Tuesday, March 29, 2011


After my big rave about nautical authenticity I thought I might provide a photo of a little model I have. It only cost NZ$35. It was mass produced somewhere in South East Asia. I like it very much. Although it lacks the small detail of very expensive hand made models it expresses an over all character and form that is believable and charming. In fact I liked it so much that the next time I passed the shop I bought another one with a blue hull! - 'A bird in the hand might be worth two in the bush' as the saying goes, but believe me from my point of view a little model yacht in each hand is far better.

Here is a nice little poem by my old friend Pablo Neruda:

I grew up drenched in natural waters
like the mollusk in the phosphorous sea.
In me the crusty salt resounded
and formed my singular skeleton.
How to explain - almost without
the blue and bitter rhythm of breathing,
one by one the waves repeated
what I sensed and trembled with
until salt and spray formed me:
the wave's rejection and desire,
the green rhythm which at its most secret
raised up a transparent tower.
It kept that secret and all at once
I felt that I was beating with it,
that my song was growing with the water.


Saturday, March 26, 2011


f you love something a lot, you get to know it in a deep, deep way. Your attention becomes undivided. You attend to and understand every little nuance, mannerism, detail and movement. I have often thought that the great Australian Aboriginal trackers must have a very great love of their physical environment to be able to notice so much, to be in tune with the very fabric of creation.

I have a great passion and love for sailing. For as long as I can remember I have always loved the way boats move - by boats I mean almost exclusively small yachts - sailing dinghies and small cruising yachts - and for as long as I can remember I have been irritated by the inauthentic way yachts and ships are sometimes portrayed. A case in point is the 'WestSail32' yacht in the film 'The Perfect Storm'. Its not so much the patently obvious fact that the yacht in the storm is being filmed in a huge Hollywood bathtub attended closely by huge wind machines. It's the fact that the yacht has far, far too much sail up in such a storm for it to be in any way believable. Most sails would have been been ripped to shreds at the point of action in the film or the yacht in such a wind with so much sail up would be sailing at a 45 degree angle. Another recent film 'Master and Commander' suffers the same lack of nautical authenticity - big models filmed in slow motion to aid the idea of big seas and cascading water starts off well, but a huge square rigger standing upright with that amount of sail up in what appears to be a Hurricane? I don't think so.

Model yachts also walk the gauntlet of my self appointed scrutiny. You would think that authenticity increases with price with items such as these but in my experience this is not always the case. I have a number of small model yachts that didn't cost a lot of money and although not replicating exactly the small fine details of equipment and rigging, they are sufficiently authentic in their overall form and character to be a delight to look at - its somewhat like good portraiture, a portrait isn't a photograph, but it has sufficient likeness to be believable.

Paintings of boats sailing can also be problematic for an aficionado like me with my exacting self opinionated standards. Sometimes the effect is stilted and wooden - for there is a way that a small yacht moves through the water - and it moves - well it moves, just so - and for those that know and look and love (we are the few rather than the many) we are like aboriginal trackers, immersed in our beloved world with a heightened sensibility to the bits that are out of place.

The painting above is of a small yacht famous in the annals of small boat literature. She is the little 18 foot yacht Sopranino, famous for a wonderful, adventurous trans Atlantic crossing in the 1950s from England to the USA.
Here she is running free in mid Atlantic, the traditional twin spinnakers used by cruising yachtsmen setting well in the fresh following breeze. As she comes off the large ocean swell she dips her bow down almost to deck level, and in a few seconds the buoyancy of her fulsome bow will have her scudding down the face of this big lazy Atlantic roller - she is moving well here, she is always vulnerable in such a sea, but she is capable and brave - and she loyally forges ahead as she moves - just so, just so, just so.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Not withstanding the warm tropical cyclone that is bearing down on Northland New Zealand today and the humidity of the last few days, the water temperature has dropped, Autumn is here and the swimming season is over at my school.
The annual closure ceremony for our pool was held today. This consists of emptying a large amount of water out of the pool.

So........ this is how you half empty a large school swimming pool Kiwi Style:

1 - Fill your swimming pool with an appropriate number of enthusiastic children.

2 - Choose an enthusiastic teacher to coordinate the fun.

3 - Allow the audience to get close to the action - Wet shoes are not a problem here at my school as most children come to school in bare feet.

4 - Direct the children to move in unison backwards and forwards in the pool.

5 - Observe the second law of thermodynamics in action, which states that "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" ----- translated into this context this means "If you get heaps of Kiwi kids in a pool and run them backwards and forwards, tons of water will slurp over the ends of the pool and everyone will whoop and scream with delight."

6 - Close observation is being made here of secondary effects such as the grass at the end of the pool getting a much needed watering and the capture of the child in the pool by the big slurpy wave. Much to the huge disappointment of everyone attending the child wasn't washed out of the pool.

If you look closely you can see that the water level in the pool has been substantially reduced.
This is a very good thing to happen to pools at the end of the swimming season. Don't ask me why this is so because I don't know. Nobody I asked knew. Nobody wanted to know. It seemed to be one of those things that "just is" - It 'just is" good for the pool to be emptied at the end of the season.

Of course the reason for half emptying the pool at the end of the season is patently obvious - The pool gets half emptied at the end of the season because its simply such fantastically great, surging, slurping, wave cresting, whooping, hooting, wet, noisy fun to do so!

And having fun is good. Very, very good.

Thursday, March 24, 2011



Alone we are born
And die alone;
Yet see the red - gold cirrus
Over snow - mountain shine.

Upon the upland road
Ride easy, stranger:
Surrender to the sky
Your heart of anger.

