charge per head could be made to the travel agencies to assist this small village, part of the cruise itinerary that has been voted Australasia’s favourite destination. Christchurch City ratepayers need some relief from the burden of providing for the costs of maintaining order for the tourists.
Our family from Edinburgh – son Jamie, his wife Samantha and daughter Ava (12months), are still with us soaking up the sun and gradually turning from a 1000 thread-count bedsheet white to a delicate pink that may morph to a light brown before departing for the bone-chilling cold of Scotland again mid January. Grandchild number 10 is a delight. Both grandparents will miss her smiles and zest for life.
Australia has voted in favour of gay marriage. Over 60% of Australians have agreed that legalising gay marriage should be approved by the Federal Government and thus follow New Zealand’s lead. We will now have wives and wives and husbands and husbands on both sides of the Tasman. Can’t get my head around a guy talking about his husband or a girls about her wife. Also, many will have children by adoption, use surrogates, and soon, no doubt; designer babies. These kids will have either two mothers or two fathers which, I believe is unsatisfactory. It is so important for the well being of a child to give him or her a proper balance in life only achieved with caring parents of both sex.
Today, I was rear-ended by a local chef. Not a pleasant experience. The Bombay Blue bottle took a big hit when I arrived home in Akaroa. While in our town house in Christchurch I had just cleaned our near-new Corolla to remove streaks of cow manure along the lower doors and baked-on lakeflys on the bonnet and grill that pepper the car whilst travelling alongside Lake Forsyth. Nicky was remaining in town for the night, organising baby equipment for the imminent arrival of our Scottish granddaughter Ava with son Jamie and daughter in law Samantha, while I travelled back to Akaroa to catch up on some accounting and tax work. Cruise ship number 5 of 77 for the season was anchored in Akaroa Harbour opposite Wainui. The Golden Princess with 2624 passengers and 1100 crew had arrived in the early hours of Monday 20th November and the usual convoy of buses were returning from Christchurch with full loads of cruise ship passengers on a road entirely unsuitable for twenty-plus buses per visit to travel on a very regular basis. Little wonder, one, so far, has left the road on the downhill leg from the Hilltop.
I was driving sedately behind a silver Nissan, itself being behind a white Ritchies bus following a red Suzuki being driven at grossly erratic speeds. Behind me was an immaculate blue 1995 Ford Falcon EF. On the long straight road to the top of the hill out of Takamatua through the olive groves, the Suzuki stopped for no reason. The bus stopped. The Nissan stopped. I stopped and glanced in my rear vision mirror. To my horror the blue Ford completely filled the mirror a split second before a bone-jarring crash in my rear end. This was my first road accident in 59 years of driving. Ironically, the damage to his car, which he was bringing back to Akaroa from the panel beater after a German tourist in a campervan had backed into it whist parked in Rue Lavaud, was far greater than to the Toyota. The chef was distraught. The car was his baby and the prospect of returning to Christchurch for more body work filled him with despair. I was not offered a free meal at his restaurant, nor would I have accepted. I suspect the food may well not be up to a good standard for a while until he calms down.
Jacinda Ardern , our new PM continues to get under the skin of the Australians, persisting with her desire to bring in a bunch of refugees from Manus Island. How short-sighted. She risks still further restrictions being imposed on Kiwis travelling, living and investing in Australia. The Australians have a poor record in the treatment of their indigenous residents and are now striving to make amends. At the same time keeping a lid on immigration is paramount for them with millions hovering on their doorstep, just a relatively short boat-trip away. The radical Muslim element within the country too, is taking up a tremendous amount of police time and costing millions of dollars for the surveillance of these idiots. It is no wonder the refugee issue is so sensitive. A back-door entry to Australia from New Zealand is the last thing they want for more of the same. And with the One Nation Party set to hold the balance of power in Queensland, with either Annastacia Palaszczuk or Tim Nicholls, tightening up of the borders may well be on the cards. One senses a deterioration in our special relationship with our neighbour since the change of government here.
Jacinda also raises the ire of the average educated Kiwi who has taken the trouble to learn and pronounce the Queen’s English with her use of words like “somethink” and “gonna” and “bedda” (better). And she is a member of the Labour “Pardy”. It may be an orthodontic problem causing her careless speech! Perhaps she should take to tweeting like our infamous American President and perfect the art of waving her arms with forefinger and thumb emphasis to draw attention away from those molars. Trump’s arm-waving works well as a distraction from the wig that is always wong.
I promised a recipe; this one for salad dressing but not for a lettuce salad. Lettuce, in my opinion is bland and disgusting – unable to be digested by me so is avoided like the plague. It should be fed only to rabbits or Vegans to wrap their lentils in. My salads, eaten each day, comprise most, but not all (in the same salad), of the following: grated carrot, cucumber, tomatoe, chopped apple, raisins, avocado, chopped celery, walnuts, feta cheese. Nicky had unforgivably retained her salad dressing in Christchurch so I made up my own with soy sauce, olive oil, seed mustard, red wine, balsamic vinegar , a little water and finely chopped herbs from the garden. Don’t ask me the quantities of each, I will never be able to repeat the same taste but it did the job well.
With luck, I may find time for more words of wisdom before Christmas but if not, I do wish you and your loved ones a very happy and enjoyable celebration on that very special day.
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GENESIS – In the beginning
At the ripe old age of (nearly) 75, I have decided to set up a blog site and share with family and friends, insights, ideas, news and views, some philosophical thoughts, the odd short story and perhaps even a recipe (but not for disaster).
One of the great blessings of old age is that one is able to see the world in a wider perspective. I say this because with the benefit of many years of experience, and a lifetime of observation of world and local events, the awareness of days before rapidly-evolving and emerging technology, the mad-cap pace of life now compared with say, 60 years ago, and, I believe, the degradation of our quality of life over that period; has given those of us who are still able to express ourselves clearly and sensibly, a unique place in the world to pass on some of our long-gathered knowledge to the younger generations.
To some degree, I have imparted those thoughts in my autobiography “Sunrise Over Scarborough” but a small book like that was not quite the vehicle for any sort of extensive philosophy. This blog site may suit admirably to enunciate my ideas. I plan to keep it interesting, controversial and conversational.
Meantime, I continue with my first novel which is now close to its 18 month anniversary if there is such a thing. Writing such a large tome is hard and lonely work. I am currently up to 48,000 words which is just short of novella size. Another 10,000 words approximately, will see it at a reasonable level for publishing which, I hope will not be too far distant. I plan to print a limited edition and gift copies to family and friends. If it proves to merit some further output to the wider community, so be it – I may oblige!
How strange it is, that when I left high school some 57 years ago, my thoughts were to study journalism. That did not happen and I struggled with accountancy for so long without the desire to write, until retirement age. The working years of ones life are, looking back, one mad race of bringing up children, paying down a huge mortgage, dealing with people – some pleasant – some downright unpleasant or dishonest or obnoxious and somehow getting through that period with a dollar or two in the bank to cater for the needs of life in the “last lane”. My accountancy background steers me towards giving advice to those who have not yet retired to ensure they have a plan to set up a retirement fund early for those latter years that arrive far more quickly than we think. A business should always work to a business plan, otherwise it just drifts along at the whims of the owners and the economy. Likewise, so should we individuals set up a plan as early as possible in life. The economy will wax and wane over the years – it always has. Getting in early will even out those blips in the graph and with a diverse range of investments and constant monetary top-ups, retirement will be comfortable and fun.