- James K Baxter



The Marriage Of Our Daughter Charlotte Smith To Nathan Hawkins At Whangarei, Northland, New Zealand - March 2011

"I would like to begin by welcoming everyone and thanking you all for coming to Whangarei to celebrate this very happy and special occasion with us – Welcome to you all – both those who live relatively close by, and those who have travelled from the other side of the world to be here.


As well I would like to also begin by thanking everyone who has been involved in the wedding preparations for making this such a beautiful and successful day – your help is noted and much appreciated. I would also like to give a special thank you to Christine for all her organization, common sense and the planning that she has put into our daughters wedding.


This is indeed a special occasion. Charlotte is our only daughter and I have to say how proud I am and how full my heart is to see her look so stunningly beautiful and radiant as she travels through one of life’s great transitions and embarks on one of life’s great voyages.


Charlotte has of course been ably assisted by her bridesmaids, who are today a picture of beauty and sophistication. All these lovely bridesmaids are cherished friends who have been steadfast in their support of Charlotte – they all spent last night together at the marriage venue in one of the visitors Chalets and I know that Charlotte was very appreciative of their support.


As for the blokes? They look as though they have scrubbed up quite well too.


Let me tell you a little bit about our daughter.

Charlotte has come a long way from that little Tomboy with the pudding bowl haircut wearing her older brothers track pants who had to be on occasion bribed by her mother to wear a dress – What a metamorphosis! From a ragamuffin tearaway on a trike to a beautiful, poised, elegant young woman wearing a couture wedding gown – Charlotte – Christine and I are so very, very, proud of you.


When I think of Charlotte I am aware of three golden threads that shine within the tapestry of her life.

The first is her sociability. She has a gift for making friends and being involved with people. Charlotte has always been a popular girl with a great circle of good friends, old and new.

I remember how Christine once told me with pride that one of Charlotte's Whangarei Girls High School teachers told of how when situations got out of hand with cattiness or relationship issues with the girls, Charlotte was always a voice of reason and common sense – Charlotte was valued for usually being able to hold herself above these situations, see the bigger context, thus using wisdom and leadership.


The second thread is her love of performing.

This love developed early at primary school where there were opportunities for her to develop her love of singing and performing – Many a time I remember her telling us breathlessly that she had to go early to school because the stars within the singing troupe – the much lauded microphone singers were having a special practise – Many a time I remember Charlotte closeted with her CD or DVD player singing along with great gusto to Celine Dion or Mariah Carey – the walls of the bedroom quaking to the beat - Charlotte took to all this singing and performing like a duck to water – It definitely was her forte and she loved it – and she went on to perform and sing on stage publicly, including in later years leading the worship of her church for a number of years.


The third thread in this tapestry is the spiritual walk she embarked on long ago. Her love of her faith and her church involvement have been constants in her life. They have provided a context for her sociability and musical gifts. It is something that has shaped her and from which she draws great strength. Most importantly it is within its values that she finds meaning for her life.


It was through this involvement with her church that she met Nathan.

Charlotte and Nathan have known each other for about 5 years.

During that time they have flatted together, been overseas together and run a business together.

I think that from the very beginning Nathan was convinced that Charlotte was the one for him. He has been pretty steadfast and faithful in that view.


I know that Charlotte has been a little more circumspect in all this. She has wisely exercised that wonderful shaper of human civilization called “A woman’s prerogative” and has wisely watched carefully for signs of whatever women demand signs of.

The result has been that Nathan has had to slay a large number of metaphorical dragons, had to crawl on his hands and knees through ice and snow with dozens of red roses clenched in his teeth and has had on occasion had to rescue Charlotte from various castles throughout the land.


Moreover he has had to endure deep theological, political and worldview debates with his prospective father in law and has shown damn good common sense by agreeing with me.


Nathan, you have shown great tenacity and great love. You bring your own gifts and talents to this partnership. We entrust our daughter to you with our love. Love her, treasure her and cherish her, as she will you – that is as it should be.


Charlotte and Nathan, as this days exciting journey ends – you begin another, bigger journey together. You are now embarking on a life together. We wish you both every success, every happiness and much love.

Would you please charge your glasses and stand and drink a toast to Charlotte and Nathan."

..... so said the father of the Bride.


THE RETURN - James K Baxter

Came to the rock, asking forgiveness,
To humpbacked roads and the piddling schoolhouse
Where children hammered asphalt into holes.
Venus with her thunder slept
On tired dunes, in grey maternal
Macrocarpa branches. Rigid Mars,
Demon of the middle earth, leprous
Chewer of continents, was a boy tumbling
In a ditch with a bloody nose.
Came, how late and strange, to childhood's rock
Sealed against the comer,
Where once was unequivocal peace or pain.
Nostalgia, more precise than hope,
Washed granules of bright quartz
From layered seastone, honoured
The foul river, oared by ducks, flowing
From inexhaustible springs. Came
To cold farms, banks of seaweed
Piled on the coast by a spring tide.

I have no skill to set down
The perils of a late journey
Made to get back a full sight of loss.
Many miles from here my youth died
In northern warrens, stifled by invisible
Cloths of delirium and habitual greed.
But here the stars that shine between our bones
Shine as if at the entrance to the maze
From which none walk alive, on mushroom rings
Darker green than the sheep-nibbled grass,
On foam -belts of the southern shore, houses
Where some still trim the wick,
At evening, of a kerosene lamp, and watch
For sons and fathers drowned on the drumming bar,
Delivered from a false season
To the natural winter of the heart
One may set foot with the full weight of man
On shell and stone and seabirds skeleton.